An Old Enemy and a New Ally

My son, you have done well and are blessed. Speak truth and tell of your accounting.

Blessed Mother, you honor me and I humble myself to your glory. I shall tell the truth that I know and subject myself to your mercy for any error I speak.

It was the morning after and we had had made our decision to infiltrate Shukalgau; or so I thought. There were still some who had doubts.

I had prayed and the blessed mother gifted us with her bounty of food and drink. I had hoped that breakfast would bind us together to foster a sense of camaraderie and trust that we would need to succeed in our current endeavor. But my heart sank when Arien whispered into my ear: “I need to speak with you in private. I don’t trust Samir.” I knew then was not the time to cultivate discontent or harbor distrust among ourselves. I believed any such misgivings should be aired out publicly and be open for discussion. I expressed that thought in not so many words. But Arien ignored my rebuff and, instead, spoke with Nolofinwe in private.

What words they spoke, I do not know, but it appeared Nolo convinced Arien to speak freely and honestly about her concerns with the rest of us. Nolo is a good elf and perhaps, of softer tongue than me.

Arien confessed that she had been visited by the vampire, Morgath, not in physical form, but through the channels of mind and spirit. She received this ‘waking dream,’ as she described it, as she awoke that morning. The vampire Morgath asked about her and her lover, Roman Khan, and when he should expect them to arrive in Massar. The vampire said he had a way to rid her of Vermelda once and for all.

This waking dream disturbed me on many accounts. It confused Arien’s convictions and brought doubt to our current objective. She began to wonder whether we should listen to the message and instead turn around and go to Massar. Flint, of course, rejected the idea. ‘Massar is a hell of a place. I ain’t going there,’ he huffed.

The message itself was not what disturbed me. What made me pause in concern were three points: how did the message come; from whom did it come; and why did it come now?

A vampire? It was then Arien and Nolo relayed their relations with the vampire Morgath; and in their telling I began to wonder if this vampire had bitten Arien or placed a spell on her. If it had been a spell, I believed Flint or Nolo would have noticed that already. So my suspicion fell on the darker notion – she had been bitten and was slowly turning into a vampire’s thrall. The idea truly distressed my heart. Not only had I been sent on a holy quest to rescue Arien out of the maleficent darkness of Xymor and contend with the continual pursuit of a half-crazed, but deadly witch, who I had learned how to keep at bay for the time being, but now I had to be concerned about a vampire that may have enraptured my sanctified ward. It always feels the darkest before the dawn.

I expressed my thoughts, but Arien was adamant that the vampire Morgath had not touched her. I noticed Flint eyeing Arien’s neck. I was about to inform the dwarf that vampires rarely practiced contrived behaviors of biting necks as they typically bite their thralls in places the public cannot usually see. But I thought better of it. Knowing Flint, he may have wanted to strip Arien and inspect her whole body.

Arien refused to believe she was influenced by the vampire Morgath. I let it go, for the time being, and brought up the last point: why now? Why did Arien receive the message right before we were about to enter Shukalgau? It was too coincidental. Of course there was no immediate answer. We discussed and explored the issue more and finally, Arien was convinced to ignore the message and continue our quest to sneak into Shukalgau and find the portal out of Xymor.

During our conversation, Flint had wandered off to scout our path without telling any of us. When I had noticed his absence, it was then we heard the booming voice: “Samir! Give yourself up and your companions will be allowed to leave unharmed.”

While Samir, Arien, and Nolo rushed out of our safe quarters through the east passage, Artemis and I hurried out the north. I heard Flint roar in the distance: “And you call yourself a dwarf!”

I turned a corner and saw a tall, menacing-looking tiefling in arms against a duergar. Across the way, I saw Flint and Samir fighting a couple more duergar. I couldn’t see Arien or Nolo.

I ran to fight alongside the stranger and before I knew it, the fight was over. The tiefling and I stood in silence, measuring each other and wondering who would make the first move, be it words or blades. Samir, Arien, and Nolo had quickly arrived and Samir introduced us to his tiefling friend, Truneseeg.

