This page is reserved for detailing the story of Higher Ground and is a work in progress.
This should be fairly obvious, but all content on this page can be considered Spoiler Material and should not be viewed if you desire to uncover this information on your own through playing on the server and uncovering the items or talking to the NPCs that reveal the story.
Of Legends and WarriorsFrom the Memorial in Rip's Tavern:
It is said that on this very spot, many ages ago, an Ancient Warrior ascended to the Plane of Nirvana and became an immortal avatar. Legend has it that when he ascended, he left behind a crown infused with his soul essence. The wearer of the Crown of Ascension is rumored to be granted godlike powers, and perhaps even immortality. Some say the Ancient Warrior will return here to retrieve his crown. No evidence supports these tales, save the very fact that they have been told for such a very long time. To this day, hundreds of fame seekers and adventurers come to the Town of Ascension each year to seek the Crown's glory.
The Town of Ascension
After a long journey across the seas, you finally reach the shores of Ascension. A place which will be the beginning of adventures for you and many others. Like those adventurers before you, you enter the docks of Ascension and are greeted with words of welcome. However, in the town itself there are also words of warning. The vast lands surrounding Ascension are home to monsters, beasts, and horrors most foul. Only the most stalwart of adventurers can brave the wilderness beyond. Though there is a remarkable calm to much of the land you see before you, there lies a hidden past which many now seek. An ancient crown, the last remnant of a warrior that ascended to immortality. Rumor has it that this crown has the power to grant immortality to any that would seek to wear it, but no one knows where it could be found. Some of the locals believe that there may be a chance that the crown has slipped into the dark hands of the Drow, deep within the Underdark. To venture out from the town of Ascension invites danger and intrigue along on your journey. Those who seek the crown might start their search by talking with the locals in town. Their information could prove most useful to you in your travels through these lands. But ultimately...your adventure is for you to decide.
Upon entering the Town of Ascension, you come upon Rip's Tavern, a local gathering point suggested as a good place to begin your search for the crown. You meet Merem, a shifty-looking halfling, who grabs your attention and gives you some information about the surrounding area:
"Pssst... over here...
I can hook you up.
I can give you the heads up on what's going on around here... And it won't cost you a penny.
Ok you wanna know what there is to do around here? First things, ya gotta go see the Rowan Guardian. He can help newcomers survive in this tough frontier land. After that, I'm sure you will be wantin ta head out adventuring, lookin for that silly crown. Things get a little rough on the north side of town though, that's goblin country, and the east, well, since trade shut down, is even MORE dangerous. If I were you, I think I would explore the road to town, I know of at least 2 caves out there. The folks in the tavern can be really helpful, so be sure to stop in and say hi to em. Oh and if you need a little practice, the cellar behind the tavern is always full of rats."
You also meet the gossip girl, who inexplicably knows a great deal of information beyond what you might expect, but such information is not free.
Venturing out from Ascension
Armed with some knowledge and what little equipment you brought with you or pieced together in town, you start out on your adventure, discovering the storied lands surrounding Ascension.
The Bywater Blockade
After speaking with refugees in the Arctic Refuge, you learn that Frost Orcs have seized control of the city of Bywater. They have since pushed west, blocking attempts to smuggle goods into the surviving contingent still in the city. The problems for the refugees have not ended here however, as their attempts to retreat to the safety of the shoreline have been blocked off by normally docile animals that have inexplicably become aggressively vicious.
One of the guards has a theory on why the animals may be acting this way, as he encountered an arcanist before Bywater was taken over by the Frost Orcs. The arcanist mentioned some sort of project he would be undertaking in the wilderness and advised the guard not to pay any heed to troubling news coming from the area. When that news came, the guard went to investigate, only to find the enraged animals attacking him. When the guard attempted to flee camp and return to Bywater, he found the city blockaded, and was forced to take refuge.
After encountering the Frost Orcs and venturing into the caves where they have set up their base of operations, you find the following note on the corpse of the Frost Orc King:
The Master wishes to congratulate you on your success in blockading the Frozen Road, and expects soon that you will step up your efforts in eliminating the human presence in the Frozen North. If he does not see the results he desires in due time, both the Master and his father will remind you of the consequences for failure.
The Corpse Lord
From the journal of Luytuns Arowymn:
I am alive. I should not be, but I am. I will start this journal in celebration of my new birth. I have found this abandoned tower and made it my home. It is of an alien design, a race of creatures I hope are not soon to return. It is not at all like my forest home, but I can protect myself from the caverns with my magic from in here. I am humming with life again!
The humming is coming from below. It gives me a headache to go down there. It is completely clear, but I shudder to think of the horrors that transpired down there. I have been able to fashion furniture and supplies from the remaining equipment that I found downstairs. It is very pliable to elven magic. When I am strong enough, I will then make plans to venture forth and attempt to find a way back to the surface. I dare not pass by Ascension; I feel it's denizens will be less than welcoming.
I have created undead servants. I fear the implications of such an act. It goes against every fiber of my being, but there is too much work to be done and I am not physically whole yet. They will serve me not only in labor, but in the chance that the living discover my locale I will have troops to aid me as well.
The laboratory is complete. I have journeyed deep into the lower level and found books to aid me. I have been able to decipher a few passages and they seem to detail the making of automatons. I cannot access the main lab however. The lock is beyond my capabilities. How fortunate! I hear search parties in the caverns; I know they hunt me and will kill me if they can. These constructs will serve me well indeed.
I have waited too long! The forces of Ascension muster as I write. They have anticipated my undead army, and are preparing counter-defenses. I must prepare my own in defense. Their arrogance will not go unanswered! These words mark the chronicles of my victory, the tale of my justification.
Power courses through my veins again. My power over the undead is growing exponentially. The forces of Ascension are doomed. With their corpses added to my legions, we will be able to conquer the surface again and take the Crown for ourselves! I cannot waste time with these writings anymore. The lower levels call. The hum is now a roar; the roar of power, the roar of vengeance, the roar of the tide of my army as it sweeps over the land of the living!!
Power to the Pawns
The Corpse Lord has exploited an indigenous group of kobolds in order to further his plans for domination. However, the kobolds are rash in their decision making and lack patience to properly execute the intricate details of a plan that the Corpse Lord demands. There are several notes detailing the failure of the kobolds and the subsequent displeasure of the Corpse Lord:
You have woken something. Seal off the lower crypt. Take the bodies that you can. You have ruined our chance for a quick victory. The secret passage cannot be found. We will have to develop our generators as our only source of troops. Be patient. Take your time with them. Do not make the same mistake you did with them as you did with the tomb ritual. And do not fail me.
You test my patience. Your heinous god has given you increasing powers, powers that are only augmented by your draconic heritage. But your pride shall be your undoing. You MUST be patient. The art will come to you!! Look at your beautiful creations already. Revel in their glory instead of lamenting your lack of proficiency. I have invested too much time in you.
This is your death sentence. You have defied me for the last time. I have sealed the passage to my keep. In four days I will swarm upon your pitiful outpost and wipe you from these caverns. I will then raise you all to be my servants. Perhaps in death you will prove to be the servant I had expected in life.
The Mad Scientist Hendron
In your search for the Crown, you come upon a wizard who has taken refuge in the ruins of an old tower in an area infested with goblins. After he realizes that you need to find your way to the swamp further North, he reveals the details of Hendron's plans,
Hendron, an old scientist who had once tried to get the Crown failed in his journey and has long since left his tower. Not being able to get the Crown maddened him, enraged him. Ever since he has been "experimenting" on creatures trying to make an army to stand against all who stand in his way of the Crown. This could pose a major threat to Ascension and must be stopped! All I need is for you to get some proof of this, and maybe then we can convince others to help us defeat his insane quest. Some of his earlier experiments have burrowed deep into the caves west of town. Bring me the belly of a Hive Mother beetle, and I will aid you in your quest.
After retrieving what the wizard seeks, he gives you a Hero Crystal, which he mentions can be used on a headstone in the graveyard in the Town of Ascension to teleport you to the Swamp of Decay.
