The Burnt World of Athas

Session 22
"Is that Kalid-Ma's Wish?"

The group battled the Talon, a creature of strange powers that mirrored those from tales of the Dragon. He proved tough, as were his clones lying in ambush. The brutal battle ended with Chronicler and Mulses dead. It seemed for nothing as the original Talon headed out of the party's reach, but assistance from a wild shape and a bolt from the skies finally dropped him. With no time for proper rites, the survivors packed up the dead, including the Talon, whose skin was beginning to harden and his face becoming distorted.

Malachi did take the time to try to channel more energy into the tree to create a branch. He was unable to do so, but a seed did sprout high up in its branches, which he took with him. 

The group took stock of their situation and considered next steps:

-If the Talon had managed to send a message then the Dragon could be coming to investigate, destroy Tyr, eliminate the company, forcibly take his tribute, or any number of things depending on the nature of the message.

-Meanwhile the Urikites outside the city walls continue to prepare magic to bring Hamanu to Tyr and allow him easy return to Urik. The spell is nearing completion.

-The party had pieced together some of their earlier clues about what made Kalak resort to such extremes, who Melora is, what the spear is, what their role is, who the dark children are and what it means, but a lot of questions remained.

Rushing back up the ziggurat and to the Tower, the party found Tithian and retinue in the artifact room, carefully examining items and documents. One such note was an old parchment, tattered through time so there was only a scrap.

"uperstition, yet it springs up across Athas, across time periods,

lways this longing to find a creator or explain the world with a higher 

ower.

So I went looking for one. I, with the power to 

emake the world, made it my quest to find a god.

Yet for centuries I <u>roamed godless</u>."

The disembodied inspiration of Chronicler quickly figured the underlined part was an anagram. The Goddess Melora. Malachi examined the note and shared his thoughts. What if Melora is Rajaat, the only truly god-like power Athas has ever known.

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Session 21
"If I must die for my faith in Melora, then so be it"

The fully assembled Orphan Company continued past the potential ambush on the way to Tyr, diverting slightly to avoid a rain of arrows. The entered Tyr and left the Company and Goliaths to their prepared barracks and to aid the siege.

Meanwhile the party traveled to the Templar District for an audience with Tithian and the Dragon emissary. Along the way they stopped at the sight of a priest of Melora proselytizing. A huge crowd had gathered in a main square as the priest sang the praises of Melora in freeing the city from Kalak and aiding Tyr at the Iron Mines. The party could not let that stand and called out the priest. An escalating battle of words ensued, with the party explicitly calling the resurrection for what it was, accusing Melora of dark magic, and giving details of how it worked that shook the priest. Eventually the words escalated to a threat: the priest could stop spreading this evil or be killed. The crowd was torn, most running off at the sight of weapons, some coming to the priest's aid, others increasingly skeptical of his claims. The priest tearfully chose death and Chronicler obliged him, piercing him through the heart. The Tyrian guard responded to the scene but allowed the party to do what they wish. The party debated desecrating his body to prevent resurrection but chose a more poetic end, giving the priest's body to the Tyrian guard to burn it with those afflicted by wasting. 

The party continued to the Templar DIstrict through the overcrowded streets of Tyr. There they found Tithian with the "Talon." He questioned them about the events that led them to the moment of killing Kalak. Remarking that their party had someone capable of using the spear and capable of allowing the party to survive long enough to do so, not to mention the ability to raise the dead. He was focused on the spear and where it came from as well as the priestess and her powers and origins. 

When the discussion turned to the Dragon's tribute the Talon refused to negotiate or attack Hamanu. A thousand souls were due. The party ascertained the dropoff and plotted ways to lure Urikites there to subdue.

Meanwhile the Talon prepared to go find the Kalak-tree. The party wanted to come along but was rebuked. In explaining why he didn't trust the party, the Talon shared the significance of what had happened. Rajaat was imprisoned in a powerful tree, the magics imprisoning him were bolstered by slave sacrifice. A piece of that tree had been taken and used to imprison Kalak, and the slaves due had not been paid. He suspected a plot to undermine Rajaat's prison.

FInally learning something new, the party was not ready for the Talon to leave. He found no more use for the party though, believing they had shared all the knew, and were ignorant of what moved things. He did have another plan if the party insisted on learning more. The vision inducing waters of a volcanic lake properly bolstered with magic could show a vision of the future or past that was true and not just a hallucination. The party chose to see the past. And they chose to see where it all began, as far back as they could, to what had led them where they are.

They entered a dream state and  experienced a cacophony of chanting and screaming, an increasingly blinding light, and a surge of emotion in feeling something wrong must be righted. As it reached an unbearable crescendo, the party came to and found themselves Templars in the service of Kalidnay. They gathered with others in an audience with Kalid-Ma herself, and her High Templar Thakok-An. The study leading to the assembly looked remarkably like a portion of the Labrynthine Library. At the assembly, Thakok-An shared the plan to deal with the crisis facing Kalidnay. He shared two magical scrolls, one that the assembled Templars would cast that would create a large scale defiling and channel an immense amount of power to another set of spell casters. Thakok-An shared that the empowered ones would be Kalid-Ma and Thakok-An, who would be casting the second scroll, a powerful sequestration spell that would shield the city from being detected and leave it in a stasis. The targets of the spell would sleep and wait an opportunity to rise. But if the complex spell failed the city would be destroyed catastrophically for nothing.

The party also learned that Hamanu was on his way to Kalidnay and the Templars did not think it would be possible to defeat him or to convince him of the error of his ways. Thakok-An said he was either an oblivious  pawn or a conspirator, and either way very dangerous. The party also learned the Sorcerer-Kings had chosen not to kill Rajaat and imprisoned him instead. Kalid-Ma admitted it was cowardice, because they feared losing the power he granted them. 

The plan seemed foolish and incomplete. As the party and other Templars noted, what was the point in prolonging the inevitable and risking so much destruction to the city. Thakok-An tried to assure the assembled group there was a plan and they needed to have faith. They all did, except one Templar who said he was going to take his family far from the city to avoid the likely calamity that would befall Kalidnay. Kalid-Ma thanked him for his service as he left, and in so doing reduced him to dust. 

As the party tried to pry more about the point of the plan, Kalid-Ma and Thakok-An changed personality drastically. They became confused and had significantly less force of presence. They remarked the party and Talon should not be there, and the new confused Kalid-Ma launched a bolt at the Talon, waking him from the dream. The rest of the dream was no longer interacting with he party, the Templars frozen in place now, as Kalid-Ma and Thakok-An worriedly spoke to the party. 

