Rise of the Thirteenth
The Bindings of Chaos
Panitari Romhaar had been a professor of history at Morgrave University for many years, and had recently been named curator of the Dezina Museum of Antiquities. During her time in this position she had gathered a group of trusted students who aided in her research and expeditions, both beyond the city of Sharn and below it.
Several weeks ago Professor Romhaar left hurriedly on an expedition, leaving no details or explanations for her proteges and taking no items or equipment of particularly outstanding significance. None of the students had heard from her since.
On the evening of the 8th of Nymm, 995 YK, the students received word that there was a message from Professor Romhaar at the House Sivis message station at Barmin Tower, in the University District of the Upper Menthis Plateau. The party made its way across the rain-slicked bridges of the city, but when they arrived at the message station they found the doors torn asunder and hanging at strange angles, their hinges rent and broken. After Zinnisaadi confirmed that there appeared to be no evidence of magic at work the party cautiously entered the building to find it had been ransacked. Tables and stools were smashed, shelves toppled and broken. Great stacks of scrolls were spilled across the floor. The speaking stone was shattered, and sparks of arcane energy erupted from it sporadically. Behind the counter, draped over a blood soaked pile of parchment and vellum, was the gnome clerk of House Sivis who ran the station.
After being briefly revived by the party the gnome spoke only five words: "Tarkanan…Halas Tarkanan is back." The party recalled some of the work of Professor Romhaar whose studies involved the War of the Mark, when the pure dragonmarked houses tried to purge the world of aberrant dragonmarks nearly fifteen hundred years earlier. Halas Tarkanan gathered the aberrants together for mutual defense and eventually led them in an ultimately unsuccessful rebellion. His forces were driven back to Sharn, where in his final stand he and the The Lady of Plague used their powers to level the city.
Gildendorf carefully searched the gnome’s body and found a piece of parchment clutched tightly in her hand, inscribed with one word: Vathirond. Beneath her body Zontar and Dick Clark only found miscellaneous messages, including bills of sale and a House Lyrandar shipping manifest. Dick studied the features of the gnome so that he might be able to impersonate her later, just as the shrill whistle of the City Watch cut through the rainy night.
The party briefly debated hiding the body and letting Dick impersonate her, before realizing that they had no other rooms in which to hide the corpse, nor would they be able to repair the shop or clean up the blood in time. With no other entrances or exits, and no weapons to speak of they were left with no choice but to come clean and be honest about their involvement. Fortunately the combined diplomatic skills of Dick and Alahara convinced the constabulary of their innocence, though they were warned that their activities would be under observation.
Later that evening the party was summoned to the flying barque of Lady Elaydren d’Vown, a seneschal of the Southern Faction of House Cannith. She was flanked by her two polished, black Warforged guardians and surrounded by an invisible ward that kept even the rain from touching her. She divulged to the party that she was aware of the incident in Barmin Tower, and that she was the one who hired Professor Romhaar for her most recent expedition.
The young lady engaged Professor Romhaar’s services when she heard rumors that a strange creature had been seen wandering the Mournland, emerging from the mist as if made from it, with strange glowing lines etched into her skin which resembled no known dragonmark. Thinking that this might be some new, aberrant dragonmark Elaydren asked the professor to use her expertise in these matters to discover the truth of these rumors. If true, and it has some relation to The Mourning, it could be the most powerful aberrant mark seen since the War of the Mark.
When the party inquired about how such a young girl could be so well spoken Elaydren explained that much is required by the House, even from a young age, especially now that the leadership of the House was in disarray. When the Mourning came to Cyre the Baron Starrin d’Cannith and all of his direct descendents were lost. Three potential heirs have emerged, and of those Elaydren supports Merrix d’Cannith, the youngest. She suspects that the creature may be in the hands of Zorlan d’Cannith and is growing concerned because, if it truly bears an aberrant mark related to the Mourning, Zorlan could use it to solidify his claim to the house. She is troubled by the silence coming from the eastern enclave of the House, and fears what Zorlan may be plotting if he indeed has possession of this creature.
