Kharkaethia: The Seventh Domain

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Prologue: Session I
23rd Day of Goodharvest, 1726th Year After the Bloodgate Wars (AB)

OPENING SCENE

You arrive finally at the Salt Serpent, a dingy inn not far from the dock where you disembarked from the ship that brought you to the city of Xynnar. The journey could have taken weeks or even months—you can’t truly tell as time seems to be a foreign concept on the waves. The wind carries a bite that rolls off the sea and reminds you not only that summer is drawing to an end, but also of your northern destination.

You look down at the parchment you received so many weeks or months ago, carried to your doorstep or tent flap by an enormous raven. In its talons it clutched this and a letter of credit from the Bank of Karaduman, redeemable for 3,000 gold lions. The letter was from King Tanrek of Athkaria, imploring you to travel to his castle and discuss a matter of great importance. You have little idea who King Tanrek is and even less of an idea of how he knows about you, but with crops dying of disease, trade goods drying up, shipping routes plagued with bandits and pirates, and little work outside of conscription for wars between petty city-states, the coin promised only for traveling and listening to what this king had to say was hard to pass up.

So now you are here at this seedy seaside grog house, instructed to pose as an out-of-work sailor and telling the barkeep you are here looking to meet a prospective captain. From there, you know little else. The growly barkeep looks at you with a crooked eyebrow, obviously sick of seeing out-of-work sailors which must be as common as wharf rats in this city, and beckons you with a grunt to take a seat at table and wait—your “captain” has not arrived yet and he’ll be sure to let you know when he does. With that, you turn to ponder the common room, the reek of boiled cabbage and unwashed longshoreman creating a smell that is somehow worse than either alone.

Rumors overheard

- “The crops might be dying on their stalks this year, but the hunting and trapping have never been better! My brother in Brex says you can’t swing a dead ermine without hitting three more and that the deer have been running around in droves. Must have come down from out of the Shieldwalls!”

- “Aye, but its too bad we’ve had this bounty and no one to hunt it. Tanrek has cleared nearly every able-bodied man old enough to grow fuzz on his lip for his army to the east. A handful of Uigan tribes barreling down out of the steppe lands is hardly anything to be that concerned about. They’ll raid a few villages and head back to their yurts before winter.”

- “I heard that the horse khans are traveling with orcs! We haven’t seen an orc in these parts for over a hundred years. They’ve stayed far to the east for centuries! If it’s true that they ride with the Uigan, why would they do it. They have massive territories in the northern steppe. Something doesn’t seem right.”

- “Psh, it’s just another rumor to get your kids scared and justify another tax levy. I’ve heard better stories fall out of my horse’s behind!”

Meeting with Mata:

“Greetings, friends. My name is Mata. I’m King Tanrek’s ambassador to Calinthia and Vene and have just disembarked from a ship myself, though I again come back empty-handed save for this decanter of wine and apologies from the Polemarch of Karlia. We are living in ever-desperate times. For several years our kingdom and its neighbors have seemed to have spiraled slowly into a darker age. Wars have increased in frequency, strife between nations, city-states, tribes, and familial clans have heightened and the ground yields less and less bounty every year. This year is going to be an especially desperate one for Athkaria, which has long prided itself on its agriculture, but might not even make it the winter without some people going hungry.

But my recent travels have shown we are not alone in this. Calinthia has stopped engaging in trade due to conflicts with shoddy goods from the East. Our Venish neighbors to the south are suffering from a series of internal struggles of warring praetors and provinces, and Nargol to the east, barely more than nomadic plainsmen, are now being overrun by the Uigan horse khans flooding in from steppelands and are set to descend fully into our own lands.

The king is very worried and has reached out further beyond our borders than even I can travel. And those who responded are you that sit here in this very room. We must travel to Castle Athkar from here. I will have mounts secured this evening and we will start riding at first light.”

ENCOUNTER: MANTICORES

The next day the PCs will embark on their journey. It is roughly three days’ journey to the castle on horseback. On day two, in the late afternoon, a herd of elk will thunder out of the grasslands from the north toward the hills to the south.