The group continued to refer to the confused Kalid-Ma as Queen, and she clarified she was not. She had jumped in to the dream to stop it. What the party had seen was true, but there was a danger in seeing it, and especially a danger in the emissary seeing it. As for the real Kalid-Ma, the pair thought and thought and tearfully shared that she was dead.

The duo, speaking at one in alternating turns, said they were delighted that so many were here. "The Preserver, the Liberator, the Company Born, or maybe psion?, the Resurrector, the Defiler, oh no, she'd prefer to be called Redeemed." But no Jailer, one half noted to the other, no he had died, which would have to be accounted for.

The duo couldn't answer the basic question of who they were. Something bound them. When the party asked for guidance along with some sign they could trust them, the duo didn't really offer either.  But they gave some advice. They warned the emissary shouldn't learn too much about what happened Kalak. Attacking him could cause the Dragon to destroy Tyr, but even that may be better than the alternative. Kid took this as a chance to leave the dream and attack the emissary.

The rest continued to try to draw meaning from the confused pair. Was Kalidnay or Kalid-Ma or some Templars asleep somewhere? If so how could they wake them? What had Kalid-Ma's plan even been? They offered only that the party should keep being who they are and doing what they would do. They also clarified they didn't actually know what had to be done, and if they did they would just tell the party. Rather they had to discover it together.

When the party referenced the notes the two said they had sent it, but caught themselves when they shared they had been watching the party. The duo said they could reach into the party's dream if necessary, now that they had been discovered. And the party knew where they were anyway, gesturing to the room. But there was a point of no return they were not prepared for. Once the party discovered something, although rather obvious, it would set into motion events that they would have to deal with and were not prepared to do. 

The group then woke to a surge of pain. Kid had struck the groggy emissary, who had defiled and blinked away. Tithian came to investigate and the party said they urgently had to find the emissary. Though locating him was unsuccessful, they suspected where he was. Tithian teleported the group to the Golden Tower and, sure enough, the last level had been unlocked. The artifact room was shrouded in magical darkness though. Two voices chattered and, at the party's request, guided them safely through the room. The party diverted slightly to meet the voices and found disembodied heads. They introduced themselves as Wyan of Bodach and Sacha of Arala, the two champions of Rajaat who had sided with him when the others rebelled. They took the heads. Chronicler tracked the emissary to where they expected, down through a long accessway and into the ziggurat. 

The inside of the ziggurat was mostly hollow and contained an enormous set of concentric, rotating iron rings, similar to the ones on the door. The party asked Wyan what they were and he shared that he had instructed Kalak how to build them. They were meant to amplify defiling on a massive scale. The party rushed forward, following Chronicler who detected the emissary had travelled farther down the ziggurat. On a large staircase wrapping around the outside of the ziggurat the party came to the end of the road, the staircase ended in nothingness because the floor below had been destroyed by a giant tree that had sprung up. They could see down into the lowest level of the ziggurat where they had fought Kalak, which was now covered in massive bits of stone. They saw no sign of Epione but the Tree was there and had grown, and the emissary observed it. Chronicler took aim with an arrow and hit his mark as the party prepared to jump down and engage the Talon.

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Sessions 19 +20
Defying a Sorcerer-King

The party defeated the Urikite command force and the templar commander had fled. Shade's lightning dispersed the scouts that had closed in on the company. And Glamor had begun to breach the Urikite forces at the switchbacks. But the Orphan Company was still pinned in and outnumbered at the mines, and Glamor's forces were thinning while Urik held cavalry in reserves and archers on high ground.

The group searched the templars finding some potions, some supplies, and several notes. Most seemed to be about troop formations or where intercepted from the stranded company. One was cryptic enough to stand out. It read:

Watcher Grinner Malachi,

His maleficent children Those dark sons and daughters  That most dangerous one still rises

Kid recognized the phrasing ("sun" vs "son" rise) kind of matched that of the note found on Urikite scouts right after the Black Steppes. And sure enough the handwriting matched. But that would have to wait.

To continue tipping the battle the group bet on turning the goliaths and swinging the balance of power at the Iron Mines drastically. They communicated with the company to hold off and made a great show of burning Urik's flag and approached boldly, having shown their power in defeating the most powerful units in Urik's army. Somewhat surprisingly, it worked. Daysmasher agreed to join Tyr, in exchange for more payment than Hamanu had promised and the assurance they would face glorious battle in defying a sorcerer-king himself. 

Leaving thje Goliaths to handle the mines, the group used Malachi's druidic powers to create a series of underground trenches, ready to collapse under the weight of enough crodlu. They had time to prepare the trap on the first set of cavalry before they charged. In the ensuing chaos the party killed off many of the units and left the rest mostly injured, separated, and in disarray against the leftovers of Glamor's footsoldiers, the surviving Mekillot, and a second round of illusions. Although the group had no time to dig trenches for the second set of cavalry, they exhausted the last of their spells to daze a quarter of the units mid charge and cause another quarter to slip, once again giving Glamor's forces a chance to survive. 

Ultimately Glamor's forces did not survive, the remaining cavalry and the still untouched archers cut down the Tyrian soldiers and recruits almost to the last man, before the mounted soldiers were killed and the archers fled. But the command structure made it Intact. A couple of Bertrand's men and a few of the veiled alliance perished. Glamor, Bertrand, Hakar, Nori, Shivrin, and Mariam all lived. Meanwhile the main forces of the company survived with relatively minor losses, having the advantage of a battalion of Goliaths flanking their foes.

The soldiers cleaned up, killing those who resisted, capturing the injured and those who surrendered. The company set up camp on the command point and ransacked Urik's stores. They also surveyed that nothing had changed below, there was no fighting on the plains, nor had Urik moved on Tyr, nor had any forces made a move to the switchbacks to close in on the mines.

As the company gathered they discussed the battle. The few of Glamor's forces who survived said they had seen someone among the conscripts raise a dead Tyrian soldier amid the fighting, but all those involved eventually were slain. The Company members also began to remember their dead, the hundreds who had fallen at the Black Steppes and the mines, and in between. The survivors spoke of the dead's greatest exploits. Chronicler was called on to share old passages about Watcher, Grinner, and DragonPaw. And the party related the details of what had happened and how their brothers had fallen.

