Opelenean Nights II


Session Sixteen

 In the aftermath of the battle, Balen organized guards on the walls, while the rest of the party took a much-needed rest. The Magi of Istanul, however, did not rest. That night, seven Magi cloaked in invisibility breached the walls of the Warrior-Maiden’s citadel and made their way to the chambers where the party rested. Only mere chance caused Balen to be alert when the attack came. But he when the doors to the chamber blasted open to reveal … empty air… the cunning tactician realized something was afoot, and unleashed burning hands. Seven scorched and blackened bodies crumbled to the floor.

The canny Magi had more than assassination planned. The next morning, as the party gathered for morning prayers, the Magi’s leader Ammon was atop the highest tower of his citadel calling down to the Cynidiceans. The former subjects of Zargon were slowly awakening from their drugs and dreams, and the Magi were taking credit for their liberation! “Wake up to a dawn of freedom from Zargon, won by the wisdom of Istanul!” Enraged, Ethlyn immediately ascended to the top of the Warrior Maiden’s citadel. After sending an arrow Ammon’s way, she began sermonizing of Ianna and explaining that she and the Warrior Maidens had defeated the Zargonites, not the Magi.

The rhetorical war went on for hours and the Cynidiceans swayed back and forth between the competing factions. Hunger, as it is wont to do, won out. The Magi sent forth a scholar learned in mushroom-farming to show the newly-sober Cynidiceans how to grow and harvest food; the party had not the slightest idea how to farm mushrooms and could not parry this rhetorical punch. The crowd slipped away following the Magi.

It was clear that there was only one option to deal with this menace. If the evil Magi were going to use their knowledge to feed and govern the populace, they had to be destroyed. The party laid plans.

The next day, the 34th of Vicelen 382 by Imperial reckoning, Ammon was again sermonizing to the populace. “Awaken, people of Cynidicea! Awaken to a day of freedom and wisdom under Istanul, your liberator!” Ethlyn countered this rhetoric. “Liar! It is we and the Warrior Maidens who destroyed the Zargonites! Behold!” And as an angelic choir filled the air, the masks and weapons of the defeated Zargonites were revealed forth.

“All this proves is that you are a Zargonite!” exclaimed Ammon, but somehow Ethlyn’s amazing performance carried the day. The crowd swayed in the grip of her rhetoric. “They would enslave you as the Zargonites did! Let us finish this!” she cried. Mahmud was already charging out the door with a band of sword-wielding Maidens behind him. The crowd surged forward.

Utter pandemonium ensued. One of Ammon’s lieutenants hurled a flask that exploded in a cloud of wretched gas, leaving the crowd helpless with nausea. Spells of sleep erupted from the walls of the Magi’s citadel, sending the Warrior Maidens into deep slumber. But the party pressed on. Ethlyn, Zoya, and Celdor sniped mages from the parapets. A sinister mage with a black obsidian wand shoot bolts of crackling negative energy at Nakhita and Mahmud, but the gods protected them. Finally Rakh and Mahmud reached the walls with an assault ladder, accompanied by a conjured hero in the service of Balen. In moments they’d be in the citadel.

Then from the high tower, Ammon emerged to cast down a strange metal miniature. As the tiny figure hit the ground near the assault ladder, it expanded into… A 10 headed Hydra.

The creature was savage. Rakh was picked up by his leg and tossed like a sack of flour, falling unconscious. Balen’s spine severed under the creature’s fangs, his body going limp. Only Imran’s grace and Senef’s healing kept Mahmud alive, but somehow the paladin endured the onslaught and finished off the monstrosity with Cyclone of the Four Quarters.

The Warrior Maidens took the walls and the party raced into the citadel. All around were the screams of dead and dying mages, their robes stained with blood. Ammon was somewhere above, on the rooftop. The party sought in vain for a way up. Then another metal miniature was flung, and a Manticore soared downward on them. Celdor was caught in the open and went down in a hail of spikes. Mahmud leaped upwards and cut into the creature, and the archers peppered it with arrow. It went down.

Zoya, Senef, and Sharik had by now found a staircase in one of the citadel’s lesser towers. The party scaled upwards to confront Ammon and his lieutenants on the roof. As they completed their ascent, they saw Ammon himself, accompanied by his wand-wielding lieutenant and a dozen lesser mages. Ammon immediately went to throw another figurine, but Nakhita was faster: Hold person trapped the evil mage in place. A crossbow bolt from hidden Dornethan finished off the lieutenant. The remaining mages surrendered in despair.

After that it was just mopping up. It took several days for the party to recover from the almost 48-hours of pitched battle, time they spent fastidiously collecting loot from the shattered citadel of Istanul. The spellbooks within were a spectacular find, and Sharik began pouring over them immediately. Even more exciting, the party seized Ammon’s bag of magical metal figurines, a ring that granted the ability to see in the dark, and the strange black wand.

Meanwhile, the people of Cynidicea had decided to call an assembly to form a new government. The party learned that they had been kept in their drugged stupor by drinking water prepared by the priests of Zargon from the slime of their god himself. With the priests gone, the rituals were no longer being enforced and the stupor was fading. But the reality the Cynidiceans faced was bleak; leadership was called for.

At the assembly, the bad old ways resurfaced, as the surviving Magi and Brothers of Orn began to shout and fight with the Warrior Maidens. Ethlyn – who bore more than a passing resemblance to Queen Zenobia – seized the opportunity to have herself elected Queen by promising to destroy Zargon within one week. When a vocal opponent of her leadership was suddenly struck by the evil eye (courtesy of Sharik), no one else stood against her.

Her Majesty’s first royal act was to appoint Magdala of the Warrior Maidens as her Regent. Her Majesty’s second royal act was to gather the party to enquire as to how they might defeat Zargon in a week. After heated debate, the party decided to gather all of the oil in Cynidicea, pour it down into Zargon’s lair, and light it up.

Magdala was aghast. “You cannot! The vault is filled with the ancient treasures of our people, dating back to the Empyrean War! Great lore would be lost.” The people was filled with shame at their plan. “Of course we would never damage these…heirlooms…” Sharik explained.

Since they had a week, Mahmud, Senef, Zoya and Dornethan decided to re-group with the mercenaries on the surface and taken the bodies of Jamal and Balen back to Kirkuk to see if they might be restored to life. The trek was uneventful, and Kirkuk was little changed in the scant days they’d been away. Sadly, the restorations did not go well. Jamal’s spirit was trapped in eternal darkness. Balen’s spirit returned but it was a difficult journey; the mage was constantly muttering to himself of the terrible things he’d seen, his once-keen mind shattered with madness. The last the party saw of him he was speaking gibberish with the local beggars.

On the 5th of Genelen (“secondmonth”), the party had re-grouped in Cynidicea. Rakh, Suad, and Masamba were fit to fight again, and the time to confront Zargon was now. With great trepidation, the party advanced through the great stone doors into the slimy  lair of the evil “god”. The vault concealed a winding, ooze-covered passage that descended deep into the earth. As they walked downward, they heard the vault doors slam shut behind them – the people of Cynidicea had locked them in!

There was no turning back now. The party entered Zargon’s lair, a horrible den of slime and bones made worse by the glistening gleam of ancient treasures. The monstrosity arose, 15’ of towering horror adorned with tentacles. Its slimy miasma befuddled their brains. Ethlyn began to dream of beautiful butterflies... but Rakh saw his party members turn into small Zargon-like creatures, and Dornethan thought everyone a treacherous priest. Even as the party attacked Zargon, its own members attacked the party!

Masamba was the first to go down, knocked off his feet by Zargon’s tentacles. Meanwhile Rakh leaped upon Nakhita and veritably tore her head half-way off, red blood and spinal fluid spraying everywhere. Dornethan cut open Suad, then stabbed his best friend, Celic, in the eye, watching with glee as his friend collapsed in a crimson heap.

Meanwhile Mahmud, Zoya, and Senef had barely been holding off the onslaught from Zargon. The battle was at its culminating point as the dream-maddened Ethlyn, Rakh and Dornethan rushed up on their allies…and had a sudden moment of lucidity. As one the momentarily sane party members joined their comrades in rushing Zargon and the great best went down. The cloud of madness passed. A great victory had been won!

As the party spread out to investigate the treasures, Zoya produced a great volume of oil and soon there was nothing left of the “god” but its great black horn. “We will have to destroy this as well… see, even now it begins to regenerate from this unholy tusk,” said Sharik.

The party came to the surface laden with the marvelous treasures of Zargon: A spear of purplish-black hepatizon, called Nightbringer; a magical glass prism of unknown powers; a cloak and boots, made by ancient elves; a bronze muscle cuirass and shield, dating to the Empyrean War, adorned with the Winged Sun; and most precious of all, a scroll of miracle

It’s so great to see how different the interpretations of this module can be. My campaign is going quite differently.


Session Seventeen

Surfacing from the terrible lair of Zargon, the party was surrounded by prostate Cynidiceans. Ethlyn held high the black tusk of Zargon to demonstrate their victory and the crowd shouted in awe and appreciation of the staggering feat.

The party knew it had little time to celebrate, however, as the sinister horn was already issuing forth new organic matter. The party held it in the flames of a torch to burn away the regenerating growths, but the more they burned, the faster Zargon re-grew.

The party’s first effort to destroy the horn of Zargon took them to the acid pool in the ziggurat above. The effort was for naught; the horn was unharmed by the acid, and seemed to only send forth regenerative tissue more vigorously, if anything.

At nightfall, after a genie of healing summoned by Senef had cured their wounds, the party trekked across the great stone bridge towards the fiery pool of lava they had seen when they first entered the grand cavern. Zoya scouted ahead and saw that the lava pool was surrounded by flame salamanders, terrible beasts from the sphere of elemental fire. Senef volunteered to fly over on the wings of spirits, such that he could throw the horn into the lava pool from above. Everyone else agreed that this was a marvelous idea, as it exposed them to no risk.

As Senef took flight, he gained a bird’s eye view of the lava pool that almost deterred him from his path. The configuration of stone stalagmites, lava pool, and various craters formed the very visage of Zargon itself, with the lava pool as the beast-god’s red glowing eye. Senef was shaken from this awful reverie by the attack of a fiery efreeti, set to guard the Eye of Zargon.

As the efreeti assaulted Senef, something terrible that had long slept finally awoke: Cyclone of the Four Quarters. The blade suddenly vibrated in Mahmud’s hand with terrible ferocity, and its ringing clamor attracted the attention of the efreeti. The fiery genie charged with hatred, but Mahmud was immune to its fire and with but a stroke dispatched the creature. “So that’s what the sword does,” said Sharik.

Senef hurled the horn into the lava pool and the party watched with satisfaction as the last remnant of Zargon melted away.

