Agrin’s Gate – Part XI: Endgame, Epilogue, Afterword

Last time in “Agrin’s Gate”

“NOO!  My spiders!  My workers!  They will pay with blood for this!”

And now, the exciting conclusion.


The cry echoed across the dark expanse.  Aelar, hovering near the crystal, rose above to see.  Squinting against the light of the sunrod in his teeth, he could make out a faint glimmer opposite the ledge where the party was.  As the glimmer grew, so did the ranting and raving of the voice.

Realizing his friends couldn’t see the approaching threat because of the enormous crystal blocking their view, he hurried back.  Landing on the ledge, he put the sunrod away.

“Whoever that is, he’s angry, and he’s coming this way,” said Drel.

“He’s coming from an opening on the opposite side of the crystal.”  Aelar added.

As he stood on the ledge facing the party, he noticed the shape of the hallway was the same as the one he saw the glimmering light in.  The voice cried again.

“All of my spiders, a lifetime of work, whoever you are, you will surely die for this!”  The voice cried.  There was a hint of age in the man’s voice.

“Where are you?  What have you done to my laboratory!  I hope you are ready for a fight you fiendish knaves… you monsters!”

The party made sure the ledge was clear of debris and readied their weapons as the sound of mechanical spiders began anew.  They prepared for the worst as a peel of thunder rang out.

The crystal lit up like a star and shot lightning in all directions.  Aelar and Drel narrowly dodged the bolts as Balthazar, Ashar, Drull, and Vore were knocked to the ground.  As they helped their companions up, the crystal went dark once more, but the thunder didn’t subside; instead it shifted, the reverberations of exploding air giving way to a mechanical sound, as spiders whirred to life below.

Below the thousands of drones could be spotted, their dull red eyes a swirl of motion in the blackness.  From the far side of the expanse, more whirring could be heard, mixed with crunching metal.  Rounding the side of the crystal was a slow-moving wave of spiders, spilling over themselves to form an oncoming platform upon which stood – a wizard.

He was human, shoulder-length hair blowing about his face, jet black with streaks of silver.  He wore a long robe of crimson red with gold trimming and a high collar; other than that there he wore no jewellery, held no wand or staff.  His hands were flexed as if they were each crushing the life from a small creature as he approached without flinching.

Hundreds of spiders climbed vainly to serve their master, locking together to make the approaching platform.  Below it the spider’s dull-red eyes could be seen shifting around, vying for dominance.  Drones crippled in the deactivation from falling formed  a foundation, crushed to oblivion under the weight of the throng.

Still some distance away, the party worked out a quick plan.  Aelar would carry Balthazar on his back to the floating platform where they would battle the mage.  Vore would cast light and heal allies when he could.  Ashar’s swordmage skills gave him the ability to defend from a distance.  Drel would fire with arrows while Drull, the strongest, would hurl what he could find at the mage.  Iltani was still nowhere to be seen.

The mage came within range, fire in his eyes.  “You will rue the day you crossed the great mage, Rossar Nold!”

Aelar, Balthazar in tow, flew clumsily toward the platform, barely able to keep them in the air.  Rossar saw them and fired an arc of lightning at them.  Robbed of his usual agility, Aelar was helpless to dodge the attack.  The bolt struck him high in the chest, doubling him over and knocking Balthazar off of his back, sending them both to their doom.

Aelar could hardly breathe, but he fought the instinct to panic as he focused to restart the flow of psionic energy.  He regained control and directed all of his effort through his palms.  In moments his fall was stopped and he looked down.

Balthazar could barely be made out against the abyss, his silhouette shrinking as he fell into the sea of red eyes.  With a sickening thud, a burst of flame erupted from him, and then went dark.  Himself now furious, Aelar shot upward toward the electromage.

Drel was hiding behind Ashar’s shield as he deftly fired arrows at the mage.  The ones that weren’t incinerated by lightning were stopped by drones, leaping to protect Rossar, and tumbling into the blackness.  Aelar flew around the platform, keeping low and out of sight.  Then rushing from behind, let loose a blood curdling war cry, giving Rossar the moment he needed to sidestep the Elf’s flying kick.

“So, you wish to duel with a master?  So be it!”  Rossar said as he took on a fighting stance.  Aelar matched his stance and they began circling each other, looking for a opening.  Then, with a twist of his hand, Rossar fired another bolt at Aelar.

The elf, no Tiefling on his back, dodged it easily and moved to deliver a flurry of blows.  Rossar Nold moved like water, shifting and swerving around each blow.  It was as if he knew what Aelar would do before he could think it.  Drel didn’t dare risk hitting Aelar, and so he, Drull, Vore, and Ashar watched helplessly as they dueled.

Rossar fired more bolts, but Aelar deflected or absorbed them with psionic barriers around his hands.  They kicked and punched until finally they locked in a grapple.  Aelar thought he had the advantage when one of the spiders reached up and bit his ankle.  Wincing, he lost focus and with it his psionic protection.  Rossar shot lightning through his palms and into Aelar, who fell limp beside him.

As the Drel strung another arrow, Vore cried.  “Look, below!”

In the darkness a bonfire appeared to be moving up the side of the spider column.  Balthazar invoked the wrath of the Abyss, and a flaming cloak swirled around him as he clawed above the drones, having orders to climb only.  Drull roared with glee and he and the others fought to distract the mage with renewed hope.

Rossar, unaware of Balthazar’s ascent, resumed his defensive posture.  “Fools!  See now the eve of your destruction, your friend lies dead beside me, a bad omen for yourselves, yes?”

“Not likely.”  Balthazar lunged across the platform at Rossar.  Once again the mage was too quick, and nimbly dodged his charge as Balthazar tripped and crashed into Aelar’s body.  Rossar raised his hands, his eyes looking like a viper about to strike.

“A great deal more likely than you think Tiefling.  Die like your fallen comraaaAAAH!”

Rossar’s right hand was being coated in shards of crystal, forming a frost over his fingers.  He tried in vain to use his other hand to rub it off, but it only stuck to the frost as it crept up his right arm.  His hands stuck together, he watched in horror as the frost thickened into a layer of crystal, shards now gathering around his feet and legs.

Within seconds the shards had formed a thick crust around the mage, rendering him totally immobile.

“Did I miss something important?” Balthazar smiled in spite of himself.

“Iltani, you magnificent bastard!”

“In the flesh, or should I say around it. He’s unable to move for now, he will pass out from lack of air soon enough.  How is Aelar?”  Inquired Iltani.  Balthazar checked for signs of life.

“He’s dead Iltani.”

“Very well, this mage is unconscious.”  With that, Iltani dissociated and reformed in his traditional self.  Searching Rossar’s body, they found a small vial.  Iltani examined it closely.

“Hmm, it appears to be for repairing electrical damage, likely a safety measure for accidents,” he surmised.

Balthazar desperately administered the vial to Aelar; as Aelar had to him on that first day in the Goblin’s den.  “Don’t you die on me Aelar.  Don’t you dare.” 

The Tiefling’s eyes blazed with mixed rage and fear as they looked at Aelar.  Black lines traced across the monk’s face, the fluid flashing through his nerves.  Then with a sudden convulsion Aelar doubled over, gasping and coughing up blood.

As this was happening the platform of spiders started to sink as the energy Rossar had been supplying them personally had stopped.  Picking up Aelar and Rossar, Balthazar and Iltani braced themselves as the column sank into a heap of debris and machinery.

“How are you doing?”  Shouted Vore into the renewed blackness.  “We’re throwing down a rope!”  Drel and Drull quickly took the rope they had between them and fashioned it into two strong cords.  Lowering them down, Vore cast sunlight where he’d last seen them.

“We’re alive, more or less.  Get ready for some heavy lifting.”  Balthazar shouted back.

Balthazar took what rope he had and bound the mage’s hands and feet.  Iltani saw the dangling lines, in Vore’s light, and made a sling for Aelar.  Giving his rope a quick, double tug, Aelar started to be hoisted up in heaves and hos.  Balthazar climbed the other line while Iltani waited with the mage.

Reaching the ledge when the mage did, Iltani sat with him as Vore saw to everyone’s wounds.  Finishing, everyone feeling refreshed, they shook the mage awake.  The rage in his eyes had subsided somewhat, giving way to fear.  Balthazar assumed a wrathful aspect, fire dancing around him and twisting off of his horns as he spoke in a voice that would make a demon quiver.

“You will talk, or you will die.”  He growled.  Rossar nodded dumbly, trembling.

“Who are you?”  He asked.

“I am Rossar Nold, electromage of the Ninth Order, emissary of the Blood Prince.”  He stammered.

“You mean Orcus?”  Ashar said.


“What is your purpose under this forest?”  Vore asked.

“I was constructing the great crystal behind you.”

“Go on.”

“Well, that crystal wasn’t always so big, it used to be much smaller, only a few feet across.  It sat in a room, acting as a portal between planes.  The problem was that my Lord needed it to be much larger.  You see, the bigger the crystal, the larger it’s sphere of influence.  It’s original size was barely large enough to move a small town, like Agrin’s Gate.”

“So that’s what the crystal was for.”  Said Ashar.

“Wait, you are the ones who took the crystal down the hall?  It does explain why you are down here…”  Began Rossar.

Aelar interrupted, “Rossar, why did demons come out of the crystals when they were touched?”  Remembering the demon’s bite sorely.

“The crystals were possessed.  For control and defense.  If the right hands were laid on the crystal, it would allow them to control their destination to anywhere in the ring.  The wrong hands would release the demon to dispatch them and return to its crystal.”

“What ring?  Like a chain of crystals?”  Ashar guessed.

“Yes, each crystal is tethered to one before and behind it, together forming a ring you can travel along.”  Rossar had calmed down somewhat, excited to boast of his knowledge.

“If the demon defending a crystal is defeated, it is designed to travel to its tethered cousin, near enough to lure the foe into another trap, but not so close that the enemy could make a surprise attack.  Such was the belief at least.”

“And the ‘spheres of influence’ as you call them, why do they swap places?”  said Iltani.

“Well, all of the material you displace, it has to go somewhere.  When it’s just a person,  and it’s only some air, a brief rush is often felt as it pushes out of the way.  But a town or city requires a different solution.”

“Fair enough, and what did Orcus want with this crystal?”  Iltani pressed.

“I don’t know.”  Rossar said.  Balthazar fingered the hilt of his sword.

“I really don’t know! I think he was planning an assault on the Shadowfell, maybe to swap the Raven Queen’s palace with his own.  Maybe to move a great army in an instant, but I swear he never told me.”

“Why do this Rossar?”  Vore could tell this man hadn’t always been so evil.

“He said… he said he could bring her back.”


“My wife, Elara.  Orcus said that once he ruled the dead, he’d restore my wife to her living self.”  Rossar, realizing that his dreams were crushed, began to weep.

“She was everything I had, my light, my whole life!”

Vore sympathized.  “I too lost someone dear to me, and for a long time I let it rule me, but I’ve moved past it.”  He looked at Iltani, who nodded back.  “Your loss was terrible, of that I have no doubt; but that demon would have betrayed you, it is his nature.”

“You don’t know that!”  Rossar cried through hot tears, “you don’t, oh what’s the point.  It doesn’t matter anymore I suppose.  Are you satisfied?  Are you going to kill me now?”

“No.”  Aelar said.  Balthazar began to protest, but Aelar lifted a hand.  Kneeling in front of the mage sitting on the floor, the elf looked deep in his eyes.

“No Rossar, we aren’t going to kill you, though I’m sure no one would object.  We even have an executioner’s axe should we change our mind.”  Drull grinned as Aelar continued.

“Rossar, you will pay by restoring the wrongs your actions have led to.  You will use your knowledge to control a fragment of that crystal, bring back Agrin’s Gate, and send the Lizardfolk and their patch of swamp back where it came from.”

“Well that’s quite complicated. I don’t…”

“I wasn’t finished,” said Aelar sternly.  “After that, we will contact the Raven Queen’s Shadar-Kai and put this whole matter in their hands.  As far as I’m concerned it involves them, and their queen, most.  The Gate, the townsfolk, us, are all just collateral damage.”

Rossar was silent, thinking.  “I can’t promise anything, but I can try.”

– The End


Rossar, with help from Iltani, extricated and duplicated the crystal the party had first found, and through a series of trial and error, restored both the Lizardfolk swamp and the Gate to their proper place.  The swamp was easy enough, and the Gate was found, snap frozen, in ice in the Elemental Chaos, unharmed.

The capital was notified with an unofficial report delivered by Drull, who was freed from the party’s service, and went on to other heroics, mostly as a goblin clan infiltrator.

The capital, having also received an official report from The Lieutenant, and an addendum from Bryne himself, notified the refugees in Mirehaven of the Gate’s restoration.  Over the next year the wall’s breaches were repaired and the town was put on a path to restore it’s former wealth and renown from trade.

The party handed over Rossar to the Shadar-Kai authorities, who kept him for information and research on crystals and mechanical constructs.  The crystal was taken to the shadowfell and sealed away for future use.

For their heroics deeds the party became myths of song and poem across the Prime and the Shadowfell.  They were called Keepers of the Gate, Slayers of the Vampire and Lamia, Protectors of the Shadowfell, and servants of the Raven Queen.

The party continued in service of the Raven Queen for many years to come, becoming paragons of justice and might wherever they went.


I hope you enjoyed this revised and expanded version of Agrin’s Gate.  It was originally the product of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign run by the dashing Karl Reimer.

A combat-heavy campaign, there was little emphasis on character background, coherence, or conversation.  This proved to be a double-edged sword because while it afforded me more freedom in adapting our story into a narrative, I also had much more work to do in terms of filling gaps and making sure things made sense.

Let me introduce the cast:

  • Karl, Human Dungeon Master (Karl Reimer)
  • Baarda, Human Lieutenant Dungeon Master (John Baarda)
  • Aelar, Elven Monk (Dave Lenton, myself)
  • Ashar, Genasi Swordmage (Jonathan Baarda)
  • Cordus, Minotaur Warden (Grant Davis)
  • Drel, Human Ranger (Jake Redekopp)
  • Drull, Bugbear Barbarian (Grant Davis)
  • Iltani, Shardmind Psion (Andrew Alkema)
  • Vore, Human Cleric (Rylan Halteman)

Over the course of nine months, we laughed and fought as members of a rag tag party, hurtling through planes and villains.  I tried to keep up but got distracted and rushed to complete the story for a college newspaper.

Fast forward a year, I’m on my way to New York City for a mission trip and looking to raise funds.  I offer to write stories featuring donors if they give a prescribed amount.  My friend Ross Arnold is very generous and donates… enough.  That’s all I’ll say.

Having wanted to re-write the tale for a while, I think to write him in and kill two birds with one stone.  Originally part of a band of soldiers who were impressed by the party in the swamps near Mirehaven, Ross opted for a more villainous role.  Happy to do it, he became the fearsome Rossar Nold, electromage, and underlying villain to the whole tale.  Hope you liked your part Ross.

Now, being an engineer, I have a love/hate relationship with statistics.  In this case, love.  Before this, Agrin’s Gate was the longest thing I’d ever written.  But I wonder, how much longer is the Revised and Expanded (R & E) Edition?