North of the Crossroads is a castle overrun with vampyr. Investigating further, you encounter the twisted mage Tulkis Gaobin. After defeating him and discovering his journal, it is revealed that Tulkis made an alliance with the forces of the Zhentarim. More disturbing is the revelation that he sent his own son to his death in order to raise him as a vampyr, as part of Tulkis' ultimate plot to use an army of Vampyr to destroy Ascension and claim the Crown for himself. A Mysterious Letter, dated nearly twenty years ago, further reinforces Tulkis' journal:
Our forces have established their outpost. We will march on the Plains of War at dawn. Be sure that your son marches with the forces of Ascension. I am sure that his foolish sense of "good" will drive him there. He will die and I will make something useful out of him. The amulet I gave you should protect you well enough from him. I will bring you 'subjects' when you have secured him below
After finding the immortal body of Solis Gaobin tied down in the basement of the castle, your party releases his spirit by driving a stake through Solis' heart. Unfortunately the damned spirit of Solis had long since separated from the body and now remains to haunt his quarters on the second floor of the castle. Defeating the spirit finally allows Solis to rest in piece, and he rewards the party for their assistance.
In Search of the Crown
After familiarizing yourself with the lands surrounding Ascension and gaining experience, you feel ready and determined to begin your hunt for the fabled crown.
Tall Tales and Dark Omens
The gossip girl in Rip's Tavern points you in the direction of a witch named Hazel, who has lived out on the edge of a forest beyond the Swamp of Decay for as long as anyone can remember. Upon finding Hazel, you discover she seems to already know what it is you seek.
The Legacy of Anduin
"Yes yes... the Crown you seek... Your path lies down the waters of the Dry River. Of course at one time many centuries ago, a river ran just east of those ogre caves. At that time there lived a great Priest named Anduin. He brought peace and prosperity and blessings upon those whom he touched. But he grew powerful, and power corrupts. Soon he became arrogant, and his God was so angry over his ungratefulness, Anduin's Temple was blasted from the face of the realms. Only the underground parts of the temple remain. The force of the blast was so great, it actually changed the course of the river, sending it underground. If you feel that you are somehow better than the thousands of other adventurers who have died searching for the Crown, seek the 5 broken parts of Anduins Staff. It will allow you to enter the sealed temple. The Staff will probably break when you open the temple, and whatever power is left in that artifact will be yours for the taking."
Upon visiting Anduin's Ruins, you encounter a ghost who wails in frustration attempting to communicate with you. Using a gem of telepathy, the ghost relays this message before vanishing:
"Hear me well adventurer for my time here now is short..
To seek my staff a quest indeed
And one that will cost much.
To start, to start you must now heed,
Or suffer much in pain...
My arrogance did do me in..
Let not yours do the same..
Only one whose heart is just
And ego in decline....
Shall face the trials of darkest depths
There light ashine in blaze.
But heed my words and take my warning
For those who don't SHALL DIE.
For those whose arrogance matches mine
The staff will be thy demise.
A forest aged and forgotten
Is where the staff is found.
In forest clearings or forest glades
The parts they do abound.
A tear of wood, a sparkling drop
From natures own demesne.
Will be the key of freedom hence
As well as a parts domain.
Though parts in all are one such more
Than tears from natures heart.
The smallest part is where you start
The last is where you stop.
To free thyself from natures curse
In this accursed wood.
Then see the wench of ages past
And ages still to come.
But wet her eyes with tears of life
Or stranded you shall be.
To endlessly roam within these woods,
Alone, bereft, but free.
Take heed my words or death itself
Will take you in its embrace.
I beg of thee to find the staff
And release me from this state.
Now time has past and I must flee,
The foe is at my door.
Good luck to you and yours...
I pray death leaves you well alone."
Naturally, the gossip girl has some additional information as to where you might be able to find those parts to Anduin's staff
"A man came through here purchasing supplies... says he found the head of Anduin's Staff. It was some time back, but I could tell you where he might be....
The man I saw was buying camp supplies... go to the Forgotten Forest, and find his camp.. I'm sure the head of Anduin's Staff will be nearby."
Sure enough, along the outskirts of the Forgotten Forest you encounter a camp, with an odd crystaline piece stashed away. Upon taking the item back to Hazel, she confirms it is one of the pieces, leaving the other four to be discovered deeper in the Forgotten Forest itself. Upon retrieving all of the pieces and returning to Hazel, she reconstructs Anduin's Staff and gives it to you to grant you access to Anduin's Temple.
To Brave the Underdark
As you delve through the ruins of Anduin's Temple, you can find no clues as to the whereabouts of the crown. As you work your way through the depths, you encounter various undead horrors, animated suits of armor, and even a coven of Rakshasa! Finally you reach a great hall guarded by constructs. Defeating them, you pass through to a series of dark tunnels, realizing that you have crossed into the Underdark. If the crown had been here, then it is quite possible that the Drow have indeed taken it. After adventuring deeper, you begin to encounter Drow resistance as you approach the gates of the Drow city of Manatakloss.
Breaking and Entering
Upon entering the Docks of Manatakloss, you encounter Drey slaves and Underdark traders in what appears to be a slum of the Drow city. Though the denizens appear little more than rabble, they have a ferocity and unexpectedly organized manner about them. You come to learn that a particular Drey, Xulrae, is behind the machinations.
Xulrae was born to a human slave in House Gur'atsz, a house that prides itself on the purity of its blood. Servants of Lolth for thousands of years, the family bred to keep its bloodline pure and connected to only the best "stock" in other families. When slaves became pregnant, as often happened, the children were either killed in the womb (often with the mother) or left in the Underdark to die. Xulrae was found by a party of Duergar looking for new mines to exploit. She returned to Manatakloss to exact revenge on the house that discarded her like common trash.
Among her effects you recover a Drow wardstone and a receipt book; having worked for the Affiliated Merchants of the Underdark, Xulrae knew the importance of keeping meticulous bank records when dealing with them. At the slightest hint that you were not entirely sure which exorbitant fees you had paid, they would load hidden fee after hidden fee upon you. They can sense bad recordkeeping like a bulette can sense a feather drop on a cobbled road. While these are simply mundane purchasing records, it is plain to see that she was buying as many weapons as possible; enough to equip a small army. Her impending attack on the drow houses was surely imminent. Using the wardstone, you break the magic seal preventing access to Manatakloss proper and venture into the House District.
The Houses of Manatakloss
After clearing through the Drow houses of Fen'liss, De'Nat, Gur'atsz, and Khur'aan, you uncover four sithyrrs used to grant access to the current ruling house of Manatakloss, House Mat'lis'sk. In addition to the sithyrrs, some information about the structure of Manatakloss and the current political state of the city is revealed through some looted references.
From the Hierarchy of Manatakloss:
This thick and heavy tome records the history of the Drow Houses in Manatakloss. From what parts of the Drow script that can be translated, there is a strict organization among the houses, with one House ruling over the entire city, and the others competing amongst themselves for power. The only thing that is clear about the current power structure of the city is that House Mat'Lis'sk has apparently ruled with an iron fist for many centuries.
From the diary of a commanding officer of House Fen'liss:
Our recent raid on House De'Nat has only steeled their resolve against us. The insipid fools believe that they can usurp our position through cunning and stealth. Their tenacity is only matched by their ignorance. However, they feel that they grow stronger by the day and I have never seen them bolster as they have recently. The time to strike at them is now! We cannot lose our footing in Manatakloss! If we fall to them, the nightly torture will only increase tenfold. We cannot let that happen! House Gur'astz will never find the sword and will ALWAYS suspect it was House De'Nat. Let them tear that house apart looking for it. We will not sully our blades with their insignificant blood......What if they find the sword? I should kill the duergar traders I sold it to just to make sure.
Using the sithyrrs to enter House Mat'lis'sk, you encounter stronger resistance than you had experienced from the previous houses; Mat'lis'sk's dominance over the city begins to make sense. Eventually you reach the throne room, where Queen Mat'lis'sk awaits with her court. Subduing her, you finally learn of the crown's whereabouts from the Queen's Diary along with her efforts in attempting to use it:
For 800 long years I have studied this accursed crown, and still I am no closer to making use of it. All of my best House Wizards' efforts have been for naught, no matter how much I tortured them. I am coming to believe that it is impossible to wear the crown without suffering from possession of this powerful being, this being that calls himself The Trespasser. And what do I know of this being? All that I can say is that he was once a despicably good hero, and that he is now quite insane. Perhaps if I could find this hero, and slay him, then the powers of the Immortal Crown would make themselves available to me...
The work in the sanctum is fruitless. Yet Lolth demands on guarding the crown herself. As if I am incompetent! Our best mages study the crown daily, yet she impedes our work with her presence and her drogher. They are not necessary. As if a surfacer would penetrate this far! The idea is absurd and her security is only slowing the process. Perhaps she does not WANT me to find the secrets of the crown. Perhaps the power of the crown challenges her own! Her petty locks and guards are not enough to keep me from my destiny!
