"A Second Chance" - November 17th, 2001
DOUBTS VERSUS HOPE
Javair of the lost stood in one of the Keep's High towers looking out a window over looking the frozen landscape.
This had been Cameo's study and the thick glasssteal window was proof against the cold hard wind blowing against
it. He pondered his decision to take up this challenge of restoring summer to the Kingdom and rekindle the alliances
between the races. He had been sure that everyone would embrace this Dream and all would fall into place. Now he
felt like maybe he should go back to his original goal of recording history. After the party he sent in quest of
the Key left, he went to Greenmark in the guise of Moontree to spread the word of Cameo's demise. Much to his chagrin
he found the mood there much gloomier than when he had left. The month of Iron and the just past harsh storm had
set the stage for the rumors and a feeling of impatience running through the town. When word had spread of a new
"lord" in the Azure Keep, hopes had been high. But with the passing of time, and the cold grind of winter...people
were beginning to wonder if Winter would ever be banished. Some were even mentioning Javiar's name in the same
sentence with Zelagorn, and questioning his promise to close the Storm Gates. Some said he was just buying the
other Lord's with Gold to gain power while other's said that he was a servant to the Goblin Queen and would bring
them under her rule. There were even a few who felt the land should stay as it was, that this is the way it should
be, and change would only disrupt the way of life they had built.
Javiar, as Moontree, quickly went about trying to get out the truth as to what had been happening. He sang of the End to Cameo and the Search for the Key. He told of Javair's quest to bring the races together as one and of how life would improve when the Gates were closed. This helped a little but still rumors and mistrust swirled. While he tuned his instrument on the second night he over heard talk at a nearby table. One man said he had heard that Javair had a concubine who was a Drow and was really a Doppelganger. This was the type of rumor he had heard about many rulers that was always present in any Kingdom. People seemed to be so interested in sex and conspiracy about the ruling class. It was then another at the table who commented that he had heard from a reliable source that the Drow Kit was trying to destroy Javiar's plans. She was purposely causing all the dissent among the races and was seducing Javair to keep the Azure Kingdom from being restored. No Drow could ever be trusted and she should be hunted down and burned as the witch that she was. Moontree smiled to himself. She was a wicked bitch, and knew not when to shut her mouth...but despite her flaws, Kit clearly wanted to restore the Kingdom. Of course...her actions and words had done much to unintentionally threaten the restoration. Moontree began a song about Kit...one that described her beauty...but also her personality. He twisted the song and made it clear it was a song about all women. Javair did not believe this to be true...but he knew the drunks in the tavern would whoop, holler, and be freer with their coin. When the song was done, Moontree mulled over the idea of lifting his ban on Kit visiting the Azure Keep. Then he shook his head. "No...no. She has overstepped her bounds too many times...and her action and word distract from our goal. She will not be welcome...perhaps ever."
Now as he stood back at Azure Keep he realized everything he had worked for now hinged on the success of the small band of eclectic adventurers he sent to find the key. He had pondered sending the other Group of Marked Ones of as backup to ensure some measure of success but they had yet to return. He had had no word of Kit returning to Greenmark so he assumed she had rejoined the party, and he was not sure this was a good thing. Hopefully the two adventurers that he had just sent out might bolster the depleted group and bring some order to it. Whatever made him choose that band of misfits for such a crucial task? There was something about them though. Despite their rough edges, and the chaos of their ways. Perhaps they reminded him of Vikos at his worst. Javair laughed a quiet laugh out loud. Well there was no point in worrying about this now. He mused at Kit's request to help raise the party members that were slain at Widow's Grove. Another example of her asking for something fairly reasonable, but with words that insulted, threatened, and shamed. Kit presumes too much. Javair wondered if there would be a way to bring back the dead party members. Javair cleared his mind. The restoration of the Azure Kingdom required his full attention and he had used up many of his favors on getting her party out of the trouble they had been in. Suddenly from behind him came the statement. "Hey Boss, You got some company!"
