"When the Master Calls" - July 21st, 2001

Prior to reading this story, you may want to read:

The Story called Dutton Hobbs Comes Calling

The Introduction to Mensas Cameo s Armies of Doom

The Introduction to the Elders When the Master Calls


The orange half-light of the fires dying in the two fireplaces barely lit the otherwise dark room.  The remains of the feast lay upon the long oak table...empty bowls, bones, bread crusts, the stems, seeds, and pits of fruit, and other refuse.  Javair had sent the waiters and kitchen workers to bed early...the mess would have to wait for morning.  Javair had asked each of the Marked Ones to stay up with him, and to wait for everyone else to get tired and take their leave.  It was now 6 hours past sunset, and finally they were alone.

Zeek sat cross-legged in his chair, wearing only loose fitting pants and soft shoes.  The tattoos on his face, neck, chest and arms were clearly visible in the dim light of the coals. Javair s talking black crow Zaner was perched on the back of Zeek s chair.  Though Zeek had not noticed, everytime he had had spoken that evening, Zaner had opened and closed his mouth and rocked his head back and forth, in some sort of silly mockery of his speech and mannerisms.  It was all the others could do to keep from laughing, and several times Oren had laughed out loud.  Luckily, Zeek had taken this unexplainable laughter as a symptom of Oren s peculiar madness.

Jeremiah at Javair s right, and had been fairly quiet throughout the evening.  He was wearing light colored robes, and was well-bathed and lightly perfumed.  He had an intelligent look in his eye, and was clearly taking in everything going on around him...learning about and learning of this new group he would be traveling and adventuring with. 

Kit sat at Javair s left, and was wearing a beautiful silk dress that showed a lot of her smooth ebony skin, and hinted at the rest.  She had at times been reserved, and at other times downright flirty and suggestive with Javair.  She clearly had his eye, though there was still a hint of suspicion evident there when she would look away.

Oren had not been his over-confident self as of late.  He seemed a bit introspective, and even a little quiet.  He could be seen occasionally whispering to himself or some unseen guest throughout the evening...but his friends had become accustomed to this behavior, and gave it little thought. 

My friends, I thank you for staying up with me.  I hope you have enjoyed your time within my Keep.  I want to thank you for the favor you did my good friend...for once this nasty blizzard passes, I am sure his territory will become such as he is familiar with and enjoys.  He will relish the task of rebuilding, and repopulating with hardy pine trees, and the like!

I asked that you stay up with me...for I have a very important task for you to complete.  I hope you will accept my offer, for it is an offer only, and not a demaind or an order.  Your debt is paid, as far as I am concerned.  For this new task I will pay you in gold, or in fame...or in honor...whatever the going rate is these days.  You decide which you want, and we will hash out the details.  But first let me tell you about the quest of which I speak.

Down a long set of stairs, and then a set of spiral steps deep within my Keep, is a round room with eight barred cells spaced evenly around the room.  Compared to the warmth and comfort of this feasting hall, this room and its adjacent cells is dark and chilly, and one can feel the bad memories pressing in on you.  For 500 years the ghost of King Senaca punished himself for the death of his wife by remaining in that jail...his jail.  When I came to the Azure Keep, hoping to restore it...I found his ghost there and was almost killed by its touch.  It seems that 500 years ago Dutton Hobbs, the King s loyal bard took a liking to the King s wife Judith.  Behind his King s back, Dutton and Judith consummated this attraction.  When the King s advisor Cameo learned of the affair, he attempted to stop it without Senaca learning of it...but gossip is gossip, then and now...and King Senaca learned of the betrayal.

Oren cleared his throat.  It has always been such among the powerful and rich.  It is such with MY father...gossip is the fuel of those that surround him, and seek profit and favor from him.