Despite the acclaim of the Cynidiceans, the party had little interest in ruling an underground mushroom kingdom, and a few days later, on 7th Genelen (Secondmonth) they had returned to Kirkuk. There, after recruiting Balen to return to the party, and restoring Nakhita to life, they used the miracle they had found and prayed to Imran and Annara: “We beseech that all members of the party are returned to full health of body and mind.” [In game terms they removed their Tampering With Mortality side effects.] A miraculous glow filled the mosque, and soon the blessings of their patron gods had restored the purity of their body and minds. The party could not but note the miraculous glow took a little longer on Rakh…



The miracle did not come without cost. In exchange for his beneficence, Imran had quested Ethlyn to destroy the necromantic cult that laired in Kirkuk. This caused no little dread in the party, for on their prior expedition against the necromantic cult, they had lost both Raziel and Audarius, stalwart heroes both. It was decided that this perilous quest would require purchasing war dogs, and getting some sleep, which the party promptly achieved.  

In a prior expedition, the party had surmised that the necromantic cult operated out of a cavern complex beneath the old Watchtower. The only entrance they had found into this complex was a hidden door in a Thrassian cave crypt, and they naturally began their quest there. As in the prior expedition, the cave was guarded by Thrassian skeletons in heavy chador, but these were readily turned and dispatched, despite the shadow of evil which hung over the cavern complex.

The party decided not to re-trace its prior path, instead veering southward and eastward. This route led them to confront strange ember shadows, wisps of smoke and flame from the sphere of fire. Mahmud’s blade made short work of these evil genies. Beyond, the party came upon a chamber filled with skeletons buried in niches carved in the cavern walls. The remains were buried with grave goods of Chthonic styling, and each grave bore a name and date in Zaharan script. Strangely, the dates were quite recent, approximating Imperial Year 90 – more than seven centuries after Zahar was destroyed.

Zoya, scouting ahead, now reported back that she had found a crowd of naked captives – elderly and young folk, sitting in darkness surrounded by bones and carrion. Mahmud’s heart was stirred by their plight, and the paladin led the party towards the captives. The captives hailed the party, warning of grave dangers in the darkness. Something in their mannerisms left Mahmud suspicious, and he began a prayer to Imran that would illuminate evil. This enraged the captives, who transformed into the hideous hyena-like form of desert ghouls and attacked!

The party had grown strong since its last confrontation with desert ghouls. Three of the creatures were driven off by Nakhita’s turning, one was dominated by Sharik’s magic, and the others were slain. Could this foul creature guide them through the caverns?

I agree. It's a marvelous adventure. I've had fun adapting it to the Auran Empire.


Session Eighteen

The party was in the dark and cursed caverns beneath the watchtower intent on destroying the necromantic cult of Kirkuk. In the course of their exploration, Sharik had enslaved a desert ghoul to his will, and now commanded the undead beast to lead them to the necromancer’s shrine.

The ghoul obligingly lead the party to a sacrificial pit, a 35’ diameter sinkhole carpeted with white bones. Looming over the sinkhole was a 10’ tall statue of a bipedal hippopotamus, with the limbs of a lion and the pendulous breasts and swollen belly characteristic of pregnancy. Bronze sconces stood on either side of the pedestal, their smoky torches illuminating the statue with dim light. Sharik and Ethlyn recognized the statue as of Taweret, the Kemeshi goddess of earth, mother of monsters.

The holy warrior Mahmoud knew that to cleanse the sinkhole of evil, the chaotic altar creating the sinkhole had to be destroyed. Infused with the strength of an ogre by Balen’s magic, Mahmud leaped into the pit and toppled the vile statue. Senef then blessed the area, and the darkness seemed to lift. The strange heat of the caverns did not subside, however, so the party knew the connection to the sphere of fire was not yet undone.

Departing from the sacrificial pit of Taweret, the party descended down a small cliff by means of hewn stone steps. The cliff face was carved with ancient Zaharan hieroglyphs, inlaid in silver. Senef, a Kemeshi, was familiar with the dark tongue, and translated: The young kingdoms shall be laid waste and desolate. Blood shall drip from the rock, and there shall be chaos in all places; fire shall break out, and wild beasts roam beyond their haunts, and women shall bring forth monsters. Sharik recognized this as a verse from The Book of the Awakening, an apocalyptic prophecy written by the blind seer Istakhran just prior to the collapse of the Zaharan Empire. The silver inlay was evidently valuable, but the party decided not to dig it out of the glyphs.

The desert ghoul now led the party to a tunnel that ended in a sheer stone wall, decorated with a bas relief of a demonic being emerging from the flames of hell. The party’s theologians recognized this as Dahaka, the Kemeshi god of fire and death. Sharik thought perhaps the wall might be illusory and pressed forward, accidentally triggering a secret door. The chamber beyond had been geometrically hewn from the living rock. Its limestone walls were scorched and smoke-stained. The center of the room was pierced with a deep pit which burned with ceaseless smoke and flame. In the center of the pit stood a fire-blackened 20’ tall statue of Dahaka, its eyes each a large ruby of great value. Strange chutes led from the far wall to the pit.

The party surmised that these chutes were the very ones that their erstwhile comrade Raziel had slid down to his fiery doom so many months prior. That meant that this pit was the source of the efreeti which had nearly destroyed them all! Sharik commanded his desert ghoul to retrieve the rubies, thinking that this act would provoke the appearance of the efreeti, but in fact it merely retrieved the rubies. Not content to have secured the treasure without slaying the monster, Mahmud drew Cyclone of the Four Quarters and entered the fires of the shrine, hoping that this might summon the genie. His wish was fulfilled, and the efreeti called to battle. The evil genie transformed itself into a pillar of living flame and descended upon the adventurers, but it did not reckon with Mahmud and Cyclone, which cleaved the flame in twain.

With the Efreeti dispatched, Mahmud put on Ethlyn’s ring of fire resistance and waded into the pit, toppling the statue with his enhanced strength. Senef blessed the area, and the connection to the elemental plane of fire was ended.

The party had not, as yet, seen any sign of the necromantic cult, but this soon changed. Methodically exploring the caverns past the burning shrine of Dahaka, the party finally found the cultists’ redoubt. There they were confronted by six hooded and robed cultists guarded by four Thrassian skeletons. The leaders of the cultists revealed themselves to be the Barber of Kirkuk and the beggar Bzurg the Whiner. The Barber was enraged. “You should have listened to me and gone after the Carnelian Idol. Instead you have violated our sacred caverns and destroyed thousand-year old holy places. You must pay for these crimes!”

Sharik astounded the party with his cunning, saying “but we did bring you the Carnelian Idol. It’s right here in my bag!” He then reached into his marvelous bag of fantastic creatures and tossed a small idol at the cultists’ feet. An idol of a CHIMERA. RRRAAAHHHRRR!

As the cultists gasped in shock, the party charged. Despite the chimera raging amidst the cultists, the Barber’s magic might would have been enough to destroy the battered party, but Mahmud charged forward, over-running every foe in his path to slash into the Barber. His spell was disrupted, and a moment later he was cut down. Buzurg went down under arrow fire while Rakh and Masamba slew the rest of the cultists.   

The party found quite a storehouse of treasure in the cultists’ redoubt, including several magical potions, many carvings of jade, rolls of silk, pieces of ivory, the carcasses of hell hounds, and more. Particularly interesting were a series of opal cameo portraits of deceased Zaharans, who bore an eerie similarity to the Barber.

With the destruction of the cult, Ethlyn’s quest was completed. The party might have at this point escaped to the surface with their treasure, but they decided to press on a bit further despite their wounds. This proved an error in judgment. The caverns’ connection to the sphere of elemental fire had, over the years, allowed certain monsters to “cross over” and the party had the misfortune to stumble into a particularly fearsome set: A pack of five hell hounds. The hell hounds achieved complete surprise on the party, and their terrible fiery breath wreaked havoc, destroying the party’s chimera, as well as incapacitating Mahmud, Ethlyn, and Masamba. Senef, Sharik, Balen, Suad, Nakhita, and Rakh were able to win the fight but it was closely fought.

In the aftermath, Senef turned his healing arts on his fallen comrades. Masamba proved to be merely singed;  barbarians are tough to kill! Mahmud had damage to an eye from the flame. Ethlyn fared worst of all – her brain itself had been cooked in the flames and she seemed very addled. “I’m not even sure why we’re in this dungeon!” she said. Concerned that Ethlyn might have become even more vacuous and empty-headed then she had been to date, the party evacuated the caverns.

The next day, 9th of Genelen, Senef performed a shamanic ritual to speak with the local genies. “Are there more sinkholes in the caverns below the Watchtower?” “No.” “Can rich treasure or magical items still be found in the caverns?” “No.” “Have we purified the water of Kirkuk?” “No.” So advised, the party decided it would look elsewhere for adventure.

Before that could happen, however, they were facing weeks of recuperation. Ethlyn somewhat confusedly paid a call on Daood the Wide, and asked him if he could restore her damaged intellect. The corpulent priest agreed after an exchange of coin, and weaved his magic. Ethlyn seemed to make a full recovery, but when no one was around she began to see a strange creature dancing around her – a tiny efreeti, with little red horns. The creature introduced itself as “Mustafa,” and said that its master Dahaka had taken an interest in her. No one else could see the creature at all, and Ethlyn was unsure whether she was going insane or she truly had acquired a demonic familiar.

While Ethlyn and Mahmud were recuperating, Sharik and Zoya decided to loot the Barber’s shop of whatever goods he might have. While perhaps not behavior that was strictly condoned by Imperial land, they felt justified in claiming these goods for their troubles. The shop had a miscellany of useful treasures, including 250 roc feathers and 2 crates of Thrassian fossils.

After recovery was complete, the party reconvened for a foray to Alakyrum, Pearl of the Desert. They reached the city on the 8th of Juselen. While most of the party headed over to the Patrician’s Rest, Mahmud traveled to the Great Mosque to give an offering of jade treasure. The cleric, Imam Al-Idam, thanked him for his gift and returned the jade trophy to Mahmud, saying “now you will carry the Great Mosque with you.”

The next week passed in a blur. Zoya commissioned a noblewoman’s takchita, richly embroidered with beads and sequins. Mahmud and Ethlyn commissioned plate barding for their war dogs, while Mahmud had the Zargonite masked forged into a helmet for his canine. Ethlyn also recruited city planners to rebuild her “kingdom,” Cynidicea. Eventually she hired Iraj, an Opelenean engineer who came well-recommended at the Patrician’s Rest while Mahmud hired Wadi, an Opelenean explorer to replace the fallen Jamal as navigator. Rakh hired Irial, a priestess of Mityara, to serve as his spiritual guide in the pathways of law. And Senef hired Volundr, a Jutlandic skald who impressed him with his charisma and copious drinking skills.

The party finished their stay in Alakyrum with a visit to the Imperial arena, where Masamba defeated a local champion and earned the aplomb of the crowd – and 3,300gp. With new companions in tow, and pockets filled with coin, the party headed back to Kirkuk with plans to explore the magically sealed tomb complex there.


