Eberron - Dreams of Xen'drik

Stormreach – A Fair Market Value
Session Twenty-Six

Returning to Stormreach, the city seemed much the same as when they left, only perhaps a bit smaller. Returning to their home, they found Erel waiting for them, and another surprise – a piece of floating ruin had been secured above their house, tied in place with heavy ropes. Asking Erel about it, he said the piece had floated over during a windstorm and he paid some ogres to secure it for them. It wasn’t perfect, but it would give more room to expand. In the corner, Erel pointed out another guest – Shackleton’s valet Alfred Bunter. After introductions all around, Bunter told Shackleton that his mother had sent him to bring him home again, but Shackleton said he had no intention of leaving yet, he was still enjoying himself. Bunter had already spent some time cleaning and tidying up the upstairs, so the group settled in while Malaxder took off to spend time with Andraste.

Settling in, they told Erel about the various treasures they had to sell on the market, and asked him if he knew someone that could help set them up with a buyer. He did not, but he knew that only a few Letters of Marque were given out by the Storm Lords each year, and the last ones had been bought by The Savage Company, who had recently returned from the jungles as well. Ral suggested that they use their favor they had curried with House Tharashk and see if the House could somehow arrange for both a sale and a Letter of Marque.

Upstairs, Ral and Tierel examined the floating rubble that was chained to the roof. Ral decided to get ahold of a wand of stone shaping and create a floating home for them to live in. He began poking around on the rubble, trying to envision the best way to make use of the space. Tierel, ever watchful from the roof, noticed a strange figure in the street below. She seemed to be watching the door of the shop, trying to stay unnoticed in the crowds below. She was unarmed, but she had an odd appearance about her. Summoning Baph, she leapt down into the street and tried to follow this mysterious figure. The woman disappeared quickly into the crowd, but they caught enough sight of her to recognize her again if they saw her. Baph wondered if she was a minion of the Silver-Eyed Woman, but no one knew for sure. Erel had never seen or heard of her before, though he promised to look into it.

The next day, they met with the local baron of House Tharashk, who was quite willing to help them set up a sale in exchange for their letter of credit with the house. He even managed to pull some strings and get a legitimate Letter of Marque, allowing the group to sell their goods without the huge taxes levied by the Storm Lords. After a few days of preparation, the group gathered in the back room of a local merchant with their invited guests, prepared to wow and dazzle them with tales of their adventures and perhaps raise the buying price for the treasures. Each of them dressed in their best “adventuring” gear, Shackleton in his nicest clothes with his mithral shirt on, Tierel covered in Drow tribal body painting, Malaxder in his glamour-weave robe and with his arcane sight spell making his eyes glow ominously, Anton in his shiny polished armor and his holy symbol prominently displayed, Baph in his tattered rags splashed with blood, and Ral in his normal outfit. Erel attended as well to help manage the paperwork and the various bids, and Andraste helped Anton manage the security for the meeting.

The first guest to arrive was Lady Darnys Giorello, a wealthy Gnome noble from Khorvaire known for her interest in ancient relics. She was accompanied by a group of gnomish bodyguards, all well behaved and polite. Next was Prince Wilkes, a young Karrnathi noble who was already half-drunk, and a giggling young girl attached to his arm. Third was Lionel Day, a Halfling artificer who resided in Stormreach and occasionally purchased relics for his own research and study. Next was Saeragar Marmagilda, a ruthless merchant with a bad reputation for brutally crushing his competitors through any means necessary, and a cadre of warforged bodyguards to protect him. Lastly was Lord Katanavash, the Reidran Consulate to Stormreach, who caused Ral to immediately freeze up with nervousness. Lord Katanavash was very polite, but Mal noticed some odd energies coming off of him when he interacted with people. Marmagilda lurched his massive bulk around the room, critically examining the items on display, while Lionel made friendly conversation with Malaxder.

While Prince looked around the room talking to his giggling date, Tierel spent some time talking to Marmagilda, offering her services in exchange for payment. Mistrusting her at first, Marmagilda quickly warmed up to her after seeing a kindred soul, especially one that could be as useful as her. Shackleton regaled Lionel and Lady Giorello with dramatic tales of their adventures, and Ral jumped whenever Lord Katanavash spoke to him, looking like a deer in the headlights much of the time.

Finally, the prospective buyers each made their offers, and the group took them into an adjacent room to consider them. In the end, Lord Katanavash’s offer was the most generous, but Malaxder and Anton were wary of selling the artifacts to him. Malaxder pointed out that he had been using some kind of magic on everyone he spoke to, and might have managed to affect their minds in some fashion without them knowing. Ral explained that enlightened being like Lord Katanavash were inherently magical, and the effect was probably harmless given the great beneficence of the Inspired. The others were wary of this story, but eventually they decided to sell the items to Katanavash.

Collecting the payment, Mal asked Katanavash outright what the magical effect he was doing was, and the Reidran ambassador confessed that he knew of no magic he was using consciously. Ral spoke up again with the same story as before, that the Inspired were simply great beings, and sometimes they exuded magic unconsciously. Katanavash smiled warmly, and Malaxder accepted his explanation. The ambassador presented the group with a satchel of platinum coins, and arranged for the delivery of the artifacts with the hosting merchant.

After everything was done, Andraste suggested that they go out for a celebratory dinner at the Chapterhouse. Tierel and Baph decided to go home and change first, while the others went ahead to secure a table. Approaching the house, Tierel’s keen eyes saw that the door was slightly ajar. She snuck in quietly and found that the house had been ransacked, top to bottom. Even Erel’s rooms were trashed, and their belongings were scattered everywhere. Walking in a few minutes later, Erel cursed and began cleaning up his space, trying to find what was missing. Heading upstairs, Tierel and Baph found that while their space had been trashed, nothing was actually missing of theirs. Leaving Erel and Bunter to clean up, they returned to the Chapterhouse to join the others.

Back at the Chapterhouse, the restaurant and bar were packed. A popular Halfling band was playing on stage, and few tables were available. After a short wait, during which Tierel and Baph returned and told the group about the robbery, they were finally taken to a table with a view of the stage. Walking by, they saw Prince Wilkes once again, who threw them a friendly salute. Settling into their places, Shackleton suddenly felt a chill up his spine, and turned towards the door.

