Xymor

The Empire of Xymor

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Maggie and Nolofinwe continued to battle the badly decaying zombies in the tunnels under Morgath’s basement. As more zombies appeared and Arien seemed trapped, Roman ordered his companions to flee down a tunnel. Arien tumbled her way through the zombie horde and the companions fled into another room where an ancient barrel and crate remained. Roman lifted the crate and threw it to block the zombies from entering the room. However, a black pudding that nested in the crate emerged to attack.

The group continued to flee from the room and the black pudding turned its attacks on the zombies. Maggie gave Nolo a potion of healing to help him overcome his wounds. Unfortunately, it turned out to be poison. Nolo was able to survive the vile liquid and move on. They closed the door to the room and encountered a spectral Duergar that phased into the floor. They continued on into an old magmium mine where a large web was spun in the corner. Despite glittering trinkets in the web, the companions decided not to engage in battle with the vicious giant spider and headed deeper in the tunnels. They soon discovered a small statue of Muerath. When Arien touched the statue, several ghostly duergar appeared. Luckily, Roman was able to gain the trust of their leader through diplomacy. The duergar mentioned that a witch was following them, and the hag quickly fled from the scene. He also mentioned that they disliked Morgath because he held a dagger that could hurt them.

The duergar leader related a tale that the duergar once ruled the grand subterranean Empire of Xymor. The surface of the world was unlivable. The Duergar mined for gems, metals and magmium. Until the Empire was invaded by the Machines. The machines wanted the magmium to use for their larger war machines. They were waging a war against the Brain Eaters. The Duergar leaders decided to align with the Machines and began providing them magmium. But some noticed that once the Machines arrived, their goddess, Muerath, began to fade. Her presence went further away and the powerful Duergar priests could no longer call upon her powers.

Some Duergar began to rebel against working for the machines, but the monarchy did not listen to the workers and there was a great civil war. Many Duergar died, but the Machines and their allies won. The companions promised to help with the machines and were shown blueprints of what the machines looked like, as well as given access to several treasures contained in a locked chest…

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Below the Basement

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Maggie and Nolofinwe confronted the goblins and drow warrior that chased them through Morgath’s home. Arien stepped from the study to blast the drow, causing her head to explode in a fiery burst. Roman cleaved through several of the goblins, with Maggie and Nolo lending a hand.

Meanwhile, the back door they were headed toward began to shake and shudder as somebody tried to break it down. The companions decided to head back down into Morgath’s basement where Arien, who was now invisible thanks to her sorcery, encouraged the group to ride inside the sarcophagus to a chamber below. Roman stayed behind, fending off their drow pursuers as the rest made their way to a small chamber below.

Roman eventually rejoined the group where Arien discovered that one of the skulls in various niches had fangs and a polished spot on the top. But in the basement above, the heroes could hear the sounds of their enemies, followed by a loud explosion. As dust settled from the ceiling, they assumed one of Morgath’s traps had gone off on the unwary creatures above. Arien then twisted the skull, opening a secret tunnel. Emboldened by her discovery and heroic deeds, she marched forward, while Roman took up the rear, leery of Arien’s knowledge and uncanny ability to decipher Morgath’s various secrets.

The tunnel opened into a small chamber with a short drop. Arien, still invisible jumped down where she came under attack by several badly decayed zombies. Arien tried to distract them by throwing a torch into the distance, but soon Roman and Maggie jumped down and more zombies appeared to attack. As Roman hacked at them, one lost an arm and head that remained animated until the zombie was completely destroyed.

But he didn’t have time to process this discovery as two more zombies rose from a nearby pool of water to move toward Arien…

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The Calling

Arien called for her friends to the hidden chamber and showed them Morgath’s letter. Nolofinwe, Maggie, and Hartik Froth were shocked to find the sarcophagus in the center of the chamber, but Roman made no reaction. He knew better.

“Nolo,” Roman said, “He is a vampire. You never figured that out?”

Nolo shook his head. “I…I…it wasn’t what I expected.”

Roman rolled his eyes. “For someone who’s keen on nature, you have very little perception of things around you.”

“I take offense to that,” Nolo grumbled.

Roman only gruffed.

“A vampire!” Hartik roared. “No! No! I will not be associated with such fiends. I knew you all were evil!”

Again, Roman rolled his eyes.

“Hartik, honey,” Arien said, using her soothing voice, “it’s as Roman said earlier. You need to put aside your prejudices for the moment and look at the bigger picture here. There’s a greater evil destroying Burran than a single, little thing like a vampire.”

“No!’ Hartik roared again. “This is too much. I should have killed you all when I had the chance. You’re evil, all of you. You brought this to Burran. You’ve killed everyone.”

“I’ve had enough of your crying, little man,’ Roman turned to the dwarf, his hand to his back ready to draw Fury Kahn. “I will not have you babbling and whining like a little baby. Either shit or get off the pot. The choice is yours.”

“Noo!” Hartik yelled as he ran up the stairs and left the heroes.

“Coward,” Roman snarled.

“He might die out there,” Maggie pointed out.

“Then he dies,” Roman retorted. “Come on, we have work to do.”

Morgath had not lied to the heroes. Unlike the other poor souls, the blond man chained to the wall was still alive. Nolo healed his wounds and was able to wake him up with a little encouragement from Roman.

“Roman! Stop slapping him! He’s awake,” Arien scolded.

“Yeah, he’s awake now,” Roman slapped the man one more time and then stepped back.

“Maggie, you think you can do something about those chains?” Arien asked.

“Easier done than said,” Maggie said. She unlocked the man and he fell to his knees.

Upon interrogation, they really didn’t learn much from the initial conversation with the stranger. The man didn’t know his ‘master’ had left and knew nothing about what was happening in Burran. Roman wanted to question him about other things, but now was not the time, nor the place. Survival was the only thing on his mind. What they did learn was that the blond man apparently found ‘pleasure’ in feeding his ‘master,’ that being Morgath.

“Nolo, you better make sure he’s not a vampire,” Arien said.

“That’s a good idea,” Nolo commented. He knelt down to the blonde man and examined his body.

“Um, wait, if you didn’t know Morgath was a vampire, how will you know if this man’s a vampire?” Roman asked.

Nolo looked up and only shrugged.

“Well, maybe now that he knows what he’s looking for, his nature knowledge will help him,” Maggie said, defending her friend. “Right?” She looked to Nolo for confirmation.

“Right,” Nolo agreed. He turned back to his investigation with a sigh of uncertainty.

After several minutes, Nolo stood up and reassured his friends that the blond man was not a vampire. “To put it in your words, Roman, he was only a meatbag. But I’m pretty sure that if Morgath kept feeding on him, he’d only have lasted a few more days before he died. That’s probably when he would have turned. But as of now, he’s just weak and tired and under the intense influence of the vampire. He won’t be able to walk let alone fight. If we take him with us, we’ll have to carry him.”

“But the question is where?” Roman mumbled, looking around the room.

During all this time, Arien was staring at the sarcophagus, motionless. Roman noticed her glace and investigated the tomb but found nothing. He huffed and walked away, but Arien still stared. Something called her to it. It was an intense feeling. Like a moth to the flame, she was drawn to Morgath’s burial bed. Without missing a beat, she leapt into the sarcophagus and laid herself prone inside the coffin.

“What’re you doing, Arin,” Roman said. “There’s nothing in there.”

Arien ignored the barbarian. As she lay there, she saw strange runes inscribed underneath the sarcophagus’ cover. They were similar to the ones on the stone floor. Like on the floor, she slowly traced her hand along the ruins and they began to glow. The lid slowly closed, sealing her inside. She felt the sarcophagus move and heard the sound of stone grinding upon itself. After a moment, the tomb stopped moving and she laid in darkness and all was silent.

