Our tale begins in the throne room of Xavdak. His court busy with the business of running a kingdom. Esme is there on regular business with the throne as is Waleak. Reg is simply a visitor of the king. Suddenly a woman bursts into the throne room, ignoring all protocols and royal niceties. She pulls out a worn messenger’s bag bearing the symbol of the Republic of Armenos. Although she insisted on speaking in private with the king, Xavdak demands she speak now. She pulled a small glass jar from her bag. Inside appeared to be a mass of swirling magic. She also reports that Xavdak and Waleak’s old companion John the Silent, spymaster of Armenos, has disappeared.
Xavdak takes the jar in his hand and studies it for a minute, then attempts to open it. As soon as he does a blue flame leaps out, and the king is barely able to replace the lid without being burned. It’s magic is too strong or too wild even for him. He does not know how exactly, but it seems that John the Silent’s spirit is captured within the jar!
Suddenly, a sphere of blue light appears in the center of the room. Xavdak’s royal guard surround him and Reg instinctively reaches for his drill-headed mace. In the mystical light appears the figure of an old hunched over woman in ragged clothing. The three locals, Xavdak, Waleak, and Esme recognize her as the hermit Melaru.
“Ah, even the king cannot open the jar!” Melaru sneers as Xavdak steps forward.
As suddenly as she appeared she was gone. Xavdak looks down at his hand only to realize that this Melaru has somehow taken the jar! The party retreats into a private room adjoining the throne to discuss what to do. They are joined by Xavdak’s wife, Ravara. In this meeting room they decide on a course of action. Xavdak will scour the royal archives for any information on Melaru, Waleak will return to his monastery, Moriaris, and do the same. Reg and Esme are to return to Le Bird de Fleur and gather information from the common people. After a day they will all meet back at the inn.
Xavdak learns less about Melaru, and more about John the Silent’s recent movements. On behalf of Armenos he has been engaging in trade with a peaceful tribe of giants living to the south of the city.
Waleak learns that Melaru, well-known for trading in dark magical artifacts, has been suffering under the new era of the monastery. She once had a lucrative business trading with the monks, but now they will not trade with her. She has a reason to dislike Waleak.
Reg drank a pint of Esme’s famous Gypsy Barrel Ale with a local dwarf and discovered that Melaru is known for a penchant to fight with fire magic. Anyone challenging her head on would do well to bring fire protection.
Esme prepares the inn and organizes the security of her secret meeting room, The Serpent’s Head. An ancient meeting place where the owners of the inn from time immemorial have met with the king of Duskalon to provide information. Esme also learns from her apprentices Juan and Belvedere, that Melaru has been known to use the inn as a meeting place with some shady characters, and dark dealings.
One by one the party filter into the inn and make their way back to the Serpent’s Head. Esme is first, followed by Reg. Xavdak enters the inn to the astonishment of its patrons.
“Drinks are on the throne tonight,” he says, as the bar erupts in cheers. Hastily he and his retainers make their way to the back room. Finally, Waleak enters. As he is on business, he wears his robes which bear the symbol of Moriaris.
“We don’t serve Moriaris here!” Belvedere yells from across the bar.
Waleak quietly walks up to the bar with all the eyes of the now dumbstruck patrons of the inn upon him. He explains that the Monastery is under new management, and is loyal to the crown. To make his point he lays down several gold pieces on the bar.
“Drinks are on me!”
Belvedere grabs a mug sulkily and fills it from somewhere under the bar. He hands it over to Waleak with a conspiratorial gleam in his eye. Waleak grabs the mug and heads to the back.
The members of the new party share their findings with each other. It seems that they have two options: Go and speak to Melaru or go first to the giants to try and gather more information. They decided to go to the giants and bring gifts to them as symbols of friendship. They decide to spend the night in the inn and depart from there in the morning.
At first light they reconvene in the Serpent’s Head for breakfast. Xavdak notices that Waleak looks more tired than he should after a night in such a fine establishment. Waleak tells everyone of how an apparition of Melaru appeared before him the previous night, around 3am, and vaguely threatened him that he had six hours or something would happen. The party began to set off when three ruffians burst into the bar and threatened Waleak. The distrust of his monastery runs deep among the people. Xavdak forces two of the ruffians into submission, but the third remained obstinate. For this insolence Xavdak has him quickly dispatched. Such behavior cannot be tolerated in his realm.
