XL, Mount Celestia

As you pass through the shield door you feel a brief sensation of disorientation, weightless, and of being pulled or stretched. Then the feeling passes and you step out onto the rocky ledge. The deep cold of the Orlishuz caverns begins to fade as the sunshine hits your neck and back. The weariness of long weeks of travel followed by the bruises and scrapes of battle are gone. The dank, still air of the underground is replaced by a sweet mountain breeze. You feel invigorated, refreshed, and powerful.

You suppress the urge to stretch your muscles and instead look about you. The mountain you are on looks to be the tallest of seven peaks in a chain. Far below a green sea washes gently against a strand of white sand that gives way to forested slopes. The sea stretches to the horizon where it fades to a golden aura. There is a town down there! Walls of gleaming white surround towers, docks, and a sheltered bay. It is too far away to make out more, but you see signs of habitation: ships in the harbor, smoke drifting from chimneys and banners flying from the towers.

Valsharane: “Our way is up.”

The Exarch shoulders her spear and turns to ascend a stairway cut into the stone of the mountain. Your gaze follows the stairs as they wind up and up, twisting, turning, and curving back to disappear high above into the shroud of mist.

Valsharane moves with a sinuous grace that reminds you of a hunting cat or a dragon. Her footsteps make no sound. Upon her back is a solid white shield, devoid of any emblem or decoration. Her voice sounds again in your mind as she climbs the steps.

Valsharane: “If you reference the aid I provided you in Palmatreow and Ule Inur’s Vault, I acted as directed by our Lord. There have been other times as well, more subtle than my more recent direct intervention. Long have I watched you, Targus. Your whole life. Others I have watched as well, but they have not stayed true to the path our Lord has set before them. Only you.”

Targus stops to look before climbing the stairs, taking in the wonder of the sight before him.

“Well then, if I’m to serve Our Lord, what would you have me do?”

He looks to the exarch expectantly as he fold his arms across his chest.

Valsharane does not pause her ascent but looks back over her shoulder at you.

Valsharane: “I would have you climb.”

Targus begins climbing the stairs, significantly slower than Valsharane does. After a few minutes, he speaks.

“Am I to speak with Our Lord? By the gods, Valsharane, don’t keep me in suspense!”

Valsharane has not slowed her pace and you have fallen significantly behind her on the stairs. Despite this, her voice sounds clearly in your head as if she were standing only a few feet away.

Valsharane: “Petulance ill-becomes you Targus. In a sense, you are speaking with Him now. I am Agan’s exarch and His Voice.”

The clouds hang right above you now and Valsharane disappears from view as she ascends the stairs into the mist.

Targus mentally scolds himself for his impatience and quickens his pace. He climbs quietly, save for the occasional grunt of effort.

At this height the mountainside is covered in snow but the stairs are clear. From your excursions and crossings in the North, you know the air should be noticeably thinner and breathing more difficult but here that is not the case. You reach the clouds and your visibility decreases to almost nothing. It is all you can do to see the next stair in front of you. Despite your desire to catch up to Valsharane, you must slow your pace to assure you do not step off into empty space.

You have been climbing a long time and your legs begin to burn with exertion when at last you burst through the clouds to see the most majestic view yet. The snow-capped peak above you gleams golden in the sun, an island in a sea of clouds. Across a grassy glen, nestled in a crook of the summit is a shining citadel of silver and gold. From the pointed parapets of seven towers fly banners bearing a platinum dragon.

Valsharane waits patiently at the far side of the glen near a winding gravel path that leads to the castle’s gate.

Valsharane: “Welcome Targus, to Castle Mertion. Seat of Agan; Bahamut the Platinum Dragon; Protector of the World; Wellspring of Hope; and Lord of the Just. You walk now where no living mortal has tread since the last age.”

Targus finishes off the last few steps of the climb in a hurried fashion. Bringing himself up to his feet, he surveys the island in the clouds.

“It’s pure beauty, Valsharane. Have I died and left my mortal remains behind? Am I to face the final judgement? If so, I have no regrets. I defeated Ule-Inur and his foul minions and I put an end to the war in the Midlands. My heart is content with what I’ve helped to accomplished.”

As you approach, Valsharane turns and leads you along the path.

Valsharane: “You are very much alive Targus. It is good that you have no misgivings about your life. Putting an end to Ule-Inur was a great feat for any mortal, but it was just the beginning.”

The soles of your boots crunch on the gravel as you follow her. Ahead you see the path ends abruptly at a moat of sorts. A transparent bridge of pure golden light spans the gap. Far below, the clouds boil and shift gently in the breeze where you spot several dragons frolicking in the updraft from the trench. The light glints off their metallic scales – golden silver brass and copper.

Valsharane: “The Midlands have enjoyed a brief respite, but I fear the world has not seen the end of war, and it must be you that brings it to them.”

“What evil befalls them now? The people of the Midlands deserve peace and prosperity. Regardless, I’ll do as commanded and smite evil in Agan’s name.” Targus says.

