Difference between revisions of "Classic Campaign Logbook"

From realm
Jump to: navigation, search
(Pushed from realm.)
(Pushed from realm.)
Line 943: Line 943:
  
 
Radu appears to collect his 100 tokens - which the party gives him.  A quick teleport, and this raid on the Wolfshaunt is complete.
 
Radu appears to collect his 100 tokens - which the party gives him.  A quick teleport, and this raid on the Wolfshaunt is complete.
 +
 +
== The Family Pach (2017) ==
 +
[[File:mc36.jpg|thumb|right|300px|The Family Pact]]
 +
'''April 2, 906 TA.'''
 +
 +
The evening of April 2, 906 TA finds the party sitting around a campfire in the damp, sodden, and dark confines of the forest surrounding Everblack.  In the distance, the ruins of the bank of Mr. Sly and Mr. Black lies in a tangle of destroyed metal.  Examining the device used to trap the wolves at the Chapel of the Lamp, Hylax notices the mark of the lamp's maker, Bennett & Sons, Lampmakers, Everblack.
 +
 +
Hylax summons a shade of the long-dead Bennett - maker of the device that originally sealed the Wolfshaunt centuries ago.  Pressed to learn the secret of the device, Hylax discovers that personal items, recently gathered, are needed to create the binding.  Then, the lamp must be hung from a source of great power.  Only Bennett's great-great-great grandson has the skill to make such a lamp today.  Given only the vague phrase, "focus on the cat's whisker", the party heads out for Everblack.
 +
 +
The streets of Everblack are empty - a strange occurrence later explained by the rush of the townsfolk to loot the remains of the bank of Sly & Black.  Using the catchphrase to gain Bennett's trust, the party asks the lampmaker to make them a lamp.  Fearing spies would overhear, the meeting with Bennett and his "son" Wil is delayed to the wine cellar at the Pawn & Castle pub later in the evening.  However, Wil immediately sneaks out and cons her way into the party by sharing a secret.  Hylax transforms Wil into an elven archer. 
 +
 +
Before the meeting at the pub, Wil steals a map of the Wolfshaunt from Holyrood Maps replacing it with a forgery made by Vince.  The meeting with Bennett results in a deal to build a lamp in exchange for safe passage for the lampmaker and his "son" to Dragonsford - with a promise to open a lampmaker's shop.  Bennett doesn't detect that Wil is now an elven archer with the party.  Now, to gather personal items!
 +
 +
Teleporting to Grandfather Bela's castle at the far southern end of the Wolfshaunt Valley, the party runs across the emissary of Grandfather Josiah - Winston - who proposes a meeting with the Grandfathers.  He provides a teleportation bead and leaves. 
 +
 +
Thinking the upcoming encounter is too dangerous, the party teleports to the crossroads by the Tunnel Gate to stash Wil there.  Instead of a deserted path winding up to the cave that leads to the Long Tunnel, the place is overrun with human Storm Lord soldiers marching up the hill.  A bit of scouting discovers that the soldiers are drinking from a barrel of purple liquid and marching deliberately up to the beat of drums.  The drummers and the bosses all appear to be lich priests from Sandal.  Another problem to solve, but not a safe place for a little girl.
 +
 +
The bead is broken and the party plus Wil show up in Grandfather Josiah's library.  What a break!  The library leads to a secret chamber that hides the vampires' power.  The meeting is thirty minutes hence, and the library is empty.  However, instead of stealing away, the party waits, breaks into two groups - one going into the meeting, the other waiting in the library with Winston.  Ernie chooses a moment when Winston is watching to open the secret door - a scuffle ensues, and Ernie and Fuzzwort are teleported away.  Wil is captured and is later given to the Grandfathers for the Hunger.  The meeting with Hylax, U-Gene and Vince is inconclusive and ends with no treaty or agreement.  They also fail to gather any personal items.
 +
 +
Waiting at the crossroads is Radu amused that such a simple task has been bungled.  He promises to provide a distraction for Grandfather Josiah and Grandfather Bela in order to help the party gain entrance into the secret passage in the library.  In exchange, the party promises to grab Arielia - a grand-daughter of Master Whitlock.  It seems Whitlock was killed recently, and the army of the Storm Lords is leaving the Wolfshaunt.  The Whitlock family will be attending services that day in a grove near the Storm Lord's castle.
 +
 +
Teleporting back into the library, Radu engages the Grandfathers and Winston in the council room - allowing our heroes to slip beyond the suit of armor that guards the passage down.  Beyond is the crypt of the Great Grandfather, an effigy on the floor needs only a staff to be completed.  After some fumbling, U-Gene remembers that he has the Staff of the Wolfshaunt.  Placing it in the statue teleports the party deep into the bowels of the earth.
 +
 +
There the wizened figure of the Great Grandfather awaits.  He promises to get the party a personal item from both Grandfather Josiah and Grandfather Bela in exchange for the party rescuing a magical chess piece - the black queen - from Tolbalth the Collector - a dragonfolk - that has his collection stored in the Cathedral of Dragons.  The piece was given to Tolbalth by Radu to pay a gambling debt.
 +
 +
Teleporting to the Cathedral, the party quickly solves a puzzle and touches a huge basalt statue of a dragon. They pass into a cave of niches - some filled with junk such as a crudely formed doll of straw.  Others are filled with priceless treasures of gems and jewelry.  A brief chat with Tobalth led to a bargaining session - with Tobalth requiring something from each party member to replace the chess piece.  Refusing, the party swipes the black queen chess piece, solves a quick riddle as Tobalth catches on to their plan, and vanishes back to the lair of the Great Grandfather.
 +
 +
This time Radu is there.  Radu tells them that Mr. Sly has left the Wolfshaunt for Dragonsford - to "teach those Reaches scoundrels a lesson they will not forget". After feeding on a local villager, Great Grandfather joins the conversation and sends Radu off to gather an item from Josiah and Bela with promises to meet the party in Everblack.  The party leaves to complete its mission to gather personal items.
 +
 +
A quick meeting with the Lycurgus and Talbot is simple.  Hylax convinces them that the Eastern Reaches are not ready for their kind.  Both wolves, being freed by Hylax at the Gathering, agree.  Giving the wizard a small piece of their fur each, they lope off to continue their struggles against the vampires.
 +
 +
Visiting the scene of the march of the Storm Lords, it is clear that half of the army has passed through the gate.  Hylax, summoning the ultra-powerful None Shall Pass spell, blows up the entire side of the hill - killing everything within a quarter of a mile.  When the dust clears, the army, drummers and lich priests are destroyed.
 +
 +
Teleporting to the funeral, Hylax sneaks in and lifts the coffin lid - finding the bloated, purple, poisoned body of the Storm Lord.  Taking some hair, he quietly steps out.  The stone monoliths surrounding the funeral come to life as impossibly large stone golems.  Vince teleports in and snatches Arielia with a long-distance grab spell.
 +
 +
With artifacts from the humans and wolves, the party teleports to Everblack - meeting Radu to exchange Arielia for items from Grandfather Bela and Grandfather Josiah.  Radu bids them a fond farewell - with promises to meet them in the Reaches.
 +
 +
As Radu leaves, the party discovers that Bennett has left his shop to go to Mr. Sly's bank to see if Wil is there.  Outside, the entire town has descended on the wreckage.  Children climb on the outside while inside the townsfolk are busy with pickaxes trying to get into the vaults.  A countdown timer alerts Ernie to a trap - the whole place is going to blow.  Solving the puzzle with only four seconds left, the party saves the town.  Bennett is located and the group returns to his shop.
 +
 +
At the shop, the party is given the completed lamp and told that the only power source great enough to contain the magic is in the Lonely Haunt - a tree that carried the original binding lamp.  When questioned about Wil, Hylax promises Bennett his son will be waiting for him in Dragonsford.
 +
 +
Armed with the lamp, the party assembles it with the items from Grandfather Josiah, Grandfather Bela, Lycurgus, Talbot and the Storm Lord.  Approaching the hill, Hylax slips into Oblivion and sees a swaying, tentacled creature of ultimate power and evil.  This must be the true source of the taint in the Wolfshaunt.  Dangerous beyond measure, but sleeping, Hylax slips the lantern onto a single chain that hangs from the tree's branches.  The lamp spreads light quickly through the Wolfshaunt - making the surroundings a bit brighter -  and the Wolfshaunt is sealed once again.
 +
 +
== The Overlord's Undercroft (2017) ==
 +
[[File:undercroft.jpg|thumb|right|300px|The Overlord's Undercroft]]
 +
'''October 30, 906 TA.'''
 +
 +
It is October 30, 906 TA.  A storm is brewing - a cold, driving rain has cleared the streets of Dragonsford.  Smoke curls from the chimneys of the homes - most of which are brightly lit against the gloom and wind.  It is after dinner, about 10pm, and the party has settled into the Feasting Hall of Dragonsford Castle.  Unexpectedly, an emissary from the Overlord Theodric XIX of Rembia shows up to parlay for the return of Teufeldorf - lost during the campaigns of the previous summer.
 +
 +
At the meeting, several interesting developments are revealed.  The emissary, Victor Kane, reports that two hundred kegs of an enhanced explosive powder have been placed in strategic points around Teufeldorf.  They will decay in 24 hours.  If a treaty can be reached, the protected, hidden, anti-scryable kegs will be teleported harmlessly to sea.  Fuzzwort is dubious that such a powder exists in quantity, although a two flake sample proves to be an exceedingly destructive demonstration.
 +
 +
The demand is five million gold and no offensive actions for a period of ten years are to be made against the Old Kingdom by the Reaches armies.
 +
 +
An attempt to charm the emissary blinds Hylax - giving him a brief vision of the Overlord's skull on top of Victor Kane's face. 
 +
 +
Fuzzwort springs to action quickly researching the Old Kingdom to find something that can be stolen to ransom back for the five million gold.  His research points to Alfric's Scepter - a First Age relic that is used to bind all subjects to the Overlord.  He finds a reference to item being stored in the Overlord's Undercroft underneath the Celestial City.  A painting behind the Overlord's Throne will teleport the party there. 
 +
 +
Hylax uses his connections with the Collegium Magicium to procure six silver collars - fake versions of the obedience collars that must be worn in the Celestial City.  A second, secret message tells Hylax that Alfric's Scepter must be returned after the negotiations - as it plays a vital role in the balance of power between the wizards and the Old Kingdom.  The Most High Wizard of the Council Galambor the Tall answers Hylax's summons to convince the others in the party that the scepter should not be destroyed.  This time, U-Gene is dubious.
 +
 +
Using the provided collars, the party teleports to the Overlord's Throne Room.  It is the early hours of the morning, and the room is mostly empty.  The party moves quickly behind the throne and finds two large rooms on either side of a magical doorway.  One leads to the gallery of sculpture and paintings.  The other leads to a library - where a lone figure is reading a book.
 +
 +
The party attacks the figure - a man with striking green eyes, an emerald ring and matching necklace.  An alarm is sounded.  The man, Antone Graves, recognizes the party and introduces himself as the wizard leading the occupation of Teufeldorf.  After some threats and intimidation fail, the party bargains with Graves - who seems willing to make an ally rather than blindly following the Overlord.  In exchange for a future favor, Graves waylays the guards while the party touches the painting and teleports to the Undercroft.
 +
 +
Six tests follow.  Each based on a chess symbol that appeared beneath the painting just as the party teleported away. 
 +
 +
The first test, the Knight's Room, is filled with columns of steel - each with massive destructive capabilities - lightning, fire and missiles.  As the room fills up with slow moving columns, the party fights their way to the knight's square on the board and teleports away. 
 +
 +
The second test, the Rook's Metal Castle, is a series of metal gears filled with what appear to be rust monsters.  Moving the gear to cover the rook's square, the party quickly opens up another exit. 
 +
 +
The Pawn's Room is a glass cage filled with acid that eats mundane and magical items.  It proves little challenge to the party. 
 +
 +
The fourth test, the Bishop's Tomb is filled with reverse monsters - rust monsters that eat only non-metal items, a gelatinous cube that can only be sliced apart, and a medusa which you need to stare directly at in order to avoid turning to stone.  Only U-Gene figures out the trap.  The party navigates the maze with a Find The Path spell. 
 +
 +
The fifth trap is the Queen's feint.  It is a room that resembles the Undercroft room - complete with Alfric's scepter.  However, the dais of the scepter is off-center, an old hag with a broken crown and discarded cape is there, and the area is filled with ghosts.  Ignoring the hag, the party moves to the queen's square, pushes the cape aside, and finds the secret passage leading down. 
 +
 +
The final room is the King's room - the Overlord's Undercroft - where the treasure is guarded by a simple puzzle trap.  Ernie solves the riddle, and the scepter is stolen.
 +
 +
Teleporting back to Dragonsford Castle, the party summons back Victor Kane.  They bargain with the scepter - leveraging the treaty so that the Old Kingdom pays the Reaches six million gold with promises that the yellow powder will be teleported away from Teufeldorf and never be used again.  In a final twist, U-Gene states that from this point forward for ten years no orders will be given to Reaches troops to attack the Old Kingdom.  What U-Gene fails to disclose is that the Reaches ships and troops are already underway for Rembia's shores.
 +
 +
Teufeldorf returned, the Second War of the Reaches comes to an end.  Peace falls across the land, and the reign of the Three Kings continues.

Revision as of 15:13, 30 July 2017

The Mind of the Dungeon Master

A Brief History of the Party (1979-1999)

During the First Age, the party adventured only within the city of Teufeldorf and its immediate environs including Tegel Manor. The city at that time was known as the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. While the party did not have much influence on the local monarchy and did not take on missions to save the Realm, this was a time of high adventures and great character development. This Age ended with a catastrophic natural disaster which plunged the Realm into a long period of darkness.

During the Second Age, the party again began their careers in Teufeldorf, now a much smaller fortified settlement. While the regal boulevards of the First Age city-state were long gone, replaced by the early cobbled streets of a medieval town, Teufeldorf was expanding its reach. The party journeyed south along the coast to a tropical island which housed the Hidden Shrine of Tomachaan and the Temple of Set. They also journeyed east across the plains to the destroyed ruins of Brixworth Castle. The party relished their roles as hearty adventurers working to build their own personal power and wealth. The Second Age also ended with catastrophe, and the world was once again plunged into darkness.

By far, the Third Age has been the most expansive. The party began the early years of this age in Teufeldorf, amassing great wealth and power. However, early on they began what became a long-term service to the Realm. In their third adventure, they rescued the daughter of Rackhir the Gold, a member of King Gregory's council. Shortly thereafter the first covenant of demons was opened and the complexion of the Realm took on a more urgent and sinister guise. After the successful rescue, the king sent the party on missions of increasing importance until they finally journeyed to Mount Todd on an adventure which would end with the binding of one covenant of demons. More demons remained unbound, however, and they sought out powerful evil allies.

The next series of adventures pitted the party against an ever-increasing number of evil enemies. They fought the Dark Lord of Sandal from the southern kingdom, they raided Demogorgon's stronghold, and they even rescued King Gregory. However, the efforts proved to be in vain. After a relentless siege, Teufeldorf was conquered and King Gregory fled east with his remaining troops and retainers. The city-state was now ruled by a sinister mob known as the Brotherhood of the Seven. It was a grim time for the forces of good.

Ernest Goodfellow, upon orders from King Gregory, led the party away from the general movement of the troops. Instead of moving east along the safe path to the Shadowyarn Mountains, the party took a northern route through the Orc Nation using the mysterious Pass of Lar to gain access to the Eastern Reaches. There they were ambushed at the Troll's Bridge by Sirfexx, arriving poor and tired at Dragonsford on the far eastern peninsula of the Realm on the shores of the Inner Sea.

In 833, the party undertook an adventure to the Netherworld to determine a way of stopping the Brotherhood of the Seven which had taken over Teufeldorf. The party was convinced that the key to the Brotherhood's supernatural power lay within the unexplored realm of the Netherworld, a mysterious rim of land circling a massive pit and the great tree Lyam-an-Esh. After fifteen adventures in the Netherworld, the party reached their final destination and broke the seal on the Cave of the Elder Gods releasing these ancient beings back into the Realm - breaking the power of the Brotherhood. This action destroyed the Netherworld, and the party would have surely perished, had it not been for U-Gene using the Cube of Armageddon. The Cube provided a protective shield for the party, bringing them magically back to Dragonsford.

It was not a hero's welcome that awaited the party as they returned from the Netherworld. Fifty years had passed, and the Brotherhood was gone. It was now October 883, King Gregory was dead and the Realm had been divided between the three sons of the Stone God Hastur. The Eastern Reaches was ruled by Harek Bloodaxe, the Shadowyarn Mountains by Atli the White, and the Western Reaches by Grim. The party had exchanged one set of oppressors (the Brotherhood of the Seven) for another set of oppressors (Hastur and his sons). While the party had not aged over the last fifty years, many of their companions and friends were now elderly men and women.

After deposing the evil ruler of the Duchy of Dragonsford, King Trafford, the party settled down to figure out a game plan for defeating Hastur and his sons. The only clue to a solution was an epic poem about the Sword of the Elder Gods which lay below the fortress of the Shadowkeep in the city of Paddington in the Shadowyarn Mountains. The party discovered that Hastur was completely immune to magic of all forms. Of mundane weaponry, only the Sword of the Elder Gods was reported to have any affect on Hastur. His sons shared that weakness. In addition, rumor holds that each one was vulnerable to a single common magical spell. Within a few days, the party was reprovisioned setting off to the Shadowkeep to recover the sword.

The party successfully completed the thirteen dungeons of the Shadowkeep, and U-Gene gained the Sword of the Elder Gods. Thus armed, the party sought a path to Hastur and his three sons. The party did not discover the secret weakness of Hastur's sons, however (Harek - petrification, Atli - illusion, and Grim - lightning). Their exit from the vaults of the Shadowkeep took them directly to Temple of the Wait, a stronghold of the rebellion against Hastur and his sons. Driven by a prophesy, the Monks of the Wait had called a meeting with the leaders of the dwarves, elves, and humans of the Realm including Lady Laura. The party strode into that meeting, only to be ambushed by Atli's forces and driven straight into a campaign to Siege the Shadowkeep.

Siege of Shadowkeep (2000)

Shadowkeep Map

Several plots were intertwined in the Siege of the Shadowkeep. First, the main adventure concerned the overthrow of Atli the White and his white cloaks. Atli was attempting to discover the secrets of Durin's Crown, to gain control over the dwarven nation. This was done by experiments on dwarven captives in Atli's Tower. U-Gene, being a true descendent of Durin, was able to activate the Crown's power during his coronation.

A second plot within the fabric of the campaign was that of the Magi, who sought immortality for their failing ancient bodies. Using the Ceremony of the Dancing Men from the scriptorium, the three amulets of the magi, the Goblet of Eternal Life, and dragon's blood, the Magi were to hold a ceremony on midnight of All Hallow's Eve. The party solved the puzzles, gathered the needed ingredients, and were able to use the Goblet of Eternal Life to restore several permanent deaths from Hylax, breaking the spell of Karelia in the process.

Significant adventures included the Temple of the Wait, Atli's Tower (recovery of Durin's Crown and freeing of the dwarven prisoners), the Gallery (Moon Mage), General Praetor's House (Sun Mage), Basilica of the Broken Magi (Star Mage), Well of the Orb (Orb of Dampening), and the Scriptorium of St. Theodore (Ceremony of the Dancing Men).

The party succesfully drove Atli the White and his father Hastur from the Shadowkeep during the final battle recovering Durin's Crown from the evil gods. U-Gene was crowned King of the Dwarves of the Shadowyarn Mountains, renaming the city Dwarrowdelf (its original dwarven name), and beginning restoration on the Castle, Basilica, and Great Hall. Meanwhile a successful campaign was waged by the dwarven General Dugald Axeworthy against the armies of Atli the White led by General Kendall Praetor (see the Rebellions of 883).

Taking of Dragonsford (2001)

Dragonsford Castle Map

The Siege of the Shadowkeep ended in early November 883, and the snows had started to fall in the mountains. A summit of the rebellion leaders, including Lady Laura, kept the party at Dwarrowdelf for the winter.

An initial attempt to teleport back to Dragonsford for supplies and provisions met with disaster. Twenty armed veterans were teleported back to the town to bring the Dragonsford coffers to Dwarrowdelf for safe keeping. Within minutes, twenty severed heads were teleported back with a message requesting that Ernest Goodfellow be teleported in the next group. Although, it took massive restraint for the party to resist magically returning to their homes, it was decided that mundane horses would be used to return to the castle when the passes cleared in the Spring.

The four long winter months were filled with military planning for the Spring campaign. Further research into the weaknesses of Hastur and his sons was fruitless. Only two scouting parties returned to Dwarrowdelf, and those by horse. All magical attempts to probe the happenings at Dragonsford failed miserably. The meager information gained through the scouts was that Atli and Hastur had fled to Dragonsford Castle to join forces with Harek. There, they had assembled the largest orc army since the Orcish Wars of 260-340 T.A. Apparently, a major offensive was being planned against the feudal kingdoms of the Eastern Reaches in 884. In addition, rumors abounded of strange structures being constructed around and within Dragonsford Castle.

Finally, in mid-February the passes were open for small parties to travel safely into the Eastern and Western Reaches. Lady Laura departed for the Western Reaches to rally the troops against Grim and his army of undead in Teufeldorf. The party departed for the Eastern Reaches to assist the High Mark William and the Army of the Eastern Reaches in retaking Dragonsford.

Upon arriving at the Haggelthorn Forest, the party was intercepted by Magill, a local fletcher, and told of a rebellion headquartered at the World's End Pub run by Mrs. O'Barker. A force of 700 black orcs had taken camp around Dragonsford, a circle of strange stone temples had been constructed for a ceremony on the blood moon, and magic-sniffing dogs from hell prowled the forests.

Learning that the ceremony of the Bloodlust will transform the black orcs into "super soldiers" with vastly increased vision, hearing, strength, speed, magic resistance, and other powers, the party immediately set out to ruin the ceremony. They were successful in destroying most of the temples, but their presence was betrayed in the process.

