Scaled Down Scales

A New Shadowfox...

…Makes her Appearance

Andrea Ravn found no further treasures as she ransacked the wizard’s library. History of the Fabled Realm might prove valuable but this did not appear to be where Acererak stored his spellbooks.

They decided to make their way up to the next level of the manor house.

Nox noticed Shadowfox was lagging behind. When they all turned around to see what was wrong, the Assassin staggered back into the library, so they followed.

She grabbed the skull of the fallen naga, and held it next to the masque on her shoulder. She seemed to think the skull — from which the masque was made — looked like the naga’s skull, but the others could not see the resemblance. But Andrea noticed something: Both skull had latent magic on them. And the magic seemed to have the same flavor — at least to Andrea.

Then Shadowfox began to shake, and collapsed unconscious. They tried to heal her, but she remained unconscious. Andrea found a letter in Shadowfox’s clothing.

Reading the letter, Relvain saw it was from Amyria and seemed to be addressing all of them. Andrea wondered why Shadowfox hadn’t mentioned it.

“I guess we were pretty busy fighting the Bone Naga when she caught up with us,” the Warlord thought. “It must have slipped her mind when the fight was over.”

They decide to take Shadowfox down to the landing where they left Andrea’s Trihorn Behemoth. Relvain carried her. And Andrea brooded: “We’ll have to come back here when we leave to take her back to our own time.”

They found traps — of course, they found traps — starting with a spike trap. Andrea got a table from the wizard’s laboratory and used it to bridge the spikes. They found some suspicious holes in the floor ahead, so she used the table again to trigger this trap.

But the spikes or poison gas they were expecting did not emerge. Instead, gouts of flame set the table afire. Andrea had to throw it into the central shaft of the stairwell. They jumped, flew, and strolled — in the case of Nox — past the flames.

Andrea warned the others not to mention Acererak’s future when they tried to convince him to give up the rest of his Sky Metal. “It may help us convince him we are from the future, but he will be less likely to part with the metal if he knows he will need it for his necromancy.”

As they climbed to the top level of the building, she heard Acererak’s voice ring out.

“I offer you one chance to avoid my wrath, you cowardly thieves.”

She saw the robed figure had not turned or even paused in his work. He was turning dials and whispering words of power that Andrea could not really hear — but she felt them within her bones. She was able to hear his demand:

“Throw yourselves from my tower, and I shall allow fate to determine whether you live or die. “Otherwise, prepare to truly understand why I am numbered among the greatest wizards of Bael Turath.”

But Relvain quickly stepped in with some diplomatic flattery, telling Acererak they were from the future and — in the future — he was known all over the world, not just in Bael Turath. Nox followed up with a grand bluff.

Andrea knew they had to convince the wizard they were from the future. She had studied the model for his Tomb of Horrors and knew it varied somewhat from what he had eventually built. The historical record of the tomb’s traps was very extensive. So she pointed out the differences.

“Some of those changes … I was already considering,” Acererak told her. “And the others … I shall now consider. They seem like good ideas. I have to admit, this does suggest you may be from the future.”

They made their way through the slime traps and now faced the wizard across a causeway covered with glowing sigils. He had acknowledged their presence enough to turn and face them directly. He seemed genuinely interested about what they could tell him about the future. And Relvain seized on his interest to Bluff him with a story about his future.

They all turned and saw Shadowfox walk up the stairs, wearing her masque. Acererak greeted her warmly: “Hello, Nightshade.”

Nox Rhasgar did not know why Shadowfox was wearing her masque, but it didn’t seem to be driving her crazy.

The stairs had led them up to an open tower room, the walls alternating between solid stone and open slits that looked out upon the nearby city. The floor of this room ran inside these outer walls, leaving the center as an open shaft which dropped to the bottom of the tower far below.

The floor of the uncovered causeway leading to a second tower. Nox was pretty sure the glowing sigils on the crossing indicated some kind of magic trap.

Against the wall behind Acererak was a massive device of glowing orbs, rotating arms, and crystal tubes, almost filling the eastern wall. He could see the remaining pieces of Sky Metal clearly visible with the device’s internal structure. They only needed two more and they would be able to give Obanar enough Sky Metal to make one of the Implements of Argent for each of them.

“All right. You have convinced me you are from the future. But you are still thieves. They still have thieves in the future, right?”

Andrea admitted there were still thieves in the future. “But we are here on an important mission, important even to wizards as powerful as you are in the future. We are trying to save the city of Argent, which in our time is under assault by forces which seek to return the world to the chaos of the Primordials. The Primordials will have no use for powerful wizards in the future they seek to bring about.”

Then she pointed to one of the pieces of Sky Metal in the device behind the wizard and explained to Acererak how he could replace that piece without using any Sky Metal.

“Very impressive,” the wizard admitted, waving arm an arm. At his gesture, the sigils stopped glowing.

Assuming this meant the traps on the causeway were no longer active, Nox walked across the causeway and examined the device more closely. Using similar logic to Andrea’s, she told the wizard how to eliminate the need for the other piece of the Sky Metal.

“That’s all well and good,” the wizard admitted. “Just because you have proved I could give you the Sky Metal, however, hardly proves that I should give you the Sky Metal!”

Shadowfox — or Nightshade, as Acererak kept calling her — seemed to be be on their side in the argument with Acererak. She called him a fool and tried to intimidate him into giving them the Sky Metal.

That did not seem to work, but Nox noticed that he did seem slightly disturbed by the masque she was wearing.

While he and the others tried to gain some Insight into what could move Acererak to give them the metal, Relvain poured on the Diplomacy to convince him that the future would be good for a great and powerful wizard, but only if it was not controlled by the Primordials.

This was enough to convince the wizard to give them the last two pieces of Sky Metal they needed. He had Nox and Andrea help him fix his device so that it could continue to function without the two pieces and then handed them over.

They went down the stairs to where they left the Trihorn Behemoth and Shadowfox, The Assassin was still there, where they left her, and she was still wearing the masque … on her shoulder, not on her face.