She asks the party to journey east to the city of Vathirond to discover the source of the message that drove the attack on the House Sivis message station, the fate of Professor Romhaar and her expedition, and the truth behind the rumors of the creature from the Mournland. When she offered to fully finance their journey and pay for any equipment and travel expenses the party jumped at the opportunity, and immediately set off to prepare.
The Lightning Rail
Two days later, as the party slept in a private cabin aboard the House Orien lightning rail heading to the eastern border of Breland, Alahara had a dream. In it she saw the final battle of the Last War, cut short by the Mourning. As the gloom swept over her an intricate pattern of glowing blue lines etched themselves into the rock at her feet, and a figure emerged from the mist to deliver a cryptic message: “By the rise of the thirteenth five will be one.”
When she snapped awake Alahara saw, among her sleeping companions, a mysterious gnome with his arm draped around Dick Clark, dressed in black boiled leather and smoking a long, thin pipe. She immediately alerted the others who awoke, and began to interrogate the intruder who seemed very nonplussed about the state of affairs. He introduced himself as Talleon Haliar Tonan, and stated that he was aware of the party’s intentions, their employer and their ultimate destination. When asked, he said that he knew Panitari Romhaar, but had not seen her since the War. He also warned them not to meddle in the internal politics of the dragonmarked houses. The party seemed agitated by his presence, but with no straightforward way of disposing of his body should the conversation turn violent, and with House Deneith Blademarked Guards roaming the train to protect the passengers, cooler heads prevailed. The party inquired as to how he got into their cabin, and how he planned to leave. Talleon said only that he had his own way, and with a wink vanished into thin air.
The party shortly arrived in the city of Vathirond, and saw the Mournland in the distance, marked by a wall of dead grey mist one mile high and stretching from one horizon to the other. As they disembarked they encountered a skeptical guard. Since the city had largely been given over to the 4th army of Breland and refugees fleeing the Mournland, he was incredulous that anyone would choose to go there except on urgent matters. The party carefully explained their situation, and asked he had seen anyone matching the professor’s description. He had not, but explained that several groups had been sending expeditions into the Mournland of late, though few returned. Satisfied with their explanation and by the amorous advances of Dick Clark, he directed the party to a tavern run by a Goliath bartender named Yenian. The half-giant only spoke broken Common, but when Zontar engaged him in the language of the Giants he quickly warmed to them, and offered the drow a free ale. When asked, he corroborated the guard’s story, and explained that very few travelers pass this way, with the exception of soldiers of one nation or other. Yenian bemoaned the steady tide of refugees, and the constantly shifting border that, at times, made him a servant of Thrane, Cyre, Breland and even the goblins of Darguun.
As Zontar finished his ale, the party heard a disturbance in the street. A voice cried out “Stop it!” and they rushed outside to find the source. Once they made their way to the alley outside the tavern, they saw figures running along the rooftops. Among them was a young girl with pale grey skin etched by glowing blue lines. Her hair seemed to float around her as she ran, and as she reached the edge of one building she kept running as if still supported by something beneath her feet. As she ran down to the ground she landed gently in the midst of the party, and without missing a beat introduced herself as Kaze. Dick Clark immediately drew his bow on her, unsure of her identity or intentions. But as he did, her pursuers on the roofs above took up position, and unleashed a quarrel between them. At the end of the alley a llarge warforged captain slowly lumbered towards them, and three bowmen took aim above.
When the party asked why she was being pursued, Kaze explained that she had very few memories. She recalled only wandering around in the mist, before some people came and took her to a place where they studied her. A few weeks ago she escaped, and that they had been looking for her ever since.
Wasting no time, Gildendorf scrambled up to the roofs and unleashed his rage on one of the bowmen. Alahara ran to the top of the stairs behind the tavern and used her position to take aim at a hunter atop the building across the way, just missing him with one shot but catching him in the arm with another. Dick Clark remained wary of the newcomer, but decided to trust her for the time being. He reached into his climber’s kit to toss a grappling hook up to the roof of the tavern, only to find that rope was sold separately. Zontar carefully directed his attack towards the warforged that was plodding relentlessly towards them, buffeting him with arcane energy but not stopping his advance.