Session Nineteen

The adventurers, who had taken to calling themselves “The Fated,” began exploring the tomb-complex in Kirkuk on the 17th of Juselen. Unsealing the ancient magical portal, they descended down a long, narrow staircase to a stone hewn chamber with an ancient slab, labeled in Zaharan “The Tomb of Crypts”. Masamba and Mahmud thought the slab might conceal a vault and lifted it up, only to be assaulted by skeletal hands grasping and clutching at them. There was a vault below, but it was filled with thousands of bones, all animated. The group hastily slammed shut the vault. “There might be treasure down there!” said Sharik. “That’s the treasure’s problem,” said Balen.

The so-called “Tomb of Crypts” was just the antechamber of what proved to be a vast underground complex. The party initially headed north, but progress in that direction was halted by a trapped and locked iron door. Zoya was able to disarm the trap by triggering it, but the lock proved more resistant to her methods. Sharik had no spell available to unseal the portal, so the party turned south instead.

They were almost immediately assailed by wraith-like Zaharan warriors who radiated palpable evil, but Masamba and Rakh quickly destroyed these fiends. Soon the Fated came to a particularly old part of the complex, built with great cyclopean blocks. Over an arched entryway was a blood-stained name carved in Zaharan hieroglyphs: Fanaure.

The party marched cautiously into the cyclopean hall. Their lantern light fell upon a huge 20’ stone statue, scarred and stained, seated upon an equally huge stone throne. Before the throne was a sacrificial pit, grated with iron. The statue spoke: “Worshippers…long has it been since I have been attended. Hurl your sacrifices to the pit below and pay homage to Great Fanaure!”

Mahmud instantly realized this was one of the foul stone idols of the ancients, a pseudo-god made strong with blood and terror. He nodded at Sharik. Sharik smiled. “We have your tribute right here,” he said, tossing a treant figurine. Battle was joined. Fanaure proved virtually invulnerable, only the most powerful magical weapons doing him any harm. Fanaure bellowed and raged and with each blow might have slain an adventurer, but fortunately most of his blows were aimed at the well-protected Mahmud. The tide turned when Sharik’s treant managed to knock Fanaure down into the sacrificial pit. While the stone idol made its way out of the pit, the party formed a battle line and cut it down.

Fanaure proved to have little treasure. The sinister imp that plagued Ethlyn encouraged her to send her friends down into the sacrificial pit to seek loot, but Ethlyn demurred. Instead Balen sent a summoned hero, who returned with a valuable gold bracelet. The hero died shortly thereafter, afflicted with some hideous wasting plague!

Leaving the cyclopean chambers of the broken idol, the party made its way into a sinister set of tunnels filled with mummified bodies in wall niches. While these bodies never animated, their mere presence left the party in a state of alarm. Past these halls of the mummified dead, the party confronted a score of skeletons guarding a curiously abrupt tunnel. Suad, ever-wise, called upon his powers of divination and revealed a set of secret doors allowing further progress. The second secret door Suad discovered was blocked by a mold-covered skeleton, sickly and yellow, so Senef used his shamanic fire to burn this away before the Fated advanced.

What awaited them beyond the secret doors shocked even these jaded adventurers: A raven-haired beauty in strange red and black clothing like glossy liquid, suspended in a slab of translucent crystal. The woman was clutching a blade-less hilt and had a belt-pouch with a crossbow hilt sticking up out of it. The crystal slab which imprisoned proved invulnerable to sword and fire, but was almost weightless.

The party surmised this might be the mysterious witch Navana, who had created the Carnelian Idol. Senef called upon the genies of the land for answers. “Is the woman in the crystal slab aligned with chaos?” “Yes!” “Is it within our power to free her?” Yes! “Is there great reward if we destroy her?” Yes! Despite this divination, the Fated could find no way of destroying the slab, and they were concerned as to the possible threat they might face if they did so. With regret, they left the strange slab and its occupant behind and headed back into the tomb complex proper.

They soon came upon another sealed vault, as in the entrance chamber to the complex, this one labeled “Tomb of the Winds”. Zoya’s keen ears could pick up great rushing and whistling from within, and the adventurers decided not to open it. Instead they proceeded through a rusted iron door labeled “The Tomb of Kuth, Merchant of Toil.” This sinister portal led to a set of crypts wherein dwelled Kuth, his wives, and his servants, all in mummified deathlessness. Ethlyn made short work of Kuth with her magical daggers, while Mahmud dealt with their wives. Rakh had been badly damaged in the battle, being laden with the terrible curse of mummy rot, but Senef’s shamanic magic was able to cure him.

The party was unable to progress past Kuth’s tomb due to another sealed portal, so it circled back southward again, past the Tomb of Winds, and down a side corridor. Here they came upon a locked door of iron and brass, grimly labeled as “The Tomb of Yliaster, Accursed Sorcerer.” Zoya picked the lock, and – perhaps unwisely – entered. Within, the thief quickly spied a strange black prism, not dissimilar to the crystal prism that Sharik carried but had not yet identified. Gazing into the black prism, she saw fleeting movement and an infinite sea of stars – a moment later, a shadowy wraith had emerged. Yliaster!

What threat Yliaster might have posed is unknown, for Suad produced a potion that gave him control of the specter. “Master…I submit,” said Yliaster. Under intense questioning (in ancient Zaharan), the undead sorcerer explained that he had attempted to seize the Carnelian Idol from his rival Navana. In defeat, he had been slain and his soul imprisoned in the prism, a magical device which had served him as a sort of spellbook. Yliaster recognized the crystal prism the Fated carried as a wand of illusion, although he did not know its command word, and bragged that he himself was a master of phantasm and illusion. He offered to teach his magic in exchange for his freedom, but the party prevented Sharik from accepting this offer.

Instead, the party decided to verify its theory that the raven-haired woman in the crystal slab was Navana. They brought the specter to her hidden room to see if he recognized her. Unfortunately, he did not. “I know not this woman,” said Yliaster, “though she carries many marvels of the forgotten age that preceded Zahar and Thrassia.” Puzzled as to who she might be, the group was now even more cautious about freeing her – or Yliaster. Suad ordered the specter to return to the black prism, and then hid that evil relic away.

It was nearly time for the party to exit the complex, but before they left, the Fated decided to investigate a strange green statue of a lamb they had noticed earlier. Sharik saw that the base of the statue was inscribed with many Zaharan hieroglyphs, perhaps a spell of some sort, and crouched down to read them. It was, indeed, a spell, a powerful charm, but the act of reading them caused Sharik to become cursed!

The cursed warlock turned on his companions and before they could stop him, summoned his mujahedeen. The faithful berserkers appeared, and Sharik began tearfully apologizing for all the awful things that he had asked of them. For such was the curse: The warlock’s previous sociopathy and ruthless devotion to power and wealth were replaced by a gentle pacifism and love for all living things.

This was clearly an intolerable situation, and the party hastened out of the tomb complex in order to get this dreadful curse lifted before their friend had to suffer any further.


Session Twenty

The hardest part of curing Sharik’s curse was convincing the local cleric that there was something wrong with being friendly and pacific. Eventually the party was able to convince Daood the Wide that in the absence of magic Sharik was a heartless jerk, and the cleric reluctantly returned him to his natural state.

The next day, 18th of Juselen, the party visited Sheik Ramman, leader of Kirkuk, hoping to be able to buy the Barber’s now-empty villa. Ramman had warmed to them since they last met (after the debacle of the merchant caravans). He explained that the Barber’s family had held the villa and surrounding land since time immemorial, but that the Barber had died with no heirs, so the party was free to buy it. He also mentioned that since the Barber had disappeared, the Watchtower was no longer strangely warm, and asked if the party knew anything of these happenings. Sharik confessed the truth, and the Sheik seemed to accept the strange tale of evil cults and furnaces to the elemental plane.

On the 19th of Juselen, the Fated returned to their excavations of the tomb complex beneath Kirkuk. This foray led them to the tomb of Ymmu M’Kursa. Suad recognized the name as belonging to a vile Zaharan arcanist who had experimented in crossbreeding with both his minions and himself. Forcing their way into the tomb, the party accidentally breached an ancient seal, and awoke fifty horrific skeleton-zombies, each akin to a man but hideously crossed with a mule-like skull. Ymmu himself was of similar visage, wrapped in a ghastly burial shroud with an over-sized, glowing claw in place of his right arm, and he was surrounded by swirling phantoms who dealt death with each touch. Despite the grim situation, the Fated prevailed, largely because of their divine casters.

After slaying Ymmu and claiming his shroud and claw, the party advanced into his treasure room. There the Fated found numerous potions and scrolls, as well as a strange golden mirror which radiated magic. Sadly the mirror was cursed, and those who gazed upon it – Ethlyn, Sharik, Suad, and Celic – immediately began attacking their companions. Senef was able to dispel the effect. By now Several of the members were by now showing signs of infection with a pestilent rotting curse, however, so the party hastily claimed the treasure and retreated to the surface.

It took several days for the party to feel strong enough to return to the tomb complex. Senef took advantage of the down time to investigate certain curses he had detected on the Fated’s treasure. Through diligent divination, he learned that Mahmud, as wielder of Cyclone of Four Quarters, was cursed to endure the wrath of all genies, who would forever seek to destroy him and his friends for bearing the weapon. He also learned that the burial shroud of Ymmu caused harm to any who wore it, and prevented natural healing; and that the claw of Ymmu could be affixed to a wrist-stump, at the cost of natural healing being lost.

Sharik promptly donned the burial shroud and cut a vein in his arm. The blood refused to clot! He cackled with glee, for the terrible curse on the shroud simply convinced the mad alchemist that the shroud must have some other, greater, power to recompense. It was all the Fated could do to persuade him not to lop his own hand off to try out the claw.

Session Twenty One

On the 22nd of Juselen, the party returned to the tomb complex. Fighting their way through the bands of zombies that seemed to wander through the complex at unpredictable intervals, the party came upon a strange inscription on a fresco of a door: “Entry forward, message backwards”. Opposite the fresco they found a hidden panel, which a summoned berserker was used to push; sadly the panel triggered iron spikes, and the resulting impalement returned the berserker to the afterlife.

The party now peeled away the fresco, and discovered another hidden panel. A second berserker pressed this panel; sadly the panel triggered a 40’ floor pit, and the resulting impact 40’ below returned that berserker to the afterlife, too. Suad decided it might be time to divine for secret doors, and discovered one … at the bottom of the pit.

From the far side of the pit, the party could hear gongs, which they wrongly deduced to be alarms. They thus hastily prepared for battle. Volundr offered a rousing song in which heroic Jutlanders went on Viking expeditions against the weak brown peoples of Opelenea, but this did not seem to improve morale.

