Campaign Journal – Eirmont 8 1005AC
Once again underneath the Temple of the Gray Mountain, the party has a few idle days in which to contemplate the twists of fate that robbed them of any sense of victory following their defeat of The Master.
Besting the hulking, black-armored warlord and his stone giant henchman in combat erased some of the sadness felt by the party when The Seneschal gave his life to cover their retreat to The Master's skyship. Their daring nighttime flight from the sprawling tent city of Sayr Ulan through a blinding sandstorm while fighting off an enemy skyship was cause for further elation. Eaeros' death-defying rescue of Niko as he plummeted over the ship's rail during one of Arwan's more risky combat maneuvers highlighted the brotherhood that bound the Companions. Not even a poisonous man scorpion or the undead soldiers of the Darokin legions could shake their confidence as they flew away.
However, their sense of invulnerability began to fade when the red sands of the dwindling storm took shape into an enormous, floating, featureless, horned head to taunt them. In a deep voice that boomed like thunder and rattled the timbers of the skyship, it told them "The Master was mine!" The demonic apparition warned the party its vengeance would be terrible. Surely, Ikol/Loki's warning that the party would make a powerful enemy very angry came to mind. Almost as quickly as it had formed, the enraged vision evaporated along with the storm leaving the party with only a chilling memory of the vision.
The party's spirits further sank as they sailed east over the wastes of Sind and the Black Mountains towards Akesoli when Eaeros revealed he intended to leave the adventuring life. That the death and suffering Eaeros had witnessed weighed on him heavily could be seen in his recent turn to reverencing the Immortals. He explained to the party his plan to say farewell after more than three years together by returning to Blackmoor via The Comeback Inn. So many thousands of years is indeed a great distance to run to put one's troubles behind oneself.
With heavy heart Arwan turned the skyship north along Lake Amsorak and towards The Broken Lands, but nothing could have prepared the party for the next tragedy that was about befall Mystara.
Somewhere east of Akesoli, still occupied by The Master's forces, the party sited a bright comet in the sky. Taken as a good omen it was anything but. By the next morning it had grown in size and brightness. Then it slammed into the ground on the Darokin/Glantri border. A blinding light, thunderous boom, trembling earth and vast mushroom cloud of ash and dust followed. Even 80 miles away the skyship was rocked and Eaeros and Niko knocked off their feet.
As the ship passed over the Silver Sierras into Glantri (and then on to The Broken Lands) they skirted the site of the comet's impact – a gaping crater 60 miles in diameter. Much of the Principalities of Blackhill and Caurenze had been obliterated…thousands must have perished immediately. Thousands more might die from crop failures caused by the spreading dust cloud and forest fires caused by airborne molten rock and cinders. If death and destruction had weighed on the party's conscious before, now it was as heavy as the Gray Mountain crushing down on Elyas' tower.
Surveying the scene with the spyglasses purloined from the Frog cultists, Arwan quickly realized a fire was raging towards the forests of Erewan, the home of the elven village of Kota-Hutan and his betrothed. With all haste he turned the skyship there. Just as quickly, Eaeros tried to talk him out of it….even feeding him strong wine which nearly knocked Arwan out. Eaeros, apparently, sought to spare Arwan the pain of learning of the demise of Sylvana.
However, touching down in KotaHutan, the party discovered the village intact, but in grave danger from fire. An argument nearly as hot as the encroaching blaze raged amongst the elven villagers. Some blamed the Alphatians for the destruction, some themselves for straying from Ilsundal's teachings, and others a reoccurrence of the Great Rain of Fire.
The party suspecting full well who had caused the destruction did not share knowledge of their newfound enemy. Rather, they tried to calm the tensions. Adding to the confusion, a carriage arrived bearing the party's former rivals from beneath Corran Keep, the wizarding students Pennar and Demara – once again guided by Fil! Seeming older, more mature, but no less arrogant, Pennar ordered all of villagers to march north to "safety" while Demara stared coldly at the party. Fil, though still smarting from the revelation of Niko's former girlfriend, told him in confidence that Pennar cared not one whit for the villagers' safety and only sought to remove them and the Siswa so he could freely plunder Elyas' tower. She suggested the only safe place from the fast moving fire was inside that very tower.
Over Pennar's protests the party sprung into action leading the villagers to the Temple clearing. Arriving, they noticed white smoke emanating from behind the walls of the Temple courtyard and the sound of banging. Fil and Arwarn crept across the open ground between the Temple and forest edge. Upon pushing through the Temple doors to the courtyard, Fil was immediately ambushed and gravely wounded by an orcish assassin. Arwan leapt to her defense and saw a cohort of orcs trying to break into the Temple – all bearing the blackened sun symbol of Chaos on their hide shields. They were supported by a 10 foot tall iron construct shaped something like a stove on legs with huge deadly axes for arms – a fire burned in its furnace belly causing the dreadnought to gush stream.
A desperate battle to get into the Temple compound ensued as the raging fire caught up to the fleeing villagers. The Siswa monks burst forth from the Temple to engage the Orcs. The dreadnought's deadly axes nearly sheared Arwan in half and its loud steam whistles broke the concentration and drowned out the arcane speech of spell casters. Still, the concerted actions of the party and a super-sized Eaeros brought the walking weapon down and not a moment too soon as the forest fire raged ever closer.
With their adrenalin expended and breath caught, the Companions naturally began to consider whether their the defeat of The Master could be called a victory when the powerful, pronged being they angered in doing so snuffed out the lives of thousands in revenge.
Perhaps it was this melancholy clouding Eaeros' mind that permitted Pennar to slip away from the Temple with the Mirror Shield – stepping through a portal opened by a wave of his manicured hand. Pennar did not seem at all perturbed by leaving Demara behind to be captured and ensure his escape. She saw it differently: "That arrogant bastard…getting the Shield and eliminating a rival in the Brotherhood at the same time. I'm sure he's very pleased with himself."
All of these events must raise many questions for the Companions:
- Will they trust the words of Loki and travel to Norwold to further interfere in their newfound nemesis' plans and risk further catastrophic revenge? Do they dare insert themselves in a conflict apparently brewing amongst Immortal factions calling themselves Shadow, Star and Fire?
- Will they pursue Pennar into Glantri in an attempt to recover the Mirror Shield and discover the secrets of this mysterious Brotherhood of wizards and their super weapon? Can Fil be trusted now that she has returned to their employ?
- Or do they consider the growing army of Chaos forming in The Broken Lands a greater threat? According to an orcish captive interrogated in the Temple, the raiders encountered were only advance scouts of an immense host of the warlord Thar.
- Or, in effort to stem further destruction of the environment, will they travel to Alfheim to figure out what is sickening the Trees of Life? As the King Doriath considers Arwan to be touched by Ilsuandal, they will surely find a welcome there.
- Perhaps they will seek after the mad duke of Vestland and forget about the troubles of the western Known World?
- Or elsewhere? Perhaps to help Niko with his research?
A chill winter wind creeps down from the mountains and gently brushes Arwan and Niko's faces as the skyship lifts away from what was once Kota-Hutan. As they steal one last glance at Eaeros, they fly to their next destination knowing that the Raven's Companions are no more and not knowing whether the once lighthearted bard will travel towards a past where he once knew joy with his friends and amongst the children of Three Crowns or whether he will travel towards a future where he can find solace helping the survivors of Kota-Hutan and others suffering from the war.
32nd and 33rd session – XP 11,250 (total all sessions: 60,680)