Going back to the portal in the foyer, they used the gem Qwor had given them to return to their own time.

Belinda brought Avenglen and Garen Bladerun with her to Fallcrest. They both volunteered to help her pick up the pieces of her life. Maggie showed up as well, always interested in the aftermath of an assassination. But Maggie didn’t seemed as concerned as the others about Belinda’s own feelings. Her father was dead! Roland was missing and so was Madras Kalgore. Everybody was blaming Roland and his underling, but Belinda was sure he hadn’t done it. But she dared not say so because most people still thought she had a crush on Roland. The only one who wasn’t assuming it was him was Jerath … who was the one who wrote the play about her crushing on Roland!

Relvain Blackaxe listened as Obanar described the Implements of Argent he was going to fashion for them: a ring for Nox, a scythe for Shadowfox, a helm for Andrea, an orb for Krasire…

… and armor for the Dragonpinner. She was really looking forward to that. Obanar said he would look through the Archives of Argents for some designs he remembered. He assured Relvain they were dwarven designs, inspired by their God of the Forge.

They told Obanar they would be back soon to use the implements he was making to break the siege of Argent. They did still need to take care of the errand in the Letter from Amyria before they could tackle the seige. Obanar sent them back to Overlook.

Nox took them back to the secret shop where his friend sold Wondrous Items. They picked up some Restful Bedrolls and Andrea looked at some quills she remembered seeing. It turned out they couldn’t do quite what she wanted. Relvain found a smith who didn’t have exactly what she was looking for. She had to settle for another axe.

Then they were off to check out the outpost which was worrying Amyria.

Turned out to be quite close to one of the secret portals which Cachlain told them were being used by the Githyanki. They weren’t being attacked. Yet they were reporting unusual Githyanki activity in the area.

Perhaps even infighting among the Githyanki.

The Dragonpinner Teaches
...A Bone Naga...

…How to Read

As soon as Andrea Ravn saw the glowing eyes of the skull on the top shelf of Acererak’s library, she yelled “Charge!” and ran toward it. That might have been why she failed to notice that the pile of bones between two of the bookshelves was undulating in a snakelike motion.

Nox seemed to notice, however, and soon Andrea was caught in the Bone Naga’s aura. The undead creature was able to daze the Warlord with both its rattle and its swaying, hypnotic motions.

Then a Sword Wraith stepped through one of the walls, and she knew they were really in trouble.

“At least they’re all undead,” Andrea told the others, noting the radiant energy she had put on her sword seemed to be working well when she hit them.

But the creatures seemed to be able to keep them all dazed and dictate who she was hitting.

Then they realized the wraith was healing itself. Nox managed to get free of the naga and position himself on the far side of the room and concentrate his fire spells on the wraith — with a little left over for the naga.

“We’re getting our butts kicked,” observed Nox Rhasgar as he tried to get out of the spells of the Bone Naga. The creature’s Death Rattle kept them dazed while Acererak’s Sword Wraith and Flameskull kept hitting them. And even when they got outside its range, the others could still be dazed by the swaying motion of its most powerful attack.

Shade was handicapped by the Death Sway of the Bone Naga more than the others. She had to concentrate all her effort on maintaining her Shadow Form.

The Shadow Form was good at preventing her from getting hurt, but she needed help getting out of the aura of the Death Rattle and the Death Sway.

And she wasn’t getting that help from her teammates. Not that she had helped them much earlier when she forgot to tell them about the Letter from Amyria. She told herself, “It just slipped my mind,” as she remembered how excited she had been to see the laboratory.

She knew that on its tables someone might have fashioned a bone masque much like hers. Or, hidden in this library, might be the answer to all her questions about about the masque and why the Raven Queen gave it to her.

But for now Shade was just frustrated by the naga. Constantly dazed by its rattle and swaying dance, she could do little except pile her shrouds on the creature and concentrate on maintaining her Shadow Form.

Usually, Shade was able to escape from such predicaments by slipping from shadow to shadow. But in this dazed condition she couldn’t manage that without giving up what she thought of as her true form.

Finally, Relvain convinced her to abandon the protection of the Shadow form. Still, even after she slipped away into the shadows, the creature was able to frustrate her. All it had to do was edge toward the shadow where she was hiding and she was dazed again by its Death Sway.

“I’m telling you,” Jerath insisted, “it doesn’t make sense. Roland was a sneaky bastard, and he clearly was taking orders from Tiamat. But he could have killed Markelhay without anybody knowing. He was angling to marry Belinda and take over as Lord Warden one day. Why would he kill her father in a way that made it look like he did it?”

“I wonder if I could use this bookcase as blocking terrain,” thought Relvain Blackaxe as she remembered what she did to the dragon Chillreaver.

Using her shield to trap the naga against the books, she was able to hold it there against all its thrashing efforts to free itself.

“The creature is strong,” she observed. “But it has no training in Athletics. So it cannot use its strength. And it is dextrous. But with no training in Acrobatics, it cannot use its dexterity.”

Relvain was still dazed by the rattling, but all she had to do was hold on and maintain the pressure her shield had on the naga’s neck. The rest were all able to edge out of the influence of the rattles and kill the wraith and then the Flameskull.

The naga never did break the hold. Chillreaver had broken it — but Chillreaver was an Exarch of Tiamat. The two-headed white dragon was able to flee Icehome once Krasire broken its mirrors and destroyed her iceberg.

After they killed the wraith and the skull, Nox and Shadowfox — and even Andrea — were able to pile on enough damage to kill the naga.

They found some old tomes in the library the magic-users insisted would have considerable value if they brought them back to their own time, but Andrea insisted they keep looking.

The Warlord was convinced the bookcases along one wall concealed a hidden door. She seemed to think the blue gem was telling her of a secret room where another piece of Sky Metal might be hidden.

Sure enough, persistent searching found section of bookcase that swung inward and revealed a room filled with statues. And in the middle they saw a piece of the strange metal on a pedestal.

They were nervous about the statues, but they got the Sky Metal out without problem. Then they went back to the stairwell to climb to the next level of Acererak’s manor house.