Returning to the World's End Pub triggered an ambush, although the party was able to decipher a clue that led them to the Willows, Hylax's family home outside of the town. There, orc shaman were summoning impossibly large vines and clinging plants to break through the magical barriers protecting the wizard's villa. A commando raid was able to rescue Mrs. O'Barker, Hylax's aging butler Joseph, his granddaughter Gretchen, and the visiting Ohm. While the Willows was lost, information from Mrs. O'Barker allowed the party to make their assault on Dragonsford Castle.

Several forays were made into the castle via the underground passages into the Wizard's Tower. In addition to overwhelming orcish guards and magic-sniffing hounds, twelve Nazgul led by the winged Serebriakoff and four white dragons protected the castle. The Wizard's Tower was sacked driving Atli the White into the outer courtyard. There, he was killed by U-Gene the Dwarf, and his bow was taken by Ernest Goodfellow. The Great Hall was assaulted, Harek hounds were dispatched, and Bloodaxe met a similar fate. Although U-Gene was killed, a quick resurrection allowed him to capture the Sword of War and Violence for Vincent Fleetwood.

Hastur fled Dragonsford Castle heading west over the Shadowyarn Mountains to Teufeldorf where Grim, his only living son, sat on the throne of an undead kingdom. Ernest Goodfellow was crowned King of the Eastern Reaches and began reconstruction on Dragonsford Castle. A successful campaign waged by the High Mark William against the Orcs of the Bloody Claw routed the evil forces and drove them north across the River White (see the Rebellions of 884).

Return to Teufeldorf (2002)

Teufeldorf Castle Map

Winter snows fell deep across the Shadowyarn Mountains. The dwarven King U-Gene received word of a great discovery from his scholars that had been studying the histories in the great houses of learning and libraries throughout the Realm. The Legend of the Amphisbanea told of a temple where a strange snake god granted boons which improved the natural abilites of the recipient. It was February 885. With several months before the campaign season was to start, the party set off to the Sands of Time in search of the tomb of the two-headed snake.

Arriving in the desert near the temple, the party discovered the village of Skarit, the home of a race of scorpionmen. Dispatching the scorpionmen, the party discovered that the entrance to the Temple of the Amphisbanea was the cave previously home to the Rune Master, a mysterious figure that aided the party during the early years of the Third Age. Securing the cave, the party entered into the lower level of the temple. There, they dispatched four goblin guards left by the last party of tomb raiders. Moving past the Thug, Trickster, Adept, and Deadeye, the party moved to the upper level of the temple. There, they faced the liche priests that secretly sought to keep the twins from breaking their father's curse. Avoiding Viscera, Brann, Gril, and Molo, the party was briefly slowed by the tombs of the elven princesses. Later, Falstaff was captured by a vampire only to escape with help of his comrades. Finally, the party faced the amphisbanea. Using extraordinary wit, they convinced Cale and Tasker of the diabolical intentions of their liche priest followers. Embracing for the first time in hundreds of years, the twins were restored. The boon was granted to U-Gene, raising his talent. Fuzzwort also gained critical points of piety which would allow him to cast ninth level spells. While the temple filled with sand, the party retreated to the cave of the Rune Master and eventually back to Dwarrowdelf Castle.

With tales of Grim's stranglehold over Teufeldorf coming in from advanced scouts, the party decided to travel westward under the established guise of the Dwarrowdelf Gem and Precious Stone Mercantile. Along the road to Teufeldorf, the party came across the crypt master of Greyheath and his skeleton-making factory. The military victory of Dugald Axeworthy at Flatstone had denied Greyheath its typical garrison. Thus weakened, the party quickly dispatched the crypt master and continued on towards Teufeldorf.

Passing through the final checkpoint into the city, the party headed straight for Tom Merryearth's House of Death. There, they found Tom marked for death by the dearg-due, the vampiric lieutenants of Grim. Cleverly substituting a doppleganger for Tom, Hylax was able to follow as the dearg-due took their prisoner to a large cell complex inside the pitch blackness of Teufeldorf Castle. Before Tom's doppleganger was discovered and destroyed, the party learned of elven prisoners held in the castle whose purpose seems to be the delivery of an important message to Falstaff from his grandfather.

Next, the party discovered the location of a strange artifact, the Sol Bomb, which would reportedly light even the darkness shrouding Grim's stronghold. Journeying to the Chapel of Terror, the party faced the followers of Etah. Avoiding the chaos mists that abounded in the Chapel, the party eventually recovered the Sol Bomb. From there, they retreated to the Crooked Arm Pub to formulate their plans to assault the castle. It was now early June 885. To the south, the Army of the Reaches marched towards Teufeldorf heartened by their victory at Flatstone to meet Grim's remaining forces at Vardan.

Storming of Teufeldorf Castle (2003)

Map of Teufeldorf Castle As Grim's Stronghold

While planning the party's infiltration of Grim's stronghold, Ernie stumbled upon a clue to a long-unanswered question. Cursed for years by the effects of the Amulet of the Dark Elves, Ernie encountered the mysterious Branna, an elven healer, who identified his malady and told of a slow, painful death caused by the Amulet's eventual malady, the Longing. Branna convinced Ernie that he must slay the priest of the Temple of the Dark Path in order to gain freedom from the Amulet. The party allowed Branna to teleport them to the Temple, a strange dimensional door amidst a swirling storm of ice in the Sands of Time. There, the party solved six puzzles which depicted the Seven Deadly Sins, but they failed the last one, Pride, and opened a doorway into a spinning column. There, they found Asmodan in a strange temple and released him from his prison. While the curse of the Amulet of the Dark Elves was lifted from Ernie, the evil of the Dark Elf Asmodan was loosed upon the Realm.

Upon their return from Asmodan's prison, the party encountered Daveth Kenley, a member of the resistance and friend to the recently-departed Tom Merryearth. Daveth told the party of a secret passageway under Grim's island fortress leading to a secret sanctuary located in the most ancient Chapel of St. Aidan. The party journeyed to the chapel to find it surrounded by dearg-due, wights and ghouls. Fighting their way into the sanctuary, the party found a notebook with research on the failed attempts to discover a weakness in the vampire-like creatures, a dearg-due family tree of sorts, a description of a nearby location called the Valley of the Cubes, and a mysterious reference to "the Oracle". So armed, the party retreated through a legion of undead back into the city.

Quickly deciding to visit the Valley of the Cubes, the party traveled to the nearby Iron Hills and discovered the vale. Spread out across the valley were hundreds of black cubes, home to the dearg-due. Not able to fight thousands of the vampire-like creatures, a local guide led them to the Oracle, three massive white statues carved into a local cave. Solving their puzzle and determining which statue was the Truthteller, the party discovered the particular cube that contained Quicksilver, the grandfather of all the dearg-due in the valley. Teleporting to that cube, the party quickly entered the strange structure and slew Quicksilver and several minions. Once outside, the party discovered that the Valley of the Cubes was now deserted. Having disposed of Grim's most fearsome lieutenants, the party returned to Teufeldorf.

Seeking further information about the wall of blackness that surrounds the castle, the party journeyed to the Well of the Warden where they met the ghost of Zoe, a poor unfortunate that was hung on Grim's Gallows. The party discovered that the Gallows itself was creating the darkness, fed by nightly sacrifices. In order to be able to destroy the evil magicked structure, the party detonated the Sol Bomb and created a momentary rift in the cloak of night. A commando strike destroyed the gallows, and uncovered the secrets of Grim's stronghold by bringing the light of day to the accursed island.

Meanwhile, triumphant from their victory at Vardan, the Army of the Reaches led by the taciturn dwarf commander Dugald Axeworthy marched into Teufeldorf. Meeting only token resistance, they quickly established control over the area. Accompanying the army was the Host of the Radiant Dawn commanded by Faldirion, leader of the elves and Falstaff's grandfather.

On the island that once housed the noble Teufeldorf Castle, a massive pyramid gilded with gold had been built. Radiating evil, gold arms snaked from the structure leading to other smaller outbuildings. The island swarmed, as if infected, with hundreds of undead creatures and misshapen monsters. Several zombie dragons circled the island, protecting its skies from intruders. The party quickly dispatched the dragons and entered through a set of chimneys, discovered to be part of Grim's smithy. They quickly and quietly dispatched the evil that they discovered, freeing the prisoners that they found along the way. Finally, the party entered into a grand central chamber. There, Grim sat surrounded by his high priests. The final melee saw the destruction of Shallowgrave and the liche priests, the slaying of Grim at the hands of Ernest Goodfellow, and the retaking of Teufeldorf Castle by the party.

Adventures in the Void (2004)

Map of the Void (known)

As the party stood amidst the rubble of the battle at Teufeldorf Castle, the ground started to shake in a low rumble. Outside, the remaining minions of Hastur began flocking to the strange rock present throughout the Three Kings Campaign. The party quickly made their way to the stone, as Hastur began to awaken. Waves of fell bats, mithral skeletons, bone giants, zombie dragons, earth folds and blazing effigies came upon the party. In their midst, the gallows priests come to wake the Stone God. Amidst a flurry of spells and swords, the party was able to hold off the wake of evil.

Within the protective confines of magical walls, ramps and hallucinatory terrain, Vince solves the riddle of the rock and Fuzzwort performs the Ceremony of Long Slumber lulling Hastur to back to sleep. With the end of Hastur and his sons, the Sword of the Elder Gods crumbles, its mission accomplished. For a moment, at least, the Reaches are free of the tyranny of evil.

It was on a bright, sunny day that Vincent Fleetwood, Ranger of the Wilderlands became the new King of Teufeldorf, ascending to the throne, the first ranger to do so in hundreds of years. It was also at this time that Falstaff was granted the station of Paladin of the Balance, a singular position awarded to a Warrior-Druid to act as the Voice of the order in the world. He claimed the scabbard known as Thunder, and began his quest to bring the items of the Voice together.

It is in the days that followed that the party learned of a new threat upon the Realm. The legends of the Renderer, a mythical beast which came from a strange realm called the Void, is told to the party by Faldirion. The beast, which drives men mad at its very sight, is thought to be coming again, its arrival heralded by the coming a strange astrologer priest. The sole portal to this room seems to be a strange device called The Game located at the Armitage Inn in Teufeldorf. But travel to the Void is almost impossible, relying on jumping into a spinning globe at precisely the right instant. More mundanely, the globe is used as a giant gambling device with participants throwing brightly colored bags of coins onto a floor to bet on which rune will fire next on the mysterious machine.

The Armitage Inn is not without its mysteries, as well. Falstaff is told to meet Silverbrook, a druid of the order. Instead, they find Unwin, a dark elf, who is masquerading as Silverbrook. A careful search finds bloodstains in the druid's room. The party discovers that Unwin works for Thornburn, a master assassin who is staying at the Inn under the guise of a merchant of spices. After a brief fight, the party dispatches Thornburn.

In the bar, Hylax is approached by a very short, very fat man, Rollo Shards son of Gordian Shards, Peddler of Pots. Rollo explains that his father has sent him out to bring Hylax and the party back to his shop. On the way back, an attack by assassins rains down on the party. Rollo is hit and disintegrates. The party pursues the attacker, a gaunt hawk-nosed man with a scraggly black beard. The assassin, unable to flee, plunges a black dagger into his chest and disintegrates as well.

Continuing on to the shop, the party finds Gordian missing. A trap door with a puzzle poses little problems for the party. As they explore the basement, they pass below the street and head back towards the Armitage Inn. At the end of the tunnel lies the Cube of Shards, a magical device which is determined to mutate magical weapons, allowing them to be combined. After some experimentation, some successful, some not, the party leaves the room.

Later that evening, Vince is paid a visit by the Grandmaster of the Ashen Path, the assassin's guild of Teufeldorf. What happened during that meeting is unclear, but a truce is called. Both the assassins and the party will have access to the Cube, and the impending bloodfest at the Armitage Inn is avoided.

Meanwhile, the party discovers a way to cheat the globe, called the Navigium Vectorium, by using the Mirror of the Void which shows what will happen 10 minutes in the future. By watching the mirror, the party will be given advanced warning that the rune foretold by Faldirion. This will give them a ten-minute window to make their way to the platform, filled with swaying yellow-robed Priests of the Orb, and jump in. The next morning, the rune fires and the party leaps in the Navigium Vectorium and enters the Void.

There, they find themselves falling into a deep pit. A large globe with two metal hoops above them, is apparently the other end of the teleport. After casting a few spells and finding a suitable landing spot, the party begins an investigation.

The Void is a strange cavern-like setting with black walls lit by an eerie purple-black glow coming from crystals embedded in the ceilings and walls. The party wandered about the caverns discovering a number of interesting features: an underground lake with a massive scaly, fish-headed monster which charmed several party members into taking a quick dip in the pool; the priestess Xystus, a long-time foe, who had retreated to the Void to keep from aging after the destruction of the Netherworld, again dispatched along with her guardian hounds, and giving up her powerful ring; the wandering gnome, Hywel the Eminent, was encountered, attempting to sell them wares gathered from the Void caverns; Abhoth the Unclean oozed onto the scene before being driven back into hiding; and the demons of the covenant including vorpal-wielding cavewights, barrowights, and the lore master Sharptalon - who was actually dead and being puppeteered by two goblins died allowing U-Gene to gain the Grindstone of the Dwarven Smiths.

While the party was able to map a small part of the Void, many mysteries remain. The walls and floors are unnatural, unable to be marked in any way. Some of the room have green stone floors while others are white. And magic seems to cause the purple crystals to glow brightly for a few minutes and then return to normal. Several rooms have an enormous ancient stone archway set against one wall. Approaching the archway causes runes to appear above them. The party deciphers the runes as chess moves, keeping with the fact that they find small stone chess pieces scattered about the caverns.

Cleansing of Loftwood (2005)

Map of the Loftwood

While they debated what course to take, Hylax realized that the green and white stone floors actually formed a giant chessboard within the Void. Suddenly, the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place. The archways that formed semi-permanent gates between the Void and the worlds beyond were opened by placing the chess pieces in the appropriate rooms. Once a piece was moved, the gate was closed. Temporary access could be gained via the instruments of the Void, and patient travelers could simply wait and use the Navigium Vectorium which allowed passage approximately once each six years. Suddenly, the Renderer's plan was clear. His astrologer priests wandered the Void collecting pieces needed to open their gate. However, the pieces cannot be removed from the Void. So, they were constrained to short commando raids and stashing the pieces somewhere in the massive caverns. The party set off to collect the pieces, open the gate to Yuggoth before the astrologer priests were ready, and do a quick strike to disrupt the impending invasion.

The first encounter was with six hell hounds wearing ruby collars, minions of Ribboth the Fat. After a brief discussion with Ribboth via the collars, the party dispatched the hell hounds and stashed the collars in U-Gene's backpack. Next, the party encountered the shaggy voormis, servants of Tsathoggua, at the temple of the formless spawn Thriss. Risking insanity, the party attacked. After repelling several waves of creatures, the party struck against the Temple of Thriss directly, using the Sphere of Annihilation to weaken the upside-down pyramid. After its collapse, a charmed Hylax blurted out that the party simply wished to stop the Astrologer Priests. A tentative truce was struck and Thriss told the party of the threat from Daolith the Renderer. Apparently, the servants of Tsathoggua did not know how to use the gates within the Void. Vince convinced Hylax of the value of circumspection, and the party was able to use the knowledge of the voormis and Thriss to find the last few keys that they needed.

Encounters included a raid into a den of beholders and the avoidance of Cyaegha, the Crushing Eye. However, it was a raid into the Bastion, a prison keep designed to protect the chess pieces that led to the land of Gangee, that allowed the party to move forward. Avoiding a massive lightning trap, Ernie was able to slip through the ceiling of a prison hallway, imitate an archer guard, and steal the belt pouch of Bretta the Sorceress. The belt pouch had been discarded because of a bad dream projected into the mind of sleeping spellcaster. A brilliant plan that allowed the party to open the gate to Yuggoth.

Already on edge with Fuzzwort afraid of both fires and enclosed spaces and Hylax not wanting to be left alone, the party journeyed into the bizarre land of Yuggoth. The sky was devoid of color and the terrain was a series of angular ramps made of a bright silvery material. These ramps were populated with thousands of constructs, statues made of various shapes, cubes, cylinders and spheres connected by long rods. An army waiting to attack. Thinking quickly, the party took a quick reconnaissance flight invisibly searching the Tower of the Astrologer Priests, Daolith's Hall, and the Audience Hall. Picking a likely target, the party raided the Tower capturing one priest and kill three others. With their captive, the party managed to determine the location of the Harp of the Planes in the lower level of the Tower. Under pressure from the awakening of the Renderer, the party swept into the Tower, solved the puzzle of the Harp, and quickly dashed up the ramps to the safety of the Yuggoth Gate. Once inside, Hylax teleported away to move a chess piece and close the gate. A few priests who made it through were dispatched.

The threat to the Void and the Realm of the Renderer was ended. Thriss was given the chess pieces for safekeeping, and the party exited through the Realm Gate. Falstaff used the Flute of the Planes to return to the Void and close the gate, again assuring that the chess pieces were safely in the hands of the voormis and their formless spawn leader. Upon his return, sanity slowly returned to the group, and the Void adventure ended.

As a full paladin, Falstaff summoned the Celestial Pegasus, Mithrandir, to serve as his mount in his quest for the items of the Voice and the continuance to establish the Balance.

Rest did not come, however, for our heroes. Faldirion informed the party that the maze of the Unspoken Valley, sealed in the Second Century despite a vast horde of elven gold that was lost there, had been breached by Orcs of the Red Axe. The orcs sought the treasure to help their ailing war efforts. However, an ancient presence lived in the valley. The presence is rumored to have destroyed a party led by the Forestral of Loftwood, nine Druids of Oakentree, gnomish and dwarven masters, and one hundred and twenty elven warriors.

Undaunted the party set out, quickly finding the Orcs of the Red Axe camped at the broken pillar, the dwarven temple and the waterfall leading down into the Unspoken Valley. Each of their camps was guarded by red dragons. Some quick intelligence gathering showed that the orcs were waiting for the party. In addition, a vast number of red dragons were ready to be summoned. It seems the red dragons had been promised half of the gold. Falstaff brought a great storm upon the valley. Hylax managed to teleport the leader, one Stumpy Wightslayer, out of the camp, replacing him with a doppleganger. Searching the command tent, all clues pointed towards a descent into the valley. The doppleganger Stumpy stirred the camp into revolt with tales of dragon betrayal. Pandemonium broke out, and the camp at the broken pillar was quickly destroyed, its occupants scattered.

Although they briefly surveyed the Valley, the party decided to check out the dwarven temple. Two false entrances were explored by the pegasus, and the party discovered a poem that led them to a secret entrance under a willow tree on top of the temple. Here, the party discovered more orcs! Clearly, the clues pointing to the Valley were a ruse. One group of orcs were slept and more died in melee. Two polymorphed red dragons and a number of goblin-summoned shadows slowed the party only slightly eventually dumping into a large cavern complex. The party used Find the Path to discover the treasure guarded by Rhys the Red, a mage of the Wizard's Council, several mist elementals, and a host of orcs. Negotiations allowed the bad guys to escape, but the elven gold was rescued by the party. Teleporting the treasure quickly back to Faldirion, the party successfully avoided the skies which were now filled with red dragons. Because of their quick actions, all 240,000 gold was rescued.

The Disappearance of the Elves (2006)

Little time has passed since the adventure in Loftwood. The pressures of their kingdoms have occupied the leaders for the last few years. But, the Realm is never safe from evil for long. In this case, it all began quite mundanely. One day at the mid-day meal in May 888, Vince received a message that a strange, thin man wielding a mysterious purple dagger had been implicated in the assassination of several dignitaries of the Realm presumably working under the auspices of the Dark Elves of Dor Daedeloth and their ruler, Asmodan. The assassin, Jillian Blackrose, wielding the ancient Amethyst dagger had a new target: Fleetwood. As a twist to the story, the dagger is rumored to be part of the Reliquary of the Voice sought by Falstaff.

Before he could react, Vince was called into an audience with Faldirion reporting the disappearance of two elven Foamskippers and a human warship near a natural whirlpool called The Tumult. Believing the story, the party headed out on the Twilight's Mist. The party was shadowed from the beginning by another ship and mysterious wyvern riders. Using a clever ploy, the party engaged the wyverns and their death lance-wielding riders. Thinking themselves clear of enemy interference, the party continued towards the Tumult.

The party discovered a beach with the skeleton of an ancient dragon, Blackwing. Avoiding animating the ancient monstrosity, the party recovered a chest locked with a puzzle trap. The trap was quickly disarmed, and the loot recovered, including a map to the underground Smuggler's Caves. The caves were guarded by an old sea hag, Maraglynis, whom Fuzzwort and Vince quickly dispatched. Inside the cave, the party found the treasure horde missing, although they found a mechanical bird of great value. Outside, the party discovered the lighthouse was occupied by Dark Elves.

While working on a plan, the party ran into a mysterious fog bank and the ghostly flotilla of Tom Sweeny and his band of dread pirates. The fleet of ghost ships (the Zephyr, the Cruel Shark, the Sea's Strumpet, and Night's Cry) were sent to their rest by the return of the mechanical bird, taken from Sweeny years before.

The lighthouse was actually a trap, cleverly designed by Jillian Blackrose. Upon entering, the party found the "real" Faldirion tied up in a back room. Simultaneously, the "fake" Faldirion revealed itself as Jillian Blackrose, making a lightning strike against Vince. The king survived, and the party struck back with extreme prejudice. Jillian was dispatched. When Jillian's corpse was questioned by Fuzzwort after the adventure, it was discovered that she was sent by Vokes, master of the dark elves. The dark elves seek both the scabbard and a shield which can be used to control the power of the other items of the Reliquary.

Landing the ship at Timberway, the party set out for Pilgrim's Point, the proposed site for a new library of Sarth, dedicated to gathering the legends and lore of the Orc Nation. During a scouting mission, it was discovered that the ancient monastery atop the mount was being used to house elven prisoners captured during a pilgrimage to establish a new town south of the Duntide on the edge of the Barrens. Warded by powerful spells, investigations into the disappearance of the elves showed that they simply vanished along the trail to their new home.

