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.
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.
“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.
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.
- “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.
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.
“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
- Part I: Foreword, The Gate
- Part II: The Contract, On Route To The Cave
- Part III: First Blood, Bugbears and Krenshars
- Part IV: Vore, The Crystal, The Incident
- Part V: The Swamp, The Fortress, Cordus, Bryne’s Suspicion
- Part VI: Dinosaurs, Bryne’s Refusal, Dragons (Finally)
- Part VII
- Part VIII
- Part IX
- Part X
- Part XI