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In The Beginning…

07/07/07 - December 07


Seventh of Flamerule, 1374 DR

A small but intrepid group of adventurers could be seen from the high walls of Two Stars. It was not an uncommon sight, and the three passed unmolested into the city streets. The necks of the townspeople turned with their passing regardless of the commonality of adventurers in these parts, new faces were a sort of entertainment in Two Stars. It was a rough and isolated city, though quite prosperous due to its location on a major trade intersection between Kara Tur and the rest of Faerun. So, needless to say, unusual sights were abound in Two Stars. The figures held the townspeoples' attention for a few breaths as they passed, but there was work to be done for the many merchants and traders lining the streets. The three, obviously foreign, adventurers made their way to the nearest (not-so-foul-smelling) tavern to find rest after their long and trying journey.

The first to enter the rustic establishment looked as though he came straight from some benevolent monarchs court. His armor shone just a bit brighter than the lamps in the dingy public house and the tall impressive weapon he carried (with unassuming ease) promised a swift death if one were caught at the wrong end. This was Percival Stoutheart. Obviously some prince or princess in his charge would be the next to follow through the door.

But, no. A simply garbed man carrying a shortspear that glowed faintly was next to follow. He was obviously a spellcaster of some sort. His robes said as much, and the large pouch at his hip bulged with arcane esoterica. This was Helios Marten. He surveyed the room with sharp eyes and made way for the third member.

Precluded by the sweet stink of pipeweed and possibly b.o. came the most eccentric looking man. On his head he wore a large leather conical hat that doubled over about halfway. In his hair and ample beard he apparently kept his collection of briars and twigs and bits of leaf. To all appearances he looked as though he'd spent the evening in a pile of leaves deep in the forest. This was Marley Bramblebeard. At his heel came a very disgruntled looking badger, whom sniffed the air almost continuously.

The small party made their way to the nearest unoccupied table, through the stares of the bar patrons, and ordered drinks and a meal. Fresh bread and cheese were a welcome respite from the rations they'd "enjoyed" for the past tenday.

Their meal was interrupted, however, by the frantic entrance of a young woman. She approached the bar-back with desperation in her gait. Upon eavesdropping, the three discerned that the young woman's husband, Talf, had gone missing. He hadn't been home for the past day and she was growing increasingly worried. The barman had no answers for her, and she exited the public house even more distraught. After a quick glance between each other, the three followed. Catching up to her in the street they questioned her on the details (what little there were) of her husband's disappearance. Percival, the shiny knight, offered to pay for a divination to try and find her erstwhile spouse, and the group made their way, with wife in tow, to the Seer's Eye in the city's center. Upon entering they found several booths and counters set-up for any interest associated with the Art (even the less than savory). Finding the booth for divination, they asked the seer for aid.
With so little information to go on, the seer, Hamal Kom by name, was unable to scry for the husbands' location and the group was back to square one. They decided to check his place of employment next, but his boss hadn't seen him all day. In fact, another coworker had been missing as well, one of the husband's good friends, Elonn. It appeared then that if they found one they'd find the other. The group had one more bar to check and it was then that they finally caught a break. It appeared that two nights ago, according to the barmaid, the husband and his friend were seen there flirting with a dark and beautiful young woman, and all three left together. Heading back outside, the three resumed their quest for information on Talf, Elonn or the beautiful young woman.

Their main informant turned out to be a drunk on the street who claimed he saw the two men wandering off with the woman toward the southern gate. With nothing else to go on they attempted to follow that lead. Marley, the eccentric half-elf druid, and his badger attempted to pick up the spore of the three missing. With no small amount of luck they were able to pick up the faint trail of two males (obviously inebriated) and one female (obviously sober) headed toward the southern gate and out of the city. About a half mile out of town the tracks met with those of a wagon and two larger men. The tracks of the husband and his friend ended, the tracks of the woman circled back toward the western gate of the city, and the wagon tracks headed south. Using a scroll of mount, Helios, the sharp eyed mage, summoned horses for himself and the druid. While the knight remained quite comfortable on his own light warhorse. With all haste they followed the trail of the wagon.

Another half days travel was the last thing the road-weary trio had hoped for. Yet, toward the evening, they finally came across a trade wagon with a broken wheel. The driver and his companion (by all appearances, Thayan Slavers) were cursing at each other in Mulhorandan. When the PCs approached, the slavers seemed oddly glad. In fact they asked if they might have an extra wheel or perhaps be willing to run back to the city (again, half a days travel) to purchase a new wheel for them (with their money, of course). As it happened they were unfortunate enough to have two broken wheels with the past 24 hours, and had already used their spare.

Marley and his badger, while Helios and Percival were conversing with the slavers, noticed that the wagon had a pair of cages in the rear. In which sat two very unconscious young men. By his wifes description, he druid recognized Talf and Elonn immediately. Thus the unspoken question was stated; kill the slavers and rescue the man and his friend, or barter with the thayans for the two mens' freedom? The PCs chose the latter and, with a huge discount for fetching a couple spare wheels, were able to purchase the men from the slavers.

The PCs headed back to town with the now semi-conscious men. They gathered a better description of the woman from them and picked up her trail, which led straight into the Thayan Enclave just outside the city walls. The PCs, with Elonn in tow, approached the enclave with caution. They were unsure how a Thayan facility might greet a trio of inquisitive adventurers. They were relieved when greeted amicably at the front gate by the guards and they asked to speak with the enclave's leader. After a few moments waiting the head wizard of the enclave, Hinnar, came to greet the PCs. They gave their description of the woman to her, but Hinnar was sure there was no woman therein with long black hair; the female wizards stationed at the enclave all shaved their heads regularly, as part of Thayan tradition. As a show of good faith, Hinnar called all of the female mages to the front gate so the PCs and Elonn could inspect them and possibly recognize her face. Recognition shown almost immediately in Elonn's eyes as he turned to the fifth female wizard in the lineup. Hinnar approached the mage to ask in deadly serious tones whether or not the man's story was true. The mage, Kizzaf, denied the allegations vehemently. But, when Hinnar called for a zone of truth spell, Kizzaf knew the game was up. Calling to the zombies she'd buried in the ground (conveniently nearby) she attempted to assault the PCs and her fellow mages. Helios put a swift end to any spell she might have considered casting. He threw his spear, Archlight, with all his strength hitting Kizzaf square in the heart, killing her instantly. Percival, Marley and the other assembled mages made short work of the zombie pair.

Hinnar thanked the PCs profusely and apologized to Elonn for the misbehaviour of one of her charges. She gave the PCs a few potions as thanks and gave Elonn some money to split with himself and Talf. As the group was saying their goodbyes a carriage pulled up to the gate chauffeured by a pair of caravan guards. Out stepped a thayan woman in nobles' finery. She passed the PCs with a nod, and approached Hinnar inside the enclave. Helios and Percival were curious, so they decided to stay and see what the woman wanted.

The woman, Khalia, was making a regular stop at the enclave to pick up supplies and check on progress. Needless to say she was displeased with the fact that one of their own attempted to sell some of the local townspeople into slavery, let alone practice necromancy within the limits of their non-thayan hosts. She called for Hamal Kom, of the Seer's Eye, to attempt to uncover the identities of the zombies Kizzaf had raised and see to it that they had a proper burial. She also wanted Kizzaf's soul to be questioned, to see if there were any more apprentices that might have aided her in her plot.

