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         Copyright © Randy Bowers. All rights reserved.


The Unholy Wars: A Visit to the Past (part one)

The party has been cautiously traveling through the Hall of Kings and has arrived now in a chamber called the Chamber of History. There, upon the walls of this magnificent chamber are depicted in finest detail each deed and event that transpired during the time known as the Unholy Wars, now ten-thousand years past.
    In hopes of answering the challenge presented to them by the dwarven king Indam Gul, so that they can return to the Grand Sepulcher, they resorted to examining the walls of the Chamber of History in search of an answer to the question, "What was the name of the Hraken which betrayed my people?" With Ayoi's assistance they agreed that the answer should lay somewhere about a third of the way through the Unholy Wars, and so they begin their examination of the tapestry there.
    Upon examining the wall, suddenly Elena and Ayoi vanished. The other party members investigated what might have happened to their two companions and then, unexpectedly, they too found themselves miraculously experiencing the very moment of the Unholy Wars whose picture they had looked upon.
    Al-Rathis, Tellzan, Elena, and Sasha found themselves looking out upon a great underground battle where dwarf battled against dwarf, some riding upon great spiders, and also wielding powerful magics. The battle before them was quickly over as one side retreated into the earth, and then great spells were used to secure the area, quickly erecting buildings and sealing off all avenues of approach. It was not long before the adventurers were captured. Commander Adrazan, the Urdunan commander of the present forces questioned them for a while as they divulged how they were from the future and really did not belong to either side of the current conflict. After a day of captivity and questioning, Adrazan agreed to provide them with a small escort to the surface as long as they would remain in contact with him through magical means, so that he could continue to query them if need be and learn more of where (and when) they came from. Naturally, knowledge possessed by future beings, might allow the forces of Indam Gul to take actions which could favorably change history towards them.
    Before leaving from Commander Adrazan's military outpost, Al-Rathis had a One Channeler regrow the arm that he had lost while exploring the Hall of Kings. Though this was a relief to have done, there still remained the problem of Sasha not having her druidic powers due to a terrible backlash of magic and Tellzan not having any of his divinely powered abilities due to there being no gods present in the past to grant them. Despite these shortcomings, they traveled to the surface, passing through the great Underhalls. At one point they encountered a strange patrol of elfin beings which rode upon a lengthy chariot that looked like glimmering scales in the shape of a dragon, capable of carrying several tens of people at the same time. These were Nadristi elves. Once the Nadristi had validated their reasons for traveling through the Underhalls, they were allowed to continue without conflict to one of the great gates which block the lower halls from caves that reach to the surface.
    Through more tunnels they traveled upward till they came to a great cavern whose mouth that exited to the surface was mostly obscured by a huge waterfall that fell from somewhere above and unseen. From the exit they could look out over hills and forest, surrounded by more barren lands which the river below them winded through. By this time a tenday had passed since they had appeared among the dwarves and it was becoming obvious that either they were truly back in time or within some impossible complex magical trap. From here they were able to contact Ayoi.
    Ayoi had looked upon a different section of the tapestry and thus found herself in an entirely different part of the world, among ancient Galiadre elves in the service of Valaraos, the Silver Prophet. After a very brief time it became obvious that she did not belong among them and she was brought before the leaders of the military outpost. The leaders were rather exotic to behold. She was presented before them in a large tent, in which sat three old women who wore silver paint upon the top half of their bodies rather than clothing. They seemed to be in a light trance. It wasn't long before a younger girl, similarly dressed came into the room, bowed respectfully to the older women, sat down before Ayoi, and then proceeded to question her. The voice with which she questioned though was not her own, but seemed to be the voices of the elderly women spoken through her mouth. This questioning took some time and after ascertaining that Ayoi was both truthful and posed no harm to the encampment, she was given into the care of a Galiadre man callen Aran.
    Aran was a very handsome, soft spoken fellow. He led something of a contemplative lifestyle in a hidden chamber beside a small pond, nearby the encampment. He gifted Ayoi with the ability to speak natively with the other elves of the area by using his powers as a One Channeler. Ayoi lived with him for a couple weeks while the rest of the party traveled to rejoin her company. During this time, Ayoi and Aran exchanged a great deal of information about the time in which the party was trapped and about the time from which the party was originally from.