As the day begins to wane toward evening, you hear a sound as if a cavalry is galloping your way from the northwest. Rounding a short hill, you catch sight of a large herd of elk running across the road toward the hills to the south. The confusion over such a large herd moving this quickly through the land is interrupted by a pained bleating sound that is abruptly cut off. Looking to the north you catch the source of a sound. A monstrous creature that looks a large lion with leathery wings and a long tail ending in wicked-looking barbed spikes has bore down on an elk, ripping its entrails from its torso with a savage bite. Pulling your mounts to a halt, you notice three more of the creatures flying swiftly from the northwest—directly toward you!

CASTLE ATHKAR

After three hard days on the road, the last half of today being a tiring trek up into some rocky and wooded hills, the castle finally comes into view. Built overlooking a series of waterfalls that dump into the Blackhorn River, it is a truly imposing sight.

Mata, who looks to have physically aged over the past few days, suddenly breaks his horse into a clipped trot. “Come friends, if we hurry we will make it the main gate in time to partake in a hot meal and maybe a mug or two of mead.”

After the meal, the PCs are asked to disarm themselves and leave their equipment with Radag while Mata escorts them to meet the king.

The PCs are then led into a dark throne room.

“After leaving your arms behind, you are led into a long, dark audience hall lit by only a pair of large braziers and a couple of wall sconces at the end of the hall. Below the braziers rests a large stone throne upon which sits a dark-faced man in his mid-50s, his trimmed chestnut beard and mustache flecked with silver. Even as a king, he wears modest clothing—soft leather breeches, a woolen longcoat, and a red, ermine-lined mantle. The only indication of his royal status is a stout sable-trimmed crown of hammered gold with a handful of small gemstones adorning the band. To his left stands a tall imposing rakasta in studded leather armor, a number of swords and daggers hanging from his belt, his amber eyes watching you intently but betraying no other emotion on his feline face otherwise.

He glances between you and forces a slight warm smile to break his otherwise stoic visage, “Welcome friends, “ he greets in a deep baritone, “I apologize that we are not meeting under better circumstances and that I couldn’t hold a proper feast to welcome you. But these are bitter times where food is scarce and good tidings even scarcer. And for the safety of us all, we wanted to have this meeting in as discreet a manner as possible.”

“I’m sure Mata has told you of our troubles. But even he has not been privy to the breadth and depth of our problems. It all started a little over a year ago, when our crops started withering early. We have had no problems with drought but still they shrunk under the sun, as if overcome with some sort of blight. Harvests were smaller, but not dangerously so. My people adjusted to the sharp increase in food prices but as is our nature, we endured—even here at the castle where the king and my retainers share in the suffering of the common citizen.

But as autumn was upon us, we noticed that the livestock started acting strangely and many did not make it through the winter, their bodies weakened as if with sickness. At first we thought it was a sickness somehow passed from the feed crops to the animals, but when Uigan raiders started skirmishing near our eastern border—people who have kept to themselves for so many years, we started getting suspicious. As Spring came upon us, so did the frequency and strength of the Uigan raids. Given the vast distance they would have had to cover to be at our backdoor, there is an air of desperation to their raids. But when they started riding at our borders equipped with orcish equipment—and then with orcs riding alongside themselves, we knew something dire was happening.

I started reaching out to our neighbors to the south in Vene and Calinthia for aid. While they have never been strong in diplomatic relations with us, we figured some aid was owed for our help many, many years ago in suppressing some peasant revolts in their northern regions. Instead, it appears, their problems are also magnified.

My public outreach toward our neighbors seemed to have reached the ears of someone who was not particularly pleased with our desire to suppress our problems for right after the planting season I was attacked in my own chambers by a dark-cloaked assassin. Luckily I’m not as soft-bellied a king as many others and I managed to hold him off while H’zdar and Radag came in to finish him off. But the assassin was no Uigan warrior—and such tactics are not in the nature of their kind besides—but that of a pale man from lands unknown. We had little time to investigate, however, for his body very quickly started to decompose into a pool of reddish ichor which eventually hissed away into air like a crimson mist, leaving only some ripped clothes and this. . .”

He beckons to the rakasta who pulls a wrapped sheath from his belt and hands it to the king. The king slowly unwraps the bundle as if expecting leeches to pour forth from the bundle but instead presents you with a red-bladed dagger. The dagger has a strangely curved blade and ornate crosspiece and hilt that is shaped into sharp and awkward angles. The blade itself looks like it was forged from blood itself, so deep red its color.