Again, Arien felt something beckon to her. The darkness called for her. The sensation was so intense and unnerving, she quickly traced her hand along the runes again, and again the sarcophagus began to move with the sound of stone grinding. The lid opened and she saw
Roman above her with a panic in his eyes.

“Arin! You alright?” he asked.

“Yes, hon,” she replied, slowly pulling herself out of the tomb. “What happened?”

“After you jumped in, the thing closed and moved down into the ground,” Nolo said. “We thought you got yourself into a trap or something.”

Roman growled. “Come on,” he said. He went over and heaved the blond man over his shoulder. “We have to move. I have a bad feeling about this place now.”

Arien stayed behind. Something wasn’t right. She felt like she was missing a piece of a puzzle. She was convinced she overlooked something important. Again, she felt the strange sensation of being drawn to the sarcophagus.

“There’s got to be something magical at play here,” she said to herself. She cast one of her simple spells, one that would detect magic in the area. The magic of the runes did not surprise her, but it was the ghostly visage of a small woman that stood in the far side of the room that startled her. And then it was gone. Arien immediately recognized the visage as the hag they had fought back at Stonefellow’s manor.

“Roman!” she cried. “She’s here! The hag!”

Roman followed by Nolo ran down the stairs, weapon drawn. They looked around and saw nothing.

“Where, Arien?” Nolo asked. “Where is she?”

“I don’t know. She disappeared,” she said.

The three of them stood in the room, motionless and waiting. Nothing happened.

Again, Roman growled. “We don’t got time for this. It’s time to move.”

Roman and Nolo went back upstairs. Arien, once more felt the sarcophagus calling her.

“What am I missing?” she wondered as she followed her friends.

Upstairs, Maggie had taken the initiative and hidden herself in the shadows of the living room waiting for her friends. Roman, who carried the blond man, followed Nolo towards the back entrance of the house.

Arien was well behind her friends. As she got to the top of the stairs, she saw goblins rush past the doorway of the study. She noticed one of them had the decapitated head of Hartik on its belt. Arien, not being a fool, realized the others were about to be attacked, but stopped short from calling out when she saw a single drow woman walk past, following the goblins.

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The Scourging of Burran

Excerpt from “The Heroes of Xymor: The Criminal Years Vol. 1, An Introduction,” by Archmage Hannibal Kahnhari, Head Scholar and Headmaster of Ravencraft School of Sorcery and the Dark Arts.

…Throughout the centuries, historians and scholars have accused the heroes of Xymor of many crimes and labeled them with horrific caricatures: murdering sociopathic pirate, necrophiliac assassin, sorceress succubus, child killer, etc. But the single accusation most historians will agree upon is traitor. It is nearly impossible for anyone to avoid such a damning indictment when doing any research on the early years of the heroes of Xymor, particularly during the event commonly known as the Scourging of Burran. But is that accusation fair? Is it really true?


The heroes ran across the roof tops, leaping from building to building and avoiding the warring streets below. Nolo was in the lead followed by Maggie. Roman stayed in the rear but close to Arien. The last few conflicts made Roman suspicious of the current situation and Arien’s involvement. Something was wrong with the aggressive beasts and their attitudes towards Arien.

Nolo and Maggie leapt over a street and on to an adjoining building. As Roman was about to toss Arien over to the other side with their friends, Nolo looked up and pointed to the sky.

“Roman! Look out!” Nolo shouted.

High above the heroes, a bird of prey with the head of a stag dove down towards Roman and Arien. It swooped past Roman and tried to grab Arien with its gnarly talons but missed. It continued to fly by and upwards.

Roman knew he needed to ground the creature and fast. He tried to throw a javelin at it, but the spear did little to impede its flight. Roman growled as he uncoiled his whip. The barbarian pirate rushed forward and leapt up and off the rooftop with a loud roar, lashing his whip at the bird of prey. But Roman’s target was a few inches too far and, to his dismay, his whip wouldn’t hit its mark. He had failed.

Suddenly, time slowed for the savage warrior and all reality seemed adrift as he floated in midair, his arm extended and his whip only inches from the bird.

“Do you want to live forever?” he heard his mother whisper.

A flash of light briefly blinded Roman and then, in utter bewilderment, he saw an ethereal visage of his dead mother floating next to the bird. She was fully dressed in her fancy pirate dress, her sword at her hip and glaive on her back. She looked directly into the eyes of her son, peering into his soul, and gave a smirk and wink. She grabbed the tip of the whip and wrapped it around the bird’s talons and then she was gone. Roman fell to the ground, pulling the whip-entangled bird along with him.

Meanwhile, on the rooftop, a group of goblins jumped out of their hiding spots and rushed towards Nolo and Maggie. The heroes had been ambushed. More goblins crawled on the roof near Arien, particularly one that appeared bigger than the rest and more armored; the goblin leader. The goblins tried to swipe at the heroes with their wicked blades and backed away out of reach. Eventually, Nolo got sick and tired of the little beasts’ childish tactics. He spoke in his strange druidic tongue and his bear totem glowed green. Thick, black hair grew along his skin and his flesh began to contort and morph until he had taken the form of a large black bear. Nolo-bear roared in the face of the little goblin beast that stood next to him, and the goblin peed. The group of goblins that surrounded Nolo and Maggie scurried off in fear, jumping over the street and onto the roof of the building where their leader was assaulting Arien. Now, Arien had the whole mob of goblins pursuing her and she was alone.

Down on the street below, Roman landed on his feet like a cat. He took his glaive, ready to strike at the prone bird, but the creature had quickly disentangled itself and took flight again.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Roman mumbled. He pulled out another of his javelins, tied one end of his magic rope to it, and chucked the mini-spear at the bird. When the javelin was in range, he spoke the command word and the rope detached itself from the javelin and tied itself around the wings of the flying bird. The creature fell back down to earth with a loud screech. Roman quickly took his glaive and speared the bird through the heart, killing the creature.

“Roman!” shouted Arien. He looked up at the building he had jumped off of and began to climb.
“Hold on, Arien! I’m coming!” Roman bellowed.

Arien slowly backed away from the approaching mob of goblins. They watched her with evil intent and cackled in their vile tongue. The leader of the goblins threw a dart and hit her in the arm.

“Roman!” she shouted again. She pulled out the dart and realized it was poisoned.

“Dammit!” Arien yelled. “I’ve had enough of you little mosquito-buggerers!!” She wove her arms in an ancient, mystical pattern, spoke the magic words, and released a fireball at the mob. The glob of magical flame hit the goblin leader and exploded in a massive eruption that engulfed the whole group. They howled in agony as their flesh melted and bones turned to ash. All of them died and very little was left of their existence.

The ambush failed and the heroes were victorious, for now.

When Roman reached the roof, he surveyed the carnage.

“Is everyone alright?” he asked.

Arien was out of breath and visibly exhausted. She nodded. “I got hit by a poison dart, but I don’t think it took,” she said.

“I’m good,” Maggie piped.

Nolo-bear couldn’t speak but grunted in his bear expression.

“Okay, good,” Roman said. “We don’t have much time. Mags, search what you can through these dead goblins.”

Roman started to climb down the building.

“Where you going?” Arien asked.

“Getting myself a trophy,” Roman answered.

Maggie found very little of value among the burnt and melted corpses of goblin. Roman gathered his javelins and rope and then proceeded to decapitate the head of the bird of prey.

Nolo had turned back to his human form. “Roman, are we still heading to the mayor’s manor?” he shouted down.

“Yeah,” Roman responded.

“What do you think we’ll find there?” Nolo asked.

“Hopefully, the mayor and his guards. But most likely trouble.” Blood spattered on Roman’s face as he sawed the head off of the dead bird-thing.