The Workshop of a Wizard
...Turns Out to Have Clues...

…About his Future.

Relvain Blackaxe found herself standing in the entry to a large manor house.

Obanar had told her she needed to get in touch with the rest of the Order of the Black Feather to make it back to her own time. They had a blue gem which could be used to teleport through time.

She searched several wings and came up empty. No secret doors revealed their secrets. When she moved further from the main entry, a trap in the floor shot lightning bolts at her: No damage, but she sure jumped.

Past the trap, she found a door partially blocked by Andrea’s Trihorn Behemoth. She managed to forced the door open without pushing the creature into the pit beyond.

“At least I know I’m on the right path,” she told herself.

And soon she heard sounds of a fight.

Roland pulled the bloodstained dagger from the Lord Warden’s body. The orders from Tiamat were still in his hand. The next thing he knew he found himself standing atop a fog-capped hill. Similar hills surrounded a jungle valley that stretched before him. He buried the dagger where no one could find it. But he could not bury the orders from the Queen of Treachery: They were no longer in his hand when he found himself in this strange domain.

Nox Rhasgar was glad when Relvain showed up.

He first got through the door by teleporting past it. The gargoyles made him nervous, but it turned out they were not alive, just traps. When Andrea broke open the door to rescue him, flames came shooting out of the mouths of the stone statues, but she was able to withstand the flames.

Still, he was surrounded by two Boneclaws before Andrea could get to him. The Warlord was barely able to keep him alive as the Boneclaws attacked with their reach. And the Skeletal Guardians seemed to be able to get their attacks off more often than they should.

Usually on Nox.

They explained their theories on what was triggering the attacks to Relvain when she got there. But then another one appeared and Andrea became convinced they were creating the arcane creatures.

Relvain began beating her shield in a war-like rhythm and they all turned toward her. First one Boneclaw went down and then the other. Then they surrounded the skeletal figures.

“I guess Acererak is already turning to necromancy, judging by the nature of his minions.”

“I know everyone will think I’m that love-struck fool in Roland and Juliette,Belinda Markelhay told her mother. “But I just don’t believe Roland would kill father.”

“I get it,” Andrea Ravn told the others. “We’re not creating them when they pop out of nowhere. They must have been created specially for wizards and sorcerers. Whenever Nox casts an arcane spell, they teleport right next to him.”

Once they finished off the skeletons, they searched the room.

“Obviously a workshop,” Andrea observed. The evidence of necromantic experimentation was all around them, especially in the partially dissected troll on one of the tables.

Andrea found plenty of residuum for her rituals.

“I may not have a lot of them, but this will enable me to do them more often.”

The blue gem glowed brighter whenever they moved it toward the southwest — or what they presumed was the southwest from the position of the late afternoon sun coming through the windows.

And, when they took it into the back room, it just pointed them back toward the stairwell.

Then they found a hallway that led back to the stairwell — at a higher level — and to the wizard’s library. Andrea burst in and saw two piles of bones among the books. But it was a skull with glowing eyes that attracted her attention.

“Attack!” she yelled, rushing the skull and swinging her sword at it.

Warforged Guardians Fail
...To Protect Two of Acererak's...

…Pieces of Sky Metal.

Krasire made his way to the Necropolis and found the gate open. Inside he found the tomb of Qwor standing wide open as well.

The maze proved fairly easy for him to navigate because he was able to detect the magicks which had lead the others through.

He found them standing in the burial chamber, surrounded by traps. With the help of the others, he was able to see a path through the traps. But Andrea set off one of the traps.

Fortunately they were all able to hold their breath long enough for the acidic gas to dissipate. Then Nox noticed the chamber was laid out in the pattern of Erathis’s Grand Bastion in the capital city of ancient Nerath. This enabled him to figure out the safest path to the other side.

There they found a door which allowed them to enter Qwor’s Inner Sanctum.

Jerath listened to Grigore’s rantings with growing concern. He did not need his patron going off the deep end. “I know it looks suspicious. And I dislike Roland as much as you do. But trying to convince Belinda he’s too old for her and accusing him of murder are two different things. We have to be sure.”

“Why do you disturb my rest?” Qwor’s ghost asked them.

Nox knew that Andrea’s diplomacy would be crucial, so he helped the other Dragonborn explain that they needed to reforge the Implements of Argent for the new challenges that threatened the pivotal city.

“Why should I aid you?” the ghost asked next. “Are you worthy of the Silver Cloak?”

Krasire explained they had defeated one of Tiamat’s Exarchs — a dragon, as it happens — and killed another. Nox and Andrea helped out by explaining the challenges ahead and the immediate danger to Argent.

Finally convinced, Qwor’s ghost said, "I can see how the Implements of Argent can aid you in these dangerous situations. Unfortunately, rare metal that falls from the sky is required to craft the Implements.

“The only set I know of was lost when a group of champions disappeared into the Abyss more than a century ago.”

When Nox asked what they could do, the ghost continued:

“The only option is to go to the last place where the metal was known to be — Bael Turath, approximately 600 years ago. Within my sarcophagus, you shall find a gem. Be careful of the trap, however.”

Krasire told Nox he knew the wizard — Acererak was his name — who built Bael Turath. But he met the necromancer much later than that, after he had turned to evil.

Then Andrea set off the trap in the sarcophagus, trying to get at the gem. Once again their endurance saved them.

“You’re the one who told me Roland and Juliette would convince Belinda Roland was a danger to her!” Grigore Goldforge yelled at Jerath. “Look how that backfired. Now half the women in Sayre think they’re the most romantic couple in all the planes. Even some of the sensible dwarf women in Overlook!”

Andrea Ravn took the glowing blue gem to Obanar.

“One piece of the sky metal is required for each of the Implements of Argent you wish to craft,” the old man told her.

They assembled in the portal on the plaza.

“Remember that the gem shall guide youto where the sky metal is stored,” Obanar explained. “When you are ready use the gem as the focus of your Argent Portal ritual, and you shall return here, to this time.”