Turning to the PCs she reiterated thanks on behalf of the Thayan's Merchant Collective. Furthermore, seeing as how they were able bodied adventurers, she inquired as to their interest in escorting her to Telflamm (at the other end of the country of Thesk). As it happened, four of her guards were killed on the road by wandering undead. Szass Tam's (zulkir of necromancy, ruler of Thay) leftovers, no doubt. The PCs accepted and made plans to leave the following day.

Their travel was made quite comfortable by the gregarious Khalia. She covered the cost of all of their traveling equipment and even purchased horses for Helios and Marley. At night they slept in a conjured hut, compliments of Khalia, with all of the comforts of home. They encountered a few beasts on the road to Phsant, but nothing they couldn't handle. Once in the city of Phsant, Khalia said she had an appointment with a merchant therein. The PCs accompanied her to the Shou Town and the shop of Kenji Komura. Kenji wanted Khalia to hire his nephew, Aenin, so that he might see the world and escape the temptation of the Nine Golden Swords, the yakuza clan spread throughout Thesk.

When his uncle told him that he'd be leaving Phsant for possibly forever, Aenin took it in stride. He stood quite tall among his kozakuran kin; Aenin Komura quite obviously had some rashemi blood in his veins. On his left arm was strapped a thick armored sleeve that rose to a half collar at his throat. This pauldron was a shield of his own design and he was quite practiced in its use along with the daisho given to him by his uncle. Aenin offered to show the PCs around Phsant before they left the next day.

The remaining trip to Telflamm was as eventful as the first leg of the trip. And when they arrived at their destination Khalia bade them good journeys and paid them handsomely for their time. She made her way to the extravagant thayan enclave located within the city. The PCs took the time to explore the somewhat unseemly streets of Telflamm. While in the market they encountered a disheveled looking man running through the streets yelling for help. Two men in black spiked leather armor were chasing him; one with a net the other with a bow and an oddly shaped arrow. The disheveled man turned over carts and pushed patrons aside as he rushed by. The man with the bow took aim and fired, hitting his quarry in the back. The arrow tip exploded in a cloud of gas and the man fell to the ground, asleep. The two armored men bound their captive and carried him off. The marketplace went back to its business as if nothing much had happened. After a few hours of reconnoitering, the group was approached by a young man with tattoos. He introduced himself as Nimmik, Maercus Brand's apprentice, and informed the PCs that Maercus would like an audience with them immediately at the enclave.

Upon entering the thayan enclave the PCs noticed a stark defference from the other enclaves they encountered in Thesk. It had high stone walls encircling it and several buildings within. The guards at the gate were a little less than friendly looking and, strangely, they both bore a white streak in their dark hair. The prominent tower at the northern corner was influenced heavily by kozakuran design with its pagoda-like structure. The group was led to the topmost floor of this tower and a long room with a similarly proportioned table. The northern wall held a large open balcony that overlooked… the bay… which was south of the tower. Aside from this odd appointment the room was fairly plain, with the bare stone walls and large oak table. At the opposite end of said table stood Khalia and one who could only be Maercus of the Masks. He greeted the PCs and welcomed them to have a seat. He made little small talk and disclosed his proposition clearly. He needed the PCs to travel to Aglarond and recover an artifact of some sort from a hidden, befouled, and forgotten temple. The pay was extravagant; 1000gp each (half now, half upon completion). This piqued the groups' interests quite a bit. Marley, who was from the area to which they were to venture, was quite familiar with the horror stories associated with that hidden temple. He was a little weary about going there, but the price was right. In the end they all decided that it was worth their while. Maercus was pleased at their acceptance and told them that Nimmik would be accompanying them, as well. This, of course, was news to Nimmik. The PCs were given their initial payment and an amulet of resistance +1 each. They were told to meet Nimmik at the docks the next morning.


Twenty Second of Flamerule, 1374 DR

The smell of salt and brine greeted the PCs as they reached the docks the following morning. They found Nimmik easily enough, looking out of place among the sailors and dock workers. He carried a light pack slung over his shoulder and a nice looking crossbow. He was dressed for light travel (fancy travelers outfit) and wore a heavy hooded cloak. He greeted the PCs and told them that the ship they were to board, the Albers, was still being loaded with provisions and cargo, but they should meet the first mate today to broker passage. Behind Nimmik, on a large glowing floating disk, sat a large bulging sack. Apparently he was more prepared for the trip than it first seemed.

As the group headed for the Albers a street tramp grabbed Helios by the cuff and started babbling about "A HOUSE DIVIDED WILL FALL, MUST FALL", and "HE SEES ALL, HIS MAELSTROM, HIS EYE!". He then proceeded to carve lines into his very flesh with a large knife. The PCs restrained the man and he passed out. They thought it best to get him medical attention at once, so Nimmik suggested the temple of Tymora. They quickly carried him there and left him in the capable hands of the clerics (for a small price). Neither Nimmik, Helios, or the cleric at the temple could identify the designs the man had cut into his skin.

They returned to the docks and found the Albers. Upon boarding they asked to see the captain or the first mate. The latter was available, and he introduced himself to the PCs as Huxley. He inspected the small group and told them in no way whatsoever were they to cause trouble on this trip. They were expected to help with some of the menial duties onboard, but for the most part they were to keep out of the way. Huxley then gave a short tour of the ship, introduced some of the rest of the crew, and showed the group where they'd be sleeping. He informed them that the Albers would be shipping out at first light and that they were welcome to spend the rest of the day onboard (if they stayed out of the way). The group decided to do some shopping first, so they headed back into town. Percival was concerned that there would be no room for his horse on the Albers, so Nimmik informed Maercus that the light warhorse would be having an extended stay in the stables. Maercus provided Percival with a one-time keyed gem to crush whenever he needed his horse, the enchantment would instantly teleport the warhorse to Percival's side (problem solved).

The PCs boarded the Albers that evening and spent the night on-board. They were roused the following morning by the sound of the crew shoving-off and they could feel the ship take to sea as they began their nautical journey. On their way above deck they noticed an unconscious man locked in the brig. He wasn't there when they boarded last night so they thought to ask Huxley about it. According to the first mate, the prisoner was brought aboard late last night as a last minute arrangement. He was to be unconscious for the entire trip so the PCs didn't need to worry about it. The man was wanted in Velprintilar for murder and Captain Fenn had arranged the transport at quite a nice profit. Huxley also let the group know that the captain would want to speak with them later that day.

The PCs got their breakfast from the mess hall and spent the majority of the day above deck. The sea proved too unfamiliar to Marley's stomach, however, so he stayed below deck the entire journey. Around noon the first day there was a commotion from the starboard side. Many of the sailors were pointing to the water and exclaiming. A sea serpent was sighted swimming alongside the ship. It made no hostile actions toward the ship or the crew and it eventually disappeared below the waves. Huxley snapped the men back to work despite their mild grumbling. The PCs heard the rumors circulating on deck (in hushed tones) that the sailors felt the serpent was a bad omen and that Fenn was inviting disaster by having his woman on-board. The PCs also got to know the rest of the crew better; Ox, Old Pete, Tomas, Wendt, and Dert. At around 2:00 that first day Fenn summoned Aenin, Helios, Percival, Marley and Nimmik into his quarters (Marley abstained for fear of losing his meal in the presence of the captain). Upon entering they noticed a woman sitting on the bed sewing and humming to herself. She stopped briefly to eye the group warily. Fenn asked how the PCs were getting along and if they were staying out of the way. He also informed them that the crews' superstitions need be taken with a grain of salt. With no questions forthcoming he dismissed the group.