The Immortal Crown
After vanquishing the forces of House Mat'lis'sk and venturing into the depths of the Crown Sanctum, you encounter an Aspect of Lolth, a shadow of the Spider Queen extended onto the Material Plane to personally guard the Crown. After dispatching her, you retrieve the crown and at last look upon that which you have for so long sought. You can feel the power emanating from this priceless crown. It will bring you power like none you have ever known, but at what price?
Immortality is Only the Beginning
After recovering the Immortal Crown from the Drow city of Manatakloss, the Sage reveals that the item is cursed, causing any who would wear it to be possessed by an evil avatar. The Crown must therefore be destroyed at all costs, which the Sage suspects may in fact grant immortality to the destroyers. From what little information the Sage has gathered, the Crown must be destroyed in the Hell Forge, deep within the Abyss. Unfortunately the Sage has no knowledge of means to get there, and suggests you return to Manatakloss to search for any books that have anything to do with the Crown.
An Ancient Tome discovered in this search, once translated, reveals the true nature of the Crown:
...And a great Warrior ruled the land with a kind, yet firm fist. All the land knew him to be just. His downfall came shortly after the year of the Rat, when he had nearly conquered all resistance to his throne. One of the defeated barons brought to him a 'Gift', a Glorious Crown, with unimaginable powers. The Crown was said to grant immortality, and the Warrior took this gift without hesitation.
Unfortunately, there was more to the Crown than he knew. Forged in the Abyss by Asmodeus himself, bound to his evil spirit, no mortal can wear the Crown without suffering its intense Evil. The Warrior soon became enthralled by the Crown, and began slaughtering everything in his path. The Crown made him invulnerable, and before the high council of mages could banish him to the Abyss to meet his new master, thousands of innocents lay dead in the streets.
The mages knew the only way to destroy the Crown was to take it to the Abyss, and destroy it in the fiery forge it was made in. None of them had the courage to do so, and so the Crown was buried deep within the underdark, with powerful seals to last centuries. This book has been written by the priests of Helm, as a warning to any who might find the Crown...it will eat your soul.
Sundering the Prize
After recovering all the books from the Underdark, the Sage finds that the Queen Matron Mat'Lis'sk was close to discovering the secrets of the Crown. Furthermore, he believes he has found a way to send you and your friends to the Abyss. However, he warns that it is a one way trip; there is no returning from the Abyss, though perhaps the destruction of the Crown will permit escape.
Fighting through the Abyss, your party reaches the Hall of the Hell Forge, a long corridor that leads to the forge itself...and a familiar face. The Immortal you have seen many times before in the Fugue sits before you, standing to greet you,
We have met before, several times. Each time, I told you to find your destiny. It seems you are close to finding that destiny.
Thousands of years ago, I had another name, a name which has been erased from history. Out of pride, I wished to live forever. I beseeched a god, long dead now, to grant me immortality in exchange for my very soul. After all, as an immortal, I would have no need for it in the afterlife.
But it was I who was tricked. I was granted immortality and my soul was poured into the crown you now hold. I was then sentenced to spend the rest of eternity guarding the path to the afterlife. The Hell Forge is the only thing in the universe that can destroy the crown, thereby destroying me. My death will open up the gates of immortality and allow you to pass through them.
I am no theologian. However, the reality of the situation is that you ARE here before me, and I have but a single purpose to my existence. It is your destiny to face me. Whether you can defeat me is not guaranteed by fate.
After defeating the Immortal in combat, breaking the Crown in the Hell Forge causes a disruption in the fabric of reality, as you and your party transcend to immortality and mortals in the realms are killed in the disruption. The power of the Rowan Tree manages to protect those who are within Ascension's walls.
A Whole New World
Upon speaking with the sage after obtaining your immortality, he has the following to say:
"I see you have accomplished your task. Much death and destruction was brought upon the realms when you destroyed the crown... but had the crown not been destroyed, death and destruction would have ruled these realms.... I congratulate you on your success. Know this... although you cannot die, you can still be knocked unconscious. If this happens, I'm sure you will regain your senses within a few minutes..."
Armed with this knowledge and with the reason for your coming to Ascension fulfilled, you venture out into the world to explore the world and find new adventures to undertake.
The Axerian Empire
In your travels you've encountered a vast array of ruins dotting the lands surrounding Ascension, with many of the ruins appearing to be of a similar style. If they were of the same maker, it would indicate a similarly vast empire stretching across the land. All that remains however are these ruins...
The Ancient Maze
Perhaps one of the Empire's best kept secrets, few adventurers have entered the Maze, and fewer have returned. Of what can be discerned, the Maze is a labyrinth that the Empire used to seal away magics too powerful to remain in the open. There are precious few hints of what else may lie within, mostly from journals and ancient tomes.
From The Binding of the Beast:
After a great battle, we drove the foul beast back, down into the depths of the mountains it came from...sealed it behind a series of locks in the ruins of Ancherstan...to insure that it never again ravaged the lands of men, we divided the word of binding among us, agreeing to carry the parchments with us to our graves...then scattered to the 4 corners of the land, swearing never to return.
From Dedun's Journal:
The parchment I found is definitely related to the maze, of that I am now certain. I only got a short way in before I was forced to retreat, chased by the guardians of the maze. And when I reached the cave, they were already there, waiting for me. At first I thought it was good fortune that I had puzzled out the riddle of the door before entering the labyrinth, but I have fled into a dead end, with little food and no water. What I write now, I write as a warning to those who follow. The maze is treacherous, with many portals and tunnels. It is at least 4 levels deep, and the tunnels all appear to lead directly down. From this I infer that they...
The writing trails off into an illegible scrawl, as if the author fell asleep...or ran out of oxygen.
The Desert of Vashyk
South of the Crossroads lies a vast desert, which has been up to this point far too dangerous to venture into due to the ferocity and deadliness of the Stinger tribe that resides in the area. After becoming an immortal, these creatures pose a much less significant threat to you and your party as you set foot in Vashyk's Ruin. After clearing the area, you notice a large boulder in the guise of a face blocking your path. Next to the boulder, you can make out the faint visage of a ghostly apparition. Upon approaching, it greets you as Mikrum, High Templar of Vashyk, the Pearl of the Empire. Sensing the innate power emanating from your immortal essence, Mikrum believes his time of release is at hand, as he has haunted these grounds waiting for the one whose flesh was more than a mortal's. Upon asking Mikrum what has forced him to remain here, he allows you to ask many questions regarding his fate and the fate of the Empire he speaks of.
The great pit before you is all that remains of Vashyk, Pearl of the Empire. It was once a verdant land of plenty, but now it is nothing more than a crater, called Vashyk's Fall. What little of the city that was not incinerated fell into the crater below. What caused such devastation? Mikrum claims it was naught but a result of his pride. He was High Templar of Vashyk and believed he could challenge even the gods. He decried Bhalus, Lord of Murder, as a false god, and outlawed any worship in his name. In response, Bhalus sent the Harbinger, a flaming rock from the heavens. It smote everything, tearing a mighty chasm known as Harbinger's Trail, and smashing the city to ruins.
This devastation however was only the beginning. The gash in the world was so deep, so severe, that it wracked the earth with convulsions. Plateus toppled, valleys crumbled, and what once was, was no longer. The face of the land was remade with the initial blast of force, and all life seared to nothingness in a flash by the heat. Then came the molten rock, spouting up in a mighty column that pierced the heavens. A rain of fire and stone fell like the fist of Bhalus on the land. Then a gagging cloud of black ash and soot descended, choking all life for miles around. It was months before it all settled. Bhalus ripped Mikrum's soul back from the rent, believing that leaving him in Vashyk's Ruin to wallow in his grief and guilt was greater torture than any Bhalus might inflict.
Many tried to return after everything had settled, but all had died. The cataclysm had been foretold, and was the turning of an Age. It was part of a plot by Bhalus to pull this Plane into his own. He fed Mikrum's pride and arrogance, daring him to call Bhalus out. Bhalus' plot was not successful in its entirety however. The Harbinger's impact tore a hole in the barrier between this plane and all others. All the souls of Vashyk were sucked through it into the Hells almost instantly, greatly feeding the power of Bhalus. This tear in the planes would have widened until the entire Material was pulled into the Hells. Only by the intervention of the Academy and the other gods was such a disaster averted.