The tiefling told us his story of how Vermelda had come to Shukalgau; of how she informed the duergar of our location; and of how Truenseeg was assigned to investigate the passage and bring Samir back. Truenseeg did not say it at the time, but I wondered if Vermelda had told them of our intentions. The tiefling said he knew nothing about the secret passage. The hunting party was surprised of its discovery.

Samir vouched for Truneseeg. It was apparent to the rest of us that the two of them were allies, if not friends. Samir explained our situation and Truneseeg offered to help, if it offered a way out of Xymor.

I then noticed Flint was gone again. And again, we heard a booming cry, but this one was Flint. We hurried through the caverns toward his voice and found him standing in a narrow passageway, battle ready.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked.

‘Giant flaming lizards,’ Flint responded. Several large snake-like beasts with scales the color of fire came at the dwarf. Arien rushed to his back and touched him, bestowing a spell of speed upon the sorcerer-warrior. He released a spell on himself and shape-shifted into a large bear, but it was like no bear I had ever seen before. It had quills on its back like a porcupine. The beast roared and savaged the lizard creatures. It seemed we were in for yet more obstacles along our path to Shukalgau.

Interrogation Transcript of Bopko

Interrogator: Bopko, you are here to give testimony of your eye witness account on the day the Scourges of Xymor came to your escaped Derro settlement.

Bopko: 4, 5, 6, 7! I was there! I saw it all because I was there!

Interrogator: Then give us your testimony. But be aware that if you lie, your execution will be painful.

Bopko: No, no. I was there. I was. I saw it all. I won’t lie. 4, 5, 6, 7. I saw the Scourges of Xymor. I first saw them kill the great and powerful red dragon and slay the mistress of flame.

Interrogator: Yes, we are aware of what happened before. But what happened the next day?

Bopko: 4, 5, 6, 7. We ran and hid. We ran and returned. We ran and made wall for kingdom. If they came, they would not find magic wall we built.

Interrogator: Magic wall?

Bopko: Magic wall. Poopycock had pet – Peepee, a gigantic spider. Peepee was Poopycock’s pet. Peepee guarded wall. But we thought the fire lizards would get them. We did! We did!

Interrogator: But if these murderers killed a red dragon, what chance did salamanders have?

Bopko: 4, 5, 6, 7. Fire lizards are more powerful than dragons. Dragon weak. Fire lizards mate. Dragon no mate.

Interrogator: Whatever. Now, before we continue, you must stop repeating those numbers. If you say those numbers again, I will personally have you flayed and keep you alive for a week. Understand? Good. Now, continue.

Bopko: Killers killed fire lizards. The big bear ate them all.

Interrogator: Big bear?

Bopko: There was a big bear. He ate all the fire lizards and their eggs. I got mad. Fire lizard eggs are tasty and big bear didn’t care to share. Sharing is caring and big bear not a care bear.

Interrogator: So this bear savaged a group of salamanders and ate their eggs. Scribe, please note that the Scourges of Xymor have a pet bear. So, Bopko, what happened after they killed the salamanders?

Bopko: They found wall. They destroyed wall.

Interrogator: But you said it was magic.

Bopko: It was. Magic made rocks fall on intruders; bury them and kill them.

Interrogator: So how did they destroy it?

Bopko: Magic stick. Dark Lady Devil Tongue Witch used magic stick and destroyed wall with sorcery missiles.

Interrogator: I see. Dark Lady? Scribe, please annotate all references of Dark Lady as Arien-gil Bihari. Continue.

Bopko: Poopycock’s gigantic spider held them at bay. Peepee scared them. But they did not want to fight. Dark Lady Devil Tongue Witch says they want to talk. She says they killed great red dragon for us. She says they want to serve us. She says they want to help us conquer Shukalgau. But they had to get permission from Baby Graki Nanny.

Interrogator: This Baby Graki Nanny was your king?

