Avlis Campaign 4, Part 1

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Campaign Title Part
Avlis Campaign 1 The "Jade" Campaign Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Avlis Campaign 2 The West End of Time Part 1, 2, 3, 4
Avlis Campaign 3 Vanoviel and The Godslayer Part 1
Avlis Campaign 4 Rune Quest Part 1, 2
Avlis Campaign 5 The Western Underdark Part 1, 2, 3

Prologue

Before The Nine came to Avlis, it was populated and ruled by various spirit races. For the most part, these were nature spirits that did little to promote civilization or societal growth, however, there were a couple of exceptions on the planet. One particular spirit race, tied to the earth, had its own system of magic. This system of magic was, of course, lost during the time of the Negerai, but a small number of individuals of this ancient race did manage to teach a few Mikonators their craft before going extinct.

The system pulled on the Super Magic Vortex, the one that existed before it was split into the present day Vortices, Wind, River, and Prime Nature. Instead of being dependent on a deity or person to channel and dilute this Magic, this system used specialized stone and metal implements to channel and change the energy. The implements would be used to draw runes on surfaces or individuals for magical effects.

The elven, sylvan, Tyeduan, and Jechranian civilizations of Avlis speak languages that are closest to the spirit language of old, and Magya, the language of magic, is thought to be little changed from the original spirit language. However, all of these civilizations have created their own writing systems for their languages. Elven characters are used for Magya, yet no one knows the original characters used to write the language by this ancient race.

Scholars on the subject believe that the original characters can carry power, and if they are properly inscribed on surfaces or individuals, the words that are spelled out affect the recipient in specific ways.

This campaign takes place during Avlis year 2196 AOD, about 50 years after the end of the Second Fairy War. It is being DM'ed by Orleron

Chapter 1

There are currently three players in this campaign. Lolobe is a barbarian from the Fighting Eagle tribe of the Benteak-Kune clan grouping from Tyedu. He is joined by two dwarves from Deglos, one a cleric of Mikon and the other is Schwerg Steelaxe, a warrior.

In the southwest region of Tyedu, where the foothills near the ocean begin to give way to the steeper peaks and deeper valleys that are more common inland, there exists a confederation of related tribes known as the Benteak-Kune. This proud group of allied tribes shares a similar culture and outlook, albeit different identities and personal philosophies at times. Among their commonalities are the claims that they descend from the spirit-god, Ra-Ghul, and that their barbarian warriors are top among the tribes in Tyedu.

From these common roots, many traditions are shared, including the Great Meeting of Benteak held every 10th winter to commemorate the kinship of the tribes descending from Ra-Ghul. The focus of this meeting is warrior prowess and dedication to Ra-Ghul's methods of battle, which is to say, the method is often to have as little "method" as possible. Prowess and strength are the instruments of Ra-Ghul, and a properly tuned warrior is able to surrender his thought processes to the god in order to fight as one with His fury.

Tradition also holds that this holiday is a time for the next generation to come of age, and all warriors who have undergone their tests of manhood within the last 10 years must seal their dedication to the Tribes and to Ra-Ghul in tests of strength and might. The tests last for one week, and at the end a champion for each tribe is declared. Those champions then compete in a final test to determine which tribe is to hold the leading position in the confederation for the next 10 years. The winning tribe earns the right to possess the Hammer of Creation, a mythic relic from ancient times that has been with the Benteak-Kune for nearly 100 generations.

Four tribes are participating in the event this year: the White Bear, the Blue Rock, the Spirit Folk, and the Fighting Eagle tribe.

This year, the games are being held at the home hunting grounds of the tribe, a bowl-shaped mountainous valley with several well-defended paths leading in and out. Currently, in late winter, the land within the bowl is snow-covered about ankle deep on a tall man, and sparsely covered with bare trees as far as the eye can see in all directions leading up to the mountains. Because of all that cover, there is not much wind within the bowl, but when the wind does gust, it can be fierce, knocking over utensils and small children.

It is here the PCs find themselves assembled. For the most part, things are uneventful as the tribes gather and put up their new temporary dwellings in the area. Each tribe generally camps in a separate part of the bowl, but close to one another. The PCs spend some time walking from area to area, occasionally introducing themselves to passers-by.