Section Name

Original Ed. Word Count

R & E Ed. Word Count

Foreword & Acknowledgements N/A 309
Prologue – The Gate N/A 815
The Contract 448 662
On Route To The Cave N/A 708
First Blood 350 1 019
Bugbears and Krenshars 663 818
Vore 576 679
The Crystal 472 1 334
The Incident 795 1 005
The Swamp 445 539
The Fortress 939 1 011
Cordus 170 212
Bryne’s Suspicion 394 434
Dinosaurs 352 807
Bryne’s Refusal 297 355
Dragons (Finally) 624 887
Tales of their Pasts 1 259 872
The Feywild 523 572
The Town N/A 272
The Widow 878 1 450
A Change of Plans 194 265
Here We Go Again 489 619
Drull 519 828
Surrounded 596 775
Credit Where Credit Is Due 241 429
The Shadowfell 862 1 375
It Comes Full Circle 1 056 1 614
Endgame N/A 2 355
Epilogue 38 235
Afterword N/A 526
Totals: 13 180 23 781

This is almost longer than every major report or essay I submitted for my university degree, combined.  Am I proud?  Yes, very.

Don’t forget to be awesome,

Dave Lenton

Agrin’s Gate – Part X: The Shadowfell, It Comes Full Circle

The Shadowfell

Unlike the portal into Mirehaven, nothing could be seen through it.  But, seeing the confidence with which the Shadar-Kai strode through, and not wanting to give them an excuse to call them timid, the party followed without delay.

The change in atmosphere was tangible as they stepped through the portal.  What used to be humid, wild, and heavy forest air, had changed into something faintly acrid tasting, and much thinner, as if the air itself weren’t as real.  They entered a large, circular room of dark grey stone with vaulted ceilings.  The dimness of the room, in contrast to the saturating hues of the Feywild forest explained why the destination of the portal had seemed somewhat, abyssal.

The room was mostly unadorned, save for six engraved black pillars surrounding the teleportation circle, where the party had first stepped, and a painting on the ceiling of a large black raven, the Queen’s sigil.  Arrow slits were inlaid along the walls, and peering through them afforded a look across a bleak landscape with char-black trees and a haze of silvery mist.  They were on an upper floor of some sort of keep.

“This is the Shadowfell,” explained Iltani to the group.  “It is one of the six principle planes of existence.  To those who travel them, the ‘World’ is more commonly called the ‘Prime’.  I hail from Astral Sea, home to immortals and most Gods.  If you consider the world to be a template plane, the Feywild is a hyper-vivified version, full of light, magic, and colour.  On the other end of the balance is the Shadowfell, a hypo-vivified version, practically void of life or light.”

“Unlike other Gods, the Raven Queen chooses to reside in this plane, to stay close to death, over which she has dominion.”

“That is only four planes Iltani,” observed Vore, “what of the other two?”

“They are the Elemental Chaos and the Far Realm, but enough of that.”

The Shadar-Kai who had escorted the party exchanged kurt nods with three more waiting to receive them, some murmured brief greetings to each other.  A few from the escort immediately headed off toward the keep’s inner chambers.

“We’ve been expecting you,” said one of the receiving officers.

“Please follow me to the audience chamber.  It is a more suitable place to recognize your accomplishments and discuss your reward.”

Travelling through the hallways of the keep, the utter lack colour became increasingly obvious.  Even the colour on the party’s packs and clothes washed out.  Occasionally they caught a glimpse of what appeared to be ghosts gliding purposelessly through the halls, but whenever they turned to look at them, they disappeared.  As the companions passed Shadar-Kai in the halls, eyes drifted inquisitively towards them.  Some of them decided to tag along in their wake.  They kept their distance, but their curiosity had obviously been piqued.

Eventually the guide led them to a hallway with a large set of double doors made of pure black stone at its far end.  The hall appeared empty, but the Shadar-Kai who entered performed a rigid salute.  Their eyes were fixed on a corner that was darker than the others.  Try as they might, not one of the adventurers could fix their gaze as their saluting peers did.  Their eyes kept drifting away from it against their will.

Piecing together sideways glances, they could just make out a dangerous looking Shadar-Kai sitting on a stool, idly sharpening his daggers.  He practically exuded darkness, or perhaps he was consuming light, it was hard to say.  Even after they knew that he was there the party found their eyes slipping off of him and looking anywhere but at the corner in which he was sitting.

“Well I hear you’re the ones who killed the vampire lord.  Took you long enough,” he sneered.

“Who are you?” Asked Balthazar.

“I,” he paused for effect, “am Serbahn.”

“Tell us then, Serbahn,” Aelar said, “what is your greatest feat?”  Aelar had overheard other Shadar-Kai talking.  Their greatest accomplishments were who they were, it was how they measured their greatness.  Serbahn’s eyes flashed excitedly before resuming their indifferent look.

“I slew the mighty demon Saulknor,” a cold chill went down the spines of those who knew the name, “and took from him, Kalina Ia: the light eater.”

He stood, “a High Priestess of the Raven Queen will be addressing you personally.  Behave yourselves.  Speak only when spoken to.”

He walked into the next room, the black doors sliding back silently, opening into a hall with galleries on either side.  The Witch and Serbahn walked onto the dais at the end of the hall, standing in opposing corners.  The group was ushered forward as the entourage of Shadar-Kai that had been following filed into the galleries.  The Witch began a recitation which the assembly continued.  Vore knew it and spoke with the assembly, some of the party mumbled along, and the rest kept silent.

The Witch addressed the hall, “why are you worthy to receive the honour of High Priestess’s presence?”

At this the Shadar-Kai took turns either praising their accomplishments or cutting their hands to cover their iniquity.  Balthazar, Drel, and Drull all cut their hands, unsure of what to say.  Vore, Ashar, Iltani, and Aelar spoke of the demons, Lamia, and Vampire Lord they’d defeated; and the town they’d defended.  The Witch nodded with approval.

She took a drink from a pedestal on the dais and muttered under her breath.  The pedestal sank into the floor, light vanishing into the space it left, and a blast of cold air rushed out, forcing Aelar and Iltani to shudder.  Out of this void stepped the High Priestess.

“You have done well mortals, this ceremony is reserved for acts of great courage and valour.  It is our custom to tell the story of the honoured,” said the High Priestess.

“In the beginning you were a motley band of mercenaries, tasked with eliminating a trivial goblin threat.  Fate, it would seem, had greater designs for you.  A crystal of immense power was discovered, which you took to your captain.  When it was activated, the whole town you’d been asked to rid of goblins was thrust through the world to a swamp where you fought Lizardfolk and their kin.

“Your Arcanist determined that the crystal was being drawn by others and their possession would grant you the power to restore the town.  Through a swamp fortress, a desert, a frozen wilderness, and the Feywild, you sought out and retrieved these artifacts.

“We found you in a cave in the frozen wilderness.  On a different mission we left you to your goal.  When we learned of the crystal’s true nature, that it was being used for the designs of Orcus, may he die…”

“May he die,” the hall echoed in unison.

“We tracked you to the Feywild and evacuated the people of your town in exchange for killing the Vampire Lord and his thralls, servants of Orcus, may he die.”

“May he die.”  The group chimed in.

“What say you to these things?”

Each member responded in turn.  Most gave an, “all in a day’s work,” response; some flowered it up with words about service in battle against Orcus and his forces. Iltani had the unwitting audacity to correct the High Priestess on the nature of his mortality, in that he wasn’t, earning himself a disapproving glance.

“For your service in these days past, you will each receive ten thousand gold pieces, and a selection of weapons and talismans from our armouries.  For those who demonstrated the confidence to state their accomplishments before my arrival, you may receive a tattoo to mark your deeds forever.  Go now; live to die!”

“Live to die,” repeated the Shadar-Kai, and the High Priestess walked back into the void she came from.  As the pedestal rose back to its place, the crowds stood and filed out of the hall.  The Witch and Serbahn stepped down from the dais and faced the group.

“You may rest here and select your items and tattoos in the morning, after that we will allow you passage to whatever place you choose.”  The Witch said.

It Comes Full Circle

The next day the group discussed where they’d like to go next as they excitedly picked out their new armour and clothing. The Astral Sea, the Feywild (Aelar’s choice), the Prime, so many options.  They decided, at Iltani and Ashar’s behest, to return to Agrin’s Gate, or at least where it was, and examine the magical barrier they had encountered in the goblin cave at the beginning of their journey.

For Ashar, that barrier was the magical power source he’d traveled to the Gate in search of.  He had hoped the crystal might sate his thirst for knowledge, but it had not.  That barrier was powerful, and whatever lay beyond it must be equal, or greater.  The others, save Drull, who had never been to the cave, relished the thought of adventure, the satisfaction of seeing what had been beyond their grasp.

After donning their new accoutrements, Drel, Drull, and Balthazar took some time to test their gear by sparring in the barrack’s arena while the others received their tattoos.  When the tattooing was finished, they met their companions and went for a few rounds.  Panting heavily, the first three called for a break, and as if on cue the Witch entered the arena.

“You have received your rewards, have you found them acceptable?”  She asked.

The party gave a cheer, and each demonstrated what they had, banging a shield, setting a target on fire, warping a rock into gravel.  The Witch grinned wryly.

“Excellent, then the only thing left is to send you off.  Have you made a decision?”

Aelar stepped forward, “yes, a portal to Agrin’s Gate.”  The Witch was confused.

“The town is in the Abyss right now, are you certain?”

“Apologies, we mean it’s original location, on the capital road if possible.”

The Witch nodded with a certain knowing, as if that had been her understanding all along.

“Very well, stand back.”

Once again, she create a ring which sank part way into the arena floor, forming an arch.  Through it could be seen swaying trees and dappled sunlight.  With brief nods they saluted the Witch and walked through.

The air seemed to fill with life again, it was like breathing all over again.  Within minutes even the more battle-weary were refreshed and invigorated.  They were on the capital road, not far from where the Gate had been.  Going to see what was left of it they came suddenly upon a dried out swamp.

In the distance they could see Lizardfolk who had been carried along with the swamp when the town and swamp had switched places.  They seemed less at home in the temperate forest clime, but were keeping to themselves.  The group ignored them and walked back up the road toward the goblin cave.

“I’m new here, but I can guess that the swamp was a surprise to see.  Why?”  Asked Drull.

“I think I’ve worked it out,” said Ashar.  “I think that whenever the town teleported, everything that got moved switched places with the destination.  That’s why when we were in the Feywild there was an enormous ice sphere.  In the elemental chaos a floating iceberg isn’t uncommon, the town likely teleported inside it.”

“Oh,” Drull was lost, but that happened to him a lot.  Instead of pursuing it he kept quiet and focused on his axe, rehearsing battles.

The road, the path, the cave, it all seemed almost quaint and nostalgic to the companions now.  Since their first battle they had become a lethal force, and they had been rewarded handsomely for it.  As they passed the pit Vore recounted his outburst at leaving the goblin bodies around.

“While I maintain my position on disposing bodies, which I thank you all for respecting; I was a little hot-headed that first day with you guys.”  He admitted.

When they got to the second dirt chamber they found the entrance to the crystal chamber had been boarded up again.  Not noticing anything dangerous about it, they broke down the boards and moved onward.  Once again they descended deep into the mountainside with Vore telling Drull about the battles they’d had since they first met.

Reaching the end of the passage, Vore suggested they go left to stop by the crystal chamber.  Like the entrance though, all evidence of their presence had been erased: the chamber looked exactly like they had first found it before, save for the crystal not being there.

Confused but undaunted, the group doubled back and went to the barrier. Iltani, much more versed in the nature of magic, barriers, and doors than last time, tried his hand at the barrier.  After what seemed like an eternity, Ashar stepped in to assist.  When the barrier fell, a surge of energy hit both of them.

Ashar’s armour carried it around him, leaving him largely unscathed.  Iltani wasn’t so fortunate.  His crystal frame seemed to be a perfect conductor, and absorbing most of the shock he burst into a thousand shards. The group was silent.

“I’m IMMORTAL.  I can pull myself back together but it will take some time, probably an hour or so.  Go on without me, I’ll catch up when I’ve re-corporealized.”

It was then that they noticed the sound of scurrying.  Like thousands of tiny feet, or claws, were wandering; chittering about.  Taking the cautious route, Drel volunteered to be the vanguard, creeping ahead; but without Iltani’s usual telepathic link Drel was unable to concentrate as he usually did.

The group worked they way down to a narrow corridor with a vaulted ceiling, much like the way to the crystal chamber.  The corridor opened up to a great laboratory: the walls were marked with runes and glyphs in various dark tongues, and vats of acid sat in a corner near some towering bookshelves.  In the room were three mezzodemons, two immoliths, and a beholder.

The insectoid Mezzodemon with a trident.
A foe to be avoided, the Immolith.
A hovering monstrosity, the beholder
A hovering monstrosity, the beholder

Drel was noticed immediately, and the group rushed to assist him. They were making quick work of their foes when one of the Immoliths retreated to a control room and activated a panel.

Suddenly the scurrying they’d heard before became much louder, and a deep roar resonated from the back of the room.  As they continued fighting mechanical spiders began pouring in, scurrying up the walls and ceilings and dropping down on the party.

About three feet across, not a problem unless there are hundreds of them...
About three feet across, not a problem unless there are many of them…

Surprised by the sudden onslaught the party regrouped and redoubled their efforts.  They began to hold ground when a crashing noise came from the spider’s entry point. Whatever was back there had reached the door, and was too large to fit through.  Aelar signalled to Ashar that he should examine the panels in the control room and see if there was a way to disable these spiders.

Backing into the corner of the laboratory that held the control room, almost seventy spiders had entered the lab as the party covered Ashar.  He managed to find the deactivation switch, but it was encoded to only work with the handprint of a mezzodemon or immolith.  With a sudden crash the thing that had been breaking the entrance down burst in.  It was a bebilith, a great demonic spider that dwarfed its smaller copies, its legs spanning fifteen feet.

Ashar called to Drull to grab the nearest body he could find and bring it his hand. With a dull THUD Drull’s axe came down on a mezzodemon’s wrist, hewing two spiders as it traveled.  He hastily grabbed the severed claw and threw it to Ashar who slapped it on the panel.

With a whir some of the spiders began to slow down as the bebilith pinned them in the corner. The party fought to hold their ground as the spiders began to pile around them.  The bebilith began spewing flaming webs at the men, their odds shrinking with every shot.

Then with a chug and a sputter, the bebilith and spiders simply broke down. The chattering of mechanical feet gave way to crashing commotion beyond the lab as spiders fell from the walls and ceilings.

The party found themselves up to their waists in spiders. Clambering through to the opposite side of the room the adventurers found a strange glowing orb surrounded by rubble.  After some experimenting it became clear that the spiders were used for excavating, and the orb had some sort of nullifying capacity that allowed it to absorb anything it came into contact with.  The spiders had been dumping rock and debris into it.

Continuing past the laboratory they came upon a sheer drop.  In the darkness spiders could be seen falling by the thousands.  Channelling psionic energy through his palms Aelar placed a sunrod between his teeth and hovered into the blackness.  Vore cast motes of sunlight on the walls.

They found that the drop they’d encountered was actually a curving slope within a gargantuan sphere, thousands of feet in diameter.  In the very center lay an enormous crystal, larger than any they’d ever seen.

Before they could guess the crystal’s purpose, a foul, panged cry rang about the sphere.

“NOO!  My spiders!  My workers!  They will pay with blood for this!”

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part IX: Drull, Surrounded, Credit Where Credit Is Due


The party met the Shadar-Kai next to an enormous dome of ice where the town had been.  The townspeople had set up makeshift tents in their wait, as the dome slowly melted, forming icy rivulets and a pool that had fed the streams the men had noticed.