With a wry smile Waleak notices that Belvedere has lost any sense of mischief he once possessed, and now tries to avoid his gaze.
The party heads out to the giant’s camp, but after the events at the inn the sun is already high in the sky. They lost a lot of time. They meet up with the caravans of gifts that they planned to present to the giants, but are met by one of Xavdak’s retainers.
“They’ve been killed, all of them!” He exclaims.
As they draw close to the camp the stench of death filled the air. Huge bodies were strewn across the encampment with their throats slit. Evidentially, their six hours were up, and this was the price they paid. Strangely, the tents of the camp were left standing. Stranger still, there were more of the jars like the one they suspected John was trapped in were left hanging throughout the camp. Xavdak and Waleak went to the tent of the chief, while Esme and Reg inspected the bodies outside.
“Come look at this,” Karin yelled to Reg. She stood alone a little ways off looking at the ground. At her feet was a stone tablet. It wasn’t natural and it seemed to be of dwarven design. When Reg touched it, it began to glow with a red flame which expanded outward and he had to step back. Esme took out her flute and began to play. This was no mere tune, but an intricate spell directed at the stone. As she played the fire grew larger and hotter. Eventually it began to burn away the ground around the stone and it revealed more and more of what was not only a stone, but a structure. Xavdak and Waleak emerged from the tent to see the conflagration growing outside. The tents and the bodies of the dead were cremated alike in the flame until finally a set of steps leading down into the earth were revealed.
The party looked at one another in silent agreement as they began to descend, Esme still panting from the exertion required for her spell. There was a plaque on a locked stone door that simply read “Armanos will fall.” The adventurers had no time for locked doors. Xavdak pointed his wand and an opening appeared before them. One by one they entered the maw.
They walked down and down. In the darkness each could make out symbols depicting the four basic elements of reality. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The images seemed to be swirling before their eyes. As they continued exploring Waleak found a symbol of a monastery he thought long lost to the annals of history: Ash Mountain Monastery. On another wall there was writing “The company of the elementals have looted this monastery.”
Later the party faced off against malicious traps, pits in the ground, and hallucinogenic gasses in the air. The heat of the place was oppressive, especially for Reg in his plate armor.
Crossing through an ornate archway they came across a fire elemental who seemed to be struggling to maintain his hold on this plane. He informed the party that the elements were being reexamined, and that one element was attempting to become more powerful than the others. He also informed them that Waleak’s monastery was involved somehow. Upon speaking these things the elemental was weakened too much. He collapsed into a puddle of lava, and melted through the floor, gone.
In the next room the party faced off against more elementals. This time they used weapons and magics rather than words to send sway the earth and water beings that stood before them.
Finally, the party entered a nondescript door when who should stand before them but Melaru. She threw down a glass jar and it erupted into flames. In the flames John the Silent and a fire elemental seemed to be battling one another to enter our plane of existence. One moment one seemed in control, and then another would have the advantage. Melaru smiled a sick grin as she explained how she killed all those peaceful giants simply to gain their power.
Enraged, the party rushed to attack Melaru, but now Nemus stood before them as a putrid undead monster, a shadow of his former self. He stood no chance before the combined might of the four before him. Nonetheless he taunted Waleak with the information that it was his own monastery’s ruling council that had brought him back, and that it was he who captured John the Silent.
With Waleak kneeling over him raining blows down, Nemus’s body seemed to disintegrate down through the floor and he was gone. The four victors looked at one another, pleased with their victory and astonished with the revelation that Nemus’ information brought. Once Nemus disappeared, John the Silent appeared burned and panting on the floor. Xavdak quickly created a teleportation portal and sent him to the Drakenkeep for medical aid. They would have to talk to him later.
The party explored one last room in the monastery. In it they found what appeared to be a study. Among the documents spread across several desks they found information about Waleak and Xavdak, things no one outside their confidence should know. There was also information on the reexamination of the elements of ancient origins reaching all the way back to the first city, Deeplight. They also found a document which read “The Day Moriaris Burns from Within.” Written by a group called the Five Flames. Finally they saw scratched into the desk itself the words “Burn the Head, and the Bird will fall.”
With these chilling words the party left the monastery and returned to the city.