After a couple of days, the PCs wake up to a horrible commotion outside their tents. People are chattering to themselves, pointing every which way, generally in the direction of other tribes' camps. The fur-clad elders that love to walk around the campsite randomly with their impressive regal bearing in order to talk to friendly tribesmen are nowhere to be found. In some instances, one can even spy a few fist-fights breaking out between certain individuals from differing tribes. Looking further, the fights are becoming a little more common, and sometimes opposing campfires are even getting into it.

Treading carefully to avoid the fights, the PCs eventually figure out that the Hammer of Creation, the ultimate prize for winning the games, has been stolen. Each tribe is blaming another for its loss, and there even some internal squabbling within tribes. Things are getting ugly fast, an the confederation looks like it may fall apart in one fell swoop.

Eventually, the PCs are cornered by a tall man from one of the tribes. He points to them and demands that the three of them follow him. Not wanting to end up a casualty of all the fighting, the PCs comply. They are brought to a non-descript looking wigwam-like dwelling with one distinguishing feature: four of the biggest men the PCs have ever seen are standing outside, and it looks like there is one man from each of the four tribes assembled at the games.

Upon entering the tent, the PC's display their weapons to all the people inside, as tradition demands, and they take a seat in front of the tribal elders. The elders explain that the Hammer of Creation has been stolen, and only a few horse tracks leading out of the bowl are left as a clue. The PCs have been chosen by the elders to recover it. The two dwarves had been chosen because they are a good "neutral" third party, and Lolobe had been chosen as a representative of the confederation because of his honesty and non-political reputation.

After asking various questions, the PCs are given gear for the trip and sent off in the direction of the tracks. They track the trail for many days, leaving the bowl after only a day and a half to enter the mountains beyond. Mostly, their tracking is uneventful, except for a small encounter with two murderous ogres one evening.

Eventually, Lolobe spies the smoke of a small camp in the distance. The dwarves approach the camp while Lolobe circles around. Inside the camp are what appear to be to human warriors and their two horses off to the side. The dwarves stroll right in and join them.

The humans are taken aback somewhat, and more than suspicious of the dwarves' questions, but after sharing some of their spirits with the men, the dwarves get them to talk a little bit. The men say that they are simply on a fishing trip, from the Kaj'ilel tribe, going after Tyeduan steelheads. Much of the conversation revolves around that fact, until eventually Schwerg spots a strange dagger carried by one of the humans. Having some knowledge of weapon-making, the dwarf could tell it was not made by any dwarven, elven, or Tyeduan smith. When he quizzes the human about the dagger, both humans become very defensive and stop answering questions.

Eventually, Schwerg simply asks them point blankly, "We're looking for a hammer. Did you steal it, by the way??"

Naturally, a fierce combat starts from this, whereby Lolobe, who had been waiting hidden in the woods, charges out to eliminate one of the humans, while the dwarves take care of the other one quickly, but leave him alive. (A few small birds also die in the incident.)

The PC's question the human to find out that there is a larger group to the north who is part of their contingent, and they know more about the hammer's whereabouts. It turns out that the person in charge of the heist is an earth spirit-folk named Kirith-Fa. After gaining this information, the PCs squabble briefly about whether or not to leave the prisoner alive and agree to simply tie him up and leave him in the woods.

Being the proud new owners of two horses, the PCs continue off in the direction the trail leads, eventually coming to yet another smoke plume visible in the distance. This time, they decide they will follow the same plan. They ride the horses up and tie them off about a mile from the camp, and then creep up the rest of the way cautiously, hoping to allow Lolobe to get around them again from behind. The dwarven cleric of Mikon takes up a position about 50 yards away with a crossbow, and Schwerg once again strolls into camp.

This camp is a little larger. There appear to be two more humans dressed the same exact way as the last two, ironically, and there are three yurts surrounding their fire. This time around, however, the two humans are in disbelief that there is a dwarf walking into their camp and they immediately stand up with clubs drawn. Schwerg and humans share hurried questions back and forth, as a third human-looking figure steps out of one of the yurts to join in the quizzing.

Just then, the PCs hear a call from the woods and look over to find Lolobe with someone holding a dagger to his back saying, "Don't move!" The fight begins. Lolobe is stabbed in the back for a devastating wound, and the dwarves rush the two humans, killing one instantly. The third human that came out of the yurt begins casting a spell as Schwerg shoves the still living human enemy into him, but missing his intent of disrupting the spell. The dwarf still manages to shrug off the fear effects caused by the magic, however.

