CATALYST: DREAD CITY OF LACC

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By thought alone, Nezznar the Black Spider watched the City come into view. That’s how it worked within the Shadowfell: mere thought could move a traveler from one place to another in a matter of moments.

He watched at the city approached him, or perhaps he approached it, a huge shard of rock floating in midair. Lacc had no city wall, it needed none. His eyes focused on the huge tower of black stone. He knew this to be the Nightspire, Lolth’s stronghold in Lacc. It was set apart from the rest of the city. The thing was taller than any man-made structure that the Drow had ever seen, and its surface was decorated with terrifying effigies too small to be recognized from this distance.

“This is the Grand City, gentlemen,” he said to the black-clad Dragon Cult assassins who accompanied him. “My Dark Queen awaits our arrival.”

The assassin’s glanced at each other, and then to The Black Spider. It was clear that they were in awe of the city in front of them. After all, Lacc had destroyed the suns of seven different worlds. Foo, however, seemed unimpressed.

Foo kicked his pony into a trot. “Let’s go inside,” the monk bodyguard mumbled. “I tire of this place.”  The others followed, their warhorses picking up dust on the blasted, cracked plains of the Shadowfell.

The Drow called forward to his monk bodyguard. “If you like, Foo, we could go into the city so you can meet with the Soul Spiders and partake of their temple. You may find that their temple is not so foreboding as described by other Orders.”

Foo said nothing. He simply scowled at Nezznar.

“Very well,” sighed the Drow. “We shall go directly to the Lift. From there we will make an offering to the Queen of Spiders, and then enter the -“

Foo laughed, cutting Nezznar off mid-sentence. “Look,” he said, pointing ahead. “I think that you will not have to go by way of the Lift after all.”

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They approached a centaur-like creature who appeared from thin air some sixty feet away from them. Appearing as Drow from the waist up, with their lower portions replaced by the abdomen and legs of immense spiders, the creature was easily recognizable as a Drider. A small collection of dust, rocks, leaves, twigs, and other small items swirled around the creature’s feet, and a faint blue seemed to follow behind it. As the riders drew closer, they could see that the Drider was using some kind of odd device akin to a Priestess’s Floating Disc.

“Hello,” growled the Drider in as monstrous tone. “My mistress sends her greetings.” He extended his left hand, making a traditional Drow sign of greeting.  “We must go now, as the battle has already begun.”

Nezznar glanced at Foo, for a moment, then back at the Drider. “Already the battle is joined?”

The Drider growled again. “The Battle of Darkness and Light is under way, Lord Nezznar. Do you wish to keep my Mistress waiting?”

And with that, The Black Spider and his men entered the City of Lacc.

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CATALYST: DARKNESS AND LIGHT

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It all began with a story of love.  Corellon Larethian lusted after Araushnee. He coveted her from afar for centuries, finally taking her as his lover in secret. Despite the fact that Corellon was already wed to Sehanine, the affair continued unbidden and resulted Araushnee’s pregnancy. Unable to hide his affair any longer, Corellon was challenged with dissolution by his wife. Fear of dishonor and banishment struck the Elven god at the core of his being, and he instead turned on his lover. He banished Araushnee from the Fey, renaming her Lolth and banishing her to the Abyss … forever.

Continue reading “CATALYST: DARKNESS AND LIGHT”

CATALYST: THE WELL OF SOULS

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Long ago, the immortal being known as Zugzul spoke to his chosen priests, describing the method of creating an a fell device that could be used to destroy a god. It was called the Well of Souls. Throughout the centuries it has taken many forms, sizes, and shapes but its sole purpose is deicide. It exists only to unmake that which is immortal.