The party investigated the castle and found a group of priests dedicated to a local spider god named Greyfur. The priests, it was later discovered, were looking for a spider-shaped organ that was rumored to exist only in elves. This organ was critical for the priests to summon Greyfur to the Realm.

The guardians of the citadel were aided by the mysterious Cinereal Men. These fearsome guardians could meld into stone, harden their skin instantly to bind weapons, and use the earth to heal themselves. Also, they were aided by assassins of the Grey Path lead by a grandmaster named Beane. A number of troll servants also patrolled the grounds. Avoiding these, the party followed the First Age hallway down into the mountain.

The party journeyed down the spiraling staircase that led into the depths of the mountain under Pilgrim's Point. The center of the staircase was the Cinereal Column, an ancient creature with non-corporeal tentacles that lashed out and drained attributes, magic and hit points. The party came across the journal of an acolyte which told of loading a mixture of ash, salt, sulfur and coal into a great cannon in order to destroy the Cinereal Column.

In their travels, the party discovered the great cannon. They also found the requisite elements scattered throughout the complex. The rooms were heavily trapped, but the flying rust monsters proved to be the most fearsome foe the party faced.

Having gathered the components, the party loaded the great cannon, as they fended off attacks from all sides. In the end, they destroyed the Cinereal Column and silenced its children. From there, they managed to disrupt the Priests and their attempts to summon Greyfur. While many elves died, most were rescued by the party. Fuzzwort, in his final missive to Sarth, told of the spiders heading east, identified a lone elf spy, and marked Pilgrim's Point as haunted walling it off for future consideration.

Upon returning to Teufeldorf, the party was immediately confronted by a crisis at the Cave of Runes, at the northern edge of the Sands of Time. A castle had been built over the Cave, and renegade magicians were using it to attempt to create a race of super-wizards called the Valmagus. A detachment of knights, led by Sir Ballard of Highfolk had staked out the area, but they were unable to approach because of a death ray that fired from the towers of the newly-created castle.

A storming of the castle by Ernie and his comrades managed to kill the mad genius Aldwerth the Red and the rogue wizard Roskeen. The party dispatched scorpions, a gibbering mouther, and armored hell hounds. Several women were rescued before they gave birth at the "crossroads of tendrils", whatever those are. In the end, the castle was cleansed, Sir Ballard set in charge of guarding its secrets and the threat of the Valmagus ended.

At last, the party returned to their homes. The snows had come early to the Realm, and the time for rest was at hand. The only question was for how long…

Sojourn to Oblivion (2007-2008)

Map of Oblivion

It was early in the Spring of 889. The snows were still falling in the northern Reaches. War was months away, the land was quiet, the trees barren and the ground covered in a white blanket. The party had gathered for its annual poker game. U-Gene was hosting this year, and everyone's thoughts had turned to a hot, steaming mug of Dwarven mead. Falstaff was away on "important" Druid business, and somebody had just made a ribald joke about half-elves, when a crackling sound split the air.

Standing at the table was Galdor the Learned, Master of Nations, Priest of Sarth. His grim continence was foreboding. "I come to tell you of a grim happening in Loftwood. As you know, we have been watching the northern edge of the great woods. The area around Pilgrim's Point has been quiet of late, but by chance one our scouts spotted a line of heavily armed knights disguised as a trader's caravan moving towards the coast south of Timberway. It is too early for traders in the forest, and we wondered why were they so intent on avoiding the normal paths of commerce. Strange to say the least."

"To make a long story short, we have discovered that the Knights are actually from Sandal. How they made it all the way to the Loftwood is a mystery. But, they are heading towards some specific goal, as their path does not stray. Then, suddenly, our scouts did not return. The elves are unable to help us, and so I turn to you to discover what is at the center of the mystery. For Sandal to risk an excursion this far north does not bode well. The fact that we have been unable to approach is concerning as well. From the best of our ability, our cartographers feel that the army was headed towards the small fishing hamlet of Somber Beach. It is the smallest of places, and quite unimportant in all ways. Although, there is nothing there of interest, the reasoning for these actions must be most dire."

Garnered with this information, the party set out immediately to the area choosing to arrive at Pilgrim's Point to the northeast of Somber Beach via teleport. A quick check of the ruins turned up nothing untoward. With mundane disguises and riding simple horses, the heroes set out moving slowly through the forest. Soon, they came across the tracks of the army heading southwest. Vince and Hylax summoned creatures to follow, while the party took a slightly northern route, attempting to get to the village first to stage a defense. The creatures following the army never returned and never reported in.

Arriving in the village of Duskwillow just to the south of the Cloudfen Mountains, the party came across a small village already overrun with evil. Between the houses in the town square were stretched tents, a stockade surrounded the village, and a huge command tent dominated the square. A quick peek under the tent revealed a strange statue of an old man, gnarled and bent, leaning heavily on his walking stick. The figure pointed up, but he looked down. A puzzling text was around the base of the statue. Of more immediate concern was the Lord Commander Fiske, Knight of Chaos and his retinue in the town. Although U-Gene wanted to kill the army single-handedly, the party instead decided to reconnoiter.

To the north stretched the Cloudfen Mountains. A single path wound towards a cave on the cliff's face. The party decided to investigate. At the entrance to the cave known as the Keyhole, for it passed through the mountain, the party discovered the lair of Emberbrood, a dragon of the most nasty disposition. Emberbrood's lair was a vast pit, containing gold, magic and not one, but four, dragons. In the pit lay a number of dragon eggs. The foes were fierce, but a full frontal assault was launched. Grabbing dragon eggs didn't seem to slow the attack, but it definitely enraged the mother dragons. The party was able to dispatch several dragons before Emberbrood teleported out to gather reinforcements. Digging quickly, the party pocketed some magic items, snatched some gold and beat a hasty retreat. On one dragon, the party found an earring which apparently allowed communications with its twin. The party heard some draconic messages until Emberbood returned to find her companions slain and the earring missing.

Next, the party descended the cliff to find several of the town guard coming along the road. Quickly hiding in a nearby cave, the guards were overtaken and questioned. Before the blood had dried, the dragons took to the air to seek revenge on the party. In a flash of brilliance, the party decided to plant the earring in the command post of the Sandal knights and let the dragons think that the knights had been the culprits. Very clever ploy.

To the southeast of town, the party discovered the training fields for the army. Tents had been setup, practice fields outlined, and a small contingency of men were preparing for the arrival of the army. Overlooking the fields, a small chapel stood on the cliff overlooking the fishing hamlet of Somber Beach. The chapel was clearly ancient, from the Second Age, and had been converted into a Command Post for the army. The party was able to charm a few guards and cast some elaborate spells to erase memories and create dopplegangers. In the end, the party discovered that four adventurers had used the statue to travel to a distant land. These included: Nightshade, Nathalia Valdemar, Cabell the High Wizard, and a mysterious invisible woman later to be discovered as Ione. In addition, a small retinue of guards had accompanied them. The evil party was to attempt to break a Lesser Ward and temporarily release an army of undead into the Loftwood. Apparently, the next task was to send the army through. It seems that the Sandal Knights had arrived by ship to a secret rendezvous north of Timberway and were expected in a few days.

The rest of the chapel, while mysterious, did not reveal any of its secrets. A chamber beneath the chapel contained a mysterious floating box and a cryptic puzzle of scrambled letters. Vince recalled a dream about just such a place, but he was unable to pin down the feeling. The party planted the magical dragon's earring in the pocket of one of the guards in the tower as he studied the plans at the large table in the main room of Chapel Mount. At last, the party decided to go to the tent, kill the guards, solve the riddle and pass into Oblivion. As they did so, they could hear the shrieks of the humans and the sounds of battle as the dragons discovered the planted earring.

Oblivion, the Land of Shades, has long been rumored to be a place where the souls of the dead go when they are not at rest. Held there, between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead, it is a place of dark shadows and misery.

The party found themselves standing in the middle of Duskwillow, or what at first glance appeared to be Duskwillow. However, the tents were gone, as was the army. The smell of the faint sweetness of decay was in the air, as if standing on the edge of dank forest. The sky was leaden as if the sun has just set on an overcast, gloomy autumn afternoon. There was no breeze, and there were no discernable clouds, just an unending streak of grey. The temperature was warm and the air was heavy with moisture. It was not uncomfortable, just muggy and oppressive. A sense of despair washed over the party, although the feeling passed quickly. The statue had also changed, the figure was now looking up not down.

From the buildings, a number of townsfolk appeared moving with a jerky, mechanical gait. As they advanced, the murmurings from the crowd were heard, "Magic… Magic…" Clearly, these townsfolk were undead, although many of their wounds looked somewhat fresh. A quick dispatch of the creatures, and the party moved on. Almost immediately, the party noticed nighmare-riding figures circling the Cloudfen Mountains just to the north and went to investigate.

At the Keyhole, the party encountered a group of ruffians led by Admund the Highwayman. The party engaged in parlay discovering at length that Admund and his men were shades killed by the dragon Emberbrood in life. In order for their spirits to be at rest, they required merely a single piece of gold from the dragon's lair. The party bargained for two things. First, they wanted a Dead Man's coin from Admund. Second, they requested Admund and his men help distract the dragons in Emberbrood's lair away from their treasure. Admund gave the party a Dead Man's coin and told them of the Dock of Eternity and the passage to the Land of the Dead. It seems the party needed five coins to give to the Ferryman to make the journey.

Emberbrood proved more of a challenge the second time around. As the party entered into the chamber, Emberbrood detected their presence and negotiations began. Hylax, speaking for the party, tried to bargain some of the party's treasure for the dragon's Dead Man's Coin. However, in the end, the greed of the dragon was too great, and Emberbrood attempted to take both. In a melee of epic proportions, the party wailed and the dragons breathed. The party also discovered that some of their magic didn't work so well. In the end, they gained the coin, thanks to the diversion of Admund and some Jump and Fly spells. A hasty retreat was sounded and the party fled. In licking their wounds, the party found that heal spells and conjures were weakened or non-functional. While no natural healing occurred, sleep was also not needed. Potions seemed to work fine. Spells were not recovered with time, and magic seemed to attract the Shades. At this point, U-Gene began to complain wildly about Oblivion.

The party departed the Keyhole for some reconnaissance, discovering an ancient manse on the shores of the Wailing Waters west of the village. Beyond that lay the vast expanse of the piney forest strewn with spider webs, known as The Knot. To the east, a strange tower was discovered on the shores of the Shadeshore. Two exploratory Passwall spells revealed no inner passages. Traveling over the trees of the Braken Dale, the party swept south back over the Chapel Mount.

A quick trip to the Chapel Mount proved most interesting. The party discovered that the box that was only a projection for the living was real in Oblivion. A strange cipher was decoded and the party, much to its surprise, found a Covenant of the Demons. They solved the riddle and took the Covenant with them for safekeeping. Several discussions around opening the box led nowhere.

Faced with many possible locations, the party headed for the Wailing Waters and the Manse they had glimpsed on its shores. The black waters of this small inlet smelled of salt and the sea. The shoreline of the lake were steep cliffs, diving down into the inky waters. The waters stirred unnaturally and ripples formed without any breeze at all. On the northern edge of the lake was a small keep, made of a strange grey stone. The keep was tucked into a dark copse of large trees. The structure had a steeply graded roof made of grey stone. There were no windows, and a single massive wooden drawbridge was closed, leaving a gap over a chasm of some 15 feet. A single road, in ill repair, wound up the side of the cliff with a number of crumbling switchbacks. Several flocks of black carrion birds circled the structure. Periodically, a thin wail, like a woman's scream was heard on the wind.

The party cast a Locate Object spell for a Dead Man's coin and found one inside the western wall of the strange castle. Preparing a Disintegrate spell, the party was attacked by small non-corporeal flying creatures know as Nigglers. These nasty beasts screeched to stun, then passed through a body, kissing a single magic item and draining it of its power. The first wave of Nigglers went away full of delicious magic.

Grumbling, the party entered the Manse and found a cellar with the coffin of Ivor, a vampire of ill repute, a chest and the appointments of fine living. Ivor appeared to be sitting in his chair. The party attacked, and the real Ivor attacked Ernie from behind, managing to drain a fair bit of constitution before being destroyed. The party found a curious number sequence on the chest, while several party members huddled over the chest, the others explored a few rooms of the manse finding a library, a foyer with a grandfather clock, and finally, several banshees. Ernie, attacked by banshees, retreated into the hallway that had been opened by the Disintegrate spell. Attempting to draw them away from the party, he flew out the castle into a small flock of Nigglers. Suddenly becoming entranced with the wail of the women, Ernie forgot how to fly and plummeted down the chasm in a crumpled dead heap. An unsuccessful attempt to open the chest destroyed a bit of treasure before the party finally opened the chest using the pattern of the chiming of the clock. Snatching the coin, Ivor's walking stick, and some magic items, the party dispatched the banshees and retreated with their ill-gotten gains. Hylax boosted Ernie's constitution, drained from his experience with the ghosts, and the King of Dragonsford was returned to life.

A journey to the west following the path into the Braken Dale revealed a sinkhole. At the bottom of the sinkhole were eleven trees circling a small island. On the island, was a strange pyramid with four faces each with a glowing red eye. As the party flew to the island, Ernie's foot touched the ground first. The rest of the party was attacked by the trees and spirits boiling from the water. Daunted, the party retreated to watch Ernie approach the Oracle. Ernie accepted the Oracle's challenge to fight a Shade from the past and defeat it in single combat. The shade turned out to be Falstaff, and a battle ensued. Falstaff gained the early advantage, pinning Ernie with a grasping hand. Ernie struggled while the damage piled up. Finally freeing himself, Ernie used superior armor and a flurry of blows to dispatch the Druid and gain the Dead Man's Coin.

At this point, the decision was made to travel towards the Dock, picking up coins along the way. The first stop was the village of Windshorn, just north of the Cloudfen Mountains. The party came across a town infested by ghosts. The most interesting feature was a tall spire, 50 feet high, carved of stone with discs of different creatures of the forest. A quick sweep of the town revealed piles of bleached bones, but it did not reveal a coin. However, the party did discover that they were being followed by an invisible creature, immune even to True Sight.

Setting a trap, the creature was forced into a battle. She moved into the body of Ernie and began to attack with daggers eager to drink the soul of the king. Vexed, the party fought the creature, using some trickery to separate her from Ernie. Killing the creature and casting the usual spells, the party learned that the creature was the fourth member of the Sandalese forces, named Ione. She was sent to watch for the party, picking up the trail near the Braken Dale. She and Cabell, it seems, were assigned to melt the ice of the Elven Soul Pool. The forces of evil believe that this action will make elves unable to be resurrected, if even temporarily. As an army of the undead was expected soon from the work of Nightshade and Nathalia Valdemar, this would provide the final punch to defeating the Host of the Radiant Dawn. Taking her magic, the party departed with a renewed sense of urgency towards the Docks of Eternity.

Coming to a fork in the road in the forests north of Windshorn, the party was able to solve a maze riddle and follow the winding path to the leper colony of Summermead. There, they avoided the town and went directly to the home of the leader of the colony, Diriel. There, they spied on the house through great glass windows. Entering through another disintegrated wall, the party encountered a solid lead golem which proved to be immune to many of the standard attacks. In addition, weapons seems to get stuck in soft metal. A crushing blow from the golem crumpled Vince on the floor in a dead sort of way. While part of the party dealt with the golem, the rest headed upstairs to find a chest and the coin. As they were leaving, Diriel attacked. Actually a demon, Diriel summoned Nigglers to help and the party fared quite poorly. In the end, Diriel was decapitated and Vince restored to life. Ironically, a Niggler had destroyed one of two items of resurrection in the party.

Armed with five coins, the party went to the Dock of Eternity, giving their coins to the boatman, named March, and plunging into the black waters of the sea. The party awoke on the shore of the Land of the Dead. Again, the landscape had not changed. The dock, however, was rotted and collapsing. The air was cold, and the party was overwhelmed by the oppressive weight of despair and helplessness.

The party quickly flew to Duskwillow. The statue of the old man now lay in effigy. His staff crossed over his chest. Swirling about the statue, in anticipation of returning to the Land of the Living, a host of undead screamed through the inky blackness. The moans of the dead were heard as a great caterwaul against the silence of the tomb. In their center, the form of a young woman was draped across the effigy. Over her, the Tomb King stood enchanting a prayer. Slowly, he brought his knife up, lifting his eyes to the sky.

The party moved into the maelstrom. Attacking Nightshade and waking Nathalia into action. The undead screamed and attacked, temporarily beating the party back. The tides turned as Fuzzwort cast a spell to keep the spirits at bay. The elite guards entered the circle. The party dove into the fray, all except Hylax, who watched from atop a chest some distance away. They dispatched Nightshade, Nathialia and the guards with some difficulty, leaving the undead to disperse into the gloom.

With the threat passed, the party discovered that the statue did not hold their return. In fact, five more coins were required for passage back to the Land of Shades. Weary and battle torn, the party began their search for more coins.

A strange circular tower had been spotted on the eastern banks of the Shadeshore. The party moved to investigate the Tower of Asargat the Forlorn. Using the Arrow of Direction, the party entered into the tower via a disintegrated hole in the back dressing room of the Master Suite. Quickly finding a secret safe door, the party went to solving the maddening lock. A few moments later Asargat walked in, surprised to find his dressing room invaded. The party quickly dispatched the strangely mis-matched wizard, recovering the treasure, including the Beer of Eternity, Halistra's Comb, and, most importantly, a Dead Man's Coin. The quest continued.

Then, the party journeyed into the dark tangles of the Knot. The dark pine woods of this tangled forest were twisted and gnarled, and an eerie wind was blowing off the water from the west. A slightly rolling hillside, a maze of small game trails led to a large circular valley in the center of the forest. Here, the trees were dense and ancient. The valley appeared to be filled with interlaced spider webs.

The party cast fire spells into the webs, only to drive out a large number of phase spiders. Vince turned into gaseous form and went to investigate. The party found Wigga, and oddly human looking spider in the central cavity. There, draped under a cloak of many patches, was a chest-shaped object. Using a clever spell, Vince blew the cloak off, but the chest disappeared. Wigga spotted Vince and paralyzed him in a web. The party came to the rescue. They discovered Wigga's secret. In life, Wigga had poisoned her husbands for gold, being cursed to try and find a star pattern in the cloak that was on top of the chest. By solving the puzzle, the party could release Wigga's soul. The party promised to help her by solving the riddle. Finding the star in the stiches, they freed her and gained the Dead Man's Coin. The treasure was left behind.

As they came up from The Knot, one question nagged at them. Where will the party go next? The Dragon's Tongue, Twisting Trees, Scarmoral Mount and Elven Soul Pool are still untouched. Time is running out for the elves. And what about the Sandal Knights coming to Duskwillow? So much to do. So little time.

2008

Having returned from the Land of the Dead, the party mused as to whether the coins would return to their owners, again to be found in the Land of the Shades. Traveling quickly to the Manse on the Wailing Waters, Hylax cast a floating eye that went into the dark ruins of Ivor's hold. There, the party found that all was just as they left it. There would be no easy treasure this time.

Next, the party journeyed to the Dragon's Tongue. There they found a low range of mountains rising above the forests. In the canyons that were cut above the hill, the party found a landing with five caves leading down. As they watched over the course of several days, dragons would arrive going into the caves. None ever came back. Eventually, the party determined that the dragon's color determined which cave they entered. The party entered the blue dragon's cave. The inside of the cave was covered with depictions of First Age warriors riding blue dragons into battle, slaying armies of men and dwarves and elves - lightning bolts raining down upon the helpless soldiers in a rout. At the far end of the mural, a dwarven king sat atop a golden throne, his feet resting upon a silver chest. Following the hallway down, the party immediately found a lightning trap which ran the length of the hallway. Buffing up, they entered.

The hallway ended in an enormous hexagonal room with six passageways leading out. The center of the room was dominated by dozens of stone tables and benches. These tables were filled with dragon riders, waiting for the arrivals of their dragons. The party moved quickly past these and down the sixth hallway towards the arena - a massive sporting pit filled with dragon bones. Around the edges of the arena were twelve pedestals, on which slept ten ancient dragons. Each dragon appeared to be nested on a pile of gold. At the far end of the arena, a massive, ancient five-headed dragon, Chazor the Bringer-of-Ashes greeted the party. Behind him, a portculis hid Chazor's treasure room from prying eyes. He challenged the party to a battle or steel or wits. The party chose wits and Ernie stepped forward as the champion.

"Be you a dragon rider? Mortals are not allowed in my domain. Make a statement. If what you say is true, I will eat you. If what you say is false, I will tear you into small pieces." Ernie thought and thought. Sweat poured off his brow. In the end, he guessed wrong. Chazor placed Ernie under a quest, and the once-proud fighter fell to his knees.

The party attacked. After one round, the party scattered into the piles of treasure, looking for the Dead Man's Coin. The dragons attacked and things looked grim. After three rounds, the party teleported safely back outside the cave. The dragons pursued. Hylax cast a Wish spell: "I wish to fulfill Ernie's obligations to the dragons by having all the treasure which has been taken from his lair by us in the last twenty four hours returned to him without us going along with it except the Dead Man's Coin which he will forget we have taken." Away went bracers, a mantle, a sword, two rings and two unopened chests. Ahh, treasure for another day. As Ernie came to life, Chazor screamed, "You may have broken my quest, king of men, showing again why your race has no honor." With that the dragons returned to the cave, the party beat a hasty retreat from the Dragon's Tongue.

Where the dragons meant action, Scarmoral Mount meant stealth. The party entered the caves of the black dragon of the Mount, instead finding a stone dragon. In fact, after a bit of exploring there were way too many life-like stone statues. A first attack wave of basilisks was easily repelled. Passing through the stone dragon, Hylax found a chest with a riddle underneath. Extracting the chest and quickly solving the puzzle, the party found a Dead Man's coin some shrouds, a memory crystal and some potions. Easy in, easy out.

With four coins, the party moved to the final battle, the Elven Soul Pool, in hopes of saving the elven people and finding a fifth coin.