Passing through the secret door, the party was confronted with a resplendent tomb with magical ever-chiming gongs and ever-lit braziers. In the tomb’s center was erected a bizarre brass and gold cage, sinister in its complexity. In the center of the cage was a glass coffin, filled with smoky gas. Senef chanted a quick query to the spirits, auguring what was to come: “Too late to unlock the cage, already you have earned Ramm’s rage.” Even so, the smoke filtered from the glass coffer and took the form of a pale corpse-like figure in a scintillating cloak.

A fierce, but brief fight, ensued: Mahmud cut down Ramm with Cyclone of the Four Quarters, while a unicorn, summoned from Sharik’s marvelous bag, shattered the glass coffin with a charge of its horn. Ramm was reduced to smoky vapors that flitted about the tomb. Balen unleashed a series of fire spells that seemed to do little against the undead cloud, but did destroy his fabulous clothing. Senef consulted the local spirits, who advised that Ramm would never be able to coalesce again. Since the vapor was harmless as well as impossible to harm, the Fated set about the wearying task of deconstructing the valuable cage. Zoya demonstrated that she was as cunning as her earrings were big, quickly breaking the cage into its constituent parts and handing them off to the menfolk to carry upwards.

The trip upward was quick, though briefly interrupted by a scuffle with zombies .The mysterious undead cloud followed the party for a short while, but retreated back into the complex when daylight became visible. On the surface, the party deposited the cage in their shop, and rested.

The next day, they dispatched a band of mercenaries to head to Alakyrum to buy holy water, which was in short supply in Kirkuk. They then trekked back down into the tomb complex, where they broke into a series of individual tombs. One of these contained an undead warrior, Vordak the Dragon Knight; this foe was swiftly cut down and his black magical armor claimed by the Fated. The next tomb was named for Tanus Who is Three, but his huge sarcophagus was empty. The party was certain that a grotesque three-headed mummy was somewhere in the complex, and set out to find him.

Instead they found Vilstin, a fat and somewhat smarmy rogue trapped under a pile of skeletons. Vilstin claimed to be a henchman of the Swords of Imran, a famed adventuring company. Vilstin explained that he was leading his party into the Tower of the Worm on the far side of the Desert of Desolation when a magical trap teleported him to the bottom of this pit of bones. “But,” he explained, “Clearly the gods have smiled upon you, for you have rescued Vilstin!” The somewhat confused party escorted Vilstin to the surface and wished him good fortune in rejoining the Swords of Imran. They then returned to the pit where they had found the hapless thief, cleared out the bones from the pit and left ropes to its bottom, so that if they should ever, one day, be teleported to this very site, they could escape…

From here, the Fated turned to explore the tomb of Beristo the Godless, a mummy that quickly went down before Masamba. “My god is battle, and I bring HIM to the godless!” the gladiator shouted. They then proceeded to the adjoining tomb of Otogoster, Disciple of Kahil, god of madness.

This tomb was sealed with three glyphs of warding, which Senef dispelled, and the thing within had long since degenerated from any semblance of humanity into a horrific abomination of slime and disease. Thankfully, Mahmud was preserved from its vile power, and destroyed it.

The next tomb was labeled that of Kereth Rauta. Within the Fated were confronted by a wraith-like form reading from an ancient grimoire. The wraith was seemingly invulnerable to any attack, but Zoya was able to steal its book away, and the wraith vanished to oblivion. Zoya, happily, dropped the book before its curse manifested; Sharik’s berserkers were not so fortunate, and in turn each of them that touched the book began to chant its strange spells before vanishing into oblivion when the next in succession seized the tome. Eventually the party decided to leave the book behind, for now.

The last and final tomb was labeled Syrena, daughter of Gwylnin. It proved to be an unfinished tomb, its sarcophagus empty; but from the art work on the frescoed walls, it was evident that Syrena was the raven-haired beauty that the Fated had earlier discovered trapped in the translucent slab. The party decided to transport the slab to this tomb, thinking that might awaken the woman. Alas, this effort was to no avail. The slab simply lay, translucently slab-like, next to the sarcophagus.

As was his wont, Senef turned to the spirits for guidance. These advised “only the unerring force can break the unbreakable object.” These words left the group quite puzzled, until Zoya suggested that Balen try a magic missile. The beautiful thief again proved her cleverness, for this spell shattered the crystal and awoke Syrena.

The group immediately set upon the raven-haired woman, for they knew she was a chaotic Zaharan in league with darkness. She also had treasure. Syrena, shouting “Who are you people?” in ancient Zaharan, made a break for the exit. She was seconds from escape when Rakh tore her apart. And so ended Syrena’s thousand-year slumber. In a gesture of good taste, the group buried her in the conveniently located sarcophagus in her tomb.

They then turned their attention to her marvelous, marvelous treasure. Her shiny, skin-tight outfit, “a silk as strong as plate armor,” went to Zoya, as did Syrena’s crossbow, “a fire shooter that reloads itself”. Her “shimmering blade of fire” went to Ethlyn, while they split up the strange black discs, “the sources of power for the ancient marvels.”

Quite pleased at being the first adventurers in the known world to have a sexy female rogue in a shiny black catsuit in the party, the group proceeded to the surface.


Session Twenty Two

With both the necromancer’s caves and the tomb complex explored, The Fated had only one mystery left to plumb in Kirkuk: The mystery of the Well of the Prophet. From the now-deceased Barber they had heard tales that the Well was a burial ground of Thrassian kings and heroes, that it was a pilgrimage site with healing waters, and that it was a repository for efreeti bottles. Which of these tales was true?

Before they could explore the Well, they would need permission from the sheikh of Kirkuk, as the Well was sacred. This took a few days to secure. Senef spent the time in shamanic rituals, asking the local genies about the Well. He learned that the only way into the Well was through the Well itself; there were no alternate routes to whatever lay beneath.

The Well itself was actually a grotto in the cliffside near the Thrassian burial caves. It was there that the Fated gathered on 3rd Froelen. There was concern over what the poisonous waters might do to any who descended within; the party decided that a Thrassian was likely to be safe, because the waters didn’t harm animals… Senef enchanted Rakh to breathe water, and the lizardman dove down the Well, 100’ of rope securing him to the surface.  The grotto was 40’ deep, ending in a rocky bottom dotted with large boulders. Three archways tiled with shells and carved with Thrassian glyphs exited the grotto, and a brass something was visible in the murk. Rakh never got to the brass object, for a tentacled undead monstrosity arose from the rocks and began to tear him apart. The thing was huge, and it took the strength of the whole party to drag Rakh back up to the surface. The undead cephalopod did not follow.

To tackle an underwater expedition, the Fated needed supplies that weren’t available at Kirkuk, so it set out along the desert road for Alakyrum, Pearl of the Desert. They arrived on 6th Froelen. Ethlyn called on the great alchemist, Urabi al-Chukri, and vast sums exchanged hands. Ethlyn left with five scrolls of water breathing, six preserved giant fish gills, a library of grimoires and tomes for arcane research, and an alchemical and magical workshop. While in Urabi’s shop, Ethlyn also commissioned the sages there to identify the strange paw they had found in Ymmu’s tomb, as well as the magical scarab she had been carrying for months.

Balen, a trained siege engineer, had come to the conclusion that the best way of dealing with a giant undead octopus was with a giant mechanical fishing pole, and set about finding someone who could construct such a crane. Investigation led him to Nestomachos, a dwarven tinker of high repute. Nestomachos took an instant dislike to Balen, but immediately warmed to Ethlyn, agreeing to work for her on the project.

Meanwhile, Sharik visited Damanos, the antiquities and curios dealer, and hired him to identify Ymmu’s burial shroud. He also inquired if Damanos would be interested in working as the Fated’s resident sage in Kirkuk. Damanos demurred, being invested in his own store, but suggested his sister-in-law’s cousin, Hajid al-Massan, as a promising young scholar. Making arrangements to meet Hajid the next day, the party retired to the Patrician’s Rest.

At the Patrician’s Rest, the party was visited by Aaliyah, a fortune-teller of some charm. Mahmud, Rakh, and Ethlyn all had their fortunes read. Of Mahmud, she said “When your battle is won, a great lord shall be undone.” Mahmud took this stoically, as was his wont. Of Ethlyn, she said “You shall place your trust in precious jewels, but it shall buy you only tools and fools.” (This caused considerable consternation to Ethlyn and her henchmen). As for Rakh, she told him “You shall be remembered for great deeds, or great greeds.” Rakh took this as a sign from Ammonar that his righteous path would remain ever-strewn with the risk of corruption.

The next day the party met Hajid at Damanos’ shop. He was younger than they might have liked, and perhaps a little unconfident, but he clearly knew his way around magic items and potions, so Sharik hired him. Along with the tinker, Damanos, the party set back out to Kirkuk, their camels laden with scrolls, books, and alchemical wares.

On 11th Froelen, the party was back in Kirkuk. Nestomachos and Balen set to work on their great crane. Based on the available manpower, it was going to take about twenty days to build the 40’ contraption. (Mahmud, being quite lawful, made sure they had the sheik’s permission before building a crane in the sacred Well.) With ample time available, Senef began working on crafting additional scrolls of water breathing, while Irial and Nakhita proselytized their faith to the local community.

Ethlyn, Sharik, Zoya, Celdor, and Dornethan, accompanied by their camels and six mercenaries, decided to head back to Alakyrum to see what the sages had learned about their magical items. Arriving on the 21st of Froelen, they visited Urabi al-Chukri. Urabi himself met them, shocked that they had uncovered the legendary paw of Ymmu M’Kursa. This relic of the long-dead transmogrifier, he explained, could be grafted to the stump of a forearm, to serve as a claw. If one also had the burial shroud of Ymmu M’Kursa, more powers would be unlocked, including the ability to petrify one’s foes. The party had long had suspicions of Urabi’s lawfulness and disclaimed any knowledge of the burial shroud.

They proceeded directly to Damanos’ shop to inquire about the burial shroud of Ymmu M’Kursa. Damanos identified the item as a protective cloak that fed on the life energies of its wearer. He said that more powers could be unlocked if one had the paw of Ymmu as well but cautioned it was an evil object. Sharik felt Damanos the more trustworthy of the two loremasters, and gave him a crystal wand to investigate.

With this business attended to, the small party trekked back towards Kirkuk. Not all of them made it back. En route, the scent of their camels drew an attack from a pride of lions. Rather than evade the great cats, Ethlyn led the mercenaries into a battle line, hoping to test out her new sword of light. She woefully underestimated how fearsome the lions of the desert could be… Her six mercenaries were torn apart with savage fury. Four of the camels were slaughtered too, and the rest bolted off, with most of the party still on them! Sharik was able to slow down the lions by summoning a minotaur from his marvelous bag, and Celdor, an excellent rider, could have carried Ethlyn to safety. But the brash young bard refused to flee until she had killed the pride’s leader – a deed which sent the rest of the lions scattering.