Continue reading “CATALYST: THE WELL OF SOULS”

DARKNESS GATHERING: ENDGAME (PART TWO)

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This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

– The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot

“It all started with a simple delivery. Allustan from the College of Magic in Threshold wanted a small wooden box delivered to the Yellow Warehouse in Falstaff. And this mission led you to intervene in the strange happenings at the Tower Enoch which revealed the plot of the demon Shuluth who is apparently a servant of the Dark Queen, Lolth. Now, you’ve gone underground, seeking out your friend only to find him nearly dead within the halls of a long forgotten temple that rests below Falstaff’s foundations. And finally, curiosity led you to place the Black Spheres within the gaping mouths of the Three Demon Faces, opening a rift to an alternate world much like your own which has been conquered by Lolth. You’ve endured three adventures so far, and now you’ve been asked by Aleena and the Other Rippin, to begin another: save the world from The Darkening.”

The playing characters had already dealt with the Tanar’ri named Shuluth. Now they were heading into the Temple to destroy the Monoliths of Lacc that have been sapping the light from their world and empowering Lolth’s creation of the Demonweave.

The heroes slowly walked down the black basalt stairs that descended into the dark halls of the Temple. They accidentally triggered a trap as they walked downward, causing the doorway at the end of the steps to lock. They arrived at the doorway to see that it was crafted of the same black basalt as the stairway. It had several strange runes carved into it speaking of the Mad God, Tharizdun. They could see pulsing purple light behind the doorway, spilling in through the thin cracks.

CHAK went right to work, checking the door and picking the lock. He found and disabled a needle trap that surely would have killed him. He withdrew to press himslef against the wall, sliding out with short sword and dagger. RIPPIN THE RED moved forward flanked by WALDEMAR. XE stood near the back, watching and preparing to cast spells if needed. XE did, however, send his Owl through the door to have a look around.

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In the corridor beyond, they found two Grimlocks standing guard. They were quickly put down by RIPPIN, WALDEMAR, and CHAK.

They moved through the temple pathways, smashing the pillar monoliths as they discovered them. Each time one of the heroes would attempt to hit the pillars, a blast of Negative Energy would lash out at them. Luckily, they managed to avoid the backlash most times.

Each time one of them would smash the monoliths, they would grab up some of the shattered obsidian, knowing that it was worth its weight literally in gold.

In the end, they reached the main temple site where they could hear a musical serenade of woodwinds mixed with chanting and the screams of a woman. Investigating, they were able to see that several Drow were kneeling down, playing panpipes while a few others were standing with their heads bowed, chanting in low voices.

There on the raised dais, atop an altar decorated with ancient Elven runes, was a woman. She was screaming, giving birth at that very moment. Her cried ceased, and she was silent. Death often came with childbirth in these rituals.

But the dark skinned male and the light skinned female seemed to pay no attention to the mother of the child. Their attention was completely on the babe. This was the child who would unite the Drow races: The Chosen One. The child had been conceived by a priest of Tharizdun (who was then sacrificed to Lolth) and brought to term by a Drow Priestess of Lolth. The baby would be blessed of both deities, and lead the Drow to destroy the Surface World and fully transform it into the Overdark.

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The male held the baby up in the air for all to see. The music and chanting  stopped. The dark skinned male shouted out, “Behold, the Chosen One. This child will unite us against our common foe. The religious might of Tharizdun will flow through the child, and Lolth shall grant the child magic from the Demonweave. This child will lead us to victory over the surface world!”

And at that moment, XE unleashed the full potential of the Ring of Shooting Stars on the dias. He had been watching from above, thanks to his Fly spell. Ten balls of lightning and fire rained down on the the male, female, and baby. The explosions were immense, shattering the dias and incinerating all that stood there. Some of the Drow guards standing near the Dias and Altar were instantly turned to ash, as well. In a way this was fitting, because the ring had belonged to Enoch before Shuluth had dominated him.

With XE’s shock and awe attack complete, the rest of the heroes rushed into the temple and started their wetwork. It did not take long for them to overcome the dazed Drow. With the remaining Drow killed, and the Ritual Birth stopped, the heroes took their time looking around, and looking for anything of value that might be taken from the temple.