There, walking in like they owned the place, was the Savage Company, led by Jackson Savage himself. Jackson saw him in the same moment, and the group began sauntering towards them. As Ironsides and Tara Hawk moved to flank them, Anton activated his ring and donned his armor, while Tierel vanished into the crowd. Shackleton and Savage exchanged a few terse words, while Ral and Mal watched Endel Sorra and Saavedra Sevenleaf, waiting for signs of spellcasting. Finally, Savage uttered some insult and Shackleton could take no more, pulling his sword and leaping at him. The two began immediately tumbling around the restaurant, leaping over tables and vaulting off walls, their blades flashing like lightning. Anton turned and extended his hand to Ironsides, and when the warforged accepted it Anton activated his gloves of thunder, sending electricity surging through his opponent. Tara Hawk grew a pair of powerful claws and moved into an offensive stance against Anton, while Tierel pulled her dagger and prepared to stab Jackson as he and Shackleton tumbled by. Suddenly, she felt a dagger tip at her throat, and the changling Tally whispered a warning into her ear from behind. Baph prepared to psionically attack Jackson, but found he was somehow hampered by Endel Sorra’s influence. Malaxder watched Saavedra carefully, but the elf seemed to be watching the battle impassively, making no action to cast or use any magic.

As Shackleton tumbled around the room, he was impressed to find that while Jackson was not skilled enough to land a blow on him, neither was he skilled enough to hit him back. While they danced around the restaurant, Shackleton noticed a familiar figure out of the corner of his eye – The Silver-Eyed Woman, sitting at the end of the bar past a group of dwarves. Turning to avoid a close strike by Jackson, when he looked around again seconds later she had vanished. Tierel, meanwhile, spotted the mysterious unarmed woman she had seen in the street a few days ago, leaning against the wall at the opposite end of the bar, watching the battle unfold with everyone else. She went to move towards her, but found her path blocked by Anton and his battle with Ironsides and Tara Hawk.

As suddenly as it had come, the desire to fight left Shackleton and Jackson, and they stopped their rapid fire attacks. Looking around at the chaos, they saw that while some patrons had run for cover and the employees were summoning the guard, others were greatly enjoying the show. Putting his sword away, Jackson called to the rest of the Savage Company and the group made their way quickly out of the Chapterhouse, leaving just as the Stormreach Guard was coming in. Malaxder and Anton stepped forward to speak to the guards, using diplomacy and a little bit of gold to smooth the situation over with everyone. The Halfling band, who had never stopped playing the whole time, began a more mellow set of songs, and events in the tavern finally began to settle down.

Flanked by Baph and Ral, Tierel finally pushed her way past everyone else and cornered the mysterious woman by the bar. The woman introduced herself as Lakshmi, and told them she had information for them, and a warning that they were being manipulated. She confessed she could not share her information in public, but admitted she had been following them through the city and asked if they would be willing to meet her later. Tierel did not trust her, but agreed to allow her to present her case to them the next day at Erel’s shop.

Finishing speaking to the proprietors, Malaxder came back to the table, which was now overflowing with drinks and food bought by various admirers in the crowd, including a very nice bottle of wine complements of Prince Wilkes. While Baph downed the wine, Mal told the group that he felt that some kind of magical effect was used to start that fight. Shackleton agreed, and told them how he and Jackson both suddenly lost the urge to fight immediately after the Silver-Eyed Woman vanished from the crowd. Tierel told them about Lakshmi and her warning, and the agreed it would be good to meet Lakshmi and see what she had to say.

The next day, Lakshmi appeared in the shop precisely when she said she would, and told them that they were being manipulated by agents of something called The Dreaming Dark. When they asked about the Silver-Eyed Woman, she told them that she was definitely one of those agents, as was Lord Katanavash. Ral spoke up then, saying that he recognized her for what she was – a kalashtar, a being possessed by evil spirits. Ral explained that the kalashtar were known for horrible acts of terrorism in Reidra, and were considered to be monsters. Lakshmi patiently explained that Ral had been misinformed, and there was much he did not know about the world. Mal agreed with her, because he had never had a good feeling about the Silver-Eyed Woman anyway. Ral asked her why she thought Lord Katanavash was in league with them, and she told them that it was Katanavash who sent the thugs to ransack the house. Erel commented that nothing seemed to be missing, including some relatively expensive reagents of his, and Lakshmi told them that Katanavash was only looking for one thing – the Dream Stones, which they were wisely carrying on their persons.

Before leaving, Lakshmi asked them if they would aid her in searching the jungle for a lost ruin she had been sent to find. They told her they would consider it, and she gratefully told them she could not ask for more than that.

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Menechtarun – Epilogue
Session Twenty-Five

Walking back out of the tower, the group began their trek into the desert, this time with their full magical protections active. They got only a few short steps, however, before the desert sands opened up and the great dragon Sunataderapophis appeared before them. He regarded them warily for a moment, as if unsure of what he was seeing. Finally, he said he was surprised to see Ral, and to see that Malaxder was alive once again. When pressed, he said that the Prophecy had said that Ral would not survive and Mal would remain a ghost. The party confessed their ignorance of the Prophecy, and the dragon refused to speak on it anymore, although his words haunted them later.

He demanded the return of the Arcane Shard, and of his price for it’s use – the statue of Montu Chezzak to add to his “collection of conquerers.” The party turned over both gladly, and also surrendered the epic rings that had allowed them to survive the battle. The dragon collected these carefully, securing the shard again beneath his scales. He then bid them farewell, and disappeared back beneath the sands, to return to his city and contemplate the Prophecy.

Returning to Al Shiraz, the group found it had changed dramatically in their absence. The walls seemed less sturdy, and the gate was guarded by a single sleeping guard. Stikuchi, looking much older and frailer, met them and confirmed that they had only been gone a few days, less time than they had experienced themselves. As promised, she presented Tierel with the Dream Stone, and asked if they still wanted to meet with the Shiek. Baph definitely did, as he wanted another bottle of the Shiek’s fine wines, and they made their way through the seemingly transformed city.

As they walked, they saw that the buildings were far fewer, the tents smaller and less elaborate, and the Sheik’s palace was entirely gone. In it’s place stood a low ranch, dozens of herd animals gathered in the middle around a small well. The Sheik’s children worked lazily around the ranch, tending to the animals and staying out of the scorching sun.

Walking along, they passed a stone monument, carved with an image of a armored figure riding a sandworm. Anton recognized the image as being Amahapar, and asked Stikuchi about it. She explained that Amhapar Nadeeha was a desert paladin who lived more than 100 years ago, and who was a great hero to the desert peoples. When they said that they had met Amhapar, Stikuchi nodded sagely and told them that the people believed that Amhapar’s spirit still wandered the desert, helping those in need. When they told her of rescuing Amhapar from the evils of Dendera, she seemed to disbelieve them.