Shortly after their meeting with Fenn, there came an unearthly roar from the aft of the ship and a strange mist poured over the deck. Vicious looking sea creatures clambered over the gunalls and attacked the crew and PCs. Many of the creatures were mediocre in their prowess but two stood out; one carried a deadly looking trident and another wore a helmet and wielded a shortspear and looked less monstrous than the others with elegant female features. She pointed a wand at Helios and two bolts of energy slammed into the cleric. The Trident wielding beast harried Percival as the other Sahuagin attempted to dispatch the crew. Nimmik was busy with two of the beasts at the bow of the ship, but was able to take a shot with his crossbow at the female with the wand. The bolt struck true and the knockback enchantment slammed her against the gunalls of the aftdeck. Aenin, meanwhile, used his crossbow to fire a darkberry bolt at the trident wielding sahuagin. It was another good shot and the darkness effect engulfed the beast. Helios took advantage of the distraction Nimmik's shot had caused and thew his spear at the female creature. It struck home and felled her. Percival did his best to protect he rest of the crew from the other sahuagin while Aenin rushed in at the blinded one with his Iaijutsu Focus, beheading the beast. The rest of the sahuagin fled seeing their leaders dispatched. Fenn emerged from his cabin just as the last of the beasts jumped overboard, cutlass bared. A momentary flash of admiration crossed his features as he surveyed the fine job the PCs had done protecting his crew. But the gruff mask was back in place as he began barking orders for the wounded to be brought below deck and tended-to. Helios did what he could for the wounded and as a result there were no losses. Huxley gave his thanks to the PCs on behalf of the crew and the salty sailors looked on the group with less suspicion thereafter.

Ox approached a few of the PCs and invited them to a game of cards later that night and the group happily accepted. Old Pete ambled up to Aenin and asked if he would be interested in entering a boxing match with Ox. It seemed that Old Pete owed Ox quite a bit in gambling debt and after seeing Aenin in combat Old Pete figured he could take Ox easily. With a heavy wager on Aenin, Old Petes debts would be cleared, that is, if Aenin won. The warblade accepted and Old Pete set things in motion for the next day. Late in the afternoon the sun was dipping toward the horizon when it began going dark unexpectedly. It appeared as of a solar eclipse were occurring. The crew stood transfixed by the celestial display and it even took Huxley a few moments to snap-to himself and get the crew back to work. The omens were piling-up, according to the crew's persistent grumblings, and they thought they knew whom to blame. Late that evening after dinner the PCs assembled in Tomas' quarters along with Tomas Ox and Wendt for the card game. Round after round Ox wiped the floor with them. Wendt stayed in for only a few rounds, Tomas played well but not well enough to keep his money, and the PCs lost, quite extravagantly, making Ox the wealthiest crewman aboard the Albers.

As the PCs were leaving Tomas' quarters and heading off to bed, they heard stirrings from within the brig; it seemed as if the prisoner had awakened early from his drug induced slumber. He immediately began calling for water. The group quickly informed Huxley, whom informed Fenn. The prisoner was given water which he quickly and greedily consumed. Afterward, he promptly passed-out again. Huxley had the PCs stand watch over the brig that evening, in shifts. The watch was long and uneventful but the following morning the prisoner rose with the sun and groggily asked for some dawnfry (breakfast). A sparse meal was brought to him while the group attended their own meal in the mess. Throughout the day the prisoner, whom introduced himself as Vincenzo, tried to catch passersby in conversation in an attempt to find a sympathetic ear. He seemed particularly interested in speaking with the PCs, namely, Nimmik and Helios. Vincenzo told anyone who'd listen how he'd been wrongly accused by a rival and that they should not stand idly by as he was sent to his unlawful demise. None seemed too moved by his words. The day was rather uneventful, though the crew was in bad spirits. They took the prisoner waking as another bad omen. Around high-sun Huxley entertained the crew with a few tunes on his flute while they worked. It seemed to raise their spirits a bit. After dinner Huxley rolled out a barrel of ale for the men to enjoy as the nights festivities began. Aenin and Ox were to square-off in a bare knuckle boxing match, arranged by Old Pete. Helios and Aenin did a bit of boosting before the match (bull's strength) which really wasn't at all necessary (or fair) since Aenin laid Ox out with the second punch. Ox took it in good spirits and the entire crew was entertained. The ale flowed throughout the night and it seemed as if the crew of the Albers was finally forgetting about their 'omens'.

The following morning was pierced by screams.

Selene, the Captain's woman, was in hysterics behind the locked door of the Captain's quarters. The PCs (still a little hung over and sleepy) attempted to calm the woman from outside. When that failed, Nimmik used a scroll of knock and the door swung open to reveal the Captain face down in last nights meal and Selene cowering on the floor near the bed. Percival saw to the distraught lady while Nimmik Helios and Aenin investigated the scene. Meanwhile, Huxley was just outside the room trying his best to keep the rest of the crew out. The PCs discovered the obvious; Captain Fenn was dead. But how? They searched the cabin but found little to answer that question. Not even a detect poison revealed anything. With Huxley's permission Percival arranged the body for preparations for burial at sea. Meanwhile the group attempted to question the still somewhat frantic Selene. Her information wasn't very helpful; apparently Fenn had stayed in his cabin with her for their evening meal. He was working on the charts the entire time and didn't even touch his food (at least from what she saw). She went to sleep and Fenn stayed up, still working on the charts. The PCs took a look at the charts, still laid out on the table, but they were covered in stew and blood. Even if it was clean they knew little of the nautical shorthand Fenn used. They passed the charts to Tomas and asked if he could possibly decipher the information under the mess. Tomas agreed, still stunned from the tragedy. The rest of the crew was mournfully silent as the captain's remains were brought out to the deck. Aenin, Nimmik and Helios decided to search the captains quarters for more clues, possibly a tip to who onboard, if anyone, would want to kill the Captain. Behind a lighthouse painting on the wall, they found a hidden strongbox. Inside was the Captain's log which revealed that Wendt, Huxley, Ox, and Old Pete each owed the Captain a significant amount of money. Aside from this fairly informative gem, the room held nothing else of interest.

Huxley (now Captain Huxley) oversaw the funeral that afternoon. The mood was bitterly somber, made worse by the fact that that skies were overcast and the wind was dying considerably. Afterward the crew halfheartedly went back about their work. Selene remained in the Captain's cabin for the rest of the day. The PCs had a major investigation to conduct; as it stood anyone and everyone was a suspect and without any sort of metropolitan justice system there at sea, things could easily get out of hand. Once they had a moment to themselves, Percival pointed out to the group that Fenn's glass eye was missing. It wasn't on the body, and the group didn't find it in the room. Their immediate thought was to implicate Selene. But why would she kill Fenn? It was time to systematically interrogate the crew. This process took most of the day and left the group with even more questions than before. It was true that Ox, Old Pete, Huxley and Wendt owed the captain, but they were making good on their payments (Ox, best of all). Selene all but accused Huxley, claiming that the First Mate wanted to be captain since he set foot on the Albers and that he was bitterly jealous of Fenn. It turned out that Dert, the cabin boy, had brought Fenn his meal that evening, but according to Dert, Huxley stopped him on deck while taking the captain his meal to inspect it. Huxley, when questioned, all but accused Selene, claiming she used to be a street tramp and it wouldn't be beneath her to cozy-up to the Captain just to kill him and claim what's his for her own. Wendt was thoroughly uncooperative, almost hurling his pots and pans at the group to expel them from his kitchen. Tomas proved the most helpful, having completed his translation of the map he determined that the Captain was charting a new course into the Sea of Dlurg. This new course took them well off their normal route along Cape Dragonfang. Etched into the map along the cape in the Captains handwriting was the word "Maiden". Tomas seemed unsure as to what it meant and he was unaware that Fenn was charting a new course.