Valsharane does not answer you right away. She crosses the narrow bridge of golden light. You follow carefully. The roiling clouds visible beneath your feet through the transparent span causes a brief sense of vertigo and you force yourself to concentrate on the solid ground of the far side. Just as you begin to wonder if she heard your question, Valsharane’s voice sounds again in your head, startling you.

Valsharane: “In the last age, the mortal realms enjoyed a time of enlightenment. Worship of the goodly gods with our lord Agan foremost amongst them, was widespread under the rule of the Inurian Empire. The empire was a beacon of light and hope. Citizens enjoyed peace when order and law protected them. Our lord was at the height of his power with the mortal realms united under his guiding hand.”

Now the world has fallen into darkness. Empietine’s far-reaching plots have fragmented the once great empire into city-states ruled by petty kings. The temples of the goodly gods are rife with corruption and fueled by greed. The world has forgotten."

Passing beneath the open gates of the castle it occurs to you that Valsharane did not exactly answer your question. Beyond, you see a long courtyard, its far end shrouded in mist. In stark contrast to the gleaming magnificence of all you have beheld here on the mountain, the courtyard is bleak and weathered. Untended weeds grow between cracked grey flagstones. A long row of towering statues flanks either side of the yard depicting noble-looking men and women in heroic poses, however they are covered in moss and lichen. The ones closest to the gate are so weathered as to obscure some of their features.

Valsharane: “Behold, the Court of Heroes.”

She points to each in turn, calling them by name as you pass.

Valsharane: “Here stands Agrill the Wise.
There Eligrath the Sea King.
This is Verbinark the Conqueror, and there Hathilas the Builder.”

Targus touches the statues as he walks by, looking at them in wonder and awe. He pauses a moment to examine the courtyard.

“Does not Father Agan have a godly groundskeeper? What’s happened here? Did Emptietine do this?” he asks.

Valsharane: “In a sense, yes. Through her treachery and deceit, Agan’s followers have been diminished, and thus so has his power. If the world falls further into darkness and the last of the true believers vanish from the land, our Lord will become powerless and unable to hold Emptietine and her allies at bay. Agan chooses to focus his waning influence elsewhere, and thus this place has been allowed to fall into decline, and perhaps to act as a reminder of the dire consequences of failure.”

The statues look on as you and Valsharane pass beneath them. After several long minutes of walking side by side between the solemn giants you reach the wall of mist at the far end. Here Valsharane stops and gazes up into the opaque shroud. A strong silver light begins to emanate from the center of the mist, growing steadily closer. You feel a sense of expectation, as a great presence approaches. Valsharane speaks aloud for the first time, her strong melodious voice echoing through the court.

Valsharane: “Targus, you have been chosen and found worthy! You must unite the mortal realms and restore order and hope to the lands in our Lord’s name. You must forge a new empire to push back the darkness and usher in a new age of enlightenment! It will be no easy task and all the dark forces of Emptietine and her allies will be aligned against you. Do you agree to commit yourself fully to this great duty set before you?”

Targus drops to his knees and bows his head.

“If this is my Lord’s wish, then I do solemnly swear that I will forge this new empire, devoted first to Father Agan, then to his goodly allies. I will be Agan’s champion and reintroduce his good works of law, compassion, kindness, sacrifice and order to the world. I will do this or I will die trying.”

As you conclude your vow, the silvery light intensifies to near blinding radiance as the head of a great platinum dragon bursts from the mist. The head snakes upwards on a serpentine neck, the rest of its impossibly huge body concealed in the shroud. The majestic draconic visage gazes down at you for a moment and you are frozen in awe as your eyes briefly meet. There is a moment of eerie silence before a great intake of breath. The massive jaws open wide and Agan exhales. You are engulfed by searing flames, frozen with mind-numbing cold, pierced by a thousand spears. You are wracked by the greatest pain and experience the most exquisite exultation as your body, your soul, and all that you are is torn asunder and remade.

You awake with a start in your cot, staring at the crystalline ceiling of the Vault of the Gods.

OOC: You gain:
Level 21
Your Epic Destiny
Bahamut’s Protective Ward (level 23)

XXXIX, Orlishuz

The party has just defeated the mighty dragon Infyrana in the mithral mines below Orlishuz, paving the way for the dwarves and their Vrechan allies to retake the mountain hold. They come to the palace-fortress of Orlishuz in answer to a summons by King Arnik Valster VII. Present are: Targus of Aras, Okfaust the Green Elder, Morin of Phaedrus, Ando Arasan, Atrophos Solanum, Archbishop Nix Lagomorphia of the K’taul, Stonemender the dwarven engineer, and King Kjern of Vrecha.

Hundreds of armed dwarves bustle busily about the massive palace cavern of Orlishuz. Dim light from the magma moat illuminates the entirety with an eerie reddish glow. Corpses, spent arrows, discarded weapons, and other detritus of battle litter the approach to the castle. You think back to the massive number of kobolds you saw reinforcing this keep when you were here a scant few hours ago. It must have been a fight for every inch of ground to retake this place.