Making their way into the Shiek’s home, they entered a low building, smelling of animals and dried fruits. Simple wooden furniture filled the small space, and paintings and other bits of art covered the walls. Looking closer, they saw that some of the images depicted were things they saw themselves – the room of sages, floating on magical platforms; the chamber filled with board games, with the players stooped over examining their pieces; even the throne room lined on both sides with advisers, generals and magicians. As they looked around in growing disbelief, the Sheik entered the room. He no longer appeared as a quasi-magical being, but as a simple man wearing working clothes and covered in dust. He amicably shook hands with each of them, delivering to Baph the bottle of fine wine he promised. When they asked about Makarim, he told them he’d married her off to a trader in Ghammas, years ago. After a bit of chatting, he took his leave again, citing his need to attend to his herds and the laziness of his children. Stikuchi escorted them out once again, and they finally took their leave of the desert city, disturbed by the transformation they had witnessed.

With no further business in the city or in the desert, they took to the road again and made their way back to Stormreach.

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Menechtarun – The Mirage Tower
Session Twenty-Four

Steeling themselves for the journey into the desert, the group took their leave of Stikuchi, Amhapar and the Sheik. Stikuchi gave them potions of hydrate, which would help them shake off the effects of dehydration and sunstroke they were going to be experiencing. Looking back at the city one last time, they took off their magical gear and walked unprotected into the desert, hoping to find the Mirage Tower.

The walk at first was not too difficult. Certainly, it was hot and dry and the sun baked them mercilessly, but it seemed they were going to survive easier than they thought. By the end of the first day, however, Malaxder and Ral were nearly collapsing with exhaustion, and Ral thought he could make out the tower in the distance. After another day of hiking through the desert heat, Tierel and Baph could see it as well, and it was taking much of Ral’s and Anton’s magic to keep them alive but still on the very edge of death.

Finally, after almost two days of walking in the scorching heat, the tower appeared before them, shimmering into existence like a heat wave. They immediately took their potions and rejuvenated themselves, quickly shaking off the effects of the desert heat. Searching the outside of the tower they found no obvious entrances, but Ral approached it and simply willed an entrance to appear, and one did. Stepping inside, they beheld a vast wasteland stretching out in front of them, clearly larger than the space inside the tower should hold. Off in the distance, the opposite wall could be seen, very far away. Grouping together, they began to trek across the space within, making their way as quickly as possible.

As they moved across the wasteland, Mal fell into a sand pit, sucked down under by the loose sands. He shifted into his ethereal form and drifted back up, unaffected thanks to still being a ghost. The group tied themselves together to avoid losing anyone else, and continued across the sands. The more they traveled, the more traps they encountered, and they seemed to be making little progress towards the far wall. Looking behind them, the door and wall had disappeared, and nothing remained but empty space and open sky. Ral took it upon himself to sprout some wings and fly up into the sky, searching for a limit to the space they were in. From this vantage point, he was finally able to see that the room was a mirage itself, and was much larger than it seemed. With this viewpoint he was also able to spot the sand traps much more easily, and the group finally made their way to the opposite wall, and a staircase headed up.

On the next level, a powerful sandstorm was blowing constantly, making visibility nearly nothing. Malaxder was nearly blown away by the powerful winds, and the group remained tied together to keep from losing anyone. As they pushed through the storm, the encountered more sand creature patrolling the level, unaffected by the powerful winds and blowing sand. They managed to avoid them for the most part, and finally made their way to the next staircase and the next level of the tower.

Peeking up into this level, they found themselves surrounded by massive piles of treasure. Gold, gems, magic items, works of art and statuary, all piled higher than Anton’s head on either side of them. Up ahead, they beheld a tremendous balcony, looking out across the desert. The view seemed to be much higher than the three levels of the tower indicated, a sure sign of magic at work. And standing in front of the balcony, ready for their assault, was Montu Chezzak. The sorcerer tried one more time to convince them to join his efforts and to conquer the desert by his side, but they refused, and the battle was joined.

Montu summoned more powerful sand knights to his defense, while Shackleton charged through them and knocked them over. Malaxder stood back and dropped his most powerful spells on Montu and his guardians, while Baph blasted Montu with mental power. Anton and Tierel advanced, Anton drawing the attention of the sand knights while Tierel tried to sneak around behind Montu to deliver the telling blow with the Arcane Shard given to them by the dragon. As Anton approached, Montu cast a scorching ray at him, which only barely missed. As the spell came spiraling in, Anton realized it was MUCH hotter than he expected, and he was disturbed to find that the heat scorched his face a bit – clearly, Montu had some ability to increase the power of his spells, possibly even overcoming the fire resistance granted by the rings the dragon had given them.

Ral fired spells and powers at the sand knights, while Anton and Arsen crossed swords with them and Malaxder focused on trying to dispel Montu’s magical protections. Montu teleported around the battle, always moving to the most protected position he could find behind his sandy constructs. He continued to fire terrible scorching blasts of flame, the heat of which was clearly felt past the protections granted by the dragon. However it was not enough to stop them, and they finally cornered him against one of his treasure piles. Shackleton knocked him to the ground, and Tierel vaulted up and over the piles, landing on him and striking him a solid blow with the Arcane Shard. The shard activated, drawing all of her power out of her in a huge surge and sending her tumbling backward. Still flat on his back, Montu grabbed the shard to pull it off of him but it was already too late – in a matter of seconds, he was frozen forever as a statue of glass, clutching the shard to his chest, and the battle was ended.

Exploring the treasure room, the group found hundreds of valuable treasures, relics from the age of giants, powerful magic items and heaps upon heaps of coins – a thousand years of plunder from all of Montu’s campaigns. Malaxder found an especially valuable treasure – a ring of wishes, which he used to wish himself back to life again. Gathering up all the treasure their bags of holding could store and collecting the glass statue of Montu Chezzak, they walked back out of the tower and into the desert once more.

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Menechtarun – Battle in Al Shiraz
Session Twenty-Three

Returning to Al Shiraz, the group found that the city was on high alert – scouts had reported that Montu Chezzak’s forces were moving towards the city, and would arrive in less than a day. Meeting with Amhapar, Stikuchi and the Sheik, they decided to leave the defense of the city to the Sheik’s children, and try to take this opportunity to attack Montu himself when his forces were engaged with their assault. The group spent the evening preparing themselves for the battle, and the following morning found them waiting pensively for the attack to come.

When it came, it came suddenly – the wind kicked up fiercely and the sky darkened as a massive cloud of sand and dust rose up from the desert, towering hundreds of feet above the city, and then just as suddenly slammed down to earth, rushing towards the city walls like a terrible wave. Stikuchi stood in the middle of the city, focusing all her magic on holding back the dust storm, and finally driving it around and over the city walls, keeping everyone within from being bowled over and flensed alive by the terrible force of the attack. Shortly afterward, the sounds of battle began coming from all sides of the city as the defenders engaged Montu’s sand-form constructs and Harssaf allies. Taking this as their cue, the group exited the city over the walls and began to search the battle field for Montu himself.

Moving across the desert outside, they found that the sands had been reshaped into hills and berms to funnel possible offensive strikes into groups of ambushing sand creatures. As they watched, the desert sands took the shape of huge scorpions, dire lions, giant lizards and other creatures, but the group used a few potions of invisibility they had to safely bypass the worst of the patrols.