    When the rest of the party finally arrived there was a bit of discussion as to what should be done next. Many felt that there were numerous reasons that it was important to return to their own time. Sasha was more enthusiastic with the prospect of learning much about the ancient powers common in the time period they presently found themselves within. They resolved to travel to the Oracle of Aken, which would have existed even this far back in history.
    The Galiadre gave them a guide to escort them to the edge of their lands, where they passed through a strange archway in the middle of the woods. Whether symbolic or magical, this was the border of the Galiadre lands and the guide left them there. Ayoi cast a shadow walk spell upon the adventuring group and they used this to swiftly traverse the land. There was a brief encounter one evening when they stopped to make camp when a couple abominations, creations of Torim Zurkies, came upon their encampment and attaked, but the shadow walk allowed them to bypass most hazards.
    They came to the edge of the Desert of Three Winds. Traveling into the desert was difficult since, without Sasha possessing her magical powers, they needed to find water and carry their food with them. The shadow walk would not protect them from the heat of the day or the cold of the night. After a day of travel they found shelter and water in a small box-canyon, about 80 feet across. In the center of the cliff-surrounded area was a pool of water and behind it stood a tall and badly weathered statue of a giant dressed in robes, staring out over the desert. In the cliff walls were set monolithic slabs of stone which were covered with
indecipherable magical writing.
    The statue turned out to be a giant of the Baranar race. These giants suffer from a magical affliction which causes them to slowly turn to stone because their elemental spirits are out of balance. Creatures called the Vaati stole from their race the portion of their spirit which was kin to the element of Air. Consequently, they can find no rest when staying in one place and thus they have become nomadic. Thus, the status was a nearly completely petrified Baranar druid called Brangorm the Brown. This watering hole was also a sacred druid grove and thus from here Sasha would later be able to travel to the great druidic library and seek out others of her kind. That evening, other Baranar giants arrived at the Watering Grotto, as it had come to be called. Their leader, Caraban also explained much of their races' mystery and affliction. They invited the adventurers to travel with them, since they too were traveling eastward.
    Sasha, having consulted with the spirits of the land, elected to travel separate from the group at this point, hoping to regain her magical powers. She used the druidic powers of the watering grotto to transport her to the master grove. From there she daringly traveled out and into the woods beyond the safety of the master grove. There she was exposed to the raw powers from which druids draw their magic. Her being was nearly absorbed entirely by them and for a time she was lost and forgot her identity. It would be a couple of weeks before she would regain her senses and be able to escape from the gaean dream, her magical powers rejuvenated.
    During Sasha's absence, the rest of the party traveled together with the Baranar nomads, but at the edge of the desert they parted ways, the Baranar explaining that their wounded spirits could travel no further from this land as long as the Vaati had possession of the air aspect of their spirits. Having traveled out of the desert they saw in the distance a pair of great towers built upon chunks of land that floated high in the sky by some magical means. It was not long before scouts from these military outposts saw the party and sent down a two dragon mounted warriors to investigate. Since the party had a diverse range of races among them, the patrol demanded that they relinquish their weapons and return with them to the towers so that they could be investigated further. They had arrived in the lands of the legendary sorceress, Seraphina Catharin. While in captivity, Sasha snuck into the towers and was able to rejoin the party. The task was not a difficult one for her to accomplish, now that she had her druidic powers back.
    As in other lands, they were questioned by a man named Belesere. When it was clear that they were not aligned with enemies of Seraphina they were allowed to continue. Belesere made arrangements to speed the party towards their goal by use of a teleportation device, perhaps by way of apology for their detainment and inconvenience. They were magically transported thus to the banks of the Ardent River.
    Since they were familiar with the swamps it was not difficult for them to find their way towards the place where, earlier in their adventuring career, they had found the Aken Oracle. Belesere had warned the party that there were numerous armies in the region, all seeking to take control of the Oracle. True to his warning, the party was very close to the site of the oracle when they came under heavy attack by the forces of Emperor Rydendow. However, the adventurers possess a great deal of power and the attack was repelled. A more stealthy approach would be necessary to gain access to the Oracle.