Javair' s eyes sparkled.  Well spoken, Oren.  I suffer from such gossip, and I am sure Galen Green...your father...also does.   Javair paused briefly, making eye contact with each member of the party, and then continued.  The King was destroyed by what had happened, and threw himself from the tallest spire of the Azure Keep.  When Judith learned of his suicide, she too leapt from the spire and joined him on the mountainside, out of utter guilt for what she had done.  Dutton Hobbs left in shame, and you may rely on the many legends regarding him for more of his story.  Now, in the resolution of this tale...we have yet to deal with Cameo...what became of wise old Cameo, the King s trusted advisor?

Kit broke in with a question.  And what of the Key?  The Key to the Storm Gates.  It is said that King Senaca would lock the Storm Gates when it was time for Summer, and unlock them when it was time for Winter.  What happened to the Key?

Javair drew forth his harp and sat it in his lap, though he did not play.  To these questions, I believe I know the answers...Cameo remained here...distraught and guilt-ridden for not preventing the events that occurred or the death of his King, Cameo resolved to maintain the frozen Azure Keep as a monument to King Senaca.  He is dead, yet he lives.  I fought his shade, and a dragon made from ice in the very room we feasted in earlier.  His mad obsession with the Azure King and his legacy has made him an enemy of change...an enemy of reform...an enemy of all we seek to accomplish.  I seek...we shall seek...to shut the Storm Gates and restore summer to the Azure Kingdom.  Cameo will stand against us at every turn...and in his madness he will seek to keep things as they now are...frozen...timeless...without change.  Cameo has all the cunning...all his talents, but he is a shadow of his former self.

As for the Key...It was around King Senaca' s neck when he jumped from the spire, and I set Cragen and his Black Dwarves to the task of recovering it from around his corpse s neck.  They tunneled into the thick ice that covers the spires of the Azure Keep.  They reached his body...and Judith s...but the Key was gone.  Pilfered by Cameo, years ago.  I have struggled with where the Key might be...where Cameo might have hidden it...for months now.

Very recently, a friend of mine has informed me that Cameo had his own Castle...perched overlooking the Martial Fields, a large training ground for the armies of the Azure Keep.  When I drove Cameo s shade from this Keep, he most likely returned to a place where he would feel familiar, or perhaps where his physical body remains...this Castle above the Martial Fields.  It is from here that Cameo will execute his plots against us.  For this reason, I have sent the other group of Marked Ones to confront this ghost from the past...and to keep him on his guard.  They have already set out for Cameo s Castle, and seek to destroy him...or in the very least occupy him, while you perform a most important task...recovering the Key!  Once the Key is ours, I will travel to the City of Stormgate and lock those accursed Gates shut.  This land will see its first Summer in 500 years if we have our way!

Zeek reached out and grabbed a few stray raisons from a bowl and put them in his mouth.  So you wish us to go with these other Marked Ones to Cameo s Castle and recover the Key from Cameo.  Correct?

Javair shook his head back and forth.  No.  That is where I thought the Key would be at first also.  I figured Cameo would keep it with him...to keep it safe.  But this friend I told you about...he had information from King Senaca that contradicted this theory.  Have you heard of the Unifier s Sword, Savior?

Everyone nodded.  Oren spoke out first.  I heard legends about it from...damn my mind!  Where did I hear those tales?

Kit reached out and put a hand on Oren s arm.  I know not were Oren heard the tale, but I know that Collin sung to me about it once.  It is an artifact from a past age...hidden and waiting...waiting for a day when a new Unifier will come forth to claim it and Unify all the powers of the world against a common threat.  The tale is a bit silly, but it is a nice fairy tale, anyway....

Javair laughed.  Yes, it is a bit silly.  But I believe it to be true.  Supposedly Savior was forged in these very mountains, at the mythical City of the Forge...nearer to the City of Stormgate than we are now.  A vent in the ground that leads to the very heart of Kempin exists there...and it is there that enough heat was found to forge this fanciful blade.  It is also there that King Senaca had the Key forged.  The Key to the Storm Gates.  The Storm Gates were also forged there.  This knowledge would be lost if not for my friend.