Finally, moving beyond the controlled chaos of the battlefield and out beyond the city, they came across Montu himself, hovering crosslegged above the sands, his eyes closed, and the dust from the ground swirling into magical patterns around him as he concentrated on maintaining his spells and sandy constructs. The trip across the battlefield had used up their invisibility potions, and as they approached Montu opened his eyes, dropping to his feet and summoning half a dozen sandy constructs from the ground in between them. These humanoid figures positioned themselves to guard Montu, deadly blades of superheated glass appearing in their hands. As the group moved in for the attack, they slashed at Shackleton as he numbly slipped in among them, knocking a few down as he passed and putting himself right next to Montu. Tierel slipped in quietly as Anton invoked the power of Dol Dorn and charged the sand knights, while Baph and Mal focused their powers on the battle.

Montu lashed out with a pair of fireballs just as he had in the Valley of the Marru, but was shocked to see the firey blasts wash over the group, leaving them entirely unaffected – the dragon’s gift was working, and the magic rings had made them immune to fire. As the battle progressed, Montu tried in vain to use his fire magic to damage them, while the sand knights moved to defend their master. Finally, unable to even touch them with his magic, Montu shifted into sand form and flew away from the battle with all haste, leaving his sandy constructs to be beaten down by Anton and Arsen.

Though they were disappointed by Montu’s escape, they had saved the day by driving him back – the sand walls and creatures collapsed again and the sandstorm raging around the city vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Making their way back to the city, they told the Shiek and Stikuchi what had happened. Stikuchi told them that Montu had undoubtedly retreated to his fasthold – The Mirage Tower. If they were to defeat him, it would have to be there. When they asked how to find the tower, Stikuchi explained that the tower wasn’t in a particular place, but there was a way to find it – they had to walk unprotected into the desert, and let the desert consume them. Before they died, they would finally see the Mirage Tower. Left with no other option, the group steeled themselves for this final task, and for the battle to come.

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Menechtarun – The City of Glass
Session Twenty-Two

Receiving the map and the shard from Amhapar, the group departed directly for the City of Glass, hoping that the great dragon could give them some insight into how to defeat Montu Chezzak. Shackleton led them through the desert sands, following the ancient landmarks and the clues given to him by Amhapar, until finally they stood in the spot where the city should be. All around them, the desert sands twisted in the emptiness, showing no signs of the ancient ruin. But when Tierel held the glass shard up to her eyes, she was suddenly able to see the towering city walls in the light of the setting sun. When they grew closer, the city itself suddenly appeared like a shimmering heat haze, the last rays of the setting sun refracted through the glass walls.

As the sun went down, the group cautiously made their way into the city, wary of the unknown terrors that might lurk within. As they traveled the ancient streets, they noted that many of the features of the city still remained, but all was turned to glass. Giants, elf slaves, animals, plants, strange vehicles and buildings – all were now statues of blackened and sand-scraped glass. Giant figures stood frozen in running positions, or cowering from some terror above them. Others sat inside the glass houses, still feasting on dishes that had turned into glass with their eaters, and drinking from glasses that had contained no liquid for millennia.

As they approached a small crossroads, Ral stopped to examine some plants in a small garden that had been petrified, their brittle leaves snapping easily off in his hand. Looking up, he saw three gigantic figures moving through the darkness towards the group, one from each of the roads leading to their position. Finding themselves trapped, they fought bravely against the animated statues of the ancient giants. The giant’s hands were broken and cracked, making their attacks that much more dangerous from the sharpness of the broken glass. Anton took a wicked hit from one of the giants, laying open his side and nearly felling him. After finally defeating the giant statues, Anton healed himself with holy power and the group continued their explorations.

Moving further into the city, the group found themselves walking along a curved street, the houses above them decorated with odd glass statues and gargoyles. Mal was distracted by the walls as they walked past them, noticing that the pattern of light reflected through the broken and chipped glass had a familiar pattern to it. Stopping to examine it, he realized that the patterns constantly moving through the glass resembled Dragonmarks. Ral suggested that perhaps the city itself had some connection to the draconic Prophecy, which caused Mal to reel back away from the walls, warning the others about the dangers of trying to understand too much about the Prophecy. Suddenly, the group was set upon again by more glass giants, now accompanied by glass mephits who used their breath weapons to heal their larger allies. The battle was hard fought once again, but the group prevailed, shattering the statues and driving off the mephits.

As they moved towards the middle of the city, they found a large open courtyard, filled with blowing sand and dust devils. Overhead, the moons shone brightly enough to give a clear view across the empty space. As they began to enter it, the ground itself rose up, and a massive dragon’s head the size of a house emerged from beneath the ground. As the great dragon Sunataderapophis stepped out of the earth, it closed neatly beneath him, and the massive being regarded the little intruders to his domain. Mal stepped forward and politely addressed the dragon, presenting the glass shard and apologizing for the intrusion into his city. The dragon collected the shard, and in a voice like the rumbling earth asked Mal what boon the Asherati had come to ask of him. Mal told him they had come on behalf of all the desert to ask the dragon’s aid in defeating Montu Chezzak.

The dragon sat back and considered this for a moment. As he thought, he turned his head side to side, examining the large buildings on either side of him, apparently studying the dragonmarks as they shifted and changed on the glass around him. Finally, he declared that it was apparently time, and agreed to aid the group. From his massive scales he produced a large flat violet stone, sparkling from within with power. He told them that this was a Shard of Arcane Endowment, and that if one among them that could use magic were to strike Montu Chezzak with it, it would turn him to glass just as the giants of the city had been. However, they would need to get close to him to use it, and land a solid blow for it to have effect. Mal graciously thanked the dragon for this gift, and the dragon informed him it was a loan, not a gift, and he expected it returned. He also informed them that the price of this gift was that they were to bring the remains of Montu Chezzak back to him, along with the Shard.

Looking around at his companions, Mal felt emboldened to ask for another favor. Addressing the mighty dragon again, he asked if there was anything else he could give that would aid them in getting the prize the dragon wanted. The mighty beast narrowed his eyes at this request, but after considering it for a moment reached back beneath his scales and produced six rings, casting them unceremoniously onto the sands between them. He told them these rings would protect them from the worst of Montu’s magic and perhaps even the odds in their battle. However, he said, bringing his massive head down to their level and fixing them with his powerful gaze, the rings were very valuable and must also be returned when their task was done. His gaze seemed to linger on Tierel for a moment, and then he turned and dove back into the sands, vanishing like a stone thrown into a pond. Their audience at an end, the group quickly left the haunted city and made their way back to Al Shiraz once again.