The informal celebration transitioned eventually to commendations from the captain, who praised Glamor for saving the company and Watcher's men for the impossible feats they had accomplished. It had been quite some time since the Company was so involved in world changing events. The Company was in immense danger, and also stood at the cusp of unmatched renown. She replaced the standard bearer with Watcher's passing and replaced Grinner and the other commanders who had fallen.

The Captain formally made Malachi a Sergeant. She made the remains of Watcher's unit a separate section even though it contained (the) Chronicler,  an aide-de-camp, and a high proportion of powerful magic users. When the Captain promoted Malachi and formally created a section, the group felt magically empowered.

This special unit, the Company's commanders, Bertrand and Hakar gathered to discuss the next steps. The Captain shared that they had received a copy of the exact same note, three weeks ago, before Grinner's death. 

The party tried to puzzle it out: Is "he" Kalak and the "children" are Templars? A warning about Lucien or Tithian? Is he Rajaat and the children are Sorcerer-Kings? A warning about Hamanu or Borys?  Who sent these notes and why addressed that way and sent in that method? The company speculated these were prophetic, and guessed the origin was a sorcerer-king: maybe Nibenay gaining a new interest in the world or even Kalid-Ma sending messages to her former army, despite her presumed death.

Turning to the more immediate concern, the group gathered all the info they could. The goliaths shared that the Urikites were creating something to allow Hamanu to travel to Tyr and, more importantly, be assured he can return without issue. He seemed to be concerned about being so far from Urik. They messaged with Tithian, weighed their options, and decided to return to Tyr, rejoin the siege, and speak with the emissary of the dragon who sought an audience with them.

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Letters from the Golden Tower

I am left to resort to writing, as insecure as it is. But I felt you deserved to receive this message before you made your choice and you have ceased all other communication.

I know what you are planning, there is no point in denial. I have told none of the others, though I’m sure if I figured it out then Nibenay and maybe others have as well. But I haven’t alerted the Dragon, so it is not too late yet.

You are repeating Dregoth’s final days. Do you remember the fate he befell? Of course you do, you are proud of that story. Abalach-Re, Sielba, you and I working together to fell him for his crime, for breaking the pact.

In the legends that arose you are described as matching power with Dregoth and myself. But you were there and you know the truth. I saw your recognition of my might, and how you paled in comparison and struggled to even comprehend it. I know what you felt because I felt it as well, when I first encountered Rajaat’s true power. So there is really no need for threats when it should be so clear. But as I said, I feel your deserve to hear this before you make you decision, so I will put it plainly.

If you perform the ritual, whether successful or not, I will slay you. Then I will lay waste to all you have ever accomplished. Tyr will be a smoldering ruin. Any who worshipped you or followed you or drew power from you or loved you (if such fools exist) or feared you will be gone. And your name will only live on as yet another small, pitiful follower of Rajaat who had no real power of his own and was struck down by the true forces of Athas.

Now that this is out of the way, I also have a question and whatever you decide, however it is we meet again, I hope you will answer it:

What has happened that would make you take such an action? If you fear something even more than the combined wrath of the champions then tell me so we can act.

It’s not yet too late. I await your reply.

(Hamanu’s seal)

Dated a week before Kalak was skewered by Sukir.

<meta />

 

A carbon copy rubbing of a letter: From Kalak to the master of the archives.

Your job is merely to account for the required number from the available pools and then to erase any mention of those selected. In the archives you will make up a reason they are gone, death in the iron mines, traded, etc. In my personal roster you need only mark them as Dragon’s Tribute. I am well aware they total to one thousand a year. It’s of no concern to you where they go. If we cannot keep up then inform Tithian and Lucien we need to increase the capture of slaves in the Tablelands. But the number is immutable, it must be a thousand and it must be on the timetable I have laid out. If you are incapable of doing this I can find a new Archivist and your final task can be to add your name in the logs as a Tribute.

(Kalak’s seal)

(Dated about 20 years ago)

 

My Liege, the Great King of Tyr, crown jewel of the Tablelands,

I understand you are not to be disturbed but you also indicated to me, at the time I swore my oath to you, that any communication by “talons” or “emissaries of the dragon” must be answered immediately and by you personally. Someone claiming to be a talon of Borys is in Tyr and has requested an audience with you. He is a Goliath, imposing in figure and bearing strange tattoos along his body. When I advised him you were busy he made demands that I found most imprudent. Were it up to me, I would strike him down as a lesson to stay his tongue around his betters. But I remember your words as to this particular matter. Please forgive my intrusion and advise me how to proceed, in a manner fitting your wisdom and power.

Your humble servant,

Mashastra

(5 days before Kalak was skewered by Sukir)



 

Kalak, the Great, Ogre-Doom, rightful Ruler of Tyr,

I am writing so you have a record of this, and can be assured there is no trick. This is my word: I will allow you to monitor my followers in your territory however you see fit. They can be stripped, any magics dispelled, and shackled with an escort if you see fit. But all I ask is that you allow them access to Narran, or go see for yourself. We need to uncover what Rajaat’s ultimate plan was if we have any hope of survival.  All the others are scouring the ruins in their sphere of control, while you have access to the most important. The Forest Ridge and Ringing Mountains are the key to Rajaat’s interest. And yet you leave their depths unplumbed.

The forest may offer clues as the Rhulisti. And the significance of those twisted creatures under Mount Narran. What created them if not the Rhulisti and why was Rajaat so keen on leaving them alive as opposed to all the other creatures of Athas? In his world it would have been just the halflings and the gith. Why? To what end?

And even in your city itself there is the mystery of the library. What happened decades after Rajaat’s death to change it and make it so we could no longer gain access to its depths? Does none of this matter to you? Can you be so small minded? What is the point of ruling over a dying world.

You can trust me, please, for all of our sakes,

Abalach-Re

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Session 17 & 18
"...it is an immortality of sorts"

Lucien revealed the setup after the party took advantage of Agis' boon to shape their terrain. It would be a three way fight to the death. The first group would be the accused. The second would the the Eyes of Tyr, who held an exclusive contract with Tyr that had been violated by Tithian and the Orphan Company. They demanded satisfaction and Lucien offered it to them in a chance to win this fight and then take a contract to the Iron Mines in a strategy that would win back the mines while eradicating the garrisoned Orphan Company. The third group was merely slaves thrown together to fight and, to help them out, an able commander to lead them. That commander turned out to be a captured Grinner, ensuring that at least one member of the last legion would die that day.