Roman noticed a small creature in the street, burnt to a crisp and dead. It obviously got caught in the crossfire of Arien’s fireball. He took a closer look and, to him, it appeared to be a small fairy-like creature. “A familiar?” Roman thought. He had seen such beasts when he was a child and knew that many of them had the ability to fly, turn invisible, and serve a master. He wondered if this beast had been following them and was the one that set up the ambush. He wondered if this creature belonged to one of the witches. But all of it was a moot point now. The thing was dead and if it had been following and spying on them, it wasn’t anymore.

Maggie looked around and saw nothing but smoke, floating ashes, and burning buildings. “This place is done for,” she whispered to herself. “Why are we still here? What are we doing anymore? This seems pointless.”

“What was that?” Arien asked Maggie.

“Nothing,” Maggie mumbled.

“Traitors!!” the heroes heard someone shout, off in the distance. Roman stopped his operation and looked around. He saw nothing.

“Traitors!! I’ll kill you all!” the heroes heard again.

“Roman!” Nolo shouted. “Behind you!”

Roman stood up and turned around, but before he could react, the butt-end of a battleaxe smashed into his chest. His whole body flew back and slammed against a wall. Standing over the barbarian pirate was Hartik Froth, mayor Gargen’s captain of the guards. He was badly bruised and beaten, covered in soot, mud, and dried blood. Roman recognized the pure hatred in the dwarf’s eyes.

“Hartik!” Arien shouted. “What’re you doing?”

“You betrayed us!” the dwarf roared. “You murdered the mayor! You brought Burran to ash! You killed everyone! Everyone!!”

Roman stood up, rubbed his shoulder, and bent his neck to crack out a kink. He took hold of his glaive, cracking his knuckles, and stared at the raging dwarf with cold eyes.

“Everyone!” Hartik shouted again, readied to strike the barbarian pirate. Roman stood his ground, motionlessly and ready for the attack.

“Hartik!” Arien shouted as she jumped down to the street. It was enough to deter Hartik.

“Stop this nonsense!” she continued. “We’re your friends.”

“Friends? Friends?!” Hartik spat. “Friends don’t kill each other.”

“What are you talking about?” Arien asked, her voice was calm and soothing. “You are our friend. We would never do anything to hurt you.”

“Lies!” Hartik replied. He took a few steps away from Roman with his eyes on Arien.

“Hartik, listen to me,” Arien continued. She moved herself between the dwarf and her lover. “You are a dear friend. I don’t like seeing you like this. Tell us what happened. We don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Truly?” Hartik’s hate began to ebb as he watched the beautiful half-drow, her lush white hair flowing majestically in the wind.

“But whatever happened,” Arien spoke more sweetly, “I tell you the truth, we aren’t responsible. Talk to me, Hartik. We’re your friends.”

“Oh sod it!” Roman gruffed. “He’s a lost cause.”

The dwarf noticed the human brute once more. His body tensed and readied his battleaxe.

“Roman! Be quiet!” Arien scolded her lover. “Hartik, don’t listen to him. Look at me. Keep your eyes on me. Talk to me, hon.”

Hartik looked back at the half-drow and noticed the supple curves at her hips. His anger receded again.

“Are you…truly…friends?” Hartik choked to say. His eyes began to water.

“Oh yes, hon,” Arien said, taking a step towards the dwarf. She brushed his dirty hairy face with her soft hand. “Tell us, what is wrong?”

Hartik fell to his knees and wept. Arien knelt down with him, cuddling his head into her bosom. Roman rolled his eyes. Nolo and Maggie had finally jumped down from the roof.

“What’s wrong with him?” Maggie whispered to Roman.

“He’s broken,” he replied. Arien gave her lover a piercing glare. The barbarian pirate shrugged.

“My lord, Gargen. My men. My family. All dead,” Hartik cried.

Arien allowed Hartik to weep another minute before lifting his head and asking, in a gentle voice, “What happened?”

“A satyr.” He whispered.

“What?” Roman growled.

“Now this is interesting,” Nolo said.

“A satyr, you say?” Arien asked, her voice continued to be sweet as honey.

“Yes, a satyr overtook the manor, slaughtering everyone. But I wasn’t there. I should’ve been there. I should’ve died with them. I have failed.” Hartik began to wail again.

Roman rolled his eyes, his impatience building.

Arien wiped away the dwarf’s tears. “Why do you say that? Where were you? Tell me.”

“I took a handful of my men and we went to the orphanage and tried to climb down the giant hole in the basement. But we didn’t get very far. Most of my men were killed and we had to escape. When we returned…when we…returned….Oh gods, everything was burning. So many dead.”

“Go on,” Arien encouraged. “It’s okay. What did you see?”

“With what men I had left,” Hartik continued, “We marched through the burning city, fighting our way back to the manor. But I was the only one to survive. The rest of my men were killed on the way there. Yet, after all that I went through to get there, it was lost. I hid in the shadows and saw them dragging bodies out of the manor and throwing them on a giant pyre. I saw the satyr. He stood there with his drow entourage, watching the bodies burn and his filthy, little monsters dancing and laughing around the flames.”

“What about the bears?” Nolo asked.

“There was a giant,” Hartik replied. “He took control of my bears.”

“A giant? Really? That’s just great,” Roman groaned.

“Oh, Hartik,” Arien comforted, “I’m sorry. None of this should have happened, but believe me when I say we never intended for this to happen. We had nothing to do with any of this. We saved the mayor, remember? We put our lives at risk to try and save Burran. We still are.”

Hartik looked up at Arien. His eyes were red and his nose running with snot. Arien helped him stand up and brushed off dirt from his battered armor.

“Let us help, Hartik,” Arien continued, her voice beginning to inspire the dwarf. “We’re still here and we still want to help. You need to believe us. You need to trust us.”

“Hartik,” Roman interjected. The dwarf turned to the pirate barbarian with intense eyes. “You are a man of action; a man of the sword. Come with us and find the vengeance you seek.”

“Vengeance?” Hartik whispered.

“Yes, vengeance,” Roman said again. “Do you want it?”

“Yes,” Hartik hissed.

“Then trust us and join our cause,” Roman said.

Hartik looked back and forth between the hulking human and the dazzling half-drow.

“I don’t trust you,” Hartik finally said, growling at Roman, “but I trust her. I will come with you, for her,” he nodded to Arien.

“Fair enough,” Roman countered.

“So now what?” Maggie asked.

“Yes. What do we do next, Roman?” Nolo inquired.

Roman rubbed his chin. “It is as I feared. We shouldn’t go back to the manor, yet. We’re in no state for another fight. We need to regroup, rest, take inventory, plan, and, possibly form a posse. We need to head back to Morgath’s home.”

“Again?” Maggie mumbled.

“Morgath?” Hatrik said. “You mean the bartender at The Krypt?”

“Yes, hon,” Arien said. “He’s been very helpful.”

“But you’ll need to put aside your prejudices,” Roman added.

“What do you mean by that?” Hartik asked.

“You’ll see,” Roman answered. “Let’s get going.”

“What about that thing?” Maggie pointed to the half-decapitated stag-headed bird.

Roman sighed. “Perhaps another time. Pity really. Leave it. There’s no time for it now.”

Once again, the heroes, along with the dwarf captain, headed back to the lair of the vampire.

Fortunately, the heroes were able to avoid further conflicts on the way to Morgath’s home. They entered through the backdoor and were relieved to find no one there, except for the dead displacer beast and duergars from earlier. But to their surprise, they found the door to Morgath’s secret chamber was open and his thrall-gnoll guardian decapitated. Roman growled and rushed down the stairs, followed by Arien who cast a light spell on his glaive to illuminate the way down. The rest of the heroes followed suit.

When they arrived, Morgath was not there. Instead, they saw all of his prisoners dead with their throat slit.

“What happened here?” Nolo asked.

“What in the nine hells is this place? Who are these people?” Hartik asked, shocked, staring at the chained-up dead bodies.