That brings us to the question of the location of the Key.  It seems likely to me that Cameo would have entrusted the Key to someone willing to destroy it.  And the only way to destroy something forged in the City of the Forge...is in the forge of origin itself!  The Key awaits you in the City of the Forge...you have but to find this lost place....and recover it.

Javair stopped talking, and was looking from face to face...seeking some reaction to his words.  Jeremiah was the first to speak.  So others will seek out Cameo and attempt to destroy him...and others will seek to shut the Gates.  All we have to do is find this lost City, and recover the Key from he who guards it?

Kit was next to speak.  How are we to find this lost City?  I will face any enemy, but the wind, and snow, and ice are everywhere and nowhere.  They are unstoppable.  How long will we last wandering about looking for a needle in a haystack?

Javair snapped his fingers.  A previously unseen figure stood within the adjacent library room.  The figure appeared to be a high goblin, 4'6" tall, and about 95 lbs.  He had short sandy brown hair, but his skin was his most amazing feature.  It was bright red, with yellow-orange highlights defining its bone and muscle structure.  He appeared to be a fierce warrior, and was most likely a follower of the Goblin Queen.  This is

Gnasher.   He stood bravely at my side against Vimlaager the Frost Giant and his Clan, and has proven his bravery and skill in combat. Though he does not speak the common Empire tongue, he knows these Azure Mountains was well as anyone.  He won t be able to lead you directly to the City of the Forge, but he will keep you from walking in circles.  I have ancient maps for you to study before you go.  And I wish to introduce you to someone else that would like to join your  adventuring party...but that can wait.

Javair stood and raise a glass of wine high in the air.  Everyone stood with him, raising their drinks also.  Let us drink to He Who Guards the Key, may he be dumb, and blind, and crippled, and give us that which is ours without a fight.  Knowing that this cannot be, let us drink to strong sword-arms, fast feet, and whatever luck the gods are willing to spare!   Everyone laughed and drank deeply.

When  Javair finished his toast he was quiet and smiled a big smile, looking from face to face.  What would a quest such as this be without a mystery?  When all is done, for 500 years bards will sing of this quest...and all the efforts made to restore the Kingdom.  It will be up to us whether these bards sing in a land that knows summer, or a land still frozen in misery.  I offer you immortality...I offer you fame...I offer you historical satisfaction.  Will you do this quest for me?

(the following is by Scott)  Kit stood as the others silently pondered Javairs's words.  She looked directly at the Lord of The Azure Kingdom and began. "I will go on this quest for it is long past time for this wrong to be righted.  I believe the former King and Queen would be deeply saddened to see their Kingdom suffer so because of their own personal mistakes.  If we are successful it will be reward enough.  I have but one request of you My Lord, it is to consider righting a wrong that I would otherwise pursue.  Before you roll your eyes back in your head I would have you hear me out and put great thought into what I say.  My departed friends Collin and Gremage were instrumental in saving countless lives of all races in foiling the plans of the Dark Druid.  Instead of returning to accolades they were struck down, and as you have pointed out you sent money and representatives to keep the Orks from killing us.  This you succeeded in doing for the Orks did not strike them down in battle, they were struck down by Vikos...the very one sent to make sure we were brought in alive.  He did kill them in self-defense but this was only after he put forward a request for us to surrender to him...which many in our party were willing to do, and were pressing the others to do, when Gerbach put forth a challenge to him which he readily accepted.  I was pushing for this alternative with Collin when angered by Kerbak's further remarks, Vikos with little warning called down a bolt of lightning on our party as we were openly trying to negotiate an answer to his offers.  If not for my quickness I would have been dead on the spot and my head would be all of me residing in Azure Keep today.  I have heard stories of late of Vikos's past and to me he is more a kindred spirit of Kerbak than one to send to negotiate a surrender where cooler heads may have prevailed.  It may be his presence was more the cause of Collin's and Gremage's demise than anything else at Widow's Grove.  I put this to you My Lord, being the one who sent Vikos, do you feel that you might have even the hair on a crickets leg's responsibility for their death's?  Would it not be right if you knew of any way they could be brought back it would show other's what a kind and benevolent Leader you are. This land could use men like them to become great again and I would be willing to do what it takes to compensate whatever it costs to bring them back.  I will as I said go on this quest and I will not press you ever again in this matter.  I leave this decision to your conscience and judgement."  Kit raises her goblet of Burly Downs Brandy and raises her voice "To He Who Guards the Key, may his retirement be soon."  Draining her glass she takes her seat and gazes at the fires glowing embers.