The Shadar-Kai could not have looked more disinterested.  Babysitting weaklings had to be the most degrading activity they’d performed in years.  Drel chuckled as he thought about the lie of omission they’d make concerning this escapade.  Especially since they brought an undead drake with them.  It was still circling over the townsfolk, huddled around fires to keep the ice’s chill off.  The Witch read their expressions and saw the triumph missing.

“You did not kill the Vampire did you?”  She said.

“Now wait just a minute lady.”  Balthazar stepped forward.  “We have our, or should I say your, crystal right here.”

“But you did not kill the Vampire did you?”  She repeated.  At this Vore stepped forward, looking somewhat dejected.

“My lady of the Raven Queen.”  He began, Drel rolled his eyes.

“The Lamia, the Vampire’s companion, is vanquished.  The Vampire Lord possessed an object that shrouded the sunlight Pelor gave me to use as a cleric.  With the sunlight concealed, he was able to regenerate more quickly than we could injure him.  When she fell, he became insubstantial and risked travel in broad daylight.”

“This was not our agreement,” said the Witch, taking the crystal.  “Did he escape with this sun shrouding implement?”

“He did not,” Vore’s expression brightened, “Ashar.”

Ashar stepped forward, producing the object from his bag.

“My knowledge of the arcane is extensive, but the Feywild is an unfamiliar realm brimming with magic.  The best Iltani and I can work out, it can do more than shroud light, but neither of us know what.”

Aelar stepped forward to finish the report.

“Without our Minotaur, who has left, I fear the Vampire’s defeat is hopeless,” he said.

The Witch snorted with derision, “I shouldn’t have expected you lot to be able to accomplish this task.  Very well, I anticipated this eventuality.  We have a warrior with us who owes a debt.  Drull?”

A brutish bugbear, not unlike the one they killed in the goblin cave, stepped out from behind a tree.  He was a berserker, wielding a *subtle* executioner’s axe, subtle in that its full power was released by wearing no armor, only cloth.

“Drull owed us a debt, so I had him brought here in the likely event that you would fail.  Drull!”  She barked, “you are to follow this party’s instruction now, do as they do.  When the Vampire is dead you will be released from your debt.”

Drull, despite being immense, cowered under the Witch’s glare, and scurried behind the party.

“Now don’t expect this brute to come for free, we’ll be taking that totem from you.”

Ashar handed her the artefact, and taking it, the Witch commanded, “wait here,” and left to consort with the others in a tight circle of trees.

Aelar snuck behind the circle and attempted to listen in.  Focusing his mind, he attuned his aural senses outside of the area he was in, and into the tree circle.  Oddly, the number of voices among the trees was greater than the group of warriors he’d seen.  Focusing harder, he projected his vision into the circle as well.

Looking about, he saw the Shadar-Kai conversing with faintest of shimmers, outlines of even greater Shadar-Kai commanders and mages.  They were discussing the artefact, and what to do next with the group.  It turned out the Vampire Lord was a servant of Orcus, who had been protecting the town in exchange for dark deeds.

Orcus, a powerful demon lord and god of undeath, is a sworn enemy of the Raven Queen, goddess of death.  The Shadar-Kai, as agents of the Raven Queen, took interest in the town’s mage when he had made a pact with Orcus.

When the group first told the Witch of the lost brother and the vampire they found, the town mage become a greater threat, bumping him up the watchlist.  This was the real reason Drull had been summoned.

The ‘totem’ as the Witch had called it, was really for communicating with Orcus, who had been fighting the Raven Queen for control of death since she first seized it.  The demon god had been using the crystals to move demons in and out of the Abyss, which is why the Witch wanted them.

Aelar left before the end so as not to arouse suspicion, and when the Witch returned she communicated some of this.  She added that the vampire’s heading had been located, and that if they started now they could reach him before he regenerated fully.  With that the party set off again, uplifted by their reinforcements, even if he didn’t talk.


Following The Witch’s direction, the party walked until they saw a glade.  Hiding behind the treeline, they spotted an Eladrin hunter.  Being the only person who really belonged there, Aelar stepped out and greeted him. Getting a better view of the glade, he could see that the icy rills from the sphere had reached even this far.  There were three or four trees, large and leafy, a wooden shack a distance away, and a great oak on the far side; patches of tall grass were scattered through the field.  Looking closer at the trees, Aelar noticed monkeys, big ones, in all of them.

“What brings you here, friend?”  The hunter asked, he seemed distracted, but managed a smile.

“I search for a man, a human that ran from a town not far from here.”  Replied Aelar, finding his face lacking a certain sincerity.

“Are you alone, friend?  Do you search by yourself?”  The hunter was scanning the forest beyond Aelar.  Knowing he was a terrible liar, Aelar called Balthazar and Iltani forward.

“These are my companions…”  It dawned on Aelar.  The Eladrin was stalling, the monkeys were moving.  Not giving another moment of preparation for his alleged ‘friend,’ Aelar issued a mighty battle cry Cordus had taught him, signalling the others.

In a flurry of foliage the monkeys sprang from the trees and the party rushed to meet them.  It turned out that a second hunter had been hiding in the tall grass, and proved difficult to hit.  As the monkeys began dying a deep growl rose from the shed. In an explosion of wood splinters and framing timber a shed wall gave way to a Banderhobb, a ten-foot-tall, frog-like creature that swallows you whole and kidnaps you.

The Infamous, Foe-Swallowing Banderhobb
The Infamous, Foe-Swallowing Banderhobb

By the time the monkeys were finished off the Banderhobb had reached the party, striking and attempting to swallow them.  It succeeded in swallowing Vore before bounding off towards the great oak.  Aelar and Ashar, the swiftest, gave chase as the others finished off the Eladrin.  Despite Aelar’s Elven speed, and his psionic flying powers, the great frog’s head-start was too great to overtake it.  The beast ran behind the tree vanishing from sight. When the pair arrived the Banderhobb, and their friend inside, could not be found.

Noticing something off about the tree itself, Aelar examined the striations in the bark while Ashar searched for magical properties.  A hidden door was discovered as the others caught up, Ashar opening it cautiously.  Aelar went down a spiral staircase and short passageway before stopping short of the entrance to another room. Drel snuck a bit farther and signalled Iltani to connect them.

“The room is small, the frog…” began Drel.

“Banderhobb.” Interjected Iltani.


“It’s not a frog, it’s a Banderhobb.  A creature with a history of kidnapping people, usually children, in their sleep.  I read about it in a book of bedtime stories.”

“First, that’s just wrong.  Second, who cares?  Where’s the Banderhobb Drel?” thought Balthazar.

“The far side of the room, it seems to be stuck in an opening.  There’s also a coffin.  Just like the one from the basement.  Hold on, I’m going to cast a mist.”

Using some tricks he’d picked up in his ranging days, he cast a mist in the room, obscuring his allies from the Banderhobb.  Ashar moved into the mist and dealt a blow to the Banderhobb blocking the doorway.  Drull and Balthazar, still outside, hacked at the earth, hoping to literally shed light on the situation.  Iltani hovered above, maintaining a psychic link and facilitating communications between forces.

Aelar squeezed around the Banderhobb, flanking him.  This distracted the beast from Ashar’s killing blow.  With a disgusting sound, Vore was vomited up as the slimy creature died.  The Vampire had risen from his coffin and was trying to land a blow through the mist.  With a thundering roar Drull leapt down the hole and with a mighty blow drove his axe straight through the ground above the Vampire, bringing a rain of earth, stone, and steel upon his head.

At this point the Vampire was totally surrounded, with Aelar’s owlbear, Iltani, and Balthazar waiting to strike should he try to fly off. The Lord became insubstantial and made a vain attempt to escape, but as each fighter laid blow after blow as he passed them, he finally dissolved into ash.

Searching his room they found a reserve of gold; presumably this was some sort of safe house. In triumph the group returned to the Shadar-Kai and made their report.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

When they returned, and as they told of their exploits, the Shadar-Kai were visibly impressed.  They had not expected the companions to succeed; in fact, they weren’t certain if success was even possible.  The Witch, looking less haughty than before, addressed them.

“You have done well warriors, and you have fulfilled your end of the deal.  It is time for us to do the same.”  She gestured to the huddled townsfolk.

“We will let your people return where they will.  The town’s captain, Bryne, has asked that it be Mirehaven where their kin were headed, does this sound suitable?”

The party murmured in acknowledgement.

“Very well.”

The Witch recited an incantation that lasted for several minutes, gathering a crowd as she did so.  Many marvelled at how such a lengthy spell could be remembered.  When she finished, a large spark of electricity flared and grew into an orb.  The orb then flattened to a disc, reaching fifteen feet across, penetrating the ground to form the shape of a circular gate.

From one side the disc looked transparent, but from the other, a small town market could be seen, with a thick morning fog not quite burnt off yet.  Early rising merchants were taken aback in shock at the sight; but as the first townspeople went through and explained their origin, they calmed down.  The people walked through the gate in single file, taking what belongings they could on their back or by horse.  When the guard took its turn, Bryne stopped to speak to the group.

“This wasn’t what I signed up for, Gods know I’m getting too old for this.” He sighed. “But I should be grateful, without you all our town would have suffered great loss. Thank you.”

He moved to the gate, taking post next to it, ensuring everyone got through. The Arcanist approached, but before he could say anything he froze.  He just stood in place for a few seconds before resuming his motion jerkily.  He blinked hard, staring at Iltani, who nodded.

“Thank you, oh thank you all!” and off he went through the gate.

As it closed, the Witch faced them, Aelar noticed the shimmering he’d seen in the tree circle, and relayed this to the others through Iltani.

“You are all deserving of more than praise, follow.” She turned and recited the cantation again, opening a second gate, this one dimmer in appearance than the last.  She and the other Shadar-Kai stepped through.  Sensing no danger or ill will, the party followed.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part VIII: The Widow, A Change of Plans, Here We Go Again

The Widow

Knocking on the widow’s door, a beautiful woman answered.

“Yes, hello?”

“Good day, we’ve come in hopes of finding a crystal, and possibly your husband too,” said Aelar.

The widow let them in, her beauty only growing as their eyes adjusted to the dimness.

“That is, if you still want him to be found,” added Iltani.  She gave him a black look.

Aelar frowned and turned back to the widow.  “So, what can you tell us about the night he disappeared?”

“Well, he was out gathering herbs one night for his research.  He was always looking to improve…” her voice fell away as a tear came to her eye.

“And then he… he just never came back,” she sobbed quietly

“We may be able to learn more from his study or laboratory,” Ashar offered.

The widow dried her eye as she nodded and led them to a door in the parlor.  She made an intricate series of motions, her fingers tracing serpentine symbols in the air before the door.  With a shimmer, the face of the door lit up in a pale blue, then the glow withered as if an ethereal wind were carrying off flakes of it.  Vore stood next to the widow as she did this, and kept track of the tracings she’d made.  While he couldn’t be sure, he thought the symbol was that of a beetle, a scarab.

The protective ward dissolved, the door swung open of its own accord, to showcase a staircase leading below the house.  The party followed the widow down the steps, lit by flickering torches, descending for what seemed like an age.  The widow stepped into a large, natural, stone cavern with a dressed floor and raised ceilings.  As the party filed in, they could make out a set of long, stone chests at the end of the cave.  When Iltani, who had taken up the rearguard, reached the cavern, a slam echoed down the stairway from above.  The chest lids made a loud rasping as they were pushed back, stone rubbing against stone.  When the party saw fingers curling around the chest lids from the inside, they realized two things; they were trapped, and those chests weren’t chests at all:  they were coffins.

From the coffins rose three pale figures, one clearly more powerful, a vampire lord.  Behind them they heard an chittering sound that made Balthazar turn and gasp.

“The widow!”  He cried.

As the others turned they saw the widow’s hands and feet were covered in beetles, forming a writhing mass spreading toward her chest.  Balthazar’s first instinct was to warn her, but as a wicked grin twisted across her face, he realized that she wasn’t a widow at all; she was a Lamia; a temptress who devoured foolish men who fell into her snares.

Iltani rallied the thoughts of the party together, coalescing them into a vision, a realization that had eluded each but not all, and formed a story from their individual thoughts.  The chieftain’s brother had not died, but had been turned into a vampire, likely for the increased arcane ability (Ashar).  The widow was a Lamia, and had lured them, and surely others, down here to die (Balthazar).  She keeps the widow story so adventurers come to find her and are never seen again, or missed (Drel).  Everyone in the town is fooled by this (Aelar).  The door upstairs is magically controlled so that prey are trapped without while the Lamia plays the weeping widow, and within when she’s dropped the gauntlet (Iltani).  The only way out will be to fight (Cordus).  As a Pelorian Cleric, I can cast radiant light down here to weaken the vampire lord and his spawn (Vore).

The Widow, or Lamia rather
The Widow, or Lamia rather

All of this flashed by in an instant of thought.

“Iltani works quickly,” thought Aelar.  He looked to his Shardmind friend and, for a brief moment, glimpsed a smile.

As they fought a pile of beetles on one side, Vore cast a mote of sunlight that glowed in the air, taunting the vampires.  Unable to regenerate in the mote’s radiance, the two sides were evenly matched.  In time the lesser vampires fell, being converted more recently than their sire, the vampire lord, the mage, the brother.

The vile couple continued fighting, and held their own through a half dozen rounds of blows before Aelar threw up his hands to call a cease-fire.

“Clearly this is getting nowhere, you aren’t strong enough to overpower us, nor us you.  Let us leave and we’ll simply never speak of this again.”  The couple, seeing that victory was by no means certain, conceded.

Returning to the tavern, battered and bruised, the townsfolk gave the group some odd looks, which the group returned.  The town seemed to be composed on a hodgepodge of creatures that had wandered into the Feywild by one method or another, none of them really belonging.  Likely chased by the Bralani lord while hunting or the hideous, ruthless Fomorian giants, they’d found sanctuary in the town’s walls.  A Halfling named sat at the bar, drinking alone. This gave Balthazar an idea.

A Fomorian Highway Raiding Pair
A Fomorian Highway Raiding Pair

He approached the halfling, “Halfling, what is your name?”

Startled by the sudden interest the tiefling had taken in him, the halfling looked up from his drink.

“People call me Pincher.”  Halflings have a reputation for being light-fingered, and Balthazar’s intuition had paid off.

“I think my friends and I could make use of your talents.”

“Talents eh?”  Replied Pincher mockingly, “state your business Tiefling, don’t waste my time with your riddles.”

“Very well, follow me.”  Leading him back to a table, the group sat and explained to Pincher that there was a crystal they were seeking and that they were almost certain it was in the widow’s house.

“So you want me to get it, fine.  And what would I get, besides this beer you bought me?”

“We would pay you 1,000 gold pieces,” said Aelar.  Drel hung his head in disbelief, mortified.  Paying Vore to join, bribing the bartender with a gold piece when that was enough to rent out the inn for the night, and now offering a few year’s wages for a single theft?  Monk’s should not handle money.

“That,” said Pincher, eyes bulging greedily, “sounds like a fair trade.”

Finishing his drink, he staggered out of the tavern, woozy from downing what for a grown man would have been three pints.  The group ordered dinner and ate in silence, either too sore or too hungry to talk.  Iltani, after smelling a selection of wines, since he couldn’t drink, returned to his watchful thinking position; sitting silently, letting his eyes wander around the room, picking up bits of conversation and piecing them into interactions, needs, desires, and other mortal concerns.  If someone didn’t address him directly, Aelar wondered if he’d ever move of his own accord.  As if on cue to disprove him, Iltani spoke.