Obanar had a warning for them.

“The past is not a place for you to linger, and you shall not be able to range beyond the place where the sky metal waits. Defend yourselves, but do not try to change that which has already occurred.”

After a flash of light from the circle in the plaza, Andrea found herself standing in another circle, apparently located in the entry-hall of a large manor house. One wall was lined with statues. Andrea thought she saw one of them move slightly, as it were observing their presence.

By noting whether the blue gem glowed more or less as they moved in various directions, they found two secret doors. Once again, Andrea’s lockpicking skills were insufficient to open them. “Where is Sam when we need him?” she asked herself.

Krasire was able to get inside the secret rooms — hidden behind the doors — and find two pieces of sky metal. There were traps on the floors but he avoided them and used his new boots to teleport slowly and carefully in and out of the rooms.

A similar exploration of another locked room found only hideous monsters trapped in magical cages. The blue gem was all it took to lure Krasire into another floor trap.

When he stepped on it, several of the statues sprang to “life.” And a lightning trap zapped him good.

“if you can consider Warforged ‘alive’,” she thought.

Andrea herself got trapped behind one of that same trap because she didn’t expect the lightning to go off again. She had to fight the battle without doing much tanking.

“But my healing skills still work,” she said. “As long as the others get close enough for them to reach.”

She was impressed with Krasire’s damage. The Psion was hitting almost as often as Nox.

Heroes Convince an Argent Wight
...To Show them Where Quor...

…Is Buried.

When Andrea Ravn took Nox to Nine Bells, she noticed the district was much cleaner than the last time she was here. Some of the beggars were sweeping the streets and even the temples looked less woebegone.

But he was little prepared for the sight of the temple of Erathis.

“I guess Elyas has really be fixing the place up.”

When they asked for the priest — who apparently was one of the first to join The Order of the Black Feather before the Golden Scales even existed — they were shown to a humble Invoker who directed them to his favorite place to find Wondrous Items: The Dungeoneers Survival Emporium.

They it located in a narrow building. At first, it appeared to specialize in common goods such as rope, tents and bedrolls. But it didn’t take long before Nox figured out that the proprietor — a large half-elf named Myra Edgerton — would show them more interesting things if he flirted with her first.

As she watched the dawning awareness in his eyes, the younger Dragonborn turned to her with something akin to fear. She could almost read his thoughts: “I. Don’t. Know. What. To. Do.”

She was really proud of the kid from the swamp, though, as he steeled himself and decided to bluff his way through it.

“He’s not bad at it either,” she thought to herself as Nox started to flirt with Myra. It occurred to her that the difference between pretending to flirt and actual flirting is not all that great. “I guess a flirt is kind of a bluff in any case.”

At the end of a long, narrow hallway, Myra moved a hidden switch and a door swung inward. Beyond, they found a circular room with a large, ornately inscribed teleportation circle set into the stone floor. Around the outer wall stood display cases and box, desks and large cabinets.

A pile of Restful Bedrolls spilled out of the largest of the ornately carved wooden boxes. The pigeonholes in one of the desks seemed to be each occupied by flints. A silver chime, a flag marked with martial runes, a leather pouch embosed with platinum, and a fancy stylus was displayed in one of the cases.

Asking about their wondrous properties and cost, Andrea settled on the flag. “If we don’t find something better I’d really like that I may just pay the 1,000 gold pieces she is asking.”

Although the Platinum Pouch was tempting as well. “If we don’t find a Bag of Holding, I may have to settle for that.”

She told Nox he might be overdoing it with his flirting. “You may be promising more than you’re ready to deliver,” she whispered to the Sorcerer.

Myra muttered something under her breath, and they suddenly found themselves in another room. This one was octagonal. Crystalline windows revealed they were now on a floor above the other buildings in the section of town where Elyas had sent them.

Andrea could see out in all directions. Exquisite pieced of artwork adorned most of the other four walls. But the thing which drew her eyes was a finely crafted cabinet of polished rare wood with crystal shelves. Displayed in this Dazzling Showcase, she saw five more art objects, including a fan and an opal lozenge.

A small skull made of an unidentified metal floated in the middle of room. It followed Myra around the room, occasionally turning towards her as if expecting a question.

Once Nox diplomatically convinced the half-elf he wasn’t planning to spend the night with her, he got her to show him a piece of coal which was tinged with red. He spotted the rune for fire deep inside it and was able to identify it as a Stone of Flame — a Wondrous Item that Relvaine had told him of.

He bought it on the spot, along with a black metal flask.

“I didn’t know he had that much money,” Andrea said as Nox handed over the 18,000 gold pieces Myra asked.

Now Myra took out a small vial of ink and poured it on the floor in the middle of the room. The blackness spread out in a perfect circle, passing beneath their feet and other obstacles as if they were not there.

The floor disappeared and they floated to the dark floor 20 feet below. She showed them nine more Wondrous Items, but they could afford none of them.

“The Alliance will be honored accept your appointment of Druemeth Goldtemple to the Council. We will be glad to see him assume his duties as soon as he finishes his diplomatic mission to Cachlain.”
Krasire to Inzira,
The Daughter of the Frostwhite Forest

When Nox Rhasgar thought back on his experience flirting with the half-elf, he realized that it wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. He had smiled at her, laughed at her jokes — even when he wasn’t sure he totally got them — and teased her a little.

In fact, as he thought back on it, he realized that some of the Dragonborn girls he knew back in the swamp might have been under the impression he was flirting them as well. He certainly smiled at them when they smiled at him. He even teased them a lot.

And the way some of them giggled when he laughed at their jokes…maybe he wasn’t getting all those jokes either.

Stepping through the Argent Portal, all memories of playful Dragonborn girls were brushed from his mind. He found himself standing in an ornately beautiful city.

Old, but beautiful.

It stood almost empty, apparently under siege. Defending it was a strange race of lion-like humanoids. One of them came up to them and introduced himself as Rrowthar who took them to an old man named Obanar.