Knowing that she was capable of fleeing at any moment the bowmen on the roofs took aim at Kaze, and pinned her in the thigh and back with a pair of arrows. The warforged captain seized her as she stumbled, badly bloodied. But as he did so she jammed her bronzewood quarterstaff into his neck, and in a gale of wind pushed him five feet away from her and shifted to escape. Zinisadi ran to join Alahara on the stairs, and attempted to scramble up to the roof of the tavern so that she could take better aim at the bowmen with her arcane missiles. However, her diminutive stature coupled with the loose flagstone walls made the climb almost impossible for her and so she returned to the street to defend her companions.
Gildendorf, having dispatched one of the bowmen, quickly moved on the other. As he raised his sword to attack he lost his grip on its hilt, and it flew backwards, lodging itself in the tarred shingles. He pivoted to retrieve it, and drawing upon his resolve swung again, catching the bowmen in the shoulder.
On the adjacent stairwell, Alahara again leveled her crossbow at the hunter, and this time caught him in the neck. Dick Clark finished the job, landing the final arrow in his right eye. Zontar, recognizing that the skirmish would come down to the warforged captain, fired a series of arcane missiles in his direction. The first landed squarely in the middle of the construct’s chest, while the second merely dissipated around him. Outraged and forgetting his quarry the construct immediately raised a kind of elemental shield around itself, charged toward Zontar and drew a ten-foot glaive. Swinging it over the head of Zinisadi the blade just barely caught the drow in his side. On the rooftop the last bowman drew his club and swung wildly at Gildendorf, while on the street below Kaze pounced on her former pursuer and swung down hard on his shield, which began to flicker and fade. Zinisadi unleashed into the construct’s protective elemental barrier, causing it to fail, and with a final strike of magical force shattered his livewood muscles and sent his frame clattering to the ground. Above, Gildendorf drove his blade deep into the bowman’s neck and shoulder, sending him stumbling back over the edge to the cobblestone street below.
The ambush behind them, the party took stock of the spoils and found on the warforged captain a bag of holding. Contained within was a Flail of Winds, whose bludgeoning head was scribed with runes of elemental magic. While Kaze came upon a potion of healing from one of the bowman, the party resumed their earlier line of questioning. When the description of Professor Romhaar was put to her, she confirmed that she had seen such a woman at the place where she was being held in the mist.
The party decided then and there that they had to see this through, and decided to take on the perilous journey into the Mournland. What followed was surely the most vigorous bout of Journeybread purchasing ever seen, where the party began selling some of their equipment to purchase 30 days worth of the magical rations made by House Ghallanda. Well-supplied and waterskins full, the party set off to the east, following the now-defunct line of conductor stones that once lead the lightning rail into Cyre, and now only lead the party into the grey mist of the Mournland.
After the first day’s journey all of their preparations appeared to be for naught, as the party easily endured the crossing and found their way through the mist. However, on their first night encamped, the party was caught unawares. Though Dick Clark tried to warn them, they were overrun by a wave of arcane energy. Though it had all the appearance of a spell, it had no discernible caster and seemed to move and behave as if it had a life of its own. At the end of the assault the party was lightly bruised, but managed to recuperate quickly and begin their journey again after a short rest. Though Kaze was not able to fully verbalize her recollection of the landscape she saw during her escape, Alahara’s natural psionic talents allowed her to interpret the girl’s intentions. Using what she intuited she used natural landmarks to find their way to an iron building set low into the barren landscape.
The Binding Lab
Thanks to the magical talents of Zinisadi and the thievery skills of Dick Clark and Alahara the party managed to defeat the Mark of Warding on the large metal doors leading into the facility. Once inside they found the bodies of an older Dwarf and a young Elf woman that Kaze recognized as members of Professor Romhaar’s expedition. The party’s actions did not go unnoticed, and they were able to discern muffled words behind a nearby door. Dick Clark prepared his dagger and took the shape of one of the bowmen the group fought in Vathirond. He opened the door and moved for the kill, but the mercenary took it for an embrace and returned his affection. Quietly slipping his dagger back into its sheath, he kept up his ruse by explaining that he hired this group of sellswords after the aberration killed his companions and the warforged captain. Playing along, the rest of the party pretended that they had captured Kaze, and were lead down into the bowels of the facility until they arrived at a warehouse.