The stench of burning flesh wafts through the air and you see a crew of workmen methodically tossing kobold corpses into the flow. You can’t help but pause a moment, watching fascinated as a body sinks into the molten rock with a puff of flame and sickly sizzle.

A phalanx of armored dwarves bristling with spears and axes blocks the bridge to the palace, but after a brief exchange between Stonemender and their captain, they part with a synchronized stomping of booted feet to admit a shoulder-width path to the heavy stone doors.

Targus steps through the phalanx, adopting a well-practiced military bearing and proceeds to stride up to the stone doors. He snaps to attention, anticipating the doors’ opening.

One of the heavy stone double doors sits askance in its frame, cracked beyond repair. Whether battered down when the dragon took Orlishuz, or just this morning by the dwarves, you cannot say. Shaking his head Stonemender runs his fingertips over the crack and sighs in dismay. Then at his slightest push the remaining door swings silently open on oiled hinges to reveal a magnificent vaulted hall beyond. The reddish glow from outside refracts through panes of stained glass to create a multi-hued smattering of light reminiscent of the crystal geode-temple where you took refuge last night. Rows of pillars carved to resemble stoic dwarves flank the central aisle to left and right.

At the far end the vault widens into an audience hall. Elevated on a dias is an ornate marble throne. Empty gem settings dot the throne’s surface like open sores, attesting to the greed of the kobolds that occupied this place for months. A crew of dwarven workers are righting several overturned benches in the audience hall while others mop up blood stains and clear debris. More armored dwarven knights stand sentry between the pillars, seemingly made of stone themselves. At the foot of the dias, a large wooden table has been set up. Upon it, several maps are smoothed out and weighted down by a massive warhammer and a silver beer stein. Still in full battle regalia, King Arnik Valster VII is frowning at one of the maps as you approach. Absently he picks up the stein and takes a swig of ale, slamming his hand down on the map in annoyance as it begins to roll up. One of his attendants whispers to him and points in your direction, bringing your approach to his attention. As he looks up from the map his frown vanishes and his face splits into a grin. He sets the mug down and walks around the table to greet you, arms spread wide in welcome.

King Arnik Valster VII of Orlishuz: “You are truly all that Kjern claimed and more! I had come to think my father was a fool to ally with outsiders; that his folly had cost us everything. May he forgive me. You have renewed my faith in men and elves and delivered us from a slow but sure death by freezing and starvation. You have returned to us our home. Myself and my kingdom are forever in your debt.” clasping each of you by the hand in a gesture of friendship “No worldly possession could be ample enough reward for your service, but name it and if it is within my power I shall grant it.”

Targus smiles and considers the dwarven king’s words. Try as he might, nothing came to mind.

“Doing the good work of Agan and helping those in need is reward enough, Your Majesty.” Targus says with a bow. “I cannot speak for my companions, but I require naught more than a mount, for my efforts. Also, I wanted to ask you if the coins hoarded by Infyrana, the Bitch Dragon, are the property of Orlishuz or were they taken prior? If none lay claim, then I should seek equal shares for the Heroes of Harenshire and our most recent companions.” He indicates Nix and Atrophos.

“A far truer reward would be to see your partnership with Kjern’s people and the elves flourish. The evils of the world CAN be conquered if they face a united front.”

Arnik turns to Stonemender with a raised eyebrow…

Stonemender: “Our counters did indeed find the contents of our treasury amongst the dragon’s hoard. I have the comparison records here.” he holds up the tally book you noticed the dwarf scribe writing in earlier “However, her hoard far exceeds what was contained in our vaults.”

King Arnik Valster VII: “It is not for me to reward you with what is by lawful right, yours already. Minus the contents of Orlishuz’s treasury, the dragon’s hoard is yours to split as you choose, as are her hide, teeth, heart, and other valuable parts.”

“I fear we keep no such mounts as would be suitable to your stature or status. Ponies and mules mostly, but certainly shall I have a dozen of the finest desert horses of the south purchased at market and delivered to your home in Skole as soon as the mountain passes clear.”

“As long as my blood reigns, Orlishuz, Vrecha, and K’taul will be brothers in the North. Likewise, you and yours are always welcome here for all the days of my reign and those who might follow me, Moradin willing.”

“Well, since all of that is settled, we shall divide the dragon’s hoard equally. I’m sure we’ll all take trophies from the dragon’s corpse. I, myself, will grab some of the beast’s hide.” Targus says. He continues, “Perhaps, Your Majesty, you’d be kind enough to arrange some wagons for us, to haul our treasure.”

“Might I also suggest, noble king, that the Barony of Harenshire would make a fine first stop for your caravans. Perhaps our svirfneblin artisans have goods of particular interest to you.”

Ando: “Wagons will be unnecessary. My magic will transport us and our treasure when we are ready to depart.”

