Mid-Winter, Vanger 8th (The Month of Pestilence), 151 AV in Lokil:
After opening the gates to the City of Brass, the group fled from the emerging aspect of Chardun and the massed armies of the efreet sultan who burst through the gateway as soon as the bindings were destroyed. Kara teleported the group back to the Black Gate where they hurriedly went back to Scarn to emerge out of the scalding geyser on the hot, baking Sweltering Planes. Using a bit more of Kara’s magic, they teleported to the Library of Lokil, having decided it was time to seek Allustan’s wisdom at the Great Library now that debts to the Lord of Bats were paid. Paranoid regarding Chardun’s threats, the group went to the Golden Hammer Inn within the merchant-town outside of the mountain-city Lokil to rest and to make contact with refugees from Diamond Lake: Allustan and Feflin. The remainder of the 6th and 7th were spent recovering from wounds, discussions of future deeds, and toasts to friends lost. For the first time in months, you slept last night without a life debt to a psychotic fey lord hanging over your heads and there was a sense of peace and accomplishments that lulled you to sleep in the plush beds of the Golden Hammer even with promises of a god for your enslavement and destruction.
The group awoke in the morning and find breakfast, with various members making their way down from their rooms at different times in the morning based on sleep schedule and previous nights drinking. At some point it was noticed that Kara had not came down this morning.
Xaylin complains of being sick to his stomach. Zoltan diagnosis him and determines likely food poisoning from the huge feast he consumed in the Great Inferno when being the guest of the salamander ruler of Coalchester. Xaylin groans and rapidly heads to his room wishing for death rather than the severe vomiting and explosive diarrhea that Zoltan believes will be next.
The group then asks whether the innkeep has seen Kara. The elderly innkeep says “Haven’t rightly seen her this morning”. You notice that he wears nice clothing and has a small chain with a golden hammer on it about his neck. Zoltan recognizes the symbol as holy to Hedrada, the lawgiver.
Zhou Pan asks for the room number to Kara‘s room, which the innkeep provides. Knocking on her door doesn’t produce a response. Zoltan goes back to the innkeep and asks for the key. The innkeep is a little uncertain about giving up a key; he indicates that he can’t give out a key to someone just because you came in together and seem to be friendes; it isn’t policy. Zoltan talks with the innkeep a bit more and convinces him of his honest intent. The innkeep agrees to give the key if he can accompany the party.
The room looks much the same as the one you had…a bed, a small desk, a chamber pot, all of good quality and well kept. You notice that the bed appears slept on and the window and shutters are locked from the inside. No signs of a struggle are obvious. On the desk there is a folded piece of paper. Zhou Pan pockets the note and the group leave the innkeep to clean up the room while they slip off into one of their rooms for a private reading.
My master has been released and has set about restricting the access of gods to Scarn. The bindings upon the gate to the City of Brass held one of the last large piece of his essence; the release was sufficient for his power to coalesce. He has not restricted worship magic yet; likely he sees some need to maintain its function that we do not understand. The Marid and other genie folk are free as I have felt their influence and favor fall upon me. I leave you now without adversity though you may feel somehow betrayed by my intensions. I go now to see those I care for and to ensure their protection in the coming plague, even as I ready myself for the next mission from the Sire of Sorcery
The group is consternated and confused as to the note and duplicity (?) of Kara. They ponder the meaning and ramifications of this dire news and suddenly more than just Xaylin feel uneasy of stomach and aquivering of bowels.
After another hour, the time for the meeting approached. Around noon, Leon rented one of the private meeting rooms that adjoin the main, common hall of the Golden Hammer Inn. The kitchen staff brings in several large trays of food for your lunch and in a few minutes two familiar faces walk through the doorway: Allustan and Feflin. They are carrying some scrolls and note papers, looking much the part of the many scholars and scribes you have seen in your short time within Lokil. Both look a bit haggard and tired, as if they have been getting little sleep. Allustan appears to have lost further mobility in his injured leg, greatly leaning upon his staff as a cane or crutch as necessary.
