Emerging from the swamp, the motley band of adventurers appear to find the place they have been searching for – the Ruins of Xak Tsaroth. A cursory review of the layout told them all they need to know – the way forward was through the immense golden doors on the ancient temple, the only building still standing. Upon entering, they were greeted by a beautiful statue of a peaceful woman. An urge led Telia to place the blue crystal staff she had been caring in the woman’s arms. Upon doing so, the party was shocked when the statue came alive and spoke them, revealing herself as the long-forgotten goddess of healing, Mishkal! She tasked them with “returning the truth and power of the gods” to the people and “finding the Disks of Mishkal” which could were deep within this very temple.
With their divine quest now clear, the party delved deeper into the temple, led by the ever-curious kender. Fass darted from room to room, while the rest of the group did their best to keep pace. The highlights of the ground level were a crypt (which the party wisely left alone) and a round room with an huge pillar that appeared to have a space for a book of some kind carved into the top. With nothing more to see, the party headed down a twisting flight of stairs. Below, they found the temple to be in much worse shape, with huge sections of the floor caved in and pits of unknowable depths. Zayander and Fass had the chance to test how far one of these pits descended, but were (fortunately) stopped by a huge web of some sort. Zayander shifted to giant spider form and carried them back up.
The corridor split off a few different times, but Fass kept the party on its toes by continuing to race ahead, forcing them all to follow. He spotted an apparent inhabitant of the temple and began chasing her. The little person led them into a hole in the corner of a room, and down a tunnel/slide. Half of the party were able to break off and follow the new person, while Zayander and Varick missed the “turn” and ended up having to fight off another giant spider in the garbage dump.
The other three were able to befriend the little gully dwarf they had been following, who introduced herself as Two-toes (and her pet dead-lizard as Abuku). She, in turn, took them to meet the High Blup, the king of the Xak Tsoroth gully dwarfs. He was eager to impress his visitors and told them of the ‘big bosses’ they served and the huge lizard that resided in the bottom of the temple. Two-toes helped reunite the dispersed members of the party, and then led them to the “big Up-Down,” a mechanical bucket lift guarded by three bronze lizardmen. Having the element of surprise, the party was able to dispatch these bullies without much trouble. They all then descended to the bottom of the “Up-Down” and proceeded through the remnants of an old city. Zayander had the idea to disguise himself as one of the lizardmen and led the party as if they were his prisoners. This turned out to be effective when they came across a patrol of 5 lizardmen guards. The guards were impressed with their “colleagues” capture of the group and assured him that Kisinth would give a suitable honor and reward.
Eager to meet this “Kisinth” the party moved on… and quickly found what they were looking for: a chamber split by a small stream that ended in a waterfall that plunged into unknown depths. On the other side, was an unbelievable sight – a huge black dragon (if such things existed!!)!!! Kisinth greeted the still disguised Zayander and inquired about the group. The party members did their best to ‘honor’ the dragon in various ways, with Quetzal and Fass being somewhat distracted by the glint of gems and steel coming from the treasure room behind where the dragon stood. When Kisinth learned that the party had the Black Crystal Staff, she offered to take the bearer up to the tapastry of Mishkal to place it in her out-stretched hands and destroy her – an action Takhisis, the evil-dragon goddess of lore, would most certainly be pleased with. Zayander reluctantly climbed up the dragon’s tail, signaled to the other group members, and chucked the staff over the edge of the waterfall into the depths below.
The fight was on! The dragon’s acid breath nearly killed Telia outright, but Varick was able to bring her back from the brink of death. Zayander shifted into dire wolf form and wrestled with Kisinth from atop her back. Fass and Quetzal darted in and out, punching and kicking; stabbing and retreating. Finally, the great lizard was brought down with a thunderous thud! The party was not disappointed with what they discovered in the mounds of treasure – beyond more gems and platinum, they found a Cloak of Invisibility, a Ring of Darkness, the golden book of wizard spells they had originally sought, and the Platinum Disks of Mishkal! Ecstatic beyond belief, the group returned to the surface, stopping only once to let the gully dwarves know that the big bosses and lizard were all dead. Fass took the opportunity to proclaim himself their new king, donning the unique “crown.” The party was now ready to return home!
Emerging from the ruins of Xak Tsoroth, the party exited the swamp, passed over the mountains that had inhibited them before, and entered the vast grasslands. It was clear the armies had been on the march. Large swaths of trampled earth and plumes of smoke on the horizon were visible day and night. When the party reached Solace, it was a nearly unrecognizable mess. Thanks to their unique appearances, they were able to blend into the remaining occupied town without much trouble. They made their way to the Inn of the Last Hearth, which was now situated on the ground instead of in the treetops. The city was under full occupation, with few civilians remaining and patrols of hobgoblins and lizardmen walking freely down the streets.
The barkeep was able to provide a little information, telling the group that he was one of the last remaining inhabitants. The rest had been systematically taken away in chains, with caravans of people heading south towards the elven forests. Those not fit for whatever purposes the army had in mind were simply slaughtered.
Armed with their quest to spread the word of Mishkal, the party decided to pursue the caravans to the south. It took only a couple of days before they found what they were looking for – three cages full of humans and elves being escorted by lizardsmen, hobgoblins and a single gully dwarf. Bursting forth from the trees, the party ambushed the squad of slavers. Hopefully the newly rescued prisoners will be able to provide some insight into what has happened in the party’s absence. Or perhaps there will be some among the group willing to join the cause. Regardless, the party has taken their first steps in “returning the truth and power of the old gods”… actions unlikely to go unnoticed for long.