Our heroes hoped that their actions finally stopped the spread of The Darkness.

Only time would tell.

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DARKNESS GATHERING: ENDGAME (PART ONE)

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This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

– The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot

“It all started with a simple delivery. Allustan from the College of Magic in Threshold wanted a small wooden box delivered to the Yellow Warehouse in Falstaff. And this mission led you to intervene in the strange happenings at the Tower Enoch which revealed the plot of the demon Shuluth who is apparently a servant of the Dark Queen, Lolth. Now, you’ve gone underground, seeking out your friend only to find him nearly dead within the halls of a long forgotten temple that rests below Falstaff’s foundations. And finally, curiosity led you to place the Black Spheres within the gaping mouths of the Three Demon Faces, opening a rift to an alternate world much like your own which has been conquered by Lolth. You’ve endured three adventures so far, and now you’ve been asked by Aleena and the Other Rippin, to begin another: save the world from The Darkening.”

The final chapter of the story was fast paced, and well played by the players. The first encounter was one suggested by the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide II where the players are assigned different characters for a short amount of time to introduce a villian. With that in mind, the players were told that they were each a sergeant in the Threshold military in charge of a unit of 25 Humans and 25 High Elves, 50 in all.

They had been ordered to travel from Threshold to Falstaff along the King’s Road to assist in dfending the town from whatever evil was besetting it.  Obviously Rippin’s message had been delivered by the innkeeper, Handsome John.  During this encounter, the characters arrive in Falstaff and find that it is surrounded by a thick, white fog or mist. Sending in scouts, they discovered that the town was completely gone and only a crater remained. This was their first hint that the town itself had been dragged into the Astral Plane by Lolth and Corellon Larethian with the assistance of the  Githyanki and their Queen. At the end of this adventure, the playing characters are introduced to a High Elf noble named Aesir. At Aesir’s command, the High Elves in the Threshold army turn on their human companions. In the end, the players fully understand that Aesir is trouble as their sargeant characters are killed by the traitorous High Elves.

Falstaff, floating in the Astral Plane
Falstaff, floating in the Astral Plane

In the second encounter for the night, the players are back to playing their regular characters. They talk with “the Other Rippin” for awhile about his experiences fighting the demon known as Shuluth. He explains the tactics that he and his companions used, and suggested that things might have gone easier if they hadn’t killed the High Elf that was possessed by Shuluth. He explained that once they killed the High Elf, the demon was able to fully manifest on the Prime Plane and became much more powerful. The heroes pressed Other Rippin about the Elf’s name and he remembered it without fail. “I’d never forget it,” he said. “Aesir. The High Elf was named Aesir.”

Encounter One:  RUDE AWAKENING

“You’re still asleep, but hanging on the fringe of wakefulness. At first, you focus on what you can hear mainly because it’s kind of annoying. It sounds like raindrops hitting against a pane of glass during a storm. Pitter, patter, pitter, patter – the noise is unrelenting. Finally, you open one eye, and then another. And that’s when you hear Aleena’s scream. The sound makes you a little sick to your stomach. Aleena is up, and shouting for everyone to get up. Her tone is obviously urgent. Looking around, you seem nothing at first except the bleak, jutting landscape of this dark alternate world. And then you notice it off in the distance – the ground seems to shift and move like a million blades of grass in the wind. But these aren’t blades of grass – they’re a swarm of spiders, the size of a fist, and there are thousands, maybe millions of them headed in your direction – a sea of spiders coming to devour you.”

Spider Swarm
Spider Swarm

The playing characters took their rest and woke up suddenly to Aleena shouting. They could see a huge sea of spiders coming across the valley. These were followed by monstrously sized spiders, possibly with Drow riders. The characters prepared for what seemed an inevitable onslaught of spiders, but were knocked unconscious by Aleena. She made a gesture and shouted that they had to go. Several of the playing characters started to run for the Well, but they were not able to make it before Aleena used an artifact to Dimensional Shift them back to their own Plane.

