Virtue was dancing with the wind. The curtain had been drawn back, revealing the adventurers’ true nature, though it had been known all along. Now before them was the lich Ur Feyn, at whose bidding the five would steal, and even kill. Times had changed. Oh well.
But as with all actions, there was rationalization. Those wicked deeds were for an ultimate good. The Book of Vile Darkness, full of evil secrets, surely would one day be put to good use by Ur Feyn. Perhaps for a triumph of good over evil? Tira and Barrick had retrieved it for this hollow remnant of a high elf, and now that it was clutched by his bony fingers it was out of their control. Oh well.
Another mighty figure in the lives of the adventurers was Tassadar, an ancient wizard from some primordial time. From him the adventurers learned of their destiny, or perhaps it was more of a quest, or perhaps it was just something to do. The cleric, the wizard, the sorceress, the fighter and the ranger were five in number, but there was to be a sixth to lead the world to a better place. Their first task was to find this sixth and so they came about with a plan to travel to the Temple of the Arcane. It was past time to catch up with Illidan, the potentially evil wizard they knew in another time.
Feeling the need for something different, the adventurers set out upon the northern shore of Lake Nen, heading west. This would be a fine trek, through a lush forest with abundant wildlife to appreciate, kill and feast upon. And so it was a merry time with no evil to fear nor conquer – just share the path with brothers and sisters.
Now, trouble was something the adventurers could not avoid for long, even if they did not seek it out. Just as the sun shines, so too is there shadow, and long had grown the shadows of our five adventurers. As fortune would have it, a mystery was presented: the forest contained deep and wide pits dug in the ground, with tiny bone fragments and these holes were never far from a teleportation circle. The adventurers explored this mystery for weeks, not just days, and mapped out the location of these sites. They lay in the pattern of a grid. Rift searched all her knowledge and concluded that some creature had been buried in these pits, perhaps to spread the bones so that they would be harder to find in total. They had been found. What creature was it? Surely something massive and powerful enough to be worth hiding and worth digging up. Every night, Rift’s dreams were filled with visions of a draco-lich. Was it just the imagination running wild?
There was now a second purpose to travel to the Temple of the Arcane. Not only were they looking for a possible sixth member of a ruling council, but perhaps the wizards would know more about the burial sites. Further still, perhaps one of the wizards was the one collecting the bones in order to create a terrible monster that would be known as a draco-lich. Everyone of power in the temple would be a suspect.
After a few more weeks of travel by foot, the adventurers reached the Temple of the Arcane. This time the four corner towers were floating in the air. This was powerful magic indeed. Unlike their first encounter with this temple, the place was busy with some students scurrying about and others in groups, studying for exams by performing basic and intermediate magic tricks. The five adventurers soon found themselves inside the temple, in the library.
The head librarian was an orc named Gurthmog, who was unlike any orc that Z’alden had ever encountered. An aberant of his race, Gurthmog was bookish, for the lack of a better term. He wore no armor. He carried no weapon. His eyes strained as he examined the five, who stood further than arms length.
“You want the headmaster?”, Gurthmog gruffly spat out, “I can see you are of some importance. You don’t need to tell me. Okay? Okay then. Follow the portals. You’ll figure it out. Go!”
Sometimes one can’t fully escape their origin, and Gurthmog’s curtness was amusing to the sorceress, whose social awareness was quite the opposite of the head librarian’s.
Traveling by portal should have been more familiar to the adventurers, but the dwarf felt uneasy. All this change in direction and location was without clues. How could he keep track of where they were? So far from the dungeon, they were. The five were getting closer to the headmaster’s chambers as they bounced around, but before they got there, they ran into Illidan. Recalling the path toward evil that Illidan had been on, the five were naturally on guard but they tried to hide this. The cleric spoke first.
“How are you, old friend?”, inquired Z’alden as the others watched every move, every expression, every mannerism for the subtlest clue to Illidan’s disposition.
To their relief, the wizard seemed genuine and happy with his role at the Temple of the Arcane. He had risen astoundingly fast as a student and though forever learning, he was now a master too, teaching young apprentices the ways of the arcane. The conversation quickly moved to that of the mysterious boneyards that the adventurers had found. Illidan recommended that the adventurers seek out masters Medivh and Kallazar to learn more. In the mean time, they were to be welcomed guests of the temple, with full access to the library. Supper would be at sundown and they were to join Illidan and his students at their table.
At the library, Z’alden sought out ritual books and was able to make a copy of “Shadow Walk”. Similarly, Rift sought to increase her ritual knowledge and gained an understanding of “Phantom Steed”.
