Darkness in the Delimbiyr

Playing With Fire

Slowly wending their way out of the hideous catacombs, the heroes decided that leaving and recouping their battered and cursed frames might be the best course of action. They stumbled through the darkness of the ghoul warrens before finding themselves back within the Moathouse, where they successfully made their way unhindered now through the largely abandoned temple. As they left, the warlock examined the strange magical fluxes all around them and realized that the very air itself was being charged with fell energy. He suggested the erratic weather patterns around this cursed place were due to a shadow landscape; dire energy from the plane of shadow was seeping through the cracks of reality, giving the Moathouse a more sinister and deadly air to it.

While putting distance between them and the fallen temple, they came across a narrow valley, which they cautiously forded. However, while eyeing the narrows above, they failed to note two earthen, crab-like creatures barrelling down the hill in the midst of a sudden and crashing avalanche. A wave of rock and stone buried the hexblade, cleric and the psychic warrior under crushing earth and rubble! The warlock sprang into action and a chilling fog clouded the valley, leaving the avalanchers to crash around blindly. The cleric called upon his faith and found himself whisked out of the rock and delivered to safety, some 50 feet down the path. The psion lashed out with a crippling mental blast, stunning one of the beasts severely. Between his mental assaults and the warlock’s crackling blasts – accidentally clipping his clerical ally – the beasts fell and they rescued their buried allies. The psychic warrior sliced open one of the beasts and discovered jewels within the digestive tracts, then made a campsite in a nearby cave, at the mouth of a dried-out river basin.

During the night watch, something flew low overhead and the warlock heard rock clattering from a nearby hill. He slowly woke the rest of the group up and they spent some time investigating, but were unable to discover what it could be. The warlock climbed a nearby rocky cliff and saw some flashes of a mysterious light, that quickly vanished. He unfortunately had no idea what form of magic this was, and neither did the rest of the party. With that, they all took back to resting and the night passed uneventfully, on the chill winds of the Greypeak Mountains.

That next morning, they woke up hacking rust-coloured phlegm and with terrible sores upon their bodies. The cleric deduced that their time in the ghoul warrens had taken its toll, and the group decided to stay put while he used his prayers to heal their disease and bodies. Perhaps good timing, as there was a terrible thunderstorm out, washing most of the roads into grey mud. The day was spent resting and mending, under the ministrations of the cleric, while the group discussed what their next move at the Moathouse would be.

Returning to the forsaken place – it still had a pallor of shadow causing biting winds and the air to reek and leave one gasping, if not careful. They made their way through the mostly abandoned catacomb, with the strange floor that only could be seen with the Torch of Revealing; it was a strange, clear rock that was like earthen glass – the cleric recalled that it was perhaps a unique variant of the glassteel spell, but tuned to rock instead. He then used a spell to deform the clear rock and foul air burst up from the dank hole in the ground, enveloping them in a thick, evil fog! Within the fog a formless man hissed and screeched and slashed invisibly at the group, staying well within the swirling mist. They, the mist departed as the creature exploded into a massive whirlwind, lifting all within the room into it, except the hexblade. They fought bravely, but couldn’t harm it. The hexblade positioned his dark companion near the centre of the storm, and then himself leapt into the winds, teeth clenched in hopes of cursing the enraged air elemental. The windstorm flickered and hissed and the hexblade new his curse was successful! Yelling of his success, the cleric then readied a dismissal spell, now all but unavoidable by the magically crippled air elemental. This spell caused the form of whirling air to shake and scream before finally roiling back into nothing but eddies of dust, as the elemental was banished back to it’s plane…or at least close enough. With that, they found various sky-coloured gems wrapped in a feathered cloak within the chest. They also found a wand and a scroll each laiden with air or sky magic. The cleric tended their wounds as they discussed their next course of action.

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Return to the Moathouse

Later that morning, they spied a large, silvery form gliding through the cool mountain air of the Greypeak Mountains; no matter how fast they were, it seemed to always keep a great distance from them, as if it was intentionally spying upon them. The heroes made their way through a fog-enshrouded valley and eventually discovered a middle-aged elf, dressed in richly afforded merchant’s clothes; strangely, he sat upon the roiling fog as if it were solid, and lazily strummed a harp. They spoke at short length with him about the nature of the mountains and the evil therein, and although the cleric and psion suspected otherwise, he denied being a dragon. He explained that Zhedarak was in grave danger, and their past considered, they were perhaps the best to aid this troubled mining town.

With their guide Kaeyterodel finding them a wide and fairly smooth expanse of rock, they set their tents – both real and decoy – under the starless night, the orange of the fire lighting up the barren valley. The heroes had slept during the remainder of the day and, going upon the cleric’s divinations, stayed up all the night, hoping to spring an ambush upon the fell beast. Later that night, when the hexblade and psychic warrior were on watch, the leering beast leapt silently from the dark and chill shadows. The cleric leapt into action and cast a barrier of purity and goodness to contain the beast. The hexblade managed to direct his shadow companion near the creature, leeching its luck away, while his own curse caused it’s reactions and defences to dull under a sparkling purple haze. The psion lashed out with his razor-sharp mind and severely harmed the creature – now powerless to prevent such vicious psychic strikes due to the hexblade. The warlock summoned eldritch fire along his arms and fired a devastating bolt directly through the beast, immolating it wholly as it burst into searing orange flames, screaming in the night.

