Finally, the entire party was awake and ready. Cyllan and Valmont were still wondering why the caskets were empty when a familiar warm sense began to envelope them. A green mist began to fill the room from the bottom up. While Teagan was initially wary, she too could feel peace flow through her body as the mist rose. Cyllan told the party to gather together as she knew they would all soon be back in the other world; the one where they had been trying to rescue Princess Argenta.
There was a flash of bright white light then red. Something was wrong. This was not the way it had been. Another flash of white light and the group found themselves in a hallway. It was undoubtedly the same dungeon area, Valmont remembered but not exactly where they had been. There was no time to wonder about that though. They found themselves in the midst of a fight!
Around the party stood two dead Elven males and a dead Human man. The mage and monk instantly recognized the Elves but they had not encountered the man. He was dressed similarly to the two Human males attacking the party: black leather masks, blood red floor length robes covered with hundreds of eyes.
One of the robed Humans raised his mace and charged Zyass who happened to be closest. The Forestor did not hesitate and jabbed his sword in and through the robed man’s heart. Before he could realize he was dead, he swung and brained Zyass. Zyass staggered back and the robed man slid off his sword.
The party glared at the remaining robed man who didn’t seem to like the new odds. He dropped his mace and got down on his knees. Roderick stepped forward, and with his seemingly endless supply of perfectly cut lengths of rope, tied up the man.
They discovered he was a priest but they did not know his Immortal. He kept saying that Arik, the Watcher, he of a thousand eyes, was coming and that there was no way to stop it. The red glow was his warming aura and would spread throughout the lands once he returned. Roderick saw that as an open invitation for debate and promptly sat down beside him and began. Cyllan stood nearby nodding from time to time, obviously interested but trying not to be drawn into the conversation. Finally, after about ten minutes of discourse, Teagan had had enough. She struck the evil priest on top of his head with the pommel of her sword and he slumped sideways. “That settles that. Let’s move,” said the Elf.
Valmont and Roderick lifted their prisoner back to his feet and he groggily tried to keep up.
[insert more here]
After joining forces with more new characters, the party continued in their quest to find a solution to the red mist. The stories of how they arrived here were all similar. They had all been somewhere close to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos or the Thyatian Empire when they were enveloped by a strange but calming green mist. An Immortal urged them to find the root of the mist and restore the kingdom of Argenta, the Silver Princess of Haven. There was no way out of the castle and it appeared that all of the inhabitants had been turned to stone statues or replaced with foul creatures like Goblinoids and Orcs or worse. The group struggled with the meaning of a scrawled message left by a hapless victim:
Evil red eye, malefaction!
Sweet music from strings;
Priceless Blade of Destruction,
Salvation rides on dragon’s wings!
They were further confused by the discovery of several gems in an apparent bathing room. At the head of the room’s tub was a delicately sculpted tray with three small gems: one red, one blue, the other yellow. Are they a clue to the mystery? They do seem magical.
The group entered a garden of horrors, filled with bushes that shot thorny spikes. At its center was a humongous white rose bush and in the center of that was a silver dragon statue. The vines of the rose bush struck like snakes and the blood of its victims turned its petals red. Eventually, a bold move by the female barbarian, allowed the group to capture the statue and the combined actions of the team members defeated the murderous vegetation.
But soon, a greater danger was revealed. A summoning of some dark force, known only as “He Who Watches” or “He of a Thousand Eyes”, was being completed by an evil priest and his minions: Orcs, other priests (in blood red robes covered with embroidered eyes) and the worst: a half woman, half wolf creature. The head priest was chanting over a glowing ruby sword, which rested on a black velvet pillow in the center of a magic circle, painted on the floor to look like a giant eye. The battle was tough and many of the heroes succumbed to the blows of the enemy and their magic (including a staff which became a snake and tried to squeeze the life from its prey). However, when all seemed lost and their normal weapons appeared useless, Teagan grabbed the silver drake statue and smahed the wolf-woman with it. The battle was won and Lace, the female barbarian, cut off the head of the half woman/half wolf (who had turned back into a normal looking but naked woman when she died) and threw it into the ceremonial fire.