GM Commentary:

Montu Chezzak was far more powerful than the PCs, as was ably demonstrated in the battle in the Valley of the Marru. The rings the dragon gave them were Epic Rings of Fire Immunity, which would allow them to shrug off the worst of his magic (including the dual fireballs that killed Malaxder), but Montu also had a feat that would allow him to damage creatures with immunity to fire. This meant that the group would be mostly safe from the worst of his magic, but I could really pull out the stops with Montu and have him use his most powerful abilities without having to worry too much about killing everyone first turn. When I told them the market value of the rings (240,000 gp), Tierel actively considered trying to find a way to keep them. I warned her that would give her a dangerous enemy, and she decided it wasn’t worth it. :)

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Menechtarun – City of the Damned
Session Twenty-One

Returning to Al Shiraz, the group consulted immediately with the Sheik, telling him and his remaining generals everything that had transpired in Ghammas. They noted that the Asherati had not returned, nor had Amhapar. The Sheik told them that the Asherati all left at once, rather suddenly, and nothing had been heard from them since. He worried that their underground cities had been overrun by the Harssaf, who were their old enemies, but he worried even more that Amhapar himself had either fallen in battle or been taken prisoner. The loss of Amhapar would be disastrous for all desert dwellers.

The group also asked the Sheik about Malaxder, and whether one of his advisors or court magicians could perhaps allow them to speak to his shade, which seemed to be following them. The Sheik took them to yet another room in the palace, this one filled with scholars, wizards and mystics of all kinds. The desks and tables they sat at seemed to be constantly floating around the room, each on their own level of gravity, while the various servants and messengers stumbled from level to level, adjusting their balance carefully as they stepped from table to table. Moving up to one of the sages, a tall green-skinned man, the Sheik addressed him in an unfamiliar tongue before turning to the group and announcing that he could help them.

They followed the odd green-skinned sage outside the palace walls, to a small garden within the city. There, he cast a ritual spell around a candle, and after a short time Malaxder appeared within the light cast by the candle. He told them what he had endured since his death, and told them he would follow them ethereally and try to continue helping them. He was slowly getting better at forcing himself to become material, and he would try to participate as much as possible.

Returning to the palace, the Sheik asked them if they would go into the desert and try to determine what had become of Amhapar. The absence of the Asherati was disturbing enough, and if anyone could bring them back to Al Shiraz as allies, he could. The next day, the group left to try and find the surface markers for the city of Ansena, and perhaps find a way into the city. Only a few short hours after heading into the desert, they encountered Ahnkeru, Amhapar’s ashworm mount, who seemed to want them to follow her. Taking the hint, they set off into the wastes with Ahnkeru in the lead.

After a few days travel, Anton realized they were heading in the direction of a dangerous ruin they had been warned to avoid – the ruined temple city of Dendera. As they grew closer to the cyclopean ruins, it became more and more clear that Ahnkeru was leading them directly there. Anton immediately cast his protective magics, while the sky overheard darkened at their approach.

Coming closer to the city, the air around them seemed to grow darker, and Anton’s magical light grew dim as they crossed the gigantic threshold. Within the city it was constantly black as night, and odd noises could be heard all around. Storm informed Ral that she could almost pick up the scent of Amhapar, but it seemed to be vanishing and reappearing at random, which she couldn’t explain. As they passed though a hallway lined with massive stone pillars, Tierel and Baph noticed that the carvings on the pillars depicted massive sacrifices, terrible atrocities perpetrated by the ancient giants. Some of them still seemed to have blood on them, somehow, and as they grew closer the sound of weeping could be heard.

Investigating the weeping sounds, they were suddenly ambushed by a trio of demons, the skin flayed from their bodies by a constant halo of sand that scraped the flesh from anyone they got close to, as well as their own regenerating bodies. The group fought back with all their strength, but the demons were powerful as well, and the battle was very difficult. Finally striking them down, the group gathered their courage and continued into the ruins.

As they went further in, more strange smells and sounds attracted them into more traps, and the sense of terrible evil grew stronger and stronger. Demons ambushed them repeatedly, their unholy power making them harder and harder to fight off. Mal remembered that the ancient Giants used to sacrifice their elf slaves to power their magics, especially the epic spells that allowed them to lock the plane of Dal Quor permanently away from the material plane. He and Anton both suggested that this city must have been a nexus of those sacrifices, and the evil taint had not lessened over the millennia, continuing to attract the most foul creatures from across the worlds.

Storm picked up Amhapar’s scent once again, and they followed it to a small ziggurat. On top, a large demon had placed Amhapar’s unconscious form on an altar, and was clearly preparing to sacrifice him, while two other demons guarded the foul ceremony. The group quickly advanced on the unholy rite, Anton, Tierel and Arsen distracting the guards while Baph focused the full power of his mind on the leader, shattering him with a single powerful thought and saving Amhapar. With the leader down, the remaining demons were easily dispatched and the group took Amhapar’s still unconscious form and fled from the terrible city with all speed.

Escaping from the city, they traveled as far as they could into the surrounding desert, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the evil within as possible. After some rest and a bit of healing magic, Amhapar recovered well enough to express his eternal gratitude, and tell them a bit of what happened. He explained that he left his people to wander the desert when a political shift happened within the Asherati community. Several members of his order were murdered, and the people turned against them, driving them out. Only Amhapar survived. He knew that something terrible had happened to his people somehow, but he did not have the strength to fight it off alone.

When Montu Chezzak returned, Stikuchi told him they would probably need to consult with the great dragon that laired in the City of Glass. The dragon normally broached no visitors, but Amhapar knew his people had a map to the City, and a token that might allow it’s bearer to get an audience with the ancient beast. When he returned to the underground city, he found the map and token, but he also discovered that the city leaders were possessed by fiends, which explains the actions taken against his order. Unable to simply leave, he attacked the fiends who summoned the Asherati warriors back to the city to defend them. During the battle, Amhapar convinced the other Asherati of the threat, and the people united to drive the demons out. The battle was successful, but Amhapar himself fell in the conflict and was drug away from the city by the demons, who no doubt planned to sacrifice him to some dark power.

Reaching into his pack, he produced a small leather roll. Unfurling it, he explained the map to Shackleton and passed the token to Anton – a shard of glass, supposedly taken from the walls of the city itself. The map would led them to the city’s location in the desert, and the shard would allow them to see the ancient ruin, and perhaps gain an audience with the great dragon Sunataderapophis.

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Menechtarun – Malaxder’s Ghost Story

When the fireballs sprang from Montu Chezzak’s open hands, Mal knew he was in trouble. A moment later, he was dead. He stood in the Ethereal Plane, looking at the events taking place in the temple in the Valley of the Marru. He watched as Ral approached him, wand in hand, and managed to push some positive energy between the planes. After that, the barriers between worlds became too strong, and he could no longer see out. Looking down, he found himself alone between the worlds, with only his own dead body as company.