Meanwhile, Lolobe turns on his attacker and kills him quickly. Shortly after that, the two dwarves finish off the remaining cleric and fighter enemies.

Upon reflection and inspection of the bodies, the PCs find that the cleric was wearing a holy symbol of Sharistracterus, which was curious because all of the enemies seemed to be dressed as barbarians. The PCs also realize that the human enemies all had black hair, and never once really showed emotion, even in the first fight when the PCs were questioning and threatening to kill their human prisoner. Nevertheless, they search one of the yurts and find a satchel with the Hammer of Creation.

After an uneventful trip back, the PCs relay their information to the elders who are incredulous about the new developments. For one thing, they have never heard of any deity named Sharistracterus, and they are no closer to understanding who took the Hammer of Creation, or why. All they have to go on is a name, Kirith-Fa, who is supposedly an earth spirit-folk.

Chapter 2

After resting up from the last adventure and tending their wounds in the main yurt of the Fighting Eagle tribe, the PC's are soon disturbed when a mob of angry barbarians comes rushing into the dwelling. They are displaying their weapons and armed to the teeth. Standing at the point is the Chief of the Blue Rock tribe and next to him is a smaller man leaning on a staff, the shaman of the Blue Rock. Normally, among the Benteak Kune, shamans are not permitted into the tents of other tribes. Their job is to tend to the needs of their own tribe, but this Blue Rock shaman is giving advice to the Chief:

Blue Rock Shaman: "Yes, great chief, those are the ones I saw in the vision. They stole the hammer, hid it, and then walked back to camp....they are thieves....they are deceivers. They mock the ways of Ra-Ghul for their own glory."

Blue Rock Chief: "Guards!"{points to the PCs} "Don't let them leave."

Just then, the Fighting Eagle Chief pushes his way to the front of the fur-clad crowd:

Scraw: "Wait, what is going on here? You cannot command in my home. Salt has been shared. These men are my guests, and if you break the salt-oath you know what will happen."

The PC's were equally confused by the intrusion and made their feelings known as well. The Blue Rock Chief answered, "They have been accused and must stand before Council." The chief goes on to explain the PC's are accused of stealing the hammer, to Scraw's disagreement. Despite the argument, the law is clear that they must stand for Council.

In the Benteak-Kune, "Council" is actually the term used for the entire tribal population. The PC's are to be taken and strapped to the "Testing Post", which is a wooden log pounded into the ground. The log is about 2ft in diameter and about 15ft high. Each member of the "Council" is allowed to take a swing at them with whatever item they have on hand. The item used will be based on how guilty they think the offending party is. (ex: I think you are real guilty, I use a spear. I think you are not guilty, so I use mud) Currently there are about 4 thousand barbarians gathered here. That is what makes up the council. If each one hits the PCs with a shirt, the PCs will die. Lolobe is keenly aware of this as part of his tradition, and realizes it is nothing short of murder. Not everyone will hit them with a shirt. They have a feeling that the Blue Rock warriors at the very least are going to use weapons. The shields are small leather bucklers designed for use from horseback.

The two dwarves are extremely nervous at the prospect and attempt to wiggle their way out of the situation by arguing that they are not members of the tribe. None of their protestations matter, however, as they are being dragged to the Testing Post. Eventually, Lolobe calls a halt to the proceedings and invokes the one right that all accused may demand in a situation like this: a Vision Quest.

This causes a great stir among the tribes who start to bicker about this right and when it applies. There is no written law among the Benteak-Kune, so everyone's version is a little different. Suddenly, the dwarves, who a minute ago were arguing that the laws do not apply to them, begin arguing the opposite. After much wrangling and consternation from some of the tribal elders, Lolobe's quest is granted.

The group is taken to a small tent constructed from antlers and wood and covered over with all manner of furs from local beasts. The White Bear shaman accompanies them into the tent and tells them all to take positions. There is a small fire burning in the middle heating up some rocks. The shaman then produces a wineskin filled with some unknown liquid and hands it to Schwerg, telling him to pass it around. Schwerg happily accepts and takes a long pull from the pungent liquid in the skin. The other two PC's follow. The Shaman then pulls out a pipe with some sort of dried moss or plant in the end, and lights it in the fire before taking a long drag. He then passes it to Schwerg, instructing the PC's to do the same.