King Valster: “We have not traded with the south since an earthquake closed the Pass of Rambault several generations ago. Now that we are granted access to Whitehoof Pass by the grace of his Highness and the Vrechans it is a renewed possibility that we will certainly consider come springtime.”

There is a commotion at the entry as a dark-bearded dwarf in blood-spattered armor exchanges hasty words with the guards and tromps into the audience hall.

Dwarf Captain: bowing low “Pardon the intrusion my King, but you asked to be informed as soon as the situation in the river district had resolved.”

King Valster: “Of course Captain, continue.”

Dwarf Captain: “The last of the kobolds have been destroyed. The city is ours.”

Valster places both hands palms down on the table and lets out a visible sigh of relief

King Valster: “That is great news. Excellent work Captain. We still have much to do to restore the damages done by the dragon and her filth, but we can begin to move the populace back up soon. Stonemender, please dispatch word to my other advisors to attend me here within the hour.” turning back to the party “Again, I cannot thank you enough. I must prepare to address my men and meet with my council. The royal guest quarters are not habitable at this time but I have made arrangements for your comfort and refreshment in the Vault of the Gods, presently the only clean place in the mountain. Captain, please show them the way and provide anything else they might need.”

Targus and his companions follow the captain to the Vault of the Gods.

“So, Ando, where should we go in the morning? Should we head back to Harenshire, or are you ready to jump onto the open road? Maybe I’ll track down good Polonus to accompany us on our journeys.”

Targus begins removing his armor and cleaning his sword, while sitting on the bed provided for him.

“What was the haul from the treasure? I have to figure out how much I’m donating to Okfaust’s grove and to the Green Brotherhood.”

The Vault of the Gods is a cyst in the earth, similar to the inside of a gigantic geode. The place is as it was when you last left except the dwarven dead have been removed and several plain but comfortable looking cots have been laid out for you. Also a low table and chairs, several glasses, a cask of wine, and a platter of bread and cheese has been set up. A central monument to Moradin in the shape of a crystal anvil and several shrines to his allied gods are the only other adornments in this beautiful naturally occurring phenomenon.

Ando: “I’ll be creating a portal to my tower in Harenshire so Okfaust can return home. We may as well stop in so I can look in on my tower and restock my component pouches. I could catch up on a lesson or two with Skodris. It would be good to see Polonus as well. I’ve not had a chance to visit with him since his return from Cobb. We could rest and decide where to go from there.”

Morin: “I’ve a list here that Stonemender gave me.” Grinning broadly he hands you a parchment torn from a ledger. It reads:

Coins Gems
52,000 cp 21 @ 500 gp
43,219 sp 20 @ 1,000 gp
55,793 gp 12 @ 5,000 gp
2,371 pp
Art Objects Consumables
2 @ 400 gp candlesticks Potion of Vitality (x5)
8 @ 750 gp silver settings Potion of Recovery (x2)
10 @ 3,500 gp fine crystal silverware Gruntroog’s Warhorn
1 @ 4,000 gp tapestry Javelin of Lightning (x4)
1 @ 2,400 gp painting
6 @ 4,500 gp statues of adventurers
2 @ 2,000 gp platinum drinking horns
4 @ 600 gp electrum candelabras
6 @ 150 gp embroidered pillows
2 @ 1,000 gp glass figurines
1 @ 10,000 gp golden statue of dragon

Targus whistles in amazement when he sees the ledger. He looks off in the distance, his mind considering the enormity of the wealth the heroes now possess. With a serious face, he speaks.

“On second thought, Okfaust, I won’t be donating anything.”

He quickly launches into loud peels of laughter. A few minutes go by until Targus is composed enough to speak.

“Rest easy, friend, I speak in jest. I’m true to my word. I don’t know, though, if I can count that high.”

Morin: “Well, if this dwarf has his numbers right, not counting the consumables this ends up having a total worth of around 482,736 gold. If we split that evenly six ways it comes out to 80,456 each.” Morin’s grin could not get any wider. “I asked Stonemender to have it packed into six chests for transport.”

“I think we should all allocate some money for the Vrechans—to relieve their depleted treasury. Okfaust, I’ll be donating 20,000 gold pieces to the Green Brotherhood and, specifically, to the maintenance and upkeep of the Grove of Lowen in Harenshire. I care not what the rest of our coin is spent upon. All I know, Ando, is that I’d like to get on my way. I’ve got things to do, places to go, and people to liberate from evil. Let’s make haste to Harenshire. Go ahead, produce your magic chalk so that we might be gone from this place and on to further adventure.”

Morin: “What happened to (doing his best Targus impression) “return to your homeland to celebrate the occasion—with much wine, ale and women?”"

Ando: “I am eager to be our way as well, but perhaps we should stay long enough to make sure the caravan of food we sent gets here. I’d never hear the end of it if we left Snagger stranded here all winter.”

Okfaust: “Aye, I’ll be giving some ‘o me share ta the Vrechans. Ya can’t eat gold but it may help some if they can find surplus to buy somewhere in the North. We may ha’ liberated Orlishuz’s graineries but t’may not be ‘nuff ta last em through. I saw them lads down in the camp w’it ribs a’showin; been on short rations fer weeks I’m bettin. Here’s ta hoping Snagger’s wagons make it through the pass afore the snows hit.”