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ALEENA

“Aleena touches the fingers of her right hand to her head. “You must go!” she shouts. “You must go!” And that is when you realize that she hasn’t been talking to you at all. These are her thoughts in your head. She’s somehow speaking directly into your mind. She turned around, and waves her hand at you in a sweeping motion, and you hear her say one last time “GO!” before you are blasted off of your feet and you lose consciousness.”

Encounter Two:  KILL THE MESSENGERS

In this encounter, the playing characters did very well, again.  The encounter had them waking up, dazed and confused, in a damp, cold cave. Each playing character had been affected with Dimension Sickness due to Aleena’s casting them from one Plane to another. They all needed to make Constitution saving throws to recover.

All playing characters make DC 15 Constitution saving throws. Success means that they awaken, fail means that they are knocked out for 1d4 turns, plus the amount they failed the roll by. Meaning, DC 15 with a save of 13 is 1d4+2 turns knocked out.

The first thing they realized as they came to is that their whole bodies ached as if they were waking up the day after a long period of exercise. As they gathered their senses, they heard the distant peal of thunder and the fall of heavy rain. And they could hear someone talking … no whispering … nearby.

The playing characters make a Perception check DC 13. The playing characters use Wis/Int whichever is higher as bonus.

 As they recovered, they found themselves in a small, dark cave laying on the floor. They hear another peal of thunder, and realize that it’s raining heavily outside. Behind them, they noticed that there is a small opening that seems to lead downward into the darkness. To the other direction, they see the cave mouth and the source of the whispering they heard before. Outside of the cave, they saw several hunched figures standing over the bodies of slain Drow and Goblin zombies. The crouched figures whisper to each other, gesturing to the undead at their feet.

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Grimlock Warrior

Undaunted by the rain, the five humanoids continue to whisper to each other. They could see that the creatures were muscular humanoids that resemble long haired Neanderthals with shark-like teeth and white, lidless eyes. These creatures, as Rippin knew, were called Grimlocks although Dwarves sometimes call them Morlocks. They use their crude weapons to poke at the corpses of the zombies as if looking for something of interest. One of them said something to the others, and looked off to the right.

 One of the Grimlocks stood up, and waved a hand towards some nearby boulders to the right. There in the cover of the rocky outcropping, were two cloaked figures: a rat-faced Drow male and a Drow female with small red horns protruding from her forehead. Further back, in the mist of the cool evening, sat a horse and its hooded rider.

 The female Drow walked slowly from the boulder to the Grimlocks. She moved with such grace that her steps do not leave tracks in the muddy ground below her. Her swaying hips were hypnotic. She spoke with the monstrous creatures in their own guttural tongue for a few seconds, and then began gesture in quick, odd finger motions towards the male Drow watching her at the rocky outcropping. One of the Grimlocks paused, and looked around, sniffing the air.

 The two Drow appeared to be using some kind of strange sign language to communicate. They continued to do this for a few seconds, as the hooded rider slowly moved towards the boulders to join the male Drow. As the horse padded closer, the heroes saw that the rider is a fair skinned High Elf with piercing green eyes and long, golden colored hair.

 “What have you learned?” asked the High Elf.

 The Drow Male responded quietly. “Apparently they are some of Murdergrave’s cabal. Worshippers of Orcus, no doubt.”

 The High Elf seems to consider this, and then spoke again. “Why would Murdergrave attempt a raid on the Council of Spiders? A waste of time, obviously.”

 The female Drow responded this time, taking a few steps away from the Grimlocks towards the two males. “Orcus does not support the Council, Aesir. He is one of the few Demon Lords who wish to oppose the Dark Queen in her lust for power.”

 “Yes,” commented the Drow male. “The attack itself was futile, but it spoke volumes. Orcus is displeased and wished to convey that fact.”

 The High Elf nodded, and glanced around. “How do we know that more of his wretches are not nearby, watching us?”

 Both Drow smiled at the same time.