Throughout the day the wind was becoming more and more stale. The sails began to sag on the masts and a cold light fog began to roll in. The group decided to ask the most experienced sailor onboard if they knew what "Maiden" meant, so they went to Old Pete. He recalled a ship called the Sea Maiden being lost in the area sometime ago. It was claimed by a violent storm… preceded by an eclipse. With this disturbing new tidbit, the group thought it best to follow the course that the Captain had plotted, away from the area. But it was too late, the winds were nonexistent at that point and the Albers was adrift. As the group passed the brig on the way to their quarters, Vincenzo asked them what was happening, though it was obvious, by his tone, that he had some idea. From the murmurs below deck he'd pieced together the gist of it, but he wanted details. With nothing to loose they divulged the sordid details to the prisoner. When they mentioned the Sea Maiden Vincenzo's eyes went wide. He told the PCs that last night he'd had a dream of a ghostly form hovering over him and that it had called to him to "board the Sea Maiden". The PCs left Vincenzo muttering to himself as they made their way to bed. Percival and Aenin took turns with watch above deck, but the night was uneventful.

The morning came, the sun rose, and the fog thickened. The new day brought no wind, not even the tiniest of breezes. The fog made visibility impossible beyond 20'. The group continued their investigation with little more success. The day dragged-on and without work to do, the crew was getting restless. Sometime after their mid-day meal an alarm call came from the crow's nest; "Ship! Off the port bow!". Through the thick fog a tattered and barely-afloat ship drifted toward the Albers. The PCs and the entire crew watched as the ship drifted closer and closer. Huxley ordered the Albers to be brought alongside for boarding. The PCs (whether they'd wanted to or not) were volunteered to go aboard the strange ship to search, the crew watching with apprehension the whole time. As they crossed the gangplank Nimmik spotted the tarnished brass nameplate at the bow of the derelict ship which read; "the Sea Maiden". As he pointed this out to the rest of the group they paused on the plank to consider the weight of this new info. Testing the deck of the Maiden, they noticed that it was rickety and slick with sea scum. The large door to the hold was chained shut and the door to the room below the aftdeck was bulging oddly. The rooms below the foredeck were open and bare. The sails hung in tatters from the mast and there was no sign that anyone had been anywhere near the ship in ages. The group decided to check the room at the aftdeck first. But as Percival swung open the door, rounded catapult stones poured from behind it across the deck. One clipped Nimmik in the ankle and a few fell overboard a little too close to the Albers, but the rest embedded themselves in the rotting deck. Inside the room they found the skeletal remains of who could only have been the captain. At his side was a rotted crossbow and a waterlogged journal. Etched on the interior of the front cover were the words; "Captain Orlando of the Sea Maiden, Worthy Vessel of the Merchant Alliance." Searching the skeletal remains they found an antiquated nautical instrument. They pocketed both the gadget and the book and moved on to search the rest of the ship. Aenin used his bulk to bust the rusted lock on the doors to the hold and they swung the doors open. They were rewarded with a wave of noxious air that stunk of death. They could see nothing in the shadowy reaches within, so someone had to volunteer to go below. By a mature vote ("123 not it") Nimmik was elected. Using a scroll he stepped out over the open doors and floated down. With another arcane word, his drawn dagger began to glow like a torch. The sight that greeted him immediately made him regret being volunteered; bloated dead bodies, maybe a dozen, floated around in a mixture of blood bile and sea water. Other bodies were pinned to the walls of the hull with cutlasses through their bellies. On their heads were crude macabre masks made of potato sacks. They seemed to have been sewn to their very flesh. Nimmik quickly zipped back up above deck and the group pulled him from over the open hold door. He relayed his findings between dry heaves and the group decided it would be best if they pushed the ship away, far away! Using most of the crew and several 10 foot poles, they shoved the Sea Maiden back out from whence it came (hopefully).

The fog thickened through the evening and the group was at a loss. They perused the old journal and discovered the writings of a Captain besieged by his own men. The circumstances described therein; the eclipse, the fog, the appearance of a derelict ship (everything but the dead captain) were eerily similar to what was happening aboard the Albers. According to the journal, the men onboard the Maiden mutinied after a few weeks adrift as sea. Somehow Captain Orlando managed to lock them all in the hold where they were reduced to infighting murder and even cannibalism. The Captain, meanwhile, was beset by his own demons; A ghostly sea captain had appeared to him and, fearing the unknown, he barricaded himself in his cabin where he wasted away or was overtaken by the ghostly captain. The PCs looked at each other with growing fear in their eyes. As the proposals of possible courses of action began a ruckus arose from below deck. The PCs descended the stair to find the crew at each others' throats. Apparently Ox found something incriminating peeking out from Huxley's hammock and bedroll; Captain Fenn's missing glass eye. Half of the crew were behind Ox, damning Huxley. The other half were behind Huxley, denying Ox's claims of Huxley's wrong doing. With no resolution in sight, Nimmik leapt between the two factions and cast sonic snap (not actually at anyone). The crew, startled, stopped yelling at each other long enough for Helios to speak up. He told them of their findings onboard the Sea Maiden and what they read in the journal. This seemed to sober them all somewhat. They went back about their business, but the contempt amongst them was very thinly veiled. The group asked Tomas what the gadget they found was, and apparently it was a compass (the chart-plotting compass, not the magnetic kind). As the group began to go above deck they noticed that the brig was open and Vincenzo was gone.

They found Vincenzo, easily enough, standing at the port gunall, staring out at the fog-shrouded Maiden. The group began to draw their weapons, but the prisoner waved his hand dismissively. He offered no opposition and told them that he now understood what was going on. The curse, as he put it, of Krakas had been occurring every thirty years for over a millennia. Krakas was an ancient and mostly forgotten god of the sea. He was vengeful and evil god and it was from his dogmas that most of the modern superstitions associated with the sea were born. It appeared as if the Albers was next to suffer his curse. Vincenzo offered his help for the coming battle, for it seemed one was not too far off. The PCs agreed, under the stipulation that he return to the brig once everything was said and done. Huxley, after coming above deck, was informed of the situation. He had little leverage with which to argue, so he agreed. As they bargained the the Maiden drifted ever so subtly over to the Albers and before the PCs or crew could do anything but stand surprised the same bodies Nimmik had seen within the hold of the Maiden were leaping its gunalls onto the deck of the Albers. Many crew members fell under the scourges' onslaught, Huxley was able to hold his own, and Vincenzo actually made good on his word to help out. Soon the PCs routed the seafaring undead back to their ghostly ship. There were losses on both sides. Helios helped whom he could as the Sea Maiden drifted back out of sight. Those who did not make it were given a quick burial at sea, those that did make it were beginning to feel the last shreds of their sanity slip away. The situation aboard the Albers had gone from bad to much, much worse.