As the party approached the lake which they had visited in the Realm, the temperature began to drop, and the party noticed that the pool was frozen in Oblivion. A small contingency of what were later discovered to be elves, led by Airdell, walked on the surface of the pool tending a number of white staves spaced around the lake approximately 100 feet apart, creating a fence of sorts. The staves created an enchantment to keep the pool frozen. For ages, the frozen pool prevented souls from passing through Oblivion to the Land of the Dead, allowing the elves in the Realm to be resurrected. The small, elven force had given up their freedom to live in Oblivion to guard the pool. A number of green huts where the elves lived were tucked within the protective boughs of the trees. The party isolated a lone elf, Limnell of the Watch, and befriended him, learning the secrets of this strange place.

The party surmised that Cabell, Ione (now dead) and the Army of Sandal Knights planned to strike the pool. Cabell, the mad fire wizard, was the one man capable of melting such a large lake of ice.

The party had little time for reflection, however, as the army of Sandal moved into the area. Led by the battle priest Marcala, the forces attacked, attempting to destroy the white staff fence. The elves engaged. About this time, the party discovered activity at the far edge of the lake. It appeared that magically disguised knights were loading barrels tied together with rope under the ice. Fuzzwort went underwater and discovered that the entire lake was loaded with barrels of explosive powder. Quickly overwhelming the knights, he took to the depth, destroying barrels at a prodigious rate. Ernie peppered the knights with arrows, and U-Gene and Vince sliced up the knights who were circling the pool attempting to destroy the staves. Vince cast a spell which reanimated each knight he killed causing them to fight against their own forces.

Meanwhile, Hylax had wandered to the center of the lake. Looking up, he saw Cabell above him starting to intone a spell to break his staff and create a permanent firestorm in the area. While the fight raged on around the lake's perimeter, Hylax silenced and killed Cabell moments before the staff would have exploded. Mopping up the rest of the knights and destroying the remaining barrels, the party successfully rescued the elves, kept the lake frozen, and maintained the elven tradition.

As a reward, the party took from a nearby tree stump the unguent of timelessness, a magical bottle and a Dead Man's coin. Returning to Dusk Willow and solving the tracing puzzle of the return, the party returned to the Realm, their mission to Oblivion a success.

The Burning of Teufeldorf (2008)

The Burning of Teufeldorf (Oct. 889)

The glory of their triumphant return from Oblivion was short, very short, for our heroes, as they teleported into the central chamber of a recently constructed stone cell trap surrounding the ancient statue in Duskwillow. As Baron Valdemar did not know whether the party or Nightshade and the armies of the undead would be coming through, the trap was set with living humans in mind. A chess-like puzzle held the key while the temple filled with rust monsters, su-monsters and bean-sucking ghosts. The party began to dance and think. Once the puzzle was solved, all the party needed to do was traverse a hallway filled with flesh-eating goo. Forming a human-gnomish-dwarven daisy chain down the hallway with much quaffing of healing potions, the party emerged ready to fight, only to find themselves in a deserted town with snowflakes falling from the sky. Welcome home!

A quick teleport brought them to the outskirts of Teufeldorf, now the home to almost eight thousand orcs and goblins, seven hundred trolls, six hundred ogres and twenty giants. U-Gene started sharpening his axe and calculating experience points. A brief description of the city is worth repeating here.

"Beneath you, the city of Teufeldorf lies in shambles."

"Restoration of the castle on the jutting finger of King's Island has been halted. Although the stone outlines of building can be seen, it is clear that the wooden structures and engineering machines have been burnt, as if the orcs simply ransacked what was easy to destroy but didn't take the time to attempt dismantling the stones themselves. A collapsed roof on the great hall is the only sign of major structural damage from the attack. The island is now covered with a thick layer of white snow. No guards can be seen patrolling the area, and there are no villagers nearby."

"The city wall has been hastily repaired with broken stones, wood and other temporary building materials. All the gates have been permanently sealed with massive stones and piles of rubble, making passage impossible. It is difficult to discern whether this bizarre action is the attempt of the orcs to keep the soldiers of the Realm out or the inhabitants of Teufeldorf city in. While it is certainly possible to scale the city walls on an individual basis, the resulting structure would be very difficult for large groups or armies to traverse."

"Inside the city, two 600 foot diameter rings of stone have been fashioned from the streets of the former Old Town district of the city. Upon closer examination, it appears as if two round circles have been magically cut, like a giant cookie cutters, out of the center of the city."

"Outside the ring, familiar streets and lanes move crookedly across the city grid. Buildings seem to be mostly untouched with only an occasionally gutted structure dotted in amongst the city. In the outer streets, you see huddled groups of villagers. A number of groups of orcs patrol the city. Each group seems to be comprised of twelve orcs and a giant captain."

"Inside the rings, the buildings appear to have been scraped away almost completely. A barren circle of stone is all that remains. One circle (red) is filled with a huddled mass of peasants, almost a thousand of them. Makeshift fires burn with figures huddled over the guttering flames. Outside this circle, a huge pile of wood is being replenished by orcs who seem intent on gutting wooden buildings and destroying fine furniture. Several watering troughs are filled with liquid, despite the freezing temperatures while several others seem to hold scraps of food. The other circle (orange) is empty."

"Projecting down from the castle above, are two beams of light - one red and one orange. They emanate from several giant crystals on the bottom of the tower, passing through the shimmering globe to project down upon the town. The circles create a faint hazy globe of red and orange light which reflects wildly in the falling snow."

The party disguises themselves as farmers and makes their way over the wall and into the city. Stopped by the city guard, the party quickly finds out that the giants and orcs explode when attacked - a singed beard for the dwarf and a bummer for the direct assault plan. From there, the party meets with Aaron Bitterbeer at the Bark and Bite, a loyal subject of King Vince. There they are ushered along to a young, bespectacled man named Luke, who heads the rebellion against the orcs. Entering into the headquarters of the rebels, the party meet with Luke, Cecilia and an unidentified old man who give them the story of the happenings with the magic circles and floating castle of Baron Valdemar. The party quickly discovers that once each week, the beams brighten and a loud humming fills the air. Magic virtually crackles from the sky. The globes flash simultaneously. In the red globe are dead bodies. In the orange globe are several hundred knights of Sandal - looking around slightly dazed. The globes flash for a few minutes, and the knights ride from the orange globe. A cloaked figure in black enters the red sphere and utters a spell which cause the dead to rise, a new unit of skeletons appearing. Then, the orcs start to herd villagers into the red sphere.

A plan is concocted to venture into the catacombs below the circles, into a dungeon dedicated to an ancient mystic order call the Evokers. There, the party hopes to gain three artifacts which could be used to change the balance of power: a ring, belt and amulet. But the forces of evil already have made progress in the dungeon, so there was no time to lose. An initial attempt to enter the dungeon through an entrance in the park is foiled by an inability to answer the question, "the woods bear sons who later lay them low." Instead the party enters through the basement of the Manor Arms Hotel, following the servant of Nicholas Weatherby, the proprietor, who was quickly subdued and hidden in a crate.

After clearing out a small, necromantic temple at the bottom of the stairs, the party used their arrow of direction to find their way through a natural cave system to find the Eye of the Evokers (amulet), found around the neck of the fetching Natasha, a cleric of the necromantic persuasion. A brief fight ensued, and the party took down a number of wererats to gain the first prize.

Returning to the necromantic temple, the party journeyed through a number of crypts. One held a shield that briefly illuminated with a map - which a frenzied Vince tried to copy down in less than a minute. Following the map, the party passed through an army of undead skeletons which would split into two each time they were damaged, filling the room and hallways with their kin. Finally, Hylax noticed a mirror on the far wall, and smashing it, brought the dividing skeletons to an end. A series of room including a magically caged bronze dragon, a flaming guardian and a stone sentinel all were overcome as the party sought and eventually captured the coveted Belt of the Evokers.

The ring, it turns out, was located two levels down, in the deepest bowels of the dungeon. The party journeyed through several more temples, down stairs and finally into a large cavern complex far below the streets of Teufeldorf. There, they ran into Nicholas's son, Aphris arguing with Baron Valedmar's minion, Dreneth, an undead lich of a most nasty disposition. The article of their argument was nothing less than the Ring itself. With a bit of stealth and a lot of bang, the party took down both sides in the conflict, quickly gaining their prize. Even summoning several demons didn't seem to slow the A-Team down.

Returning to the city streets, the party devised a plan to have Vince fly under the castle, dampening all the magic around the castle using the power of the Ring, then using the power of the three items together to create a massive storm which would destroy Baron Valdemar's castle and stop the summoning of troops into the magical stone circles below. Weary past the point of exhaustion, Vince undertook the plan. The castle, no longer magically buoyed by its flying foundation plunged into the city. As the ramparts crashed into the earth, shaking the city to its foundation, the orcs knew the day was lost. Outside, the siege of Teufeldorf began in earnest as Dugald Axeworthy readied the siege engines, smiling for the first time in several months. Exhausted, the party left the city to rest and watch the carnage of the retaking of Teufeldorf by the forces of good.

The Tenth Shrine (2009)

Naomi, The Tenth Shrine (June 899)

Prelude

It's the fall of 890. Only a week has passed since the successful retaking of Teufeldorf by the Armies of the Reaches. A makeshift headquarters has been set up and the party is engaged in the cleanup of the orcish mess. The city is under the iron fist of Dugald Axeworthy, while preparations are made to rebuild the city walls, restore order to the citizenry, and begin burying the dead. The Orc Nation, all but wiped out in the war, is no longer a threat. Finally, time is an ally of the party.

Spies from Sandal inform the party that Baron Valdemar's personal apartments in the Sandalese capital appear to have been occupied for a few days - from just before the siege ended until just after. Breaking into the apartments, a letter was discovered, magically sealed and eventually brought to your attention. However, before you learn of the letter, the apartments are burned to the ground by rioting Sandalese peasants and all further evidence is lost.

U-Gene, Vince and Fuzzwort break the code sealing the letter. The letter is both addressed and signed by Baron Valdemar. It tells of the Baron's ability to send small items back through time - in this case a letter with instructions to himself. The letter instructs the Baron to go to Sandal and convince the Emperor to invade the Reaches nine years hence - while our heroes will be involved in the contest of the Thousand Year Gate. It also speaks of funding a Sandalese resistance and also killing a beggar, Hosu, outside of the emperor's palace.

Analyzing the letter, the party springs into action. U-Gene orders the doubling of the dwarven copter fleet, Vince orders construction of a cave system for the rapid evacuation of Teufeldorf in case of another siege, and Fuzzwort leads an effort to contact Hosu - who cannot be found. However, the most important initiative launched is the development of a Reaches navy - using the technology of the Elves.

In April 892, the first Reaches navy is launched. The party accompanies the crack crew of seven hundred elves on a diplomatic mission to negotiate a trade agreement with the Tang Empire. One week into the voyage across the Great Sea, the ships in the armada are becalmed. Suddenly, a storm begins to form, with the armada in its eye. After several more days, the ships, being tossed together in the unnatural tempest, are lost. Hylax creates the "sub-gnomable", transmogrifying life boats into vessels that are able to withstand the surge - saving four hundred and fifty elven lives and returning the party to Teufeldorf.

In June 892, the party hires Master Merchant Mirak to sail to the Tang Empire with a message of peace from the Reaches. In March 893, Mirak returns with an invitation for the party to join the Emporer. Setting off in April with the party aboard, Mirak's ship encounters a divine lightning storm of epic proportion. An attempt to "fool" the storm with an illusionary ship fails. Attempts to scrye Valdemar and the Tang Master of Ships also fail. In May 893, the ship of Mirak is lost at sea and the party abandons all attempts to contact the Tang Empire. Preparations begin for the invasion.

Years pass. It is now June 899 TA.

The rebuilding projects of the Reaches are complete. New castles and cathedrals dot the landscape. The Orc Nation is still under control. The Tomb Kingdom and Sandal are quiet.

It is then that the real adventure begins - with the appearance of a small box ornately inlayed with intricate wood patterns. A single symbol glows upon its top. While you don't recognize the symbol consciously, you know that it has a simple meaning - Chaos. The box is clearly of ancient Tang origins. The party discovers the item is called a kagi - or key, although this particular box seems enchanted with a summoning spell as well. The symbol of Chaos does not describe the box or its contents, however. Rather the rune appears to be an address for delivering the box to its owners - the party.

Fuzzwort's research shows, according to tradition, this method of summons was used in the late Second Age by the Tang Emperors to bring small groups of people together. The rune is triggered only after all of its owners have touched it, allowing the box to be carried safely by others until the requirements of the ritual have been met. In keeping with tradition, the Emperor himself provides for the safety of those who use the kagi, insuring that the summons cannot be used to harm others.

The party touches the box.

The party finds themselves in a courtyard of the Tang Emperor. Their guide, one Naomi, greets them and tells them of the Thousand Year Gate and the ritual of its Opening. Escorted to their chambers, the party begins to plot. A young servant boy comes in with wine - discovered by Hylax and Fuzzwort to be poisoned with a substance that lowers one's defenses to scrying. The game has begun. The party tanks up appropriately - mind blank, silence, protection, guardian hounds, etc. Getting basic descriptions of their "competitors" in the game, a bit of reconnoitering is done that night - without significant impact.

The next morning, the party is summoned to the game where Good, Evil, Law and Chaos battle for the right to pass through the Thousand Year Gate first. Choosing the challenge of Skill-At-Arms, Vince faces Pyke Earthshaker, a wild-eyed dwarf with untamed red hair and a beard - the champion of Evil in the first round. Vince uses flying to avoid Pyke's earth-shaking attack, and strikes from behind, lopping Pyke's head. Victory! The second round, the Challenge of Wizardly Might, pits Hylax against Paolo Soleri the troubadour of Good - outrageously dressed and cocky to a fault. Hylax quickly learns that Soleri can see into the future - a defense that he cannot defeat. However, Soleri is also unable to harm Hylax, so a stalemate is reached. Hylax wins the battle of wills.

The party chooses to go last through the Thousand Year Gate - and thus learns of the destinations and magic carried by their opponents. The party of Good goes to the Aerie of the Mistress of the Winds, Evil teleports to the Hyakuhei Tower, and Law goes to the battlefield for Moira. Our heroes travel to Heta. Magic items are not scarce between the four parties.

Map of the Tenth Shrine (June 899)

Day 1

Arriving in Heta, the party realizes that the kagi is still with them. In fact, the kagi is a puzzle box itself. The party digs into the mysterious box, eventually finding that it contains a bead to summon the Grandmaster of Chaos. Breaking the bead, an elderly man, Win Lu, appears. His helpfulness in assessing the situation is limited, and Win Lu now another protectee of the group - for Naomi, revealed now as the Initiate of Chaos, is still with the party.

Outside of Heta, the party moves onto the rocky outcropping of the genri, an ancient oracle of knowledge. Forgetting to leave an offering, the party must first defeat the guardian tentacles of the island. Win Lu is pulled into the sea, but eventually rescued by Hylax. The genri asks riddles of each of the party - all are solved except for Fuzzwort who requests a difficult challenge. Fuzzwort must fight another creature from the sea. The party gains knowledge of Moira, the game, the events of the previous contest, and the nature of some of the challenges of the island.

A plan is formulated to visit each of the four shrines - retrieving the Greater Staves of the Elements - which will provide complete protection during Moira. Vince summons the first of what would be hundreds of pegasi to carry the party to their next destination - Hin.

Arriving at the poor town at mid-day, the party discovers a siege is under way - giants are destroying the village, under the watchful but unmoving form of a massive metal statue - later dubbed U-Hin. U-Gene, Vince and Ernie wade in to dispatch most of the creatures. A straggler is captured, interrogated, and the giant's memory is wiped - replaced by a suggestion that the Champions of Evil killed his comrades. The villagers of Hin rally around the party, and commit their warriors to fight for Chaos at Moira.

The party moves up the path to the Shrine of Mirrors. There, they discover a massive metal ball jammed into the entrance to the shrine. The ball will shortly become an obsession for the party, but in the meantime, Hylax moves a bit of earth, and the ball rolls out from the entrance to the dungeon.

Entering, the party finds themselves in a huge room. The exits disappear and four puzzles appear - one on each wall. As our heroes bend to the task of solving them, the ground begins to rumble. In a few minutes, the first wave of earth elementals appears, and a fight ensues. Quickly dispatched, the party returns to their task and a much more ominous shaking ensues. Solving the last puzzle in the nick of time, the party finds themselves in a library - walls filled with tomes of knowledge. A quick search reveals the Staff of Elemental Water, a method for opening the kagi, and several interesting bits of knowledge about Moira.

The next three hours has the party moving earth, building ramps, and generally trying to roll the giant ball down the hill to Hin. Eventually successful, the party groans as the giant statue of U-Hin doesn't reach down to pick up the orb. After watching Hylax try to levitate the massive metal orb, Vince suggests lowering the statue - eventually working the ball into the upturned metal hand. Once reunited, the statue animates, and the party orders it towards Moira.

With the sun setting on the first day, the pegasi whisk the party off towards the Shrine of Mirrors. There, they face a strange glass building filled with mirrors and populated by statues of warriors - some ghosts, some kyonshi (vampires) and some men. Using the mathematics of reflections, the party quickly determines which figures are ghosts and vampires - dispatching them while saving the warriors from their eternal stasis. The party rescues Mataki and his men from the Shrine while capturing the Crystal of Life and the Staff of Elemental Fire. Mataki and his men vow to honor Chaos at the tests of Moira.

Exiting the Shrine, the party discovers that Paolo is sitting outside waiting for the party - alarmingly Naomi and Win Lu are missing. Paolo demands the Staff in return for the party's charges. A scuffle ensues and Paolo disappears. Hylax scryes Naomi and determines they are in a subterranean passage, later to be discovered as leading to Doragon the Five-Hundred Headed Dragon. The party takes a risk and teleports to the passage and ambushes Glessen, Kitts and Cosanti taking Naomi and Win Lu to be eaten. One cloud of rust later, Vince is naked - but their enemies are beheaded. A quick speak with dead, burning of the bodies, and the party retreats with Naomi and Win Lu in tow.

The party next decides to visit the Shrine of Mazes - but first they need the key, which is rumored to be held by the Tanran and their merciless leader Daichi.

Day 2

An uneventful night is followed by a flight to Akka where the party discovers that the previous night had been filled with attacks by the tooya (demons). An encounter with a strange street urchin, Miki, is uneventful - only for the party to later learn that she is the Goddess of Mercy and was searching for their help. Using invisibility, Hylax spies on the governor of Akka, Ren. Afterwards, he creates a faux head of Ren to take the leader of the Tanran. The deceit works, and the party exchanges the head for the key, only later to find that the warriors of the Tanran pledge to support Evil against the forces of Chaos at Moira.

The flight to the shrine is a long one, requiring a night's rest en route. As the party rests, U-Gene is attacked by the Judge of the Dead, a first age warrior who eyes are death rays. It seems the Crystal of Life is the bane of the Judge. After a short battle, the Judge is banished - but only for the moment.

Day 3

Arriving near mid-day at the Shrine of Mazes, the party puts Naomi and Win Lu into a Rope Trick spell and enters into a strange temple dominated by the statue of a five-headed dragon. Behind the statue, a simple door opens as the key from the Tanran is inserted near the offering bowl. Leaving an offering this time, the party faces three tests - one blindfolded walking a path through a maze, the second jumping from pillar to pillar across a cavernous pit, and finally moving through a cave filled with five-headed dragons. Always figuring out the path from the puzzle, the party makes it through unscathed. Another library is discovered, along with the Staff of Elemental Air. The party exits and on the swift wing of the pegasi headed south, spending the night near Kagori.

Day 4

The final shrine is that of the Pawns, a strange chess board perched on a high cliff surrounded on three sides by a thousand foot drop to the canyon below. As basilisks come up through the board from below, the party struggles to solve riddles of strategy and tactics based on the ancient game of kifu (chess). Solving the puzzles, the party descends a spiral staircase into the fourth and final library. There, Vince quickly opens a large chest containing the Black Orb of Summoning - a way to bring black dragons to the final conflict of Moira. The Elemental Staff of Cold is also discovered, and the party leaves with a renewed confidence in their plans.

Day 5

Next, our heroes determine that the Moira arena should be investigated, as it was the starting quest for the Champions of Law. Once there, they discover a terrible secret. The temple has been defiled. The statues of the spirits are broken with sixteen ghosts circling the arena. Furthermore, a mechanical mine is discovered in the center of the arena, its counter slowly ticking down. It seems as if Law is determined to stop Moira altogether. Fuzzwort, holding the spirits at bay, disarms the mine. After heated debate, the mine is destroyed. The party determines that Law is now bent on releasing the plague from the Valley of Flies. Another long flight ensues.

Day 6

The day dawns with Hylax attempting to create a duplicate of the Crystal of Life containing a series of quest traps. We're not sure why, but he does.

The pegasi caravan then heads off to the Valley of Flies, where the party finds the Champions of Law trying to remove a staff driven into the center of a teleport circle in the center of the valley - no doubt to allow the vermin to escape. A careful examination shows that the wizard/alchemist Rummy is missing. Some quick scrying, and the party teleports to a bar in Yoku to find the mage researching in the Book of Books a spell for removing the staff. A brief fight beheads the pickled alchemist, a quick resurrection - binding and questioning, and Rummy is then dispatched again and his body burned. The removal of Rummy should slow down Law's efforts with the bugs.

Hoping to convince Akane to create a potion of charming for them, the party heads for Bin, arriving late in the afternoon. There, they learn that the Champions of Evil have already picked up potions specifically focused for our heroes. Akane agrees to make our heroes potions in exchange for eight yeti hides - a large group of which live in the mountain pass southeast of the village.

Day 7

At dawn, the party goes yeti hunting, spotting a large group near the Bloody Falls. Ernie and Hylax each sleep three while Vince and Fuzzwort take down one each - child's play, really. The party requests potions to charm Elsbeth, Paolo and several of the Champions of Evil. These will be done in a day, but there is no time to wait - to the air for another pegasi ride to Pua. The party camps near Heta en route.

Day 8

At Pua, the party casts Find the Path to locate a local herbalist, Kana, and get her help picking the black lotus. Attempts to use the black lotus to project dreams into their opponents through the scrying pool fail.