Bopko: Not king, but nanny – Baby Graki Nanny.

Interrogator: Okay, fine. Nanny. Scribe, please note the leadership role of Baby Graki Nanny. So, this Baby Graki Nanny believed them and allowed them entrance?

Bopko: No. Baby Graki Nanny had to do test first.

Interrogator: Test?

Bopko: Test Scourges of Xymor; test if they were worthy. They were not worthy. They murdered…

Interrogator: Bopko, you’re getting ahead of yourself. Tell us what happened before the murders.

Bopko: Baby Graki Nanny let them in. Maybe Baby Graki Nanny was not worthy. But he let them in. But big bear couldn’t fit in. Big Bear, not a care bear, had a big butt. He couldn’t fit.

Interrogator: What happened to this big bear?

Bopko: Big Bear with big butt who ate all the fire lizard eggs and not care to share, turned back into little big man with big butt.

Interrogator: Wait. So that bear wasn’t a pet. It was a shape shifter. And by your description, it sounds like it was Flint Ironfist, the stone dwarf. Scribe, please note that Flint can polymorph. And please make sure General Commander Ragnor Cane knows of this. He would be very interested in learning that Flint Ironfist is now able to polymorph. Anyway, continue.

Bopko: Who is General Commander Ragnor Pain?

Interrogator: Ragnor Cane. And that is not your concern. Now, as you were saying, Flint changed back into his dwarf form…

Bopko: Yes, Fisty of big bear, big butt turned into little big man with big butt. But Fisty was able to squeeze through wall even with big butt.

Interrogator: Yes, yes. What happened next? They approached Baby Graki Nanny, correct? Then what?

Bopko: Baby Graki test.

Interrogator: Baby Graki test? What was this test?

Bopko: Baby Graki Nanny carries Baby Graki and gives test.

Interrogator: Wait. Baby Graki was an actual baby?

Bopko: Baby Graki – big baby, but not have big butt like…

Interrogator: Enough with the big butt! Who or what was Baby Graki?

Bopko: Baby Graki Nanny carries Baby Graki in baby crib.

Interrogator: Crib? He carried a baby around in a baby crib?

Bopko: Yes. Doesn’t everyone? Baby Graki in tiny cage on a stick – crib.

Interrogator: Wait. What?

Bopko: Baby Graki lived in tiny cage – plays, eats, and poops in cage on stick. Baby Graki in crib.

Interrogator: But that’s not a… Okay, whatever. So they approach Baby Graki Nanny and Baby Graki who’s in a cage.

Bopko: Crib.

Interrogator: Crib. What happened next?

Bopko: Scourges of Xymor stood before Baby Graki Nany and he shakes Baby Graki.

Interrogator: He shakes the baby?

Bopko: Baby shake and Baby Graki does test.

Interrogator: How?

Bopko: Baby Graki reads head. Test.

Interrogator: But it’s just a baby. How can it read minds?

Bopko: Because Baby Graki is Baby Graki.

Interrogator: Okay, okay. The baby reads minds. What then?

Bopko: Dark Lady Devil Tongue Witch passes test. She had a devil’s tongue and cheats test.

Interrogator: What happened to the others when Baby Graki read their minds?

Bopko: The Great Evil One…

Interrogator: Who?

Bopko: You know – The Great Evil one.

Interrogator: Describe him.

Bopko: Human. Balding. Beard. Holy man.

Interrogator: Scribe, please note the identity of Craven.

Bopko: The Great Evil One tricks Baby Graki and passes test.

Interrogator: And the others?

Bopko: Fisty, the big butt, fails. I saw it. He was not worthy. No, no. He passed. Big butt passes. He saw the evil of The Great Evil One. He tried to kill The Great Evil One. He kills The Great Evil One’s bird.

Interrogator: So Baby Graki entered Flint’s mind and Flint attacked Craven?

Bopko: Yes, but The Great Evil One fools Fisty and Baby Graki can’t show truth anymore. Fisty goes back to what he was before and becomes slave to The Great Evil One.