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And so they sat adrift in the thickest of fogs. As the unseen sun dipped below the horizon tensions raised and prayers amongst the crew were a little louder. Everyone was still eyeing everyone else with suspicion and to make matters worse, Selene, who until then had kept to herself in the Captains' cabin, was walking the deck babbling to herself. She had obviously snapped. Vincenzo seemed the least unnerved, he sat calmly awaiting whatever was to come. Perhaps the only consolation was that the Captain's murder was no longer a mystery; he fell victim to the ghostly visage of Captain Orlando. How the glass eye ended up in Huxley's belongings, however, was still unclear. Unexpectedly the ship slowly lurched forward. The crew immediately looked to the sails expecting to see them bulging with a breeze, but no. The ship continued its momentum in a wide circle and it tilted slightly toward port side. "Maelstrom!", came the call from the crows nest and everyone aboard could see a sickly green glow in the water not far off the port side. The Albers rocked violently as the Maiden rammed its starboard side and a few crew members fell overboard. Everyone else was thrown to the deck (Old Pete barely managed to stay in the crows nest) as more scourges leapt onto the ship. Many more died in that blitz, Tomas among them, as a seemingly unending tide of undead flowed from the deck of the Maiden including a few familiar faces. The very crew members they'd buried that evening were now among the ranks of zombies and standing on the aftedeck was the undead Captain Fenn! Huxley gave the order to break free of the ghost ship but they were stuck fast and being pulled into the ever growing whirlpool. The PCs fought valiantly, and Vincenzo continued to help as best he could (casting mastered spells from memory). Nimmik summoned a celestial black bear onto the deck of the Maiden to help stem the tide. Percival and Aenin were dropping the foul beings as they tried to jump from deck to deck, and Helios pelted Fenn with magic missiles from his wand. Still the zombies crowded onto the deck of the Albers. Selene was in the last grips of sanity. Upon seeing Fenn on the Maiden she tried to jump ship and fell into the green maelstrom. Nimmik cast a spell that made his form glow like torch and on the following round he focused that light into a ray that struck Fenn squarely in the chest, nearly destroying him (and thus the party learned to love light of lunia). Helios took the advantage and blasted him with one more magic missile. Fenn dropped and his minions followed suit. The Maelstrom slowly ceased and the ghost ship faded away to dust. The crew of the Albers, those left anyway, slowly began to hope it was all over.

Their hopes were not in vain as the fog was pushed aside by a fresh strong breeze and the sails began to pull the ship onward. Huxley snapped everyone into action. Getting a damage report, body count, and the ships bearings he pulled the ship into the nearest port. That port, strangely, was Emmech. In fact, they could see it clearly from the crows nest. As the saying goes "any port in a storm", so they headed with all haste for Emmech.


Twenty Fifth of Flamerule 1374 DR

The fortress city of Emmech was a very welcome sight for both PCs and crew as they pulled into dock. It was also a fortuitous turn of events that the PCs ended up in Emmech instead of Velprintilar; it saved them a few days travel. Much of the remaining crew left the Albers for good that day, including Huxley who passed the title of Captain to Old Pete. The former First Mate was done with the sea. Once off the ship, the druid was becoming antsy and it looked as if he was loosing his nerve. Marley gave his thanks for the gold, but he declined to accept. He handed the money to Nimmik and told him to tell his master he was very sorry. As the time to enter the ruined temple grew closer it seemed less and less like a good idea to the druid. Marley Bramblebeard, and his badger Gnarls, wandered off toward the Yuirwood and Relkath's Foot. The PCs had one last task before they went off to find their contact; handing Vincenzo over to the authorities. They brought him to the local prison for processing. They remembered to put in a good word for him, whatever good it would do. They didn't remember, however, to tell the guards that Vincenzo was able to cast spells without a spellbook. But they had more important things with which to concern themselves. As they maneuvered through the city in search of Mantellia Parsuns' mansion they noticed the militaristic theme throughout the entire city. Everything was built with the utmost security in mind. This had a lot to do with Emmech's proximity to Thay. And Nimmik, being a Thayan, was feeling extremely anxious. As soon as they had left the ship he'd cast disguise self to hide his tattoos and bald pate. The group was to meet with Lady Parsuns for negotioations. It seemed that the hidden tomb was located on land owned by her (a very large area between Emmech and the Tannath Mountains). They soon found Parsuns' manor (easily the most decorative home in the entire city) and were greeted at the gate by royal guards. Nimmik gave the pass phrase, and they were given entry. The group was then shown to a foyer, followed by a cozy sitting room. Lady Parsuns joined them shortly; she was a beautiful and regal looking half-elf. She greeted them politely but with implied haste, not asking them to sit. After very sparse small talk Nimmik handed her a piece of rolled parchment and told her that "Master Maercus gives his thanks for your ladyship's cooperation." She briefly looked at the parchment and a look of relief flashed across her features. She asked if the PCs needed anything else and, with no requests forthcoming, Lady Parsuns escorted the group to the door.

Their next stop was to sell the undesirable enchanted items they'd acquired. They managed to arrange a very good deal; selling the enchanted helmet and trident they'd gotten from the sahuagin in exchange for an undead bane bastard sword. Since Aenin was more skilled in the weapon than the rest of the group it would be his task to wield it. A task he accepted gleefully. After a few other small purchases (scroll and potions) they decided to get back to business.

Once they were back on the street the group felt the press of unwanted eyes. They were being followed. Through some elaborate illusion-craft, courtesy of Nimmik, they were able to shake their stalker/s. Using a book given to him by one of Maercus' associates, Nimmik employed pact magic to bind to Naberius. He was able, then, to use disguise self at will. He could assume the visage of any of the party members at a thought. This would easily throw their spy off their tail. However it required Nimmik to remain in the city while the rest of the group moved on to the Ruined Temple. He suggested to the PCs that they should find someone to guide them to it. Someone trustworthy. He said he'd meet them at the Temple later. They left Nimmik to deceiving the spy whilst they went in search of aid. They found an able looking, silver haired half-elf in one of the taverns. They overheard him asking around the common room for information. They approached him and he introduced himself as Ozimander Duskwood. He asked the group if they'd seen a tall dark-haired half-elf maiden recently, answering to the name Duladora. The group was unable to help Ozimander with any information but they asked if he would be interested in helping them to the Ruined Temple in the Yuirwood. Oz took a moment to think it over and agreed under the stipulation that the group would help him find Duladora once he had finished helping them with their task. The group thought that was a reasonable arrangement (especially since they wouldn't have to pay him) and they soon left Emmech for the long road to the Yuirwood.


Twenty Eighth of Flamerule, 1374 DR

They encountered very few beasts along the way, but they did discover that Oz was quite skilled in the ways of the wild. They arrived in the general area described to them by Maercus on the third day of their journey. With a little searching they found the entrance covered by thick growths of poison ivy. Oz was quick to point this out before anyone went stumbling through it. Once they were in the entryway they noticed the tarnished tile adorning the walls of the domed chamber. A circular stair lead down into the dark in the center of the room. At the bottom of the stair they found a similar domed room with a flickering glowing gem hanging from a chain in the center of the ceiling. They also noticed that the "cobwebs" hanging from the walls were as black as pitch, and somehow they seemed to consume the very light in the room. Their torches burned much dimmer and it was considerably colder in there than the mid-spring weather above. From deep within, behind the door before them, came a low painful wail. Reluctantly, Aenin moved to open the only door in the room, but Oz stopped him. Moving closer to the portal, Ozimander pulled a bundle of small metal tools from his belt and began prodding and picking at the door. From the opposite wall there came a dull twang as an arrow slowly slid out from a concealed hole and clattered harmlessly to the floor. Oz opened the door for the group as they considered their luck in finding a dungeon savvy ranger.

