Reins of Darkness

Session 14: Nash's Account
Manafest Destiny

Repairing back to the library, we resupplied and made for the third landmark described by the tattered texts from the library. An inland sea had covered the mountains described by the scraps of paper since they were written, so we found ourselves in want of a boat.

We were able to revive an ancient vessel, full sunk in the harbor, and christened her “The Rebound”. Several days of good sailing found us on a jungle island mountain, encircled with mangrove swamps. Some tiny orcling tribes made their habitat there, and with minimal disturbance to them we were able to gain the peaks of the mountains. They were honeycombed out with erosion, and inhabited by some orclings engaged in ecclesiastical activities. They joyfully accepted Fa’Sheen as a proxy for their food-providing god and a little less joyfully gave us access to their sacred artifacts.

Among them was the third piece of the key. Arithon and Smash were able to activate it and bring back the city into the world.

The landscape was more eerie in its familiarity than in its alieness. We were in the streets of a city which stretched out in every direction. It appeared uninhabited as we picked our way through it. The only strange structures we found were large rune covered arches that seemed to course with power such that any physical contact with them was dangerous.

We investigated a storehouse, where we found domestic supplies and fresh food. We attempted to obtain a higher vantage point, to better navigate through the abandoned metropolis. It was then that we discovered the true inhabitants of the city. From nook and cranny they rushed at us: human carrion, carapace encrusted, they lept with alacrity upon us and overwhelmed us. Arethon fell, Ulfen and Fa’Sheen dragged him back into the storeroom, while I threw what explosives I had into the street and ignited them. Smash threw himself against the door and somehow it held against the blast. The building collapsed upon us and we knew nothing for a while.

Session 13: Nash's Account
A Fungamental Discovery

No power of the Dark Lord could now keep us from exploring out and delving to the very depths of the earth in order to obtain the second key to the lost city.

The next piece of the key to the capital city of the Gressig Empire was in a labyrinth buried in the sands of what we now call the Siegblum Dunes. Once we’d found the entrance we descended with caution and hammers and axes. The honeycomb of chambers below were ever changing and shifting — we could open a door, pass through it, and immediately double back on that same door and find ourselves in another part of the labyrinth. Then, in the middle of this baffling maze, we came upon a room filled with huge lithopyhtic mushrooms.

Fa’Sheen first tasted the mushrooms, as his penchant directed him, and upon his report that they were among the most complex and pleasing fungi he had heretofore enjoyed, the rest of us also also tried them. They were delicious.

We busied ourselves alternately collecting, drying, cooking and tasting the mushrooms for about a fortnight, during which time we discovered several effects which they precipitated. One, that they strengthen the effect of any magical additives which were combined in the stew, and two, there were always certain unforeseen effects, often unpleasant, which followed.

We found ourselves at liberty during this time to discourse amongst ourselves. Heretofore I have been terse. I have done so to make the narrative engaging and memorable. As to my comrades discourse, I have been more liberal with my summary, even perfunctorily abridging the narrative, paraphrasing when I should have quoted exactly the words of our interlocution. I will attempt to describe the scene in the drippy cavern of the mushroom in full.

Nash: “I’m fine with adding more spark, by all means, but any further additions we ought to be more judiciou…”

Fa’Sheen, opening an unknown vial of liquid and dumping the entire contents into a stewing pot of mushrooms: “Perfect, ah! Taste that bouquet! Now if I only had some more torrid desire, oh, here it is!”

Smash, pawing at the walls of the cavern: “I can taste with my hands!”

But I must continue. Waking from our reverie and exploring the labyrinth further, we soon found the center of the labyrinth, and the key it held.

Session 12: Nash's Account

After months of restoration work in the burned libraries of Taer, we’ve finally had a break through! A collection of antiumbrial texts, in pristine condition, and all we have to do is decipher them. I can hardly sleep with the excitement.

We have been able to decipher the texts, and now only have to marvel at the mystery that lays before us. An ancient empire that possibly predates the Dark Lord’s reign did indeed sequester itself long ago, removed itself from the world with powerful magics of which we can only dream…

We have come a step closer. Last night, with several of my friends, we uncovered a box in a long-forgotten seabed that contained the first key to unlocking the city.

Session 11: Nash's Account
A new Home

The backdoor is breached by some enterprising orcs, and eventually by a legate who has killed and appropriated Donek as a zombie servator. We fight. I’m not sure how anyone survives. We discover how to activate Donek’s war machines and unleash them on the Orcs above. We find that he has a large collection of books! Books! We settle in, pleased with our new home. Once we smash all the mirrors.

