They were surrounded by mists. Not exactly dark but perhaps a very thick fog just at dawn. It was just three of the group, Alexei, Cyllan and Valmont. Where the others were, they did not know. In fact, where they were, they did not know. It was all fog except for the area immediately around them. It was warm and enveloping like a comfortable blanket and not as disconcerting as it should be. Odd.
The source of light was indeterminable, seeming to come from all around and now, there was a chill wind rising but Valmont’s torch did not flicker. A figure emerged from the mist. It was a tall woman with dark brown hair and faintly green skin. Her features had a slightly Elvish cast. She has no weapons they can see but an aura of power overlaid with gentleness emanates from her. As she smiles, the light that surrounded her expanded to surround the party and they discovered they could move freely within it. Upon closer examination, the being seemed slightly transparent. She spoke, her voice strong and comforting:
“The valley of Haven was a peaceful land. Its crops were abundant, its citizens prosperous. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Humans lived together in harmony. The river was sweet and pure; the weather was pleasant and warm.
“One reason Haven was so peaceful was due to my presence. I am Thendara, and I am known to the people of the valley as the Protector. I am an Immortal and patron of the valley. For years without number I have warded off evil and helped the crops to grow and the valley of Haven to prosper. Hear now the tale of Haven:
“The ruler of Haven was the fair Princess Argenta. She lived in a palace made of white shining marble which when the Sun set glowed like silver. Princess Argenta was beloved by all her people. She was just, fair and friendly to all.
“One day, the dwarves of Haven found a ruby the size of an apple while digging in a new mine. As a token of their devotion, they gave the ruby to Princess Argenta. The Dwarves named the ruby “My Lady’s Heart”. The princess was so pleased with the gift that she invited all the valley to attend a celebration to see the wondrous gem. The Dwarves were to be the guests of honor. It was to be a grand day of feasting and fun.
“The day before the celebration a strange visitor arrived. He flew into the valley riding a white dragon. The rider was dressed all in black. He had pale skin, long blond hair, and a short blond beard. Since Haven was noted for its hospitality, the princess invited the stranger to stay at the palace. She also granted his request to escort her to the celebration.
“At midnight, disaster struck. Dark clouds hid the moon and a freezing wind blew through the valley. The crops withered in the fields. Cattle grew sick. The valley began to die. I could do nothing.
“From the palace came an explosion and parts of the walls came tumbling down. When the dust cleared a ruby glow surrounded the entire palace.
“Haven now lies in chaos. Raiding bands of Orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins terrorize the countryside. The disaster happened so suddenly that the people are confused and helpless. Without their leaders, who are trapped in the palace, they have no courage to fight back. The situation has become desperate.
“Haven is in dire trouble. I do not know what caused the disaster but I do know that the reason can he found somewhere in the palace. Allies of the evil that has attacked Haven have challenged me and I am under siege. I cannot help Haven, but you can. The princess needs you; the people of Haven need you. You are Haven’s only hope. Find the source of the evil that has overtaken Haven and destroy it. If you will go, I will open the way into of the palace for you. I will also give you all the help I can, but my power is limited. The future of Haven is in your hands.”
“Please decide quickly, my time here is nearly ended. Already evil forces have detected my sending. Will you come now?”
The party agreed to help and proceeded down an eerily quiet path through the light forest. Approximately a half-mile from the palace, they saw that part of the structure’s left side had been destroyed. Stone blocks and rubble covered the mountain side. Almost all of the castle and many parts of the surrounding land glowed a soft red. All plant life, except some strange-looking thorn bushes with white roses had died where the ruby glow radiated.
As they traveled closer to the palace, a trail untouched by the ruby glow appeared. The trail led directly to the entrance of the palace. The main entryway into the palace was the only part of the palace that did not glow red. The massive, barred portcullis that usually blocked the entrance was raised. If there were any doubts about the seriousness of the red barrier, they were soon resolved. A rat, scared out of hiding by the passing adventurers, scampered into the red. When it touched it, it stopped then convulsed as if struck by lightning. Within seconds it was dead. They noticed the remains of other small unfortunate creatures inside this red zone. Alexei gulped and looked around at his companions. They all knew the danger and continue through the open gates.
Tipped off to the dangerous nature of their mission, they looked for traps before entering. Their vigilance paid off as they found a tiny trip wire across their path and stepped over it.
They passed beneath the raised portcullis and entered the palace proper. The gate yard was a large open area surrounded by 20-foot tall rock walls, running 30 feet from east to west and 40 long. There were doors to the east and west, 20 feet from the entryway. Both doors were made of wood and reinforced with iron bars. There were two smaller portcullises in the south wall, 10 feet wide and 20 feet high. One was set in the westernmost ten feet of the south wall, the other in the easternmost ten feet of the south wall. There was 10 feet of solid stone wall between the two portcullises.
As soon as the last person entered the palace, the portcullis crashed down behind the party, removing any chance of escape by that means. The ruby glow now covered the path to the palace and the portcullis but did not extend into the palace itself. They found themselves joined by two Elves, a brother and sister, whose names they did not catch. They too seemed to have been brought here by the Protector. Neither the portcullis through which they came nor the smaller ones in the south wall could be moved.
The group first went to the east. A slight scratching sound was heard from within. They quickly opened the unlocked door and found a 20 foot by 20 foot room. A lever, in the down position, was set in the center of the south wall. A 3-foot long gray rat with reddish eyes leapt from the shadows and attacked but was quickly dispatched without injury to the group. They turned to examining the lever and found that the up position was marked with an “A.” Cyllan lifted the lever but nothing happened.
They next went to the west. It was again a 20 foot by 20 foot room with a large wooden lever in the southern wall. But this time, tougher guards stood in the way: a pair of human skeletons. Long iron chains dangled from their wrists and they carried curved swords. Alexei and Cyllan rushed them and the undead were soon vanquished. No treasure was found so they examined the levers. It was similar to the first lever but a “B” marked the up position. Valmont lifted the lever.
A grinding noise could be heard outside; metal against metal. But then the three non-Elves began to shake. Not too violently but noticeably. The Elves looked puzzled and the original adventurers were unable to control it. They fell to the ground and they could hear muffled voices as if coming through water.
“Wake up! We must move.” Midian and Azriei were shaking awake Alexei, Cyllan and Valmont. Midian pointed to two Elves (not even remotely like the brother and sister from Haven). “We have also gained new companions. They passed Ruben who is continuing toward the surface to alert the town guard to what we have found.”
Valmont, Cyllan and Alexei looked at each other. They knew they had shared the same vision and it had been much more than a dream. They knew the fate of some world lay in their hands and that they must return or all would be lost.