That next morning, the heroes hurried back to Zhedarak, with the head of the wendio in tow – as proof of the vile beast’s death. Yet, as they moved, they entered a swirling blizzard, that, upon clearing left them nearly minutes from the dwarven town! Within the swirling storm, they see a horned head within the cloud, and the psychic warrior channelled his powers to grow to the size of an ogre and empower his blade, but as the snow cleared, they realized it was merely one of the mountain yaks that the dwarves of Zhedarak rely upon – they appeared within a herdsman’s pasture, and there were scared dwarven herdsmen looking up upon the strange giant that just stepped out of a magical blizzard. The cleric and psion agreed that an unknown ally – perhaps the silver dragon they’d believed they’d encountered earlier – had lent them a hand, while the psychic warrior made amends with the terrified farmers. Back within town, they told Cannith of their victory against his former hunt. He was pleased, but morose, and explained that he and his families were leaving Zhedarak for good due to the tragedy – with that, he gifted upon the heroes a manor house within the city, and left.

The cleric spent the next day consulting his spells and prayers, casting a series of divinations to discover what had befell Doomseer Tharanak Stonefist, amongst other questions for the heroes. The psion managed to speak with fellow dwarven psion, who was able to use his mastery of the mind to psychically rewire his knowledge, unlocking new potential by reforging a few of his older powers into newer ones. With that, they left for the Moathouse, with the Torch of Revealing in hand.

Upon arrival at this accursed place, the warlock activated the torch and after some great searching, managed to find a strange area of floor that was made with glass-like bricks, hard as iron – someone had buried treasure within the very foundation of the crumbling ruin itself. Within it, was a small chest and several decayed skeletons. Searching the torture room, the oily black haze of the unholy torch revealed a secret passage down into a level below; the psion climbed down, and was ambushed by several ghouls and walking dead below! His psionic senses warning him at the last possible moment, he assaulted his undead foes with cryokinetic ice, levelling most of them and freezing them fast to the floor. The cleric flew down the chamber and tried to call his faith against them, but was too slow. The psychic warrior, eager to get into melee, leapt down the chimney-passage, and fell heavily upon the gnome psion, but managed to slash down the remaining ghastly creature.

They arrived in the barracks. Although this new place was unfortunately familiar to them, they decided to search it again, with the black aid of their torch. They re-examined the ghoulish warrens that were carven through the wall of a catacomb, and followed them through with lines of rope to secure their safe exit. After an hour of claustrophobic searching, they discovered a hidden temple to elemental evil, within a massive polyhydral room, carved from the rock itself. At the center, there was an altar, and a strangely placed pillar. The Torch of Revealing shone through the four-sided relief statue in the middle of the room, and revealed a swirling, formless horror trapped within a previously invisible blackish crystal prism. The cleric and warlock correctly identified this as a sacrificial room, with this foul creature perhaps serving as direct mouth-piece to The Elder Elemental Eye. The gnome tried to parley with it in the black language of demons, but this only seemed to rouse the beast greatly, and black mist seeped from the gnome’s mouth as he spoke, greatly fatiguing and draining him, as the alter absorbed this lost energy.

Not wishing this evil creature to remain within the Realms, The cleric knew his chances were slim, but he spoke a prayer of dismissal, and truly considered himself blessed when there was a hideous screeching as the creature was banished back to whatever foul hell it crept from, as the crystal broke and shattered – the sacrificial room still thick with evil, but somehow less so.

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Hunting the Dark Hunter

The very next morning, the heroes awoke and immediately set into action after barely a night of some well deserved rest. Having already arranged an alternate reward – perhaps hoping to claim some of the far-seeing powers of the dwarven clerics of the Library of Dumathoin – the heroes made their way to this well fortified location. Once inside, the sly Oghman cleric allowed his hexblade companion to ply his silvered tongue, and the clerics agreed to part with a crystalline skull that could let one speak with the dead. However, as some within the church secretly wish to see the heroes campaign against The Elder Elemental Eye successful, this, rather than quick or honeyed words may have been the reason for a rich reward for an otherwise non-related task.

However, no sooner had they came into possession of this powerful item of necromancy, than they heard a clatter and hushed tones hurry through the subterranean monastery fortress. They rushed through the dimly lit catacomb-like halls of the library and discovered the High Doomseer, struggling upon the floor, struck down by some unseen force, surrounded by clerical aides and trusted bodyguards; each casting an array of defensive spells and activating the latent prayer-defences of the mighty hall. Large stone statues armed with crystalline blades sprang to life and a shimmering silvered glow began to play about the place as innumerable dwarven runes began to alight upon the walls and doors. Their earlier contact suggested the heroes leave the temple alone in crisis.

Before they left, the High Doomseer motioned to them from the ground and muttered ”...the skies…climb…” and then lapsed into a deep, unwaking sleep.

When they returned to Firewater’s Rest, their cleric began a wide array of divinations and spells and prayer, in hopes of discovering the location of the original wendigo that savaged Cannith’s unlucky band of heroes; the group recognising that they could lend little aid that Dumathoin’s clergy couldn’t already come by. After a few short hours in secluded prayer, the cleric received spiritual visions of the beast that destroyed the company of heroes that Cannith led – consulting with the psion, they verified that a particularly large and fierce blood tiger had somehow come under the dire curse of the wendigo, and was using the drafty back alleys of the Greypeak Mountains as its personal hunting grounds. They met for a warmed supper beside the firelight at Firewater’s Rest and discussed the need for a guide who knew the territory, but as well would be able to lend a hand, when they would inevitably encounter the fell beast.

The psion spoke with members of his guild, The Golden Gear and they suggested the heroes speak with one of the few remaining guides within Zhedarak, the rakish half-elven scout, Kaeyterodel. They encountered him attempting to woo some of the daughters of the wealthier houses in Zhedarak, and managed to pry him from this task with the promise of gold; he agreed to travel with them far away enough from civilization, so as to set up a trap for the wendigo. After packing up, they set off into the cold, dusky night.