    Masquerading as birds, thanks to Sasha's spells, the party flew over the army that surrounded the small mountain in which the oracle was located. They entered into the first hallway, bypassing the guards that stood watch outside without trouble, but the magical golems within were not deceived by Sasha's magic and immediately the alarm was sounded. Reinforcements came to harry the party, but the golems were the true threat. As the fight drew to a stalemate, a Sol wielding wizard made an appearance. He spoke with the party, explaining to them that if the knowledge of the oracle was unlocked that all could gain access to it, even the vile necrolord Torim Zurkies. The party spurned the wizards requests to withdraw and entered into the lair of the oracle anyway.
    Entering into the chamber of the oracle they explored about and discovered a few notable features. Of greatest note was the vast, herculean guardian - an incredibly being whose hindquarters were like a great serpent with the girth of a large barn and whose forequarters were a four-armed giant humanoid of feminine design. The entire being was made of smooth stone and covering its entire body, even eyes, lips, and fingernails, were magical symbols that looked like wet jade set into its stony flesh. The creature spent its time making cryptic statements, leering, and chuckling as the adventurers explored its lair, as though they were mice caught in a maze that only it knew the way out from. Also in the cavern was a deep chasm whose bottom was hidden by strange magical mists. Resting over the edge of this was a small four sided pyramid whose top had been removed. On the top of this small stone carving was a strange symbol. The party saw that this symbol mirrored one that was set upon the lower lip of the great snake creature.
    "What's this rune all about? What does it mean?" Al-Rathis questioned the creature, which paused only a moment before speaking its reply.
    "It is the parted sign. It is a mark upon each part of what once was whole, but now is broken." the creature spoke, "It is the sign of the splitting of a spirit, not the breaking of a body.... however... the breaking of a body will restore the spirit."
    "And what's this about some Fire of Knowledge? Is that what we should be looking for?"
    The creature seemed amused by the question and it withdrew into partial darkness till they could only see its face, "I am the guardian of the Fires of Knowledge. You need look no further for the fires of knowledge for they are within me. I carry them until the parted sign is upon us no more. When this has passed, the fires will return into our keeping," it answered.
    "So how do we get it out and what do we do with it?" queried Al-Rathis.
    "Ah, legend will never speak of your insight, mortal," the creature turned its rune covered eyes back to the pyramid, "I have already spoken of what you will do to release the flames. When the sign of parting is no more then the flames shall return to us. What you do then will be between you and us.
    "Do you not like my words, you who will face your enemy's right hand and tremble? If you seek fewer twists and turns, you may find the straightest path within my embrace."
    The party pondered these answers and others given by the strange guardian. On the back side of the chamber doors they saw there were drawn pictographs which told a story of some sort. The first picture depicted a being of somewhat angelic design, surrounded by several circles as though to denote importance stands before a pyramid, with a strange and complex symbol floating between its two hands. The complex symbol had a creature-like curves to its shape, as though it were also alive. The next picture showed the small mountain containing the oracle is shown with great crowds of people surrounding it as far as the eye can see. Above this spectacle floats the same being, surrounded again by circles as it is in every picture. It looks unhappy. The third picture shows this same being standing before the pyramid, beneath which is the strange, living-like symbol. About them are scenes of people on their knees in supplication towards the pyramid and men with swords. In the fourth picture the being stands alone with the symbol, broken in two, held above its head with one half in each hand. The next picture showed the being throwing one half of the broken symbol into a great pit. Then in the sixth pictograph the being stretches out the remaining half as though reshaping it, pulling either end with both hands while holding over its head, elongating it. The last picture showed a great serpentine creature with a humanoid upper torso and four arms, covered with small symbols. The being stands in the air before it. By the relative size of the two, the angelic being is not small since it is equal in size to the serpent. The being has one hand touched to the serpent's human-like face and in its other hand, stretched forth as though putting something within the serpent, the being holds a pyre of fire in its hand.
    While the party pondered the serpents answers and the pictures upon the door, Sasha bravely traveled down into the magical mists of the ravine. At the bottom she found numerous bits of destroyed armor and weapons, some bones, and a strange swirling cloud of light motes about the size of a man. They brightened and from their glare there resolved the form of a sexless humanoid child. This being seemed only capable of asking questions; it seemed entirely innocent. Sasha returned with the strange child and slowly the answers began to fall into place. There upon the child was the same mark which the snake-guardian bore upon its lip. They reasoned that the child and the guardian were to facets of the oracle, which had been broken into two by ancient beings so that it's power could not be used anymore.