For a minute or two, nothing happened. Suddenly, the PC's vision began to waver, and a loud CRACK was heard. Suddenly, they found themselves on a wide open snowy plain. In every direction there was snow as far as the eye could see, pristine and flat with no markings from passersby. The weather was not much colder than usual, but the sky was a sort of twilight hue, neither day nor night. The PC's experimented with walking, which gave them no trouble but they immediately noticed that when they walked they left no tracks in the snow. After some time, the sun started to rise in the east, and then it quickly moved from the eastern to the southern part of the sky, in a matter of seconds, at which point it dropped like a rock behind the flat white horizon. This puzzled the PC's but they had little time to reflect, until it happened again.... and then a third time, and then no more.

They began to walk and think about this part of their vision when suddenly in the distance they saw a gigantic set of metal balancing scales. This immediately reminded the PC cleric of Mikon of his own holy symbol. Walking up to the strange site, more details became visible. One the left side of the scales was a huge amount of junk making that side lower: stones, weapons, sheep, other farm animals, a shriveled heart, some iron bars, and so on. On the right side of the scales stood a man in tattered robes of a priest of Mikon. He had a crazed look in his eye.

As soon as the PC's engaged this man, they knew he was nuts. The man was gibbering to himself, occasionally swatting at imaginary insects, never seeming to know what was going on. After several attempts at communication, the PC's took instruction from him to remove items from the other side of the scale, so it would balance. Thus, the PC's started clearing items off one at a time, each time drawing some strange remark from the crazy priest about doom and gloom to come. Eventually, Lolobe knocked the heart of the scale with a polearm he found and just as quickly as the heart hit the ground, an eagle of beautiful regal bearing swooped down out of nowhere and grabbed the heart, flying off with it into the distance. Just then, the crazy priest became slightly lucid and said to the group, "Find me."

Immediately after that another loud CRACK was heard, and the PC's found themselves back in the sweat tent.

With their new-found mission from the spirits, the PC's are allowed to get back on the road and seek out the curious figure they met. They ascertained from the vision that the sun falling three times in the south meant that they needed to travel south for three days.

The trip down was fairly uneventful. Eventually, the passed the "Scales of Mikon", a natural formation of dual plateaus in the frozen tundra, which is held sacred by the followers of Mikon. Few priests, however, are ever intrepid enough to make the journey. After inspecting the formation from a distance, the PC's see a temple in the valley behind the plateaus.

The temple is surrounded by a 9ft high wall. In the center of this is a pair of doors. The doors are made of wood and what appears to have been an inlay of some sort at one time. One can still make out the outline of where the scales would have been if weather hadn't smoothed over the surface. The gate lies open enough for a person to pass through, but not a horse. Looking inside, the PC's can see a grand building in the center of the complex. Massive bronze doors herald the entrance and on either side stand stone statues of robed and faceless characters their arms holding scepters that cross over top the door. the window above the door has been shattered by either stones or bricks, but one can plainly see that at one time the stained glass had been a rosy hue. Looking around the courtyard, the PC's also make out what appears to be a stable to the left, a blacksmith and some sort of shop to the right. Everything seems empty and deserted.

After exploring the courtyard area, the PC's make their way into the main temple building, and soon find a man laying on his back in front of the alter. He has tattered robes of a priest of Mikon, and resembles greatly the man they met in their vision. Seeing if he needs medical attention, Schwerg takes the man's pulse and this causes the crazy priest to wake up.

Speaking in a falsetto female voice, the crazy priest says, "Fair prince, your angel soft kiss has woken me from my slumber placed upon me by my evil stepmother lo, these many aeons past. Pray take my favor that you might duel the dragon that inhabits these halls." The mention of a dragon in the area nearly makes the PC's soil their undergarments, and when they pressed the crazy falsetto priest on the matter, his demeanor immediately changed.