"I asked you not to call me that," Javair replied as he turned. Standing in the door was Jack Skull with a large grin on his face…. of course Jack always had a large grin on his face since only his bones shown through his transparent skin. Javair had given up playing any game of cards with him long ago. "Sure Boss, whatever you say." Javair just sighed and shook his head and asked "Well, Who has been sent here to observe if I am doing what I have said I am doing know." Jack chuckled "It's Rhazferas, High Priest of the Goblin's and the kobold Dakkot Yusdraylson Minister to the Council of the Queens with his entourage. Javair rolled his eyes "I thought we were through with the kobold issue, I have already given up to many favors for its resolve" Jack Responded "They seem to be here to ask for YOUR assistance. I have made sure there are no more surprises and they all check out to be who they say they are." Javair had asked Jack if he could handle the security for Kingdom. After the Kobold assassins, Kit's so called suggestion, the attempt to read Zeek's Magic writings by whatever that thing was right in the Keep, and this Fedden lurking around he needed somebody to keep on top of things and Jack agreed to take that challenge. "They seem to be looking for someone to recover some Kobold Holy relic and the Goblin priest is here to offer his future service if you can be of assistance."
Javair started with a slow chuckle the proceeded to break into a roaring laugh. Jack just stood and watched with what might be a questioning stance, head tilted to one side. " Jack, the God's have always filled my life with Irony, just when I start thinking they pay no attention to us whatsoever something happens that makes me reconsider it all." Javair finally gets out while whipping the tears from his eyes. "Well I have never been one to miss a Golden opportunity, so lets see if I we can kill two birds with one stone"
Collin wandered through Gellhorn looking for souls that carried stories of adventure and heroism that would never be told. At first he asked every soul he encountered but he soon had found that was not necessary. Most souls that came through Gellhorn had been average people who had just tried to get through life from day to day. Others just wandered about trying to grasp that they no longer were alive, in denial but eventually giving in and moving on. Those who had lived an adventurous life had a different aura around them, some were defiant as to their end...others were more than prepared to go to the afterlife they expected. Suddenly he felt a presence that he had been expecting.
Alcald VanDrunan emerged from the shadows and stood before him. Collin paused for a second then stated, " Is it already the end of my allotted reprieve? I thought I had another day, but as said before I am ready to serve you as we agreed." Alcald showed no emotion and in a steady voice replied. " You are always so quick to give up on others, Collin. You have so little faith that there are those in the world that think more of others than themselves."
Collin smirked and replied, "I have seen nothing to make me believe otherwise."
VanDrunan continued, " You have focused so much on the bad that you are blinded to the good. I have come here to find the answers to some questions that have been posed to me. There are those that seek to bring you back among the living but only if they are sure that you have the correct feelings about what you did before your demise."
Collin gave a suspicious look. "Who and what exactly are you referring to?"
Alcald VanDrunan impasonatly replied, "The who shall be revealed in time, the what are your actions against the Kobolds you encountered and slaughtered. You entered into their home under the agreement you were there to negotiate."
Collin shot back " The Queen was not giving in to our requests. All but one or two of our party felt we should strike them before they could strike us. That was no reason that an Army of Orks should be sent to hunt us down and kill us."
Alcald VanDrunan continued, "What happed after the Kobold Battle is of no interest to those I am inquiring for. I ask this of you and I want you to think hard before you reply. Could you have helped the negotiations toward a successful end? Did your actions stem from viewing the Kobolds as some insignificant creatures that did not deserve to be treated as equals? Could you have stopped those in your party from starting this battle? Do you have any regret to your actions that day?"
Collin stood stunned for a moment then pondered these questions before him. After some soul searching, in a low voice he replied. "No, I did not do what I could to aid in the dealings, in fact I did just the opposite, I could have quelled the rage building in the party but instead I fueled it. I admit I was wrong in my views of them but they were ready for a fight and our party did not deserve to have the power of some upstart Lord and his underlings bring down lightening on us when we were ready to give-up to the rightful authorities."