10b: Interlude - Galin's Tale
Galin's Tale

Galin stared at the stone steps leading down into the darkness below the living quarters in Donek Buldan’s fortified workshop. The void below filled him with a dread that the dangers encountered by the group up this point had not. Not the army of orcs above them, not the insane giant hovering at his shoulder, not even the mysterious chain creature suspending orcs on hooked chains like fetid sides of meat. If he was going to come clean, he’d better do it before whatever was down there ushered the elf and his secret into the great beyond.

Deciding to commit himself before what little courage he possessed left him, Gavin spoke, “Before we descend, I have a confession.” His sharp ears could practically hear the eyerolls. “I know you have been suspicious of me from the start and your suspicions are justified. I did betray Donek.”

A flash of steel and the heft of a ridiculously large hammer caused him to take a step back. Galin made what he hoped was a placating gesture. “But not for the reason you think!”

    ‘I’ll give them credit,’ thought the elf, ‘Ananzi’s goons are a disturbed, violent lot, but at least they are curious enough to hear me out. I may yet live through this.’

    “He was planning to defect.” Galin took a deep breath, “There was an incident a while back, between Donek and the giants. A minor thing, really, but he was insulted – like the Stewards were taking advantage of him without giving him his due. Dwarves are obstinately proud and easily slighted, but Donek’s pride … ” Galin shook his head, “I was the closest thing he had to a friend, and I couldn’t stand him. This place, for example – who makes a ‘secret’ facility with 30 foot towers on a hill? No. He wanted everyone to know he had something that was his and his alone…” Galin caught himself, he was letting past irriation get him off-track.

    “One night, while in his cups, he said to me, ‘Those great louts think they can call me up and wave me away like a blasted djinn! I bet the Dark Lord treats his generals better. I bet they’d show more than a little interest in having me around. ‘Specially since I’m the one been keepin’ ‘em out of our cities. Prolly make me a general or a legate or something.’ ”

    “As we prepared to travel, I let slip the details of our journey in a rather unsavory tavern.” Galin’s shoulders slumped, “I had no idea – Donek’s been dodging assassins for years, I thought that’s how it would happen: quick and quiet and he’d be remembered as the hero he had once been, not the traitor he was becoming.”

“They slaughtered the entire caravan. And, as I lay buried in the mud beneath the burning wreckage of our coach, I watched Donek beg for his life – heard him offer up the secrets of this sanctuary of his – to the Dark Lord. The legate – for that is what I believe the man shrouded in black was – placed his hand on the dwarf’s head. Donek screamed in a way I have never heard and pray I never hear again; then fell over dead.”

Galin looked around, he could see skepticism in the eyes of his audience. “Aye,” he said, “He was dead. He fell facing me; his eyes but smoking cinders. The legate whispered some fell thing over his body and I watched as an unholy light came back into those charred ruined sockets. Slowly, deliberately, the body of Donek Buldan climbed to its feet and followed its new master into the shadows.”

The elf paused for a moment; his memory of the event was still far too fresh, and likely would be for some time.

When he had gathered himself, he continued, “There is a good chance that in this study or workshop or whatever it is Donek has hidden down here, among the plans and contraptions and-” Galin glanced over at the four hulking forms, still and silent behind them, “… weapons he has built, is a diary or some sort of evidence pointing to his intent to defect. Everything else can – and should – go to the stewards, but I want to expunge any hint of this corruption. Please, let him be remember as a defender of the upright.”

Finished, Galin bowed his head and turned back to stare into the gaping maw of the stairwell. He almost hoped the mercenaries would strike him down; being professional killers, he’d probably be dead before he knew it. It was almost certainly preferable to whatever hidden horrors Donek had prepared for them down below.

Behind him, Ananzi’s agents began a whispered discussion. The next few moments were going to be most interesting …

Session 10: Nash's Account
The best defense is a good defense.

Soon after hearing of the destruction of Karsus and the subsequent loss of Feng, we returned to Taer, and it was not long before we heard from Anansi again. The great architect of Taer’s greater wall defenses, Donek Buldan, had been captured, presumed killed by the enemy. Galin Sunesti, the sole survivor of the attack implored us to make our way to Donek’s lastest project laboratory, and protect it or to destroy it in order to deprive the Enemy of special intelligence of our defenses. We were not long in agreeing with him, and made our way to the laboratory, only to find it overrun with orcs, who were themselves fruitlessly assailing its defenses. By some tips from Galin and with the help of a personal key of Donek’s we were able to take the ‘back door’ into the laboratory. Inside, we discovered some huge fighting machines designed by Donek, all of them polished and mirrored. With the help of Galin, we were able to activate the buildings defenses. During this time, he revealed to us that Donek had felt slighted by the Cha-Jilud and their associates, and had defected to the Enemy without coercion. 