(Response from DM)  Javair s face turned a shade of red at Kit s words, and noticing this, few others drank to her toast.  My patience is at an end.  I have played these word games with you long enough.  How dare you question me.  I spent thousand of gold to save you.  Should I have sent a weak and pitiful specimen along with the orks in order to influence them.  NO!  I sent the only two men able to pull this off...Vikos and Jack Skull.  It is not my fault that your party would not surrender.  It is not my fault you failed to surrender.  The very defiance you show here...making these comments to me in my own hall...that is what killed your friends. A complete inability to grasp reality!

I HAVE MADE ONE MISTAKE...but it was not the death of your friends or sending Vikos along with the Orks.  No the mistake I made was offering so many favors to a group of adventurers that continues to make excuses for their actions.  I sacrificed practically all of my political credit with the Orks in order to get you off-the-hook for you actions.  Now I try to bring you in on a very important task, and AGAIN I AM BLAMED!

My one and only goal is to save this Kingdom.  I will do whatever it takes to complete this task.  I can t trust important tasks to adventurers that I feel I can t trust.  Please forget that I asked you to seek the Key.  I do not have need of your services.  I do not wish you to remain at my Keep any longer.  Pack your things and be on your way by tomorrow morning.  Gnasher, please initiate our back-up plan and contact the ones I briefed you about.  Their services come with a cost, but none so great as the personal cost THIS group charges me every time I start to believe they have seen the light.

Javair sat heavily in his chair.  There was silence.  The party members shifted on their feet but before a word could be said, Javair spoke again.  You want your friends back?  Fine.  Again I shall give you a gift.  In return for you forgetting about the quest for the Key...I will tell you of a quiet hermit that may very well be able to bring them back from the dead.  In my anger I have blamed everyone for Kit s words, and have condemned all of you.  Perhaps your group simply does not have what it takes to help me in my quest to bring Summer to the Azure Kingdom.  Sit down.  Perhaps each of you should take a turn telling me what you want to do.  Do you all agree with Kit?  Would you rather seek the restoration of your dead companions...or would you rather seek the Key?

(Response from Chris)  Zeek sat down with the others, but then immediately stood, an angry look on his face.  "As it was in the Kobold's den, the seductress Kit has dictated our fate once more- not on purpose, mind you, but through her arrogance (and ignorance) of all that is wise.  I believe her ways of the underdark do not 'mesh' with the top-worlder's ways.  Even with my 'savage' background, (as my comrades remind me) I understand these awkward politics.  As for our comrades, I believe it is not ours to decide.  We are the only one's to blame for their deaths.  I, one of the spirits, have not been contacted by any presence, known or unknown.  Nothing...No one...Not a scare, spoof, flicker nor mishap.  I know not where Kit has purchased her easily bought nobility.  I do not pretend to speak above my station.  Javair, I am at your disposal, live or die, I care not.  I am yours to direct, not Kit's.  You have proven to me that you are the rightful heir to the Azure throne."

Zeek paused and then strode across the room towards Javair.  "I am a warrior without a kingdom."  Zeek knelt.  "The only thing I ask is to serve you and your kingdom and all that that might entail.  What can I do to prove my faithfulness?"

Javair put his hand on Zeek s shoulder, and pulled him to his feet.  While I respect and appreciate your gesture, don t kneel to me.  I am still more a bard than a King.  I was wrong to judge all of you by the words of only one of you.  Zeek, I will certainly accept your help in this venture.  Now what of Jeremiah, Oren, and Jordan?  What say you?  Will you move forward and get the Key, or do you have other priorities?