At one end a huge, shimmering portal bathed the cavernous room in a silver light. Crates and barrels were being hauled to and fro by spindly constructs that were warforged in name only. Supervising them was a well-equipped artificer by the name of Nerisuvial Songsteel. After hearing them out, Nerisuvial ordered the warforged to take Kaze into custody, and bring her to Oloril. Kaze dodged and weaved, frustrating their attempts to seize her. Nerisuvial then ordered the other members of the party to take her into custody. They appeared to comply, and as he came up to Kaze Zontar whispered to her “play along”. Once they had moved into a tactically advantageous position, the companions attacked. The warforged were disposed of quickly, and Nerisuvial attempted to escape just as Gildendorf’s blade slashed through her leather vest, teleporting out of the room in a flash of lightning.
The remaining mercenary was furious at the betrayal, but before she could act against the changeling who had deceived her she was pummeled by a focused barrage of magical energy from Zinisadi, knocked back several feet and thrown to the ground. The mercenary nearly landed in a hallway whose floor was covered with runes, which Zinisadi was able to determine constituted an invocation of Risia, the elemental plane of Ice.
Despite Nerisuvial’s flight from the battle and the warforged in pieces all around her, the mercenary stood up and pressed her attack, stabbing Dick Clark in the stomach. At that moment, the party heard a rumble in the distance, and the light from the portal began to shimmer as a titanic warforged construct emerged. Zontar quickly attacked it, but to little effect. Heavily-plated and bristling with spikes and weapons, it quickly took stock of the situation. It raised its own elemental shield, shifted its armor plates so that they interlocked for greater defense, and opened up a cavity in its chest to unleash an orb of alchemical flame. The blast landed squarely on Zontar, but spread to everyone within ten feet, bathing them in fire that moved like lightning.
Alahara decided to pursue Nerisuvial, and flung open the doors to a nearby passageway to find the artificer bloodied and slumped against the wall. Alahara cut such an intimidating figure that, with the tiefling’s boot at her throat and crossbow leveled at her head, Nerisuvial relented and surrendered.
Meanwhile, in the warehouse Kaze, Gildendorf, Zontar and Zinisadi unleashed their full might against the warforged titan, while Dick Clark and the mercenary whom he’d deceived were locked in single combat. Thanks to their spellcasting compatriots the shield around the construct fell, allowing Kaze and Gildendorf to attack it directly. In the final moments Gildendorf sheathed his sword and drew the Flail of Winds, and with a decisive blow snuffed out the life within the titan before it could strike again. Behind them, their changeling companion drew upon all of his inner darkness and channeled it into his blade, driving it into the heart of the mercenary and twisting it until she slumped to the ground.
Dick Clark fared little better, and quickly succumbed to his earlier injuries. Unconscious and dying, the changeling managed to hang on long enough for his companions to put an end to the construct and see to his wounds. Alahara returned with their new found prisoner, who divulged all that she knew. In particular, that the master of this place was an elemental binder named Oloril. When they had discovered Kaze wandering through the Mournland it was initially thought that she might bear an aberrant dragonmark of untold power. However, it was Oloril who discovered that Kaze did not bear a dragonmark at all. Through his work he discovered that she was, in fact, an elemental. No such elemental creature had ever been seen before in the world, and all that had previously been encountered were nearly shapeless and mindless creatures of pure instinct. Nerisuvial revealed the belief that has driven Oloril’s work: at some point someone must have taken the work of the binders of Zilargo, who have previously bound elementals into metal and other objects, and found a way to bind an elemental into flesh.
The party asked where they could find Oloril, and Nerisuvial nodded down the rune-covered hallway. “He’s in the summoning room.”
When they further pressed her to reveal the location of the professor, she replied only “She’s in there too.”
At that same moment, half-way across Khorvaire, a young, half-elven woman cloaked in black raced through dusty canyons pocked by pulsating, dark crystals. Unknown pursuers behind her, her captain at her side, she raced forward heedlessly. The end of the canyon ahead was bathed in the silver light of a portal. As her captain urged her onward he stopped to hold back the horde following close behind. She clutched a runed, silver orb in her hand, plunged through the shimmering pool of light and emerged into a darkened warehouse before stumbling over the hulking wreck of a warforged titan.