Session 9: Nash's Account
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I'm so sorry.

Anansi had, when several of us had revealed their involvement in our hypnagogic rescue of his person from the Dark Lord, taken pains to closet himself. We were then surprised to find ourselves summoned back to his presence to meet with a captain of the Cha-Jilud, General Kiang. We discovered from Kiang that we were to travel to the Ur-city of Karsus, currently under Enemy influence, to destroy the city and lay waste to the people there.

Availing ourselves of the kindness of our Dwarven contacts, we were able to secure passage with some able undead Ibixion guides to that city. All seemed to be in order, until crossing the chasm which communicated us immediately into Karsus, I peered down into the abyss and beheld the Devourer of Worlds slumbering below. My mind was overthrown and my tongue was loosened and, (it is difficult to write) the Great Beast awoke.

How we fled into the city, how the populace strove to escape the destruction, how the gates of the city were opened to allow them refuge in the wastes, must be told by another chronicler. I will now move on to pleasanter fields of our tale.

Session 8: Nash's Account
Do adventurers dream of eclectic sleep?

Back home to our old digs in Taer, we all began to have disquieting dreams, occasionally in tandem. I will record mine here as it appeared to me, but I have had accounts from my friends which are dissimular only in the most understandable particulars.

It seemed to me that we were cast adrift in a bottle, with stinging flies above and sharks below. We were able to open the top by tapping the bottom, and so made our way out of the mouth, into a fantastic labyrinth of color.

After a lot of wandering and a little of deliberation we liberated ourselves from the maze. Then we each killed (or ate) ourselves before our own mirror-reflection. Most everyone remembers this part in particular.

We came into a dodecagonic chamber, at the center of which we found Anansi, imprisoned. We tried our best to rescue him, but it seemed to me that the Dark Lord himself haunted us from the 12 columns. We quickly discovered how to weaken his position from within (Smash seemed to be able to strike them all in a moment) and soon were able to free Anansi from his prison.

I woke up and my pillow was gone.

Session 7: Nash's Account
Death by Hydrelevator!

Following the trail of the orc marauders into town, we explored the Chandlery, and found that the orcs had been rendered into wax. After interrupting the undead chandeliers in their gristly work, the we availed ourselves of the tallow-barges and made for the canal into Feng. Above, in the city, the townsfolk were lifting casualties of the slaughter-harvest from the wheat fields and piling them the capitol bridge, while the jolly lute-player kept them in time.

We discovered that the towers of Feng were an ancient water-lift, and after conducting the barges inside and engaging the pumps, we were carried high above the macabre scene. Breaking out upon the lute-player, we were astounded to discover that the corpse-pile was founded on nothing less than a gigantic black mirror. As the pile convulsed and coalesced below us, the lute-player changed his tune. Luckily, Hornvoid was able to compele him into leaping to his doom below, while the rest of us fended off the blade-dancers.

But the corpse pile was not so easily deterred. For that, we had to set off some charges, bringing down both the ancient water elevator and the burning tallow barges, burning it and washing away its ruin.

Session 6: Nash's Account

Anansi has some carved bones and doesn’t know what they mean.

Erithon and Smash leap into boats and head down the river Poltaaste to Feng, a major point of orc fortification during the giant invasion. The town was the scene of a gigantic massacre of orcs, but the Thothori were stymied to find that there were no bodies to pile and burn post massacre.

Erithon and Smash find the place riddled with undead, and vacate. They send a bellumemious bolt into the orcish encampments, and incite a battle between the angry orcs and the the really dead townsfolk.

They flee into the highcountry and notice that several legates have taken up their tracks, but are eaten by the fell. Taking refuge in an old quarry, they stand against the onslaught of deadly dancers. They discover dynamite in the quarry. They tear it loose. Nash finds and helps them.

Meanwhile, a much larger orc army has moved against the town. Weaving and hacking their way between the two forces, they make their way back to the boats.

Smash checks the ledgers and notices that the crane has been hired out to deliver several heavy millstones and large panes of glass to the milltowers of Feng.


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