(Response from Scott)  Kit rises, a sly smile on her face "I see you finally understand how angry one can get when no matter how good their intentions were,

no matter how hard they tried to avoid a situation, that the unforeseen and uncontrollable actions of other's can lead people to lay blame on us no matter what we meant to do.  I believe the search for the Key is of utmost importance but since the expression of my honest feeling's has excluded me from this quest by your decree, I will adjourn to my room to pack for my ordered departure.  Good night and goodbye to all, may luck watch over your shoulder."  Kit turns and exits from the hall amidst a hush.

(Response from DM)  Javair was still standing.  "That one has much to learn.  I am not angry that she is willing to express her honest opinion.  Her view of the world...her view of the past and present do not fit into my current plans and needs.  I am too busy to play word-games with her forever...supporting her has cost me enough already.  Let her pass from here in peace, and if she ever returns...may she have gained some perspective of what is actually at cost here.  Like most woman she places such a high value on being right, that she loses track of what we're actually fighting for!"

"Why could she not just ask for my help or advice in bringing your companions back from the dead?  Why does she expect me to react well to her constant badgering...her undeserved badgering?  Being stubborn killed your friends.  I have much experience with stubborn friends bringing death upon themselves.  Vikos seems to live for his next chance to die!  I've lived my whole life to share the knowledge I can learn and hold, and in this case the same holds true.  I will share with you what I know about how to bring your friends back...but not before we address 500 years of frozen death visited upon thousands of souls.  We shall gain the Key, and bring summer upon the Kingdom.  That is my priority.  If we are able to bring back your friends somewhere along the way...it will make the tale all the better!"

"Jeremiah, Oren, Jorden...will you join Zeek in this quest for the Key?  Will you help me bring Summer to the land?"

(Response from Steve)  Jeremiah stands, and clears his throat, I will take this quest for the common good but I do believe that I should voice my concerns first. (Jeremiah looks around the table at each individual meeting each persons eyes for a second and moving on to the next finally stopping at Javair's) . Javair you have

requested that I lend my services to this group on the last mission and I was glad that I was able to help in that time I have watched this group of adventures and to be honest not one of them acts as a team and I would dare say I would not trust them with my life. It seems that everyone in this group comes to the table with either a great deal of baggage, personal or mental issues. This is not to say that in the future they could be a coherent and productive force to be reconded with. One example was just presented with Zeek he was willing to throw away any allegiance he had for another party member without even thinking of what that Kits upbringing is and how difficult it must be for her to admit to having a friend for she has had so few in her years. As for Kit, I believe that in order for this quest to work they will need her talents and maybe even her sword I dare say they won't need her tongue. But you did lose your temper with her and that we can all understand but as you say you seem to understand her best therefore I believe you can show a little more compassion for her lost comrades as you can see they were probably the only true friends that she felt she had. If anything I have said offended anyone I am sorry it is only intended to make a few of you think that if you are going to be a adventuring group then you need to start acting as a group because I can't run with a group that I can't count  on in a scrap or in court for that matter. Javair if you still wish me to adventure with this group then this is what I require for the mission. (This is were I hand over a piece of paper to Javair. )

(Response from Chris)  "Jeremiah is absofuckinglutely correct.  We suck as a team and as you so perfectly put it: "I would not trust them with my life."  I don't take your example of me screwing Kit personally.  Her ways are incompatible with mine.  I can respect that.  However, I am done with following her path.  She can cum or go.  I care not.  I obviously have given up on this group, what little we have left.  I won't be taken advantage of again.  Any allegiance I might have had for another party member is completely gone, especially Kerback the berserker.  I will not support bringing anyone back.  Those that yet live will need to prove themselves again.  I am willing to forgive, but not forget.  Jeremiah, you seem to have a level head.  Maybe your cooler temper will fair better than our fallen comrades."

Zeek turns to Javair:  "Who do you put in charge of this suicide squad?"