“Let them come,” the female said bluntly. “We will add them to the pile.”

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At this point, the playing characters burst into action. Waldemar fired a total of four arrows, dropping two Grimlocks dead into the mud. Xe channeled his Thunderwave spell through this Owl familar who war overlooking all of these goings on from a safe tre branch. The Thunderwave smashed down on the three elves, and the Grimlocks with amazing force, hammering them all to the ground.

With all the baddies down and stunned, it was literally “rinse and repeat.” Waldemar fired four more times, finshing of several of the Grimlocks who were prone and savaged from the first Thunderwave. And Xe sent a second Thunderwave through his Owl, slamming down on the Grimlocks and Elves again. The crushing force killed most of the Grimlocks, but it wasn’t long before Chak and Rippin were able to finish them off with steely knives and axes. The only one that they left alive was the High Elf Aesir, who supposedly housed the demon Shuluth.

“The demon is using the High Elf like a puppet on strings,” explained Xe after a short time of study and research. “If we slay him, the demon will be able to pour from his body like it did when we killed Enoch.” Everyone understood what Xe was saying: Aasir had to be kept alive … for as long as possible.

Chak tied the High Elf up, and gagged him. He then went through the gruesome work of stabbing out his eyes, poking out his eardrums, and slicing the proper places to render his arms, hands, and legs useless. After binding his wounds, and making sure he would not die, Xe used the spellbook from The Tower Enoch. He sliced his hand, placed the blood on the pages of the spellbook, and wished for a spell to help him deal with Aesir and the demon. Xe watched as a spell materialized on the page, claiming that casting it would cause the victim to become catatonic and unable to move, lterally trapped in his own body. Xe reviewed the spell, and cast it upon Aesir. Thus, at that moment, Aesir became The Living Prison of Shuluth.

At this point, the heroes were faced with entering the Caves, and putting a stop to the Drow within.

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T: T is for “THE TEMPUS COIN”

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One of the Seven Coins of Tempus

The Tempus Coin is actually one of seven identical silver coins given to Tempus, the god of war, by the being known as Cyndor. This artifact holds the ability to affect time and space, allowing its user to travel backwards or forwards in the streams of time. Not only can unscrupulous people use it to wreak havoc in the past and take advantage of knowledge from the future, but a single misstep could forever alter the course of history. Therefore, the Coins are closely guarded by chosen Angelic beings loyal to the forces of Good.

Trips through time are exercises in causality. Traveling into the past might set in motion a chain of actions culminating in different major historical events. Conceivably, history could be altered in a way that prompts the Soviet Union to invade and conquer North America. Perhaps the characters can’t even return to their own time because the person who invented the crucial component of the time machine was never born, for some reason. In short, the permutations of cause and effect can be infinitely mind-boggling.

Another potential side-effect of time travel is the alternate reality. The timestream in which time travel is invented continues to exist. Situations that create significant changes or temporal paradoxes serves as the locus or intersection point where realities diverge. The time travelers might encounter worlds very similar to or different from their own.

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DARKNESS GATHERING: INTERLUDE #8

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“THE OTHER RIPPIN’S STORY”

The "Other" Rippin
The “Other” Rippin

After the “other” Rippin and Aleena have a moment to rest, the dwarf begins his story.  “This is a fool’s quest,” he begins. His voice holds a tone of hopelessness. “The original delivery of that damned box was a mistake, and its a mistake we’ve all made seven times over.” He glances around at all of you, his hollow eyes staring through you. “We were pawns of that damned Elven god, Corellon Larethian, from the start.” He shakes his head. “I’m a soldier, not a hero.” He squints at Rippin, and nods. “You’d do well to remember that. We were never meant to save the world.”

Aleena clears her throat, breaking in for a moment. “What he’s saying is … by opposing Enoch in the town of Falstaff, we all entered into a battle of wills between the gods.” She sighs. “We literally got caught in the crossfire.” The “other” Rippin nods, and spits. “Aye, we did. Gods and dragons, don’t meddle in their affairs,” his voice lowers slightly. “It only leads to heartache.”

