DarkSun: Sinister Ascendancy

Death comes to us all

Gazing down into the small canyon, Harrr and Zull observe Nivean and Dri-Kull, stuck halfway down the side. Isaac meditates silently.

Compelling the power of the earth, Harrr hardens the loose treacherous rocks, and cautiously makes his way down. Again united, once Isaac is finished the party descend to the bottom of the canyon, wishing to re-enter the Dwarven fortress at the main gate.

Nivean spies a small hole in the side of the canyon, roughly 2 or 3 feet in diameter . Searching, Nivean discovers the hole extends deep into the ridge, and that the bones of many creatures litter the floor. Whilst the party argues about what to do next, Nivean searches the rubbish to discover a strange and compelling wooden statue, and beads adorned with mystic symbols. Nivean keeps his discovery secret, and the party continues up the ridge.

Dir-Kull, heavily injured from his fall moves so slowly that Zul agrees to carry him. Warily the party crosses the waste land towards the imposing fortress. A chill comes over Nivean and he calls out for caution. Suddenly above his head a SpineWyrm manifests out of the darkness. The battle is joined. The characters fight heroically, but alas, it latches on to Nivean, and begins to swallow him whole. The characters continue to battle, but to no avail and Nivean is devoured and his body is crushed by the intestinal strength of the SpineWyrm, The surviving characters continue to pummel the beast – it suddenly curls up and releases a wave of spines, cutting through Dri-Kull and injuring Harrr. The damage is too great – Dri-Kull’s souls slips into the night. With a mighty blow, Zul crushes the monster’s head.

Checking, Isaac confirms Dri-Kull’s demise. The SpineWyrm is cut down the belly, exposing the crushed body of Nivean. His equipment is retrieved, and the party leaves the bodies for the aarakoa.

The party, now diminished heads for the dwarven fortress. Approaching, the elves appear to have abandoned the place. Quickly exploring the ruins, the characters rediscover the Thri-Kreen druid, and after some translation error, proceed into the wastelands, towards Kled.

Along the way the characters spy a lonely campfire. Approaching, the party sees Jengi. Making conversation, she describes how she was exiled from her tribe, the catalyst for which was the disappearance of the party. Her farther Tuga-Dai makes war on Kled, and she offers to depose him and lead the tribe away. She asks the party to fetch the stinger of a black Mastyrial, to allow her to poison Tuga in a dual. The party has none of this – “You say you are skilled at deception, yet you told us that!” – and battle is joined. Despite her powerful defiling magic, Jengi is soon overwhelmed, and the Thri-Kreen feasts on her flesh. Zul is intrigued, and when offered considered the meal – Isaac has difficulty witnessing this – “Eating the fleshing of a sentient being is barbaric!” – until Zul points out that his chosen profession is ‘barbarian’.

The party take stock, and head to Kled. When they arrive, the village appears deserted. Cries of anguish echo over the village walls. Heading to the west gate, the party cautiously enters. Blood is smeared across the gate, the bodies of Jura-Dai members are strewn about.

Moving across the west-east street, the party passes the wrecked ruin of Baranus’ abode, and enter the plaza of the sun. There, they become party to a tense standoff between elves and dwarves – an overturned mekilot wagon lies in the centre of the plaza. Atop it stands the elf leader, a sharp blade to Baranus’ neck.

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Light at the end of the tunnel

The party heals their wounds, sets watch and rests.

Once ready, the characters find an ascending staircase. Climbing it the party emerges into a small room, barred to the outside with crude bars. Sitting on a matt, a strange thrikreen clicks and exclaims as they enter.

Warily, the characters attempt to converse, but to limited avail. Peering through the bars, they see the ancient dwarven fortress, apparently abandoned.

Seeing that conversation is apparently fruitless, the characters descend into the subterranean part of the fortress once again.

Exploring, the characters walk along a long corridor, coming once again to door. Across from the door is a small hole, 6 inches in diameter. “Looks like a dart hole” exclaims Harrr, “More likely a ballista hole” corrects Nivean.