Interrogator: And Nolofinwe Tasartir?

Bopko: Woody? He fails. He dumb. He drools.

Interrogator: Scribe, note that name. And Samir bin Mu’adh al-Talib?

Bopko: Who?

Interrogator: Samir, the shadow warrior.

Bopko: Oh, the forgettable one. I don’t remember. I forget if he passed or failed. He was forgettable.

Interrogator: So Baby Graki was manipulating their minds.

Bopko: Yes, yes. And the Dark Lady Devil Tongue Witch stakes a banner flag in the ground. A wave of magic everywhere. The Great Evil One…

Interrogator: Yes? And?

Bopko: The Great Evil One killed Baby Graki!!

Interrogator: So it was Craven?

Bopko: The Great Evil one cast spell – death spell. Baby Graki melts.

Interrogator: Melts? Like a fire spell?

Bopko: No. Shrivels. Crumbles. Folds. Blighted. The Great Evil One killed Baby Graki!

Interrogator: So Craven, The Great Evil One, murdered Baby Graki. It was Craven who started the fight?

Bopko: The Great Evil One murdered Baby Graki!

Interrogator: And then what happened?

Bopko: Long Horny kills Poopycock.

Interrogator: Wait. Long Horny?

Bopko: Yes, Long Horny – a demon man.

Interrogator: A demon man. We don’t have any records on a sixth member. Who was this demon man?

Bopko: Long Horny. He was with them when they came. He said we crazy. He said not to trust us. He was a demon man.

Interrogator: Scribe, make sure you note that. So this demon man, Long Horny, attacks. But Craven attacked first, correct?

Bopko: And Fisty attacked too. He jumped in front of Baby Graki Nanny. Fisty was fast as lightning. Fisty came a-fisting, fisting his flaming sword in his fist and fisted right into Baby Graki Nanny.

Interrogator: So the fight commenced. Continue.

Bopko: 4, 5, 6, 7…

Reporting to Cane

Secret recording within General Commander Ragnor Cane’s personal office.

Darkmore: General Commander, I have the report you requested.

Cane: Very good, Lieutenant. And the witnesses?

Darkmore: They have been executed per your order.

Cane: Good. Summarize your thoughts.

Darkmore: The Derro, Bopko, the one you instructed to be resurrected for interrogation, gave valuable information on our quarry.

Cane: Yes. I can see that. Interesting. Polymorph abilities. Magical banner. Summoning angels of death?

Darkmore: Correct, sir. Bopko testified that the derro surrounded them with no way out. But Craven apparently prayed and the ‘gates of Tuphet’ opened with a swarm of spectral demons coming forth, melting the vast majority of them. Physical evidence confirms this as our investigators found traces of divine necromancy on the bodies.

Cane: Divine necromancy – such a strange contradiction. Yet, it is most definitely Craven. This is certainly proof that he has somehow broken through the barrier. This does not bode well.

Darkmore: Yes, sir. Bopko said he tried to flee but Flint Ironfist was able to chase him down and kill him.

Cane: This derro, he said nothing of Arien’s jewel?

Darkmore: No, sir. Either she had it covered or they were too preoccupied in their own crazy hysteria to notice or care.

Cane: I see. Good. So, they killed all the derro.

Darkmore: Except for the one we found.

Cane: Yes, yes. The one with the dead baby. This derro said Craven brought the baby, Baby Graki, back from the dead?

Darkmore: Yes, sir. As the report states, after they killed everyone, including the spiders, they captured this single derro and questioned him.

Cane: The report says this derro’s name was Meme?

Darkmore: Yes, sir. They wanted information on the secret passage into Shukalgau. Supposedly, it was only Craven, Arien, and Nolofinwe that questioned him. Meme said Flint, Samir and the sixth member…

Cane: Whom we still have no information on?

Darkmore: I’m sorry, but that is correct. We’re trying to gather more information on that.