Dinner was served promptly but lasted longer than the prescribed time, as Illidan’s apprentices were intrigued with Rift and Tira’s practical application of magic, specifically used for combat. The questions were cut short as Illidan informed the students that they must rest and that Rift would give a demonstration of her skills in the morning. The excited students would have to wait with overflowing eager anticipation like children who want something right now.
The next day the students met with Illidan and Rift at the top of the central tower. There, Rift demonstrated “combust” upon a hapless volunteer, whose singed hair, blinking eyes and bewildered expression had the other students even more gleeful. Illidan rolled his eyes. Rift asked, “Want to see that again?”
Meanwhile, Z’alden was sleuthing in the library and came across a most fascinating ritual book loosely translated to, “Build a Draco-Lich in Nine Easy Steps”. This ritual could only be performed by the most powerful of wizards and that left it out of reach of even Rift and probably Illidan. Furthering the difficulty of this ritual was the cost of its ritual components – thirteen million. Worse still, one would just happen to have the full skeleton of an ancient dragon. Throw in five extremely rare astral orbs and an even more rare “touch of Orcus”, and there you go, you have yourself a draco-lich that may or may not be under your control. Oh well.
Barrick was getting interested in the draco-lich mystery too, and being a direct kind of guy, asked the headmaster straight-way, “What do you know about creating draco-liches?” Then he pulled the mage in further with, “And what do you think of my axe, the “Talon of Orcus”… wouldn’t that be a “touch of Orcus” that could be used to create a draco-lich?” Of course, the dwarf was being clever. Naturally suspicious of all weavers of the arcane magics, the dwarf wanted to see just how interested this Kallazar would be in the axe. Perhaps too interested? Barrick observed the response closely.
“Yes, your axe would mostly likely be sufficient,” replied Kallazar. “Dwarf, were you thinking of conjuring a draco-lich?”
The question was delivered with a straight face to one who was clearly no wizard. Barrick grumbled beneath his beard.
“There is a rumor of an ancient white dragon. A dragon named Rime. Perhaps it is his bones that you seek?”
So the wizard was smart. Perhaps Barrick deserved a little punishment for his clumsy attempt to get the great wizard slip-up and reveal himself as a disciple of evil. Still, Barrick had not gone empty-handed. This information he would later relay to his comrades.
Meanwhile, Rift was now teaching “Elemental Maw”. After the latest demonstration, Rift said, “That was way cool. Next volunteer?” Illidan rolled his eyes.
Illidan quickly brought Rift’s lesson to an end and Erik, Tira, Z’alden and Barrick all re-joined to share their experiences of the day. With the mention of the ancient white dragon, Rime, Rift showed Illidan the sampling of tiny bone fragments she had collected. To their surprise, Illidan was able to confirm the original owner of the bone fragments – Rime.
Days passed as the adventurers took advantage of the temple’s facilities. Even the ranger, Erik, learned the simple trick of casting light at the tip of his war glaives. Yet the adventures could not stay far from trouble for long. Word came from Kengistan of pending war! King of the Kengi, former fellow adventurer and friend, Felsmon, had sent word that the armies of fire elementals would soon return to wage war. The adventurers were needed to help – to defeat the fire elementals at their source.
The arcane masters of the temple sat and consulted with the five adventurers. Kallazar spoke, “You must go and help save Kengistan. Time is limited. I will teach “planar portal” to Rift. This will save much time.”
Now things started happening very quickly. Rift focused and mastered the spell in record time, impressing Kallazar. Z’alden set about scrying Felsmon to determine if the message was indeed legitimate. He could see Felsmon in the great hall, in full war armor. This was for real.
Later that evening, Rift felt a thin but strong hand grasp the top of her skull. It was Tassadar. “The demons are building a fortress in the West. This is at the direction of a demon prince. It must be addressed immediately.”
At this point, Rift turned to Tassadar and with a look of complaint replied, “But we are to go to the East, to defeat the fire elementals who threaten Kengistan.”
Tassadar’s expression turned to frustration and then to calm. “Rift, I see a larger plan by the forces of evil. They wish to split the forces of good by engaging on two fronts.”
Rift sheepishly replied, “Oh, and then there’s this thing about the draco-lich…”
Tassadar’s expression turned to surprise and then anger. “Fiddlesticks.”
With that, the ancient wizard vanished and left Rift to tell her companions of her encounter with Tassadar. The temple’s masters had grave expressions on their faces and there was more consultation. It was ultimately decided that the adventurers would join Felsmon to fight the fire elementals. They would be aided by seven acolytes and adepts who were enthusiastic about the prospect of fighting evil. With that, and Rift’s newly learned “planar portal”, the adventurers and their small team of young wizards made it to Kengistar, the capital of Kengistan, in just one day.
“Thank Bahamut for your arrival,” greeted Felsmon, “The forests are burning. Just as last time, this was a precursor to invasion. You must go to the source – start at the City of Brass.”