Seven others stood around her: a man who wielded a flail inscribed with elemental runes; a changeling covered in blood; a drow and a young gnomish woman who bristled with magical energy; a sultry tiefling who stood guard over a badly wounded artificer; and a girl unlike anything she’d seen, surrounded by swirling winds with gray skin was etched by thin, blue lines.
The party began to draw their weapons on her, but she quickly made it clear that she was not the threat with which they should be concerned. The portal behind her began to shift once again, as if something else were attempting to cross. Zinnasaadi and Zontar quickly scrambled over the ruined warforged to attempt to take control of the portal. While they could not find a way to shut it down they discovered a way to disrupt it by channeling their arcane energies directly into it, preventing the things on the other side from passing through. As one faltered the other took up the effort, but their compatriots realized that they could not hold the pursuers at bay indefinitely.
When asked, the half-elven woman introduced herself as Lady Aliella d’Medani a recruit of the King’s Dark Lanterns, a covert branch of the military of Breland. She and her captain had been investigating a mining operation in the Demon Wastes when they were attacked. He had given her a runed orb which he said would allow her to pass through the portal. Dick Clark realized that it might be possible to use the orb to shut down the portal, and asked Lady Aliella to make the attempt. She turned to face the pool of light, flanked by the two spellcasters emptying their power into its surface, held the silver orb in front of her and channeled all of her will through it. By her mental command the light vanished and the portal became dormant.
With the immediate threat behind them the party once again turned to their captive, Nerisuvial Songsteel. The artificer had told them that their missing mentor, Professor Panitari Romhaar, was being held in the summoning room by Nerisuvial’s employer and master, an elemental binder named Oloril. Entrance to the room could only be gained by passing through one of two hallways, both of which had floors etched with arcane runes. Upon investigation the runes seemed to be an invocation of the elemental planes of Fernia and Risia, the Sea of Fire and the Plain of Ice. Each hallway had become a manifest zone, in effect summoning a part of each plane to Eberron. When Gildendorf attempted to enter the westernmost hallway a freezing pain shot up through his leg, forcing him to quickly lurch backward. After it was realized that Kaze was naturally resistant to cold and Alahara could shrug off a modest amount of fire the group sent them down their corresponding hallways to investigate further. At the end of each the young women found doors sealed with magical wards, which were easily defeated thanks to the coaching of Zontar and Zinnasaadi.
Before opening the doors, the party reconvened to further pressure Nerisuvial for information. The artificer nodded towards a corridor to the east and divulged that there were sigils in the laboratory that could grant all of them the temporary resistance they would need to pass through the hallways and enter the summoning room. Since the tiefling and genasi were already resistant, it was decided to leave them in the warehouse to watch over the prisoner while the rest of the party explored the laboratory.
At the end of the corridor they found the lab being ransacked by a cloaked warforged who appeared to be searching for something, with papers and scrolls scattered on the floor amidst tables of glassware filled with bubbling liquids, and shelf upon shelf of arcane tomes lining the walls. In the far corners two open doorways lead to small chambers. The one to the north was filled with lurid red light and containing a creature of pure fire with armor made from what seemed to be solid flame. A mist drifted from the chamber to the south, which contained a being of black ice and cold winds. As soon as the party began to enter the room the elementals shrieked. The warforged spun about, pulled its cloak aside and opened its jaws wide. Gildendorf rushed into the room and jumped onto the table, shattering the beakers and flasks, spilling pools of acidic and magical liquid onto the floor, and swung his flail at the warforged just as it released the two elementals from their chambers.
Back in the warehouse the portal suddenly reactivated, and Kaze and Alahara stood by helplessly as a tribe of orcs emerged from it. As they took up position and tried to decide what to do next, Kaze noticed a small gnome dressed in black boiled leather sitting on a stack of nearby crates and staring at the orcs as he smoked his pipe. Alahara instantly recognized him from the lightning rail as Talleon Haliar Tonan, and he recognized her as well, admonishing her that she should have listened to him and stayed out of the politics of the dragonmarked houses.