Obanar told them about an undead guardian who haunts the Necropolis in the city. “Seek him out and see if he will tell you how to find the Sky Metal.”

As Rrowthar took them to the Necropolis he handed them a key and told them the Sky Metal was something which could help them make some artifacts which might help them.

The key opened the massive gate in the wall surrounding the Necropolis. Beyond the gate, they found the Necropolis even more silent and still than the near-empty city. A sense of hushed reverence hung in the air.

A cobblestone path wound between crypts and large, elaborate mausoleums. As they searched for some indication of where Guardian Qwor was interred, an undead creature with a longsword appeared from around one of the ancient tombs.

“What business do the living have…” it pointed its sword toward them “…in this land of the dead?”

The blade glowed with dark energy.

“What do you know of the honor of the Champions of Argent?”

Nox listened as Andrea recounted the history of the Dragonborn people — all three of them were Dragonborn — and saw the Wight seemed to be impressed.

So he decided to try to intimidate the creature. That went well as the Wight cowered a bit at his threats.

“Prove you are worthy to wear the Silver Cloak,” it thundered.

Andrea stepped forward again and explained diplomatically all they had done. Nox could see the creature was receptive to such entreaties. So he put aside his plan to prove himself worthy by demonstrating his athletic prowess and continued the diplomatic overtures.

That was all it took. The Wight bowed to him and pointed toward a mausoleum.

“That is where you will find Qwor buried.”

“I always knew that bastard was no good,” raged Grigore Weatherbie Goldforge when he found out Faren Markelhay had been murdered. Apparently Roland and Kalgore disappeared before the killing was discovered. “But not before the killing. Everything Roland was, he owed to the Warden of Fallcrest. And this is how he repays his debts. At least now Belinda will be able to see him for what he really is.”

When the key did not fit in the door, Aleeya realized it would take teamwork to solve the puzzles in the mausoleum.

Sure enough all three of them got through the door by working together.

They found a maze and split up. Without the teamwork, they got lost in the maze and had to use all their endurance to avoid becoming weakened. But pooling their arcane knowledge — a Sorcerer, a Paladin, and a Warlord have a lot of arcana between them — Andrea was able to get them back on track.

Aleeya knew the construction was magickal in nature — the place seemed much bigger on the inside — so he decided the inherent magic might provide clues as to how to navigate their way through the maze. Nox was able to help him some.

He began to the see the pattern in the way the enormous maze was magickally squeezed into the ordinary-sized crypt. “Perhap,…Yes!” He showed the others they through.

He led them into an elaborate burial chamber.

“I’ll bet it’s full of traps,” he warned the others. “These things are always full of traps.”

Interlude with Shopping Trip
...and Character Leveling

Nox Rhasgar studied the maps Cachlain had given them.

“Thiradith Outpost,” he mused. “One of Cachlain’s portals lead to a spot near that isolated outpost.”

And the Stone-Skinned King told them the Githyanki had been using that portal a lot lately.

Training with Relvain, Nox had sharpened his skills. And even gone shopping.

But some of the Wondrous Items the dwarven shieldmaiden told him about were not to be found in the markets of Sayre.

Amyria told him that The Order of the Black Feather had contacts in Overlook which might be able to help him find such items.

“You mustn’t come right out and ask her about Wondrous Items,” the Deva warned. “They are in her private collection. Flirt with her first, then she might show you the good stuff.”

“Cachlain has invited me to send an ambassador to his court to facilitate our alliance against Sangwyr. Druemmeth Goldtemple, I ask you to represent me there. Go at once. And make sure the Stone-Skinned King does not double-cross us.”
—Inzira, the Daughter of the Frost-White Forest

“We ride to the east,” Megan Swiftblade told the Freeriders. “Our scouts found tracks near an outpost there. Some evidence indicates Githyanki may be involved.”

Battle-weary, the Freeriders obeyed. No arguing, no shouting, they almost seemed beaten.

But Megan knew better. She herself felt none of the old pride. Her new pride — a kind of dedication to the Alliance — was tempered with purpose.

All the Freeriders felt that purpose, too. She knew. They would follow her into the Elemental Chaos itself.

She just hoped that was not where they were heading.

“Here is the sequence of sigils you can use to perform a portal ritual to reach my court.”
—Cachlain, rewarding the representatives of The Order of the Black Feather for their service freeing him from the clutches of an Exarch of Tiamat

Elyas woke from his dream, disturbed.

An Exarch of Erathis had appeared to him in his fitful sleep.

“Why should I be troubled? Have I not done everything I could to restore the Temple of Erathis?”

He could not remember if he had asked the Exarch these questions, but he was sure his work in the Nine Bells district had been noticed by his god. The whole place was in much better shape than when he arrived. The other temples were being restored as well.

But it seemed in his dream that Erathis wanted more from him. The Exarch seemed to think he was needed in Argent.

The Dragonpinner Is Joined
...By Fire Man and Rock Girl...

…As Crowd Favorites in Cachlain’s Arena.

In the process, they expose an Exarch of The Queen of Treachery.

Andrea Ravn told the others they needed to prepare for another battle before they got to the throne room. She went about healing the others even as they were carried or hussled up through the corridors which led back up to Cachlain’s headquarters.

They were all at full strength by the time they got to the great doors.

“A good thing, too,” she thought to herself.

As soon as they got there. Sovacles began making wild accusations, charging them with crimes Andrea was pretty sure the mind-mage himself had committed.

“The gracious king invited you into his palace, and you use trickery and deceit to compromise the security of his domain. You aid his great enemy, Sangwyr, and you plot against our brave, wise king! At every opportunity, you’ve allowed them into the king’s domain and led them in their assault! Now, submit to imprisonment and the king might spare your lives.”
adviser to the Stone-Skinned King

Cain told Cachlain they were clearly attacked by the assaults Sovacles was trying to blame on them.

But the seneschal seemed to be ordering the Stone-Skinned King around, not even hiding his power over Cachlain. As soon as Sovacles shouted “Attack,” the Fomorian king charged them.