Targus: “Eh? I guess you’re right—I did say that. I’m just eager to get moving. I appreciate the dwarves’ hospitality, but I’m afraid I’ll grow too restless should I spend another day stationary. Let’s head out to Kjern’s lands. Maybe we can even ride out to meet Snagger’s caravan? Anything’s better than waiting around here for something to happen.”

Morin: “Well I didn’t force march all the way up North, losing a good horse in the mountains, and then do all the dirty work just to give away my hard-earned treasure. No, my coins will be coming with me. Kjern can eat snow. If he wanted a share, he should have come to kill the dragon instead of “keeping the kobolds off your back.” Gods, I am freezing my loins off!" Morin shivers and wraps up in a blanket on his cot.

Ando: “I’m exhausted and bruised from a rather full day of dragon slaying myself. I’m going to retire.” Ando closes the spellbook in his lap and places it in his pack.

Several hours pass.

The Vault of the Gods is quiet. The embers of the fire have died down and all the companions are asleep in their cots, even the elves who are usually light sleepers.

All save Targus.

Usually you have no trouble finding sleep after battle. You know you should be tired and the wounds you took should ache but they seem a mere annoyance as you scratch absently at the poultice Okfaust bound to your arm. You feel restless, even energized. As you replay the events of yesterday’s battles in your head your thoughts turn once again to the future and the somewhat spontaneous declaration you made to your friends. Laying on your back on a cot you stare at the domed ceiling above you. Light refracts multicolored off the crystalline formations. Wait, what light? The fire has burned out! You bolt upright to see a soft glow coming from one of the vault’s alcoves. Agan’s shrine. The one that holds the platinum dragon idol, you are sure of it!

Targus rises quickly from the bed and approaches the alcove where the platinum dragon rests. He drops to a knee and genuflects in front of the idol.

“If this is a sign from you, my Lord Agan, I humbly await your guidance.” Targus says quietly.

As if in answer to your plea, the faint light grows into a strong radiant brilliance. Mounted on the wall behind the platinum dragon idol is a plain white shield: the symbol of The Protector, the aspect of Agan that protects the weak, liberates the oppressed, and defends order. This shield now begins to glow, then it grows slowly larger, expanding, until it is twice the height of a man. It glows as bright as the sun now, and you reflexively shield your eyes, unable to gaze upon it directly.

Then the glow fades to a dim light. As your eyes adjust you can now see through the shield to a place beyond. The shield-shaped doorway opens onto a mountainside. Above is a snow-capped peak of impossible height wreathed in mist and clouds. Far below, a green sea laps placidly against the forested base of the mountain. Inside the portal stands a graceful female form in ornate white-enameled armor bearing spear and shield. Though you have never seen the face behind the featureless mask of her winged helm, you recognize Valsharane.

Agan’s Exarch beckons to you as her soft melodious voice sounds in your mind.
Valsharane: “Come Targus. You have been summoned.”

Targus rises to his feet and walks through the shield-doorway. His head swivels left and right, taking in the sights of this mystical realm. He inhales deeply through his nose and then exhales slowly through his mouth.

“It is good to see you again, mighty Valsharane. Because of you, my friends and I are still alive. I’m eternally in your debt, it would seem.”

Targus bows politely and snaps to attention.

XXXVIII, Infyrana's Lair

The party has just defeated the dragon Infyrana. Her smoldering corpse and those of her bound nalfeshnee guardians lay inert beside a magma flow deep in the mithril mines below Orlishuz. Having rid the dwarven city of the dragon, Targus, Nix, Atrophus, Morin, Okfaust, and Ando catch their breath while they examine their surroundings more closely. In the adjoining cave can clearly be seen Infyrana’s massive treasure hoard.

Morin: (his face lit up by an ear-to-ear grin as he runs forward with arms outstretched) “Never have I seen so large a dragon hoard!”

Okfaust: “Aye, this one was mighty indeed. I ’spect not even Grimshale would have been her match.”

Morin: (sifting gold and platinum coins through his fingers) “How shall we divvy this up?”

Targus: (cleaning demon and dragon blood off of his sword) “Augh. I thought we were done for! Foul demons and an evil dragon…dead! We’ve done a lot of good here. This treasure hoard will surely help the dwarves rebuild their home and King Kjern to shore up his people’s supplies. Speaking of which, much of this gold could be property of the dwarves, themselves. I’m sure they won’t notice if a backpack’s worth is missing, though, Morin.” (smiles crookedly)

Ando: casts a minor divination while examining the pile of treasure “Many of these things are magical. I will have to examine them more closely. Certainly some of this came from the treasury of Orlishuz, but until we speak with the dwarves it is impossible to say.”
He picks up a thick tome bound in brass and scarlet leather. Leafing through it… “A book of spells. In the wrong hands it could be dangerous, I will keep this for study.”