They travelled for an entire day through the bleak and rocky mountainside, and began to look for a suitable location to set camp up, but as the darkness overtook the mountain, the keen ears of Kaeyterodel and the psion noted something lumbering through the dark. His psionic sight revealed several giants shambling toward them, limbs torn and bodies weeping blood – undead ogres! After a brief, but tense battle, the heroes proved victorious and decided to move their camp to a less cursed area. Then, during the night watch, the warlock began to notice walking figures, that he identified as skeletons. As he blasted each one with sizzling crimson blasts, another would appear to take its place, until an entire hoard – nearly one-hundred strong – fell upon the heroes and rent their tents and clawed at them as they attempted to retreat up a gravel-strewn hill.

Springing into action, the psion unleashed a massive cryokinetic orb that cascaded and burst at the centre of the horde, but did little more than rime the bones with frost. The cleric used spells to fly gently above the horde and called upon his faith to cleanse the undead filth below him: dozens of the unspeaking skeletal forms shuddered and burst with a golden light, falling forever still. They poured over the psychic warrior and their guide, Kaeyterodel, who both barely made it out alive. Learning from his mistake, the psion unleased another orb of pyrokinetic fire that swept through the mass, charring and burning the brittle bones. The cleric called upon another golden swirl of faith which fully dispersed and scattered the few remnants of the bony mass.

Spending another hour or so in the middle of the cold night to ensure all of the stragglers were crushed into the dry earth, or burnt, the heroes set their camps back up and resumed watch, until the dawn crept across the canvas of the tent, and they awoke to a rocky landscape strewn with the remnants of the walking dead. The psion commented on the age of the bones, but little else could be said about them. With that, they packed up and set off.

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Fire in the Dark Night

With the day behind them, the heroes set their camps, within this defensible bear cave, rested, and bedded down for the night. The first few watches passed without incident, but then during the dead of the chill night, a whispering moan was heard upon the icy winds. The psion and his psywar companion gazed around the moonlit stones, and saw nothing but rubble and timbers; Selûne’s silvery light bathed the entire valley in a soft silvery radiance, but even this revealed nothing.

As they searched, they heard another moaning wail, as a snowy gust kicked up near the camp. Quietly stirring to his allies, the gnome soon awoke the rest of the camp, and the hexblade and psywar set out to discover just what was stalking them. Then, before anyone could react, a fiery streak shot toward the gathered companions and burst with a dull rumble into a searing ball of orange flame! Even taken unaware, the group managed to duck and dive for cover, but were harmed seriously even in spite of their reflexes. Reacting reflexively, the gnome psion manifested a crackling ball of electricity within the timbers – producing little more than a shrill scream and silence afterward. Peering with his keen eyes, the gnome saw a hideous flying apparition nestled within a tree-line: a hideously deformed elven-creature with leathery skin, hovering amidst a cloud of wintry fog, its shattered teeth rattle in its mouth as it shrieks, its long hair whips around it as flickers of magic shot along its twisted arms! He informed the others of this seemingly undead hag, and hid behind some smoking rubble.

The hexblade and psywar gripped their weapons and made their way on foot toward the tree where the beast was hiding, while the warlock fired a charged blast at it – only to have the swirling wintry wind surrounding the beast cause his blasts to veer from their prey. The cleric used his prayer-spells to ward and heal his allies, but was struck by a caustic bolt that sizzled green, paining him seriously. When the smoke cleared, the warlock was leaning against a tree he’d previously conjured to hide behind, badly burnt and dying from the flames. The cleric used his spells to heal his friend, and then hid behind some of the rubble, upon hearing the whispers of the divine – these voices proved correct when moments later a fiery burst cascaded along the rocky face, the brunt of it charring the rocks in front of him harmlessly.

The psywar and hexblade made it to the creature and tried to slash and slice at it with their weapons; the hexblade managed a telling blow, his magebane-attuned mace sending a shower of sparks into the beasts’s shrieking frame. The psywar leapt into the air and brought his jagged blade down heavily upon the creature, causing a deep slash to bleed black along it’s side, as it felt lifeless to the ground. They gathered their wits and began to trek over to the corpse to identify it, but it whispered away as wintry fog. The cleric healed his already ragged allies and they made their way back to the camp, only to have the beast launch another searing explosion into the midst of the group, luckily, it connected with a tree moments before impact and burst, sending flaming splinters everywhere. The gnome and warlock launched their psychic and magical assaults, and left the creature tumbling down the rock wall. The warlock’s fiery attack charred the hag horridly – she charred slowly, seemingly unable to resist this burning assault. The gnome and cleric agreed that this fallen horror was a wendigo, whos unfortunate past held no small sorcerous power.

Resting through the night and recovering themselves, they set out to Zhedarak and nearly 3 hours from town, saw a wisp of smoke rising steadily from a deeply-set valley, strewn with snowy pines. The cleric noted that someone had taken efforts to hide their travels to this valley, but had done so in a hurry. Following the tracks, the heroes came to a defensible location, not unlike the one they slept in last night, but in extreme disrepair. They saw the makeshift graves of at least two people, and noted that scorch-marks along the flapping remnants of one tent indicated that whatever was here attempted to burn most of the camp. They came to a wounded local explorer, from Zhedarak who introduced himself cautiously as Cannith.

He explained his party was hunting in the Greypeak Mountains when a strange bear-beast came screaming down the hill, and managed to rend one of his allies before they could act. Their sorcerer, Menshaal Firehair accidentally launched a spell into the midst of the heroes causing the apparent deaths of their friend, but fortunately, the beast as well. Too weak and wounded to return to town, they rested up and took scope of the situation, but within a few days the sorceress ran out of the campsite, screaming into the night, never to be seen again.