The next room was a cavernous void. The meager light provided by the group's torch revealed only the immediate area. They noticed that the room had a large, 10' deep recess in its center, leaving only a 10' walkway around it. A railing and stair leading down were directly in front of them. As they moved to take the stair they noticed large shuffling figures within the recessed area. Two undead ogres moved into their light. Deciding it would be best to remain on higher ground, the group stayed on the walkway and prepared their missile weapons. Aenin drew his crossbow and Helios readied his magic spear (Archlight), but Percival waited calmly at the head of the stair, lucerne hammer at the ready. Oz drew his longsword and with a word it blazed like a torch. It appeared as if the ranger wanted to face these brutes in melee (???). Oz leapt nimbly over the rail and landed beside one on the ogres, but he was rewarded with a healthy smack in the ribs with a massive club. Suddenly the flaw in his tactics became apparent. Helios and Aenin opened-up with shortspear and crossbow while Percival continued to wait. Oz, in a desperate display of skill, tumbled through the slow moving ogre and flipped himself back onto the walkway. The ogre swung at him as he moved but he was too quick. Re-sheathing his sword, he prepared his bow for next round. As one of the ogres began to crest the stair Percival let loose with his hammer, taking full advantage of its 10' reach and the ogres' sluggish speed. The ogres tried to use their clubs on the elevated PCs but the angle was too awkward, and squeezing up the stairs was taking-up all of their actions. But the mindless brutes continued to trudge up the narrow stair. Ozimander loosed his bowstring in rapid succession scoring a hit on one of the beasts, while Helios continued to assault them with Archlight. Aenin, not to be out-shown physically and frustrated at the ineffectiveness of his crossbow, decided that he would try flipping over the rail into the 10' recess below. He was not as successful as Oz, however, and he landed hard on his back. As Aenin got to his feet the arrow Oz shot last round ignited and flames began to engulf the rear ogre. Percival continued beating away at the lead ogre until he toppled back into the pit. Aenin closed in on the rear ogre and, with help from Oz's arrows, dropped it.

The group meandered into the recess to inspect it. Two doorways opened into darkness on the northern wall but it was otherwise unremarkable. Helios' Archlight revealed the immediate 20' around the group, but the rest of the room and the 15' (25' in the recess) high ceiling remained in shadow. Turning back toward the stair the group failed to notice three forms rush from the darkness of the northern doorways. One of the foul things latched onto Helios and tried to bite his jugular, but his mage armor prevented any injury. He quickly recovered and invoked the power of his goddess, turning the ghouls. They then hastened up the stair to explore the rest of the ruin. On the walkway traversing the pit there were two doors leading south, two open doorways leading north, one door leading west, and the door through which they'd entered to the east. The group decided to take one of the northern doorways, since it would be best to keep the ghouls ahead of them. The next room was a smaller version of the previous with a 10' recess in the center. The walls of this room were decorated in gold and silver filigree depicting constellations. Another pair of doorways were presented on the northern wall, as well as in the recess below. There was also a sturdy-looking door on the western wall. It seemed to get colder the further north they moved, and there was no sign of the ghouls they'd just turned. Curious, the group continued north through one of the open doorways. The next, large room was ominously dark. Archlight's radiance was reduced to 15' and the PCs could see their breath. A 10' walkway stretched along the southern wall of the room, extending from the east wall to west wall. The rest of the room was cast in impenetrable darkness. Tendrils of gossamer blackness seemed to flow from the wall of dark before them. Helios suddenly realized what this room was; a thin wall of the material plane leading to the Shadow Fringe! Carefully and quietly, the group left the room and reevaluated the situation.

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They decided that finding the ghouls was not as important as previously thought, and they moved back to the large room with the pit and the doors leading south. Settling on the western door on the southern walkway, they entered an empty room coated thickly with dust. The room offered a door to the west and one leading further south. The group moved south through the open doorway and found the ancient remnants of a tortured soul. A skeletal figure in stood crucified upside down against the southern wall. The floor below it was stained ages ago with blood, and the room gave off the very aura of evil from the act that was committed therein. A well made maul stood against one wall and when Aenin moved toward it they heard an unearthly moan. A ghostly figure emerged from the crucified skeleton and advanced on the ronin. "DON'T TOUCH THAT!" it screamed. It had the sad and tortured visage of a half-elf cleric wearing chainmail, much like the armor on the skeleton, and wielding ghostly maul, much like the one against the wall. "YOU MUST DESTROY IT!" it continued "THERE IS A GREAT EVIL HEREIN!" The ghostly cleric did not seem to be referring to the maul, but motioned out of the room toward the west. As the group decided how to handle this, the ghost disappeared and reappeared several times, repeating the same lines. The group decided to first leave the room so they could think clearly. Once they left the room, the ghost ceased manifesting.

It was a unanimous decision to follow the ghost's cue, and they headed west through the locked stone door (with help from Oz). The next room was a vast menagerie of marble statuary. Every five feet housed another strange statue depicting everything from animals to epic looking figures to inanimate objects. They each stood at least 5' tall and occupied much of the space, making movement through the room difficult. They passed another door on the southern wall of the room as they approached the large elaborate iron door on the western wall. On the wall beside the iron door was a stone plaque bearing a riddle;
"You can see me in darkness but never in light. I am present in daytime but absent in night. In the deepest of shadows I stand in plain sight. What am I?".
This simple brain teaser proved more than a match for the harried PCs try as they might they couldn't pose the correct answer, which would more than likely open the otherwise impassable door. On the lintel in large carved Thorass were the letters "M R U K". With little insight coming from this clue they decided to leave this room for later. Perhaps an evenings rest would clear their minds. They made their way back through the statues to the doorway on the southern wall.

The smell of mold and the sound of dripping water greeted their senses as they entered the chamber. Shadowstuff hung heavy on the walls, particularly along the southern side of the domed, circular room. As the group crossed its center a feline form emerged from the floor below their feet and struck at Aenin. Its claws passed through the fighter's armor like smoke and it was only by Aenin's nimble feet that he avoided being struck. Another from came forth and struck at Helios, but the mage armor he'd cast proved an effective defense. The battle went back and forth as the spectral cats kept coming in and out of the floor below the PCs feet, striking as they moved. Eventually the group defeated the panthers. A quick search of the room revealed little of interest, though when they sifted through the thick mess of shadowstuff they found another panther… a cub. Oz plied his ranger charm to the beast and managed to win it over with some jerked rothe. He then fashioned a make-shift 'snuggly' and carried the cub, slung against his chest. The group had plans for this orphaned animal.