“Someone’s sick sense of a banquet,” Roman commented. “But where the hell is Morgath? Where is that bastard?”

“Um, Roman. You might want to look at this,” Arien said, standing near a wall.

Roman approached her and saw what she was staring at. Smeared on the wall was the word, ‘Arien,’ written in blood.

“What does it mean?” Arien asked.

“Trouble,” Roman said. He turned around and growled. “But where is that coward?”

“Everyone,” Arien said, “I need you to leave this room.”

“What was that Arien?” Nolo asked.

“I know where to find Morgath, but everyone needs to go upstairs,” she responded. She looked at Roman with determination. “You must trust me on this, Roman. Go.”

Roman scowled. “Fine. Everyone, upstairs.”

Roman, Nolo, Maggie, and Hartik walked up the stairs and left Arien by herself in the secret chamber. She stood in the center of the room and stared at the stone floor. She thought long and hard how Morgath opened the floor, but after several minutes, she just couldn’t remember. She fell to her knees and smashed her fist against the floor. To her surprise, blue, glowing glyphs erupted under her fist. She traced her fingers along the glyphs and more of them appeared on the floor. She started to see a pattern and followed her fingers along them. When the glowing glyphs were complete, the ground shook and opened up. A decorative coffin rose from the floor and into the room.

“Well, that was easier than I thought,” Arien said to herself.

Arien knocked on the coffin. There was no response. She tried the lid and discovered it wasn’t locked. Upon opening the coffin, she saw no body. Morgath was gone. The only thing in the coffin was a letter from Morgath to his “friends.”

In it, he explained that he left Burran due to its demise. He warned the group that he was visited by a hag he assumed to be Vermelda and that she supposedly sought Arien to help her open a portal out of Xymor. Morgath refused her offer of betraying the group and even provided some advice on dispatching the crone.

The vampire also related that when he left, the blonde warrior and the group’s other captives were still alive in fulfillment of their bargain. He told them about his desire to avoid Shukalgau and instead head for the rumored Yan-ti settlement of Massar.

Arein stood inside the vampire’s lair clutching the letter and read Morgath’s final words… “I look forward to continuing our lucrative friendship…”

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The Witch Hunt Continues

Excerpt from “The Heroes of Xymor: The Criminal Years Vol. 2, Chapter 7: The Witch Hunt in the Fires of Burran,” by Archmage Hannibal Kahnhari, Head Scholar and Headmaster of Ravencraft School of Sorcery and the Dark Arts.

…The battle against the water elemental is not particularly memorable if not for two things.

First, while the heroes of Xymor fought for their life against the living embodiment of water and its two mephits, unbeknownst to Roman, the statue of Muerath had not only bestowed empowerment to Roman’s glass eye, but blessed his first legendary glaive, Fury Kahn, with, at the time, unidentified magical qualities. Through first-hand accounts from those who testified of carrying the glaive, when the holder engages into battle against unnatural beings, the giant spear reacts by subtly glowing emerald green and shimmering with its magical power. Its power gave the heroes the advantage they needed to defeat the water elemental. If not for Roman’s glaive, the fight may have had a different outcome.

Second, this was the second time Arien was irrationally pursued and placed in direct danger; the first time being with the bullywugs. Through interviews with elemental spirits in the Elemental Plane, we know the water elemental was compelled to attack Arien, even in the face of greater threats such as Roman and Nolofinwe. There are various theories on why this was, one popular theory being that the water elemental saw Arien as the greatest threat due to her magical abilities. But by all accounts, it was Roman Kahn that did the most harm to the elemental. Natural instinctual behavior in all living things has a certain pattern when it comes to fighting: the fight or flight mechanism. When an animal is harmed and overpowered, it will either try to preserve its life by running away or defend and attack the single, greatest source of its bodily harm. With that scientific rationale, the water elemental should have focused on Roman Kahn, but it did not. The elemental forewent its own safety in order to pursue Arien. This, of course, ultimately led to its downfall. But the question is: why? What compelled the water elemental and the bullywugs to aggressively single out Arien? One possible answer? – Her gem of power.


Roman skewered the water elemental. It roared in its death like the sound of crashing tidal waves. Its body funneled up into a tall spire and then splashed down into a pool of water at the feet of Roman and Arien.

“Arien, you alright?” Nolo asked, out of breath from having climbed the building.

“Yes, hon,” she responded, still slightly shocked by the attack from the elemental.

Roman looked at the pool of water and then at Arien. He didn’t have time for questions. He knew they had move and quick.

The heroes jumped down from the rooftop and cautiously approached the entrance of the Black Mold. Roman entered first and aptly dealt with three goblins who were apparently in the process of ransacking the apothecary, seeking potions of magic or mind altering substances. The store was in shambles with broken glass, knocked over cabinets, and strange liquids splattered everywhere.

Sadly, Roman discovered Seriph’s dead body in the back room. Whether the goblins killed her or something else, Roman could not tell. He took a chain of keys from her body.

As the heroes searched the store, they heard screams of men in fear and a monstrous roar outside.

“We need to hurry,” Roman said. While his friends sought for the potion Morgath spoke of, Roman searched the store for another exit other than the front door.

Maggie found a locked box. It was the only thing the goblins had not bothered. With one of the keys Roman found, Maggie opened the box and discovered several potions.


Excerpt from “The Heroes of Xymor: The Criminal Years Vol. 2, Chapter 7: The Witch Hunt in the Fires of Burran,” by Archmage Hannibal Kahnhari, Head Scholar and Headmaster of Ravencraft School of Sorcery and the Dark Arts.

…and with that, the Heroes of Xymor found what they sought. Morgath did not lie to them. They had found the potion that would help them find Sollene. The first step of the witch hunt was complete. Ancient mercantile documents give evidence that there were other concoctions in that box, but what exactly all of them were is lost to history.

So, with the potion, Roman had to make a choice what to do next. Many contemporary historians believe that this choice was a critical point in the heroes’ achievements. It’s impossible to determine the thoughts of a man who has been dead for centuries. But what historians can piece together with extant sources are all the possible options Roman concerning what to do next: 1) return to Mogath’s home, 2) find a safe hiding hole in the burning Dark Corner, 3) return to the orphanage and attack Vermelda, 4) return to Stonefellow Manor. For whatever reason, Roman chose to return to Stonefellow Manor.


Roman was the last to climb through the chimney and onto the roof with the rest of his friends.

“So where to, big boss?” Nolo asked.

Mayor Gargen’s place,” Roman answered.

“What? Why? What’s there?” Maggie questioned.

“Reasons,” Roman responded as he leapt over a street and onto another rooftop.

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Water World

Nolofinwe surveyed the carnage that surrounded the heroes. Blood covered the surface of the water and dead bullywugs floated by. Ever since the druid had joined with his companions, they had carved a path of death and devastation throughout Burran. So many had suffered or died at the hands of his companions, that he began to wonder if the current burning of Burran was really their fault. Did their actions involving the mayor and the witches indirectly cause all this suffering? Had they opened a Pandora’s Box that would have been best left alone? Perhaps he and his companions were actually the evil ones for bringing such a blight to the city. He would have to continue on this journey to see how it would ultimately end.

Nolo began to move and pile up the bodies of the bullywugs in a corner of the street. He arranged them so that they would not float away. A part of him tried to convince himself that he was trying to cover the tracks of his companions. But deep down, he believed that these intelligent humanoid frogs came from the breath of Mother Nature, just like he did, and deserved a bit better burial then aimlessly floating through the streets of Burran.

Roman instructed Arien to search the body of the bullywug’s leader. His mother had taught him to always pillage the bodies of his foes, whenever possible. “Not necessarily for monetary reasons,” he remembered his mother once said, “but sometimes your adversary may have tools that could help you in your future endeavors. The dead are dead and have no need for earthly possessions anymore. Take from them what you need and want.” Disappointingly, Arien didn’t find anything too valuable on the dead bullywug except a small clay pot filled with some sort of powder.