By the time that the rampages of the escaping hellspawn had alerted them to the threat, the damage was so great that they could only patch it. The wound still remained. In the center of the Fall now exists a thinning of the fabric of existince. The Hells remains the closest, but other Planes touch closely as well. Several centuries back, the Mentari (which Mikrum sees you know as Illithids) discovered the Bore, the heart of the Fall, the thinning, and used it to flee their enemies. It is in this way that the thinning could be used to travel between planes, but such an endeavor would be most dangerous due to the risk of reopening the tear. Additionally, such travel would be impossible without possessing something of the plane you wished to travel to and a means to channel vast amounts of energy.
Once satisfied with your questions, you agree to descend into the Fall and seek out the Bore. Mikrum thanks you and vanishes as if he had never existed. The great boulder at his side dissolves before your eyes, granting you passage into the desert beyond.
The Dragon in the Depths
Traipsing through the treacherous desert of Vashyk's ruins, you uncover several mysterious runes. Fighting against increasingly devilish hellspawn, the path along Harbinger's Trail opens up into a massive crater that could only be Vashyk's Fall as described by Mikrum. Descending into the crater your party comes upon a cave containing an odd warded mechanism, with a number of interfaces corresponding to the number of runes you had recovered from the desert surface above. Using these runes you disengage the ward, allowing you to use the mechanism, which transports you across the chasm before you and in front of a menacing form of a dragon constructed of no more than bone, but with so much more presence than such would imply.
Dustbone was once known as Glad'ar'met'ichityl, and was a magnificient golden dragon, friend and guardian to the people of Vashyk. When the Harbinger struck, even he could not withstand the heat of the initial blast. His flesh was burned off in an instant, but his bones remained. Just as his soul was about to depart the Material, the first wave of devils released by the planar rupture got hold of him, and began tormenting him ceaselessly, until he was driven completely mad. One devil in particular, a pit fiend called Beshibbug, lay claim to his physical form, and takes control when it suits his fancy.
Because of the dragon's madness, however, neither personality is particularly friendly towards visitors. The illithids discovered this when they came upon his lair during their exploration of the furrow, and after a bloody battle succeeded in trapping him behind a powerful magical ward, and scattering the stones needed to deactivate it on the surface, where none of their enemies could find them - they greatly feared that Dustbone would seek allies in an attempt at vengeance, and needed time to find a way to use the rift. Here Dustbone has stayed, for untold centuries, stewing in his madness...until you came along.
The Drowned City
In far away lands, another remnant of the Axerian Empire is found deep in what were at one time underground caverns. Presumably, after the Harbinger impacted the city of Vashyk, the resulting cataclysm shook the world so forcefully as to cause this underground city to flood with water. Only the wayward journal of a strikingly egocentric bard hints to the remains of any civilization beyond.
From Sewald's Journal:
I managed to escape the notice of the giant lizardfolk and their equally huge wolf-headed companions, but only by the extremely ingenious use of a scroll of greater sanctuary. Lo and behold, I discovered that which I have sought for so long, the entrance to the ruins! Imagine my surprise and dismay when I discovered it was now submerged! Try as I might, I cannot even hold my breath long enough to reach it, let alone traverse the winding tunnel beyond, indeed I am certain no human being could. If only I had a ring of water bre...
The text ends abruptly, with only a faint smear of blood to hint at its owner's fate.
With the ability to breathe water, access to the Drowned City mentioned by Sewald's journal is possible. Upon arriving in the city however, it is found to be occupied by strange lizardfolk that appear far more organized and dangerous than any you have encountered in your travels. Recovering several curious looking gems as you fight your way through the city, you enter a side chamber that appears to be some sort of focal point for the forces there. From the corpse of one of the lizardfolk you obtain an unidentified rod whose function eludes you. Deciding that the sage in Ascension may have some idea of the purpose of this device, you take the rod to him.
Hmm, let me see that...Interesting, this does not appear to be of this world. It looks like it is meant to activate a portal of some kind, but it doesn't seem to be working. Let's see...yes, that's done it. You see how I just twist it here like so, and push in here at the same time? If you find any others you'll be able to activate them in the same way. Now, I'm afraid I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment, I have an important visitor coming, and must make ready. Good day.
Oh, wait a moment...I suppose I should mention...well, it's not an easy thing to say, hmmm...
If that DOES activates a portal and it DOES lead to another world...you should be aware that your immortality may be of a contingent nature.
Well, most immortal creatures are immortal on any plane EXCEPT their home plane. You, however, attained immortality through most unusual means, and are immortal on your home plane. What remains to be seen, however, is if you will be immortal on OTHER planes. Alternate Prime Material Planes, and a few others, could prove MOST problematic in that regard.
In addition to his help with the translation rod, the sage also rummages through some items to give you a magical reading lens that is capable of translating documents written in the language of a report that you recovered in the city. As you enter the portal in the Drowned City and investigate the world beyond, several documents shed light on the nature of these strange visitors, who you discover are referred to as Ssithraks hailing from the aquatic world of Ssithra, and their goals.
From a Ssithrak scroll, the journal of a Ssithrak commander, who was apparently an intellectual as well as a warrior. Several entries are of interest:
We made the translation earlier today. It was rougher than usual, I fear because the Empress' power is waning and her needs waxing quicker than expected. I wouldn't dare voice such thoughts, let alone commit them to parchment, save for the fact that we'll not be returning, and if successful, they will not matter then. I should not dwell on such dreary thoughts, but this world has put me in the foulest of moods. The waters here are filled with a putrid taint, and it makes my head ache and my scales stiffen. The purple of the first batch of sense-blossoms has already begun to fade, and more than half are dead. The planet is barely suitable for our purposes, but the situation has become desperate with the failures of the portals on Dess'kin. At least this world is still warm - almost uncomfortably so. The Academy's 'experts' swear we have another 50 years at the minimum, but I suspect the number is closer to 5. The sea-ice spreads, the red of the rassat blossoms is seldom seen, and the Gesst'wa are hard-pressed to forage. Soon I fear we will lack even the energy to maintain the Ssa-torches, and then where will we be?
We've set up the area for re-translation to Ssithra. The setup is not what I would call refined, and we had to make certain modifications for security, as ordered by the Temple. Each of my four squad leaders carries a translator focus pulled from the translators we brought. Without them, the rod I carry is useless, so that any foe we meet would have to wipe us all out, AND discover the purpose of the device, in order to reach Ssithra. Such commands seem futile, as we will no doubt begin mass translations once a few more portals are erected, and they are definitely bad for morale, though my men have too much honor to ever display such.
I have scouted the area, and stationed my squads. These are apparently the ruins of an abandoned habitation - perhaps intelligent life persists on this world? What little we see looks crude, garish, and primal.
The source of the taint is apparently local. Some foul creatures inhabit the areas to the east. I've set up blockades and rudimentary gate-blocks, and they are now contained, though I think it prudent to wait until more help arrives before wiping them out. For now, at least, I will endure this filthy taint.
Finally! The Priests saw fit to send a Academe, and we can now begin to explore more thoroughly. If only it were not Ssadas - he is one of the more arrogant ones, and that's saying something. One of the fresh arrivals told me that Sgarat'sak has been replacing some of the Academy's Purples with Temple Red! I doubt that the High Priestess will look with favor on such acts - Ssssy'is does not favor males thus, however Talented.
Word reached me today that the priestess who selected me has given birth! If only we were allowed to see our young...but these thoughts are not becoming of an officer.
Ssadas accompanied a squad to explore the area to the Northeast. It appears to have been an ancient library of some kind. Perhaps these creatures are not quite as primitive as we supposed. If they have advanced in the centuries since this place was abandoned. A curious thing at that- the library has no water. It falls in a cascade into some unknown depths below. Perhaps they abandoned it because the water levels began to fall? Or maybe they didn't know how to waterproof their writings? Most curious.
By Ssssy'is! The wretched creatures in the library destroyed half a squad! I ordered Ssadas to seal it off, and he complied, though he had the nerve to refuse to tell me what magic he used. No doubt it was one of those useless cold spells he is so fond of. I wouldn't tolerate this behavior, even from an Academe, if we weren't so badly in need of magic-users. High Priestess Ssagatalas has spoken, and we'll be receiving no more until we can oathswear the area secure. And we still have only one portal! In any case, I am sending the materials we recovered back to Ssithra in the hopes the Academy or Temple can make sense of them. Perhaps, if they prove valuables, they will send more mages!
In an effort to secure the area, I have pushed further east. The building there is also open to the air! Perhaps it housed their goddess? Or, perhaps they were gas-breathers, and their city sank?