Healing his wounds and helping him back to town, the heroes returned to the inn, and then spoke with the clerics at the Library of Dumathoin about a wendigo being so close to Zhedarak; they were rewarded for their efforts and discussed the increasingly hostile nature of threats to the dwarven fortress town with the clerics. The Oghman cleric parleyed with the Doomwardens, as he was already able to tend to his own wounds, and was interested in their vast stores of divinitory knowledge and prayers – they agreed to share knowledge with him and his group; indeed, heroes who were fast becoming the strongest protectors that Zhedarak had against the encroaching darkness.

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Travelling to the Past

After taking scope of their discoveries, riches and wounds, the heroes took off a few well-deserved days of rest. Speaking with a few more contacts within the town and the gnome’s guild, they decided that The Journal of Gheznor Tonoff was more revealing than would seem, and decided to head to the fallen Brittlebury Enclave, to find out what the “wretch” that Gheznor was ranting about might know The Elder Elemental Eye.

Setting off along unused and crumbling roads, the heroes trekked through the windswept mountains, noting that the very sky around the Moathouse, even though many hours away, seemed foreboding and dark. En route, they came across a lone, crumbling bridge amidst a wide and deep crevasse. Midway across this rain-soaked bridge, they encountered a friendly dwarven cleric of Haela Brightaxe, who, true to his competitive patron, challenged the strongest member of the party to an arm-wrestling match, should the rest wish to cross. However, soon after the psychic warrior agreed to this test and matched arms, the cheerful dwarf melted away, revealing a withered and hideous haunt, who grabbed the stunned psychic warrior and hurled him off the bridge before anyone could react! Reacting faster than thought, he empowered his body with psionic energy, crashing into the jagged rocks and upturned blades mere seconds later – the haunt had apparently used the weapons of its former victims to line the dry riverbed below the abandoned bridge. Hastily escaping the bridge by psionically using a dimension door, the gnome retreated to the far side of the valley. The haunt magically convinced the cleric and his hexblade to leap into the valley below, injuring themselves, but thankfully landing on a rocky outcropping; however, a quick dimension door prayer whisked them, as well as the warlock, across the steep valley. The psychic warrior attuned his mind and ran up the sheer rock face, meeting his allies upon the other side. The leering haunt screamed after them, but they used their divine and psychic abilities to warp themselves to safety, far away from the accursed bridge.

Arriving at the Brittlebury Enclave shortly after, the charred and crumbling remains of this former gnome holding greeted them. The party noted that it appeared wholly abandoned, as the streets were littered with rocks, debris and slender pools of trickling rime – bubbled up from an untended natural salt-geyser at the far side of the town.

Making their way to the largest building – which appeared to be a tavern, hotel, or civic hall of sorts, they discovered an unnatural chill upon entering, much cooler than the spring thaw should see. Before any could speak, much less act, a phantom melted up through the decrepit floorboards and attempted to drive a spectral blade through the gnome’s neck! Perhaps a quirk of fate, or luck, the spirit failed and the gnome railed around and burst cryokinetic energy through the leering frame, completely unharming it. The warlock sprang into action and levelled a dispelling invocation against the ghost’s blade, causing it to flicker and shed the magical crystal that allowed the spirit to strike between our world and his. The ghost shrieked with rage, it’s seemingly broken neck and jaw leering angrily at the heroes. They continued to desperately battled it, frustrated at its ability to melt into the walls, or ignore their very blades and spells. It’s hideous appearance chilled the psychic warrior to his very bone, leaving him a shell of his former self.

Eventually, they lured it out and the hexblade’s heavy mace showered sparks as it connected with this hated phantom; the gnome capitalized upon this and gave it another blast of chilled psychic energy, sending it screaming and shattering into nothingness – buying them at least a few days before the ghost would vengefully return. Upon searching the upper half of this ruin, they discovered a skeleton hanging in a closet, which loosed a screaming mad spirit of a girl, wrapped in dark smoke and crying blood. It whirled around the room and tossed the contents at the party, and attempted to lock the door as well. It attempted to scream at the cleric, but years of monastic training and an iron-strong mind steeped in unshaking faith easily pushed the spirit away, it then turned to the already-weakened psychic warrior, who felt his mind become dull and full of the she-spirit’s whispered rantings, unfocusing his psychic ability for as long as his mind would remain magically fractured.

Slashing furiously, the psychic warrior tore at her essence with his massive blade, striking true because of the mystic crystal within it’s haft, giving it power against the walking dead. The gnome loosed a bolt of psychic energy which shredded her shadowy form and the hexblade levelled a crushing blow against her, causing the shrieking spirit to melt into nothingness. Next, they carefully searched the building, top to bottom, for any signs of what may have caused these ghosts to remain within such a wretched hovel. The cleric even used his divinations, and tried to forsee any outcomes of success, but there were simply none. After double-checking the abandoned place, the heroes decided to leave and walked across the splintered cobblestone, toward the next largest building – a former place of alchemy and herbs.

As they crossed the stones, a foul, leering face bubbled up from an abandoned water fountain at the middle of the court. It appeared to be an elemental, composed entirely of muddied, stagnant water, except it was shaped as a leering, horned skull, and made clawed arms and a gnarled rib-cage out of it’s water – the cleric and gnome recognized this immediately as a demonically-infused water elemental; an elemental possessed by fiendish forces. The warlock levelled a few powerful blasts into the beast’s form, but ill-luck saw him nearly fell his psychic warrior comrade. The ensuing battle was harsh and nearly saw the death of the psychic warrior, but quick thinking on behalf of the cleric saw his friend live yet another day. The psion poured crackling psychic electricity into the fiend, sizzling it and causing it to steam and shriek, while the hexblade positioned his shadowy cat near the creature, ensuring that it’s luck would always roll ill, as he hacked at the beast with his glowing mace. As it fell hissing, it clattered semi-precious stones, which the cleric kept.