Roman sighed when he saw Nolo slowly pull a bullywug body through the water. “Nolo, leave them be. The dead are dead. Let them bury themselves. We need to continue.”

Nolo looked at the body he was pulling. He couldn’t tell if the bullywug was young or old, male or female, but like all of Nature’s creatures, it had a family and friends. Such a pity that it had to die in such a meaningless way.

“Right,” Nolo responded. “I’ll go scout up ahead.”

As Nolo went ahead of the group, Roman realized the best course of action was to get off the streets and out of the water. Who knew what else laid in wait underneath the water. Besides, he was getting tired of being wet.

As Nolo returned to report his findings, Roman stood next to a building and pulled out the rope he had found on the dead body of an adversary long ago, back when they were traveling through the caverns of Xymor.

“What is that?” Nolo asked.

“Rope,” Roman said as he took hold of the tip and held it up.

“Rope?” Nolo asked, bewildered. “It looks like skin or guts or something!”

“Dried intestines,” Roman clarified.

“What?!” Nolo’s eyes widened.

Roman ignored Nolo. He spoke a word: “Climb.” The tip of the rope whipped up along the side of the building, bent over the roof and wrapped and tied itself around a chimney.

“What witchery is this?!” Nolo exclaimed.

Arien raised an eyebrow to Nolo.

Roman pulled on the rope to make sure it was secure. “Maggie, you go up first.”

Maggie climbed up the rope and quickly inspected the rooftop. She saw nothing threatening and called back to her friends. The rest of the heroes climbed to the roof.

Roman gathered his rope and the heroes continued on the roofs of the Dark Corner. The further they went, the lower the water level on the streets became. After jumping over a street and onto another building, the heroes arrived at their destination. They stood on top of the Black Mold.

As they went to the building’s front entrance, they discovered a strange sight. In front of the building was a large manhole. Surging out of the manhole was water that flowed down the street.

“That must be the source of the flooding,” Nolo commented, “or at least one of them.”

“Maybe,” Roman said. “But what is that?” He pointed to a crystalline ice pillar that stood ten feet away from the manhole.

“That’s peculiar,” Arien said.

“Nolo, is there something you can do to plug that manhole?” Roman asked.

“Perhaps,” he said. He cast a spell and out of the manhole came fungus, mold, weeds, vines, mushrooms, and other sorts of dark vegetation. The plants capped the manhole to the point where the surging water became only a trickle. “I call that plant growth. Hope it holds. Good enough for you?”

Roman grunted.

As the water in the street began to recede, the steam began to stream from the crystalline ice pillar. Out of the steam flew a small, imp-like creature, its body composed of the steam that it came from. Before the ice pillar evaporated, it cracked and another small, imp-like creature flew up in the air, this one composed of the crystalline ice. The two creatures hovered over the manhole to investigate the plants that covered it. They did not notice the heroes but were more concerned about the manhole. They appeared agitated and frustrated.

Arien’s first reaction was to cast a spell of missiles at the creatures.

“No! Wait,” Roman hissed, but it was too late.

The magic missiles hit one of the flying beasts, and then they took notice of the heroes.

At the far end of the street, the heroes heard what sounded to them like crashing waves and fast flowing rivers. The heroes turned and saw a water pool gathering in a single spot, which soon took the shape of a large humanoid with a head, arms and body. It rushed towards the heroes and the imps cackled in glee.

“What is that?!” Maggie shouted.

“A water elemental,” Roman answered. “I’ve never really seen one before; only heard about them. Well, this should be fun.” His lips curled into a smirk. He took a running jump off the roof and leapt towards the water elemental. The tiger was loose and the battle commenced.

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Bargains Kept

The heroes stayed cautious as they watched the strange bird fly away. 

Zufem!” Nolofinwe rushed to his troll friend. “Are you all right?”

The troll was crouched, holding his head. “My head hurts,” he moaned.

“What’s wrong?” Nolo asked. “Are you hurt?”

“I need my medicine.”

“Medicine? You need medicine?” Nolo asked, concerned. “Where is it? Maybe we can help.”

“I need my medicine,” Zufem repeated. “It’s in The Krypt. My head hurts so bad.”

Roman cringed and shook his head. “He’s talking about alcohol,” he mumbled. 

“The Krypt? We’re headed there too. We can help you get your medicine.”

The heroes continued onwards to Morgath Gravesend’s bar. Once they arrived and after having dealt with a lone gnoll, they made a beeline to the stock room. Roman carried a single barrel of wine while Nolo carried the food provisions.  Zufem agreed to help carry several more barrels of wine for the heroes on the agreement that he would take two of them for himself.

On their way back to Morgath’s house, Roman and Nolo spotted the strange bird creature they had fought earlier. It was perched up on the roofs of the building, watching the heroes. Roman recognized the look in the eyes of the beasts – that of a predator hunting its prey. 

Zufem refused to enter when the heroes arrived back at Morgath’s home. Roman wasn’t surprised. He knew Zufem was in danger from Morgath. Roman could only imagine the horrors Morgath had in mind for Zufem had Roman agreed to capture the troll for the vampire.  

Immediately, his thoughts went to Arien. Was she alright? Was she really safe? Did Morgath harm her? Roman would never forgive himself if the vampire did anything to her. The heat of rage started to boil upward from his stomach. “If he plucked a single hair from her head, I will slaughter him,” Roman thought. “I’ll tear off his head and rip out his entrails with my bare hands. I’ll follow him and hunt him down through the Nine Hells and butcher him again in the afterlife.”

Zufem thanked the heroes for their help and went on his way, happy and content with his wine.
 
The heroes of Burran took the rest of the provisions down into Morgath’s secret lair. Straight away, Roman went to his lover’s side and examined her prone body, looking for any signs that she had been bothered. She looked like a sleeping angel at peace – beautiful and radiant. Roman fought back tears of relief. His muscles tensed. “Never again will I leave you,” he whispered in her ear and kissed her cheek. He then remembered where he was and the monster that had watched the most important thing that mattered to him. He wanted to thank Morgath for his protection, but then saw the chained prisoners on the walls. His appreciation turned into disgust. 

“I am a man of my word,” Morgath said. “She is unharmed.”

Roman had a feeling that one day he would have to kill this monster that pretended to be a man. But today was not the day. Morgath had helped him and his friends, and the only thanks Roman gave was in the form of a single, emotionless nod. 

“I believe we brought everything you asked for,” Nolo said.

Morgath examined the goods. “You brought enough wine, but where is the water and cheese I asked for?”

Nolo looked to Roman who only shrugged. 

“I’m afraid we didn’t see cheese or water,” Nolo answered. 

“Pity,” Morgath looked disappointed. “I suppose this will have to do.”

“We’ll get you water the next time we go back,” Nolo added.

“It’s fine,” Morgath said. “I can make do with this. Thank you. Now as for Arien…”

Roman took a step toward the vampire, his right hand behind his back ready to release the tiger. 

“I have temporarily released Arien from her condition,” Morgath said, intently staring at the muscular man.

Roman sneered.

“Temporarily? What do you mean by that?” Nolo asked.

“The condition that plagues Arien is from a peculiar spell. I can only give a temporary relief to the symptom, but I can’t get rid of the cause.”

Roman gripped his glaive, ready to unsheathe the bladed pole.

“But I believe I know what you can do to rid her of this condition,” Morgath continued. “Arien is currently under a dark curse linked to whoever cast it.”

“The bitch, Sollene, that we fought,” Roman interjected.

“Presumably,” Morgath continued. “But in order to find her, you will have to go through unconventional means.”

“What do you mean?” Nolo asked.