Another doorway led west and through it they found a dark and vile altar devoter to Shar. It now became apparent as to why there was a HUGE gate to the Shadow Fringe in the northern reaches of the temple. But was this ruin devoted to Shar, or one of Shar's enemies? The room was unnaturally cold, even colder than the rest of the ruin (already many degrees below the temperature above ground). Helios would not suffer this shrine to exist and tried to determine the best way to destroy it. Aenin, one for action over thought, tried to simply smash it with his enchanted bastard sword. But as his weapon touched the shrine a backlash of cold energy ran up his sword and struck his arm. The freezing energy was painful and numbed his limb. Percival thought his hammer might stand a better chance and followed suit with another mighty smash. The knight took cold damage as well, but this time the altar cracked and split revealing a tome hidden beneath. Carefully, Helios plucked the book from the rubble (after healing his helpful comrades) to inspect it. Emblazoned on the cover was a stylized eclipse, but there were no other markings to help determine the origin of the thick tome. Deciding to inspect it another day, Helios packed it amongst his belongings. This room offered no other exits, so it was back to the large room with the pit.

Sticking with the southern walkway, the group chose the door at the eastern end. As the group eased their way into the small room they noticed an open doorway in the southern wall and a stone door in the eastern wall. They also noticed a faint shuffling noise. As Percival approached the southern doorway a multitude of crawling disembodied hands swarmed him, clawing and scratching and trying to tear off his armor. More swarms erupted from the chamber to the south and flowed into room to assault the PCs. From the large room behind, rushed the three ghouls they'd encountered earlier. The group now had their hands quite full, but with the help of their resident undead expert (Percival) they made short work of the ghouls and crawling claws. Both rooms were fairly empty aside from the moldy, ruined furniture, but a search revealed a ring embedded in the dust of the room further south. In that same room they found an elaborate iron door on the eastern wall. It displayed a wrought iron sun design set slightly off-center to a hemispherical recess. With no other means to open the door the group determined that they'd need to find whatever went into that recess to gain ingress.

Returning to the room in which they were attacked by the crawling claws, the group continued through it's eastern door. Beyond the locked, sturdy wooden door they found a ruined library. Many books littered the floor, a few of them still in good condition. As Helios made to rifle through the debris a pair of shadows emerged from the walls to assault the group. They managed to tag Percival in the ensuing battle, but the group was able to neutralize their incorporeal assailants. The next room, through the eastern doorway housed more of the dilapidated library, and it branched off to the south through another doorway. This last room held the remains of bunks and their long-dead occupants. The skeletal forms of humanoids in tattered bedclothes laid amongst the debris. A quick search revealed a scroll with three daylight spells inscribed on it, and back in the library they found a few tomes of significant value. The group thought it prudent to rest for a bit, posting watch throughout their respite.


Twenty Ninth of Flamerule, 1374 DR

After a restful sleep, Helios' goddess revealed to him a most useful spell; ray of resurgence, and with it he was able to restore some of the knight's strength. With few paths left open to them they returned to the large room with the pit again. The only door they hadn't been through was the passage on the northern end of the western walkway. Through this iron door they found an apparently empty room. It had exits to the north south and west. As the group made to open the southern door, Oz stopped them and searched for traps. Sure enough, there was a trigger tied to the doors exiting the room. Opening any of them would trip the pit trap in the center of the room. Oz ably disabled the trap and the group moved on through the southern doorway. Or would have, if it hadn't been impenetrably dark therein. Drawing the scroll he'd found in the ruined bunk, Helios cast daylight and the room was illuminated fully. As they entered the room they noticed the walls were inscribed with an ancient script. One wall housed a gaping crater and there were bits of stone and… bone scattered across the floor. Thinking quickly, Helios instructed the group to NOT read the writing, lest they be blown to bits. He then utilized a simple dweomer to dispel the runes on the walls. This chamber offered no other exits, so they returned to the previous room.

From there they moved west into an expansive, yet awkwardly set hall. The only exits were the one through which they'd just entered (the eastern wall), one to their right on the northern wall, and one in the center of the western wall. Inside the long chamber, flanking the western doorway, were a pair of insidious looking suits of armor. Emblazoned clearly on both suits was the holy symbol of Shar; a black disk ringed with purple. These were obviously more than mundane armors. Aenin decided to simply attack on and see what happened. As he swung hid bastard sword towards one of them, it brought its small shield to bear and blocked the blow. Simultaneously they emerged from their alcoves and attacked the PCs. They weren't difficult opponents, and fell before the PCs prowess in a few rounds. Ozimander inspected the door they were flanking and discovered it to be false and spell-trapped. With no need to try and open the false, trapped door, the group moved on through the northern doorway.

The next chamber held a grand ceiling mosaic depicting a great shining androgynous figure battling a dark but beautiful woman. There were twin iron doors in the east and west walls and the airtight stone door through which they'd entered, to the south. The room was otherwise empty but a search revealed a hidden cache in the wall. Before opening it, Ozimander searched for traps and found an elaborate falling portcullis- flooding room trap keyed to the opening of the cache. It had a lock bypass, and with a successful pick of the lock, the cache opened harmlessly. Inside was a veritable treasure trove of items including a yuir ghostblade, a +1 large steel shield, a large sack of gold, a case of potions, and one slender wand. After distributing the goods the group made to move through the iron double doors on the western wall. But they heard a call from the room behind them to the east. The doors opened to reveal none other than Nimmik.

The apprentice did look a bit different, however. A pair of curling rams horns were prominently displayed on his bald head. He greeted the party and asked about their progress there in the ruin. He also presented Helios with a small topaz flickering with an inner light. Taking out his own gem he demonstrated for the cleric how a simple light spell cast into the topaz is amplified to that of a daylight spell. When asked about the horns Nimmik explained that it was a side effect of another pact. With everything sussed the group made their way through the passage to the west.

The first ten feet of this room was a steep stairway. The group immediately sensed something wrong about this chamber. Up the fifteen foot stair they found an ossuary of blackened bones. With all of the nasty things they'd encountered so far in this ruin, the group was sure that those bones were more than they seemed. As Percival carefully set his left foot on the floor of the room, over a dozen skulls snapped around to look at him. The skeletons stood with amazing speed and promptly disappeared from sight. Percival retracted his foot and took up a defensive stance. Helios tossed his new light gem into the room and illuminated the 40'x40' space with daylight. The skeletons became visible and the ensuing battle was much easier than it could have been. As the group moved into the room to inspect, they felt their unease intensify, as if there were something unholy about this room. Helios determined that it must be under the effect of an unhallow spell, but he was not yet experienced enough to dispel it. A quick search revealed a hidden door in the southern wall. It opened to a pitch-black, narrow hallway stretching into the unseen distance. With Archlight and the light gem they didn't travel blindly, and they came to another wall with an obvious release latch.