[The PCs inspect the dagger]

You are alarmed. That tells me that I am not overreacting to what is occurring here. Do you know its origin? Upon seeing this blade, I sent messengers out to the other kings around Kharkaethia pleading for aid. My responses have either been denying my worries or no response at all. And that is when I sent for you.

Four of those kings are direct descendents of the Wise Ones who protected our realm so many centuries ago. As such, I felt it important to remind them of their ancient obligations. If the origin of our darkening world is truly something infernal, then we can’t waste any more time. That is why I sent for you. There was an agreement signed by those five Wise Ones that if such trouble ever plagued our lands again that they would raise their armies and return to fight again. But they have long since forgotten their duties!

I sent for the treaties several weeks ago but my retainer has not returned. This is very troubling as they are housed at the Priory of Tameris high up in the Shieldwall Mountains. While secluded and hard to reach, my retainers should have been able to reach the priory and return by now. So unfortunately our first task is to have them retrieved.”

TRAVEL TO THE PRIORY

Paertk – In the town of Paertk the PCs are approached by a blonde-haired peasant woman named Narra, she is worried about her husband and son Acian and Cainta. They went hunting near the Shieldwalls and she’s worried they won’t return.

TROLL BATTLE

“After a long and arduous battle with the trolls, you find their warren nearby. Within it you find the remains of two human-sized beings, gnawed beyond identification. On one of the bodies you find the shredded remains of a tabard with the crest of Athkaria. You also find among the scattered debris you find a large number of coins, a couple of gemstones, and a small suit of chainmail far, far too small for a troll that has been dashed to the side with some offal and other trash. The chainmail suit appears to be in pristine condition despite its ill treatment and is adorned with the symbol of a dove hammered into a small plate interlaced in the mail across the sternum.”

TREASURE

55 gp, 45 sp, 50 cp, 3 sapphire gems (1000 gp each), as-yet-unidentified suit of chain mail (small sized).

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Prologue: Session II
10th Day of Windwhisper, 1726 AB

ARRIVAL AT CULCHETH

After a full day and a half of traversing bleak forests and rocky wooded hills, the oppressive weight of the dark wood is lifted from you as you break out into the open river valley of northwestern Athkaria. Your comfort is short-lived, however, as a slight drizzle from the slate-colored sky bursts into a full downpour, soaking through your cloaks and into your armor—seeming to trap the chill in your very bones.

After a several hours journey through the river valley, just as the sun dips behind the distant horizon, you reach the ferry house that will take you across the river to the town of Culcheth, just in time for a warm bath and a hot meal.

The PCs approached the ferry house and noticed that no light shines from the windows but that some wisps of smoke drift up from the chimney. The PCs approached the door and find it locked and all windows are shuttered and latched.

The PCs break in and find an empty house with half-eaten food on the table and a low fire burning on embers. They searched around and Adreth ambushes them wildly from the clothing cabinet, swinging a woodcutter’s ax. Upon seeing the party he panicked, swinging at them and cursing them for their crimes.

The PCs calm him down and he collapsed in the corner, exasperated.

“Who are you? Why are you here?”

The PCs stated they wanted a ferry ride, but he refused:

“The town of Culcheth is no more. Last night I heard it—the howls of pain, the screams of children, and I sat here, hiding in my house like a coward. I could hear it clearly across the river. When dawn arrived, I looked across the river and saw nothing. No activity, no fires burning, nothing! I don’t know what massacre happened there but I’m not crossing that river!”

The PCs paid Adreth 100 gp for the ferry boat and to stable their horses. Then they crossed the river without incident.

(-100 gp)

IN CULCHETH

Once the PCs arrived in Culcheth they found a town completely devoid of activity. Window shutters were broken, doors drifting ajar, pottery broken, fences busted down, but no signs of blood or bodies to be found. The PCs found some cooking pots with food in them, tables set with half-eaten food, and bedding disturbed.

