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.

Endgame

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.

“Y-yes.”

“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.”

“Who?”

“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

Epilogue

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.

Afterword

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

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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.

Mezzodemon
The insectoid Mezzodemon with a trident.
Immolith
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