From a Ssithrak Missive by someone named Ssadas:
I have begun searching for hints about the civilizations degree of advancement in Talent. Fortunately, they appear to be fairly savage, as is to be expected. I managed to locate a cache of writings, but thanks to that incompetent fool Nass'al I was only able to recover a few items before we were driven out. Nass'al believes that he has sent everything found to the Temple, but I retained a number of other interesting items, and enclose them, in the magical pouch accompanying this letter.
I sealed off the area where we were assaulted, using some of the local enchantments of a simpler nature, those whose Sssi'at'i I was able to divine immediately. I enclose exact duplicates of those as well, tucked in the pages of the first book. Should I fall in service to Ssssy'is, you can open the door by casting them in reverse elemental hierarchy, weakest to strongest, with the blunt force last, and the door will open.
Scrawled at the bottom are a few notes, presumably those of the Headmaster.
-Ssadas shows initiative, but too much - I will have to keep a closer eye on him to ensure that he does not bring the wrath of the Temple down upon us.
-For the time being, we'll have to feign disinterest in other warm-planet artifacts, so that the Troop Leader will not suspect we have others.
From a Ssithrak report:
Seresm is a fool, and a dishonorable one at that. The Temple has sent word that he killed Sor'slat by stabbing him from behind, apparently to deprive him of some ssegem.
What is most distressing is that he thought he could get away with it undetected. Apparently some are beginning to believe that the Temple's power is declining with the currents and temperatures. Thank Ssssy'is it is not so! At least not yet. And if young Nass'al succeeds, not for another few millennia.
At least there is some brighter news. Nass'al has sent back a load of items scavenged from the surrounding area. I tried to pass them on to the Academy, but they displayed little interest in such 'trinkets'. They are overconfident, in my opinion - it is never wise to underestimate another civilization when first making contact. In any case, I am holding them for safekeeping until such time as the Academy displays interest, or we can discover their proper use.
From some Ssithrak Notes:
Sgarat'sak is a fool! We are in a crisis, and he seeks to use it to his own ends, to advance his station and that of his men. He thinks his Talent makes him the equal of a female! Ssssy'is says otherwise, and it is truly a fool who gainsays the Great One.
I have more than enough trouble on my hands though, so I will have to let his presumption pass - for now. My engineers tell me we have almost no energy left - the Empress is consuming it at an ever-increasing pace, and they tell me the planet core will die in roughly seven years! If that were not appalling enough, they say that the Ssa-torches will die in but three! Three years and a civilization which has stood for fourteen millennia will be reduced to crawling in the Dark like the savages who once inhabited this world.
Much of this is owning to our failures on Dess'kin. Had we known its fields were too unstable to support a translation grid, we could've spared some 30 years worth of energy. I blame myself, but if I am honest I must admit that on one could've forseen that. I checked the Academy archives, and in all our long years, we have NEVER chanced upon a planet with unusable fields.
The worst problem of all, though, is the mutinous thoughts I sense from the 'faithful'. It is only three of them, so far, that have turned from Ssssy'is, but As'talyss actually thought - if only for the briefest of moments - that we should - it is unspeakable. And the sheer temerity - what does she think we would do without Ssssy'is? Shrivel and die on a lifeless chunk of ice? Even if we wanted, Ssssy'is holds the master rod, and is the only one with the energy reserves needed to operate it, now that the planet's core has slowed so drastically. Perhaps, two centuries ago, when there would've been time for a new Becoming. But where was the need then? Energy was as abundant as the currents. A small, dark part of me fears that I will not live to see my own transformation.
In the winding tunnels beyond the forests east of Ascension, you come upon a cave radiating odd energies. Within you find a Myconid habitat, though the Myconids appear to have been mutated by some odd radiation and as a result are much more dangerous than others of their kind that could be encountered adventuring the Underdark beneath Ascension. Working your way through the Myconid Depths, you eventually come upon King Myxo Dreamcaller, a towering Myconid with powerful spores that confuse you and your allies. The warning signs you saw posted outside the cavern apparently were well called for.
Adventuring around in far away lands, you come upon an out of the way cave. Inside you encounter numerous mechanical contraptions and automatons along with various gnomes in what appears to be some sort of mine. Working your way through the opposition, you progress into a workshop of metal and steam. Large constructs and elementals oppose your efforts to delve deeper into the workshop. Finally you come upon a massive open chamber, but upon entering, a large group of constructs appears from nothingness out of the sides of the chamber as cannon fire rains down upon your party. In the distance you see a heavily armored figure.
This is the Toymaker, the mastermind behind this workshop. While she has powerful magicks at her command which she uses to summon and bind elementals and other extraplanar creatures to her will, she prefers to rely mostly on her machines when it comes to combat. The armor she's wearing has some strange gears and cogs adorning it, and it's difficult to tell whether she's moving it, or its moving her. The hammer she's wielding looks exceptionally heavy, but she wields it with unnatural ease. In addition to this, the Toymaker calls upon the powers of Mechanus through a mechanical pedestal in the center of the chamber, bathing the area in a destructive pyrotechnic blast. Even as you manage to break down the constructs, more seem to pour into the room at an alarming rate.
Off of the coast of Ascension, venturing into the watery depths, among the various sea creatures you encounter the Locathah. The nomadic Locathahs dwell in warm coastal waters, hunting fish and gathering crustaceans for food. Although humanoid in shape, they are clearly more fish than human.
Locathahs are not particularly aggressive but do not trust surface dwellers - far too many of their kind have been swept up in fishing nets. The locathah have been dealt a bad hand in terms of their racial history, having been enslaved by nearly every race of the Sea of Fallen Stars, especially by the Kuo-toa and Ixitxachitl. Although there are still some locathah slaves dotted around the deeper oceans, most are now free and living in more shallow waters as nomads.
The reason for their enslavement, in their minds, was that their enemies took advantage of periods when the locathah were at odds with their allies or each other and thus, fragmented. As such, they now live in tight-knit communities and, if others prove to be their allies, the locathah will prove firm in their allegiance, trying everything in their power to keep such alliances together. Despite said history of slavery, even when treated with the utmost cruelty, they do not harbor angry or vengeful feelings towards their former captors, though they will do anything within their power short of threatening harm to their fellows to escape if enslaved by someone else. They don't believe that is shameful to be enslaved, but it is to do nothing about the situation.
It is easy to unintentionally offend a locathah as they have many unwritten rules of etiquette. If approached by a creature wielding a weapon, a locathah will always either flee or engage in combat. They do not like to be touched by other species, interactions with others are always done at a distance. They commonly lead creatures unfamiliar with their territory by their wake-currents.
Most locathah live in communal tribes. Those of 100 members or less are usually simple hunting parties, dominated by males, but in larger tribes they prefer a matriarchal chieftain. The matriarch lays a multitude of eggs that are cared for by the rest of the tribe. Eadro is the deity worshipped by the locathah race and merfolk race. His sacred animal is the jellyfish. His symbol is a spiral, indicating growth through unity.
The Great Wyrm of the North, Uroboros is strangely intelligent, a trait white dragons are not known for. He is also quite belligerent, a trait white dragons are known for. Still, where there's a dragon there's treasure to be had, so adventurers take to the task of ascending Uroboros Peak in search of riches. However, they are not the only ones.
After climbing through the foothills, you reach what appears to be an abandoned temple. However, after setting foot inside you are attacked by skeletal reanimated dragonkin, wraiths, and ice elementals. In the heart of the temple you encounter the lich Nandaxalus, who is relatively young by lich standards at only 80 years since being reborn. It appears he had moved into the area to plunder Uroboros' hoard as well. From the temple you can proceed up to the peak and confront the Great Wyrm himself, or take a path that leads further into the mountain's depths...
Catacombs of Dulvuroth
Descending from the temple, you can sense a strong magical presence permeates the area. Various horrors of undeath and ice roam the catacombs, but the most horrific of all encounters in the dead air beneath the mountain comes as you are confronted by Illfane Balewing, an angel of decay. A mockery of a true angel, an angel of decay may appear similar to an angelic outsider only by happenstance, not design. It is an undead creature that is powered by decay. When a healthy creature softens, crumbles, and liquefies in death, an indefinable essence wafts away like putrid steam off stagnant beach sand. This decomposing flesh radiates an essential energy in its dissipation, and an angel of decay can extract the power resident therein. An angel of decay stands about 9 feet tall and weighs between 500 and 700 pounds.