Proclaiming the battle a victory, Ethlyn turned to tend towards the fallen mercenaries. Three were already dead, two lingered for a few seconds before dying, and one, though crippled, could be saved – but it required trekking back to Alakyrum. After burning the bodies of the fallen, and taking the pride leader’s coat and mane as a prize, Ethlyn led the party back to the great city. There she paid for the restoration of the crippled mercenary. This act of generosity provoked tears of gratitude. “All men shall be told that when other’s fled, you held Ammonar’s sword of fire and killed the great lion...” The remaining party members remembered the events differently but held their tongues.

Over the next week, the Fated recruited replacement mercenaries and bought new camels. They did not return to Kirkuk until the 31st of Froelen, arriving just in time for the great crane to be completed in the Well of the Sacred Prophet.

Senef had, in the meantime, spoken to the local genies on several more occasions. The genies had revealed many important pieces of information, notably: (1) that undead creatures in the Thrassian ruins were the cause of the poison in the Well; (2) that the disease caused by the Well’s poison could be cured by Senef; (3) that there were sections of the Thrassian ruins connected to the Well that were not flooded; (4) that there were intelligent undead in the Thrassian ruins connected to the Well; and (5) that there were traps laying in wait in the Thrassian ruins.

On the 32nd of Froelen, the Fated gathered for an expedition against the undead cephalopod. Mahmud and Sharik were enchanted with water breathing while Rakh held his breath, and the three dove down into the waters of the Well. In their hands they carried great hooks attached to the gigantic crane that had been assembled above. The huge tentacled obscenity attack them as they reached the bottom, heavily entangling Rakh with numerous tentacles. Mahmud managed to hook the monster, and as it jerked on the hook, the dozen adventurers above began cranking the great crane’s winches, reeling the undead octopus up, up, up, and then tossing it laterally onto the ground by the grotto. A crazed melee broke out as the monster’s dozen tentacles grappled and grabbed and constricted even as the party hacked and sawed and mangled its undead flesh. Zoya finished the fight with a searing flame from her marvelous crossbow of fire…

Sheikh Ramman was on hand to witness the party’s victory. It was clear that in his five decades of life, he had never seen a gigantic undead octopus reeled out of a sacred Well with a 40’ crane before, and he was suitably impressed. “Clearly the spirits of great heroes are with you…” he said.

Most of the party now began  burning the undead beast’s body,  fearing it might regenerate otherwise. Sharik, meanwhile, descended back into the Well’s dark waters, and read the runes on the seashell tiled archways below…

“Disturb not the sleep of the kings of the deep.”

“Sacred shall these waters be while our kings slumber free.”

“Do not step within lest you disturb our lords’ rest.”

I continue to be in awe of your use of oracular statements.

If you’ve been following this campaign, I must warn you:

Sweet Imran, the next session goes horribly pear shaped.

Understatement of the day.


Session Twenty Three

As the rest of the party celebrated its victory over the undead kraken, Sharik dove back down into the waters of the Well to investigate the arched exits he’d noted earlier. Upon careful investigation, he realized that each archway led into a tunnel that was dry – some sort of magical barrier kept the water out.

Above the archways the writing was, literally, on the wall: “Disturb not the sleep of the kings of the deep.” For a moment, Sharik contemplated that perhaps this warning should be heeded. He put such nonsense aside: Such warnings merely served as guideposts indicating that vast treasures lay beyond.

Over the next day, Nestomachos, the Dwarven machinist, constructed a platform that could be raised and lowered by his crane. To this platform were affixed guide-ropes to the archways, such that the adventurers would be able to descend to the well’s bottom and then follow the guide-ropes to the archways without the need for swimming. To ensure the possibility of hasty exit, two ropes were mounted on sturdy bases above each archway. With these constructions in place, the group began its expedition into the underwater Thrassian tombs.

The Fated had selected the furthest archway to begin their expedition. The swiftly swimming Rakh was the first to reach it. He passed through the magical membrane effortlessly, though his skin and gear were harshly dried through the passage. The rest followed over the next fifteen minutes. All were completely dried by the passage through the magical membrane.

The Fated probed cautiously forward, and soon came upon a large cavern. Its walls were pocketed with standing graves, each 8’ high and 4’ wide, and occupied by an embalmed Thrassian warrior. Three sealed stone doors stood along the rim of the north wall, while a single archway gave exit to the southeast. The center of the room was occupied by a black, brackish pool, from which arose a black monument engraved with Thrassian cuneiforms. Gazing at the monument, Sharik’s instincts were to flee. But he said little, and the Fated pressed on. There was a bleakness to the air, a weight of darkness that evidenced a very strong sinkhole of evil.

As one, the eyes of the Thrassian dead opened, and sixty zombies descended upon the party. The party had dealt with many zombies before, and charged into battle. This proved a grave error. The zombies were hideously tough, and very fast. Wadi was cut down almost instantly, his legs torn off. Ethlyn took a terrible bite that left her on the verge of death. And Nakhita and Irial found they had no power to turn undead here. Sharik’s necromancy was able to seize control of a few of the Thrassian zombies, giving the party a momentary respite they used to fall back. Irial began concentrating on a circle of protection from evil.

Here, it seemed, was a workable plan: Sharik would take control of the Thrassian zombies and use them to attack the uncontrolled ones, while Zoya and her band of scoundrels unleashed heavy barrages of missile fire. Unfortunately Sharik’s necromantic powers failed him almost immediately, and his controlled zombies were torn apart. Soon, four dozen zombies were pressing against the fragile divine ward that kept them out. Swept dripped from Irial’s brow. Balen stepped forward and unleashed a cone of flames from his hands, then another. Mounds of charred corpses collapsed, stinking and smoking, but other zombies filled the gap.

The party heard the distant sound of stone grinding. Senef, near the rear, clambered upward onto a nearby boulder. Gazing into the cavern he saw that reinforcements were arriving from the archway to the southeast – another dozen zombies. But these new arrivals did not join the battle. No, the evil will that commanded them had other plans: The zombies marched to the sealed stone doors… and opened them.

Emerging from the stone doors came Thrassian mummies, Thrassians of the grand ancestral race, with vast wings and long dragon-like claws. Their glowing eyes were animated with an evil intelligence, and they began to cast spells.

The party was not able to stop the spells. In a moment, Irial’s protection spell was dispelled, as were the other enchantments aiding the party. Worse, hideous crawling things were summoned forth from the rock behind them, a vast insect swarm of scarab beetles that choked up their escape and slowly began to crawl towards them. With the protection circle down, the zombies charged in. Masamba took the brunt of it, as a terrible undead claw ripped off his left ear. As the swarming scarab beetles began to feast on the party, Nakhita managed to restore a protective circle with her own spell, and drove them off. But more and more zombies were arriving.

Zoya, Celdor, Ethlyn, and Dornethan were firing arrows and fire-bolts at the mummies, hoping to break their spells. Mahmud, Nakhita, and Rakh were carving up zombies as they approved, hoping to cleave into the mummies. Sharik decided to fight magic with magic, and unleashed an uncanny gyration on the farthest enemy. This merited a swift and merciless response: A finger of death that stopped the warlock’s heart. Another of the Fated had fallen.

The party was clearly in peril, but decided that a more aggressive offense was the only option. Suad found a miniature figure of an owlbear in Sharik’s marvelous bag, and hurled this at the mummies, creating a powerful antagonist against them. In response, a mummy animated Sharik as a deathless minion, and sent him to slay Suad. The panicked magical scholar fled from his former master, and vanished into the waters of the well, the undead warlock clumsily swimming after him.  

In the confusion, Mahmud and Rakh took the opportunity to overrun their zombie foes and reach the nearest Thrassian mummy. The creature was formidably powerful in melee, but Rakh and Mahmud had it over-matched. One of the other mummies therefore unleashed a powerful charm on Rakh, demanding he seek out Amur-Sin.

Perhaps he was susceptible to the spell because of his Thrassian lineage. Perhaps fate turned against him. Whatever the case, the Thrassian hero, in obedience to his new Master, turned his back on his party members and walked into the southeast corridor to get help. Making his way past the clambering zombies that continued to stream forward, he came to another tomb. Here, seated upon a stone throne, was a Thrassian mummy in a black crown. The terrifying tyrant towered nearly 10’ in height. Through the dim confusion of the charm, Rakh realized that the mummies the party had faced so far were not Thrassian kings… merely the attendants of kings. This was a Thrassian king. Amur-Sin.

Amur-sin raised a strange medallion towards Rakh, and the hapless gladiator felt his mind being probed. The king arose from its throne and beckoned Rakh to follow it as it soared towards the scene of the fighting. As Rakh and the Thrassian king arrived, the first of the mummies had just fallen to Mahmud’s blade. The Fated’s elation turned to despair when a mere gesture from Amur-sin summoned forth a dozen oozes from the black bowels. The hideous slimes began to slither towards the Fated. The Fated unleashed a barrage at the Thrassian king, but arrows and fire-bolts and quarrels bounced harmlessly off him. With another word from Amur-Sin, death came: A black spell that killed Irial, Volundr, and Nakhita instantly.

Seeing these horrific deeds, Rakh shook off the charm spell and attacked! Tooth and claw tore into Amur-Sin but the Thrassian tyrant seemed merely contemptuous. With a wave of his hand, he blasted Rakh with a magical force that snapped his neck. The gladiator collapsed in a pile, his body limp and numb.

The party – what was left of it - fled. Their only exit was through the insect swarm behind them. They dimly see the bleached white bones that once had been their friend Wadi. Ethlyn was overcome with wounds from beetle bites and would have died had Mahmud not carried her to safety. They reached the waters of the well, and swam up.

Perhaps the Thrassian tyrant could have slain the Fated during their escape, but he seemed enchanted with torturing Rakh. A traitorous Thrassian, helping the sub-species of humans! The mummy lord propped Rakh’s limp body up on a boulder so he could see what was to come. Then he commanded his summoned oozes to slowly begin to crawl up the Thrassian’s body. As he watched his clawed feet and muscled legs dissolve into grey slime, Rakh was overcome by a sense of peace: He committed his body and soul to Imran. Expecting a plea for mercy, the tyrant was emerged at his victim’s fervent prayer. It screamed in rage. Its long talons extended. Then Rakh was with the Light.

On the surface, the few survivors of the Fated were gasping and catching their breath. Suad and Daood the Wide were coming towards the party with faces  near panic. Suad was carrying a small pouch of dust – all that remained of Sharik after Daood had unwittingly destroyed him.  In choked gasps, they tried to explain to Daood what had happened. They didn’t have time to finish. The waters of the well began to churn and blacken as dozens and dozens of Thrassian zombies began to swim upwards.

Ethlyn and Mahmud ran for the sheikh to get the guards. Zoya, Celdor, and Dornethan ran for the Fated’s shop. Daood, Balen, Suad, and Senef stayed to try to stop the zombies. It was a futile gesture: Amur-Sin teleported to the surface behind them. Unfolding his great wings, he took to the sky. A greater Thrassian tyrant emerged into the world for the first time in a thousand years. Daood raised the sign of Imran, but the tyrant merely laughed. With a gesture, Daood was turned to ash. Senef and Suad began to run, as death circled above.