Day 9

After a day lost, the party teleports back to Bin and the alchemist Akane. Undaunted by their failure with the black lotus and using some well-found research in the Book of Books, the party tries to charm Gwen through the scrying pool telling her to pour out her potions. Success! A similar attempt works on getting Elsbeth to teleport back to the Moira arena to help restore it before the games.

En route to the game themselves, the party spots the army from the Valley of Warriors marching outside of Akka. They melt the warriors with an Evoker's item, and one less enemy to face on the battlefield.

Day 10

Arriving at the rebuilt arena, the first challenge begins. The Battle of the Peoples pits those warriors gathered to fight for each of Champions: For Good: the warriors of Yoku. For Law: the warriors of Tanran. For Evil: the warriors of Akka, Kagari, Kyofu, Bin and Fu. For Chaos: the warriors of Hin, Heta and Mataki from the Shrine of Mirrors.

Fuzzwort and Hylax cast spells to help their charges: mirror image, flame sword and high mass. A few minor items are given to Mataki and his men. At long last, the battlefield is established. Chaos faces Evil across the square field of battle. Good stands to Chaos' left flank and Law takes up the right flank. As Moira begins, the warriors of the Tanran and Yoku both rush towards Chaos. Evil, the largest force begins a slow march, raining arrows down on Chaos. Bracing for impact, Hin and Heta engage Yoki while Mataki faces the Tanran. Soon, the forces of Chaos emerge victorious in time to engage the larger forces of Evil. Hin and Heta fall to a man. Mataki takes heavy damage but are able to eventually defeat the warriors from the other villages. Only a third of Mataki's men are standing for the next battle.

The Battle of the Guardians adds those extraordinary creatures garnered from the island. In this battle: For Good: Doragon the Five-Hundred Headed Dragon, fifty ents of the Kigi forest For Law: the Yeti For Evil: Ookumu the Two-Headed and his Stone Giants, the Air Elementals For Chaos: U-Hin, the Tooya, Mataki

The battle starts quickly. The air is filled with the tooya, air elementals, and Doragon - fighting in the skies over the arena. Doragon quickly eliminates his foes. While on the ground, Law's yeti engages Mataki's men, quickly dispatching them. The ents attack U-Hin in the battle of titans. The giant's flaming sword cuts through the ents, quickly reducing them to ash. As U-Hin crushes the last of the yeti, only he and Doragon remain. The battle rages. While U-Hin is the superior fighter, Doragon can heal himself - a fact which eventually tips the battle for the dragon. The battle ends with Good as victors.

Finally, the Battle of the Champions brings those who were summoned to the battlefield with their champions. The final combatants are: For Good: Paolo, Scotts Fie, Wu - the Master of Senpai House, and Doragon. For Law: Elsbeth, Firozhan, Elford, Eldrick, a mysteriously reincarnated Rummy, and the Judge of the Dead. For Evil: Gwen, Penhallow, Ilo, Pyke, Kaspar, and Natsumi the Mind Flayer. For Chaos: Hylax, U-Gene, Vince, Ernie and Fuzzwort.

The Staves of Elemental Power give the party invulnerability to the elements. The party tanks up and the battle begins. The charmed forces of Evil attacks Law. Gwen shows her form as an ancient black dragon - immediately met by the gold dragon form of Elsbeth. Penhallow and Ilo take on Elford and Eldrick. The party looks to the most dangerous foes. U-Gene meets the Judge of the Dead; Fuzzwort meets Natsumi; Vince attacks Wu, Ernie takes on Scotts Fie; and Hylax engages the every-annoying Paolo. Breaking the White Orb of Summoning, Evil summons ten gold dragons to battle Doragon. Rummy does nothing.

As Hylax battles on with Paolo, a number of battles are decided and new foes engaged. Wu, Scotts Fie and Natsumi die quickly - with new targets for Vince, Ernie and Fuzzwort being Pyke, Kaspar and Firozhan accordingly. The battle rages for several more minutes. With the exception of Rummy, the swords and spells are flying. The battle starts to turn against the party as Doragon realizes that lightning is able to damage the party. In desperation, Hylax breaks the Staff of the Fire Bomb. Boom. A column of fire descends on the field, dealing immeasurable damage to the combatants (and their treasure). Smiling to the end, even Paolo is destroyed. Doragon, immune to fire is killed by mundane means - leaving only Rummy, naked and without possessions.

Rummy approaches the party and explains that he is actually No Cha, grandmaster of thieves, who is unique in his ability to become a perfect duplicate of any living creature - good enough to fool the magic of the Thousand Year Gate. While this explains his entrance a thousand years ago, his wish is to leave. He convinces Hylax to kill himself, allowing the party plus No Cha to escape. In return, No Cha promises to become an agent for the gnome. Agreed to, the party gathers what treasure remains and our fearless wizard dies. The game ends and the party, No Cha and Win Lu appear back in the Emperor's square.

As the party bids farewell to the Emperor and Win Lu the new Grandmaster of Chaos, they glimpse the form of Baron Valdemar leaning in to speak with the ruler. Arriving back in Teufeldorf, Hylax is revived and the meager treasure divided. The party celebrates success in one of their most challenging adventure to date. If only the treasure survived…

The Runebound Warriors (2010)

Runebound Warrior (March 900)

It is the last day of March in the year 900 of the Third Age. Each of you has received a note, written in the hand of U-Gene, summoning you to Dwarrowdelf for a meeting. There was no reason given, but you felt a compulsion to come. In short order, you meet with three emissaries, each of which provides a desperate call for action.

The first meeting is with No Cha, Grandmaster of Thieves. He provides two pieces of information.

As the Tang Empire has been stirred to Chaos, so I'm afraid will be the Reaches. An invasion may have already begun. The seals of the Temple of Winds have been broken by the Emperor, and the Runebound Warriors are headed your way. There is rumor that they seek to summon the Forbidden to bring terror to generations of your ancestors to come. My only advice to you lies in an ancient riddle: "The wise hunter does not shoot all his arrows at the first buck he sees."

Second, I bring you a mysterious device - a copper rod. It is rumored to be from an ancient Artifacer. I, errr, found it along my way, but I cannot seem to open it. It has the magic of summoning about it. The owner told me that only the clever and patient will be able to open the rod and gain the Raiments - a gift that is said to be well worth the struggle. A word of warning, however, once you put the rod down, you will forget all you know about it. I wish you the best. Remember, patience is key - whole life.

The second meeting is with Rutland Guildford, youngest son of the Baron Guildford.

My father, as you know, the Baron Guildford, has a small forest in the eastern edges of the barony in the Bishophill - a beautiful place with creeks running clear and cold out of the Shadowyarns. Well, we haven't had any trouble with orcs or raiders from the south recently - thanks to your lordship, Mr. U-Gene, sir. So, I was sent there to gather some roots and berries - I'm kind of a potion-maker you see. And, well, I came over a small rise, and there was… well… a hill there that had never been there - a right spire of rock with a castle sitting on top of it. I saw hundreds of, well, ratmen pouring from the castle and into the woods and hills. Well, I had a magic draft of invisibility with me, and I drank it and got home as fast as I could. Dad is sick right now, some sort of fever, but he thought that I should report this to you straight away.

The third is a message from Laura, Lady of the Elves to Vincent Fleetwood

I trust this note finds you well. I have been working in the Loftwood, acting as an emissary between the elves of the Radiant Dawn and those of the Shimmering Twilight. I would not write except that our long-time acquaintance Falstaff appears to be missing. While his studies into the true nature of Oakentree have made the Arch Druid, well, less than dependable, he would never have missed such an important meeting between the elven peoples. His grove is empty and my elven scouts could find no clues there. He was last seen leaving Teufeldorf heading north from Bryn Mawr into the Loftwood on foot. I hope this doesn't bode poorly for our dear friend.

With so many places to go, the party decides to first investigate the disappearance of Falstaff.

Tracking Falstaff near the River White shows that the druid's tracks have been mysteriously erased once he entered the dark woods of the Loftwood. His trail, missed by the Elven Rangers, leads to a simple stump in the center of a clearing. Speaking with a nearby bird, the party learns that Falstaff was lured to the stump by a mysterious dark man (later learned to be Baron Valdemar). Sitting upon it, he disappeared - apparently trapped. Scrying on Falstaff showed only darkness. Attempts to locate the arch druid showed that he was, indeed, in the Tang Empire.

Unable to help their friend, the party focused their attention on the Castle of the Winds near Bishophill.

Reconnaissance of the mysterious castle showed a fortress guarded by ancient green dragons, ratemen streaming into the nearby forests, and a strange periodic flash from a third floor window in one tower. Coming into contact with the base of the castle, Fuzzwort speaks with the stone and discovers that the castle is a living creature - one of the Uru, an ancient race of beings from the First Age. In this case, the castle had been under the diseased effects of the Master of the South Winds for thousands of years - and begged for release. Although compelled to serve the Master, the castle aided the party in their quest.

From the castle, the party learned of the location of the Master. Teleporting directly to his location in the teleport room on the third floor, the party used their surprise to quickly dispatch the Master - only to have him disappear and resurrect elsewhere. After clearing out the teleport, the party found several puzzled doors which were marked for later study. A second teleport to the Master brought the party to the terrace of the green dragons. Again, the Master was killed instantly and disappeared. The party fought the dragons - mutated by large sacs under their chins.

After the battle, the party noticed that their standard attacks were becoming less effective, spells were starting to fail, and the true nature of the Master's runes started to become obvious. With each spell cast, the Master's cloak would dynamically resist the effects - slowly making well-used spells obsolete. The party would have to think hard before casting their standard fare.

At this point, Fuzzwort decided to cut open the bag under the dragon's chin looking for treasure. A great explosion occurred billowing out a massive cloud of poisonous and caustic gas. While most of the gas floated northeast towards Dwarrowdelf - ah, now the location of the castle was understood - the party was forced inside the protective walls of the castle. The Uru wailed in agony.

An attack on an apprentice inside the castle caused his green beaded necklace to explode. Now a dozen green dragons circled the castle. Another apprentice moved to the "brain" of the castle, killing the beast before the party could rescue it. Later, Fuzzwort was unable to revive the fallen structure.

The party moved quickly to the Master's chambers where they dispatched him for the third time. This was his final life, and the Master died. His possessions were taken. A quick search of the castle found several secret rooms - one containing the swirling mists that generated Runebound Warriors. Each warrior fought proved to be quickly immune to the party's attacks. An army of Runebound Warriors would be a terrible foe indeed.

In another room, the party discovered a communications bowl, a device which allowed the four Masters to speak to each other. Quickly, the party discovered that two more castles had arrived in the Reaches. The Grandmaster would be the final arrival to the battle. The other Masters quickly saw through Hylax's disguise.

The party then decided to allow the Masters of the East and West Winds to arrive unmolested - disgorging their troops into the Reaches to wreak havoc on the armies of the Three Kings. Thinking that the key to regaining their magic was by directly killing the Grandmaster, the party waited patiently.

Finally, the Master of the North Wind arrived - his castle outside of Teufeldorf. Constantly checking Falstaff's aura, the party determined that the druid had returned to the Reaches - and thus must be in the Castle of the North Wind. The party decided to sit on the stump which teleported Falstaff - a short-cut into the castle - and an almost fatal mistake.

Our intrepid heroes appeared in a prison in the dungeons of the castle. All magic was suppressed, and the party was barely able to force open their cell door. A battle with the guards proved that the party could not fight its way out. Nearby cells held Falstaff, a Rune Master named Wan Fu, and a doom wheel tinkerer named Gnibley. Gnibley had a rudimentary knowledge of the castle and was able to lead them into the underground cellars after the two guards were grappled and tied with rope.

In the dungeon, an earthen floor and a number of twisting vines marked the "brains" of the castle - a fact which Hylax immediately discerned. Digging to the root of the vines, Hylax killed the castle with his staff. Upon its death, the castle doors all opened and all the stairways become accessible. The party moved up quickly and began to search for the Grandmaster - eventually finding him in a doom wheel workshop. A brief battle ensued and the party was able to defeat him - although his body quickly teleported. The party left the castle without searching it, taking Falstaff, Wan Fu and Gnibley with them.

Back in Teufeldorf, a plan was hatched.

Scrying, the party discovered the Grandmaster in the Castle of the East Wind. The other Masters were around his deathbed and sought to take up his mantle to continue the battle. Using teleports and breaking the bead of Instant Aid, the party quickly ascended on the last two Masters - slaying them and gaining the items of power. While acolytes still fought them, the party felt the castle beginning to shudder - taking to the air. Quickly fleeing the castle, the party saw it disappear.

Later reports from the south were identical - both remaining castles were gone. Only their armies were left behind. With the other two castles dead and beginning to disintegrate, the threat to the Reaches from the Masters of the Winds was over.

The Djinn's Labyrinth (2011)

Nihilo (disguised)

The party awakes from a common nightmare to a world that is void of other life - a shadow of the world they remember. And yet, things are exactly as they left them.

It's a nightmare. You are running across a field towards an immense stone circle in a field. You are being pursued by unseen horrors - monsters whose leathery wings you hear only as a whisper in the distance, whose fetid breath is as stale as death. Your spells and weapons are useless - baggage being carried without purpose. The stones are bound in steel and five large steel platforms sit along its perimeter, equally spaced. On the other four platforms, your companions wait - silently urging you onward. As you climb your platform you can see lines of power connecting your friends. Looking back, you seem to have outrun your pursuers. As you reach the top step, lines of power to your comrades start to form, you feel yourself falling, escaping…

Finding a copy of a strange printing of a popular children's story next to his bed, Hylax quickly deciphers its cryptic message - Tang to establish permanent stronghold at Dark River. Mage predicts dragons help. Muster all forces to converge. A feint in east.

After some clever investigation, the party realizes that they have been trapped in the djinn's labyrinth - a puzzle box of tremendous power. More importantly, they also learn that in the south lies a portal back to the real world. However, the portal is a trap whose nature remains a mystery.

Ernie quickly locates the closest village using precognition that is a bit spooky even to the gods. Triangulation finds the stone circle just north of the village of Frontline - if only the party could find dragon's blood to activate the device. While standing at the stones, suddenly ten dragons appear from the constantly overcast sky - rope-like serpents of ever-changing colors. A fight ensues, and the dragons are slowly isolated and slain. Quickly, the party gathers vials of blood and is about ready to jump into the portal when…

U-Gene has a thought. What about the trap? An augury spell shows the party opening up the portal and allowing two hundred dragons - cleverly hidden above the ever-present clouds - to swarm into the real world. Disaster!

Several spells later, and the portal is shielded from the dragons overhead. And the dream of escape is fulfilled - sans the invasion of dragons.

The party finds itself back in the Realm - still at the portal - which they quickly destroy. In the distance a strange, misshapen castle stands. The party is greeted by an old man - Binden, a messenger of No Cha. He gives them magical pipeweed which will allow the party to follow Nihilo, the possessor of the djinn's labyrinth artifact. The ancient cube becomes a priority lest the party be trapped again.

Investigating the surrounding countryside, the party comes across Darvin - a servant of Valdemar - who works in the castle. Giving him a few gold pieces in return for information, the party learns that the castle is the birthing pits for rat ogres - Tang heavy infantry. It is inhabited by the Emperor's sage, apprentices and Valdemar himself. A brief journey to the nearby village of Frontline has the party meeting with the helpful Johan at the King's Crown Armory. They procure a key and the location of a secret entrance into the castle.

Finally, party stakes out the castle - waiting for the ideal time to strike. In the nearby woods, they stumble upon Blar - a mysterious man seemingly waiting for them in the forest. Blar tells of his wife Missy being held prisoner by Bartok the jailer in the prisons beneath the castle. With a ransom of 200 gold pieces, the party gives Blar the money with instructions to wait for their attack.

The party moves through the secret entrance and into the courtyard. Two apprentices are tending to the birthing pits. A fight ensues and the bad guys summon several three-headed dragons. Quickly, the entire castle is alerted. As the party kills the courtyard inhabitants and moves into the castle, Blar enters to find Missy - moving past a mysterious dead tree in the open area. Up through the great hall, a library and into the private chambers - the Emperor's sage is killed, but Valdemar and Nihilo escape.

Unknown to the party, the gold which they have given to Darvin and Blar is now in the hands of Nihilo who will use it to fashion a ball of freely-given gold - creating a new djinn's trap for our heroes.

Unable to track Nihilo mundanely, the party smokes the pipeweed and is instantly teleported to the Furnaces of Ssruthu. After some difficulties, the party finds the secret entrance to the Efreet's furnace, avoids the magma spider queen, passes the wall of lava test, and enters into the domain of Sura An-Nami. Without a sacrifice, they are forced to battle wits with the efreet while one of their own dangles over the lava pit. Successful, Sura An-Nami tells them of Nihilo's plan and the nature of the djinn's labyrinth.

A second smoke takes the party to the Forge of Hellsmouth - a ramped dungeon of the Calinshold dwarves. There they are confronted by Gahmar Steelfounder and his mechanical minions. After a failed bluff, the party retreats. In an alcove, they find the entrance to the workshop of Bink Guildersleeves, a gnomish engineer. He gives them a rough map of the level. U-Gene and Vince travel via the mechanical cleaner dog trails to the level of Thandar Blackaxe - who is making the gold ball for Nihilo. Without searching, they steal the ball and return to the party.

Unknown to the party, Nihilo was standing near Thandar and saw the entire episode. Oh, and he had not used all the party's gold. So, another ball is quickly fashioned.

Meanwhile, the party begins extensively exploring the upper levels of the forge. Eventually finding the exit, they realize that they are too far from home to teleport.

A third smoke takes them back to Thandar who reports that he had just finished fashioning a second ball for Nihilo. Sigh.

A fourth and final smoke takes the party to the mountain lair of Nihilo - where the djinn is to be summoned to imprison the party. A series of lockpicks by Fuzzwort gets the party past the initial traps. A blue ooze and squid monster prove little challenge. Along the way, the party finds Nihilo's lair - complete with several thousand coins collected over the years of freely-given gold. A treasure trove!

Fuzzwort is unable to pick the last set of locks to the final chambers - giving the cleric a shock and the bad guys time to prepare. In a set of staterooms, one room is occupied by Valdemar, along with Nihilo's ledger. Hylax, Ernie and Fuzzwort prepare for battle with the Sandalese leader. Meanwhile, Vince and U-Gene move up a spiral staircase to a platform on the crest of the mountain. There, Nihilo is summoning a djinn while dragons circle lazily overhead.

In the climatic battle, Valdemar is dispatched, his body teleporting away while his treasure falls to the ground. Nihilo is beheaded while djinn merely watches - the labyrinth floating in the air before him. As Hylax, Ernie and Fuzzwort ascend to the platform, the dragons move in for the kill. Hylax snatches the djinn's labyrinth, and the party teleports away after a well-fought campaign. The dragons will wait for another day. For now, the danger of the labyrinth is avoided and the adventure comes to a successful close.

The Invasion of Sandal (2012)

No Cha (disguised)

It is the last day of March 902 TA, and the Three Kings are planning the invasion of Sandal - a chance to extend their southern borders and remove the taint of Baron Valdemar from the Reaches. The arrival of Hylax and Fuzzwort precede that of No Cha, Grandmaster of Thieves by only a few minutes. The tidings are dire:

The seer Meneldirin of the Great Eagles of the Whispering Hills has sensed the imminent return of the revered wind sprite Misha - who had disappeared from the Reaches almost a century ago. The reunion portends not to be a joyous occasion for Misha is trapped under the sea and traveling under duress for the nefarious biddings of the Tang Emperor.

After some investigation, the party discovers that a great maelstrom is headed for the coast of Sandal and within the great storm's eye - the entire Tang navy flies over the sea. The implications are staggering: ships flying across the land of the Reaches, propelled by a storm that allows unlimited movement and protection.

A plan is made to attack the storm from beneath the waves - beware the sea monsters that lurk below!

A second rumor from No Cha tells of the capture of children from the slave traders in Sandal. The tales of one such slave trader who blames the Furies - which he incorrectly believes to be dragons - describes a strange, although lucrative business near the Sandal capitol. The discovery of a newly-constructed teleport circle in the Southern Reaches seems unrelated except for the markings which identify the summoning symbol to be that of the Fury of Darkness - a demon of myth thought long ago banished.

After a brief visit to the stone teleport symbol and the firing of the Sphere of Annihilation to destroy its power, the party heads off to the southern coast of Sandal and the approaching great storm.

Diving under the water, the party discovers a twisting tornado of water snaking several thousand feet down from the surface - concentrating its energy from the miles-wide storm to a small vortex lost in the inky blackness. At the vortex, they find leviathans -with flippers bigger than the king's warships - pulling an odd "ship". The ship is a jet black geometric form - a cube with its eight vertices removed.

Using a quick Find the Path, the party discovers that Misha lies behind this ship - in a duplicate ship being pulled by two leviathans. While the first ship is clearly a trap, Ernie ventures to it and finds a puzzle lock on a door leading into the vessel. He begins to work.

Meanwhile, the party discovers a merfolk mage riding the "real" ship's leviathan - scanning the seas presumably for our heroes. U-Gene quickly dispatches the mage while Fuzzwort grabs his trident. Fuzzwort uses the powers of the trident to command the leviathans to return home - presumably to the Tang Empire. While the magical connection to the ship is broken - causing its progress to halt, the creatures - now friends of Fuzzwort - cause pandemonium to hide the party's actions.

Several recesses in the ship have tentacles of living creatures - what are first mistaken as guardian octopi. An assault on the tentacled beasts is successful, but not before the true nature of their power is discovered - aging! Inside the single visible window, the party sees the ship is being piloted by a gnome who surreptitiously points them to a hidden doorway into the ship. Meanwhile, Ernie is still calculating.

Entering the ship, the party discovers the entire vessel is filled with a gelatinous substance that appears to deal with the tremendous pressure of the sea - while having odd effects on spells and weapons. They quickly discover the pilot (Gnobbin) and his brother the mechanic (Gnarley) are being forced to pilot and repair the ship. Gnobbin's family is held in a cell (as is Misha) - in large glass tubes connected mechanically to the ship.

The most terrifying aspect to the ship is its mechanical guards - small stone boxes with saw blades that cut with vorpal efficiency. As U-Gene cowers behind Hylax, the wizened gnome deftly uses Touch of Rust to reduce the guards to rubble. A number of merfolk guards are released as the party makes to rescue Misha.