Mulses began the engagement with a proclamation: he freed the 5 Mul gladiators. They would fight as freemul and not slaves. The Templars and nobles scoffed at this seemingly wasteful act, since the Mul still had to fight to the death. But the Mul and the crowd saluted, understanding the significance of dying free.

The Eyes fielded an assassin, a defiler, and a Braxat, a hulking,intelligent man-beast capable of powerful psionics. Baby Jhakar and their mother, leapt out periodically. The still enamored crowd alternated raining down minor blessings on the party and banes on the Eyes, until Bright Eyes' long distance sorcery eventually riled them into targeting her. They did however continually dispel the powerful magics used by the Braxat and other assailants.

Coaxed by Mulses' gift and Grinner's command, the Mul fought viciously against the Jhakar and the Braxat. They eventually fell, except one who attacked Mulses with preternatural speed, and seemed unfazed by his blows. The crowd, and the party, was confused. Bright Eyes made short work of the enemy defiler and rained down fire on the Braxat. Kid sliced the formidable momma Jhakar while Malachi and Dragon Paw dealt with the lesser ones and the Braxat itself. 

Sliced to ribbons and burned horribly, the acid-spewing, mind-warping Braxat eventually fell, to great cheering from the crowd. The Jhakar lay dead and all that remained was a cornered rogue. The battle seemed done. Except that Malachi noticed laying at Grinner's feet was Grinner, and when he muddled a company call and response, Malachi alerted the party that there was an imposter. The pseudo Grinner smiled impossibly wide and spewed noxious gas, obscuring the field and disappearing.

Eventually, thanks to the crowd dispelling magic, the fake Grinner was revealed as a horrible construct of Kalak's, one who had laid spawn in the now dead Mul, which soon sprung out to attack. The party continued their assault, but the creature's healed impossible fast. They vaguely recognized this creature had appeared before and could tell the crowd recognized it.

DraghonPaw eventually noticed Nori trying to get their attention, and Kid remembered the story of how Nori won her freedom. Against a horrible undefeatable, shapeshifting beast that healed it's wounds impossibly fast. And she had somehow learned to defeat it with silver. It went mad when grievously wounded and in the ensuing chaos Nori escaped.

Kid beseeched the crowd for silver, and the crowd cast their tokens for life, chanting to let the group have a fair fight. No Templar acted, but a well dressed figure from the crowd threw down a small blade. Grinner quickly grabbed it and yelled out an allusion to Meridian's charge, a suicidal attack by a former company member. The creature became singularly focused on Grinner, though the Sergeant missed his chance as it leapt past. It blasted him with a fireball, dropping DragonPaw and Grinner at once.

Kid chose to engage the beast, grabbed the blade from Grinner's singed hand, and struck it deep in the abomination's gut. If reeled in pain, and as he continued to strike it he noticed its wounds no longer sealed.

Chronicler loosed arrow after arrow into the creature's hide until it finally fell, to an eruption of cheers from the crowd. He then turned to the last remaining spawn and slew it just before it clawed at Bright-Eyes' fallen body. More cheers. The party would walk away free despite having killed a sorcerer-king. 

But the cheers died down as the party rushed to their fallen friends and tense moments brought the crowd to silence. There were disappointed groans as Bright Eyes came to her feet, although she seemed quite happy with herself and at having won on her terms. She cast a smile at a Templar at Tehosian's side. Sighs of relief erupted as Malachi and Mulses stood. However as they checked DragonPaw's body, the crowd became silent again. It became clear he was not getting back up, and the arena stood in silence as the survivors conducted the Orphan Company burial rites in the middle of the arena for Grinner and DragonPaw.

Tithian eventually broke the silence to declare the party exculpated and indicated his intentions to use them and his resources to free Tyr from Urik. But Hakar interrupted. It became awkwardly clear the Veiled Alliance leader was attempting to ferment a revolution, amid mostly blank stares from a crowd still too cowed to understand. He sought to have the masses seize the city, make it their own. Malachi politely questioned what Hakar would do most immediately with the threat to Urik, and Tithian jumped on. Tyr needed a strong military leader. He already commanded the army, knew it's resources, and was most equipped to continue. But he would not become a tyrant and, at the end of the siege, would give nobles and commoners a seat at the table alongside Templars. Agis and Tehosian immediately agreed, in what had clearly been pre-coordinated, preempting any protest from Lucien or Malashastra. 

But that was not enough for Hakar, one vote for the people and 5 for the templars would mean nothing. Despite trying not to take a side, the crowd seemed clearly intent on what the group thought. Finally the anticipation was verbalized by a well dressed man, the same who had thrown the silver dagger, who stood from Voldon and Wavir's group and asked what the Heroes of Tyr believed would be best for the city. 

They demurred and said politics was not their concern, but Lady Voldon pressed on, wanting to know the position of those who had sacrificed for the city, toppled a sorcerer-king, and now stood as blameless victors. They offered a compromise: deal with the immediate siege at hand, then turn to forming a true plan afterwards. With input they suggested a committee to create a government would be decided by 5 votes, one for the Templars-Lords combined, the nobles, the merchants, the commoners voiced by Hakar, and finally the heroes who slew Kalak. All agreed.

No longer kingslayers in a derogatory term, the party was announced as the Heroes of Tyr, to cheers from the crowd that this time did not die out amid Lucien's withering stares.  With the trial concluded and a tenuous plan in effect, the entire city turned to the real threat outside its gates.

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Kid's Speech in the Tyrian Arena

Gather 'round, loyal citizens of Tyr, and I shall tell you one of the mysterious and ancient stories of the Unfallen Host, the Last Legion of Kalidnay. Or as you may know us, the Orphan Company.

Some centuries ago, the Orphan Company was hundreds of miles from here, in a city then known as Pharandel. This was long before the Sorcerer-Kings you know, but men were no less cruel and capricious in those distant times.

The Company in those days numbered several hundred, and served the Merchant Lords of Pharandel protecting their trade routes and walled cities. The Merchant Lords grew prosperous and shared their wealth with the citizens of Pharandel, which enraged the slavers of nearby Delankar, who invaded and besieged the city.