Morin: while stuffing his backpack with fists full of platinum coins… “I am just going to grab a few choice things for now… holds a blue sapphire up to the light for critical inspection before tossing it in the sack …we’ve earned it. Besides, I’m not sure I’d trust a dwarf when it comes to counting gold."

Okfaust: frowning “Ironic you should say that as you stuff yer pockets.” Points at the lift “One ‘o you lads get on this winch, I’ll go let Kjern an’ t’others know the beast is dead.”

Targus (moving toward the winch): “I’ll give you a hand, friend. Perhaps I should stay down here to look after these mercenaries, lest their greed get the better of them! If Morin stuffs any more coin into his sack then it’ll be the ‘Outpost of Orlishuz,’ not the kingdom!”

The winch squeals and the lift creaks as you raise Okfaust to the upper caverns. He sounds the gong once he reaches the top. The oppressive heat of the magma flow is overwhelming so you move back into the treasure vault where it is slightly cooler. Several hours pass as Morin counts coins and appraises other treasures. You clean and sharpen your weapons and eat some jerk from your provisions. Ando sits cross-legged on a chest and studies his spellbooks. Nix and Atropos idle about. Finally the gong rings and you hear the lift descending from above. Okfaust appears, accompanied by Kjern, one of his vrechan battle-captains, Stonemender the dwarf engineer, and a retinue of dwarves.

Kjern: gaping at Infyrana’s corpse “By my ancestors, she is HUGE!”

The dwarves swarm over the treasure pile until they reach a stack of mithril ingots, anxiously counting them in dwarvish, while one scratches away with a quill and ink in a tablet.

Kjern: “The remaining kobolds are in full route. We’ve moved up more troops and cornered them in the river district where the mushroom people set upon them. They won’t last long. They put up a fight at the palace, but we drove them out. We should have all of Orlishuz reclaimed soon.”

Stonemender: bowing low to the party “A thousand thanks from the people of Orlishuz. His Majesty King Valster VII requests you attend him at the palace as soon as you are able, that he may thank you in person.”

Morin: Suppressing a grunt as he nonchalantly shoulders his bulging pack “Let’s be about it then. I tire of being underground.”

Targus: Walking up to Kjern and clasping his forearm. “Rest easy, Your Majesty, your problems with the bitch dragon and her kobold pests are over! We shall soon return to your homeland to celebrate the occasion—with much wine, ale and women! Your alliances with the noble dwarves of Orlishuz mark you as a leader of reknown—for more than your predecessors. May your reign be long and prosperous!” Turning to Stonemender, “Your thanks are well-received, Stonemender, but not necessary. All of the goodly races have obligation to help their cousins, for we, united, are all there is to stand against the encroaching darkness. My compliments to your lord’s wisdom in allying with King Kjern. He is a fearsome warrior—that is true, but as a leader he is far more than that. May your future endeavors bring prosperity and security to both your peoples! Of course, we graciously accept King Valster’s invitation to audience.”

Returning to his compatriots, “This quest has lit the spark in me again, comrades. I’m not meant to be drilling troops in the training yard, or advising lords as to how best to spend their grain allotments—my destiny is the open road and to where ever it leads me. I will journey the lands, with Agan as my guide, liberate the oppressed, righting wrongs and slaying mighty evils that threaten the world. Slaying this greedy dragon has realigned my perspective. Ule-Inur is dead—that is true, but the need for the good people to have a champion has not disappeared. I shall be that champion. I would ask you to accompany me, if your destinies allow, so that lands farther will be granted the grace of Agan and his allies—so that they can be freed from the shackles of violence, hatred and evil.”

Morin: “I am with you, as always.”

Okfaust: lets out a weary sigh “I fear adventure an’ the open road is for young lads. I hope ya will forgive me but I yearn ta’ put me roots down where I am needed most – helping the people of Harenshire in me waning years.”

Ando: stroking his pointed beard “My shoppe in Aras is practically running itself. I think I’d like to expand, maybe open a new place in Palamon. I’ve a nice vacant building picked out on Canal Street. Of course I’ll have to hunt down more curiosities to fully stock a new shoppe. I’m in.”

Targus: cheers Morin’s acceptance, but looks visibly taken aback that Okfaust has refused. He quickly looks to Ando, with a crooked smile on his face.

“Then Palamon will be our first stop. I’ve heard many tales of the great city from my father. Maybe Admiral Lalas will be there and we can pay him a visit.”

He turns to Okfaust, with a serious look, “I can’t say I’m not disappointed, friend. You’ve been with me since that sahuagin cave, all those years ago. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that we’d all be dead a thousand deaths if you hadn’t stayed the course. The Earth Father calls to you in Harenshire’s hour of need, with that, I can find no fault.” He embraces the old druid. “But, know that your presence at my flank will be sorely missed.”