Alcald VanDrunan shook his head. "As I have said before...what happened beyond your dealings with the Kobold's does not matter, the question before you is do you regret what your party did while in peaceful negotiations with them?"
Collin sighed and looked to the ground. "Yes, after the fight when Kit confronted us with her misgivings about our deed, I felt guilt and regret as to my actions and lack there of in the whole encounter. I was a very dishonorable thing to do and I carry much of the blame since I did nothing to stop it."
Alcald VanDrunan stood there for a time as if starring right through Collin. Finally he nodded his head as if in confirmation of some agreement and proceeded to address Collin. "Very well, You are about to be queried further by those who may offer you something very few get...a second chance. But it will be up to you if you want to take their offer. It will be your choice to return, so be sure you are ready to accept the terms."
With that Collins view of Alcald began to swirl and he closed his eyes and felt a slight pull, and upon opening them he was now starring face to face with a goblin in brown robes. He seemed to be very aged, and a younger looking kobold stood beyond him flanked by a large ork and an even lager hobgoblin. He could not turn his head but off to the left some ten feet away he could see the lower half of a dirt smeared body. He did not know how he knew...but he seemed to understand that it was HIS BODY, except HIS HEAD was not attached to it!!!
"Kholleen Makgrehgher" It was said with a high pitched guttural voice, but it commanded Collin's attention and his eye's snapped back to the grayish green elder goblin in front of his disembodied head. The robed Goblin went on, "I am Rhazferas and this is Dakkot Yusdraylson Minister to the Council of the Queens." The Elder Goblin motioned to a well dress kobold to his right." It has been told to us you have feeling of remorse for your actions and lack of actions in encounter with Queen Yusdrayl. We offer you chance to redeem your honor. If we bring your life back to this realm would you do service for Kobold Nation?"
Collin answer came quick since this was what he had wanted most, " Yes" but he still felt deep rooted mistrust for these races, " But I will not be apart of anything that will be used against my race."
The Goblin Priest's eyes narrowed and he paused in thought before responding " You will be asked to retrieve an Item of great power, a Holy relic kobold's use in defense of their lands."
Collin replied " Yes , if this is true I will take up this quest."
Rhazferas went on. " I will also be able to take back this gift of life if you do not complete this service or have any thoughts of betraying us."
Collin responded " I will keep my word." Suddenly Collins attention was drawn back to his body lying across the room on the floor. There was a huge furry ferret the size of a large dog with two long protruding teeth starting to gnaw on it. "My boots! " Collin exclaimed.
The well-dressed Kobold shouted, "Zeezell," and the bolted to his side. The Rhazferas continued without seeming to notice the exchange. " Prepare yourself Kholleen Makgrehgher you will be given the opportunity to return and restore honor." And before Collin had time to reply he found himself standing before Alcald VanDrunan once again.
There were a few moments of silence as Collin stood before Alcald VanDrunan pondering what had just transpired. Finally Alcald broke the silence with his usual impasonate tone, " The way back shall soon be opened and it will be your decision to return or stay. A word of warning...the way is not without it's toll and should you falter you will not make it. I assume I will lose the servant I was counting on, it seems you have faithful friends that have some pull. Oh well. After almost 500 years of Dutton Hobb's moping around blaming himself for the tragedy at Azure Keep, justly deserved I might add, It might be better I find someone with a more upbeat attitude. Death does seem to drain one of that."
"I do have some words of advice you may wish to take back with you. You have a very bad disposition toward people of authority, you seem to jump to the conclusion they care not for those they rule. This seems to stem from your resentment toward your father raising you and your siblings with a stern hand, consider the harsh lands he had to raise his family and the constant pressure he was under. "
Collin felt the anger rise in him and shouted at Alcald VanDrunan " WHO ARE TO JUDGE ME AND WHAT RIGHT HAVE YOU TO SPEAK OF MY FATHER THAT WAY!?!"
