The party did their best to recover from the draconian assault and decided to push on. Silentstorm noticed almost immediately that there were additional fresh tracks leading away from the encounter; apparently the four Draconians had not been alone.
Following the tracks (really the only passable trail through the swamp), the party began to see signs of a former civilization; broken pottery, the occasional broken wall or column sticking out of the murky water, and so forth. Soon the trail began to head uphill and the party found that the swamp drained into a river. The trail led uphill alongside the river, which quickly turned into a shallow canyon.
Before they knew it, the party found themselves standing at the top of two cliff faces; on the north/left side, the cliff fell away fifteen feet to the river below. Ahead of them to the east, the cliff fell well over a thousand feet. At the bottom, the New Sea. The river disgorged its contents in a fine spray to the sea.
Across the canyon lay a narrow tree trunk, the only means of crossing; the draconian tracks led across. The PCs began to cross, but halfway across Beldan fell off the log and was quickly swept over the falls by the now swift-flowing river. Beldan was gone. (DM’s Note: Player dropped out of group due to scheduling pressure; “obscure” death arranged)
The party was stunned by the sudden loss of their long-time companion. Thoughts of going after him were dashed by a single glance at the sharp-looking rocks at the bottom of the falls. After a brief mourning period, the party pushed on.
The trail led back into the swamp. As the ruins increased in frequency, Silentstorm was finally able to put words to the feeling that had been creeping up on him since they had entered the swamp, and those words were “I’ve been here before.” He was now certain that this is where he had first received the Blue Crystal Staff. As the late afternoon turned to dusk the party came upon the ruins of an obelisk of the blackest obsidian. At the base was written the following: “Welcome to Xak Tsaroth, beloved city of the Gods.”
Crossing past the obelisk, the party found themselves on a large clearing of solid ground. The ground was ancient cobblestone; an ancient plaza ringed by the ruins of several buildings. One building to the north appeared almost intact. In the center of the plaza stood a large well. The tracks led into the well. As the party clustered around the well, two things happened.
First, Silentstorm noticed that both Goldmoon and Helrak had disappeared. Only he and Thorim were standing near the well as the second thing occurred: a shadowy bulk emerged from the well and flew up above the PCs heads. The fading light revealed a figure that any child could instantly recognize: a large dragon with scales of the blackest night.
A reptilian yet clearly female voice roared from the dragon as it flew overhead, looking down at Silentstorm: “You! I should have killed you before, but no matter! I shall rectify the situation now!” And with that, it flew straight at Silentstorm, emitting a large splash of powerful acid upon him, wounding him grievously. Cowed, the party attempted to flee as Thorim fired spell after ineffectual spell on the dragon in an attempt to cover their escape, but the dragon was not to be denied. With another swoop and another belch of acid, Silentstorm was dead, melting slowly onto the cobblestones.
As the dragon turned toward the other PCs Goldmoon and Helrak reappeared, stepping out of the building to the north. Goldmoon held the Blue Crystal Staff aloft and a piercing ray of blue light erupted from it and struck the dragon in the chest. With a scream of pain and apparent fear, the dragon turned and dived back into the well.
Seeing her beloved dead on cobblestones, Goldmoon rushed to him and knelt. Whispering under her breath for several moments, she then touched the remains with the Blue Crystal Staff. Blue light flashed and where once had been a blob of melting flesh now lay Silentstorm, alive and intact.
Goldmoon and Helrak then explained where they had been for the last few minutes:
Helrak and Goldmoon, upon entering the plaza, had found themselves inexplicably drawn to the building to the north. Pushing open the golden doors, they had found themselves in a large domed room, clearly a temple. In the center of the room stood a giant statue of a woman in flowing robes, with her hands outstretched as if she were holding something. Helrak watched as Goldmoon walked up to the statue and placed the Blue Crystal Staff into the hands of the statue.
The statue came alive and smiled warmly down at Goldmoon. With a warm voice, it said:
“Beloved daughter, welcome. I am Mishakal, Goddess of Mercy and Healing. Know this: the true Gods did not turn away from the world as mortals currently believe; it was the world that turned its back on the Gods. But in this time of stuggle…”
As the statue continued speaking to Goldmoon, Helrak heard “Psst! Hey, over hear!” Turning to look, he watched as a dwarf stepped out from an alcove. He was dressed in flowing silks, rather like a merchant, with a long black beard. Helrak hurried over to him.
“I am the God Reorx,” said the dwarf, and Helrak instantly fell to his knees. “You know this in your heart, even as you answered my summons. Your faith will be rewarded.”
The dwarf looked almost embarrassed as he continued: “Normally I don’t involve myself in the affairs of the other Gods, but there’s something not right about the things Takhisis has set in motion, and I’ve decided to ally myself with Mishakal and Paladine in the war that’s coming.”
Reorx glanced over at Goldmoon. “Protect her, and help her in her mission. Below is an artifact called the Disks of Mishakal. With its help you can ordain yourself as a paladin in my service.