“This Sollene, well, I can surmise that she currently doesn’t exist in this realm at this point in time. From your description of the fight you had with her, I believe she teleported herself to the Ethereal realm. She is not corporeal anymore.”

“Ethereal?” Roman was confused.

“To put it in laymen’s terms, she is an invisible ghost,” Morgath explained. “Now, in this form, you cannot see her, smell her, hear her, or touch her. She can go anywhere, see everything, and hear anything without being noticed. In fact, she could be here with us right now, watching us. And as long as she is in that form, she can hold sway over Arien’s mind indefinitely.”

“So what can be done?” Nolo asked.

“I know of a woman who may be able to help you. Her name is Seriph. She once offered me a potion that would allow me to become ethereal. I needed something like that at the time to deal with an annoying ghost, but I declined. At any rate, I believe she may still have that potion and it would most likely help you deal with the witch.”

“And who is this Seriph?” Roman asked.

“A proprietor of sorts. A revenant. You can find her in the Black Mold.”
“I know where that is,” Nolo said.

“Then your journey is begun. Find her and you can help Arien. Now, it is morning and I must ask you to leave. While you may stay here, in my secret chambers during night, you are not allowed during daylight hours.”

As the heroes began to file out and up the stairs, Roman, who was carrying the sleeping Arien, stopped and turned to Morgath. The two stared at each other for a long moment – two alpha animals staring each other down, sizing each other up. One was a mortal beast with the spirit of the great tiger and the other was a cursed immortal of the dead. One represented the vivacious vigor of life, and the other represented the decaying desolation of death. 

“If I find out that you have done anything to harm Arien in any way, I will decapitate you,” Roman sneered. 

Morgath only cocked his head and smirked. “Good luck,” he replied.

The heroes took a short rest in the guest room to give Arien a little more rest. When she awoke, she felt refreshed and renewed. Nolo explained the current situation to her and their next plan.
 
“It’s time to go,” Roman said.

Nolo led the way through the Dark Corner towards the Black Mold. Carnage and destruction surrounded them. The obliteration of the Dark Corner had not abated. They could still hear the cries of death and battle in the distance. Buildings burned and exploded. The dead littered the streets. Burran was dying and there was nothing the heroes could do until they resolved Arien’s curse. Roman only hoped Gargen Stonefellow and his men would be able to hold on and fight long enough until he and his friend could deal with Vermelda
The heroes traveled as quickly as possible. As they trekked through the warzone towards the Black Mold, the streets were ever more flooded with water. The water was filled with muck and gore.  Dirt, debris, and body parts floated on the surface. Maggie saw a single head of a woman – her face contorted with the expression of fear and pain. She looked away in horror.

Eventually, the water reached the waists of the heroes, making their progress even slower. 

Nolo stopped and held his arm up to halt his friends. He thought he saw bubbles in the water in front of him. He watched the flooded street before him. Then, from underneath the water, a patrol of bullywugs leapt out of the water and attacked the heroes. Of course, the heroes of Burran would not be stopped, and they quickly and unceremoniously slaughtered the small frog-humanoids. They hoped there would not be any more distractions to hinder their progress as they trudged through the dark water.  

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Into the Basement

A long time ago in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Maggie and Nolofinwe stood among the dead duergars and displacer beast as Morgath Gravesend nonchalantly offered them asylum. The heroes followed him in his study, toting both an unconscious duergar and goblin for later questioning. Morgath pulled at a combination of books on his shelf and mumbled arcane words under his breath to open a secret spiral staircase leading down. Before the heroes of Burran could descend, he made them promise not to touch anything. They all agreed, with Roman being the most hesitant.

At the bottom of the stairs they discovered several beings emaciated and chained to the walls. One was Carsa Stonefellow, whom they traded to Morgath earlier. The other was a blonde human that Roman assumed to be the one mentioned by Haldo. They noted that they all had puncture wounds, which indicated to them that Morgath was a vampire, and this is buffet.

Once safely at the bottom, the heroes requested that Morgath remove the curse from Arien that was similar to Mayor Gargen Stonefellow’s. They also related their encounter with Sollene and her morphing into a horrible hag. Morgath promised to heal Arien, relate further information about hags and allow them a night’s rest in his chambers, as long as they went back to The Krypt and returned with food and water for his “pets.” In addition, he wanted a bottle of fine wine and hard cheese he had stashed. Roman nearly refused, worrying that Arien would be too exhausted for the trip. But Morgath offered her to stay with him while the rest of the group headed out. Roman balked at the idea, but Morgath assured the barbarian of his lover’s safety. Roman, Maggie and Nolofinwe headed out to the Krypt. The Dark Corner was in ruins from the vicious assault of vile creatures of the depths of Burran.

Meanwhile, Morgath offered Arien comforts, but made her promise to keep a secret until her companions left his home. Arien promised to keep the secret in return for Morgath providing them solace for additional nights. Morgath agreed and opened a vault in the floor. A sarcophagus rose from it. Morgath opened a side drawer and pulled out pillows and blankets for Arien before it slipped back into the floor. Morgath then tried to offer Arien to replace Skye as his companion. In return, she would be able to shed the shackles of mortality. Arien refused and brushed the vampire away to get some much needed rest.

Back on the streets, the heroes encountered two bird-like perytons. The creatures didn’t notice them, but flew down an alleyway where Zufem lived. As the companions silently moved through the streets, they heard sounds of battle down the alley. They crept closer to find Zufem battling the perytons, along with gnolls and goblins. Several of the fell beasts were already killed, but the troll looked to be exhausted. The heroes rushed to the rescue, helping Zufem eventually destroy all the creatures, except one peryton that flew away…

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Who Let the Dogs Out?

Roman rushed into the living room, threw the body of the goblin across the room, and hid against the wall next to the entrance corridor. The displacer beast had not noticed the heroes and Roman hoped the beast and the duergar would lose interest and leave. Maggie hid on the opposite side of Roman; her rapier drawn and ready for action. Arien disappeared into the other room and ran upstairs. “Good,” Roman thought. “If we have to fight, I don’t want her involved. She’s too weak for this.”

Nolofinwe snuck up to Roman and, as silently as possible, whispered a prayer to his Mother Earth for healing. “Mháthair leigheas an lucht créachtaithe.” His hands glowed green as he placed them on Roman. The barbarian felt a surge of purity and strength flow through his body. His bruises and cuts miraculously healed and disappeared.

At that moment, the displacer beast cautiously strode into the living room, sniffing the air. Its tentacles slithered above its back like hovering snakes. Multiple spikes at the tip of the tentacles were covered in dried blood; a sign of a recent kill. But what made this panther-like beast unnerving wasn’t the extra pair of legs or the tentacles, but rather its shimmering appearance. The displacer beast’s ability to project an illusion, that of multiple, shifting reflections of itself, was a natural defense. It made it difficult for the heroes to focus on the creature.

The three heroes held their breath and stood motionless.

“Shoo, big kitty,” Maggie thought to herself.

The beast slowly lifted its head and turned to Nolo, locking eyes on the druid. Its tentacles whipped out and struck the elf. He fell to one knee in pain.

Roman roared. He leapt out of his shadow and attacked the beast. The tiger was loose. “You will not hurt my friends!” he bellowed. He slashed the six-legged panther. It snarled at the raging human, saliva oozing out of its clenched fangs.

Maggie jumped out of her hiding spot and stabbed the beast, but it ignored her. Its sole focus was on its true rival – the raging tiger of a man. Tentacles slithered and whipped around the barbarian, seeking weak points. Roman twirled his glaive to defend himself, while trying to find openings to reach the body of the panther-like creature. The two feral animals furiously fought for dominance.

Nolo was badly hurt. He grabbed hold of his necklace totem and made a short prayer: “Chun an marc Guí mé, leigheas do sheirbhíseach.” His body radiated in a green aura and his wounds began to heal. He felt the energy and courage of a bear surge through his body. He jumped back up and ran to a corner of the room.