    The party decided that either one of two things would have to happen. Either the guardian would have to be slain and the Fires of Knowledge taken from it and given to the child, or the child would have to be slain. In this way, the duality of the oracle would be restored. It was not an easy choice, but in the end they decided that the strange child would make more sense. With a single blow from Al-Rathis's axe it was quickly over. The guardian creature picked up the lifeless shell, from which strange white light poured as though the flesh of the child was but a container, and carried it to the pyramid. The light poured out from the child, catching fire as it passed through the fingers of the serpent and magically pulled within the small pyramid. As this happened the stone guardian ceased to move, it's coils hiding the pyramid from view, until it was frozen in place, watching over the pyramid-box. They had reunited the oracle. So each of them took turns asking their questions; keeping the answers that they received to themselves, for now.
    When they exited the oracle they saw that another army had come out of the swamp and attacked the one encamped about the mountain. In the confusion and chaos they made their quick escape. Once in a safe place, Sasha and Al-Rathis revealed the answers to the questions they had asked. Al-Rathis's question revolved around what steps needed to be taken to defeat Titalus. Sasha's had to do with returning the air aspect to the Baranar giants spirits. Since healing the Baranar was important to Sasha, in an unexpected show of consideration to another people, the party agreed that this would be a good thing to do.
    They returned to the desert and contacted Caraban, the mystic of the Baranar giants, who was quite happy to hear that they were devising a plan to restore the air aspect of the spirits of the Baranar.
    Based on the answer that Sasha received from the Oracle, it seemed a wise idea to travel to the Elemental Plane of Air. There, they could do some research on the origins of the Vaati and perhaps find an alternate source of power to keep their three cities afloat.
    Elena used her sorcerous powers to transport the entire party to the Elemental Plane of Air. Upon first arriving they decided they would need to find some civilization where they could enquire of someone knowledgeable on those subjects. In the distance they could see a strange silvery dragon twining through the air. They approached the creature and Ayoi used her skill at harp playing to attract its attention. They spoke with the dragon and it agreed to take them to a civilization where a knowledgeable Amir of the Djinn might speak with the adventurers. In return, Ayoi would spend some time in the dragon's company and entertain it and its kin with her harp playing.
    The dragon used its powers to teleport the adventuring party to the outskirts of a small city which floated upon seemingly solid counts, interconnected by bridges of shimmering, glassy light. Beneath the city could be seen a large net of webbing, perhaps meant to catch beings which fell from the place's unprotected cloud edges. Dominating one end of the city was a large palace with crystalline spires and minarets. All about there were strange creatures: a Lammasu, white skinned Emrion with their tentacled Tsadutan guardians, and curiously blue Sha-She which traded in knowledge and business connections.
    Recognizing the Sha-She as beings which might be able to broker an introduction with the Amir, the party approached them. After some brief negotiations the Sha-She agreed to arrange a meeting for them. While they waited they roamed about through the bazaar and looked for other beings which might be able to provide them with information. Specifically, they looked for a wizard who could help identify the items which they had retrieved from the chasm at the Aken Oracle.
    The first place that they tried was the residence of a half-Azer named Hazdalthedezar. This disagreeable dwarfish being dwelt in a small stone cottage on a cloud slightly beneath the rest of the city. However, Hazdalthedezar proved to be a disagreeable being and they decided to try their luck at contacting the other well known magician that dwelt in the city. The other being known to practice magic was a Ki-rin that dwelt on a cloud which had a marvelous view of the city below. The party flew up there, but there was no Ki-rin to be seen. The small cloud had a simple pavilion canopy of cloth to shelter it and beneath that was numerous boxes and chests of all sizes and shapes. The Sha-She which had led them there bartered for information on how to call the Ki-rin wizard to them; a small whistle hidden in a bag among the many boxes that littered the ki-rin's lair would call it to this location.
    A light blow upon the pure toned whistle called the ki-rin. From out of thin air it flowed into sight, it's luxurious mane, tale, and fetlocks blowing in an unseen wind even when still. The ki-rin, called Irispiti, listened to the parties questions and agreed to identify the items they had recovered from the site of the oracle. She also offered some information on the Vaati. Her divinations were done on the contingency that Sasha deal with the Vaati in a compassionate manner. Should Sasha return to her afterwards and bring word of how the deed was accomplished according to Irispiti's will, then she would gift Sasha with a small gift as thanks for her efforts.