Beaten and nearly-spent, the heroes decided to pull back from this clearly wicked place. They reasoned that the elemental could only have become tainted with demonic essence intentionally, through the workings of The Elder Elemental Eye, or naturally, meaning that the Brittlebury Enclave was truly a haunted and vile place that needed their aid. Leaving town and retreating to a nearby rocky crevasse in the side of the grey walls of the mountains found them a fairly defensive location, that backed into a cave. They lit their fires and discussed the next move against the haunted town, as they rested and recovered themselves.

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A Surprising Discovery

Taking stock of their dark surroundings, the heroes moved came to two tunnels that moved in similar, but ultimately different directions. Following the closer path, they came to a short, oddly-shaped room that seemed hastily abandoned. They searched and discovered a small magically protected iron box, and the remnants of sleeping quarters. Forming a construct from astral matter, the psion ordered his creation to rend the box, to reveal what was inside. Within it, they found a few sundry items, some stale provisions, coinage and a strange collection of scrolls – all that remains of The Journal of Gheznor Tonoff. Convinced of a hidden passage, the party broke off and spent quite a deal of time searching the oddly shaped room, but were unable to find any secret or hidden locations.

Returning to the other passage, they crept along a dark hallway that smelled heavily of rot – the gnome readied his psionic-sight, in hopes of viewing foes awaiting in ambush. It partitioned off twice again, but one passage was blocked by a stragely smooth wall, a conjured wall of stone, the cleric informed his party. Deciding to return to the wall later, they followed their original passageway,and discovered a stairs leading down into a small, chill and clammy room that housed a partially excavated well. In this small room, there were a wooden scaffold and a series of winches that lowered a large wooden platform into the black depths below. Also present were pick-axes, rubble and a strange, four-sided statue, each side depicting some unknown sinister looking hero, carved from different coloured rock or semi-precious stone. The warlock tossed a sunrod which eventually flickered out, giving no sound of hitting anything within the yawning darkness. Distant water could be heard pouring through an unseen passage, causing a faint fog to rise menacingly within the crack in the stone floor.

Suddenly, a lurking ghast leapt out from behind the statue, but was quickly frozen solid and shattered by a cryokinetic blast from the psion. Yet the party still heard a shuddering crash from the other side of the wall, as an earth necromental emerged from the very walls, and lunged toward the heroes. Composed of rotting corpses, tomb and crypt stones, and earth from a grave, its massive stony hands battered the psion and his psychic warrior companion, sapping their very lives with its draining touch. The warlock poured powerful crimson blasts into it, shattering stone and sending fell energy tearing through its body, as the psion blasted it with fiery bursts from his mind, his cohort desperately trying to hold the beast away from the more vulnerable members of the party. With a shudder, the beast fell screeching, but the damage was done – the psion and psychic warrior strained under the weight of their wounded souls.

The party climbed onto the wooden platform and the hexblade and the psychic warrior counter-wound the winches to slowly lower the rickety platform into a massive cavern – so wide that the walls could not be seen, and only the destination was visible: a massively carved, square made of smooth black stone, shot through with sizzling purple veins. Upon reaching this strange rock, the party noticed another such platform and a similar series of winches and ropes, presumably connected to the unseen ceiling. As they were examining this, their vision was blocked by a magical fog as the warlock suddenly flew greatly through the air, screaming in pain. The psion’s vision only saw the warlock and little else, but it was obvious that something that could block his empowered vision was holding his ally. Quickly dispelling the fog, the psion saw a horrid floating creature holding his friend in its tentacles, hissing and snapping static with its beak-like mouth. The psion recognized this beast as a grell, and informed his friends of its nature, as the hexblade attempted to curse it, while the psychic warrior tried to grab at it to prevent it from flying away…only to himself be ensnared within its long poisonous arms. The warlock managed to activate a magical anklet through gritted teeth, and was whisked several feet away to safety, falling to the rocky ground. He set about blasting the creature, piercing its side and causing it to lurch to the sizzling black rock below.

As he tried to walk back to the platform, strange crackles of energy made him weak, as he hurriedly retreated to the closer platform, the rest of the party following him closely. The hexblade and psychic warrior used their combined strength to lower this secondary platform alongside the strange glowing stone, until they touched down upon the smooth cavern floor – some 400 feet from the top of what now appeared to be an obelisk, similar to the one mentioned in The Journal of Gheznor Tonoff.

In this black, unearthly place, they found some weird shrines, a slender stone platform that the Ancient Obelisk seemed to rest upon and heard the faint trickles of water into a pool of brackish water along the far side of this cavern floor. Investigating the first strange shrine, known as an Obex, shaped as an inverted ziggurat, except the steps were strewn with odd and hostile symbols; the cleric informed them upon some translation their nature. They then travelled toward a large carving of a ring with several smaller symbols contained within it – on closer inspection, they realized it was a Black Sun carved into the ground with unholy symbols of pain and madness, and each of the lesser symbols keyed itself to an element. However, this examination was cut short, as an insane cleric of the fire temple appeared hovering over the Black Sun and began to bring unholy misery upon the group with no regard for his own, short life. After a short but vicious battle, the cleric was reduced to a smouldering ruin, the psion used another astral construct to drag the body away from the evil runes, and they removed some valuable items from this strange character.

Climbing the pillar beneath the Ancient Obelisk they found a weird portal, seemingly made of tentacles, that lead to a swirling black mist. The psion and cleric spoke and agreed that this could only spell trouble, so the psion used a psychic dorje to channel a keening, stone-shattering burst, causing the strange portal to collapse upon itself and crack unexpectedly.