After defeating Illfane, you quickly come upon the source of the magical presence, a gigantic mythallar which is being studied by a powerful demilich named Dulvuroth. Dulvuroth, like many of his kind, has spent time traveling the planes in search of ways to increase his arcane might. At present, however, he's absorbed in the study of the giant mythallar, by far the largest of its kind. After defeating Dulvuroth, you realize that Illfane was a proxy of the Elder Evil Atropus, sent to this existence to find ways to hasten its return. The necrophyte hoped to make use of the mythallar's potent magic to this end, and was assisting Dulvuroth in his studies toward that end.
While venturing through some caves in the Underdark, you come upon a beholder that does not instantly lash out at you, but instead confronts you:
"Hold! What manner of creature is so bold as to tread these treacherous tunnels?"
Noting your surprise at encountering a beholder among the deadbats that dominant the caves,
"Seldom does the future hold what we expect, groundbound. I did not expect to be exiled from the hive, yet here I am.
I was known to the hive as Shezgorb. The last groundbound through here told me that meant 'Bob' in your common tongue, so you may call me Bob."
Inquiring about the fate of the last "groundbound",
"They met a most unwholesome end. You see, they were carrying an item of some power, one powerful enough to attract the attention of the Eye.
The Eye is the Hive Mother, or was. Some time ago, one of the firegrubs came across a most unusual object, some sort of gleaming red crystal. The Mother claimed it for her own, and soon after things began to change, for the worse.
It was a vile-looking thing, which sometimes sparkled even when no light shone upon it. As if it was looking at you, and could hear your thoughts.
Soon after claiming it as her own, the Mother gouged out her central eye, and placed it there instead. The hive was shocked - only outcasts ever do that!
Gorrzlab was the next most powerful female. She made a bid for control of the hive, but as soon as she confronted the Mother, the Mother seared her to a crisp, with a beam from the crystal. Then, she announced that the crystal had shown her the path to true power, and that with it, the hive would rise to dominate the Underdark, enslaving all the groundbound races. It was a trapped demon, she told us, one with the power to see things unseen, in the future as well as the present.
What need is there to trust that which you can destroy? She had cowed it, she said, by threatening to smash the crystal. It seems it was some sort of phylactery, holding the demon's life essence intact.
She never told us its name. Once though, I heard her speaking, when I thought her to be alone. When I looked, she was - she was staring into space, and speaking, but there was no one about. I heard her call it 'Mighty Vecna' when she spoke to it, and it sounded as if SHE were the one who was cowed. I didn't think she saw me, but I was exiled the next day."
Upon wishing to enter the hive,
"Ha! You think to enter the hive, groundbound? You'll not be getting in easily, of that you may be certain.
The eye keeps the way blocked, now, with the magic of the crystal. She only lets in easy prey, now, not armed adventurers.
Ah, yes. They had with them a most unusual thing, an item of powerful magic from another plane. The Eye instructed us to wait until the groundbound entered the Hive, and then seize the item."
Informing Bob that you have no such items of power, but that you are infused the power of the immortal crown,
"Hm, yes, your blood might just interest the Eye. The only way to find out is to try, I suppose. You see that well? It isn't really there. It's a powerful illusion created by the Eye, using her new powers. Its actually a wide shaft leading down to the hive, blocked off from casual trespassers via telekinesis. Simply walk up to it, and if the Eye thinks you might be worth the trouble, she'll unblock the shaft."
After venturing into the depths of Vashyk's Fall and defeating Dustbone, you uncover an artifact of the Mentari, which you recall the spirit Mikrum relate to you as the Illithid race. You cannot fathom any way to activate it, though it hums slightly to the touch. Descending further into the Fall, you come across a massive mechanical device of alien design. A pedestal sits at the focal point, adorned with a translucent orb. As your fingers brush the pedestal, the Mentari Mindstill in your possession shudders violently, and sends a pulse of energy to the crystalline orb on the pedestal. The entire pedestal begins to hum faintly. Mikrum had mentioned that the Illithids used the thinning in the fabric of reality at the bore of Vashyk's Fall to escape their pursuers, but that a massive amount of energy would need to be channeled in order to permit such travel.
Digging through your equipment, you come upon the Master Translation rod that you recovered from the remains of Ssssy'is. Using it in a manner similar to how you channeled energy to activate the portal from the Prime to Ssithra, the mechanical device lights up with electric energy, shaking the ground as rumbling thunder shatters the pedestal, as blinding lightning strikes converge to a single point, opening a portal to the final destination and home world of the Illithids...Penumbra.
Upon setting foot on the mid-ring bore, you are assaulted by strange creatures emitting high frequency pulses that rattle you to the bone. These creatures are only the start of your problems in Penumbra as the Illithids shortly arrive, using their psionic powers against you to weaken, manipulate, or outright destroy you. Fighting your way through Penumbra you finally reach the Illithid Overmind, whose chambers guard the most magical objects the Illithids acquired in their journeys. Of particular interest among these is a solitary pedestal which holds aloft a chunk of stone that seems to seethe with hatred and is smoldering to the touch.
In the murky wastes of the Blood Moor, you find a cave. Inside there appears to be a passage, but it's blocked off by a sizable rock. Using an explosive powder keg, you manage to blow up the rock and grant access to the passage beyond. The walls and floor almost feel alive as you work your way deeper into the Hive, running into beetles, ants, and wasps. Along the way you encounter small packs of cranium rats, which seem oddly out of place. Most cranium rats exist as the eyes and ears of Ilsensine, the great god-brain of the illithids. The extent and purpose of their powers are held closely secret, lest Ilsensine's instruments be discovered. Those who discover the true purpose of the cranium rats are under sentence of swift and terrible death.
Deep in the hive you start to encounter spiders and powerful ettercaps. As the opposition grows more fierce and dangerous deeper into the hive, you head down a darkened corridor only to drop into a massive chamber. A chasm surrounds the chamber on all sides, separating it from various ledges that are housing eggs. The sheer number and size of eggs along the walls could only have come from a huge queen spider. Just as this realization sinks in, said spider descends upon you from the ceiling of the chamber along with several other spiders and ettercaps. This massive beast chitters menacingly as it approaches, venom dripping from its mandibles. Its web is as massive as the beast, encompassing the entire cavern you've been dumped in. Something in the way it moves connotes much more intelligence than you would expect in a spider, even if it is the biggest spider you've ever seen. Once you've managed to kill the Hive Mother, a grotesque explosion pours out dozens of cranial rats.
These cranium rats belong to a hive mind gone rogue, broken away from Ilsensine and bent on its own purposes. They think of themselves as independent from Ilsenine, a separate entity, and the only that matters. It is for this reason that they think of themselves as the Omni-mind, the All-encompassing. The hive mind appears to have been gathering other types of vermin to it, to act as defenders and servants. Fighting through the mass of Omni-rats, you manage to kill the largest of the group, the Overmind. The remaining Omni-rats are made short work of and a strange splinter of stone, oozing with foul energies, is found dislodged from the pulsating brain of what was the Overmind.
Sometime after claiming your immortality, you feel an odd presence on Fox Ridge that you had not felt before. Heading towards what you can best discern as the source, you discover a magically concealed tree that teleports you across the Ridge to the tree house that had previously been out of reach. Inside you encounter avian humanoids guarding the entrance.
Your words are strange to us but we have learned some of your language. Please to leave now for your own safety-good.
I am a pharlan, a race from another world. We are hunters and warriors but our scholars have sent us to study your race and to understand your life-way.
We mean no blood-harm. In fact we have short-time removed some dangerous and powerful items for study and safe-cleanse, to prevent them from being used for ill-bad deeds.
We found a strange energy-object within the deep-dark regions of your world. The object is extremely spark-strong but cursed by sick-bad spark. We have taken it to our temple to safe-cleanse it.
The illspark is too great a danger to yield-quit it to those that demand.
Deciding to pursue onward through the guards in search of the powerful items which were mentioned, you recover some sort of magical orb off the corpses of one of the pharlans. As your hand touches this object, you hear a voice in your mind, that of the deceased commander, Regni'Keliak.
To be assigned to such a primitive world is bad enough, but the scholars continually demand more and more information. My tiny force must be primarily dedicated to guarding the Gate. Why our leaders chose to base our operations inside of this tiny home is beyond me. Very few of my soldiers are allowed to scout and since we have exhausted our supply of stealth modules such that we can only gather information on the wing.
I suspect some of the native inhabitants infused with greed and desire for power will eventually come looking for the artifact we have found. When that happens my force must be prepared, even if they are only chiara. The newly arrived Otoe will certainly help our cause. I am thoroughly convinced we were right to remove the object as our priests have discovered it holds the power destroy a huge area, not to mention the danger from the immense power one of these lesser creatures would possess if they somehow harnessed it, it might even be enough to drive them insane. I would not wish such a fate on any of the races here. As our mission is to protect these species as well as to observe, the council's decision concerning the artifact seems well founded.