Cane: So, Flint and Samir weren’t interested in questioning this Meme?

Darkmore: They went to find the secret passage and it appeared Flint got himself lost in the tunnels.

Cane: Interesting.

Darkmore: Sir?

Cane: It’s nothing right now. Continue.

Darkmore: From Meme’s account, it would seem Arien tried to use sorcery to persuade it to give them the information they wanted.

Cane: Something with Baby Graki?

Darkmore: Yes, sir. I’m not sure what Arien was trying to do with the dead baby but it failed. The derro said it made her a ‘very maddy lady.’ But it was Craven…

Cane: He reanimated the baby?

Darkmore: Yes, sir. Baby Graki zombie.

Cane: But couldn’t the derro tell it was a zombie?

Darkmore: Craven reanimated the baby still in its cage but had a blanket over it. So no one could see the undead baby. They could only hear it. And apparently, Craven told a story about how no one was allowed to see the baby or it’d die, or worse, not being completely resurrected. Something about how the grace and mercy of his goddess must not be interrupted for 24 hours. The derro was confused in his telling of the story.

Cane: Whatever we say about these people, one thing is for certain – they are tenaciously malicious in their pursuits.

Darkmore: Craven’s trick convinced Meme to help them through the secret tunnels and to Shukalgau.

Cane: Flint or Samir were able to find their way through the tunnels on their own?

Darkmore: No. As I mentioned before, Flint got lost. Samir waited for the others before entering the tunnels but Flint went ahead on his own.

Cane: That sounds like Flint.

Darkmore: Yes, sir. Meme, as you can read in his account, he was very descriptive in his opinion of Flint.

Cane: A dwarf getting lost underground is a bit embarrassing. But they were able to find him.

Darkmore: Yes, sir. Craven called out to him. This allowed Flint to follow the sound and exit the tunnels. With the group together, Meme guided them towards Shukalgau. Meme told them they were heading towards the Central Market.

Cane: Of course the little derro would think that.

Darkmore: As they approached the sewage dump, Meme mentioned the loud tremors, booms and vibrations.

Cane: That makes sense.

Darkmore: Yes, sir. They found the garbage heap and Flint was the first to climb it. He was the one to hack the door shoot to Shukalgau and…

Cane: Interesting. Very interesting.

Darkmore: I’m not sure I understand.

Cane: By all accounts, this group does not work very well together. They each have their own agenda and interests. They aren’t loyal to the group. They act as if they care very little for one another. From the accounts, they fight for themselves, individually; not as a group. They are not a fighting unit. They are severely flawed.

Darkmore: I’m still not following.

Cane: They move as a group, sure, but they don’t move as one. I wonder…

Darkmore: Sir?

Cane: If we discovered the correct lynchpin, we could splinter this group, perhaps even getting them to kill each other…

The Fetters are Broken

Long into the future in a land far, far away…
Arien-gil Bihari, Nolofinwe Tasartir, Craven Witchborn, Flint Ironfist and Samir bin Mu’adh al-Talib continued their long trek through the secret tunnels to Shukalgau. Flint managed to climb out of the tunnel and found himself in a Derro garbage dump. He immediately came under attack from a hidden metallic claw. He jumped back down the hole and told the others of the attack. Meme, their Derro guide, mentioned that it was the guardian and would attack any non-Derro that emerged from the tunnel.

Craven convinced Meme to take Baby Graki to His Excellency Captain Major Emperor Dongle Judd. The cleric of Muerath told Meme that the Derro should begin their takeover of the Duergar because Baby Graki demanded it. Meme fled as Samir put pass without trace on them all to try and sneak past the guard. They decided Flint would go up first to distract the creature then the others would follow Truneseeg.

Flint was easily discovered by two nearby humans once he emerged. The humans announced “dibs” on the dwarf and shifted into hybrid rat creatures. Everybody quickly climbed into the garbage dump, but the machine-like guardian breathed fire onto Arien and Nolofinwe. It continued its attacks against Nolo as the rest of the companions tried to flee from the machine. The heroes managed to kill the wererats and get away before the guardian could do more damage.