TRAVEL AND CAMP

The PCs decided to leave Culcheth and head into the mountains toward Yssa. They had a day of travel into the dark woods:

After leaving the deserted town, you continue up the road toward Yssa. The road plunges into a thick forest, the canopy overhead still thick and oppressive despite the leaves shedding from the boughs in the cold autumnal wind. The road becomes less and less maintained as you ascend into the foothills of the Shieldwall mountains, picking your way carefully along a pitted and sometimes narrow road that winds ever upward.

The PCs set up camp and decided watches; something strange happened during the third watch:

Pulling your cloak tightly around you in the biting chill of the mountain wind, you notice that the forest has gotten eerily silent. Nowhere do you hear the usual sounds of distant howling wolves, the hooting of owls, the quiet flapping of bat wings—nothing but the gales of mountain wind, chilling you to the bone.

You hear what sounds like footfalls in the foliage, but you can’t seem to pinpoint which direction they are coming from. Soon after you hear what sounds like a strange chorus of hissing and grunting coming from an indeterminate direction.

[The PCs investigated]

Upon closer inspection the source of the noise—one of the noises becomes apparent—plunging out of the woods comes a man dressed in the clothes of a woodsman, but his eyes are vacant and red fluid oozes from various orifices and from strange reddish growths that erupt from his skin. He lunges at you hungrily!

[A PC is attacked by a zombie]

As the creature approaches you, you hear clearly a scream of torment within your skull, dulling your concentration and leaving you vulnerable!

THE VILLAGE OF YSSA

When the PCs finally arrived at the village, they found it deserted. After a few minutes of poking around, the first wave of zombies and swarms appeared. After their first battle, a second wave appeared, including a swarmbringer.

In the second battle, the PCs are attacked by a zombie of an adolescent with blond hair.

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Prologue: Session III
12th Day of Windwhisper 1726 AB

AFTER YSSA

After getting your bearings after the battle, you can hear in the distance all around the region the howls of more of the zombies, gradually getting closer. You realize that sound carries off the sheer cliffs and rocky escarpments that surround the region and understand with grim awareness that surely the sounds of your battle carried through the region as well. You suspect you have little time to collect yourself before you are swarmed where you stand.

The PCs decided to leave the village and head blindly into the woods.

THE ANIMAL TRAIL TO BROKEN SHIELD

The PCs began the skill challenge

You plunge headlong into forest, hoping to use the cover to mask your escape. Running through the foliage you fail to notice the thunderheads rolling over the mountains from the north, but the sharp report of distant thunder makes it obvious that a storm is headed your way. Within minutes the sky has fully darkened and the claps of thunder and the oncoming downpour deal you a mixed blessing—while the rain and wind do little to improve your wellbeing and disposition, the noise of the storm will surely cover your escape.

BROKEN SHIELD

“After long hours of traveling through wooded valleys, rocky passes, and deep hollows, you follow the sound of the a fast-flowing mountain river to the camp known as Broken Shield. It is a small camp—barely more than a couple of semi-permanent huts, a fire ring, a handful of drying racks for hides and skins, and a dead tree with the camp’s namesake hammered into it—an old wooden shield split from corner to corner, the faded image of a woman holding a mortar in one hand and reaching up to a dove in the other. The camp is otherwise silent and still.”

Arriving at camp the PCs saw signs of activity: warm (if damp) embers and bones from recently eaten rabbit, etc, as well as signs of a struggle. Borf discovered pieces of ichor from a zombie, sure signs of a struggle. He also found a set of heavy bootprints that plunge into the woods heading northwest past the stream.

WENDIGOS

At some point near dusk, the PCs heard the baying of wolves nearby. The baying was particularly deep and echoed off the rocks as the PCs started to approach As they crossed into a deep wooded hollow, they ran across Acian, nocking a bow and looking back and forth between the two hills.

“You come upon what appears to be a well-built hunter, his long blond hair and beard braided in the style of Vjardel men, he has an arrow nocked in a short bow and is shifting his attention between the two sides of the wooded hollow.

‘C’mon out ye bastards and get what ye came for! Ye might get your meal, but it’s goin’ ta hurt goin’ down!’”

The PCs intervened, fighting several wendigos before one of them and a dire wolf escaped. They managed to save Acian from a gruesome fate.

They discovered a cloak that could be made from the skin of the mindbending wendigo.