After a few moments, the “other” Rippin continues this tale. “I don’t know what happened in your world … your time .. whatever. But I know what happened to me and the others after we got ambushed by those Drow on the King’s road heading to Falstaff. We saw that black dragon, and got the hell out of there. But that was the point, they were herding us towards that damned city. We got into town, and went right to the Yellow Warehouse. We delivered the Box to that traitor Janine, and thought the deal was done. We had coin in hand, and everyone was happy.”

 The older Dwarf scowls. “Then the attacks came. They hit the City Guard House first. Killed everyone including my old friend, Lucian. They didn’t take anything, just slaughtered everyone inside. And the next night, it was the Tavern. A war party of twenty Drow sweeped through the place, killing everyone recklessly. We all put up a damn good fight, and killed most of them. We tracked the one that got away to the Tower. We already had heard about the odd goings on in that Tower, and the people disappearing. We figured it was time to get down to business and clear the place out.”

Aleena spoke up, adding to the story. “Enoch was a good man, but he had been dominated by a Yochlol, a powerful servant of Lolth from the Abyss. This demon was named Shuluth, and it was gathering souls for its master.  Lolth creates the Yochlols specifically to serve her, and she uses them as  spies, diplomats, guards, and enforcers. Created from captured succubi, the Yochlols are a servitor race of demons and  Lolth keeps them tightly focused on their duties. This Shuluth dominated Enoch, and used him to bring in men, women, and children to be sacrificed to Lolth to further he goals of becoming the Goddess of the Weave.”

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Yochol

Rippin nods, and begins talking again. “We cleared out the Tower. Killed Enoch and a handful of his priests. Actually, we killed Enoch more than once until we realized that we had to burn his body to stop the Yochol from bringing him back to life. Anyway, this angel calling himself “Zaphkiel, the Watcher” shows up talking all kinds of foolishness about Lolth, the Darkening, and Shuluth. He tells us that if we delved down into a forgotten temple that Falstaff was built on, kill the demon, and stop the world from going dark that Pelor will owe each of us a Boon.” Rippin shrugs. “I mean, who doesn’t want a god to owe him one, right?”

Aleena breaks in again. “The mission seemed easy enough. Get in, get out. But we misjudged the power of Shuluth and the resources available to it. We failed, but we used the Tempus Coin to travel back in time and start again.” She pauses. “It worked, just like the angel told us it would. But it had impossible side effects.”

The other Rippin gestured towards Rippin. “Copies. Each time we used the Coin, we made copies of ourselves. So every time we went into that damned dungeon and attacked the demon, we’d find our own corpses laying at our feet, or strung up on the walls, or being hacked to pieces by Drow. It was horrible. Maddening.” He shook his head, looking down.

 Aleena speaks up again. “We’ve used the coin seven times now. And we aren’t using it again. We decided to give up. The last time, we just watched the world end. The sky went dark, and the world we knew was slowly consumed by the monoliths Shuluth is using to empower Lolth. We’ve been trying to survive in this new dark world, living off of scraps, and trying to stay ahead of the Drow who are hunting us. Shuluth has a price on our heads, of course, and wants us to deliver to Lolth.”

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“But another angel showed up a few days ago. This one was named Metranon, The Lorekeeper.” Rippin smiled slightly. “He told us to head to this spot, and wait for a planar portal to open. He said that we would meet The Final Champions, and would be able to tell them our tale of failure to help them fight Shuluth, and stop that blasted demon from using the Monoliths to consume any more worlds for its mistress.”

He pauses. “Apparently, you … we … no you … you are the ones that Metranon was talking about.” Aleena nods. “We’ve failed seven times. Seven worlds have been consumed by the Darkening.” A tear runs down her cheek. “Your world will be the eighth … unless you can succeed where we have failed so many times.”