Accidentally touching the tip of the Ancient Obelisk, the psychic warrior was transported to a completely dark, spherical room, yet the odd nature of this room allowed him to see through the shadows. Soon, his concerned fellows also risked life and warped themselves to this room as he did. Each was given a small, black, lustrous fruit, as a disembodied voice proclaimed…

Seek the heart of each of the four moons. Together, they can sunder the walls of my prison. For now, eat of my fruit and be blessed

Not wanting to show fear when confronted by a formless elder horror, the psion ate the oddly sweet tasting fruit, and vanished instantly. The psychic warrior followed suit, as did the rest of the heroes. The warlock had extreme reservations, but also enjoyed the dark fruit. Much to their surprise, the fruit was a blessing from The Elder Elemental Eye and they found themselves becoming slightly better than they were before, clearly benefiting from a process that was reserved for only the faithful of the insane cult. When they left the small, black room, they were back at the top of the stone, near the hole by the well. The warlock climbed back down, braving the black darkness of the weird place, in order to use a magical item to record the party’s happenings, to return to Zhedarak with definitive proof of this cult.

They then searched and found some fallen treasure from areas they’d previously glossed over, and return to , and then broke down the wall of stone. Within, they found a small grouping of cockatrices, nested within an area of shattered stone; thankfully, they were dispatched incredibly quickly, with no petrification. They also discovered a secret, well-worn tunnel that clearly led to an area outside, as evinced by the whistling wind, that showed signs of heavy use, so they felt that people used this route to escape the dungeon once it was attacked or the obelisk started making people go completely insane.

Finally, in a secluded back room, they discovered a small gnome girl sitting on an unused, dusty desk, playing a game of counting her toes. When asked, she said she was playing with a ‘man in brown’ but he got boring pretty quickly. The room was covered in claw marks and she said this man was hiding in the closet. When opened, the remnants of a man poured from the wooden closet; he was shredded to pieces, but his gear in tact; he seemed to be in the middle of escaping before whatever the girl was caught him and killed him. He carried a fair amount of treasure and thankfully, whatever this girl is did not seem care about that. When questioned, by the cleric and the gnome psion, she said she had a vested interest in the coming slaughter, but next time they meet, she and they may not find things so warm between each party. With that, she stepped toward the large pool of blood that rushed from the wardrobe, and with a smirk, melted into it.

Worn, battered and nearly out of all supplies, the party left this cursed place, only to discover that the nearby surroundings were somehow more sinister. Strangely, none could place how or why it happened; the warlock discovered he had some difficulty breathing, but this soon passed. As they walked, the hexblade realized all of their provisions and drink were utterly spoiled, as they tightened their belts and pressed onward, bloodying their boots and splinting their shins in the process – they had walked for well over 15 hours of the day. Returning to Zhedarak with pained, chapped expressions, they readily spent gold to fill their bellies with warm food, cold drink and then retreated to their rooms at Firewater’s Rest.

The warlock, Joshtradamus, having spent nearly a dozen minutes crawling through what essentially amounted to liquified corpses and grave soil, paid richly for his clothes to be tended to, and a bath to be run in his room. He exclaimed loudly to all that it would be well worth it.

Late the next morning, the gnome attempted to contact the doomseers at the Library of Dumathoin, announcing in the public anteroom of the faithful that he had discovered a vile cult and required assistance. After some initial confusion, the cleric escorted them to a private prayer chamber and listened in traditional stoic, yet concerned manner to the tale as the heroes took their turns explaining what had happened at the Moathouse. This cleric left and returned several minutes later, explaining that the elder doomseer has suspected something of this nature – given the odd happenings in the past few weeks, but had no proof as his divinations said nothing. He agreed to secretly support the party of heroes, but publicly would have to distance the Library of Dumathoin from their efforts, and downplay what they actually discovered, as this cult appeared to have eyes and ears everywhere. For their efforts and discoveries, the clerics healed the remaining wounds and hurts of the heroes, and gifted upon them two magical stones that would harm the unliving or fiendish creatures respectively.

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Return to the Darkness

After securing a guide to the Moathouse the newly formed company entered the eerie and bleak ruin, hoping to find answers and banish the darkness that threatened Zhedarak.

They discovered that the remnants of the previous guard had been removed, and for the most part, the crumbling ruin was empty. However, they recalled a secret passage hidden in a shine-wall, and continued through a narrow corridor…only to have a steely gate slam shut behind them! The gnome wasn’t concerned with this setback – his telekinetic might could easily rend the steel grate – but the loud, crashing noise surely warned any within the dungeon of their arrival.

As they crept cautiously through a narrow hallway, the gnome’s psychic sight revealed an invisible foe at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Immediately, the gnome launched a dazzling bolt of psychic lightning that struck the screaming foe and left it reeling. But it was too late, moments before the bolt struck, the invisible figure hurled an arcane charm at the centre of the group that exploded with a dull rumble into a fiery burst of death. The figure melted into reality, and appeared to be a lone, draconic bugbear, plated in blue dragon’s scales, hefting a massive hammer and shield, and wearing a cloak denoting its service to The Elder Elemental Eye.

A pitched battle broke loose, as the gnome’s psionically-enhanced reflexes became aware of the situation, but he was crushed against a wall by the mighty crush of a bugbear’s shield. The psychic warrior charged along the wall psionically and cleft the bugbear with a mightly arc of his jagged blade, as the warlock loosed bolts of eldritch fire upon the remaining foes. Within moments, it was over and three dead bugbears lay smouldering at the heroes’ feet. Their armour was formed from blue scales they grew, that had given them resistance to some of the elemental spells and powers of the group.