For 4 years the Orphan Company led the defense of Pharandel, from the brink of collapse at the gates of the city through famine and disease and eventually repelled the slavers from their borders. In the process, the Company's numbers dwindled to a mere hundred brothers. Pharandel incurred significant debts to their allies, and much of it was owed to the Company. Rather than pay these debts, the greedy merchants turned on the Company, who had served them loyally. They put the Orphan Company through a sham trial, stirred public opinion against the brothers, and whipped their citizens into a frenzy. Only six brothers escaped with their lives.

Betrayed, dishonored, and penniless, those six brothers soldiered on. They nursed their wounds and regained their strength. They found old allies among Pharandel's new enemies, and those six brothers made it their life's work to rebuild the Company and collect the debt owed by the Merchant Lords. They returned, and when the Company left Pharandel for the second time, they left six nobles alive. The Company's sworn brotherhood numbered over a thousand. They had collected their debt in blood.

I chose this story for two reasons. First, it is a reminder that we honor our contracts, but that our service demands loyalty in return. Today, we stand oathbound to the Free City of Tyr. Even as we speak, our brothers have been bloodied defending Tyr's critical resources. We will die for this city, but we will not be sacrificed as pawns.

And second, the Orphan Company remembers. Their names were Murgen, Tobo, Sleepy, Big Bucket, Elmo, and Croaker. Their names will live forever. It is an immortality of sorts.

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Session 16
"The Orphan Company Remembers..."

The royal assassins parted with their gear and surrendered to the waiting guards. Along the way to their cells they caught an unusual sight: clerics were openly proselytizing about the return of the gods who made Athas. Mostly the party heard portions of a story about how the Goddess Melora and her adherents felled Kalak. The piecemeal story of the battle sounded very familiar…

At the fighting pits the party was separated in cells. Kid made small talk with Harkwood and the other prisoners, as Mulses' Mul cell mates recognized him as an unwanted liberator. They garnered some information about how these fights work, and tried to build goodwill in case the prisoners should be part of the fight. Mulses offered legitimate freedom to the 5 Mul, who were incredulous. 

In the middle of the night Harkwood noticed the guard patrols had stopped. Kid convinced Harkwood to drop some knives, which he did just as flames and electricity began to dance back and forth between the two templars and numerous figures in the darkness. Eventually the younger Templar was stabbed in the back by an invisible figure. As Harkwood turned to face the assassin, another much larger and imposing form leapt out to intercept him. The two traded blows and occasional flashes of magical light punctuated their battle. Trigger, who had been aiding Harkwood, was felled after some time by an arrow. And Harkwood began to falter under the larger brute's relentless blows, eventually letting his guard slip and succumbing.

As the victors walked towards the torch-light, the party recognized Cutter and Gwyn. After some taunting, more figures emerged from the darkness, one holding a thrax at bay with a rope on a stick with an aim to lock it in Kid's cell with him.

The thrax was crazed, mindlessly trying to move in one direction. Kid, sensing an opportunity, made thug holding the thrax double over in hideous laughter. As he dropped the stick everyone tensed for the thrax to attack, but it ran, crazed, to Malachi's cell.  The erstwhile veiled ones left at the sound of approaching guards, with more taunts being exchanged on the exit. The party found the thrax's wounds magically knit, but the guards were able to take control of it.

Later that day, the trial began. Lucien's templar laid out the charges and the allegation they conspired to weaken Tyr on purpose. The crowd seemed subdued, with an air of dread rather than excitement about the gathering.

The accused responded with much more flair, and an excerpt from the chronicles. A cautionary tale for those who betray the company, doubt their loyalty, or seek to destroy them. In the speech Kid mentioned the Free City of Tyr, which drew strong reactions from everyone. Subdued, excited gasps from the crowd, a look of relief on the face of the veiled alliance, and disgust from the few Templars and nobles who didn't hide their emotions well.

The first witness was expected, the dead librarian who established the party as the only ones present when he died, and that the party had been within the archives for some time before. The templar expounded on the cause of death and missing entries for Sukir and the party, although he had to admit there were missing entries for hundred of people who entered Tyr in a week's period. The party only asked if the librarian saw who killed him, which he did not. They dismissed the witness as irrelevant, which remained to be seen.

The next witness accused the party of the murder of Templar Tamara, but was interrupted by their confession. The party in fact called their own witness, the Karrikal who had accompanied Tamara, to confirm the murder. Nil conferred briefly with the party and shared that the Karrikal psionically preserved everything it witnessed, and he asked where he should focus the images. He focused and after some time looking at the Karrikal now instead showed a floating image of what it had seen. Nil started with the party in Blue Spring being observed from a distance, with Demar and her child in their care. He fast forwarded to the fight with the Templars, and the crowd was unable to hide excited shouts as fire and arrows rained back and forth and others hacked and slashed at each other. Eventually Watcher fell to Tamara's magic, and as she pressed her advantage with a series of defilements, he withered away. Screams began to echo from the cart then die down. A glance at Lady Voldon revealed her stone faced, but her knuckles white from clenching her chair. Cheers erupted after Tamara finally fell, but those quickly died down after a stern look from Lucien.

Although this portion mostly backfired, Lucien made the most of the situation, using the Karrikal to show the party in Blue Spring lying about their purpose, Chronicler speaking with Shale about the Veiled Alliance and the company working together at the Black Steppes, and the beginning of the fight where the party attacked, mostly unprovoked.

Next came out Hasan, who appeared terrified. For this witness, three templars cast magic on him, nodding or shaking their heads at the truth of his statements. He answered questions about Hafeeza coming to buy antidotes, that it happened before the reports of the poisoning, and that Hafeeza appeared distraught and was cryptic with her goals. 

The accused questioned Hasan to reinforce that all the reports indicated the poisoning came from Urik, to try to kill the bulk of able bodied individuals. And only the Templars quick work in calling for conscription avoided the tragedy of losing even more people, and also taking a big blow to Tyr's army. The crowd responded well to this, people calling out for vengeance for the warrens, and to remember the sorrows.

The Templar stood to retort and Kid conferred with him, warning that he risked civil war. While the Templar agreed to move on he said this was just a preview; that Lucien would rather the city fall than be in Tithian's control. Kid questioned what the Templars fate would be if that were to happen. 

The Templar changed topics with Hasan, focusing on the conspiracy with Sukir before Kalak's impalement, and the discussions with the party after. Although he tried to lie, the party urged Hasan to share the confession. And to a stunned crowd Hasan said the party told him that they had killed Kalak. Kid clarified that it wasn't totally accurate, and gave a recap of the tree and what had happened, to bewildered stares. The spell casting Templars had moved to Kid, and verified the truth of his statements. This left Hasan alone with Lucien's Templar on the witness dias. And the Templar looked to his patron for guidance.