Javair chuckled.  Zeek, I certainly hope you are not a

suicide squad.  To die would be to fail...and you cannot fail!  As for a leader...who among you could claim that title?  I think you are all leaders...with no followers.  Perhaps that is where some of the problems within your group come from.  Kit certainly has her view of things, and a path she wishes to follow.  And Zeek, you certainly have your views.  Does any one of you ever defer to any other?

(Response from Mike H.)  After watching the three members bicker, Oren chugs his wineglass. Oren then closes his eyes and ears while leaning back in his chair. Oren was trying with all his might to remember his childhood with his father. This has been bothering him for quite some time.

Right as the fog started to clear in Oren's memory, Vax pushes Oren over. "Oren! Wake up. They are all arguing and Kit is leaving. Stop her.  You know we need to stick together to get ourselves to the Master as soon as possible. OREN! Get up and stop her, or I will."

Oren picked himself off the floor, and grumbled. "Alright. Alright. ALLLLLLLLLLRIGHT!"

Turning to face Javair, Zeek, Jeremiah and Kit, "Enough. Each one of you conducts yourselves like little housewives in a baking competition; while thinking your dung doesn't stink!

I was so close to remembering something important! How dare you interrupt me?! Regardless, I don't care if Kit has cricket hair on her legs, or if Zeek likes them or not. Wake up!"

Oren then turns around, and yells at Kit as she is leaving the hall, "Kit, bring yourself back into my company. I understand your anger, but there is nothing you can do about these events which have unfolded themselves recently. You and Zeek will listen to me!"

Oren walked over to the table and peered into everyone's cup, while each holding but a drop of wine. Then Oren noticed Gnasher cup was still half full.

Oren then noted, "Javair knows I am of the royal family. Zeek knows I am of the royal family. Kit knows I am of the royal family. Jeremiah now knows I am of the royal family." Then turning to Gnasher, Oren grabs his cup and asks Javair to take a sip. This glass represents our strength.  Everyone take a swash with me! Join me in regaining our companionship."

Oren then turns to Zeek, "Zeek. We have some common bond together. I do not know why nor what. I think the evil spirits within you made you speak such harsh words. You do have some sort of obscure faith in me. I know this. Drink from the cup, and tie our faith and trust forever."

Oren then turned to Kit, "Kit. We have had our differences. Let them part now. I maybe am drunk, but I am sincere. You have no fault in the death of our companions. Do not attempt the impossible. They are dead.  We have no evidence that they even want to return to this place. Let us rejoice their valiant efforts. If you do not feel justified by their honor in supporting our group, then by Galen Green help me for this would be the ultimate dishonorable thing you can do for them. Use our inner faith to channel back to them. Zeek has some bizarre feats to communicate those who have passed. If it shall be that we get a sign from God, we will find means to resurrect them. Forget this nonsense now, and drink from the cup."

Oren then tuned to Jeremiah; "I dislike your actions and interpretations. My servant, Vax agrees with me. You have no tongue which holds any bind, but to my axe. I recall you whimpering on the Ice Bridge, falling on your soiled ass while being attacked by a creature that looks like Kerbach's mother. I also faintly recall risking my own royal stump to prevent your demise. I find you have some grudge toward us. Enough! You claim we have baggage, yet I am commanding you to drop yours. Drink from this cup, and let our differences fall."

Oren then turned to Gnasher, "A cute little goblin eh? Choo-che choo-che coo. Do you want to go on a widdle quest with us? If so! Know this: I am Oren Green, son of Galen Green. Drink from my cup and forever we will hold a new bond."

Oren then faced Javair again, "Javair! I am a hero. We who drink from this cup will close this gate! Oh, have you heard anything about my Dwarven Rubicite War-Axe, or my Red Dragoon necklace?"

(Response from Scott)  The serving girl Sedonna meekly replies to Oren, "I am sorry sir I am not the lady Kit who you look to address. She departed just before your.....um inspiring speach."  Oren rubs his eyes and focuses on the petite young girl then.  He takes the cup back from her, and mumbles a brief apology.  Oren looks across the room at Vax and shrugs questioningly.