Alcald VanDrunan did not speak but suddenly Collin found himself back on his farm, he and his brothers and sisters were far from the house along the edge of the woods playing fox and hound. He was a tall strapping 13 years, the eldest and was tracking them down when his father suddenly appeared before him, tall and stern, with his great longbow in hand. Collin was startled at first then a feeling of dread rise in him as he read the anger on his father's face. Through his clenched teeth he said " What have I told you of going so close to the woods without me. Get on back to the house and do your chores and think about the punishment you will get for not obeying my word."
Collin straightened and was about to argue this point with his father but the steely stare he received held his tongue. He turned and followed the others as they trudged back home to ponder their fate. That was the first day he promised himself he would someday stand up to what he believed was his fathers unfair rules and anyone else who tried to force their will upon him. Suddenly he was seeing things as if through the eyes of his father. His eyes were watered as if fighting back tears as he watched his children walk away.
He turned and stepped back into the woods and kneeled down over the large still form of a Dire Wolf, and knife in hand, removed the 2 arrows that had been passed down in his family for generations from the still warm body.
THE PATH OF PAIN
Collin stood there; stunned at the scene from his past he had always thought reflected the unjust way his father had raised him and his siblings. " How could you…..know?" he whispered under his breath to which Alcald responded, "I am the judge of the dead that refuse to die." He went on to say, "I can bring forth those memories that are strongest and that guided your actions in life. I can also access the living's dreams to view the events that the dead was a part of. Your father will awaken thinking he had dreamed of the past and his lost son and as with all dreams it will slowly fade." Alcald then pointed behind Collin and turning he was confronted with a swirling Vortex of fire, " That is the path back to the life you had, you must now decide if you will take it. I warn you it will not be without a price, and if you should falter at any point the way will be closed for ever." Collin moved forward and though only a spirit could feel what only could be described as intense heat from the spinning flames. VanDrunan's face and voice seemed sad. "Collin...next time Death claims you...embrace the peace that is offered you. Do not join the desperate lonely dead of Gellhorn...."
As Collin entered the portal it was as if every fiber of his essence was burning. As he pushed forward the pain only increased and it began to feel as if the layers of his spirit were being torn from him. Even as he tried to focus on moving forward, thoughts of turning and fleeing to safety started to scream in his mind. The agony was so intense at one point; he was about to turn before he would surely pass out from the pain when it all changed. He felt as if he had been plunged into frigid water, and that needles were being jabbed all over his body. He was in total darkness and felt himself gasping for breath. His throat burned as if a hot knife had been run through it and his eyes shot open to see a greenish blur. He heard the word, "Sleep" and felt a warmth wash over him, and as he faded into unconsciousness he knew if he was ever to face this path of pain again he would not be able to take it with the memories of it burned forever into his mind.
IRONY OF IRON
Javair stood in the shadows watching as the body and head of Collin were place together on the large table in the hall. A worried expression was painted on his face, but not for the raising of the bard. He was worried about the white haired head that he had retrieved from their icy grave here at the keep. He had asked Jack Skull to bring the bodies back from Widows Grove but when Jack returned carrying 2 bodies, one still had a head attached. He asked Jack if was daft and had dug up the wrong body and Jack just shrugged his shoulders and stated this corps was in the grave that the Swaldunes body had occupied. The Goblin priest made inquiries into the realms of the dead but found that Gremag no longer was among the spirits there. At first Javair had suspected that this Gorin and his hired assassin Fedden were involved but after inspecting the body it was ascertained to be the Old Hermit who had brought up Gremage. He had heard rumors that the hermit had once been a powerful mage and by the remnants of spell components on his person, ones that would be used by a wizard to bring back a headless corps from the dead. He had come to the conclusion the man had paid the ultimate price to bring his foster child from the grave. Javair now worried what the Swaldune was going to do. Would he be looking to enact some revenge for his demise? They say the Month of Iron was called that because it was cold and hard, and tested the metal of ones worth. Here on the last day of Iron Javair was glad it was almost over for he doubted if he could take another day of what had been a month full of tests and surprises that had him mentally and physically exhausted.