Lucien clarififed that Hasan is not on trial. So there was no reason to wait for a verdict, and he immediately sentenced him to death for his admission of conspiracy. As the Templar's sword rose the members of the veiled alliance in the crowd began to stir and Kid tried to take him on as one of them, but the sword fell despite these intercessions. Hakar calmed his section of the crowd, and the rest of the arena fell silent.

Sensing that Lucien had gone too far, the party pressed their advantage. They tied together their commitment to Tyr, the bloodlust that had been whipped up against Urik, and their actions to show they had done everything to protect Tyr. They did not mention Kalak's actual plans, however. Tithian took this opportunity to stand and the party tensed to see what he would do. He kept true to his word, he took complete credit for the parties' actions and blasphemed Kalak, whose incompetence would have doomed Tyr. He gave the crowd freedom to call him what he was now that they no longer lived in fear of his power, a fool.

As the crowd responded Tithian spoke with Lucien, who ended his presentation of evidence. The group chose combat rather than a verdict, and turned to their judges to see their votes. 

-Tithian went first, and with no surprise gave the party a boon. Powerful spells to boost their effectiveness significantly. 

-Agis went next, saying that the last Kingslayer became the King of Tyr, he gave the party his boon, the power to choose their field of battle. 

-Tehosian, the older uncaring Templar, said he could not sanction such treasonous actions and would provide a bane, a boost to the enemy combatants at a time he saw fit. 

-Marshastra, the bellicose one who seemed most upset throughout the evidence, gave the party her bane, taking the weapons, equipment, and armor that all entrants would have had to begin. 

-Lucien gave a tirade of the party's actions as disastrous, dulling the audience's hope with the realization that they now faced overwhelming odds against a near god, with their own countervailing power felled. He undid Tithian's boon, as the party hoped.

Lady Voldon then rose to speak for the nobles and merchants. She was clearly emotional at what she had seen, but also clearly credited the party for having actually done as they said: entered into a contract with Demar and done their best to protect her and her child. She stared at Lucien as she threw her boon into the ring, a 2 foot long bag. Kid peered inside at a veritable armory, and drew out a shining metal sword.

The crowd exploded. Sure a majority of Templars seemed to still oppose the party, but the crowd sensed a hope that had not existed just a few minutes ago. It now felt as though this fight was for the very freedom of Tyr.

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Session 15
We're usually much more subtle than this

When the party reaches a safe place to rest Hafeeza turns to them looking stricken. "She's a liar. Epione lied to us.  The power to bring the dead back to life doesn't come from any goddess.  It's defilement.  I felt it when I healed DragonPaw.  When I heal as my mother taught me I draw power from the rain, the life that flows naturally through water.  Even in this dessert a connection to the vitality inherent to water exists and I draw healing energy through it.  But when I gave DragonPaw his life back I was suddenly connected to other people, people I've never met but know exist, and I hurt them.  I stole their life energy from them and gave it to DragonPaw, and once I had started I couldn't stop it.  I don't know how badly I injured them.  But I won't use this power again, it would make me no better than a Templar."

After some discussion Bright Eyes and Malachi become convinced that there was no actual defiling since the land was not harmed. But Hafeeza still refuses to continue using the spell unless she can control it or figure out what happened to the individuals she saw flashing before her.

Turning to their more immediate task, the kingslayers found themselves in an empty maintenance tunnel. After orienting themselves they headed along, believing they were passing under the arena and towards the golden tower. Afraid of what they would encounter at the tower, the party veered off at the first chance they had, briefly surveying a natural damp cavern before settling on exploring a series of underground storehouses. They storehouses were ancient, long abandoned, and connected as a web. A search by Kid uncovered some colored stones that were not natural and similar to those on the bodies of the Veiled Alliance ambushers.

The storehouses continued on and eventually connected to maintained and stocked basements. Searching a few uncovered no patterns, but eventually one housed goods stamped with the House Wavir imprimatur of a silver crodlu. Remembering that House Wavir's powerful merchant Aristophanes had ties with the Veiled Alliance, and had in fact commissioned with the party to bring the assassin Sukir to the Tyr, the party considered this as good a building to try as any. 

They were not disappointed. Kid crept up and recognized the voice of Hasan, the merchant that had sponsored Sukir and whom they had confronted with the stolen archival paperwork and gained a tenuous friendship with. Hasan was being harangued by a templar, who was giving himself discounts because of Hasan's inability to provide info about the woman who purchased antidotes on the night of the mass poisoning In the Warrens.

After he left, the party revealed themselves to a distraught Hasan. He briefly caught the party up to speed about the search for Hafeeza and in fact the entire parrty, and begrudgingly took possession on Sukir's body. He also explained the stones (the incidence of blue stones increases as you get closer to safety, red closer to danger and other such things). 

Faced with the possibility of fishing around underground for VA contacts or going to Tithian, the party dutifully chose to fulfill their contract, at Kid's urging. They donned disguises, blended into the crowd, and made for the wall. Security was much too tight however, and eventually some Tyrian Guard inspected them, found their excuses insufficient, and called forth Templars to decide the situation. Luckily the party came to learn these were Templars beholden to Templars Lord Agis. Unluckily the Templars shared that there was a warrant for them all for Murder, Promoting Anarchy, Treason, Regicide, and Conspiracy to commit those acts. After a brief pause where perhaps some magic or psionics was used by one of the Templars, the party was able to eventually convince the Templars to escort the party to Tithian for him to decide what to do. 

The plan went well until they were beset near their goal by a sizable force. Harkwood, the elder Templar, pained over what to do, but eventually cut the party loose and gave them back their weapons while commanding his accompanying guards to turn away.

A chase ensued across the tight alleys and winding rooftops of Tyr. Despite some near disasters drawing more attention to the party, they eventually slipped away and broke straight for the wall and into the waiting arms of Bertrand (one of Tithian's top guards).

Bertrand ushered the party to Tithian while he mocked them for the scene they created.

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Session 14
To Redeem a Defiler

The party used the books at their disposal to learn a great deal about the sorcerer kings. The powerful sorcerers had been allied before they took on their titles, and had all been disciples of a man named Rajaat. They eventually turned against him, defeated him, and split up the tablelands for themselves. Oddly they seemed cooperative, with Kalak being essentially given Tyr because it was the easiest to defend and control. The clues in the books allowed them to piece together the order of their deaths, which the party thought was necessary for them to open the magical barrier.