Nivean cautiously makes his way through the door, followed by Isaac and Dri-Kull, while Harrr and Zul seek to stuff rocks into the hole. Nivean emerges into a small room, with a smashed door on the other side. Waste and refuse are piled to one side. Nivean is exploring the trash heap, when he is struck at by a tentacle.

Emerging from the waste pile is a three tentacled horror, flailing at the characters. Battle commences. Things seem to go well for the characters, and soon the beast is on the run. However, as it crosses the threshold, the characters hear a ‘thwock’ from across the hall. The ballista bolt strikes Dri-Kull, and then Isaac.

Furious, Zul moves forward pursing the beast. The now familiar ‘thwock’ echoes from across the hall. The ballista bolt strikes Dri-Kull and Isaac again. Nivean, drawing his trusty blow dart, and drops the tentacled creature with a poison dart.

The characters advance through the broken door, carefully avoiding further ballista bots. Travelling down the hallway, the party emerges into a small room, with a set of stairs leading upwards. The characters travel upwards and emerge into a small cave… the party, grateful to see the dark sun of Athas.

The cave is midway up a canyon that drops about 50 foot to the floor, and is about 20 foot from the top. Dri-Kull peers over the edge and carefully attempts to climb down… but slips and tumbles halfway down, knocking himself unconscious, and begins to bleed out. Nivean, seeing an opportunity to rescue his friend, carefully begins to climb down, but slips and tumbles down. Battered and bruised, Nivean nonetheless is able to bandage Dri-Kull.

Up in the cave, the party realise that Dri-Kull was carrying their rope…

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Into the depths...

The party explores their new prison. Waking Zul, he is fed and healed.

Dri-Kull, examining the statutes, and realises that there is a curious recess in one, where the mouth would normally be. Excited, Dri-Kull inserts the gem stone, found in the wastes [Ed note – originally discovered by Nivean].

The stones part, revealing a spiral staircase into the depths.

The characters descend, soon experiencing a sensation not often felt on Athas – coldness.

The party descends into the darkness, walking for what seems like hours. Always downwards.

After what seems like ages the characters emerge into a chamber of about 20 feet long and 15 feet wide. It is again very well put together, but is otherwise featureless asides from a stone pillar in the centre, and a stone door on the far side. Ruined carpet lies underneath their boots.

The characters explore their new environs. The group cluster towards the door. Grunting, the party is able to lift stone door and make their way into a curving corridor.

Cautiously moving forward, the party suddenly comes to a halt when, apparently floating in front of them is a metal helm and sword… approaching, Harrr is swallowed by the gelatinous cube. A vicious fight break out – one which the characters almost don’t live to talk about. Zul is engulfed – but manages to bust his way free, and in a mighty blow, destroys the gelatinous cube.

Cautiously proceeding down the corridor the characters come across another door. Lifting it the characters make their way deeper into the complex. The characters come across a room, inside of which lies the skeletal remains of a few stout humanoids. At the very back of the room is a large mosaic that seems to be an explanation of this history of this place. A stout lever sits besides it.

Asides from the detritus, the only other thing in the room is a large blackened plant that takes up most of the right side of the room, that appears to have burrowed down from the ceiling.

Concentrating on the power of the sorcerer queen – Isaac, uses his magic to hold the plant in place.

Moving forward, Nivean and Dri-Kull examines the mural. It depicts a great underground city, of unbelievable, even mythic proportions. At first it seems to be a map, but soon Nivean and Dri-Kull realise that it is part map part history, describing the creation of the city. A much smaller section of the city is highlighted – this appears to be the newest construction. From the map,relative to the ringing mountains, the location of the city appears to be consistent with the location of Kled. Lots of detail about the map doesn’t make any sense – for example, a great forest is shown where the great alluvial sand wastes would have otherwise been.

Dri-Kull pulls the lever – runes light up across the room. The doors, now energised, raise themselves as the characters approach.