I am beginning to be concerned that the local creatures are becoming far more powerful as time goes on. My scouts have informed me of the vicious beasts of the desert being slaughtered in huge numbers. However my requests for Lashanka and Klashda continue to be ignored.
I fear the thought of these creatures obtaining the key to the Gate and finding themselves on Rona itself. Still, the accursed object remains within the temple, purification is nearly complete and our studies of it can begin, after which, it can be moved to a safer location. Four Lashanka hold the keys to this temple and any invader would have to slay them all to gain entry to where the High Priest Rashla'El is guardian of the object. I am probably overestimating the capabilities of these primitive ground dwellers to reach our treetop training arenas without wings powerful enough to keep them aloft. Still, my concerns have been noted and sent to the council for offworld affairs. Should anything happen, my name will not fall into dishonor.
Pit of Moliation
Deep within a dark fissure, you come across a colony of meenlocks. A small, malevolent underground race, meenlocks delight in killing others to convert into new meenlocks. Though capable of some cunning, meenlocks are not particularly bright. What you encounter further into the depths of the fissure is a horrifying arrangement of torture and suffering that leaves you wondering how the meenlocks alone could have orchestrated it all...and what purpose it all serves, as you see dark energies being collected and transferred through the air to some unseen location.
Investigating further you encounter the masterminds behind the operation: the yugoloths, neutral demonic natives of the lower planes. In addition to the yugoloths, you encounter several twisted and warped meenlock moliators, who have been molded by the yugoloths to carry out some of the more complex tasks associated with what appears to be a harvesting process in this pit. Descending to the bottom of the pit you spot at last the destination for all of the harvested energy from the tortured beings you encountered on your descent. Within the yugoloths' base of operations, you confront an ultroloth, one of the strange and enigmatic rulers of the yugoloths.
Piecing together the information you've come across, you discern that the swirling energy vortex of gathered pain and suffering was harvested in order to be sent to fuel the power of the Siege Malicious, an artifact throne housed in the Tower of Khin-Oin in the Gray Wastes. The wasted figure of the Oinoloth theoretically rules there over all of the yugoloths, but most of the time they are too busy holding on to their own precarious position in the Wasting Tower, playing one faction off another. These days, a yugoloth named Mydianchlarus rules the tower, and keeping his position requires eliminating his adversaries through either force or guile. Where outright elimination is not an option, Mydianchlarus often sends them out on assignment, to act as his 'hand', to oversee important projects.
The Black Pyramid
In Vashyk's Ruin, you come upon a curious cavernous entrance. It doesn't appear to have been dug out or magically created...it's as if it simply appeared into existence. Examining inside you discover several ancient tablets engraved with a language that is unfamiliar to you, but which can be pieced together using a great deal of skill at interpreting lore.
In the days of yore, when the immortals were still young, there arose a great blight upon the land, a scourge who spread blackness and despair across the whole of Nithia.
Even the dark and sinister gods reviled this menace, who called itself the Black Pharaoh, for it devoured their followers and weakened them accordingly, just as much it fed upon the faithful of the good immortals.
And so it came to pass that they came to a covenant, that they would bind the menace away for all the ages of Nithia, for so long as the sun would rise and the rivers swell in the realm of the Hollow World.
And so they appointed the 4 Guardians, 1 of the good, 1 of the evil, and two arbiter powers, and wove a great magick, binding a portion of each of their powers and creating the Pryamid Energy, an artifact of unspeakable might.
The Pyramid Energy took the 4 Primes, the elementals of opposition, and bound them into harmony, forming a cage to hold the uncageable.
To each of the Four, a Guardian was appointed, an Avatar formed from a piece of their immortal souls, to guard and maintain the energies maintaining the Pharaoh's prison.
And guard it they did, so that however the Black One raged and struggled he could not sever the chains binding him in his Pit of despair.
And once this was accomplished, they immortals consulted the all-seeing Oracle, who told that that the Pharaoh would never walk upon Nithin soil again, and they rested easy.
Scrawled at the bottom, in much rougher runes, this tablet reads, 'Loki was here!'.
You have never heard of Nithia before in your travels, but for something from that realm to wind up intact in this realm must have required a great deal of power; perhaps a result of the Harbinger's fall on Vashyk. You spot a pedestal in the chamber that looks like it is meant to hold something, but you aren't quite sure what at first. However, the note scrawled at the bottom of one of the tablets reminds you of the time you visited Loki's Hall, gazing upon what looked like a rare stone before figuring that it was probably best not to steal it at the time. Now that you are immortal however, you decide to revisit Loki's Hall and take the gem.
Upon returning to the Nithian chamber, you place the gem on the pedestal and watch as a sudden gust of air rushes up from the floor and the gigantic obelisk in the center of the chamber begins to glow a deep blood red. As the skeletons adorning the pillars sway back and forth in the wind, the obelisk crumbles before your eyes, revealing a portal.
Stepping into the portal leads you into a dark chamber that appears to be divided into four sections. Encountering elementals as you explore your way through the chamber, you begin to realize that this is the cage holding the Black Pharaoh mentioned by the tablets in the chamber above. After defeating all the elementals, you activate four pedestals that begin an elaborate magical sequence to unlock yet another portal. Entering the portal once again, you find yourself standing before a massive rock constricted by chains. Using the portals in this chamber, you work your way through what you can only assume are the last of the elemental guardians, enabling you to release the chains binding the rock.
Once you do so, the rock begins to crumble and shatters in a blast of light, revealing at its core a dark figure you recognize as the Black Pharaoh, locked away in a prison shaped by the 4 prime elements. And locked up he might have remained, had not the dimensional tear caused by the Harbinger's impact dragged his pyramid from that plane of existence into this one, weakening the bonds that held him. Looking on him now, it begins to dawn on you that maybe not every key was meant to be turned in the lock.
In your adventures, you manage to uncover new adventures closer to Ascension than you ever thought possible.
After obtaining your immortality, Merem takes notice and presents you with a proposition:
"You have the look of one not frightened by children's stories. Perhaps I could interest you in an item of great power?
Tis a fairy dagger! No, wait, don't roll yer eyes at me! This is a powerful item, able to grant access to the fairy realm and all the fairy gold it contains. And yours for the low price of ten million gold. A very solid investment, no doubt!"
After paying an exorbitant amount of money for the dagger, you search the areas surrounding Ascension for a possible point of entry to this purported fairy realm. Just as the notion that you had been swindled sets in, the dagger suddenly begins to vibrate. Taking it out, you stab at the air with it. The dagger catches in what appears to be nothing, but as you draw the dagger downward a tear in the fabric of reality begins to open up. Once wide enough, you step through and enter the Feywild, realm of the fairies.
The Elemental Planes
After obtaining a gem of planar travel, you show it to the sage in hopes he might be able to provide some helpful information.
"OH MY!! That is a rare find indeed, I have only heard of 2 in all my studies, supposedly near each other, buried deep in the underrealms... I don't know if it is true or not, but I have heard rumors that the shaft of light here in Ascension, at the temple, is actually a portal to a Gods dimension, and that these gems can activate that portal. Be careful of what you find if you go there, for I am quite sure the gods are not kind to thieves...."
Taking the gem to the shaft of light in town, you decide to chuck it into the light to see what happens. The gem disappears to places unseen as it crosses the light, beckoning you to follow in step. Upon doing so, you find yourself falling through the sky. Quickly putting on your ring of levitation, you manage to stabilize yourself and can now move about what you can only surmise is the elemental plane of air, after encountering several elementals. In your travels through the elemental planes you come upon several portals, which lead to the elemental planes of fire, earth, and water.
The Tasks of Legends
As you gain more experience and power through your travels around Ascension and your first adventures to other planes, you begin to garner a greater sense of the multiverse and the grand machinations that have been working independently of and indeed quite well before there ever was a quest for the immortal crown. With this knowledge, you now seek out those with a broader view than your own, such that you might make the most use of your powers.
The Nine Hells
Long ago, the fury of Bhaal was brought down upon Vashyk, the jewel of Axeria Imperia, in the form of the Harbinger. The entirety of the Empire was destroyed by this, and a tear was formed, deep within the furrow left in the Harbinger's wake. The surviving members of the Imperial Academy managed to seal off this tear with the help of the gods, but they could not undo that which had been done. The tear itself has long since been unattended, but far from forgotten.