After several hours, Mal managed to summon the strength of will to peer into the material plane again. He found that the temple was now swarming with Marru, and more were pouring out of the dimensional rift where they were “stored”. No sign remained of either his allies or of Montu Chezzak, but the Marru seemed entirely unaware of his presence. Looking around all he could, he finally decided to try and leave the Valley and head back to Al Shiraz. Unable to bear leaving his poor body behind, he shouldered the heavy burden and began to walk.

He found several unusual things during his long trip back to the city. Firstly, while his body had weight, he never got tired while carrying it. He never felt the need to eat or sleep, and the heat of the desert didn’t bother him at all. He could easily pass through solid objects, which meant as long as he knew where to go, he could just walk in a straight line as long as he wanted.

While it was convenient, being a ghost wasn’t all fun. When he arrived in Al Shiraz, he was able to easily pass through the city walls, and the guards didn’t notice him at all. However, no one else noticed him either. For a Halfling like Mal, this was hellish. He spent a great deal of time wandering the city, constantly trying to force himself to become material. When he finally did so, the poor cleaning woman who saw his horribly burned form in the empty tavern nearly passed out from fright. When Mal realized he was officially haunting someone, he set aside his efforts to become solid and took to sulking in the ethereal plane.

His spirits lifted one day when he saw his allies come walking back into the city. He tried to follow them into the Sheik’s palace, only to find that the palace was apparently warded against astral intrusion and he was unable to set foot inside. After a time, they came out again and left in the company of several dozen soldiers, back into the desert. He followed the group across the sands, unable to match their pace but not having to spend any time resting which let him catch up each night. When they approached the city of Ghammas, he followed them astrally while they fought Montu Chezzak’s sandy constructs and his Harssaf allies. Finally, the battle won, he spent the evening lurking in their quarters, lonely for some companionship. He managed to make himself material long enough to wake Tierel who responded with her usual grace, but he vanished almost immediately. Heartened by this achievement, the next morning he once again forced his way into the real world, this time in front of everyone, but still only for a moment. As he listened, the group promised to return to Al Shiraz and find a way to communicate with him, and possibly bring him back. His hopes restored, he gladly followed them back through the desert as they returned to the city.

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Menechtarun – Battle in Ghammas
Session Twenty

Fleeing the mountains, the group made their way back through the desert to Al Shiraz. One evening as they rested, Anton brought up some interesting points: they learned from Ilivolin Hunrrett that Tierel’s mother abandoned them in the deep caves nearly twenty years ago. However, Ghyrra Khan said that Melraevel had left for the desert only a few years prior to their arrival in Pra’Xirek, significantly less than twenty. And Tierel was only 28 years old, meaning that her mother had done these things only a few short years after escaping from Morgrave University. All in all, it seemed that the timelines weren’t matching up. Arsen suggested that it might be an effect of the Traveler’s Curse, but the others were less sure. Clearly, something inexplicable was going on.

Returning to Al Shiraz, they found the Sheik once again holding court in his chambers. They immediately noted that the Asherati commanders that had been present were now gone, and Amahapar was also absent from the proceedings. The Sheik seemed once again intensely bored, and pleased to see the group arrive for the distraction they would bring. When they gave their report on the corruption that had overcome the Drow, his brow furrowed in concern. He promised he would spread the word to the rest of the desert that the Drow of the Skyraker Claws could not be trusted, and then asked them if they would undertake another task for him.

The city of Ghammas was a vital point in the desert, being a natural source of clean water and a strongly defended fortress. Ghammas and Al Shiraz were allies, but they had not heard from the city in some time, and the silence was concerning to the Sheik. He knew that the city would be a strong staging ground for Montu Chezzak’s forces to move closer to Al Shiraz, and he did not want it to fall. To support his neighbor, he wanted to send a platoon of his troops led by his daughter Makarim, and he asked the group to join her on the trip and make sure the leaders of Ghammas understood the threat that Montu Chezzak presented. After a short time resting and preparing for the journey, they met Makarim and headed back into the desert.

Approaching the city, it seemed nearly abandoned from a distance. No sentries walked the thick walls, and the gates were closed but unattended. All around the city were scattered stones of various sizes in an attempt to prevent a charging mount from getting a clear run at the walls. Tierel snuck as close as she could to try and find out what was happening, and was unable to spot any kind of presence within the walls. Returning to the group to give her report, the whole party was suddenly ambushed by the desert sands themselves – animated mounds of sand leapt up and attempted to engulf them whole. The party easily beat them back, but it was apparent the element of surprise was gone – in a matter of moments, a massive sandstorm appeared above the city, and a spiraling tornado dropped down into the middle of the town.

As the sandstorm spread from the city, Anton told Makarim to direct her troops around the opposite side of the city, and they would come from the other direction and attempt to break through the front gate. Being made of wood and metal, Baph could disintegrate it with his mental powers. Makarim led the troops around the city and the group made their way directly towards the walls, trying to move as stealthily as possible.

As they approached the city, the sands themselves seemed to come to life again, this time taking the shape of creatures and monsters. They were assailed by attacks from giant sand lizards, scorpions made of dust, and even a pair of massive sandy lions as they reached the walls themselves. Their magic and resources running low, they finally made their way to the doors and Baph easily disintegrated the hinges, allowing them entrance to the city.

Moving into the city, they found it strangely empty. Listening to the sounds of battle elsewhere, they moved carefully towards the center of town where they had seen the now absent funnel cloud and where they knew the well to be. Reaching the center, they were set upon once again by Montu Chezzak’s Harssaf minions, who fought viciously to bring them down, blasting them with sand and fire and repeated blows from their curved kukri blades. Anton channeled his divine power into his blade, while Arsen ducked among them distracting and harrying them at every turn. Baph and Ral kept to the back, using their powers and spells to hammer away at the group while Tierel snuck up on the Harssaf and planted her daggers in their back. Finally, they defeated the Harssaf champion and struck down his retainers, at the same time Makarim’s forces finally got the upper hand against the sandy constructs they were facing across the city.

Exploring the city, they quickly found the remaining citizens imprisoned within. They explained that Montu’s forces had come down upon them suddenly, many coming right over the walls or appearing unexpectedly from within the city. They slew most of the defenders and imprisoned the others, overwhelming them and taking the city almost without a fight. Montu’s Harssaf allies made off with the city’s treasures, and Montu himself fled when the attack began. The city had little to offer the group aside from a bed for the night, so they took their rest before returning to Al Shiraz.