Ethlyn and Mahmud were begging the sheik for help at the palace above the Well when Amur-Sin emerged. The sheik grew pale with terror. “You fools! What have you done?!” He turned to his guards. “Prepare my personal caravan! Gather my family! We must flee!” But his guards were already fleeing.

The town of Kirkuk descended into madness. Zombies streamed out of the Well in the hundreds. More and more winged Thrassian mummies emerged from their long slumber. Fireballs and lightning bolts crashed into battles. Zoya and her band of rogues did their best to gather up the most valuable of the Fated’s treasure, but the coin, the research library, the alchemical workshop, all would be left behind. Pockets filled with gems, they raced towards the caravanserai. The rest of the party had had similar notions. They arrived at the caravanserai just in time to claim their camels. As the Thrassians they had awakened laid waste to Kirkuk, the surviving party members fled for Alakyrum.

Rest in Peace:

·         Daood the Wide, Opelenean cleric, disintegrated

·         Masamba, Kushtu pit fighter barbarian, slain by zombies

·         Nakhita, Kemeshi veiled assassin bladedancer, slain by death magic

·         Irial, Tirenean canoness priestess, slain by death magic

·         Rakh, Thrassian gladiator, dissolved by grey ooze

·         Sharik, Opelenean warlock, slain by death magic

·         Volundr, Jutlandic wandering minstrel bard, slain by death magic

·         Wadi, Opelenean cartographer explorer, slain by zombies

In memorandum of Rakh:

Let it be known that the Thrassian named Rakh, former gladiator and slave, lawful warrior in the company of the noble band of heroes known as the Fated, has defeated the following enemies in the name of Imran, God of Law and Light, in the hopes of making amends for the past sins of his Thrassian ancestors, to seek forgiveness for the harm he accidentally caused Nikita and his allies in battle, and to earn the right to own a soul.

4x Bats
2x Rat Creatures
2x Zombies
1x Ayatollah of Istanul
3x Cultists of Istanul
6x Cultists of Zargon
1x Hyena-Like Creature
3x Ghost Creatures
1x Black Panther
1x Orestes, Gladiatorial Swordsman
1x Giant Centipede
1x Anti-Rakh! (Shapeshifter)
1x Anti-Senif! (Shapeshifter)
1x Beastman-Ogre
1x Pit Viper
4x Mages of Istanul
1x Patriarch/Rector of Zargon
2x Temple Guard of Zargon
6x Mages of Zargon
6x Warriors of Zargon
1x Siamak, Hero of Zargon
25x Goblins
4x Hobgoblins
2x Goblin Champions
1x Ogre
1x Troll Chieftain (with assistance)
2x Thrassian Skeletons
1x Cultist of The Barber
1x Bzurg The Whiner, Follower of the Barber
1x Hellhound
3x Donkey Headed Brayers
2x Misshapen Mummies
1x Zaharan Ghost
1x Syrena, Zaharan Sorceress
4x Zombie Thrassians

May Rakh be blessed and find peace in the afterlife, and long may Imran’s light guide those who seek to bring law and justice to the land.

Thrassian awesomeness all-around!

May Rakh find peace.



The who-died list would have been easier as a who-lived list!


Session Twenty Three

The party reached Alakyrum on the 2nd of Pendaelen. Their first stop was the tower of the great alchemist Urabi al-Chukri, whom they paid an exorbitant sum to reincarnate their fallen comrade, Sharik. This powerful enchantment restored Sharik’s soul in a body he had occupied in a past life – the body turning out to be that of a voluptuous Opelenean woman. Sharik – now calling herself Shikra – remembered most of her old life, and seemed to be again a warlock, though of slightly different inclinations. Barnabas, too, was reincarnated – “Great and seductive mistress, why have you embodied me as a bat?” the erstwhile toad complained.

The next day, Mahmud awoke with a cold. As he coughed and sneezed, he realized that Imran had judged his behavior at the Sacred Well and found him wanting. Devastated the paladin went immediately to the Great Mosque of the Way of Eternal Light, where he met with Mahdi al-Idam. Mahdi was shocked to see that Mahmud’s aura of goodness had disappeared. “My friend…what have you done?” The brooding paladin explained how he and his friends had accidentally awakened an army of undead Thrassians, resulting in the destruction of Kirkuk. This deed was beyond Mahdi al-Idam’s powers to offer atonement. He said he would have to seek atonement from the patriarch, Hamza al-Hakim.

While Mahmud began a regimen of prayer and contrition, the rest of the party went about re-building the Fated. Ethlyn began to solicit henchmen and mercenaries, while Shikra began to re-learn the many spells she had forgotten. These efforts were interrupted after but a day by heavily armed imperial legionaries who demanded the Fated come to meet the Exarch, Caiaphas ibn Süroman, known as the Butcher of Ber-Gathy.

The Fated were quickly brought before the Exarch and his trusted advisors: Hamza Al-Hakim, patriarch of the Great Mosque; Urabi al-Chukri, alchemist of Alakyrum; and Baruch bin Eleazar, guildmaster of Merchants. When the party saw that Sheik Ramman of Kirkuk was with the Exarch, they knew they were in trouble.

While skilled adventurers, the Fated had never been exposed to an imperial Exarch before, and they showed little etiquette or social grace. Worse, their attempted justification of their behavior at Kirkuk was disrupted by internal quarreling, as Ethlyn attempted outright lies while Mahmud confessed forthrightly to what had been done. It was clear that the Butcher of Ber-Gathy intended to execute the party, but Patriarch Hamza intervened and whispered into the Exarch’s ear.

The Exarch gave his verdict. “Since you seek to boldly discover the secrets of kingdoms lost to the sands, let the sands be your new home. I proscribe you from the Empire, and exile you to the Howling Emptiness.” Patriarch Hamza then added his own judgment, placing a quest on Mahmud to right the wrongs he had done. “It is for this reason that you are being given mercy.”

Afterwards, the party was stripped of all their coin and jewelry, and placed under the watch of an Imperial centurion named Androcles. Androcles was ordered to escort the Fated to the Howling Emptiness on pain of death. The Exarch made it clear that Androcles might as well stay there, too. Though he had apparently earned the displeasure of the Exarch, Androcles responded with stoic loyalty, a trait that instantly lost him respect among the adventurers.

The party was given a day to make preparations for their exile, though as proscribed outlaws they could not do business in the Empire. They were able to cut a deal with their friend Damanos, the antiquities dealer, trading him several scrolls they had squirreled away in exchange for his help securing camels and supplies for their exile.

On the 4th of Pendaelen the party left Alakyrum. Even as they left, grim and weary, a crowd was gathering for a public execution. Mustafa, the strange imp that confounded Ethlyn when she was alone, reported that the criminal beheaded was none other than Sheik Ramman, in punishment for fleeing Kirkuk.

As proscribed outlaws, the party did not want to risk encountering any imperial patrols, so they took a slow path through the dunes rather than follow the caravan routes westward. By the 6th of Pendaelen, they were approaching the vicinity of Kirkuk. For a time, they considered approaching the ruined town, but eventually decided to bypass it.

While skirting around Kirkuk, they came upon a merchant caravan that was doing the same thing. The merchants were unaware of the party’s proscribed status, and exchanged pleasantries. The merchants warned the party to stay away from Kirkuk, saying the town was “abandoned and cursed.”

That night the party was attacked by giant geckos from the desert. These were easily fought off; the most notable aspect of the fight was Shikra’s discovery that when she summoned berserkers, her fearless fighters were now women.

On the 8th of Pendaelen, the party reached Cynidicea. The Cynidiceans greeted their queen, Ethlyn, warmly, proudly showing her the irrigation works they were digging to bring the waters of the underground lake to the surface. The Fated then traveled into the underground city where they found comfortable accommodations in their “palace”. The party contemplated simply settling down into a comfortable exile in Cynidicea, but the quest laid upon Mahmud, and the annoying presence of Centurion Androcles, reminded them of their duties. Thus they  met with Magdala, their appointed regent. Ethlyn explained to Magdala that foolish adventurers had awoken a terrible danger in Kirkuk, and that it had fallen to the Fated to deal with the situation. “Of course, the surfacers would call on your majesty to save them!” agreed Magdala, who promptly re-supplied the party and provided two of her best warrior-maidens to accompany them in their quest.

The next day the party set off from Cynidicea, not without regret. Turning south-westward, they rode along a caravan trail in the direction of the Howling Emptiness. On the 10th, they reached the oasis of Umm al-Ma. The local chief, Yousef, took them in as guests despite their refusal to say much about themselves. “Many men and women come to the desert to leave behind who they were.” Ethlyn entertained the chief and his Besherab tribesmen with tales of daring and sorcery. Yousef warned them against the dangers of the Howling Emptiness of the south.

By the 11th, the party was back on the caravan trail. Their southward trek led them to a gory scene – the bones of dead camels, stripped of flesh. The ground was blackened, as if scorched, and the scent of a storm was in the air. They were still puzzling at the carnage when the shadow of the dragon fell over them. It was the size of an elephant, its hide a burnt copper hue. It touched down a half bow-shot away from them, and demanded tribute in raspy Opelenean. Ethlyn tried to entreat with the dragon, but she was overwrought. Mahmud, seeing she was making no headway, charged!

As the paladin dashed forward and carved into the dragon, the dragon breathed lightning. The bolt scorched through Mahmud and his camel, killing the camel and badly hurting Mahmud. Androcles, Sapphira, and Pandora now joined the fight and with Mahmud began to hurt the dragon badly. The rest of the party had dismounted and scattered into a wide formation to avoid the dragon’s breath weapon. Celic, a skilled rider, collected the camels so they didn’t flee into the desert. This attracted the attention of the dragon, which took flight and seized Celic in its claws, carrying him off.

Balen unleashed arcane bolts at the soaring dragon, and Zoya, Ethlyn, and Dornethan shot missiles at it. Between these attacks and the prior melee, the dragon was now badly bloodied and flying weakly, and it let Celic slip from its claws… though he was hardly recognizable as anything but sickening pulp after the fall.

Enraged at the loss of their friend, the Fated swore vengeance. Senef used a spell to grant Barnabas the eyes of an eagle, and the bat took flight to track the bleeding dragon. Over the next twelve hours, the party force marched in pursuit of the wounded wyrm, eventually arriving at its lair in the foothills of the Al-Baki range near dawn of the 12th.

The dragon’s lair was a sinister rocky outcropping that seemed almost skull-like in appearance, with deep round crevices high up on its face, and a thirty foot semicircular cave opening at its base. From a hidden vantage point, Shikra summoned berserkers and sent them to investigate. The berserkers boldly ran forward, and found the dragon’s cave filled with coin and treasure – but absent a dragon.