They scurried silently toward the Central Market to find Takgar, breathing hard against the choking heat and putrid air. As the ground trembled violently, they ran into a Duergar patrol. The Duergar where no match for the companions, especially after Nolo conjured a swarm of giant bats, but then an earthquake hit, knocking most of them to the ground. Vermelda suddenly appeared, claiming the fetters of Xymor were broken and hoping the wretched piles of pig shit suffered long before they died in the chaos to come. She then disappeared again.

The back wall of Shukalgau exploded. What looked like a large ship pummeled through the wall, a ring of fire around it. But wrapped around the bow of the ship was a huge squid. However, where a squid would normally have fin lobes, this creature had large wings that resembled a dragon’s. Geometric objects tumbled from the ship, resembling the spheres and cubes of the Machines or Contraptions. The ship and the octopod crashed into Shukalgau in a great explosion. The fiery ring around the ship exploded.

Blasts of lighting and fire in the opening of the back wall thundered as rocks crumbled to the city below. Through the opening came several more flying ships, but these had sails and no ring of fire. Painted on the sails were a symbol only Arien had ever seen before: a left-handed gauntlet held upright and four octopus-like, black tentacles wrapped around the palm…

Shukalgau Falling

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

Arien, Nolofinwe, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg defeated several Duergar in Shukalgau as the chaos of invasion and battle erupted around them. Before the companions could decide their next move, an invisible Duergar snuck up behind Nolofinwe. Two blades burst through the druid’s chest, ripping him in half.

More Duergar appeared poised to deal with the rest of the heroes. The dark dwarves proved unprepared to deal with Craven’s spirit guardians and Truneseeg’s lethal poison, but one fled the battle with Flint giving chase. The dwarf quickly caught up with his prey and put an end to the creature. With the ground of Shukalgau trembling and airships launching alchemist fire into the city, Arien had little time to mourn the death of her friend. She gathered a few of Nolofinwe’s belongings and set him afire.

They hurried toward the market and saw one ship head toward the wreckage of an elemental airship and the other head toward the Obsidian Palace with both firing their weapons. Flying Machines and insect-like creatures that produced an ominous drone poured through the opening against the cavern’s back wall. Through the opening, they could see flashes of more battle. A booming voice echoed through the chamber, “Shukalgau is liberated! Destroy your chain masters! To arms! To Arms for Freedom!”

The party entered the Central Market where they spotted Takgar under attack. The group managed to surprise his attackers and take them down. Takgar was pleased to see Truneseeg but revealed that he had no knowledge about the attack on Shukalgau. He did explain that with the fetters broken, the companions could now exit Xymor trough the massive tunnel beyond the back wall of the cavern. Several docking bays for unloading slaves and supplies were housed there. The treasonous Duergar knew of a way through the Obsidian Palace to the forges, where they could access the bays.

The group decided that Takgar’s plan seemed most reasonable. Unfortunately, several Machines landed to attack, killing Takgar and badly wounding Arien. The heroes fled the area, with Craven staying behind to provide cover for Arien, his sworn ward…

The Fog of War

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

Arien, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg fought the Machines that descended on them in the Central Market of Shukalgau. With Craven in trouble and Arien badly wounded, Samir came up with a plan. He told Flint to run with Arien and Truneseeg to the Obsidian Palace while he rescued Craven. They would all meet up at the Palace.

Flint refused to leave his new comrades behind, but Samir cast a darkness spell in front of the dwarf, effectively blinding the nearby enemies, and then teleported near Craven. The Machines flew out of the darkness with several focusing their attacks on Craven and Samir. Craven’s spiritual weapon proved nearly useless and Samir’s aim with his bow fared little better. Suddenly, two enlarged Duergar appeared in the market, toppling tables and tents as they barreled through. They took aim at the Machines as they ran past but ignored Craven and Samir. In the confusion, the Machines were defeated and the duo ran to meet their companions.