However, not all of the changes are positive – crossing the threshold of the room a blades swings down, striking Zul and Harrr.

Emboldened by their progress, the party continue their exploration. They arrive at a long corridor, filled with bodies. The characters decide to continue on, and arrive at a round room. The characters prepare to rest – but are suddenly attacked. A green slime springs at the from the darkness. A terrific fight ensures – which the characters barely survive.

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The fortress

Jengi in tow, the characters approach the fortress being occupied by the elves. Jengi makes small talk, and begins to explain her tribe. The Jura Dai were nomadic up until recently. The King of Urik had made much of the increased slave trade with Tyr, and so had sent his army deeper and deeper into the desert. This has put much pressure on the Jura-Dai, and so they have taken residence in the abandoned keep. This had raised tensions in the tribe – many of whom wish to be nomadic once more.

Jengi leads the party up the dusty road to the fortress. The structure is truly impressive – black stone reaches out of the desert, a reminder of what was once possible on Athas. The elves have made changes of their own – filthy huts have been set up on the inside, a stark contrast to the magnificence of the fortress.

Jengi leads the characters to the largest tower, where Tuga has established his throne room.

Tuga receives the characters and questions them. Tuga openly admits to capturing the druid – the oasis is a watering hole for the Urikite army, and so it must be neutralised.

After a while, Tuga tires of the conversation. He explains that he can’t very well allow the characters to leave now they know the location of the fortress, so they will be his guests until he can figure out what to do with them.

The characters are led to the other side of the tower, and down a set of spiral stairs. They move through what appear to be the lavish living quarters of Tuga-Dai, down to another set of spiral stairs. This original purpose of this room must have been a lot grander than its current purpose – a store room. The party is led into the room – inside the room stands an open crate full of what appears to be open, purple, flowers.

The room is quite majestic, but they are shoved in unceremoniously. The door is slammed quickly behind , and the party hears a bone bar slide into place. The door is made of thick wooden planks, bound together by what looks like giant hair rope. It is clearly not part of the original construction.

Inside, the room has fine stone work, far better than the rest of the fortress. The room is circular, and in the centre sits a well. On four sides of the well are four finely sculpted statues. The statues depict four dwarves – although they are different to what the party has seen in the past – they have long flowing hair that extends to their faces.

The statues are dressed in strange garb, plates of what the party guesses must depict bone plates.

Around the room are ancient runes carved carefully and precisely into the walls. The characters are not familiar with them, but the workmanship is exquisite.

Miraculously, huddled against the well, is a familiar shape. Zul lies there, clearly recovering from wounds.

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The badlands

The party leaves at dawn, travelling deeper into the badlands.

After some time, they spot an elvish sentry, however are not fast enough to catch him.

Continuing their travels, the party hears a cry for help. An elvish lady is being assaulted by 15 or so gith. The characters charge into battle defeating the gith with the help of the powerful magic the elvish lady has at her command.

After the last gith falls, the lady explains that she is Jengi, daughter of the great Tuga Dai, chieftain of the Jura Dai. Jenga is more than willing to show the party the way to the the elvish encampment.

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The Sword of Kemalock

Wearily, the party finally arrives at Keld.

Convincing the sentries that they wish to trade, the characters are allowed into the town, and are led to the headman, and ancient dwarf called Baranus.

The party is accosted by a group of concerned mothers – asking whether the party had seen their wayward children. The characters report that they have seen nothing, and continue to the headman.

Baranus is an ancient dwarf, concerned for his people. He explains that the local oasis has been poisoned by the Jura Dai. The local druid usually protects the oasis, and would not allow the oasis to be poisoned, so Baranus surmises that something has happened to the druid.

Inquiring, the characters discover that the druid is a thrikreen, and agree to search for the druid. Baranus explains that the Jura Dai have occupied an ancient fortress to the west, in the badlands. He entrusts the characters with the Sword of Kemalock, an ancient short sword with the power to heal.