The party stared in stunned silence at the brazier. It hissed and spit sparks as the woman’s head (no longer in the shape of a wolf) was consumed. The room began to fill with a sickly sweet smell, not unlike burnt pork, and Rob coughed to keep from gagging. He was looking over the bodies, trying to find something helpful. So far, no such luck.
Lief was going from live body to live body, binding the wounds of his fellow adventurers – he was saving the unnamed one for last. As he offered water to the stranger, he glanced over at Lace. She was glaring.
“Don’t give him anything until he explains who he is.”
“My lady, I must protest,” said the man who was clad all in black. “Let’s not forget I too was on the Elf’s side in that battle.” He spoke with a Thyatian accent but mixed with something else. He looked a bit Ochalean thought the female barbarian but his actions were not like other Ochaleans she knew. They were normally all about the group and the community and he was the opposite: selfish and secretive. She did not trust him.
“We’ll reconsider once you tell us who you are and how you got here.” Lace’s blood stained sword was pointing in the man’s general direction. Not quite attacking but definitely not friendly. The entire party (at least those conscious) stopped what they were doing and watched the exchange. It was tense.
“For the Immortals’ sake, Human, tell her your name before you bleed out. We can use another sword!” Teagan was tired of this bickering. She knew that there was danger all around them still. She could feel it in her bones.
“My name is Rikuo. My brother was Shin and it was his body that you were surrounding when I came to this forsaken place. I only know that I felt him in pain then a green mist formed around me. I was in a bedroom on the grounds of the shrine to Khoronus in the port of Julinius. I was there only because I was awaiting the arrival of my brother from Thyatis City. We were to study together with the great bard, Neng-lin Mao, and perhaps earn . . .”
Lace hung on his words. “Earn what?”
“Um. Earn . . . earn . . . earn enough to be rich. Yes, that’s what I was going to say.” Rikuo looked away from the muscled woman.
“Sounds good enough for me,” said Lief. He bent to bind the man’s wounds and treat them with healing salve.
“Enough for now,” shrugged Lace.
After Lief had done all that she could, the priest was still unconscious; not in danger of dying from these wounds but of no help in stopping any other creatures in establishing new wounds. That also left them without a healer and several others really needed magical healing quickly if they were going to get out of this mess. Lace started searching Valmont’s unconscious body, saying, “As much as he values his hide, he must have a healing draught or two. . . . Ah ha!” She withdrew a small glass vial with a green liquid inside. Removing its stopper, she gave a sniff. “Mint. It must be good for something.”
“Uh, perhaps it could be something else,” said Rob. “Like poison?”
“Well, dead from this or dead from an Orc’s blade. It’s worth a try.” Lace parted the priest’s lips and pour some in his mouth. He began to swallow and his eyes flew open. The cuts from the wolf-woman’s claws close and are healed. Lace smiles and Rob breathes a sigh of relief. The priest rises and helps heal all the others. They take a few minutes to compose themselves but with everyone conscious and relatively healed and the sword in their possession they resume their search for the drakes and gem.
After progressing down several hallways, they appear to be at a dead end but Cyllan finds a hidden door. It leads into a small room, bare except for a small table and four chairs. On the table, a wooden chest. Rikuo offers the chance to search the chest to Cyllan but then decides to open it himself when she declares it trap free. Unfortunately, she is wrong and he is pricked by a discolored wooden splinter. His hand then his arm goes numb and he begins to shiver then convulse. Uncharacteristically taking his time and with a few comments to Lace, Valmont finally reveals an anti-dote potion he picked up in town. He gives it to Rikuo just before the man in black falls unconscious. In the chest they find hundreds of gold and silver coins as well as 10 fire agate gems.
They proceed along the hallways and finally return to a set of double doors which they bypassed earlier. Entering, they see an ornate throne of silver and oak sitting atop a dais along the center of the north wall. A light ruby red mist covers the floor. On either side of the dais is a tapestry showing the changing seasons in Haven. Spring and Summer are shown on the tapestry to the left of the throne. Fall and Winter are shown on the tapestry to the right of the throne. The room is filled with statues of men, women and dwarves. The statues are arranged to resemble a typical court scene (one statue kneels in front of the throne, statues of guards flank the throne, a statue of a councilor is leaning over, as if whispering to a person on the throne, etc.). Resting in the middle of the throne is a glowing ruby the size of a large man’s fist.