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A quick pull opened the door to reveal a cavernous, circular chamber with a massive globe of darkness in its center. Percival and Ozimander inspected the room as the rest of the group waited in the doorway. They found one other exit down a small flight of stairs on the eastern wall, but other than that there was nothing to be found. The globe of blackness perplexed them. Oz shot an arrow into it expecting to hear it strike something, even if it were the opposite wall, but there was nothing. Percival took a more direct approach and attempted to walk into the globe. As he crossed into the darkness he fell. The floor apparently ended at the globe. He also felt himself being tugged in an inexplicable manner. The knight managed to shake off the odd feeling and catch himself on the lip of the floor. As he pulled himself up, the group heard an odd babbling noise coming from the globe. Aenin and Percival stood transfixed by the noise as a ghostly form emerged from the wall of the narrow hallway to assault Nimmik. Another pair of strange incorporeal beings came out of the dark globe and the babbling sound intensified. The rest of the group seemed to shake it off, but the knight and the fighter remained in a fascinated state. Helios blasted away with his wand of magic missiles, as Nimmik dodged like mad to avoid the touch of the wraith. The allips moved up to the fighters as Oz tried to fend them off with his flaming longsword. With a painful bellow, the ghostly cleric appeared, wielding his maul. He took a mighty swipe at the wraith, scoring a devastating hit. As the allips attempted to strike Aenin and Percival they came-to and dispatched the undead in short order. Helios finished off the wraith with his wand, putting an end to the encounter. Hyralst, the ghostly cleric, entered the globe of darkness, brought out a small glowing orb and handed it to Helios. He was then enveloped in a golden light and his pained and tortured appearance shifted to what he must have looked like in life. Hyralst thanked the PCs and faded away. His armor and maul dropped to the ground (very much corporeal) and the group, of course, snatched them up. Helios inspected the orb he was given and surmised that it was the key to opening the door with the wrought iron sun motif. The orb glowed faintly and there was some sort of illusion enchantment on it to make it look like the surface of selune (the moon). The group made their way back to the locked door.

Once the orb was placed in the hole, the sun pattern began to glow red hot and the door slid open. Helios removed the orb once everyone was through, shutting the door behind them. They inspected the room, or rooms, for there was another larger chamber connected to this one. The smaller chamber held nothing much of interest, but the larger held a grandiose mechanical setup. A large globe with several movable plates sat in the center of a forum with a domed ceiling above. Some lever-like controls were in the northeast corner of the room. Helios and Nimmik inspected the mechanism and determined it to be a large calendar that displayed star-charts on the ceiling above. Nimmik placed his light gem in a compartment he found on the machine and light poured through the plates to reflect off of the ceiling in patterns of the constellations and moon. Helios fiddled with the levers, shifting some of the plates. After some toying, Ozimander suggested arranging the star pattern to the current date (Flamerule 29, 1374 DR). With his help they were able do to so, and there came a rumbling from the smaller chamber. Part of the floor slid away to reveal a spiral stair leading down. Nimmik retrieved his gem and the group made their way into the darkness.

It took many minutes to descend the tall spiral stair, but they eventually came to a colossal worship chamber. High, vaulted ceilings hid from them in shadow. The walls were decorated with elaborate tapestries. Massive columns with familiar light-emitting topazes flanked rows of sturdy wooden pews. At the far end of the chamber sat an elaborate altar, above which was a grandiose bas relief sculpture of a god or goddess. In front of that altar was a fountain-like structure with a silvery stone sitting on a pedestal in its center. In contrast to the beauty of this cavernous room were the dozens of corpses scattered about on the gold and white marble tile. Nimmik stared transfixed by the stone. They had found their quarry. But, what had killed all of these people? The bodies were all in various states of decay; some fresh, some ancient. As the cleric moved to inspect one of the bodies and determine the cause of death, a heavy crossbow bolt streaked from the shadows above to bounce off of Helios' wards.

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From the unseen heights, bolts continued to streak down at the group. Nimmik used a scroll and cast levitate on his light gem, raising it to the shadows above. The light revealed a darkly armored figure wielding a heavy crossbow. The joints and empty helmet glowed a faint purple color. The apprentice Red Wizard moved to inspect the wards encircling the stone as the group distracted the armored figure. The armor eventually ran out of arrows and descended to engage the PCs in melee combat. They would have preferred it's former tactics, since it brandished a greatsword glowing with freezing energy. The ensuing battle was hard fought and Aenin had a close call, but the group eventually defeated the Helmed Horror.

Nimmik warned the group about the several wards he discovered surrounding the fountain and the stone. He was unsure as to what they did exactly, but the ring of corpses around the innermost ward did not instill confidence. Aenin, growing impatient, took his bastard sword and knocked the stone off the pedestal and across the room. Nothing happened. Nimmik walked over and picked up the stone, it was about the size of a fist, silvery with a similarly colored liquid seeping from within. The pool around the pedestal was full of the silvery liquid. Helios, disregarding the wards in favor of his curiosity, walked up to the pool and stuck the haft of his spear into it. Archlight's glow was snuffed and it felt heavier in the cleric's hands. Its enchantment was gone. After a minute of morose panic, the cleric's spear lit-up again. Apparently the liquid suppressed magical attributes. Ozimander was searching the chamber while everyone else was preoccupied and discovered a few magical trinkets and a secret passage behind the altar.

Finding no traps, the ranger opened the hidden portal to reveal a small, dark, and empty room. The group made their way in and around the room, searching for anything. As Helios stepped into the center of the small chamber he disappeared. Confused, the rest of the PCs called out for the cleric with no answer. They decided to follow suit and, one by one, they stepped into the center of the room and disappeared.

It could have been a vile dweomer that disintegrated anything it came into contact with, but no, it was a teleportation circle. The PCs found themselves in a much smaller, much darker chamber. There was sparse light creeping into the room from a low narrow crawl space. After some trampled toes and hands placed, unintentionally, in 'friendly' places, the group managed to crawl their way out of the small room and into a massive cavern. The huge skylight revealed the rough-hewn walls and floor and a large mechanical instrument. It looked like a gigantic spyglass. From behind this gadget emerged a man in dark blue robes accented with bright red. He asked how the PCs had come to enter his home. The group noticed that the man's movements were a bit awkward, and they determined him to be an illusion. they immediately began to look around to find its source. With a lightly rumbling chuckle, a large dragon stepped from behind the gigantic gadget. It made no threatening motions, but the PCs readied their weapons all the same. The dragon approached them calmly and reassured them that he meant them no harm, unless they intended to harm him. He introduced himself as Polluxariat, or 'Pollux' for short. The PCs could tell at this distance that he was a copper dragon, so the chances of him killing them outright were slim. They chatted a while about how the group came to be in the dragon's lair, the ruined temple, the teleportation circle, and even the stone Nimmik was holding. Pollux determined the stone to be a fragment of the Karse Stone that has, since being found in the Dire Wood, fallen into the hands of Shar and her church. With this new information the group had to wonder as to Master Maercus' plans with the stone. Nimmik seemed curios as to the origins on the temple, and it just so happened that Pollux had something that would be of interest to the apprentice. After retiring to his cache briefly, he presented Nimmik with a tome detailing the history of the temple, its god, and its inhabitants. As it turned out, the god/goddess to which the temple was devoted was called Marduk. Nimmik offered Pollux his crossbow in trade, and the dragon accepted.

Pollux Offered to carry each of the PCs to the base of the mountain. As it turned out, they were only a few miles from the entrance of the ruined temple, up in the Tannath Mountains. Nimmik thanked the PCs for their aid and tossed one of the magic trinkets he'd found in the temple to Helios, an ioun stone. He then drew a scroll from his belt and, after reading the arcane word, vanished. The group had little time to dispute his leaving, or question his master's intentions with the stone, the weather was steadily getting worse. The copper dragon bade fairwell to the group as they made their way back to the entrance of the ruined temple. And none too soon, there was a massive and ominous storm brewing outside. As the PCs traveled the short distance through the thick underbrush of the Yuirwood, another figure stumbled his way through the driving rain in search of shelter…

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