Suspecting the dragon might be somewhere nearby, Shikra decided to summon a scout. She reached into her marvelous bag of fantastic creatures and pulled out a miniature of an eagle. She had been saving the eagle for a time when a bird with keen vision would be helpful – this seemed like such a time. Shikra was more surprised than anyone when the miniature grew, not into an eagle, but into an elephant-sized roc.

The threat of a roc nesting in its lair was too much for the wounded dragon to endure, and it attacked. It had been hidden invisibly on the summit of the rock face, hoping to ambush the party as they approached its lair. Its initial lightning bolt was devastating, badly wounding not just the roc, but also Sapphira and Pandora. Balen suffered worst of all, as his left leg was burned off by the dragon’s lightning.

The rest of the party unleashed missiles on the wounded creature, but even a wounded dragon is hard to kill. As it dived downward on him, Mahmud leaped up at the dragon, into a blast of lightning. There was a thunder stroke, and light and smoke and sand obscured everything. When the sand cleared, the dragon was dead, Cyclone of the Four Quarters thrust through its palate into its brain. Mahmud was unconscious; but good fortune and his heavy helmet had saved him from death. He was soon back on his feat.

While Senef tended to the grimly-wounded Balen, the rest of the party began looting the dragon’s lair. In addition to gold, ivory, pottery and jewelry, the Fated found a backwards curved Zaharan sword made of purplish-black metal, with a hilt fastened in the shape of a vulture. Androcles, who owned only a cheap legionary blade, took the sword and Shikra ordered one of her berserkers to spar with him. Everyone stopped looting to watch the fight. Was the sword something special? It was: When Androcles nicked the berserker, a black energy coursed along his blade. The berserker instantly collapsed, a gaunt and aged corpse. “I’m glad I didn’t spar with you,” said Mahmud.

The party finished sorting and packing the dragon’s treasures on the 13th. Returning to the desert, it began riding westward, hoping to find the caravan route again. Though careful to keep the Al-Baki range to its back, the group had trouble in the trackless wastes and quickly found itself in unrecognized surroundings. When it spotted an oasis ahead, it thought it might be Umm al-Mala. It proved instead to be a village of ogres.

Zoya crept forward to investigate. There were, she reckoned, about a score of ogres in the village. There were also a dozen human captives. She watched in bleak fascination as an ogre picked up one of the captives, a squealing young girl, and carried her off towards a waiting cook pot.

When the thief reported the situation to the Fated, the more pragmatic members advocated bypassing the village. Mahmud, stung by a sense of abandonment by Imran, seemed to toy with what it would mean to turn his back on the needy and helpless. It was a dark moment when a paladin might have become an anti-paladin. But in the end, he chose a different path, and unsheathed Cyclone of the Four Quarters. “We fight!”

To win against so many ogres seemed an impossible task, but Shikra had a plan. Reaching into her marvelous bag, she summoned forth a harpy, and ordered it to soar above the village and sing its charming song. The Fated, meanwhile, advanced with wax in their ears and victory in their hearts. Ogres are weak-willed beastmen, and the vast majority were left enthralled by the harpy. The few that fought were slain in grim hand-to-hand combat. The rest were butchered.

The fight was over before the little girl was finished marinating. Her father, Tamour Siamak, thanked the party profusely for rescuing his family and friends. He explained they were a caravan from Ber-Gathy that had fallen prey to the ogres, and offered to do anything in his power to repay the group. Ethlyn responded with a moving and epic tale of the rebuilding of the great city of Cynidicea, and her urgent need for settlers and merchants… It was a speech befitting a queen. The rescued families agreed to seek out Cynidicea, and their new queen thanked them by giving them all of their trade goods and treasure from the ogre encampment.

Though proscribed and exiled, the Fated could still make a difference…


Session Twenty Four

The party, which had begun to call itself the Ill-Fated, headed towards Ber-Gathy, where they hoped to seek healing for their crippled comrades. After they arrived on the 17th of Pendaelen, Mahmud was able to convince a cleric of Imran named Kamal to heal Balen of his crippling blow. Senef found a shaman amongst the Besherab tribesmen who could reincarnate Celic. No one was more surprised than Celic when he reincarnated as a lovely elven Bladesinger. Dornethan quickly fell in love with Ceara, as the exquisite creature that had once been his best friend now called herself. It was an awkward couple of weeks.

Everyone was relieved to be setting out for the Howling Emptiness. On 4th Zigelen, the party reached the Oasis of Tuat, and rested at a small caravanserai. Dornethan resisted the entreaties of the local harlots out of loyalty to his “girlfriend,” while Mahmud and Ethlyn learned from the local caravaneers that “the sheikh of Kirkuk was in league with necromantic cultists and awoke an ancient evil.”

On the 5th of Zigelen, the party traversed the sands and reached another watering-hole. Here they encountered a large party of Kemeshi adventurers led by a fighter named Djeer. Senef, himself Kemeshi, quickly befriended Djeer, and the two parties exchanged small trinkets and shared water. Over drinks, Djeer explained were headed to Krak al-Shidda, a ruined fortress in the nearby Al-Baki Hills. After Ethlyn nearly won a drinking game against a giant Kemeshi warrior, Djeer offered to buy her as a pleasure slave for the sum of 500gp. The party gave it fair consideration but ultimately refused.  

The two parties went their separate ways the next day. On the 7th, the Ill-Fated reached the Howling Emptiness. They stationed themselves at a tiny oasis on the edge of the waste. Senef summoned a swarm of nocturnal lizards and questioned them as to the dangers of the region. “Beware the predators that walk without warmth or breathe,” they warned. The next morning, the party set off to the south-west. The Howling Emptiness was a rocky waste with occasional sand-blasted cliffs and jagged rocks mixed with dunes, rough ground, and steep hills.

After evading an encounter with giant flightless birds, the party spotted a series of ruins on a nearby hill. These proved to be mausoleums and tombs, their stately stone surfaces now pitted and aged. All of the tombs had been broken into – or out of – and there was no treasure to be found. One tomb turned out to be the lair of pony-sized wasps, which nearly slew Androcles. Senef noticed a strange cartouche on the tomb – a symbol to “Prince Ibn” followed by the hieroglyph of a crown and a cockroach. Weathering on the scalp of the desiccated, unanimated mummy within the tomb seemed to suggest it had once worn a crown similar to the one pictured, but the regalia was nowhere to be found.

The party felt uneasy about camping near the tombs, so they retreated towards the small oasis they’d camped at the night before. As darkness fell, a horrible ululating wail began to echo across the rocks and sands. “I guess that’s why they call it the Howling Emptiness,” said Shikra (formerly Sharik).

The party continued its explorations of the area. On the 9th of Zigelen, the party espied a low stone cylinder rising from the desert plain. Approaching it, they realized it was actually a well with a stone cover. The stones were all covered with strange and untranslatable carvings, graphed in ways that defied Nicean geometry. Ceara, perhaps overzealous in her new-found body, decided to translate the carvings magically. Upon glancing at them, she was immediately struck dumb; whatever insights the carvings held, could not be grasped by mortals. Senef was able to cure Ceara, and Suad claimed that the carvings were of the very Logos, words of creation from the dawn of time.

While Suad, Balen, and Shikra discussed the soul-searing meaning of this, the rest of the Ill-Fated decided they should remove the lid and see what was inside.  A shaft descending down was revealed. The party descended downward by means of ropes tied off on heavy stones.

At the bottom of the shaft, the party found the long-sought Well of Shadows, a sinister pit of inky blackness. From the pit issued forth hideous shadowy beasts that began to assail the party. Even as these creatures were beaten back, more began to attack. Ultimately the party realized there was no end to the shadows, and decided to retreat – but not before plunging their magical potion bottle into the well in an attempt to capture the wisps of darkness they had long-ago been tasked to retrieve.

With the wisps came something else – something horrific, a soul-eating cloud of darkness that might have destroyed them all had Shikra not managed to stop it with her dark magic. The Ill-Fated retreated to the surface and hastily sealed back up the well. There were fewer carvings on the lid, they noticed.

With the wisps of darkness in hand, the Ill-Fated decided to end their Imperial exile to the Howling Emptiness and travel back to see the Giant Roc that guarded the Carnelian Idol. The mighty bird had told them that only heroes strong enough to get the wisps of darkness would be strong enough to guard the Idol, and it was time to return and prove that the Fated were strong!

On the 12th of Zigelen, the party had gotten back to the Oasis of Tuat. They were flummoxed to see that a maniple of Imperial legionaries was encamped there. The Fated were sure that the legionaries were looking for them, but the soldiers turned out to be on a patrol against Kemeshi raiders that were spotted in the area. Ethlyn explained that they hadn’t seen anything. “They don’t call it the Howling Emptiness for nothing!”

The party decided it would do better to cross the desert away from the known caravan routes, and took a direct north-westerly course towards the Giant Roc’s lair in the Al-Baki. En route, they encountered a marvelous creature: A desert treant, ancient and sad, tending two lonely palm trees in an isolated oasis. Senef, the shaman, befriended the treant, and the party took the time to dispatch some gnoll raiders that had been tormenting the creature.

On the 14th, the party had reached the cooler altitudes of the Al-Baki Hills. Winding their way through the hilly pathways, they stumbled upon a strange trail which Barnabas surmised to have an excess of foot and camel traffic. Following the trail led to an encampment, but its stockade was broken, and there were signs of blasts and fire. There were nobodies. Puzzled, the party left the area hastily.

The next day the Ill-Fated reached the lair of the Giant Roc, might Majid, He Who Had Flown With the Prophet. The roc was dead, slain by death magic. The Carnelian Idol was gone. Senef called on the local jinn and demanded to know what had happened. “Has the Thrassian King taken the Carnelian Idol?” “No…” “So is the Carnelian Idol safe?” “No…” Puzzlement and despair gripped the Ill-Fated.


Session Twenty Five

With the Carnelian Idol lost, the Fated were uncertain how to proceed. They decided that the abandoned encampment they’d spied nearby was as good a place as any. They spent the 16th of Zigelen (“Sixmonth”) investigating the camp. In total, the encampment had about 200’ of wooden stockade and a dozen buildings, most 10’ x 10’ huts with one 20’ x 30’ two-story structure serving as a keep. They surmised that the encampment had once held between 100 and 150 people, and that it had been hastily abandoned. Dice and coppers still lay in unfinished gambling games, food moldered on dining tables. The stockade had been broken, seemingly with fire-magic, and the main building was breached. There were no bodies, though some mountain goats had wandered in, and these yelled with painfully human voices.

The party decided to repair the encampment; a hidden mountain fortress seemed ideal in their exiled state. Zoya, meanwhile, volunteered to sneak back to Ber-Gathy to hire ruffians who could keep them informed of rumors. Zoya had to evade a flight of gargoyles and a flying reptile, but this was easy given her talent for stealth and elven accoutrement. She reached Ber-Gathy with little trouble and by the 26th had hired three ruffians – Heydar, Bathsheba, and Kavus, all paid in advance. She returned on the 1st of Esevelen, one of the holiest times of the year – the Day of the Undying Sun (summer solstice), when Imran’s rays are at their most powerful.