Carefully, they creep towards the throne. Valmont sees two tiny figures inside, trying to get out: the Princess Argenta and a man in black plate mail. Valmont grabs the gem and there is an explosion of red light and when they can see again, each is confronted with a large red armored warrior holding red long swords. The fight is on!
The fight with the ruby warriors. Many of the adventurers are felled and appear to be near death. The ruby sword is used to attack the ruby soldiers and it appears to make them stronger. Eventually, with total defeat looming, Lace throws the ruby sword to Sindil and he smashes the gem with it. An explosion knocks everyone over and light bathes the room. A screech of evil fills the room then there is silence. All of the adventurers wearily stand, even those who had been near death (or seemingly dead in the case of Valmont).
The disaster that has befallen Haven not only ends but begins to reverse. Sick cattle recover, withered crops grow green again. The Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins and other evil creatures that invaded Haven at the call of the ruby flee. The forces besieging the Protector are scattered. Those people turned to stone become flesh. Only those individuals unfortunate enough to have died as a result of the disaster will not he restored to life. That includes smashed statues.
The Protector returns in a flash of green light and explains the ruby was a trick of Arik, Lord of Madness and Nightmares, He of a Thousand Eyes. She must attend to her enemies but will return.
The party is celebrated as heroes by Princess Argenta and her people. There are great feasts in their honor and they are awarded treasures beyond their imagining. Townspeople declare there will be children named in their honor and a week long festival of thanks is conducted. At the end of the week, many of Princess Argenta’s subjects are invited to the palace. There is a ceremony as she declares her betrothal to Ellis the Strong, the knight who arrived on the White Dragon, Ariksbane. It is discovered that he and Argenta had been long time lovers and that he has sworn his life to fighting the powers of darkness. His dragon is named Ariksbane because of its ability to search out and destroy the ruby “eyes” such as the one which led to the near disaster in Haven. All of the heroes are awarded the Silver Medal of Honor, which proclaims them as protectors of the realm.
As the ceremony comes to an end, unearthly beautiful music is heard and the doors to the great hall open. In walks Thendara, the Protector, flanked by what can only be described as angels. She stands before the crowd and explains what has happened: the demon Arik has been imprisoned for centuries but his worshippers had a scheme to release him here in Haven where he could eventually take over the entire world. The party has stopped him for now but they must ever be vigilant for he would be keen to exact revenge upon them. Haven will not be safe for them and they must return to their world.
Green mist began to flow from the hands of the goddess. Her smile was reassuring and that familiar warm feeling began to overtake the adventurers. They could see the faces of the Princess’ subjects; some smiling, some crying, all wishing the adventurers well. The green mist bathed the group and then there was a flash of bright light . . .
“What is it Cyllan?” Lace shook her head and looked at the Mystic. They appeared to be in some strange place. It was certainly not the realm of Princess Argenta. The familiar smell of dank dungeons made her nostrils flare.
Cyllan looked at Valmont. He too recognized their location then turned to the barbarian. “We have been here before. We have resumed our original quest. An evil lurks in this dark place and it seems we are still meant to find it.”
Looking around, they were in a room that must have been an old burial chamber. Six tombs lie in the floor but the lids had all been moved and they were devoid of contents. A large chopped up worm of some sort, lay dead and oozing in the center of the chamber. It’s head was a mass of tentacles.
All of the party was here: Cyllan, Lace, Valmont, Teagan, Leif, Rob, Sindil, Rikou and Stache. Each was dressed in their adventuring gear which was cleaned and mended beyond new. They were all healthy and smelled freshly bathed. Around each person’s neck hung a large silver medal. However, they were clearly no longer in the Palace of the Silver Princess.
Rob looked around and finally spoke: “Hey, where’s all of our loot?”