That night, Tierel woke from her sleep to see the ghostly form of Malaxder staring down at her. Grabbing her dagger, Mal suddenly realized she could see him, but when he went to speak he vanished from sight. The next morning, Tierel told the group what she’d seen. They tried speaking to Malaxder, and he appeared again for just a moment, unable to maintain his physical form. Knowing that the Sheik had access to greater magics than they, they decided to return to Al Shiraz as quickly as possible and see if someone there could make extended contact with Malaxder’s shade.

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Menechtarun – Desert Drow
Session Nineteen

Returning to Al Shiraz, they met again with the Sheik and his commanders. They were seated on the floor in a long room, with dozens of beings from all across the desert gathered together and loudly discussing the problem of Montu Chezzak. The Sheik looked utterly bored, and was pleased to see the group arrive and bring the arguing to an end. They reported what they had found in the Valley of the Marru, their battle with Montu and the apparent death of Malaxder, and their solution to the problem of the Marru. All present agreed that this was a relief, but the threat still remained to the free people of the desert. The Sheik suggested that, while there were many allies present, more hands would not be objectionable. Montu would undoubtedly seek out new allies since losing the Marru, and they would have to do likewise.

Examining the map, the Sheik remembered that Teirel had wanted to find out more about the Drow of the desert. While they were few in number, he did say that those Drow that remained lived in or near the Skyraker Claws, a mountain range north of the desert bordering the ocean beyond. If the Drow could be convinced of the threat, they could prove valuable allies against Montu Chezzak. The Sheik pointed out that no one had heard much from them in many years, but if Tierel had some connection to them then there was no one better suited to be an emissary. The group agreed, and after taking some rest and re-supplying they made their way north to the mountains.

Exploring the mountains, the group found them to be mysteriously lifeless. Few plants grew here, and no animals or insects could be found at all. The heat was less oppressive, but the barrenness of the area made it seem nearly as bad as the desert, if not worse. After quite a bit of searching, they came across a small cave with a chill breeze blowing from it. Ral announced that this was very odd, air this cold coming from a vent heading underground. Shackleton slipped inside and announced that it was free of traps or residents, and might very well house the Drow if they still lived.

The group made their way through the caves, finding that they extended deep underground. The deeper they went, the colder and darker it grew. As they traveled they encountered a swarm of ice mephitis, and further down they were ambushed by horrible creatures known as Chraals, humanoid creatures made of black ice that burned from within with cold fire.

After defeating the Chraals, Tierel spotted Drow watching them from the darkness, given away by a ghostly blue light shining from their eyes. She approached them carefully, asking as politely as possible if they would be willing to talk, and possibly give their aid to the battle against Montu Chezzak. She also explained that she was searching for her mother, Melraevel Pilarkah, and asked if the Drow had seen her. After a few tense moments, the sentries agreed to take the group to speak to the Matron and plead their case to her personally.

Entering the camp, the area was entirely lightless. The Drow needed no light to see by, so the group had to light torches to follow their “hosts.”, with the exception of Baph. As they entered the encampment, the drow glared at them through the freezing cold, seemingly unaffected by the temperature. Many of the Drow had the strange glowing eyes that the scouts had, and the whole clan seemed to be fairly few in number.

They were led into the presence of Ilivolin Hunrret, the Matron in command of the small encampment. The room she was in was dominated by a tremendous hole, leading deep into the earth. Anton sensed a terrible power here, and the cold and darkness throughout the entire cave system seemed to be emanating directly from the hole. The Matron seemed very interested in Tierel, and when Tierel asked about her mother Melraevel, Ilivolin explained that Melraevel had led them all down beneath the mountain in search of power, more than 20 years ago. When Melraevel discovered the source of the power, they claimed she fled in terror, being too weak to take the power for herself. Ilivolin, once Melraevel’s lieutenant, was now the leader of a new clan, and they had taken upon themselves the power of their dark master. But, she said, their master had insisted that to gain his true favor she needed to hunt down Melraevel and sacrifice her. Her eyes glowing with power, she declared that Melraevel’s daughter would probably do just as well.

As the Matron and her rogues moved in to attack, and the group fought them off. Ilivolin fired blasts of icy magic from her hands, seemingly empowered by the terrible being trapped beneath the earth near her. The group cut her and her assassins down quickly, and as each died their souls were visibly drawn into the hole, feeding the rakshasa rajah trapped there. Realizing the terrible danger they were in, the group turned to flee the encampment as quickly as possible. As they fled into the halls, a wave of frozen darkness swept out of the hole and over them, snuffing out even the magical lights they held.

Trapped in utter darkness which even Baph’s darkvision could not penetrate, the group found each other and quickly tied themselves together to avoid becoming lost. Shackleton tried to lead them back the way they came through the utter blackness, but they were attacked almost immediately by the Drow, who seemed unaffected by the evil darkness. Desperately swinging their weapons into the darkness, they fought off waves of Drow attackers as they crawled through the pitch blackness. Each time they slew one, the slain Drow’s soul was drawn back towards the terrible pit, feeding the evil that was held there.

Finally, they pulled themselves out of the depths of the Drow caverns and began the long trek back to the surface. As they ascended, the cold receded and the darkness drew back, allowing the magical lights to begin working again. When they finally pulled themselves from the frozen caves and into the warm darkness of a desert evening, they made their way back to Al Shiraz as fast as possible, putting as much distance between themselves and the tainted Drow as possible.

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Menechtarun – The Valley of the Marru
Session Eighteen

With the sun just beginning to head into the sky above, the group began a long trek across the desert towards the city of Al-Shiraz. They had more than enough magic to protect them from the desert heat, and Anton had plenty of spells to keep them watered, but they still found the going difficult. The sand was hard to cross, and what appeared to be firm ground would often collapse under their feet. Dunes of sand would sometimes give way under foot, sending those walking above tumbling down on the ones behind. The only person not having a problem was Baph, who had taken the magical sandals from Montu Chezzak’s tomb when they accidentally released him.

As they traveled, Tierel kept feeling the sensation of being watched. She informed the others and they kept a wary eye on the horizon, while Shackelton did his best to navigate through the desert. After a few days of travel, they suddenly felt the ground underneath them shudder and give way, and a bullette emerged from the ground to attack the group. Shackleton kept it at bay for a few moments while Anton donned his armor and Tierel maneuvered for position. Finally they dealt it enough damage to drive it off, and it dove beneath the sands once again.

Traveling for a few more days, Tierel managed to catch an occasional glimpse of their strange follower. He appeared to be red-skinned, with horns and wicked sharp teeth. A few days later, Baph also spotted him, but when the being realized it had been seen, it suddenly transformed into sand and vanished into the ground, frustrating any efforts to track it.