Roman and the six-legged panther fought on; their speed and brute strength was blinding and brutal. The slithering tentacles continuously struck Roman as he slashed at the beast. But Roman was at a disadvantage; the beast’s illusionary images made it difficult for him to focus on exactly where to strike. He noticed a piece of furniture move somewhere to the left of him. His instincts knew what was coming. He had dealt with such things before, but dared not to lose his concentration on the displacer beast. Roman knew things were going to get ugly for him and his friends.

All of a sudden, three dwarf-sized duergars appeared in the room. They had used their natural ability to turn invisible, snuck in the room, and placed themselves, strategically, around the heroes. One stood before Nolo, trapping him in the corner. Another appeared next to Roman where he had seen furniture move. The final duergar materialized in front of Maggie, blocking her from the displacer beast.

The appearance of the duergars made Nolo instantly react. He smacked the butt of his staff on the floor and a wave of thunderous force radiated outwards around him. The whole house shook followed by a loud boom. Chairs, tables, paintings, and anything else not bolted down, flew across the room. But the spell’s force had little effect on the duergars or the displacer beast. It even hit Roman, but he, like the duergars, shrugged off the spell.

The duergars’ surprises were not finished. Without warning, the duergar next to Roman began to grow in size. He magically grew from a four-foot tall dwarf to a ten-foot giant. His body nearly took up a third of the room; his head almost hitting the roof. Roman briefly stopped his assault on the displacer beast, turned to look at the giant, and sighed in resignation. The large druergar swung his mighty warhammer and walloped the barbarian against the wall, leaving a huge hole. The house shook again. When the dust and rubble settled, Roman stood before the giant and the monstrous panther; his body bloody, bruised, and nearly broken. The raging tiger roared and Roman leapt back into the fray against the oversized duergar and displacer beast.

The battle raged on.

Roman fought valiantly, but he knew that he was no match for both the displacer beast and the giant duergar. Maggie tried to run away and hide from the duergar that hunted her, but he followed suit and would not lose sight of his prey. The duergar that cornered Nolo had severely wounded him. Nolo didn’t stand a chance against the dwarf. Roman felt fury; Maggie felt fear; and Nolo felt desperation.

Nolo sensed the impending doom upon him and his companions. Was all to be lost in this moment? Were their adventures at an end? Is this how the heroes of Burran, the heroes of Xymor, were to end? No. Hope was not lost, especially for those of faith. For men like Nolo, hope was just as deadly a weapon as the sharpest blade. For him, hope could never truly be killed as long as true believers held on with all their might, and he held on to that hope.

The duergar bashed Nolo in the shoulder and the druid was gone.

Nolo saw himself in the woods of his clan. It was night and the full moon shone brightly through the leaves of the trees. The air was chilly and silence surrounded the young wood elf. He was alone with no light, weapon, or food. And then he saw the wolf. It was a noble creature; strong, mighty, and fearsome. It snarled at Nolo. The would-be druid wanted to run away, but his father, Angrod, had taught him not to be afraid but to be respectful. “Nature is not the enemy – the enemy is the intentions of men,” he heard his father say. Nolo knelt on one knee and bowed his head to the wolf. The noble creature stopped snarling. It cocked its head and started to wag its tail. Nolo saw that instead of suspicion in the wolf’s eyes, he saw joy. The noble creature leapt towards the kneeling wood elf.

Nolos opened his eyes and quickly dodged the duergar’s warhammer. He then realized he was in the middle of a spell and spoke the last incantation: “A ligean ar na madraí amach!”

All around the room there appeared large, bright blue portals crackling with mystical energies. Everyone stopped fighting, surprised by the sudden appearance of the strange gateways. The duergar next to Nolo slowly approached a portal, his face only inches from the magical, oval-shaped sphere.

Nolo smirked and whispered, “Attack.”

The duergar didn’t know what hit him. He found himself on the ground, contending with a large, rose-colored, ethereal fey in the shape of a wolf, attempting to tear off his arm. Blood sprayed everywhere as the wolf sunk its teeth deeper into the duergar’s arm, coloring the wolf’s fur a deeper crimson-red. The wolf relished the taste of the dwarf’s blood and flesh, and snarled in ecstasy.

Out of each portal leapt a similar, wolf-shaped fey which in turn attacked the other duergars and displacer beast.

The six-legged panther was no match for the fey wolves. One jumped over the panther’s body, snapping at the tentacles and pinning them to the ground. Another wolf rushed in and cruelly tore open the displacer beast’s neck. The wolf buried its muzzle down the panther’s throat, attempting to eat it from the inside-out.

Three more wolves pounced on the giant and knocked him to the ground with a loud thud. Again, the house shook. They then proceeded to tear out his gut; gory entrails and spongy organs splattered and flew across the room. It was a feeding frenzy and the wolves loved it. The giant screamed for mercy, realizing he was being eaten alive, but no mercy was given. The duergar gurgled his final breath and died in agony.

The duergar that hunted Maggie wasn’t as lucky as his comrades. One wolf grabbed a hold of the dwarf’s arm, pinning him for a moment. Another wolf bit down on the duergar’s groin and began to chomp its way up the dwarf’s mid-section, relishing the taste of flesh and fear. The duergar howled in pain, realizing he was being eaten alive like his giant friend, but more slowly. Even for Maggie, this was a disturbing sight. Yet for a few seconds, she watched the suffering, writhing dwarf with a sick glee. But eventually, she had enough. She granted the duergar mercy and pierced him through the heart.

Roman saw that there was still one duergar still alive. He reacted before the wolves had a chance to finish him off. He rushed in and knocked the dwarf out.

“Hold,” Nolo shouted and the wolves stopped their assault. They looked towards their master, covered in blood and gore, wagging their tails.

The three heroes sighed in relief and took in much needed breaths. The battle was over. It would seem fate was not done with them yet.

Arien with nary a scratch on her, appeared, carrying two books. She surveyed the carnage and gasped, “Is everything alright?”

Roman, badly beaten and bruised, shook his head and rolled his eyes. He took a deep breath to calm himself.

“Can I keep one?” Maggie asked Nolo, while playing with the pack of fey wolves. “They’re so cute.”

“They will need to go back home in an hour or so,” Nolo responded, rubbing his shoulder. “Besides, I’m not sure they’d make good house pets.”

The sound of a slow clap interrupted the heroes. They turned around and saw Morgath causally standing in the hallway, unhurt.

“Nicely done,” he said.

“Where the hell were you?” Roman asked.

“In my secret chambers. Come. This isn’t the first time they attacked and they will be back,” Morgath gestured for the heroes to follow.

“Morgath!” Arien interjected, with a pained expression on her face. “Skye – she’s…”

“Dead, yes, I know.” Morgath interrupted nonchalantly. “Ah, well, there will be others.”

At this response, Arien’s mouth dropped open. She didn’t know what to say.

Morgath looked at Roman. “Come.” He gestured again.

“Wait,” Roman said. “Nolo, pick up the goblin. I’ll carry the duergar.”

“Yes, bring them,” Morgath said. “They may be tasty.”

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Leadership In Question

The witch, Sollene, was gone; teleporting to parts unknown and the heroes had defeated her will-o-wisps. They had saved Mayor Gargen from whatever blight and evil plans Vermelda and her minions had for him.

When the dust settled, Roman discussed the situation with Mayor Gargen and Hartik Frothin private.

“Roman,” Gargen spoke, “you and your friends knew something was truly afoul in my household and you were the only ones willing to do something.”

Hartik huffed but said nothing.

“You saved me, Roman” Gargen continued, “even though you knew nothing about me or whether there would be any reward in doing so.”

“I did not do it for rewards or treasure,” Roman flatly responded. He began to wonder why he really did it in the first place.