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Prologue: Session IV
14th Day of Windwhisper, 1726 AB

SAVING ACIAN

”Thanks for your help, I thought I was finally going to sail off on Kroth’s longship. I’ve come into these mountains every year for nearly a quarter century. Never seen anything out of the ordinary between Yssa and the priory. But this year it was different. We passed through Culcheth and there was a palpable tension in the air. As we ascended toward Yssa, we saw nothing but devastation! We ran into the woods toward the camp, not realizing that had been the direction these. . . things!. . . had merged from. We met with many struggles and one point my own boy was overtaken. There was nothing I could do.

I made it the rest of the way to Broken Shield and barely caught my breath for a short rest before the camp was swarmed those beetles and one particularly nasty giant one. I fled toward the priory but realized I was being followed. As soon as dusk was upon me, they got closer and closer. That’s when you arrived. . . ."

- Acian traveled here from Paertk
- He was about a week behind the king’s men
- He got to Yssa when the zombies and beetles had overtaken the town
- He and his son fled toward Broken Shield, unwittingly running straight into the thick of them
- After several struggles, Acian’s son was overtaken
- Acian had to run; he couldn’t save his son
- He arrived at Broken Shield to tend to wounds and rest
- He got into a fight with some beetles and one of the giant insect things
- He fled toward the Priory before he realized he was being followed
- The PCs found him here

Arriving at the Priory

Several long hours of hiking through a rocky wilderness, you emerge from a narrow pass and see your destination in the distance. A large stone monastery juts out atop a gentle plateau, surrounded by several bare gardens, long since harvested. In the distance to the northwest of it an immense stone colossus towers from a copse. The enormous statue appears carved from red rock stained black, as if scorched by some otherworldly conflagration. It depicts a large bat-winged being with the head that can only be described as a cross between a grim-faced human and a dragon. In one hand it clutches what looks like a crystal orb and in the other it holds aloft some sort of bowl or brazier from which thousands of carved beetles stream down its arm, covering it completely.

The priory itself is silent and still, its tall alabaster-shaded walls appearing scorched and the long tapestries that billowed down from either side of the entrance shredded beyond recognition. Its large wooden entrance doors are similarly scorched but otherwise appear to stand tall and solid.

As you take in the scene, the still air is suddenly cut with the muted shriek of a man in sudden pain, echoing through the valley but seeming to come from within the monastery itself!

The PCs approached the side doors and found them locked. They picked the locks and snuck inside, facing a row of three doors on the north and a single door western side. They peeked through one of the sets of northern doors:


You peek through the doors toward the source of the pained cries. Within is a large chamber—clearly the monastery’s main worship chamber—lined with columns and lit by a pair of braziers on the far side which flank a raised dais. On either side of the room stand two huge creatures. Their features are ape-like but their hides interlaced with coarse reddish fur and grayish scales, their heads topped with a fierce gorilla-like face with fanged maws and crowned with large horns like those on an elk.

Further away are two more large creatures, humanoid in shape. Unlike the ape-like creatures they appear to have no hide at all—or even skin. Instead their muscles, sinew, and bone are all readily visible to your eyes, painting a gruesome picture of their grim aspect. They have bulging muscular arms that end in wicked-looking claws and their heads have only the semblance of skin with cruel, pupil-less eyes, and faces smeared with a reddish ichor. Large horns like that of a yak jut out from the sides of their heads.

All four of these creatures’ attention is focused toward the dais, upon which rests a defiled altar. A young man is splayed face-up across it, his limbs chained down at an awkward angle while another creature that looks less humanoid and more like the cross between a lobster with a squid’s head plunges barbed tentacles into the doomed man’s torso, his shrieks echoing off the chamber as the other creatures chant in low, raspy voices. Last you catch a glimpse of a familiar face: Mata, the king’s diplomat. He stands at the side of the chamber clutching some shackles and watching the ritual with a combination of stone-faced stoicism and the occasional flash of fear and disgust. As the ritual starts to draw toward it’s messy conclusion, Mata fingers a brass amulet around his neck and then quietly steps backward through a set of side doors.

Facts:

- Tenebrious speaks the abyssal language can make out the chant:

“Grant us power, Agadaroch. Come and drink deep the blood of the fallen and spread your essence across this doomed land!”