The adventurers understood that their mission was to attack the fire elemental’s leadership. Felsmon would stay to defend Kengistan from those fire elementals that did come through. However, the adventurers were Kengistan’s only real hope. They were the Nentir Vale’s only hope. The fate of the world was in their hands.
Arriving in the City of Brass, the adventurers and seven young wizards found themselves without a ship to travel the Elemental Chaos. One would have to be procured, but with what money? As they were scratching their heads over what to do, one of the acolytes happened upon a poster on the wall. It was titled “Fight Night!” and went on to describe the thrill of mixed martial and arcane arts fighting (MMAA). It encouraged the citizenry and visitors to come see the greatest spectacle in all of the Elemental Chaos. There was a rendering of the flamboyant promotor, complete with spiked-up white hair and surrounded by beautiful, scantily clad females of various races.
“Gambling,” Barrick nonchalantly uttered, “I’ve heard of this. This is big-time money. In a place like this, there are enormous sums gambled on who will win and who will lose. They payouts are truly a fortune. Fighters get paid. Well, or they die.”
Z’alden’s eyes lit up, “So, we could win enough to purchase a ship?”
“Yeah, easily,” continued Barrick, “Just have to avoid dying.”
Erik and Tira looked at each other. Blood sport? Really? Oh well.
So the adventures sent the seven wizards off to hold tight while they would do a bit of “street fighting”, as Barrick termed it. They soon found the promoter, who really did look like his rendering on the poster. Tira kept away, with the plan being that she would bet what money they had to increase their winnings, should they not die.
“Well, you have options. It’s not technically to the death,” explained the promoter, “But you do get a bigger payout, the more risk there is, naturally. There is an option for, uh, fighting to the death. It’s really not so bad. You know, the eternal afterlife. Hey, you look pretty tough there ranger.”
Erik’s eyes grew big and he started to cough. The more phlegm the better. Rift caught on quickly and patted his back, “Oh, the terrible cough. We thought you were getting so much better. Are you sure you want to do this?”
The promoter cast a suspicious eye, being one familiar with cons.
The adventurers agreed to a contest that would be “to the drop”. The promoter assured them that healers would be on hand, but the adventures thought this a bluff. The payout would be three to one. Not bad.
Time passed slowly as the adventurers waited the night in their rooms above a tavern. The streets were loud with late-night revelers. What would tomorrow bring? It would bring an oval arena with thirty foot high walls, with stands extending even higher above. The ground was of sand, and in the middle the fight announcer bellowed out to the packed house…
“Tonight, from the Nentir Vale, a band of four thrill-seekers seek out their destiny. Featuring the dwaaarven fighter, Baaaarick. The rrrranger, Erik. The cleric, Zaaaalen, and his gorgeous concubine Rift!”
One by one, the adventures were lead into the arena. Erik spotted Tira up in the stands, who noticed him back and stuck her tongue out in jest.
The fight announcer paused as the crowd clapped with faltering continuity. They must never have heard of the Nentir Vale.
“Now, their opponents tonight. You know them. You love them. They’ve dominated every match for the last several months, setting records for the fastest fall and fastest kill, please let me introduce, the main attraction, the one, the only, Cooooolossusssss and the Forsaken!”
With that, the announcer levitated up and out of the way just as doors on the opposite side of the arena opened. The ground seemed to shake as a colossus and two forsaken entered. The adventurers recalled that “forsaken” were the material form of the dispersed power of dead gods. Great. Just great.
The crowd went wild.
Round one went to the colossus and the forsaken as the adventurers were stunned, immobilized and otherwise rendered rather ineffective. Still, Z’alden was able to deal plenty of on-going damage and Rift’s practicing of “elemental maw” paid off.
Round two saw the sand drawing away to reveal some fire pits, just to elevate the spectator’s excitement. This surprised the adventurers as they had thought that this match was “to the drop”, not “to the death”. Z’alden also found out that the crowd definitely had its favorite. As he flew up in the air to avoid the colossus, he got too close to the crowd and they grabbed and stabbed at him. Tough crowd. Still, round two narrowly went to the adventurers.
Round three saw a dramatic shift in fortunes as the adventurers took control of the match. The fire pits turned to lava pits and the colossus found himself in the unfortunate position of being stuck in one of them. Round three, and the match went to the adventurers.
The crowd went wild.
The payout was huge, not only to the victors but to Tira who had (mostly) bet on her fellow adventurers. The finally tally showed winnings of 4.1 million on 1.1 million wagered. The adventurers would now be able to procure a fine ship with which they could travel the Elemental Chaos. Of course, the price for this was the deaths of the the colossus and two “forsaken”, despite this match supposed to be only “to the drop”. Oh well. Oh well, oh well.