Meanwhile, as Truneseeg fled the market, he stumbled upon several Derro. The pitiful creatures, now fighting for their freedom from Duergar slavers, began attacking him and Arien. The Derro severely wounded Truneseeg, but he eventually made his way through the creatures. With darkness hindering his progress, Flint stood behind Arien and positioned himself to take the arrows and javelins launched by the Machines. The projectiles harmlessly bounced off his shield and hardened skin as Arien used her sorcery and magic wand to slay the mechanical beings.

With their enemies destroyed, the companions reunited and fled through Shukalgau. They were able to survey the battle happening above. A third flying ship similar to the other two appeared through the opening in the back wall of the cavern. The elemental airship that held the Machines lay smoldering on the ground to the north and several other fires burned in the city. The ground continued to shudder and the disturbing drone continued.

Weary and weakened from continual battle, Truneseeg led them to the cellar of a bakery to hide. Flint blocked the cellar entrance with barrels and sacks of fungi flour and the compatriots discussed their situation. It seemed there were two, or possibly three factions in the battle. Nobody knew the motives of the attackers, except that the Derro were fighting for freedom and a booming voice earlier called for rebellion. Arien again brought up the symbol on Roman’s tattoo being similar to the one of the sails of the flying ships. Without knowing much more, they decided to wait for the battle to die down and a victor to emerge.

Arien was once again contacted by Morgath. The vampire expressed grief over Roman’s death and urged Arien and her allies to seek safety in Massar. Before she could answer, the group heard commotion above.

They remained still and silent as the cellar door flew open…

Flight of the Kongamato

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

Arien, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg, tried to remain silent as something tore at the barrels and sacks blocking the entrance to the bakery cellar where they hid in Shukalgau. A dog-like creature surrounded in purple flames stood at the entrance and howled, causing terror in Craven.

Flint threw up his shield to prevent the creature from proceeding into the cellar as his companions took shots at the enemy. But a voice from behind told the lich hound to enter and the beast disappeared. Flint then saw the lich hound’s master, a ghoulish creature wearing armor. The ghoul announced that Blackheart wanted to speak with them and they could choose to come willingly or unwillingly.

The heroes prepared to fight the lich hound in the close quarters of the cellar. When it finally appeared, they quickly attacked and eventually destroyed the beast with a final shot from Arien’s magic missile wand. The ghoul tried to attack Flint, but slipped at the top of the stairs. The company hammered the creature and it too fell back to death.

The heroes debated on finding a new hiding spot or staying put as the battle raged above. They decided to stay and rest for the night, but they made the bakery appear looted and smell like shite to deter further incursions. In addition, Craven sent Artemis outside to keep watch. Flint told the group he knew the name Blackheart. He was an elven pirate that plied the waters of his home world, Kraggen.

The next morning, they woke refreshed and Craven communed with Muerath for divine insight. His goddess told him that the surest way to escape Xymor was to leave through the opening in the back of the cavern above Shukalgau. She also warned that Xymor would soon fall. It was then that large tremors shook the ground and Artemis reported that the flying ships that had invaded the city were beginning to leave.

The heroes decided to magically fly away, but there wasn’t enough magic between Arien and Flint to convey the whole group. Flint then had an idea. He recalled a giant flying beast from his home world called a kongamato. He could use his magic to transform two of his companions into the beasts and Arien could transform one. Then, he and Arien could ride on the backs of two, allowing all five of them to pursue the flying ships and escape.

The companions agreed. Craven, Samir and Truneseeg were polymorphed into fearsome kongamatos. Arien climbed on Craven’s back and Flint climbed on Samir’s.

They then took flight…

Undead Overboard

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

Arien, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg, found themselves trying to escape Xymor after Craven received a warning of impending doom from the goddess Muerath. With Craven, Samir and Truneseeg polymorphed into fearsome kongamato bearing Arien and Flint as riders, the companions chased down several flying ships that were fleeing Shukalgau.