- Tenebrious’ nethermancy knowledge revealed the following: Agadaroch is the name of the Amaric prince of plagues, one of the original 12 Amara that served as jailors and then betrayed the Elder Gods and served the Nameless One.

- History knowledge: The 12 Amara were responsible for the Bloodgate Wars, a war that spanned Kharkaethia, sundered the world, and plunged it into a long dark age. It was only through the efforts of 12 champions who locked the Amara in the Abyss, using their own blood to seal the gates. These champions were later elevated to godhood over time by the people who came from their own lands—though the Order of the Twelve Virtues venerates them all.

The PCs fought the five demons and prevailed. They searched the monastery and found Mata hiding on the second floor on a veranda. They also found the monk Makarka locked in a cell, the last remaining monk of the Priory. Makarka and Mata were both questioned. Mata attempted to lie but was intimidated by Golganar into explaining himself.

FACTS FROM MATA
- Mata tells the PCs he was approached by a dark figure several months ago who claimed that another kingdom would be making war with Athkaria
- The figure informed Mata that the king would soon perish and without an heir, Mata would be next in line to take the throne
- If Mata ascended to the throne, he would be able “negotiate” a truce with the invaders
- Mata would therefore need to ensure that their allies never intervene, so he went to Vene and Calinthia under the guise of a diplomatic mission but instead declared he was cutting up all their treaties.
- An assassin came in the night to attempt to kill the king but was sabotaged
- Mata was to do everything in his power to send the men most loyal to the king to their doom
- Once the king sent for others, Mata again tried to arrange for the helpers (the PCs) to also meet their doom
- Mata followed the PCs to Culcheth, where he realized more was going on than he suspected
- He took a different route to the Priory, where he encountered the dark figure—the piscodemon
- The piscodemon assured Mata they were indeed “invaders” and would only need to be allowed to pass through Athkaria to some other goal
- There are no treaties; it was all a ruse. The Wise Ones have descendants but are under no obligation to help

FACTS FROM MAKARKA

- Makarka was locked in the chambers above
- Makarka explained that the statue started darkening a couple of months ago, but assumed it was due to the heavy storm weather they had recently
- The area started having strange issues with wildlife and weather a few months ago
- A week ago, the statue changed into its current appearance, and real beetles started pouring from the top of it.
- The beetles swarmed the priory, soon followed by the demons, who quickly overtook it.
- The monks were quickly rounded up and locked in the various chambers. Every day another would be sacrificed on the altar below.
- Makarka said beetles quickly took off to the south and that’s the last he saw of anyone
- Makarka will point out that the last sacrifice will be enough to render the portal open permanently and the Amaric prince will emerge
- He fetches the ritual scrolls hiding in a secret cache.
- The ritual can be used to banish Amaric Princes through portals that their servants in the Seventh Domain open.

“Friends, we must approach the standing stones where I will prepare a special pitch. This pitch must then be delivered to each of the braziers in the copse. All the while I will need protection while I perform the ritual and will need help channeling the power."

All that remains is to help Makarka seal the Bloodgate once again.



TREASURE FOUND
Cloak of Distortion – Tenebrious
Frostcharger Bracers – Golganar
Demonbinder – Tenebrious
Amulet of the Diplomat – Gimble
49 pp, 138 gp, 18 sp, 20 cp – Kophyn
50 pp + 2 rubies (2,000 each) – Alain

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Prologue: Session V
14th Day of Windwhisper, 1726 AB

The adventurers had only a short respite between clearing the priory of demons and dealing with the portal that remained—and dealing with its infernal master: Agadaroch, Prince of Plagues. As the first New Moon since the plague came full force, it will be a crucial time to fight back the forces of destruction that will emerge from the portal unhindered from tonight on.

Their rest was a fitful one, interrupted by a short dream:

“As exhaustion overtakes you from a long journey and seemingly even longer battles—your mind slips from restful repose to fitful disturbance. Your mind’s eye conjures an image—a nebulous reddish blur that slowly coalesces into a face, a fearsome face covered with crimson scales, a nose like that of a skull, sunken eye sockets glowing with its own inner flame, and teeth like assassin’s daggers, gleaming like steel. Jagged crests that jut out at sharp angles surround the entirety of this gruesome visage. The face regards you with what you can only assume is a mixture of grim amusement and scornful hate. Its lipless mouth parts to speak:

“You are persistent whelps, I must admit, but I don’t believe you know what you involve yourself with. We will show mercy—return to your distant farms, your homesteads, your holes in the ground . . . this is not your concern. Even now, this kingdom is doomed; within another fortnight this land will covered by the Plague—flee this land while the chance of survival remains!”