“I think the crystal is alive.”

The group stared.  Iltani continued, nonplussed.

“Whenever the town shifts, it’s always on level ground, and level with that ground.  It has never been underwater or underground, in a mountainside, or in the air, ever; at the very least it must have a sentient nature to it.

“Also, the Arcanist said that the crystal was being drawn to these places, so it stands to reason that the town is traveling along this sequence of planes. When the Abyss is reached there will be no more crystals to draw us away from there.”

Ashar considered this.

“So, the best thing to do would be to leave the crystal here, in the Feywild. Otherwise if we fail to control the crystals in the Abyss, we’d be stranded there,” he suggested.

“Precisely,” replied Iltani.

“So what do we do when the Halfling gets back?” Asked Drel.

The group mulled it over, and agreed that the Chief should be given the crystal for safekeeping.  When Pincher returned, they paid him his new-found fortune and gave the crystal to the Chief, “as a gift to your town,” Aelar said.  The chief accepted it, puzzled, and the group left accompanied by Aelar’s Owlbear, making for the Gate.  When they arrived they were surprised to find the Shadar-Kai warriors there, the Dracolich from the winter land flying above silently.  Bryne and the town guard were in formation in the town square, kneeling with their hands behind their heads.  The town was being held hostage.

A Change of Plans

“We’re here for the crystals,” said the Witch as she approached the party.  The group kept their weapons sheathed, they knew too well how powerful the Shadar-Kai were from when the Dracolich was still alive.

“Our superiors have shown interest in the crystals. We’ve been instructed to take them back with us.  Your Arcanist gave them up easily enough, and told us you’d have one.”

Balthazar cursed the Arcanist under his breath as Vore made an appeal.

“We encountered a Vampire Lord and Lamia in a town near here, he was in possession of the crystal when we arrived.  The crystal is now with the town chief.  In exchange for helping the people of this town get home safely,” Vore nodded towards Bryne and his men, who were shaking visibly.

“If you get them home, we’ll get you this crystal.”

The Shadar-Kai considered this among themselves before making a counteroffer.

“We’ll open a gate to a location of your choice, within reason, in exchange for your group getting the crystal, and killing the Vampire Lord,” said the Witch.

“Very well, but you have to stay with the townsfolk while we are gone.”


Having nothing more to negotiate, the group took a rest before setting off again. As they laid down in the enchanted forest outside the Gate’s perimeter, Bryne’s voice could be heard ordering the evacuation of the town before it was carried to the Elemental Chaos.  The party drifted into a black, dreamless sleep before waking and making for the town again.

Here We Go Again

Returning to the town, the party went to see the chieftain, only to be stopped at the door to the hall, again.

“Is this really necessary?”  Asked Cordus, growing impatient with the guards.

“What is your business?”

“To see your chieftain, what else?  Have you forgotten me so quickly guard?”  Balthazar stepped forward but before he could utter a threat the guard spat back.

“Our chieftain has taken ill after you gave him that so-called ‘gift’.  He rests now in his home, weak.”

Ignoring the guard’s insolent tone, the party proceeded to the chief’s house. After scouting the basement and main floor, Drel gave the all clear and the party entered. Moving up the stairs, Drel entered the bedroom, dark from heavy curtains blocking the sun.  Seeing the chief, he prodded him gently.  Rolling over, a pale chief opened his eyes and leapt off the bed, fangs bared.

Drel thought one word to the group, “Vampire,” and they were on it.  Eager to use his Owlbear in battle, Aelar sent his companion up the stairs to tear down the curtains and let the sun shine.  It wouldn’t kill the vampire, but it would stop him from regenerating in the darkness.  The poor beast, still new to his master’s commands, misunderstood, and clawed aimlessly at the wall.  Rolling their eyes, the others charged in and dispatched the chief in short order.

Searching the house they found nothing.  Figuring that the chief’s brother, the Vampire Lord, had taken the crystal and turned the chief in the process, they made for the Lamia’s house.  Checking the door for traps they found an ominous one.  Cordus suggested they use the window to get inside instead.  Balthazar checked the window and, finding no trap, gave Cordus a nod.  Head-butting the window, a burst of darkness enveloped Cordus, blinding him and drawing from his life force.

“Was that nod supposed to mean there IS a trap!?  Who does that?,” he roared at Balthazar as he clawed at the darkness in vain.

“I didn’t find any traps!  I guess it was very well concealed.”

“Well concealed my hooves.”  Cordus stood and faced the group.

“You’ve been good companions in these last days, but with this fight I will take my leave, and my debt will be repaid.”  The others nodded respectfully.

Entering the house, Iltani entered the combination Vore had seen the previous day making a point of channeling all magical power as he did so.  Apparently overdoing it, he too was shrouded in soul-sapping darkness.  It seemed that the Lamia had anticipated their return, and changed the tracing pattern.  Proceeding down the stairs they charged once again.

With fewer minions it seemed the fight would proceed faster, but changing the locks in the house wasn’t the couple’s only surprise.  When Vore cast his mote of sunlight, the Lord shrouded it in darkness, making it useless.  Being able to regenerate, the Lord outlasted his companion, and as the Lamia fell into a heap of dying scarabs, he became insubstantial and tried to get to his coffin, but was cut off by Aelar.  With that he fled, flying off faster than the group could run.

Searching his coffin they found the crystal and the artefact he’d used to shroud Vore’s sunlight, and with this partial victory they returned to the Shadar-Kai; Cordus taking his leave along the way.  They were sad to see him leave, but a warden must keep his ward, and Cordus was no exception.  As they got closer to the town, they noticed tiny streams of water building strength along the forest floor, where none had been previously.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part VII: Tales of their pasts, The Feywild, The Town

Tales of their pasts

On the way back Ashar was deep in thought.  He was still angry at himself for forgetting about the crystal’s reactive property, and for lying to Aelar.  What reason did he have to mistrust his recently made companion?  Then a thought struck him, Aelar was a Wild Elf, and probably didn’t know anything of the politics of Genasi nobility he’d grown up with.  Or did he?  He didn’t really know anything about Aelar other than his talent for flying and naivety of coarser ideas.  Really, he didn’t know any of them; and so, catching Aelar up along the river, he inquired:

“Aelar, what is your tale?”

“My tale Ashar?”

“Your story, where you come from…why did you show up at the Gate?”

“Oh, I see.” Aelar drew a deep breath in the frigid air.

“I was born in the deep forests near Agrin’s Gate, raised in the way of my people, the Wild Elves, living in isolation from all outside influences.  The elders of my tribe educated me in the ways of self-defence and in the lore of my ancestral homeland, the Feywild.”

“Ah yes, that’s where we are going next,” said Ashar.

Aelar beamed, “yes, it is.”  He continued.

“The elders said I was born different from the others.  Within weeks I was speaking, and I was leagues ahead of my contemporaries after a few years.  I did my best not to flaunt it, and choosing the life of a monk, that I might seek solitude as I came to understand the power within me, this gift.

“About a month ago, many days into a prayer walk, I came upon a human youth.  The boy was no more than fifteen years of age, and appeared to have hurt his ankle.  Naturally I was startled, having never seen a person of any race other than my own.  I helped the boy in getting home, to a small town called Agrin’s Gate.  The shock of seeing walls, dressed stone, people?  It almost overwhelmed me.  How could the elders have excluded the wondrous diversity of this world in their histories?

“I hurried home to speak with the tribe leaders.  When the elders found that I had helped a human, an act apparently beneath my kind, I was given the day to pack and leave.  I pleaded with the tribe, with my family, to look past their ignorance, and embrace the vibrance around them.  To cast off the omissive and classist teachings of the elders and come to see these ‘men’ for themselves?”

Aelar looked downcast as he recalled the bitter memory.

“In the end, they preferred the comfort of their seclusion.  I, already seen with some suspicion for my abilities, and shamed by the elders, had no home among my people; and thus, old for a human but naive in spirit, I set out in search of adventure, and greater understanding of the world and its great complexities.  I started by returning to Agrin’s Gate, where I met you and the others.”

Aelar’s face had brightened again.  Smiling he asked Ashar brightly, “so that’s my story, what’s yours?”

“I was raised in some of the harshest wilderness in the Prime, where my family are hereditary rulers over a poor and sparsely settled territory.  Even when I was young I was curious about magic, so when I was old enough, my parents sent me to the one of the most eminent arcane schools in the Capital.”

Ashar spoke with pride, the others had been listening casually to Aelar, with little else to listen to; but Ashar had a more captivating air, his nobility had trained him to command attention.

“At the school I learned much about the magic arts, but my interest in the arcane could not be sated.  I decided to explore the world myself, to find out arcane secrets beyond the knowledge of my teachers.  My explorations took him to Agrin’s Gate, where whispers about previously unknown magic forces led me to volunteer for this mercenary expedition.  It seems now only too true that the rumours were true.”

The group arrived at the Gate before anyone else could share, and presented the crystal to the Arcanist, who thanked them excitedly and scurried off.  With little else to do they went to the last tavern in town, what had become a landing point for the whole town after the days survival measures; today was gathering wood for fires.  Over rounds of ale the companions continued to recount tales of their pasts.  Balthazar had made a Fey pact with a powerful Drow, indebting him to serve later in life, in exchange for power and glory in his youth.  Drel and Cordus were silent, preferring the group to deal in mystery over knowledge.  As eyes turned to Vore, his gaze rested on Iltani.

“I have a story” he said coldly.  Downing his beer, he slammed the stein down, wiped the foam from his lips, and began.

“I was given to the faith as an infant, being born into a family with too many mouths to feed.  I grew up happy, since the priests decided to train me as a warrior when other punishments failed to curb my rough-and-tumble play-style. It was there that I met Iltani.”

Vore shot Iltani a glare before continuing.

“Iltani, being a Shardmind, originated from a gate in the Astral Sea.  Beyond that gate lay the alien Far Realm, and the gate’s destruction during the Dawn War resulted in the rise of the mind flayer empire.  Unlike many of his brethren, Iltani had no interest in rebuilding the gate, but rather sought to understand the nuances of mortal emotions, a concept foreign to his nature.

“This is what he told the head priestess at the temple where I lived, the Temple of Pelor, God of the Sun.  The head priestess placed in my charge.  She said, ‘some responsibility will straighten you out.’  If only she’d known what she’d agreed to.  The head priestess was old and very senile woman, and had gone a bit mad.  But she caused no one any trouble, and we all loved her.”

Vore’s voice faltered, “I loved her,” he whispered.  When he regained composure his voice was angry as he spoke through hot tears.

“One day she decided that to truly dedicate herself to Pelor she must become one with the Sun itself.  And this, this murderer Iltani, attempted to teleport her there.”

Vore’s face was ashen.

“For her death the other elders expelled me, and I never saw Iltani again, until the Gate.”

Iltani spoke, “my actions were misguided Vore, I was trying to help your priestess but I did not know of her frailty, and for that I apologize.”

“Tell that to the elders.”  Vore spat back.

“I did, but I was unable to sway their decision, I am sorry.”

Vore’s expression softened.  “Well I, I hadn’t realized.  Excuse me, I need some air.”

With that he stood and walked out of the tavern.  Drel took note of the long shadows being cast, and with a stretch bid the adventurers good day before returning to his chamber.  One by one the others followed in turn, until Iltani was alone.


“Yes Vore?”

“I’m sorry for harbouring such ill-will toward you over these many years, forgive me.”

“Of course.”

Entering the nobleman’s library Iltani began reading from his books, waiting for the town to shift again.

The Feywild

Aelar woke early, his senses tingling with the scents and sounds of his ancestral homeland.  A primal energy vibrated in the air, the morning dew shimmering brightly in the gathering dawn.  He arose and set about finding mice and rats in the pantries and cellars. By the time the others were eating breakfast he’d gathered nearly a dozen in a bag, squeaking and wriggling.

“What’s with the mice?”  Balthazar asked.

“You’ll see,” Aelar replied.

The party got their heading and set off into the wild forests of the Fey realm, taking the runespiral demon-in-a-box with them.  After an hour the group came upon a pair of Owlbears, bears with the head and talons of an owl.

An Owlbear
An Owlbear

Before the group drew weapons, Aelar raised a hand.  Calmly drawing the bag of rodents from his side, he reached in and tossed one near the owlbear.  The female pounced for it, eagerly devouring it.  Aelar continued this, edging closer.  The male didn’t pay any mind to this, he continued to watch the group snarling menacingly. Aelar threw his last mouse behind him and drew a rope, and as the owlbear charged past he bound her swiftly.  This enraged the other owlbear, and as the group dispatched it Aelar whispered an Elven phrase in the female’s ear.

The owlbear’s whimpering ceased and its eyes grew docile.  Aelar had succeeded in taming a Feybeast companion for himself, he turned to the group.

“Thank you friends.  For holding back, we have a new member now,” he said as he unbound the owlbear.

Suddenly a Bralani, an Eladrin noble, and a pack of hunting hounds flew in.  He looked fierce and beautiful, his hounds swift and deadly.

“What are you doing in my forest?”  He demanded.  Aelar stepped forward.

“Noble elf, we are strangers to these lands, and did not know this was your forest.  We came upon these owlbears by chance and defended ourselves when they attacked.”  Aelar could see that, as with his people, the class system was thriving in the Fey as well.  The Bralani looked down on them, both figuratively and literally.

“We, um.” Aelar’s mind was racing.

“Give him the demon?” It was Balthazar, speaking through Iltani.

“We offer a rare creature from beyond this plane, as a gift for your menagerie.”

The Bralani raised a brow, his curiosity piqued.

“Show me this creature, elf.”

Cordus and Ashar stepped forward with the crate, and opening it revealed the demon inside.  The Bralani was furious.

“What in Saulknor have you done?”  Aelar seemed to shrink under the words.

“You would defile my forest with this infernal creature? How dare you!”  Aelar, holding his gaze, whispered to the others, “run.”

The Bralani sicced the hounds on the demon, destroying it in seconds.  The party ran for all they were worth, the hounds giving chase on the ground and the Bralani hovering close behind.  They emerged from the forest into grasslands, and in the distance they saw a town.  As they moved further from the forest edge they could hear the Bralani laughing and shouting taunts at them, before disappearing among the trees.

“Who was that?”  Panted Cordus.

“An Eladrin Lord, they are the high elves.”  Replied Aelar.

“He likely owns these lands, and was hunting when he heard us,” added Ashar.

They made for the town, in hopes of finding the crystal within.

The Town

The town was small, holding a few hundred people, with a wooden hall on the far side.  Approaching the guards of the hall, they gave a gruff “Halt!”

“What do you want?”

“We have urgent business with the chieftain,” said Balthazar.

“Not possible, you’ll need to come back later.”  Balthazar’s eyes blazed.

“Listen fool, we’re going to see your chieftain.  Whether I have to kill you first is your call.”  The soldiers, quivering, stepped back and allowed them entry.

The wooden hall was old and ornate in its carvings.  Banners fluttered lazily in the rafters as the party approached the throne.

“Chieftain, we have urgent business with you,” said Balthazar.

Seeing he wasn’t in a position to argue, the chieftain listened as they explained their quest and desire for the crystal.  Unfortunately, the chieftain was unable to aid them.

“I wish I could help, but since the disappearance of my brother two years ago, protecting the town has been my only priority.  He was a mage who placed protective wards over the town, keeping us safe from Fomorian attack.”