Talleon explained he was a captain of the King’s Dark Lanterns, and that the orcs were members of the Ghaash’kala, a tribe dedicated to containing the evil of the Demon Wastes. “They will not fight us, nor will they fight for us.” He then kicked over one of the crates, and out of it spilled a horde of dark crystals. “They only mean to ensure that none of these leaves this place.” He told them that the crystals were Khyber shards, critical to the art of elemental binding but believed by many to carry the dark touch of the Dragon Below. He knew of Oloril and his twisted work, and he had heard rumors of a binding lab in the Mournland, but could not hope to locate it directly. When he learned of a secret Khyber shard mine operating in the Demon Wastes he went with his recruit, Lady Aliella, to investigate any possible connection.
It was then that he stopped his story and took notice of Nerisuvial, whose name and personal history he seemed to know in great detail. He approached her and asked only one question: “Where is Thora Tavin?” All of the rage and resistance that was left in her seemed to flee at the mention of that name, and her eyes went wide with alarm. As soon as he saw her reaction, and before she could respond, Talleon slipped a misericorde out of his sleeve and drove it up through her jaw and into her skull, killing her instantly. “That’s all I needed” he said as he cleaned the blade.
Back in the laboratory Zontar and Zinnasaadi sent volleys of arcane missiles at the elementals from the doorway, as Dick Clark and Gildendorf fought the warforged resounder. After the ice elemental was shattered the fire elemental grabbed Gildendorf with a flaming tendril and flung him off the table and into a bookshelf. Lady Aliella attempted to destroy it with a burst of psychic energy, but accidentally directed the force of the attack inward and collapsed, screaming and clutching her head.
As the increasingly unsteady warforged withered under the attacks it raised an elemental shield and began to repair itself. Zinnasaadi noticed a dark crystal socketed into the warforged’s chest, and as the attacks of Zontar and Dick Clark caused the shield to flicker and fade she sent a targeted bolt of magic directly into it, shattering the crystal and creating an explosion that rippled through its torso, which sent the lifeless warforged slumping to the ground. The party began to focus their efforts on the fire elemental, to little effect, when Talleon suddenly blinked into the room, drew two long knives and cut through the creature in a rapid series of slashes. The flames seemed to tear apart and sputter out as the elemental flickered into nothing. Alahara and Kaze ran through the doorway, and as everyone began to recuperate and take stock the tiefling expressed the question that was on everyone’s mind: “What’s going on here?”
Talleon explained that his goal was the capture of a criminal named Thora Tavin, a woman who bears a powerful aberrant dragonmark. He believed that she was working with Oloril. He knew Thora when she was an agent of the King’s Dark Lanterns, where she lead a group of aberrants in clandestine missions during the Last War. When the dragonmarked houses discovered the existence of the group they used their considerable influence to have them purged. Thora and a few others survived and went into hiding.
She had gone by many aliases in the past and had been known to operate under the name Halas Tarkanan, in homage to the ancient aberrant leader. For the past several years she had also been using the name Panitari Romhaar. This shocked and confused the party, especially those who had been proteges of the professor for many years. Talleon assured them that they had not misheard him. Their mentor, the woman they knew as Professor Romhaar, was his quarry.
After the war she spent time in the Lower Menthis district of Sharn running a brothel, the Eyes of the Beholder, using it to gather information from the clientele. When her identity was at risk she later assumed the role of a professor, where her globe-trotting studies into the history of the War of the Mark served two purposes: uncovering secrets or ancient artifacts that she could use against the dragonmarked houses, and as a cover for her criminal activities around Khorvaire.
When Zontar asked about how someone gained an aberrant dragonmark, Talleon explained that just as with pure dragonmarks the bearer is born into it. Many believe that the pure marks are the touch of Siberys, the Dragon Above, while aberrant marks are a sign of Khyber, the Dragon Below. For this reason those who bear aberrant marks have always been persecuted. And Thora will stop at nothing to protect those like her who bear an aberrant dragonmark, including murder.