As if on cue Jack approached him with word another visitor was here for and audience. For being a remote Keep deep in the barren snow covered mountains there had been a plethora of guests seek council. Javair sighed and inquired as to who it was now to which Jack mater of factly replied he claimed to be the Owner of the head that now rested alone on the table next to Javair and if it wasn't it had to have been his twin brother. Javair just stood there dumb struck for some moments pondering how to approach this event. The Irony of the whole situation was almost too much for him to contemplate. So without any further thought he used the direct approach and tucking the alabaster skinned head under his arm, marched off to hand it over to its possible owner...Gremage!
by Mike Cross, edited by Scott Bower
Collin's mind was a jumble. One minute he was talking with Alcald VanDrunan in the Shadow Realms, the next his
eyes were flooded with a light that seemed intent on burning his eyes out. As the pain in his eyes subsided Collin
caught sight of something familiar. It was a headless body, but that wasn't it, no, it was the clothes! What was
it about them? Yes, that was it, they were his! Wait a minute that would mean that the body was his. He suddenly
realized he was back in the "real world". Just at that instant he had the sensation of flying. His perspective
was changing with rapid speed and then it changed directions and then the perspective, angle whatever, changed
again finally it stopped and he heard a questioning voice, "Kholleen Makgrehgher"? It all became a blur
after that. He heard voices, and felt himself answer. What the questions were and what he answered, he could not
be sure, but it seemed to go on interminably. Finally the noise was replaced by pain that was beyond description
before it ceased and a welcome oblivion overcame his mind.
When next conscious thought returned to Collin, he opened his eyes and found himself staring up into the face of a wrinkled gray creature. The face was only inches from his own, and he could smell its breath. What was that smell? Oh yeah, rotten teeth! He recoiled even deeper into the soft bed of furs he found himself on. Suddenly he became acutely aware of his stomach. He managed to croak, "you'd better back up", before the wave of nausea overtook him.
The next thing Collin remembered was waking in a warm bed in the Azure Keep after a seemingly interminable nightmare. In his dream he had walked in one direction down a dusty road in the middle of a barren landscape. Going in the other direction, an endless line of walking corpses trudged down the road. Many were horribly mutilated, others appeared fine, but all had sunken eyes and perplexed expressions. They stared at him as he passed. Most looked longingly and with great sadness others with envy and hatred. Their pain and loss were palpable. Some reached out as if he were an illusion fleeting before their eyes, a dim reminder of another existence. The line was filled with young and old, even children. They were the hardest to pass. What were children doing in this God's forsaken place. He longed to stop and comfort them, remembering his own younger siblings, but he could not stop. He wasn't sure what propelled him forward but it would brook no wavering from its course.
Cedric sat beside Collin's bed, reading a book as usual. When he saw Collin begin to stir, he closed the book, carefully marking his place. "Good to see you awake again my friend. I feared you'd sleep through the little Kobold's so-called crisis. I'm not sure what has him so excited, but it was enough for him to get that Goblin Priest to rejoin your head with your body and summon you back from whatever private hell the gods had planned for you. I for one count that as a good thing. Anyway you just lay still, I'll fetch the old priest." Collin only stared dumbly at his friend. He wished he had some water, his mouth was as dry as the landscape he'd just dreamed.