Suddenly, Ernie solves the puzzle - only to find a counter ticking down. With a massive explosion, Ernie is hurled near death into the inky blackness. Fuzzwort rescues him and brings him back to life inside the "real" ship.

The final scene reveals Hylax teleporting the rescued Misha and the gnome family to the safety of Nevermind. Although Gnarley is lost, Gnobbin makes it from the control room just as the last of the guards are being killed by U-Gene, Ernie and Vince. Exiting en masse, the party is successful at stopping the storm - which begins to fade in intensity - lasting only another month. The Tang navy is again sea bound. And Misha is returned to her beloved eagles. One adventure down!

In the meantime, No Cha returns with more information about the Fury of Darkness. It seems that during the First Age, the Emperor of the Old Kingdom with the help of the Wizard's Council created a flying prison which circles the north pole of the Realm during the summer and the south pole during the winter - always staying in the sunlight. The only time that the prison passes over civilized land is during the Transit between poles - twice yearly during the equinoxes.

In fact, it was a rare solar eclipse during the first Transit that allowed the wizards to "trick" the Fury of Darkness into entering the prison for just long enough that his power was diminished when the sun returned. For the last several thousand years, this prison has remained faithful to its original purpose - and effective at constraining the Beast. In addition to the Fury of Darkness, the prison is said to contain many demons from the earliest recesses of time snared in sunlight raids on their lairs.

However, this year's Transit threatens the prision's integrity because a large plume of volcanic smoke is causing darkness across the southern hemisphere - Ssthuthu is active again! While Misha can provide some help, the source of the smoke must be stopped in order to guide the prison safely through.

The party travels into Sandal magically disguised as beggar children. Quickly captured, they allow themselves to be taken to the slave pits - located on an isolated island several miles west of the capital. Quickly dispatching the guards at the island's dock, the party climbs up to the top of the island - a giant teleport pad with a prison pen built underneath.

Avoiding dwarven crossbowmen in the surrounding hills armed with arrows of hero slaying, the party uses the frontal assault option to quickly secure the area - but not before the head slaver is able to break a small crystal globe (later to be discovered to be warning beacon).

Using the teleport, the party finds itself in the distant mountains of the Wyrmwild - at the lair of Brimstone a red and black two-headed dragon of nasty disposition. While his lair is empty, the party quickly discovers his mining operations - several long veins of brimstone exposed to the surface, running in parallel lines up the side of a steep mountainside. At the base of the slope, a large teleport circle has been built. A dozen dwarves are held to the side of the mountain by long rope contraption that allows them to be lowered and raised. Each has a pick and is breaking off large pieces of brimstone - which fall onto the circle.

Another teleport! But this time its form is a path puzzle which must be solved in order to make the jump. Of course, the solution must be sought while being attacked by red and black lizards - with petrifying gazes, fire and acid breath, and monumental bite attacks. While Brimstone is spotted at the rear of his guards, he warily does not approach the party - although he does break the small glass globe to warn his companions at the next stop.

The party teleports - arriving mid-air above the magma of Ssthuthu. Impossibly thick smoke is bellowing forth - ah, the source of the darkness! Emerging from the top of the volcano, the party spies an island in the rivers of lava. The edge of the island is guarded by a ring of lizardmen; the center is shrouded in imponderable darkness. Using their extraordinary hearing, they catch the following conversation between the lizardman leader and the darkness: "We have managed to trap the Angel of Light and exchange her in the prison with the Fury of Darkness. Our time is coming soon - if we can hold off the invaders until the Angel is fully bound, then nothing will stop us."

As the party soon learns, this is a ruse. The Fury of Darkness has already been released, and a trap has been set in the prison to lure the party inside. If they had just spent a few rounds to search the volcano's base…

An assault on the stone ring at the center of the island is successful and quickly the party teleports themselves high above the Realm near a strange circular building - resembling a flying saucer - made of bright reflective metal which creates a mirror-like surface. The door ajar, the party enters and quickly moves past rows and rows of cells containing lesser demons. Suddenly, a screaming pulls the party into the center chamber where a massive demon - winged, red-scaled and muscular with two black horns protruding from his head is bound by silver chains which extend into the floor and ceiling.

Surrounding the room are six cells. From five come whimpering sounds - vaguely human, clearly in distress. Each one is plunged in absolute darkness, but door to each cell is slightly ajar. In the sixth cell, a demon is wrestling with an angel - a woman with flowing blonde hair and exquisite blue wings. She is bound, and her captor is attempting to put a gag about her mouth.

"Quick. Save my sisters. If this monster gets me locked in here, the Fury will be released. He has to trap all six of us. Hurry!"

Each party member dashes into a cell - only to hear the doors behind them close, lock, and runes of captivity fire. Their "struggle" ended, the angel and demon are now laughing. From outside, the massive demon speaks. "Good job. Our work here is done. We must go now to the Reaches - wherever that is and pay back those who released us. Maybe, if the people there are tasty I will stay awhile and make it my kingdom."

As time passes, the party can find no way out. The prison is falling from the sky as the sounds of the demons being released fills their ears. Finally, it is quiet and the building crashes into the ocean - breaking the seals on the cells and allowing the party to teleport home.

Another adventure complete - this time the Armies of Good will have to face the demon hordes!

The arrival of the party back in Teufeldorf does not bring a respite from danger. Silvarious, an elder researcher from Sarth, has arrived with a message for Fuzzwort. A secret, hidden library that was created in the Second Age containing the most dangerous tomes - those of the Wolfshaunt - has been rediscovered. Not by the sages of Sarth, but by Emperor of the Tang. Silvarious gives Fuzzwort two of twenty keys that lock the twenty chambers of the Forbidden Library along with a puzzle to its location in the swamps of Sandal.

Fuzzwort is tasked with becoming the Master Librarian of the Forbidden Library and protecting its secrets.

The library is found by mundane means, although Hylax detects that no contact with the other planes is allowed in the dungeon - and time moves very, very slowly here. No teleport, no shadow walking - so many challenges.

The adventure in the labyrinth of the Forbidden Library begins with a swamp and tentacle-infested series of rooms - each holding knowledge of a great evil - controlling nightmares, enslaving villages, and the like. To make matters worse, the Tang ratmen have been here. While dead ratmen are quickly discovered, it is clear the party is on the clock. Several traps are avoided - including several set by the Tang. Fuzzwort is successful in cleansing each of the chambers, locking them, and collecting the discarded keys.

Next, the party journeys downward to the Flood Scriptorium - again filled with tentacles and a strange entrance through a central desk guarded by a servant of a mind flayer who is reading from a book to keep the passageways below open. Leaving the creature to its task and promising to rescue him, the party continues onward.

Continuing into the depths, the party enters a great hallway formed into a giant ring - with rooms radiating from it. Safe passageway is gained only by jumping between stone tiles marked with celestial "stars" painted on them. Stepping off a star square causes dozens of long snaking tendril appears dripping thick viscous goo - each ending in a hideous teeth-filled sucker. Many dead ratmen are found here.

Four chambers are around this large hallway. Some are still sealed. In two, the ratmen are releasing horrors into the dungeon - the creeping doom and the chamber of souls - filled with ethereal vampires. The violated chambers must have their books closed and the evil washed clean. And for each victory, a key!

A passageway down leads through a series of traps - carrion crawlers and rust monsters abound. Three novice librarians are discovered petrified - Elinor, Lina and Minella. Returned to life, they give up their keys to Fuzzwort and follow the party down into the Vault of the Six - a massive rooms with a column that thrusts up to the ceiling some sixty feet above. The column is made of thick rope-like tendrils which spread out across the entire ceiling and floor of this space - several hundred feet in all directions.

The keys enable the party to "part" the tentacles and explore the six chambers beyond - each containing the tomes of sin. An undead portal has been opened - and the party must battle skeletons and ghosts - finally gaining the room and recovering a staff with a simple button on the end. Hylax pushes the button, and staff explodes causing all magic to be extinguished - some magic items are lost, but disaster is averted.

The only creature lost into the dungeon is the spirit Hate - captured by Drebb, a wizard of the First Council. Although the Book of Hate (actually a deck of cards) is recovered from the slain Tang wizard Isambard and sealed back into its crypt. Hylax, Vince and Ernie are all put under its spell - and compelled to allow the creature to make its way back into the Realm.

Next, the party journeys to the Wolfshaunt Seal - a series of rooms which ends with the warrior Booth - waiting patiently for the party in a sumptuous room of Second Age finery. Claiming to be under the employ of the Second Age Keepers, Booth makes to leave the Wolfshaunt cell. Picking up a book of children's tales, he is followed by U-Gene, Hylax and Ernie.

As Fuzzwort remains behind and opens the final seal, he realizes that the real Keeper is dead within - Booth having slain him and waited for release. A battle ensues - Hylax and Ernie are beheaded instantly. U-Gene takes down the immortal lycanthrope - continuously chopping off its head until the body can be drug into the final chamber. Therein, it turns to a small clay statue which is one of hundreds that line the walls. The Wolfshaunt Chambers are sealed, and its keys gathered.

The final showdown takes place in the bowels of the Forbidden Library. There, the mind flayer and the skeleton warrior are surrounded by what few Tang guards survive. The room is at the end of six stone seals - each containing a key. The party now has all 20 keys! The room is vaguely circular several hundred feet across. It is the ceiling of this room, however, that is fascinating.

"Looking up, you can see through the stone that is clearly overhead. You are directly below the most monstrous creature imaginable. Standing almost a quarter mile tall, the beast above you is an amalgamation of tentacles and protean appendages. It appears to be slumbering, although it is clearly alive - as periodic twitches and spasms cause the entire room to shake. Around the creature, you see the rooms of the dungeon you have just traveled - again in a state of quasi-transparency. The tentacles on the beast's head poke into the entrance pool and flooded scriptorium. Mouths and eyes on the end of stalks below that are circled by the first library chambers you entered. The Chambers of Six and the Wolfshaunt spiral down from that junction - each near a protean hand which encircles them."

A fight ensues while Hylax attempts to put all 20 keys together into a magical cube. The guardian of the Forbidden Library is awakening. U-Gene, Vince, Ernie and Fuzzwort battle the ratmen, mind flayer and skeleton warrior. Just as the last of the enemies falls, a massive foot comes crashing down - buckling stone and certainly killing any who are beneath it. The guardian is awake - and angry! Suddenly, Hylax tosses the completed cube to Fuzzwort who deftly puts it into its place on a stone pedestal - causing the guardian to return to slumber.

Opening a note given to him by Silvarious, Fuzzwort learns that it is his fate to take over the mantle of the Priest King of Sandal while also protecting the location and sanctity of the Forbidden Library.

But what of Hate? And the Wolfhaunt - surely we have not heard the last from the lycanthropes and creatures of that accursed land?

But for now, the Forbidden Library is quiet again.

The Awakening of Wolfshaunt (2013)

Girl Fleeing Wolf (Chapel of Udolf, March 903)

24 April 902 - A mere thirty days have passed since the adventure in the Forbidden Library. Although progress reports on the reconstruction of the library have been promising, Librarian Minella arrives at Dragonsford Castle bearing tidings of evil happenings to the south.

It seems three events are unfolding simultaneously at the underground repository of forgotten lore. First, an army of knights bearing the tattered green and black livery of the Baron have surrounded the exit to the complex - accompanied by trolls, ogres and sixteen black dragons. Second, madness has settled over both the army and the librarians - causing fights, treachery and malcontent. Finally, the lower vaults have been overrun by a man calling himself the Nephew. The Nephew demands an audience with Fuzzwort or he will unleash all the horror of the lower labyrinth upon the Realm. Master Librarian Crowquill is at wit's end and has summoned the heroes to help.

With Crowquill allowing only a small window in which the defenses of the library will be dropped to allow teleport into the complex, the party decides to quickly scout out the situation in the swamp and then join the librarians. Indeed, an army has encamped outside - standing strangely mute as if awaiting some signal from the gnarled hillock that is the entrance to the Forbidden Library. As the party arrives, the dragons attack - killing Minella instantly - and damaging Vince. A few quick summoning spells from Vince, Hylax and Fuzzwort bring a host of monsters - nightwing dragons, two-headed dragons, treants, and the like - to create havoc and force a battle atop.

Then, down to the library and the waiting Master Librarian Crowquill where the party learns that in addition to the rebel librarians in the upper chambers and the Wolfshaunt Nephew below, a new set of chambers has been discovered - although not yet explored.

The party decides to extinguish the threat above - an attempt to block the long hallway connecting the anteroom above to the upper vaults and scriptorium. A simple matter as librarians pose no threat - except for a thick mist that surrounds them - Hate manifested! The encounter proves trickier than expected until Hylax realizes that Hate has no power if it has no followers. Killing the librarians, the hallway is sealed, and it is hoped that Hate's power is extinguished.

Next, the party delves into the unexplored Library of Matter. The party is not the first to venture here - as the seal has been expertly broken. There three odd collections hold forgotten tomes concerned with: the annihilation of matter, the creation of animated life from lifeless materials, and the creation of matter from nothing. In each collection, a glass tube hold creatures - supposedly the original owners of the tomes - suspended in a glass tube.

In one, the party recognizes No Cha. Quickly solving the puzzle that opens his chamber, No Cha explains to Hylax that he was attempting to release the "Creator" - a being with the ability to create matter from nothing - when he was overpowered. The Creator has escaped to parts unknown. Hylax sends No Cha off to find the deck of cards that supposedly controls the creature Hate. Ignoring the other book collections, the party retreats back into the dungeon and reseals the Library of Matter.

Finally, our heroes venture into the Lower Vaults to meet the Nephew. From their conversation, they learn that on their last adventure they carelessly tossed the body of the real Booth back into the Wolfshaunt vault (with the figurines). After a lunar cycle, Booth came back to life, and, unable to escape himself, returned the Nephew and twelve of his brothers back to life. Thus fortified, the group broke the weak seal put up by Crowquill and are now demanding release from the library - lest they open all the chambers in the Lower Vault and loose ultimate evil upon the world.

After an arduous discussion, Hylax and the party agree to the Nephew's terms - with the stipulation that no contact with the Wolfshaunt is allowed. Returning to the surface, the front gates of the Forbidden Library are thrown open. The Nephew and his brother transmute into wolves and a full-scale assault begins. In a few short rounds, the army of Hate is destroyed - and without followers, the mist clears.

The library - minus 13 werewolves - is safe again.

5 October 902 - Assistant Engineer Cogwizzle enters with a most bizarre report concerning the construction of Nevermind - the gnome city in the swamps of the southern Reaches.

In walks a nervous gnome. He is still dressed in his engineer's overalls and is covered with grime. He holds a small stone box in front of him. From inside the box, you can hear scuttling and scratching like a clawed animal attempting to escape. He glances furtively at you then the box - his eyes are wide with apprehension.

Mr. Hylax, begging your pardon sir. We are having some, er, trouble at the work site.

Well, we found a large metallic drain - about 400 feet across - at the bottom of the large circular swamp where you told us to build the workshops. It is the most amazing thing sir, like a giant oculus. Well, Chief Engineer Haldane told us that it was a relic from the Second Age - used to control the water level in the large circular lake that was once there. We cleaned it off real nice, and it looked brand new. And, sir, it was marked with old Gnomish runes - so we figured it was safe.

Yesterday, the Chief Engineer called for some crowbars to open the oculus - figured we could use it to drain the nearby swamps. It was really heavy, and well, pretty much all the strongest gnome workers were down in the circle to help. The rest of the town was pretty much up on the ledge of the lake watching. Not a lot to do in the swamp, you see.

Well, after thirty minutes of twisting, there was this great rumbling sound. The oculus moved an inch or two. When the small hole at the center got to about a foot in diameter, well, these mechanical spiders started pouring out. Hundreds of 'em.

They bit the workers near the center - including the Chief Engineer. We tried to kill them, but they're fast. They were biting the workers - turning them to stone, I think. They just stood there, right statue-like.

Well, the workmen panicked and the crowd panicked - everyone running back to the village to try and get away. I was runnin' with 'em until I bumped into Oloster Gladdenstone - the wizard you sent down to help with construction. Well, he teleported me here after instructing me to find you, Mr. Hylax, and tell you my story. Mr. Oloster was headin' for the oculus to help the workers.

Pressing Cogwizzle for information, he tells how a crazy gnome girl named Syra saw an army of demons appear in the swamp a few weeks ago. They shimmered there for only a second or two and then disappeared. When she went to investigate, the oculus was found. Now, she is a ward of the local priest Halloword.

Rushing to the site, Hylax and party find the situation as described by Cogwizzle. The gnomes at the oculus are chanting "El Porte", swaying back and forth, and attempting to open the metal oculus. Investigating the home of Halloword (now abandoned), the party stumbles upon the body of Syra and a strange note with a puzzle that reads: "Gather all stragglers. They are your flock now. Make sure none of them escapes alive. Return when successful. The vault lock is below."

The party discovers Halloword in a clearing in the north, gathering refugees, casting a "protection" spell, and having them drink some wine for fortification. The mechanical spiders ring the clearing - presumably held at bay by the magic. Quickly determining that Halloword is a demon, the party attacks. The cleric (demon) falls - but not before transferring his soul to a nearby gnome. The gnomes that had already drunk the poisoned wine begin to die in agony, and the spiders move it to attack the remaining villagers. Soon, the gnomes - under the strange effect of the spider's venom are marching towards the oculus!

Upon arriving at the oculus, a decision is made to attack the spiders coming from the shaft beneath. Ernie casts a lightning bolt and ZAP the gnomes standing on the metal disk are electrocuted. With only a handful of gnomes remaining from the village, the party finds an entrance through a grate on the edge of the oculus. They seal the ground-level entrance with a wall of stone. Following the shaft down into a metal tank, they are able to gain into the dungeon.

Moving quickly, the party finds a large control room with the word "EL PORTE" overhead. The letters T, E, and R have fallen off the room originally labeled "TELEPORTER". Instead of a frontal assault, Vince uses the Sphere of Annihialation to bore a hole from the surface into the control room. Using this egress, they surprise five demons in the form of gnome engineers and dispatch them quickly while U-Gene uses his new-found mechanical skill to take the power source from the teleport engine. One demon escapes, and the party chases.

The chase quickly moves through the complex and into a secret entrance/exit. After finding a stash of Feywild trees - the source of the teleportation extract - the party loses their quarry after exiting a large cave into the swamp.

More searching finds no demons remaining. The EL PORTE device secured, Hylax begins plans on using it to teleport the gnome army during the upcoming military campaign season. Second Age technology is cool.

15 March 903 - A young girl, Mirri, appears in court with a mysterious message for King Ernie.

I am the sole survivor of my village of Dark Trail - a small place in the Hornwood. We harvest rare mushrooms for sale to the merchants of Irongate - although they no longer come into the forest. We don't travel out at night, but we have never had problems with wolves before.

It was the dark of moon several weeks ago, when the village was attacked by a band of wolves that came through our village from the east. They slaughtered all the men and women that stood against them. In the end, only the children remained - locked in the Bower's Hall - the strongest building. It had stone walls, but the wolves burnt off the roof and jumped down. Everybody was killed - my brother, my friends, everybody. Except me. I was surrounded. I must have fainted.

When I woke up, all the bodies were gone. The village was burned to the ground - nothing remained. I was sitting up against a tree. In my lap was this piece of paper. I can't read, so I started off towards Irongate. I ran into a merchant along the way who told me it was a message for you - King Goodfellow. I memorized it, but the paper got lost - sorry about that.

The message is: "The Wolfshaunt Gate Opens. One Litter is Free. The Pack Follows Unless You Throw Down Your Crown."

The party teleports at once to the village of Moon Hollow. There, they meet an old man named Tooth, who has been hiding in fear since the arrival of Loomis, a traveler of the Cult of the Shattered Moon, and the disappearance of the town's protector, Udolf - a werewolf on unknown allegiance.

A quick search of the Chapel Udolf reveals a hidden passage under the priest's chair and a mysterious book containing a cryptic verse:

When the light of life comes to lifeless eyes,
And mortal sword slays flesh immortal,
Then will the wolves howl, the key be found,
And the Chapel of Udolf be clean again.

Descending into the passage, the party enters into a strange room with pictures painted high into the shadows of the hexagonal walls. One picture is of a wolf chasing a young girl - a silver collar about its neck and the pursuit of strange humanoids close behind. The others show more of the strange shadowy humans. Shining a light on the walls fills the room with the wolf and a dozen vampire - all who move to attack. Killing the vampires merely puts them back into the picture for a moment. Thinking quickly, Hylax douses the light as the party "kills" all the vampires, leaving the wolf alone in the room.

Investigation proves that the wolf is Udolf. He cannot communicate, but leads the party back to the chapel where an empty "key" chamber is discovered. Enraged, Udolf tears the collar of silver tokens from his neck - motioning the party to descend back into the dungeon - and rushes from the chapel.

Another page in the book leads the party onward.

When the dreams of night come to reverent eyes,
And twisted words are plainly seen,
Then will the path be clear, the puzzle solved,
And the Wolfshaunt Gate be sealed forever.

Passing through the crypts beneath the chapel, the party solves the elemental puzzle and discovers the tombstone of the Family Byborough - Gentle Be The Passage Beyond. Here they are faced with solo challenges to pass through the gateway and into the Long Tunnel. It is Fuzzwort that dissolves a silver token breathing the gas that makes him immune to the Growth effects of the Long Tunnel.

After watching his companions grow in the confines of the Long Tunnel, the party follows Fuzzwort's lead and settles into the sixty mile journey to the Wolfshaunt. Along the way, they meet Mary Raven, a village girl from Sundown, who tried to escape with her lover Thomas Newton - only to have him die without a token. Trapped at fissure in the tunnel where a waterfall has formed, she begs for help, but the party leaves her after gaining some information about the Wolfshaunt Valley beyond.

Exiting the cave, the party battles with some wolves at the valley's entrance and then hides while Ernie takes off his golem armor to be healed. Three paths lead through the dense forest of the Wolfshaunt.