Vax smiles.  Oren, we can complete our mission without her if we must.  He is not essential to the Master.....

(Response from Steve) Jeremiah speaks, Oren you are very much correct.  I speak from the knowledge I have gained from listening to your group s conversations and  testimony at the trail of what occurred below and how your group interacted at the trail and at this table.  This is what I was speaking of before. As for the last adventure, that I went on with you, I was a bit surprised that you were willing to help me on the bridge after seeing and hearing how the trial went.  I realize that I could have died at that moment and that you risked your life in an attempt to save mine. For this I am very grateful and I am willing to go on more adventures with this group. I believe that this group does have potential as a unit. But from what I have heard so far there is a lot of work to be done and one day I believe that I will feel, that I could trust this group to save my life, what you have done so far gives me great hope that this is a group worth adventuring with. So in a spirit of trust and anticipation I will be more than happy to drink with you.

(Response from DM)  Javair took the cup of wine back from Gnasher, seeing that all in the room had taken a sip of the wine...All but Kit, who had already left.  Well...I feel honored to have consumed wine from this cup...and I hope that Oren s words, and your mutual goals do bind your group.  For you must work together in order to truly be of help to me...and our Kingdom.

Allow me to set something straight, and let there be no misunderstanding.  Kit is your friend, and you have history with her.  I do not expect you to abandon her to the cold of the Azure Mountains.  I do not expect you to forsake her, and drive her from your number.  But she is no longer welcome here.  She is no longer someone I will protect.  I owe her no favors, no breaks, and no service.  Do not travel with her back to this Keep, for she will be turned away at the door the first time, and imprisoned the second time.  I gave her a chance...many chances...but I will not abide her tongue, nor her playful threats.

All of you are still welcome here.  When we are old, we will tip a cup outside the Upper Gate of the Keep and remember this day...with the warm breezes of summer blowing our gray hair and warming our wrinkled cheeks!  Drink up, friends....and then rest for your departure tomorrow.

NOTE: The following Game Summary for the July 21st Game was written by Chris Stevens, who plays the unforgetable ZEEK! I want to express my thanks to Chris for doing this! ...Mark Stinson

Death of a One-Eyed Man

The party finds themselves following Gnasher, the high goblin tracker, further into the colder regions of the Azure kingdom. "We should have been there by now," says Jeremiah. Something is not right about the path Gnasher has chosen. In the middle of nowhere appears a furred hut of sorts. There, a one-eyed man is found. Immediately the old man recognizes Oren. "By the cursed souls that plague me! It's you. It's really you. What are the odds that YOU would end up on my doorstep?"

But not before tempting fate does Oren start to realize his true past. Zelegorn coerces Oren into a deal. "Drink the potion and live, only then will I tell of your past!" Oren becomes almost giddy with the thought of regaining his past and more importantly his precious Amulet. Zelagorn prepares an herbal potion from the deadly Black Lotus flower. "We both shall drink. My days of tormenting this world are done. I have chosen my path. I have had ten years to ponder my revenge. For don't you remember? YOU are the one that took my eye!"

The old man was Zelegorn, and he was obviously an old evil man. Zeek calls upon the spirits for the purpose of this man's actions. The bones indicate that indeed Zelagorn will die and has told the truth. Zeek's spirit-sight shows him many things. The murdered beings by the hand of Zelagorn have gathered around to take him away to the abyss that no one speaks. Zeek nods at Oren and at the same time Kit sips from an anti-poison potion and gives Oren a kiss goodbye. "Bye, my love."

Much of Oren's past is discovered, including his missing Amulet. "Am I a Dwarf?!"

Master of the Macabre

Several days of travel pass. Oren seems to be in another land, trying to remember who or better yet, what he is. He does not notice that Gnasher's accent is much changed from what he remembers. After cresting a small hill leading to a valley, Gnasher drops his staff and asks, "Where are we?" A feeling of doom falls on the party and chaos and arguing ensues. Then Kit notices that there is a town in the valley.