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DARKNESS GATHERING: PART SEVEN

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“THE PLAINS OF LACC”

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The dark world of the Shadowfell

The Shadowfell is a dark reflection of the natural world, a haunting plane where fear and death rule. Yet, within the gloom are countless lures for adventurers seeking fortune, glory, and more. It is the dark echo of the mortal world, a twilight realm that exists “on the other side” of the world and its earthly denizens. Legend has it that an otherworldly dimness arose around the remnants and tatters of the raw stuff of creation. Over time, these shadows coalesced and assumed a form similar to the natural world, but darker, more ominous, and thrumming with a strange and unexpected power. This murky land spawned beings of its own and drew others from different parts of the cosmos. It came to be filled with a diverse population of creatures, fair and foul.

Scattered throughout the Plane of Shadow are places hidden behind thick walls of mist, places ruled by dark and deeply troubled beings bound to the plane by dreadful curses. These isolated pockets within the Shadowfell are called domains of dread. A creature that passes through the curtain of mist into a domain of dread becomes trapped there—a prisoner of the dark lord who rules the domain.

Each domain of dread has a dark lord—a powerful creature with absolute hold over the domain and limited mastery over its shape and disposition. Similar to a fey demesne, a domain of dread bends to the will of its master, reflecting his or her dark mood in various eerie or disturbing ways. Some domains of dread are quite small, such as a lonely castle on a hill. Others extend for miles.

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Drow

Escape from a domain of dread is tricky and usually requires one to slay the dark lord, break the dark lord’s curse, unlock the secret of the dark lord’s power over the domain, perform a dark ritual, or accomplish some other difficult goal.

It is to this place that our Heroes traveled when they entered the one-way Portal within the Forgotten Temple. They crossed from their own Prime Plane to the Shadowfell, or at least a small part of it on the Plains of Lacc.

The Dread City of Lacc has existed for centuries, drawing worlds into its shadowy darkness and consuming them, transforming them into a pale reflection. With the Doomsday Cult of Lolth seeking to consume the suns of a thousand worlds, they have tapped into the Shadowfell and started using Lacc as their homebase.

Still rather unwitting, and following only the smallest of clues, out heroes continue to seek the answer to the gathering darkness in their world. They were shocked to meet … copies … of themselves hailing from alternate worlds. Although the “mirror” Rippin survived his battle, the “other” Chak, Waldamar, and Xe layed dead thanks to the cruel poisoned blades of Drow Warriors. They also met the High Priestess of Pelor named Aleena who they had seen through the portal earlier, and Greybeard had honestly mistaken for the legendary “Paladin in Hell.”

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ALEENA

The “other” Rippin explained that they could easily depart the plane by using a device he had found several years before called “The Well of Souls.” He promised to take the group to its location after a time of rest. He also promised to explain to them how his group of Chak, Xe, Greybeard, and others attempted to destory the demon Shuluth on his home plane, failed their mission, and witness their world be consumed by Lolth’s Darkness.

The Shadowfell is one of the more accessible planes. In fact, on rare occasions, travelers have stumbled into it by accident. Places where the boundary between the world and the Shadowfell are thin are known as shadow crossings. Some intersections are naturally occurring, the result of ancient planar conjunctions or catastrophes. These crossings often occur in low-lying, deeply shadowed spots—forested hollows, mist-blanketed bogs, or the bottoms of caverns and ravines. Other junctions form in places where the forces of death are prevalent—graveyards, battlefields, and other places that bore witness to mass death.

Sages claim there is a tome called The Book of Lacc that contains lore about these shadow crossings that intersect on the Planes of Existence. The book has been lost for centuries, hidden by a order of monks known as the Golden Flame.

The Well of Souls is one device which allows for transport into other dimensions through the shadow crossings. When active, shadow crossings permit travelers to shift from the mortal world to the corresponding location in the Shadowfell (but not always back again). Few shadow crossings are continuously active. Most activate only under the right conditions, such as certain times of day, certain days of the year, or when various celestial phenomena take place—eclipses or new moons, for example.