    They returned to the bazaar and spent several days waiting for a meeting with the Amir to be arranged. Ayoi returned to the party in the company of the silvery dragon that she had departed with. On that same day the Sha-She approached the adventurers with word that an invitation had been extended to them which would allow them to visit the court of the Amir.
    Together they went into the palace and spoke with the Amir. The Amir told them of powerful objects called Pearls of Wind which were created sometimes by the greatest of air elementals. If the party would return one of these pearls to the Amir then he would lend his thief, Khaled Halebin, to them as a guide. But they would have to keep Khaled safe, for if he died then one of the party members would take his place in the Amir's service. Khaled was likewise encouraged to faithfully deal with the adventurers since this would be his final task to perform before being set free. Thus Khaled came into the employ of the adventurers.
    They traveled a great distance with Khaled until they arrived within sight of an enormous storm front. Khaled advised them that the primal air elemental dwelled within. They could see dragons darting about the clouds in play, surely there would be many other elemental beings attracted to this place. Being non-natives though, this would be a dangerous place for them to go. The natives would almost certainly seek to slay such obvious intruders.
    Since there were many miles to travel to get to the center of the storm, where the powerful elemental laird, and all of the storm too dangerous for the party to travel through, a plan was devised where Elena would hide in Sasha's portable hole while Sasha wild shaped into the form of an air elemental. Once they had arrived in the eye of the storm then Elena would teleport back to the group and bring them there to finish the task of stealing enough of the pearls.
    The primal elemental quickly sensed the presence of the intruders and quickly began its counterattack. Numerous minor air elementals heard the call and came to harass the party as they distracted the great elemental. Meanwhile, Ayoi and Khaled stealthily pillaged several pearls of wind. They were able to retrieve five of the large orbs from their resting place, securing them within the portable hole. The task was not without casualty. Sasha was unable to escape from the primal elemental quickly enough and her slain body tumbled down out of sight and into the rolling storm clouds. Many other party members barely survived the encounter, but they had gotten what they came for.
    Quickly they returned to the Amir, who allowed them into its court without pause. They presented the pearl to the djinni and Elena gave a stirring recount of what had transpired. The Amir was not surprised to hear that one of the party's number had perished and, in an act of generosity, it expended a powerful magic and summoned the body of Sasha to the court, living and unharmed as though she had never perished. Further, the Amir bestowed a great gift upon Tellzan as a gesture of gratitude; the spiritual gift of Annos.
    With the pearls of wind in their possession they returned to the Material Plane and began the search for one of the Vaati cities. They traveled into the mountains, where they had heard that sightings of great flying cities were sometimes seen. Fortune was with them as once again they saw a dragon in the distance. Approaching the creature, Sasha was able to humbly persuade it to direct them towards someone who could help them find the floating cities of the Vaati. The brass dragon sent them onward to a lone tower that stood at the top of a hill. Here dwelt an old stone giant astronomer called Ziranath. The giant agreed to reveal to them the forthcoming location of one of the Vaati cities if they would bring it twenty trees for lumber. Sasha used her powers to animate a large stand of trees about a day distant and walked them to the giants doorstep. Impressed and grateful, Ziranath used his orary to divine the future position of one of the flying cities.
    The party set out to lay in wait for the city to arrive, within a couple of days they saw it moving over the mountains; a mile wide disk of stone from which towers rose up both towards the sky and also downward to the ground. Wasting no time, they descended to one of the upper courtyards near what looked like a central palace or temple area on the top side of the city. Almost immediately the Vaati present in the gardened courtyard responded with suspicion and hostility towards the group. Guards were summoned and the tension quickly erupted into combat. Though well trained, the guards were no challenge for the party, but there appeared a whirlwind in which danced a skillful Vaati swordsman, whose skill equaled the best of the party. Through force, they demanded an audience with the ruler of the city and they were admitted under the heavy guard of well armed cloud giants and elite vaati warriors.
    They explained to the vaati ruler, an immense being named Mhallaf'sef A whirlwind touched down beside the throne from which stepped forth the prismatic bladed warrior they had encountered in the courtyard. The king demanded to know their intrusion into his city and they spoke to him of their desire to free the Baranar spirits which were enslaved and used to float the cities. They demonstrated that they possessed a pearl of wind, capable of holding aloft the city in place of the Baranar souls. Impressed, the king said that he would consider their offer and that they should return in two days time to hear his reply. So they departed from the vaati city and returned to the watering grotto at the edge of the desert.