Allustan said "Well met, Champions of Diamond Lake. It fills my heart with gladness to see you and in good health. What brings you to Lokil and how might I help you? "
Feflin said “Master, may we eat first. We have been so busy with research and this repast looks sumptious.”
Allustan replied “Yes, Feflin, we should nourish our bodies as well as minds. Surely our hosts will regale us with their heroic tales while we sup and then we can discuss business.”
The party tells tales of their adventures, culminating with the opening of the City of Brass whilst all fix plates and commence to eating. They do not include the news regarding Kara and her note.
Allustan congratulated the heroes on their accomplishments though he was a bit perplexed that they had opened the City of Brass in seeming defiance of the gods will. After a bit of wine to calm his nerves, he continued “Feflin and I have been reading a set of [[scrolls:scrolls-of-pheth-amon]] you found from members of the Ebon Triad. The scrolls are disturbing and speak of a powerful sorceror, by name Pheth Amon, who traveled to Kuluth Mar to seek out the Spire of Long Shadows. Read at your own leisure my friends, but beware the affect on your sanity if you read it long.”
Zhou Pan, Leon, and Zoltan reviewed the scrolls of Pheth Amon recalling their efforts in the Free City to stop the horde of spawn from taking over and ending all life in the city. An effort that included fighting side by side Amanita the Unlucky, Ildamar, and Sarina of the Shroud.
Feflin said “It is good that you and the other heroes of the Free City stopped those coffins from creating an army of those wormy spawn before they were able to destroy the whole city. I hear the Free City still hasn’t recovered…much like a town after a plague…over half the city gone in a few hours.”
Allustan said “True, true. But, now it appears that your focus must be on Alhaster, as that is where this Pheth Amon seems to have originated from. I have been in discussions with Cestarian and his apprentices, and we have found that Balakarde, my friend and a foe of the Ebon Triad and Kyuss, was last seen in Alhaster seeking the advice of a woman named Lashonna.”
Allustan continued “You see, during our research to figure out what Pheth Amon wrote about, Cestarian and I uncovered a hand-written note from Balakarde stuffed in a book about Alhaster. Cestarian and I believe that the Lashonna mentioned in the note may have been the last person to see Balakarde alive. Even though Balakarde’s meeting with her was over a decade ago, it is still likely that she remembers him. After all, my master was very formidable and intimidating. Hopefully, she knows where he went or what he did, or perhaps the fate of his notes on Kyuss and the Age of Worms.”
Allustan showed the party a note scribbled in quick fashion. He indicates it was written by Balakarde, his master and friend of Cestarian. Evidently, Balakarde was a powerful archmage and foe of the Ebon Triad and Kyuss about 10 years before your beginnings in Diamond Lake.
Alhaster is the key.
Missing heretics never captured… Possible site of Ebon Triad foundation? Did they turn to the cult of Sethris for aid and then more recently to that of Vecna? Are new Triad leaders trained somewhere in Alhaster, and then sent out to start their own cult cells in other cities?
– Lashonna (helped defeat heretics may know more about them that wasn’t printed in Rhorsk’s book)
– Rhorsk (research indicates he did not flee Alhaster after it fell – he’s probably dead but may have left some sort of legacy)
– Ebon Triad (are they still active in town? Find out if their original Death Shrine still exists)
Feflin broke in “Master, I had heard rumors that the wicked dragon Illthane had flown to Diamond Lake from the North during his attacks. Some fisherman from the Free City told me they saw the dragon flying over Devils March. Caravan traders who have frequented Alhaster or the Bandit Kingdoms to the north of Devil’s March swear that the dragon lairs somewhere within that area. He was a servant of the Ebon Triad was he not?”
Allustan patted Feflin on the back in congratulations before saying “Good thinking Feflin. Perhaps there is a connection. Excellent use of research and intuition, my apprentice.” Feflin beams at the attention and praise from his master. Allustan continued “I do recall in reading some of Balakarde’s notes trying to track down Ebon Triad activity and it often mentioned Alhaster…and in a few cases a dragon was mentioned.”