Resting, the characters prepare to confront the elves.

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The road to Kled

A new day dawns, and the party licks their wounds. The ex-slaves say their farewells, and the party hitch an inix, and make their way down the dusty road to Kled.

On the way, the party spies a lonely mekilot, standing at the most rare of sights on Athas, an oasis. Recognising the mekliot as one of the beasts that was pulling the slave caravan, the characters approach, and soon spy that its twin lies dead next to it.

Cautiously, the characters approach the oasis from the rear. The oasis, normally a haven for what life ekes out an existence on Athas, is strangely quiet. No animals are apparent, end even the insects are nowhere to be seen. The party conclude that the oasis has been poisoned.

Exploring an ancient ruined arch, the characters retreat to their Inix when they see a cloud of dust down the road – a group approaches. The characters hasten down the road towards Kled.

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Like a rolling stone...

The loss of life is common as sand on Athas, with heroism as rare as water.

The party continue on. Eventually, they come to what passes as a highway on Athas. Ahead, watching the road, the party spot a trio of figures in the distance.

Approaching warily, the party realise that the trio are casing out a caravan of Urikite guards travelling along the highway.

Approaching, it becomes clear that the trio are escaped slaves. Cautiously the party make contact. The ex-slaves, Kollus, To-gahl and Marista, explain that the trouble at Kled has made water a difficult proposition. Thus they have decided to risk raiding Urikite caravans.

The party discuss for some time, and agree to team up with the ex-slaves.

Following the caravan, Dri-Kull the preserver, influences the Inix in the caravan, to stop, be obstinate, and generally more troublesome.

Frustrated and stopping for the night, the guards set up camp, set sentries and prepare for the night.

The party plots their approach.

The party decides to sneak through the guards first. Nivean, in the darkness, sneaks through the sentries, and works his way towards the caravan’s water. He gets to a point that he is not confident to continue.

Revising the plan, Isaac, rolls a small boulder to the edge of the ridge that abuts the road. The party charges in, Isaac rolling the boulder down as the first assault.

The boulder stops half way.

The party charges in to fight the 15 or so guards. A bloody battle ensues. In the fight To-ghal is killed, and the party is almost defeated.

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Into the hive...

The party lowers themselves into the darkness. The hive is cramped, but the party manages to move along.

Travelling along the passage, the party encounters their first worker wasp. In no time the party is able to destroy it, with minimal noise. They descend deeper. Worker after worker fall to their blades.

Then, the party encounters the wasp warriors. At first, the party makes good progress, until the mighty Zul is bitten by a warrior. Working as a team, the party drag Zul’s body through the hive, all the while chased by the warriors. On the way Nivean discovers a blow dart and a number of darts.

The party scramble out of the hive, working their way through a wax plug. Zul finally awakens, fending off the approaching wasp workers.

Outside, the characters sprint across the sands, to escape the wasps. Zul, trips, and is dragged into the sand. Soon, screaming, he is covered in a silk coating, ready to be fed to the wasp larvae. The rest of the party have no choice but to leave him below.

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Busy bees

The party debate what to do. On one hand an extra member of the party could be useful, on the other, Nivean had proved himself an uncooperative cannibal. Following much discussion, the group agrees to revive Nivean, but that he must prove his commitment to the survival of the group.

Waking, Nivean is uncooperative at first, but eventually begins to see how he might contribute to his own, and the groups survival.

An uneasy truce is formed, and the party continue southward.

Coming over a ridge, the party sees a series of large mud domes, twice the size of a human, rising out of a oval depression in the desert.

The party waits, and watches, and after a time, see a wasp thing enter the centre dome, a wax ball in its mandibles.

Cautiously, the group approaches one of the domes, and cut into it. A sickening smell wafts out. Inside is the desiccated remains of a human. The group scavenges what they can, and notice a wax plug on the floor.

The party decides to descend into the hive, in search of the most precious of Athasian commodities: water.

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