Asmodeus, ruler of the Nine Hells, seeks to use this tear to break through to the Prime Material. Since the tear's creation, he has been slowly amassing his armies for an assault on this plane. Lesser and greater devils, archdevils, and legions of other baatezu lie in wait for the coming battle that will end this world.
To prevent this tragedy, you must enter the Hells, carving a path to the lowest depths of its infernal reaches, and destroy Asmodeus. This will be no trivial endeavor, those who enter the Hells risk not solely life and limb, but their very souls, as well. The salvation of this world will depend not on the mere courage of adventurers, nor the simple strength of heroes. Toril's destiny...will be decided by legends.
After securing an Abyssal Splinter found embedded in the corpse of the Omni-Rat Overmind, Zerial remarks that you are not supposed to have arrived yet, as Orcus has not been resurrected. After noticing that you hold an Abyssal Splinter, he realizes in fact that Orcus has been resurrected. You learn that the Abyssal Splinter is one of many pieces of solidified chaos and evil that was scattered throughout the universe after Quah-Nomag resurrected Tenebrous' shell in the Astral Plane; this particular shard hit one of Ilsensine's cranium rats, and caused the whole hive of them to just leave of their own accord. Zerial then proceeds to rush you into opening a portal to the Abyss without much reason as to why. After bringing this to his attention, Zerial breathes a sigh of disdain and goes into the story...
You hold in your hands an Abyssal Splinter, a shard of solidified chaos and evil, spewn from the dark rites that resurrected Orcus, demon prince of the undead. Although Quah-Nomag, one of Orcus' foremost high priests and thralls, has returned Orcus from the dead, the power of the Last Word, an utterance capable of destroying even deities, has shattered Orcus' wand into five separate parts. Orcus has retained his grip on one of the pieces, but the remaining have fled their master into the depths of the Abyss, finding their way into the possession of the other demon lords. If any of the lords were able to assemble all of the pieces, their claim as Prince of Demons could be secured. With such power, they could turn the tide of the Blood War in their favor, and with the full power of the Abyss at their command, they would be able to strike at the upper planes.
Naturally, the diviners of Pelor have not been idle. Having felt the restless search of the demon lords, they have also begun an attempt to recover the five parts. If the Wand could somehow be brought to the Fortress of the Sun, the power of the Sun would be able to destroy it, and the balance would shift to the forces of light. But doing so would be a task fraught with peril, as the risk of the Wand's destruction could bring the warring demon lords together to prevent such a loss.
Using the power contained in the Abyssal Splinter, you manage to pierce your way through to the first layer of the Abyss: the Plane of Portals. Beyond there, your path becomes your own...
[The machinations of the yugoloths threaten the balance of the Blood War]
Aboard a boat on the western coastline, you encounter a strange hooded man that seems to suck up the light around him in an eerily unsettling fashion. He appears to have been looking for you, as he is in need of some retrieval experts to recover a certain item that was stolen from him. The thief apparently has a habit of taking powerful trinkets from those he feels are undeserving, which makes you apprehensive as to the power of this character and the danger presented by going up against him. At this you feel you should be entitled to something more enticing in order to guarantee your participation in this recovery effort.
I suppose that's only fair. Unfortunately for me, I've nothing else to offer. And unfortunately for you, you're already standing in my boat.
With a snap of his fingers, you are whisked away onto the shores of a sandy beach in Elysium...with no other way to return to your own plane, you have no choice but to fight on through the denizens of Elysium in search of this stolen item. What's the worst that could happen?
The Far Realm
Deep in the Underdark, you come across the tattered remains of an adventurer. You find his battered journal nearby, which looks like it has been down here for years. The entries are undated, and appear to be the work of an unhinged mind, at best. The owner of this book was apparently on a quest to find his sister, taken by aboleths as a slave. The only rational-appearing entries are the first few:
I've located a portal to the Far Realm, deep underwater, where I expected the aboleth city to be. It seems the lords of madness have relocated to the realm of madness. Now, to find a way to open it and reach Rachel.
I consulted with the Sage, who claimed to have no knowlege of the Far Realm. I did find a book in his library on it, and 'borrowed it' to make a copy. I doubt he'll miss it in the meantime, he was preoccupied with some business about a crown.
According to the book, there is no water in the Far Realm. Strange, the aboleths must've found a way to take it with them, for they can't survive long without.
Stuck in my quest for information about the Far Realm, I sought out those who might know more. A sage in Waterdeep directed me to a paladin of the Topaz Order. They are apparently an order dedicated to the defense of humanity against the mind-poisoning powers of aberrations like the aboleths. I am to seek out one Halvar Marth for more information. Surely they will help me!
Halvar was most welcoming until he found out that I was looking for a way to open the portal to the Far Realms. He insisted that the risk to humanity was far too great. I will have to make other arrangements, it seems.
Someone approached me today, an agent for someone named Ulrexis. He'd heard of my quest, and is willing to help - and for free! Apparently he is a sage, interested in studying the Far Realm, and knows how to open the portal, if I but show it to him.
I met Ulrexis today. He is very reclusive, and refuses to shed any of his robes, dispite the heat. Apparently he suffered some horribly disfiguring calamity as a youth. There's an odd smell about him as well, sort of musty and dank. Damned sage is probably rotting away, hidden away from the sun all the time.
Ulrexis seems as driven as I to reach the portal. It seems he has some sort of magical enchantment that spares him the need for sleep - and he resents the precious little time I spend sleeping greatly, insisting that we press on." The next few pages are fragile, and cruble to the touch. Everything after seems to be the babbling of a lost mind.
After reading through the entries, you decide to visit the sage to see if he still has the book that the journal mentioned. In his library you find a book titled, "Planes of Madness: A Treatise on the Far Realm".
Also called Outside, the Far Realm is a plane - or perhaps a space beyond the planes - that is terrifyingly remote from the standard planar geometry. The entities that abide in the Far Realm are too inchoate, too different, and too alien for a normal mind to accept without being damaged. Where stray illuminations from the Far Realm leak onto another plane, matter stirs at the beckoning of an inexplicable urge before burning to ash.
But in the Far Realm, titanic creatures swim through nothingness, preoccupied with madness. Unspeakable things whisper awful truths to those who dare listen. For mortals, knowledge of the Far Realm is a triumph of mind over the rude boundaries of matter, space, and eventually sanity.
The Far Realm is divided into an unknown number of layers. Each layer is only slightly out of phase with the next, and passing between layers requires only a thought for most denizens of the Realm. It's possible to stand on one layer and see down to others. all overlapping yet somehow distinct.
Many layers of the Far Realm lack gravity, and visitors float in nothingness. In some, gravity is highly local, with pieces of the layer falling up in relation to other pieces, which would appear to be falling down to someone standing on a piece moving the other direction.
Time is a concept alien to the Far Realm. A minute in the Far Realm equals no time on the Material Plane. The Far Realm is outside time, existing both before and after time's reign, if words like 'before' and 'after' have any meaning there.
The Far Realm contains infinite layers. The layers themselves, however, are not infinite. They continually evaporate, divide, spawn, and breathe at the behest of the alien entities that drift through them.
Links and Travel
There are no known portals to the Far Realm, or at least none that are still viable. Ancient elves once pierced the boundary of eons with a vast portal to the Far Realm, but their civilization imploded in bloody terror and the portal's location is now long-forgotten. But other portals might exist.
Other methods of reaching the Far Realm include traveling to time's beginning or end, or finding the true Dreamheart past the Portal of Sleep. Luckily for the Material Plane, entities of the Far Realm have just as difficult a time finding passage out of their home plane, though rare spells allow them to be summoned.
Entities of the Far Realm defy ordered classification. Certainly, countless types crawl through the infinite layers. Some are like amphibians, others vaguely insectoid, many are sentient, and some are as powerful as deities (though whether every godlike entity of the Far Realm is sentient is difficult to assess). When confronted with Material Plane beings, or even creatures normally associated with the Inner and Outer Planes, a Far Realm Entity often takes the form of a creature familiar to the viewer.
Mortals that visit the Far Realm have inevitably gone insane from the experience.
You surmise that, if indeed this adventurer had found an entrance into the Far Realm, then surely such a path must still exist to have brought him back out to his current resting place. In search of adventure in the great beyond, you return to the adventurer's corpse and dive into the murky waters of the Underdark...
The End of All
[The Elder Evils]
Signs of Doom
[The Heralds of Atropus]
Dead Moon Rising
[Atropus, the World Born Dead]