“The road ahead of you will not be easy. You will be asked to sacrifice much in my service, but if you present yourself with courage and faith you will be rewarded.
“There is more to you than you know. You will find—” Reorx broke off in mid-sentence and glanced behind him. “Darkness is on the move. You’d better get back out there.”
Instantly Helrak was on his feet and running out the door, Goldmoon beside him.
As they finished their tale, Goldmoon explained their instructions. Deep below the plaza lay the ruins of the city of Xak Tsaroth. Somewhere within those ruins, likely guarded by the dragon, lay an artifact known as the Disks of Mishakal. They must retrieve the Disks and take them to a leader who could unite the people against the coming darkness.
Goldmoon indicated that the way lay through the Temple of Mishakal to the north. The party entered the temple and found a stairs in a back room leading down. As they descended, Thorim suddenly recalled (without understanding the source or why he was suddenly recalling it) that Xak Tsaroth was the last known location of the Ritual Book of Fistandantilus.
The stairs emptied on what was clearly a crypt or mausoleum; dead, mummified bodies lined alcoves on the wall. Dim light filtered up through holes in the floor, which was clearly unstable. As the party explored the crypt, they encountered a group of more than two dozen Gully Dwarves standing in line along a narrow corridor. Aside from occasionally shushing the PCs, the dwarves ignored them. As the PCs stood there, a commotion further down the corridor occurred. They could just make out in the dim light a group of draconians marching in one doorway and out another further down the corridor. Almost immediately afterward they heard the crack of a whip and a guttural voice shouting “Get going!” Half of the gully dwarves filed down the hall and disappeared through the same doorway that had emitted the draconians.
The party braced themselves for combat from the draconians, but they never reappeared; instead, after several long moments, another dozen or so gully dwarves came around the corner, brushed passed the PCs, and stood in line behind the remaining dwarves.
Curious as to this behavior, Thorim approached the last dwarf in line, a grubby half-naked female who introduced herself as “Me Bupu!”. When asked about the line she said “We go down, bosses go up.” When asked where she had come from, she said “We come back up. We go down. Bosses go up.” She also indicated an interest in Thorim, apparently fascinated by the fact that he was a magician.
At this point, Silentstorm recalled the location and explained to the party that a large clockwork that consisted of two large cookpots attached to a chain and suspended by that chain on a wheel allowed the draconians to lift themselves to the surface by filling one pot with more weight in gully dwarves than was in the ascending pot.
After some exchanges with Bupu, the PCs worked out a deal with her: in exchange for a shiny spoon which Thorim produced from a deep pocket of his robes, Bupu would lead the PCs down without the knowledge of the “bosses”. She led the PCs to what was apparently once a sewer pipe but which was now sticking up at an angle through one of the rooms in the crypt. The PCs began to climb down the pipe, but the pipe was coated in a slimy algae and the PCs soon found themselves sliding down the pipe at breakneck speeds. As they passed a junction in the pipe, Silentstorm managed to grab hold and hold back most of the other PCs. Unfortunately, Helrak was in front of him and missed the grab. He plummeted down into a room that was clearly a basement, but upside-down. He soon discovered that he was in the basement of an upside-down tavern, which was inhabited by the ghostly remains of a rather rousing party. The ghosts proved interested only in their ghostly drink, and Helrak eventually made his way back up the pipe to the junction.
After extricating themselves from the sewer pipe, the PCs eventually found themselves in a small dimly-lit ruined street. Wandering through, they found a swift-moving stream running through the street, having cut a rather deep channel through the cobblestones. Across it lay a fortified building still apparently intact, unlike the ruined buildings that lined the street. Entering it despite Bupu’s suggestion that it was a dead-end, the encountered another ghost, apparently a tax collector, who mistook them for one of his tax collecting minions. The ghost demanded the final payment. When the PCs shrugged and plopped 50 GP on the table, the ghost took it (or a ghostly representation of it) and faded away.
In the next room the party found dozens of rotting sacks of some sort of clay coin; apparently Xak Tsaroth used this clay as its currency, but it was utterly worthless now, except to a historian or collector. Thorim grabbed a small handful, just in case.
The party also found two alcoves that were dimension doors leading to some other portion of the ruins… the bottom of a fallen tower that was apparently embedded in the cliff wall of a large cavern. It was also surrounded by a somewhat high wall, so the PCs returned to the treasury / tax collector’s building and began followed Bupu.
Bupu led them down the street-stream until they came to the top of a large waterfall overlooking a larger cavern. Ghostly gaslights illuminated the ruins of the city proper 300 feet below. On the far side of the caverns another waterfall emptied into the ruins; the streams collected in a large pool at the bottom of the ruins, which drained away again to the right side of the cavern. Near the exiting stream, the PCs recognized the ruined tower they had discovered through the dimension doors in the treasury. They could also observe the cook pot elevator Silentstorm had described stretching to the ceiling, apparently taking another small squad of draconians to the surface.