They also used magic to speak with Sukir's dead body, his mouth answering their questions despite his lifeless gaze. He told the party the spear could kill Kalak. They asked how to use the spear and he said by channeling preserving power into it. When asked what he could have done differently to succeed in his mission, he seemed to put the blame for his death and incomplete success on his allies.The party wanted to ask where the spear had come from, but he no longer responded to their questions. Mulses took his body with them.

As they finished their research and rest, they spotted a walking, vaguely anthropomorphic mushroom traveling past. Kid tried to stop him or communicate with him but he continued along. Although Kid and others took notice that all the books he carried were in halfling or concerned halflings. Eventually as Kid blocked his path, he heard a voice from behind him. A monstrously human-like-yet-not-human woman stood before him. She seemed friendly enough, especially once she learned the party had killed the ones who had smashed her mushroom-children. 

Her name was Myrna, and she chided the party for having taken a shortcut within the library, something she said the library would not abide. She offered to lead them back to where the portal was. First she snapped Bright Eyes out of her reverie, since she had become obsessed with a book entitled "To Redeem a Defiler." She was sure she would find the secret to undoing the "scar on her psyche" that Shivrin had spoken about, but the answer was always just on the next page. Myrna said these ensorcelling tomes were one consequence of taking shortcuts. 

The party continued, with Myrna leading. Along the way they traded information about who they were. The party revealed their origins and goals, which Myrna laughed at, or at least gave a horribly twisted simulation of a laugh. She detailed the obstacles to killing Kalak, the spells he had at his disposal, including a powerful word of death he could continue to utter over and over. Epione assured the group she had a retort, a way to channel her goddess and weaken his spell casting power and stop his ability to regenerate his spells. 

Myrna in turn revealed that she had been a Templar of Kalak. Through questioning they were able to piece together she had not been on the surface for at least a couple hundred years, when she had abandoned Kalak for the library. He had searched, seemingly for centuries, for something within the library, with no success. She said he was unwilling to pay the price the library required, a price of journeying and overcoming physical and mental obstacles to reach enlightenment. He sent her to find what he wanted, and she had wandered the halls ever since, choosing the path of enlightenment she said the library offered. Her task was to find something about the power of creation, the ability to make life. The sorcerer Kings had all learned powerful words of destruction, but not their counterparts. She had succeeded partially at least, and had created her mushroom children with what she learned, as well as extending her own life.

As they neared the arcane gate, Kid caught sight of a tome entitled: Kalidnay: the City that Waits. He seemed convinced that the true fate of Kalidnay and the origin of his company was contained somewhere in the book, though just out of his reach. He became ensorcelled just as Bright Eyes had, until Myrna snapped him out of it. She asked if anyone had tried taking a book from the library and said that was another consequence, so the party returned what they had (except for the tomes Chronicler had spent the night transcribing). 

It seemed the books might have actually existed somewhere in the library, but these books were just traps, they contained no real information, just a projection of the readers own knowledge and their desire for more. The party considered they may want to return some day, and temporarily traded tokens with Myrna, so that they could locate each other. She also said her mushrooms could usually lead them to her.

She wished them well in their impossible task and almost certain death. They teleported back the crossroads with one path leading to the magical barrier. The nausea they usually felt on passing through a portal did not dissipate, in fact it seemed to get stronger as they neared the wall. They feared it a sort of diluted, yet persistent, defiling. They assembled the statutes in the order they believed, failing once and burning DragonPaw in the process. But on the second try they succeeded, the words dissipated and reformed to say: Look how many have perished. Did you think yourself immortal? The party pondered the taunt briefly, but prepared for the great task at hand.

They moved up stairs into a more well formed manmade structure: the base of the ziggurat. Oddly, their nausea ended once they stepped foot inside. They travelled some distance inside and up some stairs to a large room with columns. They heard sounds but saw no sign of Kalak or his bodyguards. Until Malachi used his magic to locate the spear, above them, and an examination by Trigger revealed a malformed, draconic Kalak. In his chest was a sprouting sapling, that called out for more power.

The party fought Kalak and his body guards as Epione attempted to channel her goddess and Malachi used his newfound preserving powers on the tree. The staff / spear / tree was clearly magical, it was easy to preserve and aided Malachi in the process. Every success crippled Kalak's abilities and eventually stunned him. But nonetheless he rained devastation on the party as his golems tirelessly fought back. As Epione's channeling completed, a pillar of blinding light surrounded her, seeming to weaken Kalak further. Hafeeza restored wounded party members. Mulses and DragonPaw bore the brunt of the attack as they and Kid sliced the golems with swords and magic. Bright Eyes had remarkable success opposing Kalak, stopping some of his most powerful magics and hurting him badly. 

As Kalak faltered, a golem succeeded in killing DragonPaw. As Kid retorted and brought the final Golem down, Malachi and Bright Eyes ended the fight, empowering the tree and weakening Kalak too much to resist. It began to grow uncontrollably, subsuming Kalak entirely as he howled. Yet it continued, tearing the foundation of the floor, toppling pillars, and beginning to bring down the floor above. Hafeeza rushed to DragonPaw and tested her newfound powers, with DragonPaw coming to with a gasp. The party rushed out the only doorway they could reach in time. But Epione remained in her collumn of light as the ceiling collapsed around her, the radiant light scorching anyone who tried to touch her.

The party fell out into a passageway that was the opposite passage leading to the room with the magical barrier, stones blocking the path behind them. They gathered themselves, tended to their wounds, and settled on the realization that they had toppled a Sorcerer-King.

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Session 13
For the worthy, my goddess provides redemption

Continuing towards the Templar district, the party found a rickety, old wooden platform suspended by ropes in a pulley system. The apparatus was quite worn and precariously teetered over a 250 foot drop, with an opening on the bottom and another about 150 feet from the top, in the side of the shaft wall. They secured themselves with better rope and descended on the platform, except Malachi who would continue later in gecko form. Sure enough, the elevator platform collapsed, first at the pulley, leaving the rope for Bright Eyes and Kid to hang on to long enough to re-secure their own ropes further down. Then the rest collapsed, sending the wooden platform tumbling after them, though they just managed to swing into the opening before it plummeted by.