It seems we could have a dragon hunt on our hands…(rubbing hands excitedly) —Leon
The mention of a Death Shrine in conjunction with the Ebon Triad had many members of the adventuring party concerned. They asked about being able to contact Balakarde, but Allustan admitted that all of his spells and those of Cestarian had failed to locate the wizard. Allustan and Cestarian’s contacts in Alhaster, although limited, indicate that Lashonna is still present in the city.
Leon asked “What do you suggest we do Allustan?”
Allustan replied “I see a trip to Alhaster in your future, to answer you Leon. That is where the remaining leads point to…”
Zoltan said “I think finding Lashonna and asking some questions is perhaps in order, although it seems to me that if Balakarde wanted to be found by asking questions of a known associate…he would’ve been found…”
Allustan said "One of Cestarian’s apprentices was searching his library for information on Alhaster when she found the note stuffed in a book. The book where we found the note was in “History of Alhaster” and it was written by a cleric of Hedrada named Rhorsk. I seem to recall that Rhorsk’s book speaks of Ebon Triad activity in the city, but my memory is faded to the specifics."
Zoltan asked “What can you tell us of Alhaster, Allustan?”
Allustan said "Well I hear that the city is ruled by a tyrannical follower of Chardun, the self titled Prince Zeech. He evidently rules with an iron fist, so raising a commotion might get undue attention…however, I hear that he allows all faiths to enter his city and is good at encouraging trade. The city itself is capital to Redhand, one of the small Bandit Kingdoms that sit north of Devil’s March.
After more discussion, coupled with food and drink, the party and guests finished the meeting. Allustan continued to answer questions as best he could with the group with Feflin throwing in when he could. After an hour or so, the meeting was concluded with Allustan and Feflin wishing the adventurer’s luck on their journey. Allustan agreed that he could provide scrying or a teleport spell to get them to Alhaster
Early afternoon brought “shopping fever” upon the companions, particularly Leon. With thoughts toward preparing for adventures in Alhaster, the companions went outside to walk about Lokil’s trade quarter and bazaars.
Lokil is a trading city and enjoys caravans stopping there that travel from Fangsfall, Hollowfaust, Calastia, Darakeene, and Shelzar that supply its scholars and monks the products they need including foodstuffs. Those same caravans go away with the inks, books, and other items produced in Lokil as well as having the benefit of a protected place to rehydrate and restock their caravans in the brutal Ukrudan desert. The trade quarter of Lokil has a smaller bazaar than many other similar cities, but stores, shoppes, and inns with large stables dot the quarter offering their wares.
The sky is blue, the weather is clear, and as these are winter months, even the sun is not particularly harsh today. Hours pass as the adventurers walk about looking at books, weapons, and other magical items.
Suddenly, from beyond the eastern horizon’s rim, you see a pillar of azure fire with a fat crown tumbling toward the sky colossolly high and large. The ravening pillars crown was molten sapphire, and it unleashes a fiery catastophe in its wake.
In seconds, the group sees a shimmering wall of disrupted air racing across the lip of the horizon being chased by a endless wall of azure flames. It is racing from the mushroom cloud outward in all directions…it is headed towards you faster than you can run. The ground quakes and a nearby building collapses. One would think it a natural disaster if not for the blue flames.
The wall of air and fire races towards Lokil at a stupefying pace. The occupants of the bazaar and the city itself recognize it will be upon the city in moments and you feel the walls will be scant protection.
Leon begins preparing a teleportation spell to get the party out of danger. Zhou Pan looks at the scared and frightened people about him in the Bazaar as he balances on the quaking earth.
Zoltan shouts over the din “We’re just going to leave your brother, again?”
Leon vehemently shouts “Dammit to hell! No.” He turns to face the impending doom.