A few minutes later a wizened old Goblin, dressed in brown robes entered the room. Following was the Kobold he remembered to be Dakkot, son of slain Queen Yasandrayl wearing ornate regalia. He was flanked by the same two muscular warriors he had seen before, a 6'6" Orc and an even bigger Hobgoblin. Cedric followed several paces behind. "I see you are finally awake", Dakkot began. "I had begun to fear that you'd sleep through your usefulness to us, and that we had wasted a miracle. But I see Javair did not lead us astray. You have been granted a second chance in exchange for service. The gods have deemed this correct, and it is not for me to question." The Kobold bent very low over the bed and bared his teeth. Cedric could see that he now held a dagger by his side, and began to formulate a plan should the young prince try and use it. The Kobold continued, "You accepted a quest to redeem your mortal soul do you now intend to keep that promise?" The display seemed to matter little. Collin was in no shape to resist should the Goblin not like his answer. He had made a long journey down a very difficult path; in his mind he'd answered the question long ago. He locked onto Dakkot's gaze and held it for a long instant, then he nodded and rasped through his dry mouth, "I will."
On the trip to Deep Crossing valley, Collin seemed to regain a portion of his old vigor. The Kobold Prince, who it seemed was advisor to a council of 3 queens who ruled over a large nation of Kobolds, had explained the quest was one to regain a religious artifact. It was lost when part of this Gnoll uprising or "Dumgrak" had recently overrun the village of Kah-Bowl where it was stored. The artifact was apparently key to the defense of the Kobold lands against the Gnoll invasion. Repelling the invasion was key to the defense of the Azure Kingdom as the Goblins and their allies would be counted on by Javair to shoulder a significant portion of the Kingdom's defense, when the Stormgates were finally closed. A Koblold guide by the name of Rider Jazz would show the way to the village and the where about of this relic they called Binder.
Panting with exertion in the rarified air at the top of the Godsey pass, Collin looked down into the Deep Crossing Valley. A blanket of snow covered all he could see. Around and behind him some of the grand giants of the Azure range towered over the party. Their startlingly blue rock crowned in white, the taller peaks buried in the clouds. The broad Bekaura (Baa-car-a) River was visible below as a silver strip. Off in the distance the sheen of the generously named Grand River could just be made out. It was to the confluence of these two rivers that their kobold guide, Rider Jazz, was leading them. Where the rivers disappeared into the vast underground would be where they would leave the world of light and continue their trek to the recently overrun Kah-Bowl. The valley floor was rocky and this made the going tough, despite the centuries worn footpath. The path snaked around house-sized boulders and stands of tall evergreens. Several hours into the valley, the party was surprised to hear the sound of galloping hooves, coming from their rear. They quickly scattered from the path; all sought what cover they could save Oren, who bravely stood his ground facing the sound of the oncoming horses. When the riders appeared it was discerned that they were Orkish. Oren stood his ground and the riders pulled up short of him. One had a wounded arm that was bleeding badly. The party began to emerge from their cover, and Rider Jazz quickly engaged the Orks in conversation. It was determined that they were dispatch riders from an Orkish patrol sent by General Grotten Redfang , the one who had lead the assault where Collin had been struck down. The patrol was to bring reinforcements to one of the Kobold capital cities where Redfang and his forces had tracked the Gnoll force that had wiped out the Ork outpost weeks before. The Gnolls had joined up with and even larger army ready to lay siege to one of the Kobold capitol cities. The patrol was sent to get reinforcements but was ambushed just an hours ride back at Deep Crossing by a force of Gnolles. After quickly relaying what intelligence they had, they were again on their way, taking a longer above ground route. The band continued down the valley eventually approaching the confluence of the two rivers, this was Deep Crossing where they would descend into the Underdark.
The confluence was capped by a large natural rock bridge. Perhaps a harder stone forged in the heat of some ancient volcano. The rushing waters roared into a large gapeing opening at the base of the steep mountain cliff. Legend was that this valley had been a large mountain lake a thousand years ago but some greedy Dark dwarves had mined a rich vein of mitheral a bit to close and the lake emptied into the underdark wipeing them out and sending a wall of watery death rushing through the Underdark. The opening became a main entrance to the Underdark and this was what Rider Jazz sought.