One evening, as the group sat sheltered in some stones with a fire to keep them warm through the night, they were suddenly attacked by a group of quick-moving lizards. The creatures ran though the camp and spouted flammable gas across everyone where it was ignited by the campfire and burned for a few moments afterward. As everyone got to their feet to fight, more lizards joined the fray spewing more flammable gas and shooting arcs of fire. Baph managed to time-hop one of them while Anton and Shackleton cut them down as fast as possible. Once the attack had cleared, the group decided that their mysterious pursuer was sending these creatures after them somehow, and they would have to be even more careful while traveling.

Finally, after a few more days of travel, they were finally in sight of Al Shiraz. As they walked up to the city, one of the dunes ahead of them sprang to life and became a humongous dragon made of sand. Spreading it’s wings and letting loose a fearsome roar, it moved forward and attacked the group. They prepared their most powerful protections and moved into the fray, slashing desperately at the creature. Malaxder hung back and watched it, slowly realizing that despite appearances, this was not a real dragon, or even based on one. Finally Tierel managed to catch it off guard and struck it a powerful blow with her enchanted dagger, causing it’s form to collapse and spraying sand across everyone else. Wary of facing another challenge, the group made their way quickly into the city.

Once inside the city, they noticed that where there had been scores of merchants and traders before, there were now scores of mercenaries and adventuring groups in the city, many of them guarding the merchants and traders. They were escorted into the Sheik’s presence, where they found him and several generals and advisers conferring in a large meeting room. The Sheik looked eternally bored while the advisers and leaders bickered among each other, but he gestured the group forward when he saw them. As they approached they saw Stikuchi and several other Bhuka goblins, but they did not see Amhapar. They told the Sheik what little they had found in the Sunken Library, the fate of the nomads and druids, and of the attacks they had faced on their journey back. They also described their mysterious stalker, and the Asherati present began to whisper furiously to each other. Pressed for information, they finally revealed that the description of the stalker they had seen matched that of the Harssaf, who were raiders that normally dwelled only in the deepest section of the desert. While they were dangerous, they rarely ventured out of the deep deserts, preferring to prey on those foolish enough to venture in. The Asherati also mentioned that the Harssaf had been allies of Montu Chezzak while he lived, and the two may be working together again.

Meanwhile, the Bhuka goblins were conferring among themselves as well, led by Stikuchi. She turned and told the group that her people had guarded the location of the Valley of the Marru for generations, making sure that the Marru remained dormant in their extraplanar prisons in the ruins. She also knew that the group was searching for Dream Stones, as mentioned by Ral, and that her tribe possessed one of these stones. She offered to tell them the location of the Valley if they would go there and prevent the Marru from being used, and furthermore she would give them the Dream Stone if they would find a way to defeat Montu Chezzak. This clearly angered and upset the other Bhuka present, but Stikuchi stood her ground. The group agreed to the conditions, and Stikuchi showed Shackleton how to find the hidden valley.

The group quickly restocked their supplies and gear for the trip, and set out as quickly as they could. Journeying across the desert again was no easier, but Shackleton led them unerringly towards the hidden valley, and they made good time. Two nights before they entered the valley, they were ambushed around their fire by dagger-wielding Harssaf warriors, while their mysterious stalker stood in the shadows and watched the fray. They repelled the attackers easily enough, who turned into sand and fled when the fight started going badly. Anton was certain that the attack was not meant to kill them, but was only a feint to test their strength. The next night, the Harssaf stalker approached their fire with a warning. While Tierel snuck around behind him unseen, he warned Shackleton to leave the valley, or face his death within. Arsen rebuffed his warnings, and the Harssaf fled when Tierel’s attack missed him by mere inches.

Proceeding into the valley, they were stunned to find a veritable jungle within, and Ral confirmed that the area must have some coterminous properties with Lamannia, as predicted. Life was abundant, and even the presence of the desert seemed unable to hold it back. Looking within, Baph spotted some ruined structures partially overcome by the strange jungle, and the group made their way further in. As they approached they saw a large main hall, clearly sized for giants, and determined that that must be where they would find some method of controlling or destroying the Marru.

Entering the giant hall, they saw a large throne at the far end and a pair of permanent magic circles carved into the floor, their sigils still active. As they approached, several Marru stepped from thin air within the circles and challenged them. Mal spoke to them in Giantish, and they stepped back, lowering their weapons. They gestured towards the throne, and Mal began making his way towards it.

Suddenly, the doors at the far end of the hall burst open and a terrible sandstorm blew in, forcing everyone to dive for cover. The sands swirled around the room violently for a moment, until finally coalescing into a humanoid form already seated on the throne – Montu Chezzak had arrived. He spoke politely enough to the group, thanking them for freeing him while Tierel hid and Anton donned his armor and began casting his protective spells. Seeing the magical power being prepared, Montu asked the group to abandon their loyalty to the “lesser” peoples of the desert and join him. In return, he promised to give them anything they desired, once he had achieved his dream of conquering the entire Menechtarun. When they refused, he shrugged resignedly and with a sudden and terrible force, threw two fireballs into the middle of the massed group. Baph was knocked unconscious and Shackleton was nearly thrown from his feet, but it was Mal who suffered the worst. As Ral looked on behind the protection of a pillar, the halfling was blasted backwards and suddenly vanished in mid-air, his body and belongings apparently completely destroyed by the incredible attack.

While Montu commanded the Marru to kill the rest of them, Shackleton and Anton moved forward to try and engage him. Some of the Marru fell back to guard Montu from Shackleton, and the rest pressed forward to finish off Anton and Ral. Ral meanwhile, activated his dream-touched state, and suddenly was able to see what seemed to be the shade of Malaxder, standing where he would have fallen, looking stunned at his state. Ral moved towards the shade and tried to use his wand of healing magic on it, and was only just able to touch him. The magic seemed to work, but then Mal’s ghost vanished from sight. Anton healed Baph enough to let him rejoin the fight, and he managed to hop several of the Marru forward in time, although they took down Shackleton before they left. Seeing his advantages disappearing quickly, Montu shifted back into sand form and fled the great hall, leaving the Marru to finish the battle.

Anton, Baph and Ral finished fighting off the remaining Marru, and then headed towards the throne to try and take control. Anton’s will proved too weak, and he was overcome by the power of the throne and knocked unconscious. Baph, however, had had luck sitting on giantish thrones before, and his luck held out again. The knowledge of the Marru flooded into his brain, allowing him to command the Marru that began coming out of the planar rift to reinforce their fallen numbers.

After stopping the attacking Marru, the group pondered what to do next. Malaxder was completely gone, and could only be assumed to have been utterly disintegrated by the fireballs. They knew they could not allow Montu to return and retake the Marru, so after some discussion they commanded the Marru to guard the valley and the temple from anyone else who might attempt to enter, and allow no one except them access to the throne. If nothing else, Montu Chezzak would have to slaughter the troops he wanted to use to get access to them again. Hoping this would be enough to keep the sorcerer at bay, they left the Valley of the Marru to return to Al Shiraz once again.

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