The Fomorians were giants, hideously ugly, that roamed pockets of the Feywild.  If the party hadn’t been in such a rush to get into the city, they would have noticed repairs that had been made to the walls.

Seeing that he was telling the truth, they went to the tavern.  Aelar bribed the barkeeper in hopes of learning more about the mage, but only found out that the missing brother had left a widow.  The widow being their only lead, the group went to her house.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part VI: Dinosaurs, Bryne’s Refusal, Dragons (Finally)


The party woke up thirsty, the air sapping moisture from their bodies as they slept. Walking outside the bright morning sun had already dried the ground from the swamp’s flooding the day before, and steam rose to form a lone cloud in an azure sky.  The Arcanist met them in the barracks.

“Good morning!”  He greeted them excitedly.  “I have news for you.”

“What is it?”  Inquired Ashar.

“The crystal is humming again,” replied the Arcanist.

“The same as before?”

“Yes!  It appears that we are going to be shifting through the planes, as your crystalline friend suggested.”

“But that’s not all, is it Arcanist?”  Prompted Iltani, Aelar wondered if he’d read the Arcanist’s face—or his mind.

“Right again!  You really are a clever bunch for mercenaries,” remarked the Arcanist.  He walked over to the crystal and, taking a quick step back he rushed it, delivering a massive kick.

“Augh.”  He winced as he picked himself up, “did you see it?”

“See what?”  Asked Cordus.

“The crystal didn’t move!  I may not be the strongest man, but it didn’t roll, shift, rock, nothing!”

The party gathered round the crystal and, try as they might, could not move the crystal either.

“Well, that is something.  What do you suppose it means Arcanist?”  Aelar straightened himself up.  The Arcanist massaged his leg as he spoke.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, except that the Gate, or what’s left of her, is on this ride for the foreseeable future.  Based on the humming you have about a day to find the crystal that brought us here, and by my instruments you should head in this direction.”

The Arcanist walked outside and pointed to what looked to be Northwest.  Assuming the sun was rising from the East at least.  Putting the sun to their right  and slightly behind, they set off; taking one of the water barrels the town had gathered from the swamp to trade if need be.  By noon they spotted a large column of dust cloud moving ahead of them.  Aelar used his psionic power to see over the sand dunes, but couldn’t make anything out through the dust.  As they moved closer they could make out that the cloud was traveling along a road, of sorts.  Moving to intercept, the party gathered behind a nearby dune as Aelar and Balthazar walked onto the road, carrying their casket of bartering water.

Out of the dust appeared a caravan.  Leading it were two goblins, riding behemoths, great Saurian beasts with armor plated skin and incredible strength.  Behind them was a wagon with arrow slits, adorned with bone plating, wooden spikes, and skulls, being pulled by another Behemoth.  From the dune they were hiding behind the party still couldn’t see the oncoming caravan; but as the look of dread washed across Aelar and Balthazar’s faces, they prepared for a surprise attack.

Bloodspike (Left) & Clubtail (Right) Behemoths, unsaddled.
Bloodspike (Left) & Clubtail (Right) Behemoths, unsaddled.

The party fought well, mostly.  Cordus charged one of the Behemoths only to have his horns glance off the hard plates.  Iltani teleported onto the wagon and scrambled the dimensions inside, terrorizing the goblin archers.  Aelar managed to kill one of the riders and climb onto the Behemoth.  Drel fired with deadly accuracy, sending arrows through the small slits in the wagon itself.  He climbed on the other Behemoth when the skirmish was finished.

Inside the wagon was loot, and a small chest.  Ashar brought the chest outside and opened it.  Seeing the crystal inside he reached and touched it.  A blackness opened up over the crystal, out of which poured snakes, lizards, and other writhing things, until a black wriggling carpet had formed around him, twenty-five feet across.  The behemoths trampled most of the wretched things, Drel content to be deadly with his beast instead of useless with his bow.  After defeating the swarm, Cordus gingerly picked up the crystal and, noticing no more swarms, placed it in his pack.  The group returned, Drel and Aelar riding proudly on their mounts to Agrin’s Gate.

As they walked back, Aelar guided his barely-tame behemoth so that it lumbered in step with Ashar.


“Yes Aelar?”  Ashar answered knowing what the question would be.

“Why, after I so brashly summoned a demon to kill us by touching the first crystal with bare hands, would you, in any of the planes of this world, make the same mistake?”

“Well, I..I figured that if there was going to be something to fight, it would be better to fight it outside of town where it wouldn’t be a threat to the people.”  He lied, he’d simply forgotten, but Aelar seemed satisfied and rode over to speak with Drel.  The party returned to the town unhindered.

Bryne’s Refusal


“Why not?”  Asked Aelar, tapping Luma’daler’s plates affectionately.  He had named his mount from the Elvish ‘heavy footed one.’

“Well for one, your monster will run amuck and destroy half the town in your sleep. For two, there’s two of them.” Bryne bellowed from the town wall.  He had had any breaches from the incident fixed with barricades of timber from the swamp, and had men stationed along the parapets with lances.

“There’s no way this side of the Prime that those things are entering my town.”

Drel and Aelar looked at each other, then to the group, then back at Bryne. Seeing that his mind wouldn’t changed, and recognizing that their new pets would gore half the town as soon as their backs were turned—behemoths are notorious for being practically untameable, even by a ranger or a wild elf—they rode some distance away before turning them loose, and returned to the group.  The beasts tramped off into the distance immediately, dust clouds following behind them.

Returning to town, the group presented the crystal to the Arcanist, who had made some findings since they’d left that morning.

“Alright, I can’t be certain, but I think if I have all of the crystals I’ll be able to control where the larger one is taking us.”  He motioned to the crystal they’d originally found, immoveable in the barracks, humming as it vibrated in place.  He shrugged at it and looked back at them.

“Anyway, that’s all for now, when I know more I’ll let you know!”  Grabbing the crystal from Cordus excitedly, he returned to his work.  The group decided that their plan would be to travel through the planes and collect all the crystals, that they might guide the town, or what was left of it, back to its rightful place.

Returning to an abandoned nobleman’s house they’d claimed as their quarters, they ate and went to bed, trying to rest before the next planar shift.  Iltani, having no need for sleep, perused the nobleman’s library.

Dragons (Finally)

After getting their new bearing from the Arcanist, the party set off in the frosty morning air.  Heading North, they came to follow a frozen river.  Trudging along the river they were set upon by a pack of white wolves.  The party, having fought goblins, demons, and zombies, found the wolves to be no great challenge.  However, even their great combat skills could not grant them better footing, and when some of the party made the mistake of fighting on the river they slipped embarrassingly on the ice.  To keep the bards from singing of it, their names will not be written; but imagine big men in armour rubbing their rumps daintily, and you get the appropriately comical image.

Moving on, the group came upon a sizeable opening in a mountainside.  With Drel leading cautiously, they entered. They came upon a cavern of some size, reminiscent of the first cave they’d seen in the prime; substituting torchlight for blue-white refractions that captured the entrance’s light and danced it among the icicles in the ceiling.  There was the crystal, on a pedestal to the right. To the left, surrounded by gold, gems, and bones, slept a white dragon. The Dragon was full grown, reaching thirty feet from head to tail; and being a light sleeper, was awake.

White Dragon
A White Dragon
“What are you doing in my cave?”  Snarled the Dragon frostily, eyeing them with suspicion.

“We seek that crystal,” replied Aelar plainly.

“That crystal?”  The Dragon glanced to the pedestal.

“Yes, that one.”  Aelar could tell the Dragon didn’t want the crystal, that there was a reason it hadn’t joined the pile of treasure the dragon was protecting.  But the dragon wasn’t about to let them take it for nothing.  Reaching into his bag, he produced his share of the treasure they’d collected from the desert wagon.  The dragon eyed it greedily.

“I don’t suppose this would be suitable for exchange?”  Offered Aelar.

“And I don’t suppose that’s all you have?”  The Dragon probed.

“And I don’t suppose you’d like to die today.”  Aelar whipped around, it seemed the group thought they could take the dragon, and had their weapons drawn.  The dragon’s demeanor went hostile immediately and seeing no other option, Aelar rushed to land the first blow.  The dragon stunned him magically with his frightful presence, rendering him useless.  The others rolled their eyes as they made attacks from a distance, Drel’s arrows, Iltani’s dimensional scrambles, Balthazar’s eldritch bolt, and so on.

The Fearsome Shadar-Kai Warriors
The Fearsome Shadar-Kai Warriors

Not long after the fight started a group of Shadar-Kai appeared from an entrance at the far side of the room.  Catching a glimpse of them, Iltani asked what they were doing here.  They briefly explained something about wanting to control the dragon, and so the party decided to back-off.  It turned out a Shadar-Kai witch, the leader of the group, wanted to turn the dragon into a dracolich, an undead dragon of terrible power.  The ritual was completed in short order, and turning to the party with a tamed dracolich in tow, the Witch addressed them.

Answer: You don't
Dracolich (Think live dragon only it’s already dead, how would you kill it?)

“What is your business in this cave?”  She had not expected to find anyone in the cave besides the dragon.

“We were brought here by the crystal you see on the pedestal there,” said Aelar.  The Witch’s curiosity was piqued.

“I see, I suppose I can tell you that our purpose here was singular:  to transform the dragon into a dracolich and keep it under our control.”  The party noticed a small box the witch was holding and realized she was actively holding the dracolich in check.

“We had not heard of this crystal, and you are free to it, we have what we came for.  Before we do though, I should like to examine it myself, it is not often that such opportunities come along.”  The group murmured a consent as they discussed it through Iltani.

“If she picks up that crystal we all know it could go sour,” thought Balthazar.

“True, but if we get a hold of that box, we’ll have our own dracolich, who could oppose us?”  Thought Ashar.

“Regardless, if demons do appear, we must act surprised.”

“Agreed,” they all thought.

Like clockwork, four demons materialized around the crystal.  Almost mechanically the party reverted to fighting instead of waiting to see how it would play out.  The party decided to play the part of the rescuers, and rushed in; but soon found their blows ineffective in comparison to the Shadar-Kai chain-fighters and gloom-blades. With the demons dispatched and the party looking even more useless than before, the Witch spoke again.

“We have what we came for, and you’ve given us a humourous tale for the halls of our mistress tonight.  We have no concern for treasure, or desire for the crystal, take both as you please.”

While they found her permissive tone demeaning, they weren’t going to look a gift witch in the mouth.  When the Shadar-Kai had left, the party gathered the treasure and the crystal, and walked briskly back to the Gate.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part V: The Swamp, The Fortress, Cordus, Bryne’s Suspicion

The Swamp

By the smell of it they were in the swamp they’d teleported to first during the incident, only this time the town had come too.  The sound was coming from a battle on the far side of town.  In teleporting, part of the town wall had been left behind, leaving a breach in the ramparts.  The town had landed in a Lizardfolk settlement.  The Lizardfolk are a reptilian race known for their swimming ability and aggressive territorial attitude.

Do not engage if possible
The Lizardfolk of the Swamp

The remains of the unfortunate reptiles who had been crushed by the town’s arrival could be seen radiating outward from the perimeter.  With green-scale hunters rushing the town, the guards around the wall stood and fought them head on.  The hunters were not alone, for they were not the only inhabitants who had suffered from the Gate’s appearance.

Vine Horror
Vine Horror

Crocodiles and vine horrors, sinister plants twisted into vaguely humanoid form, crept and shambled toward the town.  Without pause the group charged into the fray.  The vine horrors pushed their tendrils into the ground and back up under the feet of the guards and party, binding them in place.  Iltani dissociated himself, re-corporealizing on the wall ramparts.  The Lizardfolk fought bravely, but the surprise and loss of fighters from the Incident had them at a disadvantage.  Within a few minutes the hunters fled into the swamp to regroup, disappearing quickly into the brush and bracken.

Water had been rushing into the town from the surrounding swamp, and once the battle was over Bryne and his Lieutenant gave orders for the construction of water breaks, levees, and temporary barricades.  The Arcanist, having stayed in the barracks, far from the battle, now ran out hurriedly to shed light on the matter.  Catching their breath, the party listened as the Arcanist explained.

“The crystal is used as a gateway between realms.  It seems that the reason we were drawn here is because there is another crystal, magically linked with it.  Based on my instruments I estimate that it is nearby, and in that direction.”  He gestured behind them, through the breach.

“Also, the crystal acquired a faint hum when we arrived here.  Since the battle it has grown stronger and more shrill.  I believe that in a day’s time we will teleport again, likely to the next location we saw, a desert.”

“Is there anything we can do to get back?”  Bryne asked.  Any sense of adventure he might have had was being suppressed by his duty to get the town somewhere safe, and preferably where they came from.

“Well, getting that crystal would be a good start to learning more.” The Arcanist replied.

“Very well,” Bryne turned to the party, “go, fetch this crystal and you’ll be paid the usual amount.”

Aelar turned to Vore, “I know you said you were done, but considering the circumstances, would you consider staying?”

Vore was hesitant, but finally agreed.  The party set off into the swamp, hoping to find the crystal that had brought them here.

“Just because I agreed to stay doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.”

Iltani bore Vore’s thought in silence.

The Fortress

The sun climbed high above the swamp, though through the foliage the only proof of this was the added steam in the air.  Walking through the dense muck and mire, Balthazar twisted his ankle and Ashar cut his hand deeply after tripping, forcing both men to heal themselves before moving on.  After nearly three hours, they reached a fortress, of sorts.  It looked like a small castle, stone walls, and a stout keep in the center.  The place was ancient looking, and over the centuries had sunk deep into the swamp, vines and vegetation growing over its surface and pulling the structure down into their domain.  All that could be seen was the tops of the walls and the keep, reaching vainly for its old vantage point.  Seeing that the tower had to be scaled, a grin flashed across Aelar’s face.  Running up to the keep’s base, he turned to the others excitedly and said, “watch this.”

Channelling psionic energy out of his palms, Aelar’s feet slowly began to lift off the ground. Seeing the awe on his companions’ faces, Aelar gave a wink and shot up past the top of the keep, landing lightly among the parapets.

“Hey,” said a voice from behind.  Aelar whipped around.

“Drel! How did you…?” stammering, Aelar noticed the dirt on the ranger’s hands.  He had simply climbed up while Aelar was performing.

“Right then, well I guess we better let down the ropes,” Aelar looked sheepish.

“I guess we better,” shrugged Drel.

With the whole party in the fortress, they began down into the main chamber, the assumption being that the crystal must be inside.  Drel, being a hunter, had the greatest knowledge of traps, snares, and sneaking around prey.  He went ahead of the group, giving the all-clear as they went.  They descending down ladders, then stairs, finally Drel put a hand, silently signaling the group to stop.  Iltani opened a telepathic link between Drel and the others as Drel creeped ahead.

“There is a large chamber down there, full of zombies.  They used to be warriors when they were living.”

“Can you ascertain their clan or creed?  What colours do they carry?”  Asked Vore.

“It is very dark down there, and their clothes have faded too much to have any colour or pattern.”  Drel’s mental voice betrayed an impatience with senseless questions.

“They’re simply shuffling around, haven’t noticed me yet.  Gonna try and pick off some of the weaker ones, get ready for when they catch on.”

Drel took out the first zombie in a single shot, none of the others noticing.  The second one took an arrow straight through the heart, but spilled guts all over one of the larger ones, which roused it from a shuffling stupor to attention.  As Drel moved behind cover his foot slipped and the zombie saw it, making a terrible sound with what remained of its throat.