After a long and grueling battle of protecting Makarka while he performed the ritual of sanctifying a specially-prepared pitch and calling on Tameris’ aid to seal the portal the good while dealing with fire demons from the Abyss and the mortal form of Agadaroch himself, the party was able to seal the portal permanently, cutting off Agadaroch’s source of power in the Seventh Domain and reducing his plague into piles of red beetle husks.

Tired and bloody, the adventurers now must rest and decide what to do next. There still remains the task of getting Acain back to his home and dealing with Mata the traitor. And then there is the question of what remains of the kingdom of Athkaria. How far had the plague spread? Will famine wipe out those who remain? What will become of the orcs and Uigan warriors harrying its borders?

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Chapter I: Session I
22nd Day of Windwhisper, 1726 AB

With Agadaroch’s mortal form reduced to ash and his corrupted spirit bound once again to the Abyss, the party returned with Makarka to the monastery. Makarka’s wounds weren’t dire—nothing that a monk couldn’t manage with a few days of rest. Makarka swore an oath to see the monastery returned to its former state and would see to the proper burial of its former inhabitants.

The treaties were a falsehood and the man who perpetuated that falsehood was still bound in a cell. Some further interrogation, even with Golganar’s imposing coercion, revealed few other details: Mata was approached by a dark figure a few days before an assassin attempted on the king’s life stating that with Mata’s assistance he would be installed as the new sovereign of Athkaria and allow his kingdom to be a temporary mustering ground for some sort of military campaign. Mata did everything in his power to undermine the king, including breaking off diplomatic relations with the kingdoms of Vene and Calinthia, two kingdoms he was instead supposed to be bolstering support from.

The party realized that Mata was King Tanrek’s only link to the truth of the matter and so decided to bound his arms and forced his march on the 10-day trek back to Castle Athkar. Along the way the party passed the Broken Shield encampment and the village of Yssa, both empty of any life beyond the occasional scavenging animal. At Culcheth they found the ferry still roped to the dock and paddled across the river.

The young ferryman was still there with the party’s horses, who gladly handed the reins back to them and stated he would be going upriver to a more settled area since it would likely be a long time before travelers would need to use the ferry again soon.

The party continued their trek southeast through the dark woods, emerging on the other side to a view of dark smoke drifting up from the horizon. An investigation further down the road found a farm gutted by fire and its occupants slain by blade and arrow. A quick scan of the area found about a crudely-shod hoof prints of about a dozen horses and a couple sets of hob-nailed boot prints, coming from the north and heading east along the road toward Paertk.

Leaving Acain in charge of Mata, the party rushed forth on horseback, reaching the burning town of Paertk, the carnage ensuing being obscured by thick smoke. The party dismounted their horses and split to approach the town from two directions. Within they found a number of mounted Uigan archers and warriors, running down villagers and setting homes to the torch. With them were a couple of unmounted orc warriors, wielding cruel double-ended double axes and a Uigan witch and warlock. The party engaged them directly, wielding blade and spell to quickly dispatch some of the riders and focus their efforts on the tougher orcs and spellcasters. As the tide of battle turned against the Uigan raiders, the witch and warlock attempted to escape into the countryside. Calling out in their gutteral language, the witch dropped a sack on the ground from which spilled a large stone that appeared to be some ancient petrified dragon egg. Given that a dragon hadn’t been seen or even talked about for thousands of years, this was more than an odd curiosity.

The party dispatched the witch and warlock in short order and gathered up what survivors remained in the town. The sun was now fully below the horizon and the party was weary from a long day of travel and battle. Castle Athkar was only a few short days’ ride away and they needed to rest.

But there was still the matter of the Uigan raiding party. They didn’t appear to be part of a larger force and it seemed strange to have a valuable with and warlock in a mere scouting party. And then there was the matter of that egg. . . .

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