After prayers and feasting were complete, the Fated filled Zoya in as to what had transpired during her trip. Work had gone smoothly until the 21st, when the scent of camels had attracted a subterranean behemoth, a grey caecilian some 30’ in length. The beast had knocked over part of the stockade with its tremors and almost gotten to the camels before it was slain. Amusingly, it must have recently feasted on adventurers, for there was considerable gold within, as well as a magical medallion that revealed the invisible.

On the 26th, a villainous manticore had descended on the encampment. The manticore announced it had come for its monthly tribute of one pack animal, and demanded to know why the terms of the deal hadn’t been honored already. Ethlyn quickly explained that they were the new occupants, and weren’t aware of the deal, but would happily provide three camels in tribute next month. Somehow, her womanly charisma and roguish charm carried the day, and the manticore departed thinking it had gotten the better end of this arrangement.

During the intervening weeks, Senef had occasion to consult with the local jinn. He had learned that the carnelian idol was not anywhere within a dozen miles, was not where the giant roc had left it, and was in a location as dangerous as any they’d ever visited.

Senef was reminded of a rumor they’d heard: “Al-Sindor knew that a time would come when the ancient evils he had defeated would rise again. He entrusted to the sheiks of a sacred oasis the means by which the powers of Law could be summoned when the time came.” Had the Fated caused the rise of these ancient evils? Perhaps they ought to seek out the sheiks of the sacred oasis. The jinn let Senef know that more information could be found in Ber-Gathy.

On the 3rd of Esevelen, the party decided it would head for Ber-Gathy. Zoya mumbled something about having just been there, but trudged along. On the 4th, they were waylaid by hostile Besherab nomads from the Il-Fahara clan, but Shikra sent them fleeing in terror with an illusion of a swooping dragon. By the 5th they’d reached Ber-Gathy. There they quickly retained a sage named Ishmech, paying him an upfront fee of 300gp to investigate the myths of the sacred oasis.

Having exhausted all possibilities of avoiding adventure, the demoralized members of the Fated now resumed their expedition to the Howling Emptiness. By the 8th, they had reached the oasis adjacent to the Emptiness, and that night were greeted by the hideous ululating howls that plagued the darkness. The howling spooked them, it seems, for when morning came, they decided to turn around and go find Krak Al-Shidda, an abandoned castle they had previously heard was located nearby and filled with treasure.

Guided by Senef’s jinn wisdom, the Fated found the hidden vale where Krak al-Shidda lay. The castle was in ruins, its only semi-intact building a one-and-a-half story ruined tower. The party proceeded inside cautiously; Zoya saved lives by spotting a sinkhole hidden by rubble, where part of the courtyard had fallen away. Past the sinkhole they came to the ruined tower, whose first floor had been broken open in a long-ago siege. Within was a well filled, as promised, with treasure – and also a curious yellow creeping vine. When Zoya approached, the vine opened up its hideous yellow blossoms and infected her with a foul musk. Senef quickly cleansed her of the disease, whatever it was, and Mahmud – protected from such perils by the grace of Holy Imran – cleansed the well with fire.

The treasure in the well was mostly copper and silver coin, but they did find a magical barber’s kit that magically shaved its owner on command. Androcles claimed this, in order that he might better maintain his soldierly appearance. While this was going on, Suad used his magic to detect a secret door in the rubble – a secret door that led into a dungeon below the tower.

The Fated decided that the investigation of this would wait until the morrow, and settled down for the night. Their hopes of an easy rest were denied: A pack of were-hyenas attacked in the night. Androcles, on guard, had to hold off half the pack at the tower’s entrance to give the rest of the party time to awaken and get ready. Eventually three of the were-hyenas were killed, one was driven off, and one was captured. Androcles survived, but took many bite and claw wounds – a condition that caused the captive to chuckle. Senef took the precaution of curing Androcles of disease. The captive were-hyena explained that he and his pack had spread rumors of the great treasure of Krak al-Shidda in order to attract prey, and that most of the “treasure” in the well actually came from dead adventurers. The captive soon joined them.


Session Twenty Six

On the morning of the 11th, the party descended into the dungeon below Krak al-Shidda and entered a long corridor pierced with doors left and right. Zoya almost immediately met with terrible misfortune; as she pried open the left-hand door, a wraith manifested, its ghostly weapon draining her life energy. The wraith had once been a Kemeshi soldier, and his corpse still lay where it had fallen. After the wraith was dispatched, Senef claimed a magical scimitar with a scorpion hilt from the corpse.

The group now passed through the right-hand door. The chamber beyond was largely empty, but the remnants of Old Opelenean glyphs could be seen on the far wall, through cracked stucco. The glyphs detected as magic, so the party chipped away at them until Suad could read the writing. Doing so triggered an ancient summoning spell, bringing a servitor genie into the world. Cyclone of the Four Quarters instantly began humming with fury and battle was joined! The servitor genie was soon brought low by the might of Mahmud. “I submit! I shall grant thee a wish in exchange for my miserable life.” Mahmud did not hesitate. “I wish that my friend Rakh was returned to us now alive and in perfect health.”

Rakh was back! The Thrassian seemed to have been profoundly affected by his time in the afterlife, praising Imran in all things and urging the party to follow the quest from the gods and right the wrongs they had committed. Mahmud was forced to pull his scaly friend aside. “Relax, Rakh. I’m a paladin and you’re coming on strong.”

With the evangelical Rakh in tow, the party now began investigating an armory with dozens of ancient weapons, two suits of brass armor, and a large chest. Approaching the chest awoke the armor suits – where were actually automatons powered by burning oils. The automaton’s scalding flames nearly killed Androcles, but eventually the party triumphed. In the aftermath, Androcles claimed a suit of fine white chainmail that seemed to keep its wearer magically cool even in the desert heat. Ethlyn recounted that she had heard legends of a general named Memet Metaphon who, in his old age, was given a marvelous suit of armor that protected him from heat so that he could still lead raids into the desert without the old man dying of sunstroke.

The next room in the complex was once a library, but the books had all been removed, leaving naught but empty shelves. Ceara’s keen elven eyes spotted three names carved on one such empty shelf: “Al-Mirish, “Al-Kazad,” “Al-Afaz”.  Balen recognized these as battle mages associated with the many wars between Kemesh and Opelenea.

Past the library, the Fated found a room neatly filled top to bottom with piled corpses. The dry heat of the desert had desiccated the bodies, leaving them almost mummified. The religiously-minded insisted that the bodies be burned so that their souls could migrate to their next incarnation. Senef called upon shamanic flame and the next couple of hours were spent in cremation. The Fated were surprised to discover that the bodies had been piled on top of a trap door in the floor. Zoya snuck down to investigate and recoiled in horror: The chamber below was filled with the ancient cadavers of women and children, apparently dead of starvation. The Fated surmised that the dependents had hidden there during a siege, and were trapped. These bodies, too, were blessed with fire.

Past this chamber of horrors, the hallway was partly caved in. A deceased elven adventurer’s feet stuck out from the rubble. “Poor bastard,” said Balen as they stripped him of his loot. Shikra claimed the dead elf’s jambiya, a dagger with a bone hilt fastened in the shape of a falcon. Ethlyn recognized the insignia as of the royal house of Argollë. 

Finishing up their investigation of Krak al-Shidda, the party found a storehouse and a wine cellar. In the wine cellar the party discovered a grotesque and misshapen skull behind the wine barrels, but could make nothing of it. In the storehouse, Suad stumbled upon a strange ring of gilded feathers. He remembered a strange tale of Saladin, a sailor who had been abducted by a roc and dropped from a mountain, but survived because his marvelous ring of feathers let him drift safely to the ground, and surmised this might be such a ring.

Their circuit of the dungeon was now complete. The Fated decided that Krak al-Shidda would be their new base. It had a supply of fresh water, it was in a secure location in the Al-Baki Hills, and it was close enough to the Howling Emptiness that they could still plausibly be obeying the strictures of their exile. And, of course, it had Queen Ethlyn’s approval. “I would be proud to add Krak Al-Shidda to my kingdom,” the teenager noted.


The party spent until the 15th of Esevelen cleaning up Krak al-Shidda, checking the dungeon for secret doors (there were none), and building a moat around the castle’s well to keep out wandering goats. On the 16th, the party begin to explore the Al-Baki Hills around the ruins, hoping to eliminate any monstrous lairs which might threaten their would-be domain.

After a day of searching, the party spotted a large, squat tower on the peak of a hill, accessible only by means of a well-constructed wood-and-rope bridge. The bridge looked large enough to support an ox. As it turned out it, it was built to support a mountain giant and his dire hyenas. The giant, who called himself Yaghoub, was initially receptive, inviting Queen Ethlyn to meet with him in his tower and sing a song. Unfortunately Ethlyn sang a song about killing hyena-men, which did not endear her to the hyena-loving giant. Only sacred guest-right prevented her and Mahmud from becoming a tasty meal, but the two beat a quick retreat. The party decided to leave Yaghoub be for now.

The next three days were filled with tedious, sweaty, tiresome searching through rocky ravines, goat trails, and steep hillsides. At one point on the 18th the party had to fight off an attack by phase tigers, but it was almost a welcome relief from the tedium. On the 20th, they stumbled upon the remnants of an old iron mine. The mine shaft followed an iron vein horizontally into the hillside, but there was no iron – none at all. The reason why soon revealed itself, as an elephant-sized creature vaguely resembling an armadillo crossed with an ant appeared, antennas quivering with anticipation of a meal. It was the mother of all rust monsters… or so it seemed to Mahmud and Androcles, who quickly fled. Balen, laughing maniacally, ensnared the beast in a sticky web and then set it afire with burning hands.

The next day the party resumed its search of the foothills. Their boredom turned to panic when a great winged creature soared high over head, and down towards a herd of goats wandering the Al-Baki. There were flames and human-like screams (aaaaaahhh) and then the creature  carried away goats in each claw. After the creature had passed, the party replenished its supplies of food by gathering up some fresh-cooked mutton. This took the better part of the 22nd.

On the 24th, the party reached a limestone hillside that was pocketed with cave mouths. One cave mouth, particularly large, was rimmed with glistening white. Zoya crept forward to investigate. She returned reporting that the cave was encircled with a vast pile of bones – and produced red scales that had fallen amidst the bones. Senef sought communion with the local jinn: “Is there a dragon in this cave?” No. “Is there another threat that we’re not aware of?” Yes. “Does whatever lives in the cave know we are coming?” No. Since they were undetected, the party decided to attack…whatever it was in the cave.

IT proved to be a mated pair of chimera. The pair fought with great cunning, as the second remained hidden until the first was engaged, then appeared in the rear and breathed fire. Fortunately, Balen and Shikra’s summoned minions took the worst of the fire, and the party was able to triumph.