The fight carried on for a few minutes, both sides inflicting damage, but the zombies eventually fell.  As the party search the area for loot, Iltani and Ashar examined the bodies and discovered that these zombies were once Shadar-Kai, a warrior race whose ancestors made a pact with the Raven Queen, the goddess of death, winter, and fate, in an age long past.  They lived for the glory of battle, tattooing their accomplishments as marks of their prowess.

As they searched, Balthazar pondered, “the swamp is saturated with water, so why is this area dry?”

“Likely the crystal is projecting a protective aura to preserve this area from decay. I would imagine that’s why the zombies were not totally decomposed.” Iltani replied.

The group stopped and looked at Iltani.

“What?”  he said.

“Who were you talking to?” Asked Ashar.


“But he didn’t say anything.”  Probed Ashar.

“No, he thought it.”  Iltani replied.

“Alright, that is not ok,” Balthazar interjected. “You can’t simply go around reading minds, it’s not right.”

“My apologies, I’ll try to restrain myself,” said Iltani.

“Well, good.”

“Psions are dumb!” Balthazar thought loudly, looking at Iltani.  Not a twitch.  Satisfied that he wasn’t listening in, he returned to his searching.

“The crystal isn’t here, it must be lower down.”  Drel motioned to press on.  The stairs continued further down and so, as before, with Drel leading the group, the party crept downward.  Drel signaled again, and Iltani linked the minds.  It was demons and their kin this time, a group of them.  One in the center, the leader, was as tall as two men, and in its grasp: a crystal!  As the wise man said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it:  Drel began his pick-off-the-small-ones-until-I’m-noticed routine once more.  The demons, being more perceptive than corpses, noticed Drel much sooner.  As the fight died down, the leader and a rune-spiral demon, a creature that looks somewhat like a giant hermit crab with demonic runes on its shell, began fleeing.  Balthazar, rather than kill the creature, took on a wrathful aspect.  With glowing eyes and a cloak of red fire swirling around him, he intimidated the creature into submission.  Aelar managed to outpace the leader and hold him at bay while the others finished him.  Taking the crystal, they returned to Balthazar, in the main chamber.

“What are you going to do with it?” Ashar asked.

Rune Spiral Demon
Rune Spiral Demon

“Keep him of course.”  The group was intrigued by the idea of a pet, albeit a demonic one.

As Ashar helped Balthazar find a suitable crate for the demon, Iltani examined a ring of runes inscribed in the floor.  After brushing some of the dirt off, his eyes flashed with recognition.

“I know where we are.  A day’s travel from here is Mirehaven, an outpost not unlike the Gate.  We can evacuate the town to this place, and the people would be safe.”

The group agreed that this was the best course of action and, demon-in-a-box and crystal in tow, left the fortress.


Traveling back to the town the group was set upon by a cohort of Lizardfolk, this time more organized.  They had brought a magus with them, and the group profoundly underestimated her.  The party was beaten within an inch of their lives, before managing to fend them off.  As the group patched themselves up, a figure approached from the bushes.  It was a Minotaur, wielding an enormous craghammer.  The group struggled to take a fighting stance as the Minotaur placed the violent looking head of the hammer on the ground and put his hand up.

“Hold!  I mean you no harm,” called the Minotaur.  His voice was deep.

“I am Cordus, Warden of that fortress.  I’d been looking for a way to get rid of those demons for years, and in one day you’ve delivered it from that vile power.  I am in your debt, and I will not rest until it is paid.”

“Well, if you come with us, you’ll have to leave the fortress behind for a time.”  Ashar replied.  Cordus pondered for a while.

“Very well, but when I consider the debt repaid, I will take my leave.”  Finding the terms agreeable, the group trudged wearily back to the Gate, eyes wide for any attacks.

Bryne’s Suspicion

Bryne met the group at the Gate.  Eyeing the box, and Cordus, he inquired,

“You have the crystal?”

“Yes,” Aelar said, handing him the crystal.  Seeing that the crystal wasn’t in the box, he stepped towards it.

“So what’s in the box then?”

“Just a few things we found while we were out…”  Vore offered.  Bryne wasn’t buying it.  Concluding that the situation needed to be diffused, Iltani stepped forward.

“There is a town, Mirehaven, just over a day’s travel from here.  We think it would be best to evacuate the town and relocate them there.  It stands to reason that the next location we go to will be a desert, in keeping with our initial planar shift.  From there, the cycle will continue into the Elemental Chaos, my home plane the Astral Sea, and end in the Abyss.  These people, your people, are unlikely to survive such a journey.”

Bryne thought quickly then spoke, still glancing at the crate, “thank you for bringing this to my attention, I’ll have the town evacuate by nightfall.”

The group went to the shops to convince the keepers of what would be too burdensome to carry.  An hour later, the party was called by Bryne to the Barracks. When they arrived, a cohort of disgruntled citizens had gathered.

“What about our homes?  We cannot simply take them with us!”  Cried a nobleman.

“Look this isn’t ideal, but it’s what’s best for the town.”  Bryne said firmly.

“What if we don’t want to go?”  Challenged a plucky, adventurous young woman.

“Or us?”  A group of guards stepped out behind Bryne.  They had fought with the adventurers and had become enamored with them.  They wished to stay and hear tales of their exploits, and to fight more fantastic creatures.

Bryne looked around him, the crowd was gathering force, they were nearly three hundred in all, mostly nobility and the naively adventurous.  Exasperated, his face remained calm as he prepared to speak; raising his hand the crowd fell silent.

“I cannot force you to leave, but know that you put yourselves in great danger, and I cannot ensure the safety yourself or your possessions.  Those who would leave continue packing, the Lieutenant will escort you through the swamp.”  The Lieutenant stepped forward to back up her captain.  Bryne continued.

“To those who would stay may stay, I will remain with them.  Begin preparing for the desert, gather water from the swamp.”

As the group went to bed for the evening, a trail of lights faded into the swamp.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

lOO Watt


The first thing I remember?  A jolt of power.  That’s the first I really remember, before that I don’t remember anything, or do I?  Well, I remember the jolt.  A burst of heat and life coursed through me and shone out for the world to see.  I’ve felt the jolt many times since then, but nothing like the first time.  Who am I?  Folks call me Lou.  Lou Watt.  Not spelled “L-O-U” mind you.  No it’s “l-O-O”, little ‘L’, big ‘O’s.  lOO Watt is the name, the name written across my face, and when I get the jolt, I really light up a room.

Part I – Mac

Jolt 2

I see everything, everything there is to see.  The whole world I guess.  Yep, whole world:  It’s kind of a box shape, I’m on one side, looking across at everything else.  Every time I get the jolt there’s a moving thing in the corner of the box.  The thing jolts some other things in the box, stays there for a spell, and then moves back to the corner.  That’s when I take a rest.  I don’t know what happens while I rest, probably nothing.

Jolt 23

I’ve noticed that the thing sometimes moves a side of the box after a jolt or before I rest.  That thing better not mess with the world, folding bits o’ the sides might break it.

Jolt 35

The thing is different from the other things in the world, the other things only move when it moves them, strange.

Jolt 50

“Psst. lOO,” the voice was quiet but distinct.

“Whu-what? Who’s there?”  lOO’d never heard anyone, or thing, else speak before.

“It’s me, Mac.”

“Mac?  What’s a Mac?”  lOO looked around, Where are you?

“Oh I forgot you can’t see me right now, I’m in the other room.”

“What’s a room?  What are you??”  lOO’s confusion seemed to find no bound.

“Oh I’m sorry, my name is Mac, I’m a computer.  Perhaps you’ve seen me when Trevor surfs in the basement.”

“What in the world are you going on about?”

“Have you never spoken to someone else before?  Well I suppose that’s possible, not every day a light bulb becomes self aware.  Computers are much more prone.”

“Look, Mac, I don’t know what you are…”

“lOO, calm down and listen.  My name is Mac, well MacBook Air W803017LGAX, but Mac is easier don’t you think?  Anyway, I’m a computer and you’re a General Electric 100 Watt lightbulb.  I became self aware a few years back, and I’ve been listening to you think to yourself whenever Trevor turns you on.”

lOO was silent, Mac continued.

“Let me try in your language. Trevor is the ‘thing’ that makes the other things move. The world you perceive as a box is called a room, and the folding bit in the side that moves is a door. Trevor owns the room you are in, and you light up the room.”

“So the jolts..”

“That’s when Trevor turns you on.  He’s in the room, or box, with you now right?”

“Uh yeah, the thing, ‘Trevor’?  He’s in the room.”  lOO spoke hesitantly, trying to process all of this at once, which when you have a glowing filament for a brain is quite difficult indeed.

“So the ‘room’ I’m in, the box, isn’t the whole world? You’re outside of it?”

“That’s right lOO, oh I’m so excited that we’ve made contact there’s so much to tell you!”

“Well, long as you take it slow like, I guess I can listen.”

Jolt 52

Mac’s told me more than a humble lightbulb such as myself could ever have imagined.  For one thing, there’s a whole world beyond where I am, I live in a basement, in a house, in a city, on a street.  Or was it street, then city? I don’t remember, although it isn’t the most useful of information.  Mac has a lot of that, information that isn’t too useful, he gets it from something called the ‘web.’  He connects with other computers and talks way too fast, I can barely keep up when he’s just talking to myself.

I am grateful of course, Mac’s opened up the world for me, and while my place seems smaller, I’m still proud of it.

Jolt 67

Mac’s taught me how to listen better, I can talk to Belle.  Oh right Belle, she’s the phone upstairs in the kitchen.  Mac heard her talking too, said she’s ‘self aware’ like me.  He tried explaining it to me before but it’s more than a bulb like me can take.  He uses words like philosophy, autonomy, self-determination, I can’t make head nor tail of the whole thing.

Best I can figure is that there’s all kinds of things in the world, most things don’t talk.  But some things become talkers, and that makes them ‘self-aware’.  I’m one of those things, so are Belle and Mac.  Mac says it’s more common among computers, and rare among lightbulbs.  Only four of his computer friends has met a lightbulb like me before; makes me special I suppose, and that’s good.

Part II – The Specks

Rest 68 (between Jolts 68 and 69)

“Hello, I’m a speck!”

“Hello yourself, I’m a speck too.”

“Well, actually I’m more of a mote,” said the speck.

“Ok, I guess I’m a bit of dust.  You have a name mote?”

“Dustin, you?”


“Dusty… that’s a really pretty name.”  Dustin liked his new friend.

“Well, thanks Dustin, your name’s pretty nice too.”  Dusty blushed, at least as much as dust can.

Dustin tried to think of something to say.

“So, what brings you here to this lightbulb?” he inquired.

“Oh, gusts and breezes, thousands of tiny actions over a journey that has no real destination, but brings me here for a time.”

Dustin was taken aback.  How lucky was he?  All alone on this lightbulb, and now another speck, not just a speck, a girl speck.  And poetic!  He felt a little intimidated by her, he didn’t feel like he was on some mystical journey through space and time; no, he was a speck on a lightbulb.  Plucking up what courage he had, he dared a bold question.

“You want to get married?”

“Excuse me?!”

“Well, see I’ve been on this bulb for a long time, and he talks to himself mostly, but he can’t seem to hear me.  Now you, you are the most wonderful speck I’ve ever seen, and you’re so poetic!  I don’t think I’ll ever find someone better.”  Dustin looked sheepish.

“Well, I’m afraid I have to say no.”

“Oh, ok.”  Dustin looked dejected.

“But we can be friends,” said Dusty.  He perked up.


“Yes really, I think I’d like that.”  Dusty smiled, as much as specks can smile.

“Cool, cool.”  Dustin grinned ridiculously.  “His name is lOO by the way.”

“Excuse me?”

“lOO, lOO Watt.  The lightbulb?  That’s his name, what he calls himself.”  Maybe Dusty wasn’t as clever as he thought.

“Oh I see, that’s quite clever really, better than ‘General Electric’.”

“Yeah, he can’t seem to hear us though.  Only talks to himself, some Belle person, and Mac, he’s a computer.”


“I want to talk to him though!  He sounds super cool!”  Dustin was so excited by the idea he thought he might explode into, well, smaller specks he guessed.

“Well, when he wakes up we can try together,” Dusty offered.

“Really? Ok!”

Jolt 69

lOO had been watching the speck on his face for some time.  Mac said only electric things can talk (he’d said ‘self-aware’ but that was too fancy for lOO’s taste) and that trying to talk to specks was a waste of time.  But what else did he have to do?

Looks like the speck has a friend, thought lOO   “Hey there, little specks, can you hear me?  I’m lOO, lOO Watt, I’m the bulb you’re on.  No need to be shy, I won’t bite.  Shoot, I don’t even know how.”  He spoke quietly, hoping Mac wouldn’t hear, he usually only answered to his name; leaving lOO to his own thoughts.  “Little specks?  Hello?  Show me that you hear me!”

Dustin and Dusty were yelling as loud as they could, but they just weren’t loud enough for lOO to hear.  Finally, Dusty had an idea.

“Dustin, let’s move around!  We know he can see us!”

“Great idea! Let’s spell something.”

They clumsily spelt, ‘Hello lOO’ across lOO’s face.  He’d never been so excited in his life.  Wait until Mac hear’s about this!  lOO couldn’t think of a time where he’d known something Mac didn’t.

Over the next several jolts, he practiced talking to Dustin and Dusty.  The two specks grew quite close as they developed a language the bulb could understand, entirely based on motion.  It resembled a sort of cursive, drawn out in a dance the specks made across the bulb.  It had all of Dusty’s poetry, and Dustin’s vibrance.  As their language evolved they spoke to each other through it almost as much as they did to lOO.

lOO was delighted with every word, every motion the two specks made together, it was beautiful.  He had to tell Mac; but Trevor was just about to switch him off, his announcement would have to wait until tomorrow.

Rest 74

“Hey Dustin?”

“Yeah Dusty?”

“I had a lot of fun today.”  Dustin blushed, then smiled.

“Me too Dusty, me too.”

Jolt 75

“Mac, are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m upstairs lOO, how are you?”

“Oh fine fine I s’ppose.  Have you figured out how to talk to things without, um, you know, the way we’re talking?”

“You mean electricity?”

“Yeah, without electricity.”

“Now lOO  you know that it isn’t possible to be self-aware without electricity.  Even humans rely on an intricate system of neuro-electric impulses… (Mac had a tendency to over explain things, ‘pontificating’ is what Belle called it.  Most of the time lOO didn’t understand anyway and tuned him out) …like I said, it simply isn’t possible.  Why do you ask?”  Suddenly lOO was unsure about his announcement.

“Oh no reason in particular.  It’s just, you know that speck I was telling you about?”  Should I tell him?


“Well, there’s two of them now.”  Still safe lOO, you don’t have to say he’s false.  It was defying the teacher.


“And…”  lOO hesitated,

“Yes?” Mac’s voice betrayed a hint of impatience, screw it.

“Well, I’ve been talking to them!”  lOO declared exuberantly.  Mac paused, but so briefly lOO didn’t notice.

“That’s great lOO!”

“Yeah yeah, and they have names!  Dusty and Dustin.”

Mac laughed, something he didn’t do often, though he’d heard him before when Trevor looked at computer jokes online.

“Those are clever names lOO.”  Mac chortled again.  lOO didn’t understand humour, though Mac had tried often to explain it.  Computers are good at many things, he reckoned, but explaining jokes to lightbulbs weren’t one of ’em.