Targus looks back at the gleaming coins of Infyrana’s hoard. “With my share of this hoard, I shall make a sizable donation to you, Okfaust, and the whole of the Green Brotherhood. If Lord Agan is my heart and soul, then the Earth Father is surely my conscience. Now all we have to do is pry a bag of coin from our nefarious eladrin companion!” He snickers at his jest as Morin lifts his head, with a look of mock-offense on his face.

Ando: “We need not travel to Palamon, I have apprentices to handle my affairs there. I will accompany you on your journeys, although I may have to look in on them from time to time.”

Kjern: “Let us attend Arnik then if we are done here.”

The party proceeds to the lift.

Targus and his party ride the lift back up to the main level of the fortress. Following Stonemender, they reach the doors to the chamber that Arnik is currently located in.

“Everyone ready, then?” he asks, looking at his friends.

The party proceeds to the palace district of Orlishuz.

XXXVII, Dragon Mountain

Following a letter for help, Targus and company journey to the North to aid their old friend Kjern, now King of the Vrechans.

Five Years Later…

• It is early autumn five years after the heroes defeated Ule Inur, and Targus still finds himself lingering in Harrenshire; despite having pledged but a single year to assisting Skodris with reconstruction.
• Skodris has done a passable job of managing the fiefdom, despite his many deficiencies. His easy way with people and common sense have pulled him through where his obvious lack of education has been a hindrance. Ando has been schooling him to read and write.
• Skodris’s response to the stresses of office has been to eat and he has grown quite plump. After overhearing the troops call him “Lord Skotyugh” behind his back, Snagger told him to his face that he needs to spend more time in the training yard and less time at table.
• Geron served four more years as a general in King Hinton’s army and has recently moved from his estate in Scole to Harrenshire where he bought a farm.
• Okfaust spends considerable time at the Grove of Lowen or amongst the homesteaders of the shire blessing crops, supervising the construction of an irrigation canal system, and helping farmers with the harvests. Despite his advancing years he is as vigorous and energetic as ever and seems to have not aged a day.
• The winter wolf Silverpaw died in a battle with wights several years ago, but Okfaust calls upon his spirit to guide him from time to time.
• Inspired by an entrepreneur he met during a trip to Palamon to buy spell components, Ando has purchased a business in Aras. “Ye Olde Shoppe” brings him a modest income to fund his magic research but he always returns to Harrenshire to tutor Skodris and others at the library in his new tower.
• Morin has left for the Feywild where he searches for his elusive love, Keiran.
• Snagger has lent his expertise in masonry and stonework to the construction of the bridge spanning the Nodamyr and its two flanking keeps. He is immensely proud of their recent completion. He is a gruff but fair taskmaster and well respected amongst the laborers. Skodris placates him with a sizable commission.
• Targus has assisted Lord Skodris in managing the shire, and oversees the training of its men-at-arms. The most promising trainees have been formed into a formidable unit of heavy cavalry.
• Polonus has passed the care and running of Harrenshire’s Aganite temple to another so that he could travel to a Tal Hathilian monastery to further his martial training. He has recently returned from Cobb.
• Silvani visits Harrenshire in her elven form each year to attend the annual ceremony honoring the fallen of the Lich War. She always lays a bouquet of white snow roses upon D’lar’s grave and was most recently accompanied by her son Targandolar who appeared as a robust elven lad with silver hair.
• A messenger named Svenek Roginos has just arrived from the North. He bears an urgent message from King Kjern of Vrecha.

“Greetings from the North,

My friends, I hope this letter finds you well. Since our parting, my life has changed drastically. I have experienced what it is to lead men in battle where with but a word you may send hundreds, even thousands of men to their deaths. It is grim business and now I know why after many years of campaigning General Geron never smiles, and why Targus tosses beside the campfire and cries out in his sleep.

Despite all this, I feel I have done much good in the North. Shortly after we slew Hargash and I became chieftain of both the Snow Leopard and Remorhaz clans, I took to wife Hala Grimsdottir. The fertile wench has born me three fine sons (Targ, my eldest of five winters already throws an axe better than Snagger). The first winter was rough. Few warriors and hunters remained after Hargash sent them off to die in Scar’s war. I inherited all of the Snow Leopard and Remorhaz feuds and rivalries as well, and had trouble enough handling internal struggles, let alone those brought on by land disputes with neighboring tribes and orc raiders invading from the West.

I knew that to make peace, I must first make war, yet we were ill-equipped to hold our own in open battle with the orcs or rival clans so I resorted to diplomacy to survive those first brutal months.

I forged an uneasy alliance of tribes with the goal of ridding our lands of a mutual enemy, the orcs of Ura Kthan. The keystone of this alliance was securing help from our neighbors, the dwarves of Orlishuz. I pledged them much to gain their aid – safe trade routes through Vrechan tribal lands, access to the mountain passes, mutual trading of goods, lasting peace between our peoples, and succor in times of peril.

The dwarves proved staunch allies and turned the tide for us. They supplied superior arms and armor, engines of war, skilled sappers and warriors, as well as gold and supplies. They are most honorable and held up their end of the agreement in every way.