With this information gained, our heroes were ready to begin their quest anew

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I: I is for “Ibssum Dal Abdur”

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The phrase “ibssum dal abdur” lends power to the most evil of artifacts, The Crystal Shard, known to some Crenshinibon. This incredibly powerful artifact was created centuries ago by seven liches, powerful undead beings, who combined their powers to create it and were actually consumed by it during that construction.

a-to-z-letters-iCrenshinibon is a vile relic of immense power, a crystal shard that draws its magical energy from the light of the sun. Crenshinibon is a sentient artifact, and it possesses a never-ending hunger for power and glory at whatever cost; therefore, Crenshinibon is not a reasoning being. It always desires a powerful wielder, usually a corruptible magic-user of some sort, and greatly enhances that wielder’s powers. The Crystal Shard also insidiously manipulates its wielder and would readily abandon him or her for someone more capable of furthering its goals of ultimate conquest. The relic can lure in thousands of evil-intentioned beings with its magical call, creating a grand army for its wielder and so-called master.

Perhaps Crenshinibon’s most magnificent ability is its power to create an enormous crystalline tower, known as Cryshal-Tirith, which is translated from Elven to Common as “Crystal Tower. In order to create the tower, Crenshinibon first creates an exact duplicate of itself, a square-sided crystal that sometimes glows a green light. The wielder then places the copy of the shard on the ground and recites the words “ibssum dal abdur.”  The duplicate crystal expands, growing into the crystalline tower, still an exact image of Crenshinibon, only now of mammoth proportions. The tower itself absorbs the sun’s light, giving it more strength during the daytime. The tower is impervious; it absorbs all attacks against its mirrored walls and reflects them back on their source. The only vulnerable part of the tower is its heart, the pulsating crystal of strength that was used to construct the tower, and that becomes hidden away within Cryshal-Tirith. The tower’s very door is invisible and undetectable to any beings inherent to the present Plane the tower rests upon.

The Shard’s primary attack is on the ego, collecting slaves with promises of greatness and riches. It has little hold on paladins and goodly priest, on righteous kings and noble peasants but one who desires more and is not above deception and destruction to further his ends will inevitably sink into Crenshinibon’s will.

Crenshinibon first came to the material world millennia ago in the distant land of Zakhara. At the time, the artifact was merely a wizard’s tool, though a great and powerful one. It could throw fireballs and create great blazing walls of light so intense they could burn flesh from bone. Little was known about the Crystal Shard’s dark and sinister past until it fell into the hands of a sultan who tried to use it evil powers for good.

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Crenshinibon from the Drizzt comic books

 

This great leader learned the truth about Crenshinibon, and with the help of his many court wizards, decided that the work of the liches was incomplete. This sultan, however, had no dreams of domination; he only wanted peaceful existence with his many warlike neighbors. Using the newest power of the artifact, the sultan created a line of crystalline towers that stretched from his capital across the empty desert to his kingdom’s second city, an oft-raided frontier city about a day’s travel away in intervals. He raised as many as a hundred of these towers, nearly completing the defensive line. However, the sultan had overestimated the powers of Crenshinibon. He believed that the creation of the towers would strengthen the artifact, and normally they would if not so many had been created, but he was pulling the manifestations of Crenshinibon too thin.

Soon after the sultan’s raising of the towers, a great sandstorm manifested and swept across the desert, shattering the weakened crystalline towers. This sandstorm served as a precursor to an invasion by a neighboring sheikdom. The hordes overran the sultan’s kingdom, and the merciless sheik forced the sultan to watch as his family was murdered.

Crenshinibon absorbed a piece of the sultan’s spirit. Finally, with this “second creation” Crenshinibon was complete. The artifact, imbued with the twisted aspects of seven dead liches and with the wounded and tormented spirit of the sultan, would now begin its desperate quest to attain and maintain its greatest level of power, whatever the cost.

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