As the party watched at the top of the falls, they heard the booming voice of the dragon bellowing “GHAKAN!!!!” Startling fearfully, they noticed the dragon emerging from a cave mouth at the bottom of the cave south of the pool, but she was not looking in their direction. Instead she waited impatiently as a group of draconians came out of a cluster of buildings underneath the cook pot elevator. They stopped at the pool and one flew over the pool to the dragon.
There followed a hurried conversation between the two which the PCs couldn’t overhear. The dragon grew more and more agitated with whatever the draconian had to say, and the conversation ended with the dragon bellowing “Do whatever it takes! Find them! KILL THEM AND BRING ME THE STAFF!!” With that the dragon turned back into her cave and the draconian returned to his fellows.
At this point Bupu suggested that they climb down the waterfall. By now the PCs had explained to her that they were hoping to find something owned by the dragon, and she had suggested that they meet the Highbulp, the leader of the gully dwarves, who was rumored to know a secret way into the dragon’s lair. Thorim, recalling the ruined tower, suggested that they take the dimension doors instead. Very shortly the party found themselves in the “throneroom” of the Highbulp.
The “throne” of the Highbulp consisted of an ancient wooden high-chair that had somehow survived the Cataclysm and 350 years of ruinous swamp. The royal robes were an old mauve curtain. The royal crown was the ring of a bottomless metal pail.
The negotiations with the Highbulp were long and consisted chiefly of the Highbulp insisting that the PCs kill the dragon while the PCs insisted that the Highbulp organize the gully dwarves in revolt as a distraction. When it eventually became clear to the PCs that the gully dwarves were cowards to the last man, the PCs agreed (with their fingers crossed) to take on the dragon. The plan was to sneak in when the dragon was sleeping, grab the disks (“kill the dragon”) and get out of Dodge.
When they arrived at the dragon’s lair, they found themselves in utter darkness. Magical darkness. They crept carefully around but were unable to penetrate it. After several moments, the dragon, in a somewhat testy voice, said “how pathetic” and the darkness cleared up. The light coming from the main cavern revealed a pile of gold and jewels, the Disks of Mishakal nestled atop it, and a very large, very angry black dragon standing with one claw over the Disks.
The dragon spoke. “Did you think I wouldn’t know your goal? Puny mortals. I have the Disks, and I will not give them up. I can kill you all with a single breath, but I am prepared to be merciful. Bring the staff to me, lay it at my feet, and kneel before me. If you do so, I will spare your lives. I will even let you go free. The choice is yours.”
Thorim took the opportunity while the dragon was speaking to scan the treasure for the Ritual Book of Fistandantilus, but was unable to find it.
As the dragon finished speaking, Goldmoon then turned to the others and said “Trust me. Stay back. When the time comes, grab the Disks and flee.” She then walked forward as if to present the staff to the dragon. As she stepped forward, Helrak accompanied her, propelled forward by a message from Reorx: “Stay with her. When the time comes, strike.”
Goldmoon and Helrak approached the dragon, but instead of surrendering the staff, Goldmoon cried “knowledge of the Gods will return to Krynn!” and swung the staff at the dragon. At that same instant Helrak swung his hammer at the dragon. The staff hit the dragon on the claw, and Helrak’s hammer hit the staff, which shattered. Blue light poured out, engulfing the dragon, Goldmoon, and Helrak in a blinding explosion, which knocked the rest of the party prone. When the party managed to get to their feet, they found Goldmoon, Helrak, and the dragon completely gone. Disintegrated.
The explosion apparently did some damage to the cavern as well, as stalactites began falling from the cavern roof onto the treasure pile. An ominous rumbling began to shake the cavern. Silentstorm grabbed the Disks of Mishakal while Thorim, after another fruitless search for the Ritual Book of Fistandantilus, quickly stuffed several hands full of gemstones and jewelry into his pouches. Grabbing Bupu, who having apparently fallen in love with Thorim had refused to leave his side, Thorim, Silentstorm, and Muffin ran for it. The party made their way back to the Temple of Mishakal, dodging falling rocks and running gully dwarves as Xak Tsaroth fell aparat. By the time they had reached the Temple, the rumbling was over and Xak Tsaroth was at the bottom of the New Sea.
When they entered the room with the statue, they observed an interesting sight. Lying at the foot of the statue were Goldmoon and Helrak, sleeping peacefully. Around their necks were medallions of platinum, each with a symbol engraved on the disk. Goldmoon’s was shaped like an infinity symbol, while Helrak’s appeared to be a hammer.
Finding the Temple defensible, the party rested for the night, then pushed on out of the swamp. But first, it was time to say goodbye to Bupu. She pulled Thorim aside in tears, explaining in her halting common that although she loved him (oblivious to the fact that he found her disgusting), she would not be able to go with him. She had to stay and help the rest of her clan find a new place to live.
She then presented Thorim with a gift: a book of magic she had found in the dragon’s lair. It was the Ritual Book of Fistandantilus. Thorim was overwhelmed by the gift and in return gave her a large emerald from the booty he had collected in the lair. He then knelt down and kissed her. Then, with a final “me always remember you!” she was gone.
Here ends Session 3