Then a most unforeseen thing happened. While the lot of us were away laying siege to the last orc citadels in the west, a powerful dragon invaded the dwarves’ mountain home at Orlishuz. The remaining skeleton force defending it was unable to repel the dragon and the city was lost, along with the dwarf King, Valster VI, and his court.

Valster’s son and heir, Prince Arnik (a brave warrior and good friend) was with us at Ura Kthan. Upon hearing the news, he marched the dwarves with all due haste back to Orlishuz, leaving us to finish the orcs. Ignoring all council, acting perhaps out of desperation or despair, he immediately threw the remaining might of the dwarven army at the city. They were unable to retake the citadel, finding it too well defended by the dragon and, of all things, kobolds. When our business with the orcs was finished, we returned to assist but have had no better luck.

Arnik (now Valster VII, King-in-exile) and his people now live amongst us on Snow Leopard land. I am honor-bound to provide them succor as per our agreement, yet without the wealth of Orlishuz backing them they are draining our resources at an alarming rate. I do not know if we have enough supplies laid away to survive the coming winter.

There is but one solution. The dragon must die. Frontal assaults have been easily repelled or burned to ash. Groups of our greatest remaining warriors have managed to pass the charred and twisted gates but none have returned. Most recently I paid a considerable sum of gold to a company of renowned dragon-slayers – The Warriors of Winter. They fought their way inside but have not been heard from since.

Thus I turn to you, the most capable band of warriors I know. If anyone can end this menace, it is you. The situation is dire or I would not ask this of you. Please, I beg of you my friends, travel with haste and meet me at the foothills below Orlishuz where the remnants of our army are encamped. I will reward you in any way I can. Our need is great."

King Kjern

XXXVI, The Vault of Ule Inur

coming soon…

  • Valsharane, Agan’s Exarch intervenes and resurrects Targus and Morin.
  • She shows them the way to Ule Inur’s secret sanctum
  • Entry can only be gained with 4 keys held by 4 guardians
  1. a dragon – the red dragon allied with Ule that assaulted Lowen’s Grove and her azer minions.
  2. an aberration – an eye tyrant
  3. a demon – a Balor, Valsharane’s ancient foe. She casts a spell to weaken him.
  4. an undead – Reginold
  • Final confrontation with Ule Inur in his phylactery chamber.
  • The Implements of Inuria vanish, having fulfilled their purpose.
XXXV, Journey to Palmatreow

coming soon…

  • Admiral Goran Lalas takes the party on a long sea journey aboard his metal kraken.
  • The magical craft is damaged during a battle with a real kraken in the depths of the middle sea.
  • They limp onto Pal Matreow where the crew makes repairs and the party investigates the island.
  • Overgrown temples with Yuan-ti where they fight a Marilith at a portal.
  • Portal leads to an efreet lord’s castle in the elemental chaos.
  • Efreet tells them the story of Abonar, the last wielder of the Branch of the Astral Tree.
  • Travel back to the summit of the volcano where they encounter a gold dragon.
  • Dragon is allied with Ule. Tries to convince the party to join them.
  • Failing that, the dragon attempts to take the other implements by force.
  • Morin and Targus are slain when the dragon drops them into a lava flow on the side of the volcano.
XXXIV, War for Succession

coming soon…

  • King Maryth II passes
  • Two claimants to the throne: Darbeel and Sir Rabe
  • Party summoned to Marn Keep
  • Pledge to Rabe
  • Battle to close the circle to Scole
  • Goran Lalas tells them of the final implement’s location
XXXIII, The Snow Leapord Clan

coming soon…

  • Returning to the Midlands the party stops in Kjern’s old home
  • Snow Leopard Clan is taken over by Hargash and the Remorhaz Clan
  • Hargash exposed for a crony of Ule and defeated
  • Kjern decides to stay and marry Hala Grimsdottir and rebuild his clan.
XXXII, Glacial Fortress of the Frost Giants

coming soon…

  • The party fights through giants, yetis, winter wolves, vrechans, ice archons, and ogres
  • They encounter the lower level
  • They fight Gaelrek’s mercenary band, but end up allying
  • Negotiation with Jarl Gugnarson turns bloody
  • Gain entry to the crypt beneath the ice – undead
  • Kathewan’s spirit tasks them with slaying Grimshale, white dragon
  • Kathewan’s spirit uses a scale from Grimshale to mend his armor and bestows the Scales of Kathewan upon the party.
XXXI, The Hunt for Con Kathewan

coming soon…

  • The party learns more about the Inurian champion Kathewan from a book found in Xarshotz’ lair.
  • They journey north in search of his ancient fortress and the implement supposedly buried with him in his crypt.
  • They find a glacier has covered over the region, likely grinding the fortress underneath ages ago.
  • Frost Giants have carved a city-fortress into the face of the glacier.
  • The party investigates, hoping there might be access to the crypts buried beneath the tons of ice.
  • They fight past frost giants, winter wolves, and yetis.
  • Glacial Heartwater

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