Taking the eastern path, the party encounters the Hermit - a man who will bargain information for tokens. He takes one token in exchange for a description of the Grandfather's Castle - promising more information for a second token later. Later the party discovers that he already had one token, and they have given him a second token - freedom to the Realm. The body of Mary Raven, tossed down a ravine after a meeting with the Hermit, portends to a more sinister role for the old man.

Using his Rune of Direction, Hylax follows the path to the Grandfather's Castle - or ruins to be more precise. There, in the Great Hall, the party encounters Loomis - the crazy alchemist from the Cult of the Shattered Moon. He is painting a portrait of Grandfather Josiah - overjoyed that he will be given a place of honor when the Wolfshaunt Gate is opened. The party quickly slays him and burns both his body and the painting.

Finding a secret entrance behind the fireplace, the party battles several hell hound guardians before finding stairs leading to a large natural cavern below. There, a huge mountain giant - later named Hodor - is pounding away at a small metal tube while a vampire - later to be discovered to be Father Joseph - is trying to solve a riddle to open a door with a large magical maul. The party slays the vampire, blinds the giant temporarily, opens the door to the maul - which they later use to bribe the mountain giant, and gain the cryptex which is the key to the adventure.

If only they knew the pass phrase to the cryptex.

Searching carefully, the party backtracks to the Great Hall, where they find a set of air holes in the fireplace leading down into a subterranean lair - one belonging to Grandfather Josiah. A note leads the party to believe that the vampire is meeting with the Storm Lords - most certainly a clue to the great storm brewing to the south.

Moving along the path and using the Rune of Direction again, the party encounters an army marching towards the Wolfshaunt Gate - the storm forming an impenetrable wall behind them. Inside the storm, floating - unhindered by their surroundings are a number of large blackish purple protean shapes - large jellyfish trailing impossibly long tendrils of crimped pink tentacles. The bodies of the beasts are some sixty feet in diameter - and the tendrils are another several hundred feet in length. With a pulse of the jellyfish head, the beast moves quickly through the air.

The party spends some time gathering intelligence from the army and its commander Sir Edmund Blackwolf. The army has been ordered to march north and secure the gateway while "Sturm" is negotiating some sort of treaty at a place called the Needle to the southwest.

Using teleports, the party moves into the storm - only to find the large jellyfish are pursuing them - able to move about the folds of the storm almost as quickly as a teleport. After a number of teleport maneuvers, the party comes across a large stone ziggurat with a four hundred foot high metal needle stuck into its top. A small army garrison is outside. After some clever scouting, the party discovers a puzzle lock to the door - which is quickly solved - allowing entrance to the anteroom.

There they discover "Sturm", his Storm Eaters, and the medallion around his neck - the symbol of trust - lightning bolts in the form of letter "W".

Eureka! Vince solves the cryptex puzzle. By putting the pages of the book together, it forms the word TWIXT! Back to the chapel!

Teleporting to the back of the cave where the Long Tunnel begins, the party avoids the Storm Lords army now camped outside.

Retracing their steps, the party is soon back in the chapel. Udolf is still gone. Should they put the "key" back, wait the 30 days for the next full moon, or open the cryptex? In a moment that will live in infamy, Fuzzwort opens the cryptex.

Inside, in the spidery hand of Grandfather Josiah, is a simple note:

Thank you for releasing the Wolfshaunt!

Far away, in the Eastern Reaches, a farmer looks up from his barley field - his attention drawn suddenly to the east. Over the Wolfshaunt Mountains, dark and ominous clouds now crown what moments ago - at least in Tom Bailey's mind - were snow-capped peaks of a fair October day. Shaking his head, Tom goes back to work with his horse and plow. Again, his attention is drawn east. Could it be the howling of wolves? During the day? Surely his mind was playing tricks on him. Wolves hunting during the day - outrageous!

He never saw what came up behind him.

Wolfshaunt Unleashed (2014)

Wolfshaunt Unleashed

The Winter of 903-904 was the harshest in recent memory for the Eastern Reaches. Snowstorms raged along the entirety of the land with reports of snow as far south as the Sands of Time. When not in furious rage, the sky was a dead, ashen gray - the sun a weak spot of light in an otherwise monochromatic world. Reports of rare lightning snowstorms were widespread.

With temperatures plummeting, the villages and towns of the Eastern Reaches showed no life - their occupants huddled against the cold. Tales of wolf raids were commonplace - with gruesome scenes of homesteads completely sacked by ravenous canines. Families went missing, and yet nobody was able to venture forth to provide aid. Throughout the countryside, the village halls and chapels overflowed with countryfolk fleeing for the protection of their local lords.

It is now early March 904. Along the coast of the Inner Sea, the snows have finally turned to rain as torrential storms of inky blackness and blinding yellow lightning crash along the seaboard.

Rumors come to Dragonsford of a great maelstrom - some say coming from the Inner Sea while others claim the storm moves over the mountains from the Wolfshaunt. Already enveloping the towns of Portsmith and Ironwood, strange tales tell of the unending storm which is slowing moving west towards Dragonsford and the rich farmlands of the Eastern Reaches.

The most common tale is that great sea fishes have been reported falling from the sky. The strangest are monstrous with glowing lights dangling from stalks hanging in front of lantern jaws of immense size.

Another tale is one of an old man. He walks ahead of the storm selling lightning rods from a strange bag at his side. Protection from the storm - and by all reports those who don't buy his wares go missing - their homes destroyed by lighting.

15 March 904

The party goes to investigate the great storm sweeping across the Eastern Reaches. At the storm's edge they come across the property of the Buckminster family. There they learn of the old man selling lightning rods. He takes the eldest child for ransom, plying the family with a portrait of their child sleeping soundly. In reality, the party later discovers, the children are teleported to the Tomb Kingdom, killed and reanimated into the army of the undead. The lightning rods are magically locked by a puzzle which Vince is able to solve to turn the device on. This creates a huge shroud of darkness across the entire Buckminster farm.

Using clever triangulation, the party finds the old man, calling himself the Hermit. He is guarded by a pack of wolves. In the storms behind him, large purple-black jellyfish-like creatures the size of castles hover ominously. Subduing him and removing an odd silver ring which binds him to his task, the old man tells of a stone portal rotating slowly at the center of the maelstrom - a gateway to another world. The encounter brings wolves from a nearby lair into the action. In cleaning out the lair, the party slays Marcus Darkmane - a scrye for Grandfather Josiah.

The party teleports to the center of the maelstrom - encountering a few Shantaks - the "flesh of death" - large jellyfish trailing impossibly long tendrils of crimped pink tentacles. The bodies of the beasts are some sixty feet in diameter – and the tendrils are another several hundred feet in length. At the center of the maelstrom, a large stone archway spewing water is discovered. Guarded by acid lamprey, Hylax determines the archway is a teleport - the Sea Gate. Solving the puzzle to pass through the gate, the party teleports to the underwater nexus on the other side of the gate and disintegrates it. Retuning to the Eastern Reaches, the storm is dissipating. The lightning rods -a ploy to create a land of darkness is foiled.

30 March 904

King Goodfellow receives a letter from The Nephew telling of a curious meeting between a small company of werewolves led by Sir Edmund Blackwolf and the lichs of the Tomb Kingdom. A ceremony is to take place to establish a treaty between the Tomb Kingdom and the Wolfshaunt. A silver ring - identical to the ones take from the old man and Marcus Darkmane is included with the note "Keep this safe but do not put it on for any reason. Its value will become obvious with time.

The party rushes to the valley of the Tomb Kingdom. From a hidden vantage, they see a stone platform filled with peasants, a training ground for the undead army, and six large sand craters each with an altar block in the center.

Soon a priest comes from the pyramid and without ceremony, the priest raises the staff above his head - holding it with both hands. Suddenly, the villagers all drop on the platform and a flash from the area below the dais - a blue-black light that lasts for only a moment - is seen. The bodies are moved into the base of the pyramid where they are stripped of flesh and animated into skeletal warriors.

Avoiding the workshops at the base of the pyramid, the party moves to open the middle level and attack the lich priests directly. Solving the puzzle to open the entrance, U-Gene discovers a battle map showing paths from the Wolfshaunt, across the impassable desert into Sandal, and culminating at the Forbidden Library. Triggered by the attack, the pyramid begins to contract into a solid stone structure sinking quickly into the desert floor. After dispatching Marcus and a few lich priests, the party flees to the sand craters.

Unknown to the party, the shades of the sacrificed peasants fill the craters. There, they lure six giant sand wurms - creatures capable of transporting vast numbers of troops across the desert. As the pyramid sink into the sands, the wurms surface - feeding on the souls of the recently-departed. So summoned, the undead riders mount the wurms. Fuzzwort is able to destroy two with his magical trident during the summoning. The remaining wurms later aid the Wolfshaunt army in their unsuccessful bid to open the Forbidden Library and free their brethren.

1 April 904

A coded message arrives from The Nephew.

My Grandfather comes. Avoid him until the Ring is complete - only then can he die. I know not the location of the remaining Rings. My Brother had one and lived in Tween - north of the Long Tunnel - many centuries ago.

From their investigation, the party learns about the Grandfather Rings.

When men first crawled out of the caves they had been hiding in at the dawn of the Third Age, some nine hundred years ago, those with the Hunger were already among them. Their numbers were small, but their survival depended on being unseen - hidden within the community - trusted by all - their secret safe.

And so, the Bonding began. It started with the forging of the Grandfathers Rings - for that was the term that was used for the oldest and wisest among those with the Hunger. The goal was simple - to control the youngest and most impetuous until they could learn the wisdom of walking unnoticed among the men of the Realm. At that time, they would be released from the Bond. They, too, could become Grandfathers in time.

The powers of the rings were crafted so that a wearer was immune to all except the wearer of another Grandfathers ring. A balance in the power of immortality and control. Twin rings were always crafted with one capable of being broken down for distribution among the Bonded.

But for some control became, in itself, an obsession. The Grandfathers did not want to give up their power. And so a new set of rings were made - the Uncles rings. Like their predecessors, these rings were made of intertwined bands of silver. Identical bands were given to those who were to be Bonded. No power in the Realm could break the Bond. And while some were released, many others became slaves.

And so it was for hundreds of years, the Grandfathers amassing greater and greater numbers of Bonded. Uncles bonded Nephews. And great family trees were created. And yet, the reason was lost. Grandfathers no longer hid amongst the people - rather they became Barons and Counts and their practices of the Hunger became known.

It was then that the men and women of the Reaches drove those with Hunger out into the depths of the Wolfshaunt Mountains. They were not killed - for many are immortal. But they were trapped. In those confined valleys, however, the Grandfathers continued to amass their families - waiting for the day of release back into the reaches.

The party returns to Moon Hollow and the gates to the Wolfshaunt. A black dragon and a company of werewolves under the command of Lucian - a man dressed in blue-black scale armor guard the tunnel. The dragon and wolves are slain. Inside the Chapel of Udolf, a map showing the Eastern Reaches - now called "Midnight" is divided into kingdoms. Hundreds of red dots show the location of the lightning rods. Moving down the Family Byborough crypt, a new puzzle lock is quickly solved. The party moves into the Wolfshaunt after clearing out more werewolf guards at the cave on the far side of the gate.

The party first travels to the village of Tween. There they meet Liam Swarmslayer and are welcomed to the village of werewolf hunters and protection from the sonic bats that fly throughout the area. Using stealth, the party discovers the real villagers trapped in a cave across a rope bridge spanning a river. Liam and the "villagers" are actually werewolves. At the back of the cave, the party discovered a niche near the Wolf Door - behind which they find Mikhail - the Nephew's brother. He is in an ancient lead coffin - perfectly preserved with a silver ring and a ruby necklace. Before he can wake, the party takes his ring - breaking his bond. In return, he tells them to seek the advice of the Shades of Dumbolton - deep in a hallow east of Tween. The Shades may be able to help the party determine the location of the Grandfather Ring.

Summoned, the shades - five moss-covered shapes - demand a life from the party in exchange for information. Hylax agrees. The party learns of a conclave being held at Grandfather Josiah's castle - where rest of the bands of the ring the party is building will be. A final big battle!

Journeying to Grandfather Josiah's castle, the party decides on a quick strike during the conclave. Making a direct assault, the party burst through the walls of the castle into a cold, uninviting stone room. Four men and a wispy shade are at a table. The party attacks - taking out Uncle Jonah, a sorcerer and Benedict Blackwolf, a werewolf. Collecting two more bands from the silver ring, the party has all the pieces of the puzzle. Unable to assemble the ring quickly, the party retreats from Josiah - who is immortal. They vow to return and fight him once the Grandfather ring is assembled.

The Heart of the Wolfshaunt (2015)

The Heart of the Wolfshaunt

In the dark of the winter of 904, a dwarven crew working to shore up a lower storeroom that had been slowing filling with water came across an ancient stairway from the Second Age winding down into the darkness under Dwarrowdelf.

The dwarves explored the area thoroughly and eventually found a single room at the bottom of the stairs. In the small chamber, an ancient Second Age well stood in the chamber. On the walls of the room is the inscription: "Here be the dwarven docks. Home to the great stone ships of the Wyrmwyld. Only the true of heart may enter."

The well is filled with a swirling black fog - thick and menacing. The mist and well radiate a strong aura of magic and a slight tinge of evil.

An expedition of six dwarves including Dugald Axeworthy's son - Harbid Axeworthy - volunteered to explore the well. Once they touched the mist, they disappeared. After two weeks, they had not returned. Later, Dugald Axeworthy descended into the well with five seasoned adventurers. They took with them a book that would allow messages to be sent back and forth with U-Gene.

March 1, 905

In the intervening weeks, all attempts to contact Axeworthy have failed. From the message book, a single word appeared today: TRAITOR.

Descending the ancient staircase, Ernie discovers a hidden shrine to the God of Food and Wine. Quickly deciphering its meaning, he pulls six dusty stones from a long-forgotten compartment of his belt pouch. The stones fit perfectly, and the party has its first boon - magical bonuses to their weapons.

Quickly scanning the ancient well room, the party makes a leap into the swirling fog. Appearing on an old wooden dock lined with flickering gaslights, the party sees the ghostly outline of eleven dwarven stone ships. A twelfth ship is corporeal, swaying against its moorings. Twenty-four tentacled hell hounds charge the party, attempting to knock them off the dock and into the swirling black fog. A brief fight ensues, and the party flees to the deck of the Mutiny Bay.

On the ship, the bodies of Dugald Axeworthy and two of his companions are discovered, along with a map in the Navigation Room that "activates" the ship - turning it corporeal. In the great cabin, twelve skeleton captains sit drinking and telling sea stories - each anxious to be relieved of their command. Resurrecting Dugald and his companions, the party learns of a small, toy ship that is needed to return the dwarven stone ships to the harbor at Teufeldorf.

The party heads out to explore the ship, when a great tentacle monster - known as the Soul Eater - begins to stir in the black, misty water. Hylax discovers that the docks and ships are filled with the ghosts of all the sailors who have died on the Mutiny Bay. U-Gene uses his Dwarven Signet ring to call all the dwarven souls to his service. U-Gene, Fuzzwort, and Vince jump into the mist - beginning what would become a 5000 foot fall to fight a monster the size of a city.

Meanwhile on board, Hylax and Ernie scour the ship. Using the arrow of direction, they quickly discover the parts to the toy ship. Ernie puts it together and the whole cavern begins to whirl in a teleportation spell.

Sensing the impending teleportation, Hylax teleports to party fighting the Soul Eater. Significant damage has been done, but time is running out. The party returns to the surface and splits up to a ship to try and solve the Navigation puzzles. U-Gene is able to bring back two ships and Vince one more. As the teleport resolves, the Soul Eater is flushed into the sea, and four Dwarven Stone ships are floating in Teufeldorf harbor.

U-Gene assigns trusted captains to the ships, releasing the skeleton captains and the souls of the dead dwarven seamen to their rest.

March 15, 905

Hylax is approached by a deep gnome named Clixworth. He is looking for a long-dead gnomish counselor of a long-dead Paladin-king. Although Hylax doesn't know the pass phrase, several spells and an assist from Vince, and the little gnome is telling his story.

His tribe are the keepers of the Flower Gate - one of the machines that keep the Wolfshaunt sealed. After centuries locked in their cavernous world, one of the village Elders is missing. So, the gnomes opened a long-rusted door to the Reaches and are looking for help.

The party teleports to the Flower Gate. Now all the Elders are missing! A scrap of black cloth and an overheard whispered conversation leads the party to the Waterfall Chapel - an abandoned Second Age temple nearby - as the likely location of the missing gnomes. Jinkies.

The Waterfall Chapel is guarded by ancient vampiric dragons which are avoided. The party moves through the ancient vaults of the building - avoiding several traps - to a crypt where the gnome Elders - now zombies - are rambling about. Finding a pad of paper, the party realizes that the entire poem to stop the gate has been discovered. A quick set of questions to the dead gnomes, and the party discovers that four vampires are using the Waterfall Chapel as a decoy to keep the party occupied while they stop the Flower Gate machine.

Before they leave, Vince discovers the vault of the First Abbot. Solving his riddle, Vince is given the abbot's staff with the oath that the Ranger King will find new followers for the Order. Understanding the Waterfall Chapel is a ruse, the party rushes back to the Flower Gate. At the gnome stronghold, the vampires - a leader, a hunchback, and two fighters - are in the Flower Gate room. The ceremony is over and the machine is winding down. Oona, an ancient gnome and guardian of secretes, tells the party of the failsafe machine - a duplicate machine lying behind two anti-magic shields. The party strips down and enters the room quickly determining the location of the switch. With Fuzzwort manning the machine, the rest of the party backtracks to the main machine room and attacks. The failsafe keeps the wall up while the party dispatches the bad guys - minions of a vampire known as Grandfather Bela.

Leaving behind a dagger that detects vampires, the party attempts to make the Flower Gate more secure. The possibility of another assault to stop the gate is likely. The gnomes begin the arduous task of starting the machine again as the party returns to Teufeldorf.

April 1, 905

A note from Grandfather Josiah proposes a trade to the party - the Grandfather Ring for the Heart of the Wolfshaunt. The Heart being a critical element in controlling the werewolves during the once-a-decade Mustering - an involuntary gathering of the wolves of the Wolfshaunt.

The party moves to the Wolfshaunt through the tunnel. Along the way, Ernie's fortune is told by Pesha Moody in exchange for a token. "I see yellow and black. Birds. No. Bees. You are fighting. Pain - the poison gives you sight. You will be hurt - but only by facing the Bees will your home be safe. Flee the bees and your home will be as dark as Midnight."

Exiting the tunnel, the party avoids Josiah's Emissary at the crossroads.

The party begins the long process of gathering information. First, they follow the road east to Sundown where the mayor, Judo Jenkins, owes them a favor for rescuing him from the prisons at Tween. Jenkins tells of the bee keepers that live up the mountain from the village. Investigation in the bee keeper's cottage reveals all the gnomes are missing - a journal entry reads, "Attack. Vampires. Secret Safe. Run."

Not knowing the location of the bee keepers, the party begins scouring the woods to the east and south of Sundown. Eventually, they discover a clearing and find the Bee Gate. There, the party saves guardian centaurs from an attack by Grandfather Bela's vampires and werewolves. Recovering a scrap of paper with a hexagonal shaped puzzle from the vampire Vanessa, the party learns of the location of the gate. But where are the bees? Nearby, a villager named Quimby has been stung by a bee. Sucking the poison into his own system, Ernie is able to see the gate high on the cliff face to the north. A prophesy fulfilled.

Entering the honeycomb tunnel, the party stumbles across Grandfather Bela and a pile of dead gnome engineers. Bela is looking at a machine that has stopped. Seemingly confused he teleports himself and the dead engineers away. Finding no other gnomes and the machine stopped, the party leaves the Bee Gate.

Continuing their random search east and south, the party comes across six knights led by Leggerman Rain, a servant of Master Whitlock. They offer a boon from Master Whitlock in exchange for the party rescuing his recently-captured daughter, Ariella, from the rogue Vampire Radu, the Priest-Eater. A scrying device points deep into the mountains - accessible only by air. The party accepts the quest, and the hunt is on.

Masked by Whitlock's storm, the party arrives at Radu's cave - a shining point of light in the darkness. All surfaces filled with gold and silver, a glowing Wolfshaunt chess board, shields, swords and a massive silver reliquary. A full frontal assault quickly reveals that their swords and magic are ineffective against the vampire. Both Whitlock guides are killed, and Ernie is beheaded. Grabbing the sleeping form of Ariella, the party flees to Whitlock's castle. Radu promising revenge upon the party for destroying his home and stealing his food. Ernie is resurrected.

Reunited with his daughter, Whitlock is overcome with grief as he realizes that Areilla has been bitten. The party attempts to heal her, but Whitlock appears unconvinced. True to his word, Whitlock provide the party with directions to the Heartwood where the Mustering is to take place.

On their way to the Heartwood, the party explores several side paths. The Glade of Willowthorn is an odd sylvan oasis in the forest. While Hylax and Fuzzwort are at peace, Vince, Ernie and U-Gene are not. After some discussion, the three "tainted" allow themselves to be cleansed by the women of Willowthorn's pool.

At the entrance to the Heartwood, the party discovers Grandfather Josiah's castle. With a single entrance to the dense woods and the Mustering, the vampires are using the fact that the wolves must pass nearby to do some target practice. Avoiding the fight, the party teleports into the castle - and grab a servant. Josiah is not in residence. Damn.

Just to check out their suspicions, the party teleports back to the Emissary, Winston, waiting patiently at the crossroads and learns the offer from the Grandfather is genuine. Josiah is in hiding and will not meet with the party until an exchange is made. They decline the offer and teleport back to the entrance of the Heartwood and slip in.

Navigating the Heartwood Maze and protected by the cleansing of Willowthorn, the party is detoured by a path leading to another sylvan glade - this time Azura Morgan's Tomb. There, they rescue some centaurs who relate that they are unable to protect the glen. The party accepts their challenge to retrieve Azura Morgan's staff from her tomb - which might be a challenge as she has sealed herself in a wizard's puzzle box tomb. They are told that Azura Morgan created the shield of the Wolfshaunt.