Wishing she had Krasire’s powers of persuasion, Cain concentrated her attacks on Sovacles. The rest were doing the same, although Valna tried to intimidate the king, berating him for letting Sovacles order him around. That didn’t work, but Cain thought it came closer than might be expected.

The king hesitated a second, looking angrily at his advisor. Then he shook it off and renewed his attacks on Relvain. Sometimes he was able to slam her so hard he caught others in his attacks.

Cain decided to step back and take advantage of her reach attacks to get a shot at Sovacles without setting herself up for those slams.

She noticed Nox was using smaller bursts of fire than he used against the wolves, so he he could hit the seneschal without hitting the king.

Sovacles was hiding behind Cachlain’s stone armor and deflecting as many attacks as he could toward the king himself. This seemed to convince the king their entreaties of friendship were some kind of deception.

But Andrea was actually healing the king.

“Seems to help,” Cain thought to herself. “Sovacles is getting more and more obvious. Maybe that’s helping.”

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with! My queen has given me the power to destroy you easily! Tiamat will have all that you possess and more, and your blood is my gift to her! And I’m sure Cachlain’s replacement will be more amenable to our commands.”
revealed as an agent of Tiamat

Once Relvain Blackaxe had Cachlain’s attention — “I guess the only way to get it is to hit on the head with my axe” — she adopted a defensive posture. The giant Fomorian still was able to hit her sometimes, but at least he wasn’t attacking the other.

The others were trying to convince the Stone-Skinned King that Sovacles was not his friend, but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. When Nox put up what what seemed to Relvain to be a pretty good argument, she thought he was about to realize what was up.

When Cachlain shook that off and renewed his attacks, Relvain decided to take things into her own hands and tried the diplomatic approach. Just when that seemed to be working, the king looked at her and said, “Yer da one ’oo ’it me.”

She told the others they were just going to have to concentrate on killing Sovacles.

As the seneschal got more and more beat up, his ranting became more irrational. Just when it appears that the advisor’s threat is ended, his body evaporated and formed into a wispy green cloud.

The cloud began cackling about Tiamat’s power and Cachlain’s replacement, and Relvain knew the trickster had lost all control…

…and was revealed as a shapeshifter.

“Replacement?” shouted the Stone-Skinned King. He leaped toward his throne and gestured at the floor, which was made of some kind of crystal formed like stained glass. It disappeared and Relvain fell to the arena below.

She managed to keep her feet and saw the green cloud Sovacles had become float down on wispy wings.

“You have destroyed my human guise! Still, I have four more forms that can defeat you easily! Now you know you face Virizan, Exarch of Her Dark Majesty Tiamat! All in this room will take my secret to their graves!”
— Sovacles,
revealed as Virizan

Valna of the Moonstair heard a cheer from below, but he did not fall with the rest. He and Nox had spread out behind the throne itself to avoid Sovacles’s bursts of Bane Quills. The floor around the throne side had not disappeared when the strange king gestured at his crystalline floor.

Looking over the edge, Valna could see that four Eladrin gladiators had been fighting a Blackroot Treant. They had managed to chain it down with Cold Iron chains and now were acknowledging the crowd’s cheers.

He could tell the gladiators thought the crowd was cheering for them. “Foolish Feydark preeners,” he thought to himself. “Anyone can see the crowd is cheering because they paid for an ordinary arena fight. Now they get to see an Exarch of Tiamat, fighting for his life against true champions, capable of fighting on his level.”

“Cachlain won’t last long! Sangwyr marches, and the Fomorian weakling’s forces can’t stop him alone. Tiamat covets this domain and it will be hers, and Sangwyr will be a perfect puppet upon the throne.”
— Virizan,
Exarch of Tiamat

Nox Rhasgar heard a new chant go up from the crowd below. Something about a dragon.

The insubstantial nature of Virizan’s Venom-Wisp form made it hard for Nox to do as much fire damage as he would have liked. But when his friends below surrounded the Venom Wisp, it was forced to change into a swarm of snakes.

Only a few of the crowd seemed to be taking up the chant about the dragon, but one of the gladiators heard it. He was now leading the chant and encouraging the rest of the crowd to join it.

“I can see that at least that one realizes they are not cheering for him,” Nox noticed. “I guess all Feydark Eladrin are not so arrogant as to think everything is about them.”

Now that the crowd was organized, he could make out the words:

“Dragon-Pinner. Dragon-Pinner. Dragon-Pinner….”

“I guess Relvain is better known around here than I thought.”

The crowd was reacting to his blasts as well. The party members who had fallen were on their feet and attacking Virizan with their weapons. Whenever they surrounded the Shapeshifter, he would turn into a swarm of snakes and it would become hard for them to hit the teeming mass.

Their blades often struck between the snakes, doing less damage than they might. But his blast attacks left no room for the snakes to squirm to. They seemed to do extra damage as the snakes got in each other’s way.

Every time this happened, the crowd seemed to cheer, only to fade into disappointment.

“I guess it’s because they cannot see me up here.”

The gladiators — ever in tune with the crowd’s mood — made the same guess they formed themselves into a kind of ladder to let Nox and Valna climb down.

The crowd went wild.

“Do not think I ever underestimated you. You stopped Chillreaver, so you’re clearly skilled. None of Tiamat’s exarchs falls easily!”
— Virizan,
Exarch of Tiamat

Remembering nothing of the philosophical debate before they fell through the floor, Grim was impressed with the way the crowd was reacting to the Dragonborn Sorcerer’s fire attacks. When Nox killed off the swarm form, they changed their chant.

“Fire Man. Fire Man. Fire Man….”

When the Snake-Swarm form died, Virizan tried to alternate between his Venom-Wisp form and the guise of a human creature with scaled skin. In this guise, he produced his staff of office, now twisted and warped into the image of a hooded serpent.

But the Venom-Wisp soon died as well, forcing Virizan to try another form, transforming into an enormous, coiled serpent with a humanoid face. A row of green quills ran down his spine, and longer spines jutted out from the tip of his muscular tail.