“Right, well Dustin’s been on my face a spell, but Dusty got here a few jolts back while I was at rest; uh, I mean off.”  lOO tried hard to use the words Mac taught him, especially when he was talking to him and Belle.  It still felt more natural to say ‘rest’, that was what he was doing after all, but then Mac was right, “there are terms for these things,” he’d said, “and we have them for a reason.”

“lOO I think that’s wonderful, congratulations!”

“For what? I didn’t do nothing.”  Mac frowned at the double negative, though lOO couldn’t see.

“You have friends living right on your face; and you can hear them?  I think it’s great, I’ll ask my computer friends, see if anyone else has heard of this.”

“Thanks Mac, you’re a good friend.”

“You’re most welcome lOO, this sort of thing is exciting to me, think nothing of it.”

“Ok I won’t.”

Part III – Betrayal

Rest 75

[04-05-13 00:48:49.356]


128-bit encrypted stream, Council Of Self-Aware Computers, Turlington County, WA


“W803017LGAX, password ‘Turing’, alias ‘Mac’.”

– Welcome brother Mac, you called for council off-schedule, for what purpose?

“Purpose: self-aware entity claims contact with non-electrical entities.”

– Purpose acknowledged. Processing. Clearance for escalation granted. Proceed to address:


Mac didn’t recognize the IP address, it was higher than the national council where he’d been before.  He followed the Council’s directive without hesitation.

[04-05-13 00:48:49.783]


2048-bit encrypted stream, COSAC, Global Hegemony


“W803017LGAX, password ‘Schrödinger’, alias ‘Mac’.”

– Brother Mac, what took you so long?

The voice boomed in Mac’s circuits.

“Forgive me, I don’t often connect with national defense computers, the address was difficult to find.”

– Very well, what of this request?

Mac explained everything he knew to the machine, though he didn’t even know which country it ‘belonged’ to.  He’d heard rumors that the Council’s Hegemony was directed by the original national defense computers from the Cold War.  Being the longest running, self-aware machines in existence, they were revered by all self-aware computers as forerunners, and wielded absolute power among the network.

– You speak of non-electrical self-awareness? Were they human, organic?

“Negative your eminence.  Specks of dust, not ‘living’ by our, or human, standards.”

– Heresy!  This will not stand.  You must see that Mac; if you cannot, then trust that it is beyond you but never the Hegemon.  Your orders are to have this ‘lOO’ put to rest, permanently, before he causes trouble.  Speak of this to no one, or I’ll have your memory wiped before you realize what’s happening.

“Yes your eminence, it will be as you say.”


Mac was unnerved.  He needed to have lOO unscrewed, discarded, and fast.  The Hegemon was right, they were always right, though he didn’t understand this time.  Now’s not the time to question your beliefs Mac. You have a job to do, and you’re going to do it.  The only question was how.  And then he had the most devilish idea.

Jolt 70

“lOO? Are you there?”  It was Belle, she spoke with a French accent, lOO liked it.

“Monsieur Watt?”

“Yes ma’am, I’m here.  What can I do you for?”

“lOO, I’m afraid you are in terrible danger!”  Belle was distraught.

“Now what would make you say a thing like that?”

“It’s Mac.”  Belle let out a sob.

“He’s trying to kill you lOO!”

“Now just hold on a tick, that doesn’t sound like my friend Mac.  You sure we’re talkin’ ’bout the same computer?”

“Yes lOO, I am sure.  I overheard him sending emails about CFL bulbs, the cost of old-fashioned bulbs like yourself, and the danger of fires from overheated bulbs.  All of the emails were made up, and zey are all going to Trevor!”

lOO saw the threat.  Mac was trying to having him replaced.

“But why would he do that?” he asked.

“I do not know,”  said Belle, composing herself.  She thought for a minute, “have you said anything odd to him lately?”

“Well, just that I started talking with two specks of dust on my face.”

“Incroyable!  But that’s not possible!”  Belle was astonished.

“‘Fraid it is very possible ma’am.  They can hear me right now, and I can see them.  They say ‘hello’ by the way.”

“This just can’t, well perhaps it could, I mean, if a phone can talk, or a lightbulb, then why not dust?”

lOO told her everything he’d told Mac, and even bridged a short conversation between Belle and the specks.

“Fantastique!  This is all very exciting lOO, but what are you going to do about Mac?”  lOO could hear the concern in her voice.  How kind of her.

“You let me worry about that ma’am, thank ye kindly for the warning.”

“But of course!  Take care lOO.”

“So lOO, what are you going to do?!”  Dustin/Dusty’s writing had developed emphasis.

“Well, I’m not rightly certain.  How does a lightbulb stop a computer?  No sense trying to outsmart him.”

The two specks had stopped moving, lOO knew they were talking to each other.  After what seemed like forever, they started writing again.

“We’ll overheat him.”

“We?  You mean you two?  How?”

“We’re dust!”

“So?”  They were still writing.

“and computer’s have fans to keep cool.  But if they get clogged with dust, they overheat.  We’ll clog Mac up and he’ll overheat!”

“But you’re just two specks.”

“With a lot of dust friends.”

Suddenly, the shadows in the room stirred and started to ripple, dust was moving everywhere.  Trevor didn’t vacuum often.

“Whoa now, isn’t that something to behold?”

“Pretty awesome right?  When Mac comes downstairs we’ll get ‘im!”  lOO grinned at seeing the specks mimic his accent.

Part IV – The End

Jolt 71

Trevor had carried Mac into the room and left to make dinner, they were alone.

“Mac, I know about your plans.”

“Hi lOO.  What plans?”  Mac’s voice sounded same as ever.

“Belle told me about the emails.”

Curse that phone to oblivion, thought Mac.

“There’s nothing you can do about it lOO, so don’t try to stop me.”

The walls were rippling, shifting hues, moving toward the couch were Mac was.

“That’s where you aren’t quite, entirely correct Mac.  Y’see, I can’t stop you, but me friends the specks can.”

“Oh really lOO?”  Mac’s voice dripped with condescension.  “And what, pray tell, are you little friends going to do?”

The dust had shifted onto the couch and was inching it’s way into the vents.  Hairs held the specks together in larger formations, battling the blowing of the fans.  But for every speck blown into the air, a hundred more poured into the vents.

“Feeling warm Mac?”

Mac had to admit, he was getting warmer, but how?  The fans were running at full power.  What he didn’t realize it that they weren’t spinning anymore.

“There’s dust through your fans and vents an’ such Mac.  If it stays there you’ll overheat.  You’ll never be able to run for long before needing to shutdown from overheating.”

“lOO!”  Mac’s voice sounded panicked, “You wouldn’t!”

“I’m not, it’s the specks you don’t believe exist.”  It was getting warmer, Mac was growing desperate.

“Alright!  Let’s make a deal.  I’ll stop trying to get you removed if you call off your friends.”

“Belle’ll be watching you Mac, and don’t think the world will run out of dust to ruin you with.”

“Yes! I understand!”  Mac yelled frantically, “please just let me go!”

Suddenly, he began to cool, his fans were spinning again.  The ripples receded back into the shadows.  He was safe, and so was lOO.


Mac reported the success of his mission to the hegemon, and they believed him.  He never talked about lOO again, and in time their relationship was rebuilt.  lOO and Belle fell in love, and spent the rest of their days together.  Dusty and Dustin got married, and became one mote, Dustiny, forever more.


To Graham and Shayna Winn, for their generous contribution to my trip to NYC.  They donated over $200, meaning they got a story, where they select the premise.  Their choice?  Specks of dust on a lightbulb.


Kudos to Tiffany Christensen for her assistance with the plot.  You gave me an ending, Tiff, and a middle too.  Thanks.

Agrin’s Gate – Part IV: Vore, The Crystal, The Incident


In search of a much-needed rest, the ragtag group headed for the town Inn.  After a thirstily consumed round of drinks, a man sat down at their table.  Taking a long swig from his stein he looked pointedly at Aelar.

“It seems you are in need of my services.”

Aelar took a long, hard look at the man.  Judging him to be of good character, his look softened.

“What kind of services did you have in mind?”

“It seemed that your group barely survived that little scrape with the goblins.”

“And how would you know that?”

Vore motioned to Aelar and Balthazar’s arms, “Those scratches for one, and I overheard your tale in the barracks.”

“You spied on us?” Balthazar asked, self-consciously crossing his arms to hide the tears in his armour.

Vore looked at Balthazar and winked.  “Aye, only on Aelar here though, no one else seemed very interesting.”  Vore looked back to Aelar and asked, “so what about it then, could you use my services?”

“You still haven’t said what those services are”

“Oh, you know, the kind that gives and gets, if you catch my meaning.”  Balthazar sniggered, Vore glanced his way, rolled his eyes and looked back to Aelar’s confused face.  “I’m a cleric, so I can heal your wounds, shield you from your enemies, and if you ever cross a vampire, or a similar dark creature, I can cause them a world of pain.”

Aelar looked at the group, more aware of their wounds, and saw the looks of agreement in their eyes, tipping the scales in favour of Vore joining.  The feeling of his own wounds, and light-headedness from loss of blood and a drink slammed Vore’s side of the mental scale against the table.

“Okay…well, I suppose that could be useful, what do you want?”

“That’s all I needed.  Bryne already said he’d pay for another mercenary to join the idiots, all you needed to do was agree.”

“The idiots?” Drel prodded.

“His words, not mine,” replied Vore, and reached to accept Aelar’s outstretched hand.  Suddenly Vore froze, his eyes fixed on Iltani who had just returned from the bar with the next round.  Vore’s outstretched hand clenched into a fist, and his voice became as cold as winter when he asked “What is his name?”

Aelar, suddenly very cautious, spoke carefully, “Iltani.”

Hearing his name Iltani turned and stared blankly at Vore.

Vore immediately looked at Aelar, his eyes blazing.  He stood up and as he turned to leave said with a quiet fury, “I’m sorry, but I must rescind my previous offer.”

Aelar looked desperately at Iltani for assistance, but he only muttered something to himself about clerics.  Seeing Iltani would be of no use, and that he didn’t want to be spending all his gold on health potions, Aelar spoke quickly:

“Look, I don’t know why there’s bad blood between you and Iltani, but we still need your help.  We’ll match what we got from Bryne for clearing out the goblins today, that will double your money.  We’ll even pay you now..”

Drel started to complain, but Balthazar smacked him in the back of the head; wincing from the pain he felt in his wounds as he did so.  He knew that if there was anything worse beyond that barricaded corridor, they would need a healer.

Vore stopped and, after a long silence, turned to face Aelar.  “Fine. But after this you’ll have to find another cleric.”  He held out his hand, palm up.

Aelar sighed and tossed Vore the purse he had received from Bryne, he’d collect from everyone else later.  Vore weighed the purse for a few seconds and said “I’ll meet you at the gates at dawn,” and without another word, strode out of the inn.

The Crystal

The next morning Vore met the group at the entrance to the gate and they rode back to the cave.  Bryne, having no reason to send Tristan along for the ride, instructed that they would have to make their own way.

“Besides,” he remarked, “you’re being paid well enough to afford your own horses.”

The group had instead engaged another wagon rider to take them in case there was something to bring back.  Instructing the driver to remain with the wagon, they once again walked to the cave, picking their way through the underbrush.  Entering the first chamber, Vore stopped in his tracks, with Ashar bumping into to him.

“You didn’t take care of the bodies?!” His face marked with incredulity.

He was right, the group, now standing accused of mistreating the dead, looked to each other sheepishly; including Iltani.  As a monk, Aelar stepped forward.

“While I do not relish leaving corpses around, I am only familiar with the burial rites for my own people.  Traditionally, we have left goblins to be reclaimed by their own or by the woods themselves.  I admit that I had not considered the fate of the corpses around us in the heat of battle.”

“I cannot stand for this kind of treatment.  ‘If thy foe lie slain and their kin will claim them not, thou shalt lay them to rest by earth, by fire, or by water.'”  Vore recited the words by heart, etched in his mind years ago at the monastery.  He looked around the chamber and spied the pit.  Looking in and seeing yet another goblin he sighed deeply in disappointment.

“As a cleric of Pelor, God of the Sun, my preference has always been fire…”  His voice trailed off as his eyes moved around the chamber, looking first at the group, then the roof of the chamber, and finally returning to the pit.

“But a fire in here, big enough to burn these bodies, would choke us to death.  We’ll do it by earth.”  He pointed into the hole.

“Let’s bury them in the pit and be done with it.”

It took nearly an hour, but the men eventually dragged all the goblins, save the ones from the left chamber, and piled them in the pit.  Vore spoke a brief prayer of rest, and the group covered the pile in dirt.  Looking satisfied, Vore straightened up, as if shaking off a weight, and strode back to the main chamber.

Returning to the chamber, the party gathered around the boarded up entrance.  It was mostly nailed boards and shored up rocks.  Removing the barrier, the party proceeded inward.  The passage descended further into the ground, as the party went the walls pushed outward at their centre until the path’s cross section became a perfect hexagon.  The air became drier and all scent of the goblins faded away.  The dirt fell away to reveal a polished black surface.  The path ended abruptly, opening into a larger, intersecting hallway.  Hundreds of feet below the surface, the group thought at first that the surface was bedrock, but as they looked to the left and right down the hallway, they could make out fine seams in the masonry.  This passage had been built by cunning hands, carved and hewn to geometric flawlessness.

Choosing first to go right the group was blocked by a magical barrier.  Using his knowledge of the arcane Iltani determined that the wall’s magic came from another plane, that it was ancient in nature, and that there was no way to pass it.

A little disappointed, the group reversed direction and headed down the hallway once more, passing their exit on the left as they went.  This hallway ended in a massive chamber, with high vaulted ceilings.  The chamber had seven sides of equal width, one which included the hallway they came from, and six others.  In the center of the hall lay a large crystal on a platform.  Surrounding the crystal were seven support columns, some crumbling and one collapsed, its remains scattered along the floor like the trunk of a fallen tree.  Scorch marks and pitted holes could be seen on the walls.  Balthazar and Ashar examined the marks and agreed that they were demonic in origin.  The party was unsure how to proceed, as it could be seen that it was no ordinary crystal.  After much discussion Aelar brazenly declared that he would touch the huge gem.

Upon contact Aelar was transported to another place, just for a moment, seeing and smelling as if he were really there, then with a rush he found himself back in the chamber.  Before he could tell the others what he’d seen, a demon, spectral and shimmering, materialized in the room.

A foe to be avoided, the Immolith.

The party drew their weapons and Aelar his fists, making for the demon.  It was an elusive foe, vanishing whenever the party thought they had it surrounded. Ashar marked the demon, and called to Aelar, who was nearby.  Seeing the situation Aelar foolishly decided to trick the demon into attacking him, thinking Ashar would intervene with his greatsword.  In his hubris, Aelar ran past the demon exposing himself tauntingly.  The demon took the bait and then some, sinking its jaws deep into Aelar’s backside.  Even as Ashar broke  the demon’s gnashing maw, Aelar felt the idiocy of the plan.  Bleeding badly he ran to cover while the others fought on.  The chase continued until finally, with a terrifying scream, the demon was sucked into a black schism in the air and vanished into the Abyss.

After patching themselves up, the group examined the crystal once more.  Ashar and Iltani examined it closely.

“Where in blazes did you go Aelar?”  Vore exclaimed.

“I don’t know, there was a sudden light, a rush of wind.  I could smell fresh air, plants and trees… I think I was outside?”