A few minor traps plagued the party, but after a few short moments, the psion summoned an astral construct to walk through any suspect corridors or passages, setting off any traps with its plodding steps. The warlock, weary as always, noted a strange magical force seeping through a crag in the wall. Upon further inspection, it appeared something arcane was buried behind the wall. The cleric called upon his faith and cast some divinely-inscribed stones that hovered between his hands, informing him that weal and woe would await them. The hexblade sneered at their chances, and readied himself and his blade.

Empowering himself psionically, the psychic warrior tore at the wall with one of the fallen bugbear’s great hammers, battering earth and stone alike. It lead into a musty, diamond-shaped room, with two protective, runed circles upon the ground. Upon examination, the room filled with screaming and a beautiful golden light, as what appeared to be a rotting, fiendish angel appeared in one, and a benevolent, celestial demon in the other. They were trapped in this place for an unknown amount of time, but by depleting their essences, they could return to their own planes – but in order to do so, they would have to mutually cull each other’s power. The silver-hued demon would give a blessing, and the withered angel would bestow a curse. The group agreed to this unusual arrangement and chose to limit the angel’s fiendish harm by specifically citing how they would be cursed, in exchange for the demon giving them a random blessing. After a few short moments, the strange energies mingled with the crackling air and both beings vanished in a display of fire and golden lights, as the runes un-wrote themselves on the floor.

The Oghman cleric became more introspective and deep, but detached from the real world and less aware of his surroundings. His hexblade ally gained a divine blessing from his goddess, but now he constantly heard whispers that hampered his ability to listen. The warlock felt his health erode slightly, but began to recall strange memories of arcane facts that were not his own. The psychic warrior became stronger, but his eyes became a dazzling psionic purple and gave his vision a perpetual haze. The gnome also felt his health erode, but in turn was told that a powerful extraplanar being had taken interest in him, and may, should it chose, assist him in some way in the future, when it saw fit…

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A Friend in Need

The duskblade had left due to conflicts with the Mystran – citing that he was an irresponsible fool and not of the real Mystran faith – leaving the party with only three heroes, yet still needing to discover the secrets that the Moathouse hid, in addition to needing the presence of one skilled in the arts of divine healing.

Searching out the Library of Dumathoin and seek the advice of the seers there, they discovered that nearly everyone else of wealth, position or power in Zhedarak had attempted the same. Predicting this, the Dumathanians locked their doors, delving into prayer and meditating upon the recent events, and maintaining a traditional stance of silence until they knew more. The party was met with the mithril-clad dwarven guardians of the temple, and told that none would be permitted entry, and so returned to the Allfathers Forge, the gnome psion hoping that some of the contacts through his affiliation with The Golden Gear may lead him to a private seer of sorts.

Upon return, the group were met at the forge by a pair of veterans from the goblinoid conflicts some months earlier – a clerical-seer of Oghma, and a cynical hexblade of Tymora. The hexblade said they needed an arcanist capable of blasting holes in things, and the psion said he needed a seer and a healer. The two parties became one and joined up. Unfortunately, the psion remembered that in his zeal to collect gold and gems, he accidentally sold the Torch of Revealing, an integral item to the party’s progress within the cursed the Moathouse; the seer used his divinations to scry its location and discovered a robed man speaking with a magically protected individual, flanked by heavily armoued – and scaled – bugbears.

The seer explained he felt these were agents of The Elder Elemental Eye, and revealed that they were acting under utmost secrecy, relying on the strange arcane explosion some miles away in the hills of the Greypeak Mountains to take most interest away from their own doings. Using this information, the newly-formed party planned a method of attack against a foe that was now well aware of them…

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A Surprising Find

Weary and depleted of their most potent array of spells and powers, the heroes mulled about the cleared dungeon, examining its cold, stony walls for hidden passages or treasure, but found neither. Choosing to explore a previously unopened door, they eventually battered it open, only to be confronted by a “ghost” of a previous traveller; their magically-minded allies easily realised these were the arcane parlour tricks of a gnome, and when called, the missing gnome alchemist revealed himself to the group, thankful for his rescue.

The warlock healed him with his magic wand, and the grateful gnome explained of the terrible cult that occupies the catacombs below. A rift grew between the duskblade and the mystran cleric, as the latter refused to arm the alchemist with one of his magical wands out of spite; the stubborn duskblade had few nice comments to say about his increasingly unreliable ally. The gnome pointed out areas where his own ill-fated exploration revealed hidden passages within the walls that the vile cultists use for rapid passage. He nervously accompanied the group further, and after discovering the location of the secret passage, they felt they would return and explore it further, after resting and recharging their formidable powers.

As they crept up the lower stair, escaping the blackness of the ruined dungeon below, ghostly black hands clawed at the group, sapping the strength of the duskblade and the mystran. The gnomes realised the danger and immediately fled, while the psychic warrior luckily hacked at one and his magical blade struck true and cleft it into shrieking mists. After a brief battle, the group fled the mounting shadows below – their shrieking wails signalling that more were attracted like flies to the escaping, living prey.

As the group ventured through crumbling ruins of the Moathouse, a far-off hideous thundering alerted them to distant disasters. Making their way to the edge of the ruined foundation, they peered off and saw a wispy spiral, easily a dozen miles off, reaching from the rocky hills of the Greypeak Mountains, all the way up to a set of dark and looming stormclouds. None of them could quite say what this weird phenomenon was, but they hurriedly trekked back to Zhedarak, with the duskblade’s blinkdog leading the way. On their way back, the hideous crashing of a rushing ice-storm battered over them – the group barely reaching safety against a unused rocky cliff-face. The ice was horned and sharp, as if it was serrated leering faces. As soon as it happened, it vanished, ice included.