    Unhappy with how they had been treated by the vaati, and not trusting that the vaati would keep their word, the group decided to look into other means of restoring the Baranar souls. Sasha traveled through the druid groves to the great library where she met the druidic Aspect of Fire, a lycanthrope named Borsaeg. Borsaeg welcomed her into the druidic order and introduced her to the other three Aspects, who were interested in what she had to say about the future of druids in the world. During her absence the other party members experimented with one of the pearls of wind and waited for Caraban to arrive and add his wisdom to the matter. Ayoi and Elena traveled to the vaati city once again, but not to meet with the ruler, instead they conducted reconnaissance, sought out dissadents, and looked for ways to destabilize Mhallaf'sef's rule over the city. Sasha returned to the party after several days of research, with some ideas for an alternate solution to the problem at hand.
    However, events were about to take place which would change the party's mind about how to deal with the vaati. Not long after Sasha arrived, now six days late to meet with the Vaati ruler, a great storm began to form over the grotto. In moments terrible acid began to rain down upon the party and clouds as black as night descended upon them, obscuring all vision. Several powerfully armed giants then appeared and began to attack the party. A fist of solid air crashed down and nearly slew Tellzan before he could reach cover. A terrible battle was joined against the surprise attack. With no small help from the ancient, nearly petrified druid which guarded the grove, the epic magics clashed against each other while the adventurers disposed of the giants.
    When the intense battle was over a sending echoed into the mind of Sasha, "Give to us the pearls of wind by dawn tomorrow or we shall visit upon you tenfold the destruction you have seen today."
    Alarmed by the implication of this the party was at a loss of what to do next. They could not risk the destruction of the druids grove, but they did not want to face an even greater attack by such powers either. The day continued into night and in the dark before the next dawn a brilliant angelic creature seemingly cast of pure silver metal, hinting at its mechanical nature, appeared before the group bearing a message.
    "I bring word from the King Enhenin of the Vaati," the creature spoke, "who sends this message; 'Mhallaf'sef does not act on behalf of all Vaati. I desire to negotiate with your people. Return with this messenger a place and time where my emissary can speak with you, for he cannot safely come to where you are now."
    The party considered the message quickly and sent the silvery angel back, accepting the offer. The creature sped away with the message like liquid light streaming as a comet through the sky and disappearing over the horizon. Wasting no time they traveled to the cavern behind the waterfall, where most of the party had first arrived on the surface after leaving the dwarves and the Underhalls.
    There, in the darkness emerged a creature which only Tellzan, with his gift of Annos, and Sasha, with her incredible senses, could discern. Arrangements were made between the two parties. King Enhenin agreed to free the Baranar spirits in trade for the pearls of wind. In trade for the assassination of Mhallaf'sef, King Enhenin would give the party knowledge of how to use the power in a pearl of wind to secure the Baranar's air aspect back within their bodies so that it could not be taken again. The adventurers would have to free the spirits of the Baranar from Mhallaf'sef's city themselves, by using the orb that the ruler carried to gain access to the prison chamber. The adventuring party agreed and that morning they invaded the palace of Mhallaf'sef.
    First they contacted the brass dragon which they had met in the desert and beseeched it for help. When the dragon learned that they were going to attack Mhallaf'sef it quickly agreed, for Sha'Sef, son of Mhallaf'sef, prince, and champion of the city, had slain one of the dragons brood long ago. Arrangements were made for Elena and the Dragon to work together to lure Sha'Sef, the tornado enwrapped warrior with the prismatic sword, out from the castle so that the rest of the party would not have to face both father and son in the throne room.
    Elena and the dragon bravely attacked the city and, sure enough, Sha'Sef, the champion, was dispatched to deal with the intrusion. As soon as Sha'Sef attacked, Elena sent word to her companions and they teleported into the antechamber of the throne room.