The party enters the strange stone ziggurat - with walls that slide in to crush the unworthy. They pass four tests, forcing Azura's ever-present magic mouth to say the password, solving the riddle of the stained glass, ignoring the buzzer test, and finally bypassing the fake skeleton and staff. From this tomb, Azura Morgan's staff is recovered. It's power is to allow backdoor teleportation through the shield!

Continuing on the path to the Mustering, the party detours to help some sprites whose comrades are getting killed by vampire vines. A quick moment later and the vines are dead. In return, the party received silver necklaces that the sprites believe will remove the maze effects when entering and leaving the Wolfshaunt.

At long last, they reach the Mustering. The Heartwood, it appears, is a single tree with an impossibly thick trunk and long limbs extending out for a hundred yards to form a low ceiling above the swampy forest floor. From the branches of the tree, strangely-shaped heart fruit hang - each piece identical and tempting. Around the tree, hundreds of wolves circle - facing the tree in rapt attention. The larger wolves appear to be near the trunk - with the stragglers ranging near the outer branches.

Suddenly, the air becomes still - no sound except the buzzing of flies. One wolf begins to howl, then another and another. Soon, the baying is deafening - a cacophonous wail of dismay. All the fruit falls to the ground. In a single scream, the wolves are all now men. Each frantically trying to pick up a heart and open it, sink their teeth into it.

The party begin frantically trying to pry open a heart fruit - not as easy a task as you would imagine. Hylax throws a piece on the ground and it breaks open. Success! Each placing a tooth into the fruit, the party steps into the trunk of the tree.

Isolated from each other, the second challenge to the Mustering is a battle of wits with an ancient intelligence. "Are you worthy to control the wolves of the Wolfshaunt?" Hylax and Fuzzwort fail - finding themselves back in under the Heartwood dazed and confused. Ernie, Vince and U-Gene enter the tree, however, moving through the thick, sticky resistance of the non-corporeal wood towards the final test...

Sealing of the Wolfshaunt (2016)

Chapel of the Lamp

April 1, 905 TA.

Ernie, Vince and U-Gene move into a small alcove at the center of the tree. There, the others who have solved the puzzle wait - Lycurgus, Talbot, and three cloaked vampire figures. The heart sits atop a pedestal. Splits in the tree begin to form, engulfing the three heroes - who find themselves alone in a glade, surrounded by trees with a black pool at its center.

Then, the attack begins - waves of creatures - ents, tentacles from the pond, wolves, dragons - the supply seems endless. Survival is the order of the day. Ernie, Vice and U-Gene fare well for awhile. The, the tide begins to turn. Meanwhile Ernie and Hylax watch as thousands of wolves circle the tree in the Heartswood. Suddenly (as the puzzle is taken apart), the scene shifts.

Ernie, Vince and U-Gene appear back in the folds of the great tree. The Heart is shattered! While the three heroes struggle to put it together, the wolves outside the tree in the Heartswood attack. Attempting to flee the wolves by moving into the branches of the tree is a mistake, as the large sturdy limbs hold Hylax and Ernie fast. Ernie is ripped to shreds. Hylax is about to follow....

Putting the puzzle together, the party finds themselves reunited. The wolves have backed off, and two shaggy men step forward - Lycurgus of House Banebeck and Talbot of House Blackwolf. Ernie is resurrected.

After an extended discussion, the party decides to leave the werewolves unbound until the next Mustering. In exchange, the wolves promise to aid the party. In addition, they provide the plans of Bela and Josiah.

The vampires fear an invasion of the Wolfshaunt by the forces of the Eastern Reaches. They know that Sandal, the Orc Nation, and now the Tang Empire have all been forced into submission from the aggressive forces of men, elves and dwarves.

The Grandfathers sent an emissary east across the great continent in 903 TA - when the Valley Gate was first re-opened. There, they sought a pact with the Old Kingdom. In 905 TA, now desperate, a deal was struck for a one-time invasion of the Reaches by the Old Kingdom forces. The price was high - one million gold pieces - paid to the Overlord. The invasion is underway - only the final payment needs to be sent to insure full cooperation.

Tonight, this sum will be pulled from the darkest and deepest vaults under the mostly-deserted city of Everblack. The terms are simple. The Old Kingdom gets the fertile Western Reaches. The Wolfshaunt gets the tangled woods and sandy fields of the Eastern Reaches. The Shadowyarn Mountains will be the border.

As part of the bargain of the Mustering, the party is tasked with protecting the wolves - it is expected that the Grandfathers will ally with the Unfettered Wolves and seek to kill the House packs, exterminating them without conscious.

Tangentially, the wolves had been tasked during the Mustering with gathering a bit of skin or clothing from each party member.

In an attempt to stop the movement of the final payment of gold, the party uses scrying magic to determine that they must travel to the Eastern Exchange. There, they find a number of small mechanical spiders, each impossibly fast, each carrying a small transfer of gold. Following the spider down a path to long loch and into a flooded cave, the party discovers a stone dock at the end. There, they meet the rotund Mr. Black - who with his brother Mr. Sly - run the Everblack vault.

After negotiations fail, a battle ensues. Mr. Black is killed and the Loch Gate is discovered leading to a forest east of the Wolfshaunt. After destroying a number of spiders, the party determines that the payment has been disrupted. The party returns to Dragonsford. The 905 TA campaign ends.

Once at home, Vince releases two souls trapped in his Raiments: Mirri, a peasant girl who was used in testing the weapon and Rindar Redfoot, a fighter, farmer and bar room brawler. Both were freed to return to their homes.

March 15, 906 TA

The party intercepts a message from Josiah to the other families of the Wolfshaunt. He tells of his desperation to leave the Wolfhaunt - a desire which has driven him to send his son and twelve others to the Forbidden Gate beneath the Square Lake. There, the dangers of an Ancient One await. A call to gather unfettered wolves and the families to the gate at the vernal equinox promises passage for all.

Or so the note promises.

The note proves to be a ruse. For the party are the only ones powerful enough to open the Forbidden Gate. The gathering places are where "tendrils" will appear to allow passage from the valley.

When the Sleeper arises from slumber immortal
His tendrils pass through time and space
Those who follow his path can Journey
To far-away lands in a far-away age

At the entrance to the Square Lake, a fake camp is discovered and ignored. The party discovers a door at the base of a waterfall. Quickly solving a lock, the party moves up a long hallway, killing a paralyzing gelatinous cube. Coming to a T in the hallway, several vampires who were hidden in the amulets the party carried emerge, fleeing down the hall and into the large chamber at the structure's center.

Passing through an antechamber with large glass tubes with multi-tentacled creatures suspended, the party enters a vast room. The floor flickers and a map of the Reaches appears. Suddenly, the vampires reappear. They begin striking the floor with long iron staves. A tendril appears on the floor near the Western Reaches - snaking up it passes through the ceiling of the room. The other vampires move to repeat the process.

Thinking quickly, the party dispatches the other vampires. They cannot seem to stop the tendril. Leaving the Forbidden Gate, they see the wolves from one of the gathering areas jumping into a tendril which extends into the sky and over the Wolfshaunt. Hylax creates a permanent column of fire to keep others from the Reaches.

Using the Staff of Azura Morgan, the party teleports back to the Reaches to see a small army of wolves leaving the tendril's landing spot. This mess will need to be cleaned up by the Army of the Reaches. For now, a permanent solution needs to be found to seal the Wolfshaunt. The number of wolves entering the Reaches seems to have been minimized.

April 1, 906 TA

Upon the party's return to the Wolfhaunt several weeks later, they are met by Lycurgus and Talbot.

The vampires have decided to punish us for their failure at the Mustering. As is their tradition, the vampires called our young - our children and those wives bearing young in their bellies - to the Chapel of the Lamp. The Chapel is warded by a force field - similar to that which surrounds the entirety of the Wolfshaunt. However, this is tuned to wolves. We cannot pass through its effect. We have tried digging under, jumping over - it is impossible for us to penetrate. We beseech you to help save our young. They are our future. Without them, we are a lost race.

The party moves to the Chapel of the Lamp. Black dragons and runes guard its entrance. Magically moving past these, the party enters the chapel - being attacked by bats and a guardian vampire. Quickly dispatched, the heroes move down into the undercrypt. Behind a sealed door, the sounds of hundreds of wolves can be heard. Opening the chamber, a rush of liquid is heard, and gas begins pouring from the columns that hold up the chamber. The wolves begin to die.

Thinking quickly, the party spreads out to find a lamp in the tower of the chapel. It is an odd design which creates an impossibly bright light. The lamp is stamped

Bennett & Sons, Lampmakers
Everblack

Taking the lamp apart, the wolf seal is broken.

Fleeing up the stairs and out of the chapel, the wolves are attacked by the black dragons. It will be a massacre. The party blocks the attack, allowing most of the wolves to flee in safety. In addition, a large number of vampires, dragons, and bats are approaching from the south. Careful spotting shows a single vampire approaching from north carrying a large bundle - another lamp - a trap! Fleeing the trap, the party reconnoiters with Lycurgus and Talbot who are grateful for the rescue.

April 2, 906 TA

The party meets again with Radu - who proposes a deal.

I will help you in your quest - if I'm given free range of the Reaches. I have decided to start a family. After you destroyed my home, I realized that I had become too attached to my treasures and this dreary place has grown droll.

I will help you take the one thing that is most precious in the Wolfshaunt - the hoard of both family's tokens. They have recently been moved. I will help you take them. This will cripple any large-scale movements from the Wolfshaunt. For my part of the bargain, I want 100 tokens.

The party agrees.

They find themselves at the Vaults of Everblack.

This building is actually a giant machine. In fact, you may not know this, but it can actually walk like a spider. It is a remarkable machine. Even more remarkable that only Mr. Black and Mr. Sly run the whole place. It does have one weakness, however. It is a machine, and it can be overloaded with just the right application of power.

Radu produces a small silver cylinder and powers down the machine. Just after wishing the party luck, he disappears. The party moves up a spider leg and down a staircase in the central "body" of the bank. They set the device to open vault 162 - the one Radu has told them contains the tokens. A puzzle solved, and the tokens are retrieved.

With a bit of greed, the party opens another couple of vaults, quickly taking the treasure. As the machine powers up, the form of Mr. Sly enters - attempting to bargain with the party. Fleeing as the machine lumbers to life and begins to move away from Everblack, a well-timed Sphere of Annihilation brings it crashing down - broken beyond repair - or so it seems.

Radu appears to collect his 100 tokens - which the party gives him. A quick teleport, and this raid on the Wolfshaunt is complete.

The Family Pach (2017)

The Family Pact

April 2, 906 TA.

The evening of April 2, 906 TA finds the party sitting around a campfire in the damp, sodden, and dark confines of the forest surrounding Everblack. In the distance, the ruins of the bank of Mr. Sly and Mr. Black lies in a tangle of destroyed metal. Examining the device used to trap the wolves at the Chapel of the Lamp, Hylax notices the mark of the lamp's maker, Bennett & Sons, Lampmakers, Everblack.

Hylax summons a shade of the long-dead Bennett - maker of the device that originally sealed the Wolfshaunt centuries ago. Pressed to learn the secret of the device, Hylax discovers that personal items, recently gathered, are needed to create the binding. Then, the lamp must be hung from a source of great power. Only Bennett's great-great-great grandson has the skill to make such a lamp today. Given only the vague phrase, "focus on the cat's whisker", the party heads out for Everblack.

The streets of Everblack are empty - a strange occurrence later explained by the rush of the townsfolk to loot the remains of the bank of Sly & Black. Using the catchphrase to gain Bennett's trust, the party asks the lampmaker to make them a lamp. Fearing spies would overhear, the meeting with Bennett and his "son" Wil is delayed to the wine cellar at the Pawn & Castle pub later in the evening. However, Wil immediately sneaks out and cons her way into the party by sharing a secret. Hylax transforms Wil into an elven archer.

Before the meeting at the pub, Wil steals a map of the Wolfshaunt from Holyrood Maps replacing it with a forgery made by Vince. The meeting with Bennett results in a deal to build a lamp in exchange for safe passage for the lampmaker and his "son" to Dragonsford - with a promise to open a lampmaker's shop. Bennett doesn't detect that Wil is now an elven archer with the party. Now, to gather personal items!

Teleporting to Grandfather Bela's castle at the far southern end of the Wolfshaunt Valley, the party runs across the emissary of Grandfather Josiah - Winston - who proposes a meeting with the Grandfathers. He provides a teleportation bead and leaves.

Thinking the upcoming encounter is too dangerous, the party teleports to the crossroads by the Tunnel Gate to stash Wil there. Instead of a deserted path winding up to the cave that leads to the Long Tunnel, the place is overrun with human Storm Lord soldiers marching up the hill. A bit of scouting discovers that the soldiers are drinking from a barrel of purple liquid and marching deliberately up to the beat of drums. The drummers and the bosses all appear to be lich priests from Sandal. Another problem to solve, but not a safe place for a little girl.

The bead is broken and the party plus Wil show up in Grandfather Josiah's library. What a break! The library leads to a secret chamber that hides the vampires' power. The meeting is thirty minutes hence, and the library is empty. However, instead of stealing away, the party waits, breaks into two groups - one going into the meeting, the other waiting in the library with Winston. Ernie chooses a moment when Winston is watching to open the secret door - a scuffle ensues, and Ernie and Fuzzwort are teleported away. Wil is captured and is later given to the Grandfathers for the Hunger. The meeting with Hylax, U-Gene and Vince is inconclusive and ends with no treaty or agreement. They also fail to gather any personal items.

Waiting at the crossroads is Radu amused that such a simple task has been bungled. He promises to provide a distraction for Grandfather Josiah and Grandfather Bela in order to help the party gain entrance into the secret passage in the library. In exchange, the party promises to grab Arielia - a grand-daughter of Master Whitlock. It seems Whitlock was killed recently, and the army of the Storm Lords is leaving the Wolfshaunt. The Whitlock family will be attending services that day in a grove near the Storm Lord's castle.

Teleporting back into the library, Radu engages the Grandfathers and Winston in the council room - allowing our heroes to slip beyond the suit of armor that guards the passage down. Beyond is the crypt of the Great Grandfather, an effigy on the floor needs only a staff to be completed. After some fumbling, U-Gene remembers that he has the Staff of the Wolfshaunt. Placing it in the statue teleports the party deep into the bowels of the earth.

There the wizened figure of the Great Grandfather awaits. He promises to get the party a personal item from both Grandfather Josiah and Grandfather Bela in exchange for the party rescuing a magical chess piece - the black queen - from Tolbalth the Collector - a dragonfolk - that has his collection stored in the Cathedral of Dragons. The piece was given to Tolbalth by Radu to pay a gambling debt.

Teleporting to the Cathedral, the party quickly solves a puzzle and touches a huge basalt statue of a dragon. They pass into a cave of niches - some filled with junk such as a crudely formed doll of straw. Others are filled with priceless treasures of gems and jewelry. A brief chat with Tobalth led to a bargaining session - with Tobalth requiring something from each party member to replace the chess piece. Refusing, the party swipes the black queen chess piece, solves a quick riddle as Tobalth catches on to their plan, and vanishes back to the lair of the Great Grandfather.

This time Radu is there. Radu tells them that Mr. Sly has left the Wolfshaunt for Dragonsford - to "teach those Reaches scoundrels a lesson they will not forget". After feeding on a local villager, Great Grandfather joins the conversation and sends Radu off to gather an item from Josiah and Bela with promises to meet the party in Everblack. The party leaves to complete its mission to gather personal items.

A quick meeting with the Lycurgus and Talbot is simple. Hylax convinces them that the Eastern Reaches are not ready for their kind. Both wolves, being freed by Hylax at the Gathering, agree. Giving the wizard a small piece of their fur each, they lope off to continue their struggles against the vampires.

Visiting the scene of the march of the Storm Lords, it is clear that half of the army has passed through the gate. Hylax, summoning the ultra-powerful None Shall Pass spell, blows up the entire side of the hill - killing everything within a quarter of a mile. When the dust clears, the army, drummers and lich priests are destroyed.

Teleporting to the funeral, Hylax sneaks in and lifts the coffin lid - finding the bloated, purple, poisoned body of the Storm Lord. Taking some hair, he quietly steps out. The stone monoliths surrounding the funeral come to life as impossibly large stone golems. Vince teleports in and snatches Arielia with a long-distance grab spell.

With artifacts from the humans and wolves, the party teleports to Everblack - meeting Radu to exchange Arielia for items from Grandfather Bela and Grandfather Josiah. Radu bids them a fond farewell - with promises to meet them in the Reaches.

As Radu leaves, the party discovers that Bennett has left his shop to go to Mr. Sly's bank to see if Wil is there. Outside, the entire town has descended on the wreckage. Children climb on the outside while inside the townsfolk are busy with pickaxes trying to get into the vaults. A countdown timer alerts Ernie to a trap - the whole place is going to blow. Solving the puzzle with only four seconds left, the party saves the town. Bennett is located and the group returns to his shop.

At the shop, the party is given the completed lamp and told that the only power source great enough to contain the magic is in the Lonely Haunt - a tree that carried the original binding lamp. When questioned about Wil, Hylax promises Bennett his son will be waiting for him in Dragonsford.

Armed with the lamp, the party assembles it with the items from Grandfather Josiah, Grandfather Bela, Lycurgus, Talbot and the Storm Lord. Approaching the hill, Hylax slips into Oblivion and sees a swaying, tentacled creature of ultimate power and evil. This must be the true source of the taint in the Wolfshaunt. Dangerous beyond measure, but sleeping, Hylax slips the lantern onto a single chain that hangs from the tree's branches. The lamp spreads light quickly through the Wolfshaunt - making the surroundings a bit brighter - and the Wolfshaunt is sealed once again.

The Overlord's Undercroft (2017)

The Overlord's Undercroft

October 30, 906 TA.

It is October 30, 906 TA. A storm is brewing - a cold, driving rain has cleared the streets of Dragonsford. Smoke curls from the chimneys of the homes - most of which are brightly lit against the gloom and wind. It is after dinner, about 10pm, and the party has settled into the Feasting Hall of Dragonsford Castle. Unexpectedly, an emissary from the Overlord Theodric XIX of Rembia shows up to parlay for the return of Teufeldorf - lost during the campaigns of the previous summer.

At the meeting, several interesting developments are revealed. The emissary, Victor Kane, reports that two hundred kegs of an enhanced explosive powder have been placed in strategic points around Teufeldorf. They will decay in 24 hours. If a treaty can be reached, the protected, hidden, anti-scryable kegs will be teleported harmlessly to sea. Fuzzwort is dubious that such a powder exists in quantity, although a two flake sample proves to be an exceedingly destructive demonstration.

The demand is five million gold and no offensive actions for a period of ten years are to be made against the Old Kingdom by the Reaches armies.

An attempt to charm the emissary blinds Hylax - giving him a brief vision of the Overlord's skull on top of Victor Kane's face.

Fuzzwort springs to action quickly researching the Old Kingdom to find something that can be stolen to ransom back for the five million gold. His research points to Alfric's Scepter - a First Age relic that is used to bind all subjects to the Overlord. He finds a reference to item being stored in the Overlord's Undercroft underneath the Celestial City. A painting behind the Overlord's Throne will teleport the party there.

Hylax uses his connections with the Collegium Magicium to procure six silver collars - fake versions of the obedience collars that must be worn in the Celestial City. A second, secret message tells Hylax that Alfric's Scepter must be returned after the negotiations - as it plays a vital role in the balance of power between the wizards and the Old Kingdom. The Most High Wizard of the Council Galambor the Tall answers Hylax's summons to convince the others in the party that the scepter should not be destroyed. This time, U-Gene is dubious.

Using the provided collars, the party teleports to the Overlord's Throne Room. It is the early hours of the morning, and the room is mostly empty. The party moves quickly behind the throne and finds two large rooms on either side of a magical doorway. One leads to the gallery of sculpture and paintings. The other leads to a library - where a lone figure is reading a book.

The party attacks the figure - a man with striking green eyes, an emerald ring and matching necklace. An alarm is sounded. The man, Antone Graves, recognizes the party and introduces himself as the wizard leading the occupation of Teufeldorf. After some threats and intimidation fail, the party bargains with Graves - who seems willing to make an ally rather than blindly following the Overlord. In exchange for a future favor, Graves waylays the guards while the party touches the painting and teleports to the Undercroft.

Six tests follow. Each based on a chess symbol that appeared beneath the painting just as the party teleported away.

The first test, the Knight's Room, is filled with columns of steel - each with massive destructive capabilities - lightning, fire and missiles. As the room fills up with slow moving columns, the party fights their way to the knight's square on the board and teleports away.

The second test, the Rook's Metal Castle, is a series of metal gears filled with what appear to be rust monsters. Moving the gear to cover the rook's square, the party quickly opens up another exit.

The Pawn's Room is a glass cage filled with acid that eats mundane and magical items. It proves little challenge to the party.

The fourth test, the Bishop's Tomb is filled with reverse monsters - rust monsters that eat only non-metal items, a gelatinous cube that can only be sliced apart, and a medusa which you need to stare directly at in order to avoid turning to stone. Only U-Gene figures out the trap. The party navigates the maze with a Find The Path spell.

The fifth trap is the Queen's feint. It is a room that resembles the Undercroft room - complete with Alfric's scepter. However, the dais of the scepter is off-center, an old hag with a broken crown and discarded cape is there, and the area is filled with ghosts. Ignoring the hag, the party moves to the queen's square, pushes the cape aside, and finds the secret passage leading down.

The final room is the King's room - the Overlord's Undercroft - where the treasure is guarded by a simple puzzle trap. Ernie solves the riddle, and the scepter is stolen.

Teleporting back to Dragonsford Castle, the party summons back Victor Kane. They bargain with the scepter - leveraging the treaty so that the Old Kingdom pays the Reaches six million gold with promises that the yellow powder will be teleported away from Teufeldorf and never be used again. In a final twist, U-Gene states that from this point forward for ten years no orders will be given to Reaches troops to attack the Old Kingdom. What U-Gene fails to disclose is that the Reaches ships and troops are already underway for Rembia's shores.

Teufeldorf returned, the Second War of the Reaches comes to an end. Peace falls across the land, and the reign of the Three Kings continues.