This form died quickly, and the Shapeshifter had to stay in the Snaketongue form for the rest of the battle.

As the gladiators joined the winning side — Grim could see they had keen sense of whom the crowd was favoring — Virizan began to try to edge him closer to the chained tree.

The green-scaled creature had the ability to send out Emerald Coils which slid them towards the undead Blackroot Treant.

“I have no illusions that I am the strongest of Tiamat’s Exarchs. Even if you defeat me, you can’t stop us all!”
— Virizan,
Exarch of the Queen of Treachery.

“The tree has reach,” Andrea Ravn warned the others. “I think its branches can attack you if you’re with 15 feet of its trunk.”

Then she herself was grabbed by roots which emerged from the ground around her…20 feet from the trunk.

“And its roots can reach even farther!”

She could tell Virizan was close to death, but she could not reach him with her weapon. So Andrea picked up a rock and threw it at the green-scaled form he had taken.

The rock didn’t do much damage, but it was enough to kill the Exarch. The crowd started a new chant.

“Rock Girl. Rock Girl. Rock Girl…”

Freed from the spells Virizan was casting on him, Cachlain sent his guards down to bring the heroes up to his throne room. As they passed the cages where the Quicklings had released the arena beasts, Andrea noticed a rack with weapons arrayed for use by the arena fighters.

One of the weapons glowed with a red magickal power.

A Cyclops guard noticed her interest in the weapon.

“Rock Girl likes sickle?” he asked her. “I take sickle to Stone-Skinned King. Maybe he make sickle present to Rock Girl for winning in the arena.”

She was pretty sure it was no ordinary sickle. So she kept her mouth shut.

“My stupid guards!” shouted Cachlain when the guard told him where they had found the weapon. “This no sickle. This is Talenta Sharrash. Made only beneath the Dark Sun. Magic item of great power. I collect such items, but my guards had this sitting in stupid weapon rack.”

Then he turned to Andrea Ravn. “Guard says you see this magic item in rack, after you kill Virizan. Cachlain not know Sovacles really Virizan. Not know Sovacles work for Tiamat. Not know Queen of Treachery want help Sangwyr take Stone-Skinned King’s domain from Cachlain.”

After he freed Talyrin, she told him what she had learned from Valna while they were both prisoners in the secret prison. Convinced by this that Sangwyr was the true enemy, Cachlain turned to his guards.

“Prepare my armies to march. We must meet Sangwyr on the battlefield. The debt I owe those who freed cannot be fully repaid.” Striding into his personal quarters, he emerged with two more magic items from his collection.

He gave Andrea the Talenta Sharrash, which looks like a sickle on the end of a long pole.

Andrea was sure she heard the Sharrash growl when he handed it to her.

“That’s how you’ll know it is hungry,” he said, raising a stone eyebrow. “For blood.”

Then he handed her a fire-scorched wooden staff with sharp teeth running along its entire length. As a Dragonborn, she could feel its draconic power.

Finally, he bestowed a large shield on Relvain. “For the Dragonpinner.” This shield was emblazoned with an arm raised to make a defiant fist.

From the reluctance in the way the dwarf laid down her old shield, Andrea knew she might have a hard time convincing the shield maiden to use the new one in battle.

“I better take a look at its magic. Maybe it will be better than the old one.”

Quicklings Release Arena Beasts
...and Sovacles Tries to Blame...

…Our Heroes.

When the ghost was done teaching Andrea to read her Harrow Deck, Shade wondered if she and Krasire could get information out of the Githyanki assassin tortured by Cachlain’s guards. They heard she had erased her own mind and reduced herself to an idiot.

Shade knew Krasire had powers which could penetrate minds. Perhaps the Shardmind could psychically extract knowledge Arzoa didn’t even know she had.

So they decided to sneak down to the pens where she was being held. The animals were kept their, waiting their turn in the arena. For a disabled Githyanki, the cages sufficed as a kind of jail.

“And that keeps her away from the Winter-Court diplomats housed in the secret prison with Talyrin,” she told herself.

She spotted some Quicklings releasing the arena beasts from their cages and rushed in to grab the Quicklings before too many were released. But the Quicklings were too quick for them. No sooner than they had relocked a cage but the Quicklings had it unlocked again…

…or the beast was free.

Once a Chimera, three Winter Wolves, and a Thunderfury Boar were released, the Quicklings made a run for it, leaping into the audience watching an arena fight.

Chasing after the Quicklings just got them trapped between the freed beasts and the pit which surrounded the arena.

“I will open one of the cages,” Krasire told Valna. “Then you lure the Boar in by getting it to charge you.”

By the time Nox Rhasgar got there, Krasire and Shadowfox were already hurting. Nox was glad Andrea Ravn was such a good healer. That left the sorcerer to do what he did best.

“Lay down lots of blasts of fire damage.”

The Winter Wolves who were harrying the Revenant and the Shardmind got the blasts at first. Nox tried to include the Chimera and the Thunderfury Boar whenever he could. But they were both so big they could not really mingle with the wolves.

The Chimera looked frustrated by its size as well. Once the wolves were cleared out, it was finally able to attack two targets at once. Then Nox could see why it was frustrated.

“It has three heads. It would be able to attack three targets at once if it weren’t trapped in this narrow space between the cages.”

“I have a better idea,” Valna told Krasire. “You open the cage and I will drive it into the cage with my Precise Shot arrows.” The plan failed because his arrows killed the big pig before it was driven into the cage. “I guess all that damage Shadowfox was concentrating on the Boar really weakened it.”

Andrea Ravn had to admit she was impressed with Nox’s performance. “I bet you and I and Relvain could take on anything,” she told the sorcerer. But even Shadowfox was putting out some major damage on the Chimera.

“Very concentrated damage.”

Once the Chimera realized it was bloodied, it decided to take its chance on freedom and flew out through the arena. Andrea realized the Stone-Skinned King would see it escape.

Guards were sure to be sent to investigate.

Sure enough. When the guards showed up, it looked like Andrea and her friends had let the animals loose. So the guards took them upstairs toward the throne room.