Talleon further explained that he believed Thora was not being held here against her will. Rather, Talleon suspected that she heard about Kaze and was working with Oloril to harness the power of Khyber. He claimed to have evidence that when word of her activities got out she tried to cover her tracks, eventually leading her to arrange the assassination of a blood heir of House Sivis, the dying gnome that the party discovered four days earlier. Talleon had known about Thora’s survival and double life for some time, but after she took that action he could no longer look the other way. He intends to take her into custody so that she may answer for her crimes.
The High Binder
These revelations about their mentor took the party by surprise, and they were unsure of how to proceed. Lady Aliella attested to Talleon’s integrity and the veracity of his claims, and the party was left with little choice but to continue with their original plan. They would storm the summoning room, stop Oloril and if they found the professor they would confront her with these allegations. Gildendorf, Dick Clark and Zontar stepped onto the sigil that granted resistance to fire, while Zinnasaadi, Zontar and Talleon chose to gain resistance to cold. Each group returned to the warehouse, entered their respective hallways, and cast open the doors.
They were met by a blast of air and blinding light. As their eyes adjusted inside the room they saw a column of fire erupting out of a summoning circle to the west, and a freezing cyclone twisting out of another circle to the east. Each seemed to have a life of its own, intertwining into a chaotic storm raging across the ceiling that was being funneled onto an altar at the far end of the room. Suspended in midair above the altar, completely nude and seemingly enthralled by the elemental energies enveloping her, was Professor Romhaar. At the foot of the altar, kneeling and reading from a tome, was an older gnome that Talleon confirmed to be Oloril. His outstretched hands appeared to be frozen solid, the skin of his arms was cracking apart revealing a subtle red glow from within. He was weeping tears of molten slag, chanting words in a tongue that only Kaze could understand. She could tell that he was calling, beckoning, and his words were like metal scraping across ice.
At a table to the right of the altar was another gnome. She was reading from a scroll, responding to each incantation from Oloril but focused solely on directing the power of the roiling storm above them. There were a pair of cages nearby perched on the edge of a pit, the furthest one occupied by some sort of tentacled creature covered in rags and tattered remnants of armor.
The party immediately focused their assault on Oloril, but found that none of their attacks could reach him. Alternately cloaked by wind and fire he resisted everything they threw at him, and began summoning elemental minions to assail the group. As Gildendorf’s flail crashed through the torso of a lesser air elemental it ruptured, sending a burst of freezing wind in all directions, injuring everyone around who could not resist the cold. Kaze experienced similar difficulties with a minor fire elemental, which erupted in a conflagration as it was destroyed by her bronzewood staff, searing the genasi girl and others nearby. These bursts also had the effect of weakening the elemental barrier around Oloril. Each group quickly exchanged targets, and in short order laid several elemental minions low and exposed the gnomish binder to their assault. However, at the first injury Oloril rendered himself invisible. Even Zinnasaadi, who shared a similar affinity for illusions and resistance to their effects, could not locate him.
Kaze raced to the back of the room to silence Oloril’s aide while Talleon leapt onto the altar to confront Thora Tavin. At the first blow from the genasi’s staff the gnome’s concentration faltered, and the column of chaotic energy bathing the altar scattered. The elemental storm above began to churn relentlessly, it’s wild power now directionless. The professor dropped to the ground, dazed and incoherent. Talleon quickly bound her as Alahara rushed to her side. The tiefling looked at her mentor and asked how to stop the storm.
“Why would you want to stop this?” the woman replied, half in revery. Alahara noticed that she no longer wore the eye patch that had always covered much of the left side of her face. Around and within her left eye she bore strange, intricate red lines pulsing in response to the chaos around them.
As Zontar, Dick Clark, Gildendorf and Zinnasaadi continued to stave off the minions of Khyber, Kaze and the gnomish woman struggled for control of the ritual scroll. Lady Aliella joined the fight, and with her help the gnome was slain. But as she fell the storm above erupted, raging out of control. Kaze and Aliella tried to read the silvery words inscribed on the parchment, but while the genasi could understand the script she could not find meaning in the text. As she looked up for assistance she noticed Talleon studying the caged creature next to the pit. Kaze recognized the bits of armor still clinging to it, and realized it must once have been a member of the professor’s expedition. Talleon shook his head in pity and once again slipped a blade from his sleeve to put it out of its misery. Just as he plunged it into the creature’s neck Oloril re-appeared, charging headlong into Talleon and sending him tumbling into the pit.