Town of Draven

Inside the Merlot Inn the townspeople give our friends a warm welcome. There is bountiful food that could never survive in these harsh conditions. Oren is in full celebration and eats and drinks to his content. Zeek, Kit, and Jeremiah are not so quick to trust a town on a cliff, in the middle of nowhere. Zeek calls upon the spirits and not all is as it seems.

War is Waged

Tad, the mayor, abruptly leaves after speaking with Oren. As the night progresses, all but Oren begin to see how and what this town is…Evil. Zeek has reached a fervor of paranoia and frustration. "We can't let this town just eat us like the children have said. What shall we do?" The other party members either believes there is no threat, or that they should wait and react. Tad returns and begins to say something. Unfortunately for Tad, Zeek not wanting to be eaten screams, "By the spirits we will set you free of your evil ways," smashing brain matter across the room in two spiked blows to his temples.

Tad drops dead to the floor and a massive melee is pitched. There are three and four townspeople to each of the party. How they are surviving, no one knows. Zeek takes a raking blow to his midsection and screams, "They have claws!" The battle is not going well. The townspeople quickly and decisively bring our strongest fighters to their knees. Oren awakes from his stupor and starts throwing the creatures off Kit and Zeek, telling them to get behind the bar. "What are you doing?!!" says Oren. "I told you everything is going as planned. The Master wants to see us."

Rachen enters the tavern and ends the mayhem. The Elvin Vampyre calms the townspeople down and directs the party to follow him along with his winter wolves.

A Life is Sold

A deal has been made between the Master and the Tiger Man. In return for all of the Raksasha's holdings, the Master turns Zeek over to the evil creature. Once in one of the Master's outbuildings, a ghastly scene awaits. Zeek new he should not have come. Around a pit stand 12 men of respite. In the center is a pentagram with manacles. The Raksasha has made well-laid plans and Zeek is the 'Key.'

There is some confusion as to where the Raksasha is. The servant helping him is standing right by the party. The servant unleashes a massive spell attack against the party! He is the Raksasha! Kit fires a magic missile and a moment later he is gone. Zeek swings wildly at the air and then becomes blind. Luckily he was standing a few steps from the door, which he promptly busts open and heads outside. Oren decides things are under 'control' here and goes to see the master.

Blind is as Blind Does

Outside to what, Zeek is unsure. Zeek tries desperately to remember the layout of the courtyard and most importantly where the bridge lies! As soon as Zeek leaves the room, all twelve disciples move after him. Oren slashes through several of the men, but more make it through. Zeek is now against an army of darkness. Every step could be his last, as the cliff is only a few steps away. Zeek takes a gamble and sprints to the bridge, finding the pillars. He hears footsteps behind him and again starts to the other side. Mid-stride he hears a growl and in a split second decides to jump whatever is in front of him. The winter wolves breathe a death of frost. Only some of the frost finds Zeek's legs. As Zeek is still blind he has reached the end of his rope. There are too many unknowns. He tries to make it to a defensible position but is torn to shreds by the wolves' claws and bite. The disciples begin to take Zeek back to the ring of despair.

Casting of a Common Cart

Meanwhile, Kit and Jeremiah make it behind some curtains to find a trove of supplies. The Mages have their revenge against this evil cleric, the Raksasha. All is thwarted when Kit and Jeremiah push a cart laden with oil into the fiendish pit of hell. The entire spell is broken and erupts into a fiery debacle and begins to suck everything down with it. Jeremiah must use the Immovable Rod to escape. The disciples turn globs of gloop. Rachen calls off his wolves and the party makes their way down the path.

Oren finds his Dragon Axe as well as himself. I'm a dwarf?!

For the conclusion of the Elders quest read: He Who Guards the Key

For a related story read:  The Introduction to Vikos and Javir at the Storm Gates

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M. Ludwig Stinson, P.O. Box 28204, Gladstone, MO 64188