“Nonetheless, my giant friend,” Gargen smiled, “You have my eternal gratitude. My house is yours, and whatever I can do to offer any assistance, all you need do is simply ask. I am at your service.”

“Sleep would be nice,” Roman said.

“Then by all means, use my bedchambers and rest.”

“I will not disgrace your room with my presence,” Roman said. “I am not worthy. Besides, you do not want my smell in your bedchamber.”

Gargen chuckled. “You are much nobler than you look, my giant friend. Very well, you and your friends can use the guest room.”

“Thank you.”

“But before you leave,” Gargen said, “There is one more matter we need to discuss. That witch is still out there and who knows what else. What do you suggest we do?”

“I would suggest you double or triple your guard patrols and keep everyone on alert. Have your guards question people and drop the names of Sollene, Cyro, and Vermelda. We want these villains to know that we know who they are, and that we are hunting them now. We want them on the run. We want them to come out of their dank, hiding hole and into the light. And once they are in the light, we pounce on them.”

After their discussion, Roman returned to his friends and the heroes took a much needed rest.

Before he fell asleep, Roman thought of all the adventures he and his friends had been through in the last few months. He wondered why his friends had made him their de facto leader. He never thought himself a leader of any kind. He knew he wasn’t very bright, intelligent, or charming; qualities he believed made a person a leader like his mother. He only did what he thought was right and if anyone followed him, then so be it. It was their choice.

When he was a pirate, his mother was his captain and he was trained to take orders without question. He was never taught to give orders, and now he had people looking to him for life and death decisions.

“What right do I have to make those decisions,” Roman thought. “Why would these people listen and follow an idiot like me? Don’t they know I’m just a buccaneer? They’ll end up dead if they keep following me, just like my mother. Sigmarus! I will find you and I will spear you through the heart. No, I will need to leave these people soon. I have found a trail that may lead to Sigmarus and I can’t ignore it. No, they can’t come with me. It’s too dangerous, and I certainly won’t allow Arien to follow me. I’m sorry, Arien, but I can’t bear the thought of Sigmarus plucking a single hair from your head. Very well then, it is decided. In a few days, after we’ve dealt with this Vermelda joke, I’ll go back to Morgath and begin my hunt for the white mask, alone.”

Roman finally fell asleep.


The heroes awoke to the loud sound of banging on the door.

“Roman!” Hartik shouted behind the door. “The city is under attack.”

Nolofinwe was the first to leap up from his meditative state. “Roman, wake up,” he said. “Something’s wrong!”

Maggie woke up with a strange tickle in her throat. She didn’t feel very well, but thought it simple fatigue from the last few days.

“No rest for the weary” Roman moaned as he got up. He wished he had a bottle of rum.

Arien stayed in bed and asleep as Roman, Nolo, and Maggie went to the door to speak with Hartik.

Hartik informed the heroes that an army of foul beasts was rampaging through the Dark Corner.

“If it wasn’t for our doubled patrols, all of Burran might have been overrun by now,” Hartik commented. “We’ve been able to contain them in the Dark Corner, but it’s taking our entire resources just do to that. We don’t know how long we can last. Buildings are on fire and there is smoke everywhere. The screams of mercy and death are deafening. Innocent people, women and children, are being slaughtered and there is very little we can do about it. We need your help.”

Nolo’s face turned pale and his expression stone cold. Flashbacks of his family’s massacre replayed in his mind. He ignored the pain of his bleeding, clenched fist. For Roman, he heard the roar of the tiger and felt his heart beating at triple the normal pace. The image of the triangle of vengeance burned in his mind’s eye. It was time for him to fulfill his dark oath of death.

“What are we waiting for?” Maggie sang, twirling her rapier. “Let’s go kill ’em all.”

“Oh Roman,” Arien finally spoke up, breaking everyone’s train of thought. She slowly pulled herself up out of bed. “I don’t know if I can go. I’m so tired. I didn’t get any rest and I don’t think I have much power in me.”

“What do you mean?” Roman asked.

“The last couple days, I’ve had these horrific nightmares. They seem so real. They give me no rest and I can’t regain my powers because of them,” Arien confessed.

“Roman, what do we do?” Nolo asked.

Again, Roman questioned to himself why these people sought his council, but he let it pass.

“It sounds like you are afflicted by the same curse as Gargen was. If that’s the case, then there is only one person I know who might be able to help…again,” Roman said with a grimace. He hated the idea of having to make yet another deal.

“Morgath,” Nolo whispered.

“Yes, him,” Roman confirmed.

“But if he’s in the Dark Corner…” Nolo started saying.

“Then maybe he’ll need help,” Roman finished for Nolo.

“Then let’s go,” Maggie piped with a wicked smirk across her face. “My rapier is thirsty.”

The heroes gathered their things and headed out to the Dark Corner.


When the four heroes arrived to the Dark Corner, they discovered that Hartik did not exaggerate.

The slums burned and smoke covered the tops of buildings like a thick shroud. All around them, they heard the constant screams of men, woman, and children, the clash of steel upon steel, the breaking of glass, the crumbling of buildings, and the ever continuous explosions. The streets were littered with the dead and ran red with blood. It was a war zone.

“Well, ain’t this place charming,” Maggie commented.

“Did I underestimate Vermelda?” Roman whispered to himself, as he surveyed the carnage.

“They listened to me. They followed me and this is what I wrought upon Burran. I am no captain; no leader. I am only a harbinger of death and destruction. What have I done?” Roman heard the tiger roar in anger and he almost lost his control.

A touch on his shoulder broke him out of the coming rage. It was Nolo. “Roman, you alright? You seemed…distant there for a moment.”

Roman nodded.

“I wonder if Zufem is alright,” Nolo said.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Roman said. “He’s tough and can handle himself. Besides, he’s a troll. You think you’ve killed him, he’ll just grow back again.”

“Trolls can do that?” Maggie asked.

Roman just rolled his eyes.

“You think we could check up on him after Morgath?” Nolo inquired.

“Maybe,” was Roman’s only response. He thought about enlisting the aid of the troll, if they were able to find him, but quickly remembered that Zufem was a lazy bastard and probably couldn’t be bothered.

The heroes tried to sneak through the slum to avoid any unnecessary fights, but weren’t as successful as they wanted to be. They encountered a group of vile goblins and bugbears, which the heroes quickly dispatched. But Roman knocked out and captured one of the goblin leaders. He thought perhaps the thing could be a gift to Morgath, after the two of them interrogated the little beast.

When the four companions arrived to Morgath’s home, they discovered the front door ajar. Cautiously, they approached and entered the house and found three bodies in the entrance corridor. The first was a dead carcass of a strange hybrid creature with the body of a bird of prey and the head of a stag. The second was the bloody corpse of a gnoll. The third was the motionless body of Skye.

Arien quickly rushed in and knelt down next to Skye’s body. Arien fought back tears. Her friend was dead. She noticed puncture wounds on Skye’s neck and her body felt cold to the touch.

Nolo investigated the three bodies and realized that the bird creature and the gnoll had probably died long before Skye. It seemed odd to him. “What happened to Skye?” he thought.

“Mags and Nolo, look around the place,” Roman ordered. “Hopefully, Morgath is still alive and around here somewhere.”

While Roman stayed in the entrance corridor, Nolo and Maggie split up to investigate the house. Arien picked up her friend’s body and carried it to a guest room. She laid the corpse down onto a bed and cleaned the blood off of her friend’s stiff face and combed her hair.

Suddenly, the front door burst open and an abominable creature stood at the entrance with a snarl. It was a giant, blue-black furred panther with six legs and two tentacles from its shoulders. But what nearly threw Roman into an involuntary rage, were the three duergars that stood behind the giant panther, ready for battle.

“Nolo!” Roman shouted, “We got guests and I’m gonna need your healing!”

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