A shrieking gust of air blows over all in the bazaar throwing carts, people and other items about. Everyone is knocked prone by the sonic cacaphony and hurricane force winds.
The adventurers lay scattered as the earth quakes and steams. Above them, the air flickers with blue fire levitating, jumping, and lashing about randomly. Where the blue flame touches someone or the environs, the victim is burned to ashes, mutated, scarred, or locked into a sapphire crystalline lattice in instants. The stone is warped or reshaped with occasional arcane sigils burned into it via the blue flame.
Striking like a cobra of magical flame, the flame lashes Zoltan burning him and paralyzing him like a giant wasps victims. Screaming aloud as the flames ravage his body in moments he is frozen inside of a giant crystalline prison. Leon turns to run into one of the intact buildings but is struck from behind, likewise burning and frozen in stasis within the azure lattice. Zhou Pan tries to dodge the flame but is also struck down
The pain increases to higher and higher levels and you feel unconsciousness rushing towards you as the blue flames burn…Zoltan, Leon, and Zhou Pan try to block out the pain but it is too much as you scream impotently while burning inside the crystal prisons. As the party mercifully feels unconsciousness or shock taking them from the pain, one clear voice and image forms in your minds telepathically reaching your shellshocked and pain-addled brains.
I have been reborn!!!
Know that many of you will not survive the wrathful purge I have laid on the land such that the cycle of life and birth on Scarn is returned to health. It is a necessary sacrifice to ensure the survival of this world. Thus, I have invoked the spell plague to change this world as I like it, and I will tax those who use my mana. In addition to restarting the great wheel of the world to spinning, this spell plague will give my followers and those of the titans a respite from the civilizations spawned from our wayward children.
Yet, I now see the wisdom of my fellow titan Denev and can feel that another war with our children could spell the end of this fragile world that I hold dear. Thus, I have invoked a restriction such that any gods who come into the Scarred Lands do so as mortal creatures.
I bequeath upon you great changes to this realm and reality by the power of my magick.
And with that the vision in your mind melts, the waves of pain overcomes you and you pass out, drifting in the abyss of darkness. Time ceases to have any relevance to you…
Mid-Summer, Hedrot 15th (The Month of Pestilence), 152 AV in Lokil:
Nearly 15 months later, the crystal surrounding Zhou Pan shatters and he emerges transformed.
Guardsmen stand at attention with spears pointing at him as he emerges…evidently some things that emerge are not friendly. Looking quickly about, he sees several other crystals with guards standing nearby in the ruins of the bazaar. Though obviously less populated than before due to the Spellplague, the city of Lokil is well on its way to rebuilding any losses and damage to structures, which were less impacted than the denizens of the Scarred Lands by the azure flames.
Zhou Pan attempts to open the crystals containing his friends but finds the lattice impenetrable. Hoping that they will survive the burning ordeal with minds intact, he busies himself with training with the monks of the Order of the Closed Book in Lokil. These monks are the guardians of the great library. A wizened old monk who is about to go on a pilgrimage in the Ukrudan desert to die (evidently a tradition amongst the Order) befriends Zhou Pan and teaches him much before leaving him his earthly positions as he goes on his “long walk”.
Zhou Pan comes to check on the crystals containing his friends every dawn and dusk. Many hundreds of such crystals exist in Lokil alone and it is said that it is the same worldwide. He finds Zoltan and Leon in the bazaar and Xaylin locked in a fetal position still in the Golden Hammer Inn.
Meanwhile, he hears rumors of terrible creatures that have been created by the azure flames, as well as existing creatures that have been mutated or warped by the Spellplague. Some regions of the Scarred Lands still have pockets of the blue flame flickering about constantly warping and morphing the landscape and creatures within…other areas have been made devoid of magick. Magick items have lost their potency in some cases, while others have been recharged or reformed more powerful than ever before.
Zhou Pan investigates the crystals and finds that the crystals contain sentient species. Most come out changed to some degree but mostly themselves; a few of the crystals open and the things coming out are aberrations, chaos spawn of the worst kind. Thus, the posted guards to protect the city.