Alahara struggled to keep her mentor awake atop the altar, and pleaded with her for an explanation, a reason behind all of this. The professor replied, “House Cannith…they want to start the war again. They never wanted it to end…arms and armies, legions of warforged soldiers, elemental airships and weapons beyond count. They sold to all nations, and became more powerful than any in return…they have to be stopped.” The delirious woman gazed around them at the chaotic energy filling the room. “And this is the power to stop them. We have to control it.”
Talleon found himself badly bloodied. He looked up at the edge of the pit thirty feet above, where Oloril stood grinning. As he dusted himself off he noticed a vague shape moving in the darkened corner. Suddenly a thin, pale tendril shot out of the shadows and tried to wrap itself around his waist. He drew a longknife just in time to cut it away, and the creature in the darkness screamed in response. It emerged into the light, naked from the waist up and wearing shreds of a brown robe around its legs. Pale and gaunt, with a shape that may have once been a man’s, it had only empty and withered sockets where there should have been eyes. Row after row of needle-like teeth dotted its gaping jaws, and all around it writhed thin tentacles beyond count. Far above Oloril laughed maniacally, watching the unintended results of his craft at work. Suddenly, he was struck from behind as Kaze dove into him, driving her shoulder into his back and sending the deranged binder headlong into the pit.
Aliella shouted words from the scroll, and Kaze tried her best to translate as she caught herself at the precipice of the pit. But they could not find meaning in the text and great whips of fire bathed the altar where Alahara and the professor still knelt before cascading around the room.
With the elemental minions all but defeated Zinnasaadi joined the effort to interpret the magical properties of the text. In a flash of insight Lady Aliella realized that the struggle was not with the scroll but with the storm, and the words were just a channel through which she could direct her will, much as she did with the orb and the portal. With this newfound understanding she focused her mind through the ritual scroll and gained control over the chaotic storm churning across the ceiling. She also knew that the slightest waver in her focus could result in losing that control, just as they had seen with Oloril’s aide.
At the bottom of the pit Oloril raked his icy nails across Talleon’s throat as they struggled for his knife. The creature in the corner lashed out at both gnomes, its murderous instinct making no distinction between the binder and the soldier. Its tendrils wrapped around both of their necks, and began to drain the life from them. Oloril struggled against it, but Talleon realized it was futile. He sighed, pulled out his pipe and lit it, and said “for Breland.”
With that, he drove his knife into the binder’s chest and everything went silent.
A brilliant, shimmering wall of light erupted from the pit, catching everyone in its wake. Dick Clark, Gildendorf and Zontar attempted to dodge out of its way, but as each lifted their gaze they found that they were no longer in the summoning room.
Zontar found himself surrounded by a thick curtain of grey mist, the dirt at his feet desiccated and lifeless. He recognized it as the Mournland, but had no sense of his whereabouts. The young drow was the only evidence of any life within a hundred miles.
Gildendorf was seated at the end of a long table in a ruined dining hall. Torn and threadbare tapestries hung over the crumbling walls. At the far end of the table was a man, sharply dressed in military attire, with his flesh sloughing off his bones.
Dick Clark was in the midst of a twilit cavern, with strange rock formations twisting and towering around him. As he stood up and attempted to get his bearings he heard something from the far shadows: whispers. Ceaseless whispers.
Alahara, Kaze, Lady Aliella and Zinnasaadi awoke on a rain-slick, rocky outcrop. Drenched and beset by hurricane winds from every direction, they struggled to their feet. Lightning rolled through the clouds above and around them, followed by a thunderous cacophony. As they raised their eyes skyward, it became clear that not every peal was caused by the storm. An enormous island of rock plunged through the clouds before crashing into another one in the distance. Then another, and another; great mountains careening through the storm. It was then that they realized that they were no longer on Eberron. They too were clinging to a rock, hurtling through the elemental chaos of the plane of Kythri.