As they approached, a giant insect demon flew toward them producing a disturbing drone that caused the kongamatos to crash to the ground. Flint sputtered and cursed, getting KongaSamir back into the air. Arien and KongaCraven followed. The demon was quickly dispatched and they sped toward the last ship leaving the cavern.

The vessel defended itself with ballistas and arrow fire, but Arien cast a lightning bolt from her hand to kill the pilot. The vessel began to falter and nearly slammed into the cavern wall before another pilot took the wheel. But it was enough to allow them to catch the ship. The heroes engaged in hand-to-hand battle with the undead crew.

Then, KongaCraven grabbed a dragonborn wraith in his massive jaws and dropped it over the side to plummet to its death. This new tactic proved popular with the other komgamatos and several more undead plunged over the side.

As the ship made its way through the hole in the back of the cavern and into a large vertical tunnel, the heroes could see more warfare above them. Two elemental airships with crews of Machines had created a blockade, but one was on fire and several of the insect demons were accosting the remaining airship.

It was then that a bright orange light flared from the depths of the tunnel, the area violently shuddered and the light seemed to be coming toward them…

The Destruction of Xymor

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

Arien, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg, continued their flight from Shukalgau as an explosion threatened to destroy the ship they were hoping to commandeer. The ship’s pilot, seeing its allies killed by the polymorphed kongamato heroes and their riders, steered the ship toward the wall and down toward the oncoming flames. Flint attempted to wrestle control from the pilot, but failed. He urged his companions to abandon ship and the group took flight to escape.

However, Arien decided to give it one last try. She used her powers to teleport back to the ship and took over the controls. Despite Flint’s protestations, her compatriots arrived to help defend her from attack by more enemies that emerged from below deck. After trying to push the ship beyond its limits, Arien realized she would not be able to exit Xymor before the ship was engulfed in flames. Reluctantly, she climbed on the back of KongaCraven and the heroes managed to evacuate Xymor before it was destroyed.

Upon exiting, they discovered that Xymor, their prison for years, was nothing more than a giant sphere covered in machinery and metal, and that here was also a second “Xymor”. Both floated about an immense ice-covered mountain side, but both soon erupted in explosions and fell into the clouds below.

The companions flew clear of the explosions and the airships battling in the skies nearby. However, two insect demons did notice the gigantic flying kongamatos and initiated pursuit…

A Cold Welcome to Arkull

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

Arien, Craven, Flint and Samir, along with Truneseeg, fled from the insectoid chasme demons that chased them from the exploded ruins of Xymor. Craven, Samir and Truneseeg had been magically transformed into giant kongamatos with Arien and Flint riding on their backs. The chase proved too strenuous for KongaTruneseeg, who fell behind as the rest of the heroes found a crevasse to hide in.

However, KongaCraven decided to save their companion with KongaSamir following right behind. They found that Truneseeg had transformed back into his normal Tiefling form and was bleeding profusely from his side as he tried to fend off the two demons. The party rallied for their ally, destroyed the chasme and then flew far from their former prison into a cavern for much needed rest.

Craven communed with Muerath to discover their location. She relayed they were still in Materia on a world called Arkull. He was again urged to protect Arien. The next morning, Craven and Truneseeg were polymorphed into kongamatos to continue their flight down the immense mountain as a light snow fell.

After many miles of barren snow and rock landscape, they spotted a lone human being chased by three huge beasts. Each had a humanoid upper body with massive tusks protruding from its shoulders, and a shaggy mammoth lower body. The barbarian turned and stood his ground to attack the mammataurs that gored and stomped on him. The heroes decided to join the battle on the side of the human.

Arien cast acid orbs, KongaCraven and KongaTruneseeg pecked and clawed them, and Samir fired with his bow. Flint jumped from KongaCraven onto the back of one of the beasts, but nearly fell off after a missed swing of his fiery blade.

Then Artemis shat in its face, allowing Flint to quickly strike some powerful blows…


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