As the months go on, you wonder if Zoltan, Xaylin or Leon will escape unscathed or be doomed. Time passes as Zhou Pan learns the kata of the monks and has time to reflect on his philosophy and previous vows and how they have (or have not) helped the world.
Mid-Winter, Hadrer 1st (The Month of Protection), 153 AV in Lokil:
Eight months later, Lokil is celebrating New Year’s Victory with flowers and parades through the streets, perhaps the first festival where the people have been able to move from thoughts of survival to getting back to normal. Zhou Pan watches atop the crystal containing Zoltan as the populance enjoys themselves, brooding and meditating as he watches the citizenry sweep by his entombed companion. Suddenly, the crystal surrounding Zoltan shatters and Zhou Pan jumps clear. A winged form emerges but looks distinctly like the aasimar, Zoltan.
Zhou Pan clasped his friend and said “I know not what happened, but I’ve kept a vigil over you, and our swordbrothers during your encasement. I tried to free you but it is not possible.”
Zoltan looked about at the busy bazaar and celebratory festivities. Still, even with masks and special dress, he could see some bore the marks of being burned by the blue flame. A number of crystals containing people still sit about the open area, many with flowers or small gifts at their feet representing devotions or wishes from friends or family.
Zoltan clutches his head as many questions fill it. Suddenly, he feels a divine presence reassuring you and filling a black spot in your mind. Having been without that reassuring feeling for some long period of time while in stasis, the touch seems heightened…perhaps deeper than before.
Zoltan and Zhou Pan catch up on what has been going on and the state of Xaylin and Leon. The theory is that Mesos was reformed that fateful day nearly a year and a half ago and that he unleashed the Spellplague on the civilizations of the divine races to give more and equal footing to the children and races of the Titans. Many sentient species are locked into stasis and at least 10% of the population of the world was turned to ash or mutated into horrible abberations, the divine races have suffered a significant setback. However, true to Mesos’s pronouncement, he has went to rest and magic works much the same as it did before though the world and peoples have changed as a result of his mighty spellcraft.
Days continue to pass as the climate and pace of civilization begins to recover…nearly two years past the pillar of blue fire. Mesos continues to rest unchallenged by the gods. Civilization slowly recovers, though rumors of some smaller communities being taken over by titanspawn seem to be a more prevalent rumor. Rumors of caravan goers are of strange, abberant beasts roaming about…mutated by the spell plague and some that even live in the blighted areas where the blue fire remains to this day mutating, scarring, or burning to ashes those foolish enough to go within.
Zoltan spends the time in prayer and in contact with members of his order, in particular conversing remotely with Sir Arthur Dayne. He also has contact with Raldinian in dreams. When not in prayer, he helps Zhou Pan and the Hedradan clergy and monks rebuild and nurse the populance of Lokil back to good health.
Mid-Winter, Vanger 15th (The Month of Pestilence), 153 AV in Lokil:
Over two years total after the Spellplague and Pillar of Azure Fire, the crystal encasing Leon and Xaylin shatters. Leon immediately goes for his blades and nearly goes about killing the guards before the voices of Zoltan and Zhou Pan sway his hands. Rushing to the Golden Hammer Inn, they find Xaylin much in the state you left him, except he too is scarred and changed from the spellplague. Zoltan chuckles at the torture the halfling had to go through to endure not only the ravages of the blue fire, but also a two year long episode of the dreaded “Mudd Butt”.
While Zhou Pan helps Xaylin and Leon clean up and recover from their ordeal, Zoltan takes a moment to borrow the scroll case Xaylin carries that house copies of the Apostolic Scrolls and Pheth Amon’s letters. Sighing, he points to the scrolls as the others read the particular entry; one of the prophetic events proceeding the Age of Worms was that of a burning comet lancing down from the heavens to strike the earth in a tremendous, mushroom-shaped cloud of devastation.