This opening led to a long manmade tunnel and after continuing for some time and dodging pit traps that led further downward, the group left the tunnel through a hole in the wall that led back into a winding cave system. This lead to what they believed to be Tembo's Teeth, a series of natural tunnels with man-made openings and structure punctuating the cavern. Ignoring temptations, including a nearby cavern that may have lead to the iron armory, the group continued to the likely base of the ziggurat. Malachi attempted to locate the spear and detected it was a bit above them but in the direction they were travelling. 

They came to a fork. One branch contained a magical portal and the other branch to a room where a circular magical barrier cordoned off the center of the room. The spear was somewhere above them when they were in the cordoned off room, so the party explored there first. There were seven statues strewn about, each with a name at its base. They were: Kalak, Dregoth, Sacha, Myron, Kalid-Ma, Wyan, and Sielba. The statute of Kalak appeared to depict him and the party recognized the name Kalid-Ma as the Sorceress-Queen of Kalidnay, the ancient homeland of the Orphan Company. Sielba also seemed familiar as the name of a sorceress Queen, though no one could place where she ruled, clearly not one of the extant city-states of the Tablelands. The party also saw 7 slots in the ground on the other side of the wall from which they entered. There was another path leading to this circular room from the other direction that they came from. When the party picked up a statute to examine it more closely, words appeared on the surface of the magical barrier:

<section>

Troll Scorcher was the first to fall

crushed by the weight of his sin.

Betrayers next toppled Bodach’s wall,

slaying the good lord within.

 

Kalid-Ma turned her city to night

and slipped into eternal void

once Dregoth fell to his rival’s might,

the fate she sought to avoid.

 

Kobold-Curse died after Wyan the Pure

while Dregoth still reigned with his wife.

The King of Guistenal, that wicked usurper,

fell to Sielba’s and your knife.

 

With that you wiped your regal hands clean

as peace settled over the strife.

But you neglected to tend the chained Pyreen,

now you too shall be but a tree of life.

</section>

The party tried to piece together the possible references of titles to Sorcerer Kings, but they did not know enough about these figures, most of whom they had never heard mention of in the chronicles or otherwise. Kid decided to step through the portal instead and see where it lead: a large, decrepit, and confusingly laid out library. The party deduced that they had teleported all the way to the Labyrinthine Library, far to the east of where they had just been, though still deep under the city. The library was covered in large mushrooms, some of which had been hacked to pieces. There size increased to incredible proportions down certain passageways, as large as a person, and some as large as buildings. The party avoided these passages. 

A recently lit torch hung in a sconce, suggesting they were not alone. Also the absence of some dust suggested books had been disturbed. The party's search yielded two two discernible patterns in the disturbed books: they either concerned historical leaders and battles or referenced figures holding themselves out as gods. The books held a trove of knowledge that was shocking in how foreign it was. Kid read quickly and what caught his eye was a passage about "scorcher" which was one of three legendary swords, the others being silencer and scourge. They were made by an ancient powerful master who had once led 15 champions, champions who would become the sorcerer kings and queens. Other sections referred to him by name and title. Rajaat, the War Bringer. 

Bright Eyes perused the sections on would be deities and discovered references to the former "emperor god" of Tyr who held himself out as a divine being, not a mere mortal but something greater and older and more powerful. A sun god.  Given the apparent fate of him and his temple, the party seemed skeptical of his claims.

Eventually noises caught the party's attention and they found, in a tight alley of books, the priestess of Melora they had encountered in the Elven market. She seemed happy to see them and said she was sent here by her goddess to aid them, that this was divine providence, and that they had to kill Kalak to prevent him from becoming an abomination of a false god. She claimed to have been led by Melora out of the dungeon she was kept in to deep within UnderTyr. She had looked for the temple of Melora, having heard legends of it, but failed to find it. What she did find was a portal to a library with texts that referenced the gods. Though she believed many of them to be false, she had spent hours down here trying to learn what she could.

The party wasn't too keen on the loon, but saw no harm to allowing her to tag along. She said her name was Epione and warned that others were here in the library, she had heard the voices of at least one man and woman talking. The party continued their search and began to detect that many books that had been disturbed were not returned, and all the books they did search skirted around the details that they needed to attach title to name. The others in the library must have taken the important texts. Scouting ahead, Trigger encountered the others, a woman who appeared to be a Templar and a man who quickly nocked an arrow on the sight of the kes'trekel, along with 4 guard drakes, not true drakes but obedient lesser beings created by the sorcerer kings.

The party debated what to do upon Trigger's return and was soon interrupted by the lady. After some posturing and revealing of useless information that showed they knew something and didn't mind showing it, she invited them to come back and examine the books they had found to try to solve the issue together. She them to a large study area where the party found Sukir, who had been tortured to death it appeared. Epione lamented that she could have saved him if she had been here sooner, but that it was too late now, drawing more eye rolls for the convenience by which the situation always seemed to just be outside of the powers of her goddess. 

The party also kept an eye out for the other man and could not find him. As they peered at the texts he loosed a deadly arrow that would have been fatal had Bright Eyes not fortuitously moved away. Likewise the Templar Mage began casting a spell as her drakes surrounded the party. A fierce battle ensued, the Templar unleashing a torrent of fire on the party as the drakes relentless attacked with no concern for the injuries they took from the magic. The would be assassin was hounded and rendered mostly ineffective by Kid, but Bright Eyes and Malachi had their hands full with the Templar herself, even with Epione's healing magic aiding them. 

After a brutal series of attacks by the surrounding drakes and a powerful fireball blast, Malachi fell, succumbing to his injuries and drifting off to a peaceful, eternal slumber. Bright Eyes lay unconscious and Kid was prepared to retreat to gather the rest of the company from the library. But first Epione walked into the still smoldering flames, not to the unconscious Bright Eyes, but to the very dead Malachi. She whispered a prayer to her goddess and Malachi gasped in agony, life returning to him along with the pain of all the burns and slashes. She smiled at Malachi and then brought Bright Eyes back to her feet.

Despite being nearly exhausted of spells and all almost dead, the party eked by. Malachi became a crodlu to shield his allies with his newfound considerable health. Kid relentlessly hacked at the Assassin until he fell. And a spell from Bright Eyes dropped the Mage just as she used a magical orb to restore her power and prepare what would have certainly been a final spell to end the battle.

Near death, the party glanced around the smoldering room and the bodies of their enemies and assembled their bounty.

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