As the party approached the ridge they noticed the ground was becoming warmer and marshy, the snow melting away and producing mud. From a distance it appeared that some snow remained close to the rock ridge and in places along its flanks drifts could be seen. Coming within bowshot several party members noticed a Gnoll to either side of the ridge. Those who had seen shouted out an alarm and the group sprang to action. The Gnolls took this as their clue to spring their trap. Almost immediately parts of the snowdrifts, which now to the party's horror were revealed as bone piles, began to levitate and swirl like mini tornadoes. They quickly coalesced into skeleton warriors. The party basically split into three groups. Oren supported by Collins bow took the center and charged a group of skeletons in front of the ridge. A group of the faster warriors including Zeek, Eytai, Will and Damon Kradock rushed the right flank. The two Priests Jeremiah and Cedric stayed to the rear and began a deadly game of spell, counterspell, with the Gnolls who were obviously evil priests or magicians of some sort. A desperate battle ensued in which control of the foul undead Ogres skeletons and one huge Giant passed back and forth from one side to the other. The Gnolls even escalated the situation a dozen freshly dead Ork Zombies poured from the ruins of a nearby Temple. The heroes made steady but slow progress against this opposition when Zeek attempted to turn the enemy's flank by jumping over the Bekaura. Unfortunately he misjudged the distance and fell into the rivers icy waters. Eytai quickly came to his aid but the cold water was quickly sapping his strength. Meanwhile the top of the rock ridge had been won by Oren and the first of the Gnoll Shaman fell to Will's blade, but not before the foul creature had managed to bespell Damon Kradock. As the battle progressed Jeremiah switched tactics from struggling for control of the skeleton warriors to commanding the will of the Gnoll magicians to leave them. In this he found success as the second Gnoll stood bespelled at the top of the ridge, his skeleton minions constantly falling to Oren's smashing Axe. At about this time Will noticed a third Gnoll, an albino, on the far side of the Bekaura hiding in the ruins of an old Temple. He attempted to reach this last threat by crossing over the Bekaura via the rock ridge. At the same time Eytai continued to struggle to retrieve Zeek from the rivers icy water. Zeek had managed to climb onto a rock but was weak from hypothermia. As Will charged into the ruins of the old temple after the third Gnoll, a Ghoul confronted him. The Gnoll Shaman and the Ghoul attacked Will at the same time, he managed to resist the Gnoll's attempt to bespell him, but the Ghoul connected with it's foul bite and Will fell victim to it's paralyzing power. At about this moment Collin was dispatching the Gnoll which Jeremiah had bespelled and Oren was finishing off the last of the skeletons. Zeek managed to use his healing ability to restore some life to his numb limbs and was able to scramble from the frigid water. The remaining fighters, including Damon who had managed to throw off the effects of the Gnoll's spell now rushed to the temple and dispatched the Ghoul but the Albino Gnoll had slipped out the back of the Temple and down into the dark opening.
In the ruins of the old temple the party found an old sealed military strong box in the Ghouls lair . It contained one hundred, five gold piece bars, bearing the stamp of the Azure Kingdom . With their knowledge of the Kingdom's history the party were able to realize that this was obviously the remains of an old military payroll that was never delivered. The temple itself was at one time consecrated to Nerull, the god of death. Now it was little more than a crumbling ruins surrounded by fields of bone, which provided ample material for Gnoll necromancers to waylay passing travelers. The Party considered spending the night here but a feeling of dread and evil seemed to still emanate from the Temple stones.
With the above ground threat dealt with the group was able to proceed into the Underdark, in search of the overrun village of Kah-bowl and the temple which housed the Kobold artifact called Binder. After a nights rest some distance from Deep Crossing and the ruined Temple the party set out for a long days journey through the twisting, turning maze that is the Underdark. Rider Jazz lead the group to the edge of Kah-bowl, the temple which was the objective was on the edge of the village. Sneaking around the village the adventurers came within sight of the Temple. They could see four Lizard beasts tethered outside of the temple. Shortly, four Drow warriors emerged from the temple and mounted the beasts. They spoke with several Gnolls who followed them out. Obviously relaying some type of orders. Cedric cast a spell allowing him to understand them and acting as translator related that they were being given an ultimatum to find something. Could there be any doubt it was the very same artifact the party was in search of? One Gnoll foolishly questioned the Commanding Drow's orders and was met with a volley of 5 magical missiles as a warning.