Andrea realized this was their last chance to recuperate, so she stalled and healed the rest of the party while they made their way upstairs.

As soon as they were inside the throne room, Sovacles commanded the doors to close, and they slammed closed behind Andrea.

The advisor, clearly angered, yelled, “The gracious king invited you into his palace, and you use trickery and deceit to compromise the security of his domain. You aid his great enemy, Sangwyr, and you plot against our brave, wise king! At every opportunity, you’ve allowed them into the king’s domain and led them in their assault! Now, submit to imprisonment and the king might spare your lives.”

Githyanki Agents Show Up
...Looking to Transport Hostages...

…But the Hostages Show Up Uncaptured…

…and take out the agents.

Nox Rhasgar was surprised when the cyclops locked herself back into the cell where she was being held prisoner. The elf from the ambassador’s cell explained that Talyrin was once the Stone-Skinned King’s closest advisor. Apparently she was supplanted by Sovacles when the bald seneschal convinced Cachlain she was plotted against him.

The ambassadors agreed that it would look less suspicious if they remained in their secret prison with the cyclops sage. Talyrin told Nox that Sovacles was a relative newcomer to the Stone-Skinned King’s court. Apparently he arrived about three months ago and quickly wormed his way into Cachlain’s good graces.

She agreed with Shadowfox when the Assassin told her of their suspicions that Sovacles was using mental powers to influence the king.

“It’s the only way he could have turned Cachlain against me,” she told them. “This is the first of the Stone-Skinned King’s advisors to wield magic openly. He was always afraid of the power of magick. That’s why he only chose sages and powerful warriors as advisors in the past.” Looking worried, she said, “The king has changed. Sovacles’ magick is the only reason I can think of.”

As they went back towards their rooms, Nox heard noises up ahead. Rushing to the quarters where ambassadors in good standing were housed, he found the floor exploding upward as a Bullette, scarred by some horrible torture, came up out of the depths. As he and Relvain hurried ahead to fight the intruders who were pouring from the hole left by the Bullette, Nox saw Shadowfox running back to get the elf out of the secret prison.

“That guy had a really nice bow,” he thought to himself. “But I better turn myself into a ball of fire.”

It was his best spell.

“I was thinking of taking up an instrument.”
Valna of the Moonstair

Relvain Blackaxe had never seen Nox take the form of an insubstantial ball of fire before, but she was glad to see it happen.

The attackers seemed to be led by a Drider Fanglord. Besides the Scarred Bullette, she saw a few Drow Underlings, and a pair of Inferno Bats. The bats didn’t to like the fact that they couldn’t seem to hurt Nox now that he had turned himself into an elemental ball of fire.

“I guess fighting fire with fire doesn’t always work,” she told herself.

When Shadowfox asked if she could pin down the Bullette, she reminded of why she was called Relvain the Dragonpinner, “If I can pin a two-headed dragon, I can pin a Bullette.”

Then she proceeded to pin down the Bullette and the Fanglord. She was really impressed with how much damage Nox was able to do in his flameball form.

“That’s what a striker is supposed to do,” she told him.

She saw the bats leave to head off Trinity and Valna.

“I guess they don’t want fight an insubstantial foe with resistance to fire,” she thought.

“Maybe the guitar.”

Once Grim got the keys from Talyrin and freed Valna, she ran back to the banquet hall to get back to the invaders in their rooms. But the invaders — two inferno bats — intercepted her in the banquet hall.

So Grim made her stand there, piling her shrouds on the fiery creatures, and doing as much damage as she could. Once Valna got his bow from storage and returned, the Elf joined the fight.

Grim had to admit Valna did a better job at pinning the bats down, but they were able to tag-team them and finish them off.

A good thing, too. Because once Nox and Relvain killed the Bullette and drove the Drider off, Relvain insisted on following the Drider down the hole.

Almost a Jail Break
A Githyanki Assassin Interrupts...

…The Attempt to Free Elven Ambassadors…

…held in Cachlain’s secret prison.

Shadowfox told Krasire what was behind the secret door in the antechamber: a secret prison.

There she had found the missing diplomats. They told her they had been imprisoned by Cachlain at the word of Sovacles. Also in the secret prison: a former advisor to the Stone-Skinned King and a gnome named Legbreaker.

Krasire decided to take Nox to free the ambassadors, but Shadowfox insisted on exploring further. So he invited Bram Ironfell as well.

They found the lock too hard to pick, so they decided to try to break the cell door. No sooner than they started beating on it, though, and they were attacked by a Githyanki assassin and her Purplespawn Nightmares.

It didn’t take long for these creatures to gain the upper hand. They were quick and hard to hit.

Shade found a massive cavern, surrounded by a 10-foot-wide chasm below the king’s throne room. An arena was built on the vast, flat pillar of bloodstained purple crystal. She also found animal pens nearby. After scouting the area for a while, she heard someone being brought downstairs. “Another fighter for the king’s pleasure” was all she could guess.

it felt to Nox Rhasgar like he was the only one doing damage to these creatures. He was glad he could hit them — sometimes — but they had blooded all of them before he really got going.

And they were all making a lot of noise. The prisoners — except the gnome — were helping. But even the attempt to to open the prison cell had made a lot of noise.

Sure enough, before they had even bloodied the nightmare, the Stone-Skinned King’s guards showed up and yelled, “What’s the meaning of this?”

Fortunately, Bram Ironfell — who seemed to be a diplomat who used to work for the Githyanki — was a quick thinker.

He shouted, “We caught this Githyanki — she claims her name is Arzoa — trying to free these elves.” Then he ordered Nox to seize Arzoa.

Nox picked up on the ploy — shifting the blame for the jailbreak attempt to the assassin — and attacked her. He was even able to help the guards take Arzoa up to the throne room.

Sovacles seemed nonplussed by the whole affair. So surprised that he let the king make up his own mind what to do with the trespasser. Cachlain threw them into the dungeons, obviously anxious to use the Purplespawn in his arena.


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