In fact, his demeanor changed regularly between at least four different personalities. There was the fair maiden prince who was always in distress.... the dwarven blacksmith who always wanted to "fix" things by hitting them with a hammer until they were bent in half.... the timid goblin obsessed with salt and meat.... and the lute-playing bard who only sung extremely bawdy songs. Once in a while, the priest's true personality would come out and give information, and it took nearly the whole night for the PC's to find out four things:

1. An evil creature in the Underdark is interested in the Hammer of Creation, for unknown reasons 2. The evil creature has corrupted a "good man" in his quest for the Hammer 3. The "good man" was once powerful in magic but has now lost the favor of his gods 4. Mikon feels that balance can only be restored to the tribes by bringing this person back into the favor of his gods

The PC's immediately decided, correctly, that the "good man" was the crazy priest of Mikon, and they brought him back with them on the journey back to the tribes. The tribal elders were surprised to meet the extra man, but set immediately to setting up the ritual for reporting back on the Vision Quest.

All the members of the tribes form a circle with the PC's placed in the center. One of the barbarians steps into the center wearing a fur cloak and leather hides and breeches. Upon his head he wears a leather helmet shaped like a dragon skull and dyed a brilliant red. He carries a spear of pure white. The spear head is not metal, but a massive, hooked dragon claw. In a melodic barritone he says, "WE GATHER HERE TO TELL THE TALES OF THE BENTEAK KUNE. Here are some adventurers that would add their voices to ours. Before they can, we must hear their tale and we shall know the truth of it. He then points to each tribal chief in turn.

The Blue Rock chieftain begins a low, rumbling, guttural chant. The White Bear chieftain begins a growling grunting sound like the snuffling of a bear. The Spirit Folk chief begins a light tenor trilling, and the Fighting Eagle chief begins a cawing sound. From the outside of the circle drums begin to play, and members of the tribes take up various parts of the chant. The four Shamans take out flutes, and begin to play.

On que, the music and noise stop suddenly, and the Spirit-Folk chieftain calls for the PC's to tell their story, leaving out no detail. Essentially, this ritual is acting as a Detect Lie, as well as a divine registration entry into the tribal history, which can be recalled later by other divinations. Once the story is done, all the other shamans stare aghast at the Blue Rock shaman. The Shaman of the Blue Rock tribe states, "What, you expected something else? Now that they have been caught in their lies, you have to listen to me. We shall execute them. (looking at the ground) Yes, execute them and then I can become the chief of all the tribes. (starts twitching) Chieftain for life. That's what I'll be. (whispering) Chieftain of the whole woooorrrrllllddd. Aaand maaassstteeeerrr shall reward me."

In disbelief, the barbarians take the Blue Rock shaman into custody and exonerate the PC's. However, the matter is not closed. Something must be done about the Blue Rock shaman's betrayal, it is up to the Hammer Bearer to decide his fate. All eyes look to Lolobe for the decision. After a moment's thought, he consults with his own tribal chief and shaman who inform him of the "Ritual of Making Right", to which the only other alternative would be judgment by Council. Lolobe gives the order for the Ritual of Making Right, and preparations begin immediately.

The next morning, the tribes gather in the common area again which is set up for the Ritual of Making Right. A long makeshift road leading from the Shaman's tent has been cleared. The Right Road, as it is called, extends from the Shaman's tent all the way to the Testing pole, which has been set up on the other side of the common area. A wooden plaque with the holy symbol of Ra-Ghul has been set atop the Testing Pole. The entire road is lined with villagers from all tribes, each holding a 3ft long string made of leather. The PC's are positioned at the Testing Pole, standing next to it. The shamans from the tribes are fanned out next to them and behind them.

At the start of the ritual, the Blue Rock shaman appears at the door of his tent, naked and covered in Wode. The blue designs painted on him resemble the style of Ra-Ghul's artwork and holy icons. A tall member of the Blue Rock bodyguards pushes him from his tent, as a horn is blown. Immediately, a line of drummers behind the crowd starts tapping out a quick tempo, while the tribesmen stamp their feet in time, waving their leather strings. The shaman takes off running down the Right Road, trying to make it to the Testing Pole as quickly as he can. However, just as he begins to run, the crowd along the street tightens up, making the way smaller, and they begin to whip him with the leather strings they hold, as he passes through.

The Shaman cries out in pain as streaks of blood appear on his skin, adding contrast to the blue Wode. If he passes out and/or dies before reaching the pole, he is not forgiven by Ra-Ghul. To the Shaman, the only goal is to get away from those nasty whips.