After the mounted Drow left the party determined that they should sneak into the Temple, as there appeared to be no outside sentries posted. This was done in short order and that's when all hell broke loose. The doorway into the Temple was wide but still created a bottleneck through which only a few of the group could move at a time. Peering in revealed a large entry hall with four guards at the far end, where another large doorway stood and two more guarding a set of stairs going up on both sides of the room. Rider Jazz indicated the adventurers would need to get into the guarded room to retrieve the artifact. They decided that several of the quicker members of the party would go first and run to the far door. The rest would follow, hopefully taking on any opposition such as the sentries and allow the faster party members to make the other room and retrieve the item. Jeremiah cast a spell allowing his arm to pass through the door and drop the bar on the otherside holding the door. The plan worked relatively well, however it turned out that Rider Jazz was rather slow and so he brought up the rear guarded by Cedric and Collin, who each held him by an Arm.. The fast party members made the far door before the sentries could react and those following quickly engaged the sentries in combat. Zeek, Jeremiah, and Damon were the ones who made it through the far doors. In the main room a general brawl broke out when the sentries summoned reinforcements. Oren and Will fought through to the door and Cedric and Collin half dragged the slower Rider Jazz towards the door. They were however a little to slow and just short of the door, one of the Gnolls knocked out Collin with a vicious blow. Meanwhile in the other room, the party members there were having problems of their own. They had encountered a guardian of some sort that they thought might possibly be this Binder artifact. But it turned out to be a flesh Gollem that rained down blows first on Damon and then on Zeek. They were hard pressed to defeat the creature and eventually Zeek fell to the floor seriously injured. Jeremiah and Damon were eventually able to defeat the Gollem and Cedric carried on and dragged Rider Jazz into the adjoining room, where he quickly retrieved the artifact from the Nostril of a stone face above the entry way that had a magic mouth cast on it to hide the dwomer of Binder, and an ornately crafted dagger with the images of a dragon and an affectionate maiden set in the handle. The wounded were quickly attended and Rider Jazz found the "backdoor" out of the room, which was utilized with all due haste but not before Oren fell to a hold person spell cast by the same Albino Gnoll Shaman that they had encountered before. With Will fighting a rear guard action they dragged Oren through the secret door.
This began a trip through the maze of tunnels to a room with Dragons carved on the walls. Jazz walked to a horn
hanging from the wall and putting it to his lips blew a resounding blast. He then sat cross-legged next to a door
opening out into a huge cavern with many tunnel openings. When asked what he had done he replied "I have called
the Godling, I await my destiny." When asked what his destiny was he just responded " To be the Rider."
Meanwhile Eytai had found a secret panel in the wall hiding a small vault with a curved goblet that was clear
as glass. When Jazz was asked about it he just said " that is stinger" . The party found anyone not good
at heart would receive a damaging jolt. Collin felt this was the Legendary Claw of Yagg. Yagg was a powerful
Demon who had acquired a ring of power a thousand years ago. He fought his way to the heavens, defeating all in
his way till he confronted Pelor, the God of the sun. Pelor drew power from the sun and bathed Yogg in a purifying
light, which left nothing of him, but his claw that the ring of power was home to. The Claw was said to be pure
and would enhance the powers of any Good cleric that would drink holy water from it.
The party felt rumbling just then and as Will moved to the door he came face to face with a
Large red dragon's face. As the party scrambled Rider drew forth Binder and uttered the command "Submit" and the huge dragon froze allowing Jazz to climb on to his back, plunge the dagger in and order the Dragon to ride off to save his people.
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