    They fought their way through the many guards in place there, but there was strangely little magical opposition. Perhaps the ruler's wizards were too busy preparing the onslaught which was to take place that morning as promised by the ultimatum. The battle went on and on, finally they gained a foothold into the inner chamber of Mhallaf'sef where a lengthy battle was fought against the supremely skilled warrior that the ruler was. The party threw all their resources against the ruler and by a sword's edge they prevailed upon it, with Tellzan laying the final blow from his prone position upon the floor.
    From the left hand of the ruler fell the white-blazing Orb of Souls, the key they would need to reach the chamber in which the spirits of the Baranar were trapped. Quickly picking it up, Sasha used the orb to transport the party away from the throne room. They appeared upon a round catwalk which encircled a colossal crystal that towered hundreds of feet tall above and beneath them. Covering the crystal were swarms of strange spidery crystaline creatures. To free the air of the Baranar they had to destroy this crystal and place the pearl of wind in its place. As they began to attack it the swarms of stonemites retaliated and feverishly attempted to undo the massive damage that Al-Rathis and Tellzan were doing. At one point, Al-Rathis brought out the Horn of Bruindar and blew upon it, causing tremendous damage and collapsing the catwalk. As the crystal neared destruction a swirling wall of spiritual energy gathered and swirled around it. Then, suddenly the crystal shattered and in the ethereal wind that blew through the room it suddenly turned into a very deadly tornado of minute crystal shards. The party quickly placed the pearl of wind, which added its own winds to the chaos, and took refuge in Sasha's cube of force, but Ayoi was no where to be seen. Unable to mount a search in the maelstorm they fled from the palace. Fortunately Ayoi had been able to make her own escape from the chamber and she met up with them shortly afterwards.
   The party left the Vaati city and sent word to Enhenin that the deed had been done. Once again they met behind the waterfall with the king's agent, who faithfully brought with it knowledge regarding the ritual they would need to perform to secure the spirits of the Baranar. Thence, having contacted Caraban with news of their success, they returned to the watering grotto to rest in safety. Anxiously the party waited there for Caraban to arrive. They rested the night without event and the next afternoon they received another sending from Enhenin which conveyed his gratitude, that he had taken control of the remaining city, and that any Vaati who might dare to attack the party now did so in defiance to his wishes. Sasha spent most of the remaining time studying the scroll, a powerful ritual. The other party members went to search for the hilt of the prismatic sword, but were unable to find it.
    True to his word, Caraban returned in the middle of the third day, which his entourage. Already he looked better. The Vaati had kept their word. Caraban and his giant companions cast shadows and there was a breath in their lungs. The flesh of many looked more vibrant and lifelike, though some, like Caraban still had flesh cracked and stone-like. He said that some of their oldest would simply never fully recover from the experience, but that at least their race would live on and could now travel out of the desert.
    Sasha, Caraban, and the Guardian of the Grotto spoke with each other long into the night, discussing the ritual. As dusk neared, the ritual was begun. Calling upon the elemental powers the ritual caused fire to ripple in the air over the pool that is in the middle of the grotto. As the flames danced in the air, the water rose up and mingled with it. Upon this pillar Sasha set the Pearl of Wind. After chanting and spell casting for a couple of hours like this a great wind was called down from the sky, which splashed down upon the orb, disintegrating it. Then, carried out from the oasis and into the desert like a great wave of fireflies, the wind blew away from the grotto to as far as could be seen out into the night, and the ritual was complete. Exhausted from the effort, Sasha and Caraban then rested until dawn.
    On the following day the party discussed what they would do next. Caraban said that he would travel to speak with the other elders before continuing his journey into the world, and that any of the party would be very welcome to come with him. The Guardian of the Grotto spoke with Sasha and reminded her that he still needs a worthy successor to take his place as Guardian before he could pass on, hinting that should Sasha return to him with a fitting successor that he would be personally grateful and impart to her valuable and ancient knowledge that would assist in her quest.
    Tellzan decided to travel with the Baranar, to learn from a highly respected one channeler called Ur'Uk. It would take Tellzan six months to learn the art of one channeling. Al-Rathis decided to use this time to travel back to the dwarves that the party first encountered and to live among them for that time. Elena returned for a time to the Elemental Plane of Air, where she performed personal research, fraternized with the other spellcasters that live there, and spent time in the court of the Amir. Ayoi decided to use her time to explore southward. Sasha used this time to study with the druids, though some of it was spent among the Baranar to look for a willing replacement for the Guardian of the Watering Grotto.