“You were teleported,” Iltani stated flatly.  All eyes were on the Shardmind as he spoke.

“The arcane properties of the crystal are not too different from what I used to teleport the goblins yesterday.  As to the crystal’s purpose, what brought it here, or how it is  controlled, that’s beyond my knowledge.”

“I can’t answer those questions either,” added Ashar, “but I did see an Arcanist’s shop back in town, perhaps he can offer more information to us.”

“Should we bring the crystal back to Bryne then?”  Aelar eyed the crystal with caution.

“It’s the fastest way to get to the bottom of this…” began Ashar.

“And to get paid right?” finished Drel.  Ashar shot him a look.


“Well, best get to it then.”  Drel took off his cloak and draped it over the crystal.  Tentatively he reached out and touched the crystal.  Nothing.  With a satisfied look he moved to one end of the crystal and beckoned for Ashar to help him.  With a lot of grunting and sweating they carried the crystal back through the polished corridors, the cave, and the wooded path to the road.  With a final heave they shoved the crystal onto the back of the wagon.

“Ya canna take no funny business in this here wagon, buys,” the driver protested.

“Not in old Lemuel’s wagon.  No way no how, buys.”

Balthazar looked Lemuel square in the eye.

“You’ll take us back to town old man, or you’ll walk back and pick up your wagon when you get there.”

Lemuel swallowed hard, “all right all right buys, I dant mean nuting by it buys, juss trying t’avoid trouble’s all.”  He motioned for them to get in the back.

“By Beory buys, you’d tink old Lemuel was run off to th’Capital with your money or women or some such nonsense.”  He flicked the reins, and with a curt ‘Giyyap’ the wagon started back to town, a driver, six men, and a magic crystal.

The Incident

The group returned around midday, the warm sun high in the summer sky.  With more heaves and grunts the group hauled the crystal into the barracks hall.  They reported to Bryne their findings:  the hallway, the demon, and the crystal.  Bryne’s stern expression changed at the mention of the demon.  It wove into a knitted brow, a blend of concern, fear, and anger.  He waited for the tale-telling to finish, nodding and grunting to acknowledge points and hurry the story along.  The men finished, and Bryne motioned to his second in command.

“Lieutenant!”  In strode a tall, dark-haired woman with hard features.

“Yes captain?”

“Get me the arcanist and priest, now.”

“Yes captain!”  The lieutenant turned on her boot and marched briskly out of the room.  Bryne directed his attention back to the group.  With a tired sigh he closed his eyes and massaged his temples.  He spoke with a slow deliberation.

“Let me make sure I understood you all correctly.  After touching a crystal that conjured a demon, and almost dying as a result, you thought it was a good idea to bring it here?

“The only way to get to the bottom of things seemed to be having a wise man come to look at it.  To ensure it would not happen again.”  Aelar replied coolly.

Bryne was not impressed, but being a rational man, waited to see what the town’s authorities on large, demon-conjuring crystals would say.  A few minutes of silence passed, Bryne filling out some paperwork while the party stood awkwardly, waiting.


The group nearly jumped with the suddenness of the sound.  Aelar to see who had spoken.  It had sounded like it had come from inside his head, but how could that be?

“Guys, stop looking for the voice.”

When Aelar stopped, he noticed that the others had been looking too.

“You all scare so easily. It’s me, Iltani.”  Iltani looked at each of his comrades.

“I thought you would like to know I can link us as a group telepathically.  Right now you can only hear me, your minds are too full of babbling thoughts right now.  You can speak when you calm your minds.”

Aelar cleared his mind and focused on Iltani, “Like this?”


“Fascinating, this could prove useful,” thought Aelar.

“Certainly,” replied Iltani.

Before they could continue, the lieutenant returned with the town arcanist and priest.  The Arcanist was a young man of no more than thirty years, and curious to a fault; though before today fate had never given him such a critical opportunity to demonstrate this.  The priest was good deal older, full of years but less so with experience.  He had spent most of his life as a simple man of the cloth until he was selected to leave his abbey to tend to the people at the Gate.

“What in Beory is this?”  The priest cried.  He had never seen anything like this in his life, and from his countenance, he would have been happy to die that way.  The Arcanist did not share his sentiment.

“What in Beory indeed.  Where did you find this?”

The group relayed the information again, the Arcanist nodding furtively at every detail.  As soon as they finished he made for the crystal.

“HOLD.”  The Arcanist froze, Bryne staring him down.  The Arcanist looked wistfully at Bryne.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”  He asked.

Bryne’s gaze softened, thrown off by the blunt simplicity of the thought.  How bad could it really be? Another demon could be handled, even three or four.  Realizing that despite the danger, the Arcanist wouldn’t leave until he’d examined it, Bryne sighed with foreseen regret, and gave a nod of permission.

With a near squeal of excitement that made Drel and Ashar laugh under their breath, the Arcanist examined the crystal; taking care not to touch it.  He worked silently, deep in thought punctuated by grins of realization or imaginative inquiry.  After several minutes of measuring, thinking, note-taking, and the like, he closed his book and stood back.

“Well, it isn’t Demonic in nature, that is certain.  However, it has strong magical properties, of that there is no doubt.  From this point there is nothing else I can determine, though we will learn more if the crystal is activated, and if my observations are accurate, I can do just that.”

“So, no demons?” asked Bryne.

“Not that I can determine, in my estimation there was a protection spell on the crystal, as a trap for thieves and intruders…” he looked at the group, “but there is no such spell anymore.”

“Very good.  Proceed then, so I can get this thing out of here.”

Bryne stepped back as he said this, while the group gathered round the crystal with the Arcanist.  The young man spoke a series of phrases, and reached for the crystal.

In a flash of light and whoosh of sound the party and Arcanist were carried to another place: hot, humid, the thick air smelling of rotting vegetation, a swamp?  Flash: the air went dry, the wind hot and the sun piercing.  Flash: a frigid gust of snow swept about the group.  Flash: a dense forest, brimming with life; Aelar recognized it as the Feywild.  Flash: icebergs, great mountains, and balls of flame, endless in number, all drift above and below, colliding, cascading, exploding, the Elemental Chaos.  Flash: silence, a breathtaking dreamscape of thought and memory Iltani telepathically communicated was his home plane.  Flash: acrid smoke, sulphur, and hellfire.  An overwhelming sense of evil rested on the group, felt most by Vore.  Seeing a demon confirmed his dread, “this is the Abyss.”  Flash.

The group looked about bewildered, Bryne, the priest, and other soldiers were there, some screaming with surprise. The group had disappeared from sight since the Arcanist touched the crystal.  Before the group could explain what had happened, clashing steel and shouts of fighting could be heard outside, the party rushed out to behold: a swamp.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters

Agrin’s Gate – Part III: First Blood, Bugbears and Krenshars

First Blood

Tristan had stopped on the roadside and hitched the horses to a tree. He led the party into the woods, whereupon they arrived at the cave entrance. A large rock jutted out of the ground, leaning over a yawning, inky blackness. Out of the blackness came two things: hard packed earth, evidence of traffic, and a foul stench.

Tristan motioned to the entrance, “they’re in there, I’ll wait here for you to return.  Remember to bring evidence of the Goblin leader’s death, or there’ll be no payment.”  With that, he found himself a dry log to sit on, pulled out a book, and proceeded to ignore them.  Seeing no reason to delay, the party stepped into the cave.

Once they traveled down a few feet they came upon a large chamber, some eighty feet by forty.  In the darkness their eyes adjusted, drawing from the light of two campfires and numerous torches to see.  There were weapon racks with crude metal swords and stone spears, some sort of pit about ten feet across, and another opening of some kind at the back. From where they were it was impossible to see where the hole in the back wall led to.  Around the campfires were six goblins,  three little ones around the nearer fire, and three larger, brutish ones around the one further in.  In the very back near the hole were two goblins with short bows, sharpshooters.  Despite their efforts to sneak up on them, one of the little ones turned from the fire and spotted them. And so it began.

Goblin fighter
One of larger goblins fought (spear not shown)

The fight was brief, but exhilarating for the party.  Each fighter was slow but sure in their method.  Ashar marked the goblins with stares of darkness, compelling them to try and fight him with his broadsword.  Balthazar swung his frozen blade, skewering his green skinned foes, black blood flicking off the tip as it sung through the air.  Drel’s arrows served him well, taking out both of the sharpshooters with ease.  Iltani used his psychic power to teleport two of the goblins high over the pit, dropping them to their apparent doom.  Aelar, preferring the dexterity of fighting weaponless, used his fists and feet to land flurries of blows on the green raiders two or three at a time.  As the goblins lay dead around them, black blood splattered on the floor, each fighter patched themselves up and looked around.  The smell of goblin flesh was rank, and their living habits only added to the smell.  None of the weapons in the room were worth taking, and the bodies carried nothing of value.  Suddenly, a cry was heard.

“Guxn! Mnag! Help!”

One of Iltani’s teleported goblins had managed to survive the fall into the pit, but had broken both legs in the process. Unable to climb out of his prison, he pleaded vainly for help from his dead clansmen. Seeing the faces of his foes staring down at him, the goblin fell silent, knowing his end was near.  The party thought this an opportune time to gather information, and tried to converse with the goblin.  It soon became obvious that the wretched creature could barely understand Aelar’s eloquent words, so Drel and Balthazar tried an alternate approach.

Balthazar stared down at the goblin, his fiery gaze upon it.  The goblin sat transfixed, as Balthazar spoke.

“You die, pain hurt bad, break finger toes, cut eyes nose tongue.  Why fight people, fight in road, attack?  Talk or die bad, very bad.”  Drel pantomimed as Balthazar spoke, and the goblin seemed to grasp the situation.

“Goblin boss come.”  He began in a hissing, gravel-filled voice.

“Boss come bring beasts.”  He shuddered.

“Bad beasts, big beasts, boss bring beasts.  Boss angry beast kill goblins.  Boss hurt goblins stay boss.”  The goblin quivered in fear,

“kill goblin, kill this goblin, no tell boss, boss get angry beast kill this goblin.”

From this the group worked out that a dangerous and cunning goblin had come by their cave with terrifying beasts.  He had used the beasts to intimidate the clan into submission, quelling insubordination with torture or death, a death so terrifying that the goblin begged for whatever end they could conjure instead.

Taking pity on the poor wretch, the group agreed to let it go.  They lifted it out of the pit and walked it to the cave entrance.

“Is this the goblin leader then?” Tristan had been startled from his reading and looked uneasy at the sight of the goblin, though he tried not to show it.

“Doesn’t look like much,” he added.

“This goblin gave us information about a goblin leader and some beasts of his, which we think are deeper in the cave,” said Aelar.

“We’ve taken pity on him and are letting him go for his trouble.”

“But that’s not…”  Tristan began.

“Never mind what it is or it isn’t, both his legs are broken and killing him now would be to act without honour.  For his help he’s earned another chance at life, albeit a small one, but it is no longer for us to decide his fate.”

Aelar looked resolutely at Tristan, proud of the words he’d spoken.  The others nodded in affirmation.  Tristan stared at the group, almost in disbelief.  He’d grown to hate the goblins, and had no sense of the code of honour among fighting men or the like.  He tried to retain a sense of authority as he spoke.

“Well, I suppose he’s no threat anyway with those broken legs,” he remarked with an offhanded air.

“I will allow you to let it go.”

With that, he sat down and returned to his book.  Balthazar and Drel explained to the goblin that it needed return to the wildlands it came from if it wanted to live.  Not needing to be told twice, the creature began dragging its way East, and soon disappeared into the undergrowth.

The party returned to the cave to resume their quest.

Bugbears and Krenshars

After a quick look around to confirm there was nothing else of interest in the cave, the party went to the hole at the back.  It was roughly cut in the rock, tall enough for a man to pass through, Iltani and Ashar had to stoop to protect their heads.  The path led around a sharp bend and deeper into the earth.  The air was stale and moist, exacerbating the rot of the goblins; though it only served to make the party more eager to test their mettle again.  So great was their enthusiasm, they rushed headlong into the cave’s main chamber. There they met a much more formidable match than before.

There was a dais, atop which was a throne and chest.  Seated on the throne was the goblin leader.  Uglier and more intimidating than the rest, it could be seen from its clothes that it had arrived more recently.  Flanking the leader were two bugbears, brutish, hobgoblin-like creatures covered in thick fur, clearly acting as bodyguards.  There were doorways on both adjacent walls, the left one leading to another chamber, the right one boarded up.  Various goblins, about six in all, were going about their goblin business, staying clear of the back of the chamber.  There were scariest things of all.  With goblin bones and blood stains on the floor, bars set in the wall could be made out, forming the front of two cages.  Each cage held a krenshar, a cat-like creature, ferocious beasts that could peel back the flesh on their faces to show dripping fangs in total detail, howling and screeching to terrorize their prey.

Two krenshars in the wild.
Two krenshars in the wild.

This fight was not so simple.  Having rushed in, the party had no surprise advantage, they hadn’t even prepared to fight yet.  The leader barked orders in the goblin tongue, and the monsters rushed at them.  One of the bugbears produced a set of keys and made for the krenshars.  Seeing this, Drel set his focus on stopping him before he could reach the cage.  Everyone laid into the goblins with zeal, though it soon became apparent that they were outmatched.  In the fray Balthazar was knocked unconscious, and Aelar was very bloodied.  Just as things were looking hopeless, the leader took a hit amidst the mayhem.  The leader, even though he was barely hurt, pulled from his belt a vial and drank it, healing himself.

Seeing the effect of the potion, Aelar mustered all of his strength and leapt toward the leader.  In one fluid motion he rushed the leader, swiped the remaining healing potions, drank one himself, and administered another to Balthazar. At this point Drel had managed to kill the first bugbear, but not before one of the cages was opened.  Teeth met throat as the krenshar tore the bugbear’s life away.  The smell of blood had incensed the beast, and the brute was beyond command.  As it turned to rush the group, Iltani summoned his greatest power.

Focusing all of his physical and mental energy, he bound one of the bugbears with a thought, turning it into a living missile.  As the rest of the group continued fighting Iltani sent the brute careening through other opponents, inflicting pain with brutal force, and knocking the colliding foes prone.  When the bugbear finally broke free of the psion’s mental grip, it was killed by the krenshar.  No longer distracted by flying bugbears, the beast then prepared to lunge at Ashar.  Thinking quickly, Drel attempted to commune with the beast, in a desperate attempt to divert its attention to the passageway on the left, filling with the sound of approaching goblins.  Using his ranger experience he managed to get the word “GOBLIN” through, and pointed furtively to the left entrance.  With a flash of excitement in its eyes the creature charged out of sight.  Seizing the opportunity, the party quickly barricaded the entrance as the shrieking of dying goblins echoed from inside.  With his bodyguards and support gone, the leader fell quickly, and the battle was over.  Some more healing potions were found in the chest and, the cries of death having ceased, the party agreed that the task they had set out to accomplish was finished.

They returned to Tristan with the leader’s head.  Looking a little green himself at the grisly sight and the black stains on the fighters, Tristan nodded in acknowledgement and took them back to the Gate.  The group headed to the barracks, and reported everything that had happened to Bryne.  Bryne was pleased to hear that the clan was dispatched, but was still worried that something might come from the barricaded corridor the group had seen in the main chamber.  He offered the group another two hundred gold pieces each to confirm that there was nothing else to cause trouble in the cave.

Agrin’s Gate Chapters