Eventually, the Shaman makes it to the Testing Pole, and the whipping and the drums stop. The other tribal shamans fan out next to him, and position him in midway between the Testing Pole and the PC's. The White Bear Shaman steps up and in a loud voice asks, "Under witness of our Warrior Lord, do you beg forgiveness of those you wronged? Do you beg forgiveness of holy Ra-Ghul?" After a pause, the Blue Rock Shaman stands motionless. Just then, the other three shamans walk up behind him and slam him on the back of the knees with their staffs, making him kneel. IN unison they yell on behalf of the Blue Rock Shaman, "I have acted against Ra-Ghul. I atone for my wrongs."

This beating is continued until the Blue Rock Shaman eventually apologizes to Ra-Ghul and the PC's on his own, without the need for prompting. It took many hours. The next day, the Blue Rock Shaman dies from his injuries.

The PC's nearly put the shaman incident out of their minds when the crazy priest of Mikon asks if he can borrow a hammer to "fix" the dead shaman. Schwerg decides, "hey why not" and loans the crazy priest his hammer. Taking the hammer from Schwerg, the priest runs into the shamans' tent where the body lay on the ground and begins whacking his the corpse's legs with hammer, making a huge mess. Deciding that this was a bad idea, Schwerg takes the hammer back, but the PC's discover some scribblings on the ground in the process.

One drawing shows a stick figure of a priest of Mikon being "X"'ed out, and a holy symbol of Sharistracterus above him. Another drawing shows the same stick figure of the priest of Mikon, but with large wings, and this time he's crushing the Sharistracterus symbol. Puzzled, the PC's seek help in interpretation from the tribal shamans who say it looks like some kind of prophecy about their crazy friend.

The PC's decide they need to figure out a way to cure his insanity.


Chapter 3

The day after the events in the Blue Rock shaman's tent, the PC's got some rest and observed the tribes breaking down camp and starting to head back to their respective winter settlements. All around there was an anti-climactic vibe, often seen after holidays are over and everyone is cleaning up the mess, and this was a really big holiday. It did not take long for them to start thinking about their current plight. Someone was after the Hammer of Creation, probably a follower of Sharistracterus, and it was clear this unknown enemy would persist like a nagging cough in its efforts to retrieve the object.

While contemplating their next steps, some of the tribal elders reminded Lolobe that as the Hammer Bearer he is welcome in any tribal settlement or dwelling, and that the shaman's of the Benteak-Kune were at his disposal for helping the crazy priest of Mikon. The PC's thought for a while about which tribe to follow back to its winter home range, and at least chose to stick with his own tribe, the Fighting Eagle. The group left immediately to travel back with Lolobe's kinfolk, and spent the days acting as guards for the caravan, while meeting with the shaman and his apprentices at night to try curing the crazy priest.

Unfortunately, the cures all proved futile, like a fly trying to knock down a house by feverishly beating itself against the walls. Many rituals were tried. Some had partial success in that the priest became lucid for short moments, but soon reverted back to one of his personalities whenever the proper verbal trigger was accidentally given. During these fleeting flickers of sanity, the priest revealed his name as Theramid, and said he had been heading to the Temple of Mikon in the area to visit the seven priests that made their home there, but soon after arriving, something came up behind him and surprised him, and that was the last thing he remembered. Taking this cue, the PC's made a side trip back to the temple on their way to the Fighting Eagle village and checked around for clues. They found a couple of bloody garments with gashes in them, but no bodies or other signs of life. Returning to the Fighting Eagle tribe, they gave one last attempt at restoring the priests' mind and failed.

Distraught and ready to give up, the group pleaded with the shaman of the Fighting Eagle for anything else they could try. Reluctantly, the shaman said there was one hope. Not far away, in an ice cave located in one of the glaciers that dotted the mountain range to the east lived a mysterious figure called the "Ice Shaman". Though he did not belong to any of the tribes, he was known to be good at healing the minds of the sick, possibly through some artifact he might possess, but the shaman was not sure. If the PC's could make contact with the Ice Shaman and convince him to help, the shaman was confident in that man's ability to heal Theramid.

The next day, the PC's started off towards the spot described by the Fighting Eagle shaman. Along the way, they encountered minor resistance from an unlucky yeti, and just before reaching the ice cave they were attacked by Kirith-Fa in an attempt to take the Hammer of Creation again. The attack nearly succeeded, and Schwerg and Lolobe were wounded pretty badly. Still, they managed to survive the desperate pitched battle. In retrospect, they realized they probably should have fought on horseback instead of ambushing the approaching enemy, who was also on horseback.