As they made their way through the rapidly fading sun, back to Zhedarak, they took notice of all manner of strange weather and magical patterns – massive swirling dust-clouds hundreds of feet tall, geysers of pure blazing fire and torrential blizzards – all vanishing as fast as they appeared. On the outskirts of the dwarven fortress-city, they found the militia out in full force, lead by heavily armoured warriors and the spell-laiden Doomwardens of Dumathoein. The city had witnessed the bizarre patterns as well, and were hopeing that the heroes, recognising their magical talent, may have some insights. Troublingly, the Doomwarden confided in the psion – someone he recognised as a person of great integrity – that their mystical communion with their seer-deity had fallen silent on the matter of the explosion and erratic, arcane weather.

Upon return, the Mystran declared that he needed a more refined band to associate with and left. Although their primary source of divine healing left, none stopped him, as they realised his arrogant nature, aloofness and faltering faith were simply not worth his company. He duskblade also parted – the Mystran brushed him the wrong way and the many close encounters he lived through soured him to life on the road. During the twilight of that eve, every shop, tavern and barracks was alight with torches and discussion – people were awed with wonderment and perhaps, more than they wished to admit, fear.

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A Return

Resting their envenomed wounds in the dwarven citadel-town of Zhedarak the heroes used some downtime to plan and plot further, while the duskblade furthered his studies into this ancient elven blade-art. After a few days rest, they hired out some dwarven steppe-guides, who returned them to the crumbling Moathouse, amidst a slate-grey, stormy sky.

They explored the upper level of the crumbling ruin, and between sheer braun and eldritch blasts, managed to force their way through most of the locked, closed or stuck doors. Discovering a strange cloak and an odd featureless pastel mask, they discovered little more than startled bats, scurrying rats, and a scant handful of dusty coins that others had presumably overlooked. They also discovered an small, heavy statuette of an earth elemental, except made of cold iron – the warlock recoiled from this odd discovery.

Convinced that the upper levels of the fallen manor held little else for them, they discovered a steep and ill-used stair, that descended into a yawning, black basement, and crept down the chill stairs, only to be ambushed by a pair of well-armed bugbear guards, each wearing a black cloak with the symbol of the elder eye upon it! However, the duskblade’s shocking blade and the psychic warrior’s keen edge proved a better strategy than ambush, and after a relatively short battle, the party had won.

They crept into a hidden, under-warren that appeared to be a ruined barracks, or a sprawling, abandoned cellar. Nearing some unused jail cells, a pungent odor of rot sapped a few of them of their fighting strength, as a horde of ravenous ghouls poured out of a nearby hall. The cleric was bitten and immediately paralysed, but the defensive spells remained potent; the gnome’s psychic visions warned him of this ahead of time, allowing him to release blasts of cryokinetic energy, shattering the ghouls, while his allies blasted and stabbed them to their best ability. Further searching only revealed a dust-laiden torture chamber, perhaps causing them to question claiming such a place for their own, once they had cleared it of its foul, unholy taint.

Venturing further, they noted that one of the refuse-laiden rooms had seen recent traffic – the gnome accordingly manifested a protective psychic shield, before the group entered the room. They found a many pillared room with a white blanket in the middle, holding several strange items of dark power, namely, some Incense of Dreaming,a bead of force, a Torch of Revealing and a strange scroll, coiled inside a black metal tube, later revealed to be a copy of the Fell Manuscript of the Black Cyst. While they were observing these items, two well-armed bugbear guards hid behind the nearest two pillars and leapt out to the attack – however, the gnome’s psychic visions sensed them and he directed a deafening blast of crackling electricity at one; his force-shield protecting him from the ensuring brunt of the bugbear’s weapon. The party readied themselves for the battle, when an unseen witch croaked fell words and caused a black rain to fall upon the party, harming and burning them.

They scattered and fought against the bugbear-guardians, as the cleric used his prayers to dispel the black rains. The witch relied on trickery, causing the duskblade to strike himself with his flaming blade, but with both bugbears soon dead, they pressed forward. She blanketed the room with a thick fog and escaped into an unseen corner, out of the vision of even the gnome’s psionic eyes. The duskblade hustled to her last location, but couldn’t see her, and used his cloak to become invisible. The warlock tossed a sunrod into the fog, but it remained thick. The gnome’s mind lashed out at the fog and dispelled it, but the witch was nowhere to be found. As they crossed the room, the cleric wandered too close to the fell items on the blanket and was shocked with a burst of negative energy – however, he was able to properly identify the foul artefacts.

Figuring that she had somehow escaped through the southern door, they healed themselves with spells and wands, and then crept to the door. However, upon opening it, several skeletons, encrusted with strange, brown dust stepped out – their massive lead, an ogre-sized skeleton fully knocking the psychic warrior back, as his cohorts spilled out. The very air around them sapped heat and vitality from the heroes as they fought, and the duskblade successfully realised that they were rife with brown mold that had grown (or was placed) within the carefully constructed bones. Worse still, each skeleton that was felled immediately shattered into a icy cloud of brown mold, easily turning a victory into a hasty defeat. Retreating backward the gnome and the warlock escaped to the far side of the room, pelting their skeletal foes with eldritch bolt and kinetic fire alike. The duskblade cast a scorching ray, which erred and struck his clerical ally, just as the giant skeleton collapsed into an explosion of icy dusts. Battered and defeated, the heroes healed up and counted their blessings. Their vitality was returned, and although the duskblade had fared well, psion was half-spent, and the cleric was all but empty of his spells. The warlock’s supernatural luck had run out, and he had exhausted his magical gauntlets, and his ability to powerfully flood his eldritch blasts was now beyond safe.

They regrouped in the main hall, by the stair, bandaged their wounds, and spent their spells and wands. Curious about exploring the rest of this strange, malevolent place.

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