Bruised and battered and covered in blood, the group entered the ice cave one at a time with Lolobe in the lead. Immediately upon turning the corner, Lolobe was nearly destroyed by a vicious attack from behind. This called for an immediate retreat and rethinking of their tactics. The group decided to rest for two days in the area and recover their wounds before trying again. On the next attempt, the creature attacked Lolobe again. After sinking two claws deep into the barbarian's chest, the two of them disappeared. Puzzled, the group looked around the cave for them, but to no avail until 7 minutes later, the pair appeared again out of thin air in the same place they had originally left. The group deduced that this creature could attack its victim and blip 7 minutes into the future, hopefully long enough to make the allies give up and leave, so the creature could finish off its prey. It was a temporal filcher. Nevertheless, the creature was eventually defeated, though Schwerg once again suffered grievous wounds and needed healing prayers from Mikon.

Making their way through the cave, the PC's uncovered a dining area, a meditation room, and ultimately the quarters of the Ice Shaman who was not all that ecstatic about the damage to his home. A brief argument ensued and the PC's presented the crazy priest, Theramid, to the Ice Shaman who took an interest in his case because of the challenge involved.

The Ice Shaman brought them all to the meditation room and laid Theramid down on a table-like platform in the middle of the room, and with the aid of a curious crystal object laid a hand on Theramid's head, concentrating hard and straining in the effort. As the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes turned into hours, sweat poured down the Ice Shaman's forehead. Sometimes one of them would scream a blood-curdling blast of agony at some unseen mental force, only to recover quickly and begin straining again with effort. Only when the Ice Shaman's robe was soaked clear through, and his white hair hung ragged in wet strands down the sides of his face did anyone relent. It was Theramid who cried out last and flopped off the table on which he was situated.

After unceremoniously dropping to the floor, he was silent for a few moments. Then suddenly the crazy priest of Mikon began to writhe and hiss in pain, drawing in breath with agonizing burning pain only reluctantly. Screaming and writhing on the ground, he began to grow a little larger, and his form ripped through his clothes to show a powerfully muscled human-like body. At the same moments, two large undulating bumps appeared on his back, pushing at the skin like dull instruments attempting to punch through leather. Enduring further agony, Theramid's distress reached a crescendo as two large feathery gray wings burst out of the bumps on his back, quickly spreading out to an impressive 15' wingspan. Soon after, the pain abated, and Theramid emerged as his true self, a powerfully-built, fully capable Mikonator.

He thanked the PC's for reading his cryptic messages and saving him, as it was Mikon's will to start him on an important mission. He was posing as a human when he learned that Sharistracterus' minions were searching for a powerful item, the Hammer of Creation, because they had learned of its true purpose.

Long ago, when the spirits roamed the planet, the Mikonator explained, the spirits who inhabited Avlis had the ability to draw magic from the things around them using a system of runes. The runes were the original written language of the spirits. The elven and magya languages of today were similar in spoken form, but the runes they used were ultimately passed down from the gods to suit the language. The runes that Sharistracterus learned about predated Magya, elven, and the gods themselves. They held power in their own right. Someone who inscribed the word "fire" on an object, for instance, could cause the object to burn simply because the rune for "fire" WAS one and the same with fire, and so on. As the spirits went extinct, the Mikonator went on, the forces of Mikon saw fit to let the art die for the sake of keeping balance. However, it seemed that Sharistracterus found a reference to the magical system and aimed to gain power in it, which means that Mikon had to do something about that. Thus, the Mikonator Theramid was instructed to give the rune system to the tribes of Tyedu and teach them so they would be ready when the forces of the Underdark burst through their gates wielding this horrible power.

He nodded to Lolobe's Hammer and said that the rune inscribed on it meant "create", which makes it a tool for creating the implements needed to carve the runes. A rune carving implement was referred to as a "stylus", the Mikonator explained, and these implements had to be made out of something called red obsidian, which in modern times only exists down in the Underdark. Sharistracterus already had plenty of access to the special rock, and only needed the Hammer to make good on his plan. In order to catch up to his progress, the PC's would need to venture into the Underdark and get some of this material to make themselves some rune carving implements and begin their training.