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The die was cast, this time, at Tovag Baragu, where the Banite priest Colstan Rhuul sought as a boon the services of the long-destroyed Garth. Bane granted his wish, and Colstan Rhuul vanished. When the gods also departed, the heavens opened to make good the gods' decision to drown the Yazakh central lands in punishment for their aid to Vecna.

The Intrepid Paragon members who were present (Stonne, Wildcard, Greywolf, Agrippa, Elmo Oakley, Hernando, Khoresh, and Kliff) contemplated the long walk home to Southold. Their departure was delayed, however, when Stonne attacked Agrippa, intending to destroy the newborn lich. He was joined by Khoresh and Elmo. The lich, who was quickly brought near destruction, surrendered and pleaded for his existence. When it became clear that Greywolf and the others were giving serious consideration to the lich's plea, Stonne departed in disgust. Some days down the trail, when Agrippa was given a note written in an unfamiliar language, the lich fled the party.

Wildcard had also refused to travel with the lich. She instead rode with the Irrudian contingent of the army. Shortly after Agrippa's flight, the party stumbled on the scene of an apparent massacre, where something had slain most of the Irrudians with fire or explosions. Wildcard was nowhere to be found. Soon thereafter the party received a request from King Edmund of Southold to present themselves in Bywater rather than return to Dunthrane with the army. The remaining Paragon members thus returned to Bywater to a heroes' welcome. They were joined en route by a mysterious woman who proved to be Black Arrow's sister, Karina, a witch in her own right.

Meanwhile, far off in the Cortalish wilderness, Black Arrow had awoken on the night that Vecna's Disjunction was broken with the certain knowledge that Garth was back. He began to make his way back to civilization. Along the way he discovered that Banites had been making inquiries of his whereabouts. He travelled in secrecy to Bywater, there to rendezvous with the party and his sister during the parade.

Elsinor, meanwhile, had been slaying giants on the frontier near the Galathiene. He was summoned back to Bywater by his church, with the warning that the "Ephemorae" omens of Bane's final victory had reappeared. He, too, met the Paragon in Bywater.

The reconstituted Paragon met the king himself and several of his advisors in council. The king explained that there had been assassinations among his military leaders by a bizarre fiery manifestation which his men had taken to calling the "Witchwolf." This apparition was apparently linked to the legends of the Ephemorae, and to something called the "Lucifer Engine" located in the Cortalish wastes. There was an immediate need for more information concerning these legends, as well as reliable maps of the Cortalish interior.

Greywolf and Elmo were thus dispatched to the hamlet of Nuada's Love, there to review certain archives of Banite lore maintained by the Nuadan church in its ongoing effort to disprove those prophecies. Materials discovered there indicated that the Ephemorae were somehow generated by the Lucifer Engine, an artifact located somewhere in a mountain range known as the "Fangs of Bane."

Hernando and Khoresh went to Bol to steal a volume of maps of the Cortalish interior, the only volume known to exist outside the Empire itself. They succeeded in doing so, although Khoresh was badly wounded in the ensuing pursuit by the town guard.

Kliff and Karina travelled to Bracken to foil an assassination attempt on a military strategist there. En route they intercepted and destroyed a Cortalish commando squad that had been tasked with the assassination. Information gleaned from the corpses prompted Kliff to fly and run back through the Drentmoors to prevent a second assassination attempt, this one targeting Duke Duncan of Bywater. He arrived just in time to interrupt the assassination attempt.

Finally, Black Arrow and Elsinor investigated rumors of strange lycanthrope activity outside the frontier town of Evenham. There they encountered the "Evenham Devils," powerful lycanthropes which nearly slew them. The lycanthropes had been accompanied by a Banite, who escaped.

The party compared notes back in Bywater. Kliff listened to the rangers' descriptions of the "Evenham Devils" and concluded that they had met wratheaters among the most dreaded monsters of Thonian lore. He noted that, according to legend, one slain by a wratheater could never be restored to life.

The king notified the party that Gondal had disappeared soon after the assassination attempt in Bywater, but that his own people were working on locating the archmage. He requested that the Paragon instead undertake the task of destroying the Ephemorae. The party travelled with the Third Expeditionary Army to the Cortalish frontier. An intended feint to allow the party to slip across the border turned into a bloodbath, with the exhausted Third victorious, but without the men to hold the field against counterattack, let alone advance. The party eventually did cross the border, shadowed by Agrippa.

On the second night after the battle at the frontier, the party was attacked by the Witchwolf, which proved or at least seemed to be Garth, enshrouded by flames and possessed of terrible new powers. As the party correctly guessed, this was the Ephemorae spoken of in the Banite legends. The Witchwolf was apparently destroyed, but the party, mistrusting that their mission should be so easily accomplished, pushed on into the Cortalish desert. Ultimately they reached the area of the Ancient mountain range which (according to the volume of maps appropriated by Hernando and Khoresh) was known as the Fangs of Bane. They followed first a wagon trail, then a ruined brick road, once painted yellow, to a rift which led through the mountains.

At the mouth of the rift the adventurers attacked a small group of wratheaters. This minor conflict abruptly blossomed into one of the most difficult battles the party had ever fought, as large numbers of wratheaters emerged from hiding and attacked. Hernando valiantly abandoned his invisibility to aid Elmo, only to be slain himself by the incidental effects of the party's own magic; Elsinor and Greywolf each were rendered unconscious and were near death. Agrippa, sorely beset, drew an unfamiliar object from his robes and plunged it into his own breast. Smoky energies erupted from the item and slew two of his attackers. When the fray ended, however, he was still encircled by the strange energies. They formed an image of the Lichtor, the five-hundred-year-old version of himself from the future world ruled by Vecna. The Lichtor's image pronounced that only one of them could exist in this world, and then the energies savagely assailed Agrippa until he fell inanimate to the ground. Upon later inspection, he was discovered to be dead, but human once more.

Both Hernando and Agrippa were resurrected. Agrippa, to the surprise of all, returned from death as a lawful good, evangelically-minded fanatic who followed Greywolf as a prophet.

The party retreated to a mountainside cave to lick their wounds. That night they were attacked again by the Witchwolf, and again managed to destroy it. The next day they returned to the rift and entered the Fangs of Bane. While travelling through the rift they were attacked by a horde of toads with horny protrusions on their backs; further on they encountered an enormous owl, Hootowl Swornhowl, who professed to remember when Bane had placed the Lucifer Engine amongst the peaks an event which, if legend was to be believed, occurred when glaciers still covered Grund.

Pressing on, the party found an open area within the mountain chain containing the Lucifer Engine a sort of stone furnace with a black flame and a thirty-foot-tall statue of Garth. Before they could investigate, however, they were attacked by the Witchwolf once more. They discovered then that their spells and magic items would not function beyond a certain boundary. They nevertheless managed to defeat the Witchwolf a third time. It was at that point that the "statue" charged the opening in which they stood, unleashing a maelstrom of flame.

The final battle between Garth and the party was desperate and bloody. After taking substantial damage, Garth reverted to normal size; some time later Karina madly charged into melee with nothing more than a magical dagger. She struck a fortunate blow which, to her surprise, left Garth a "normal" werewolf. The end was not long in coming: another few blows left Garth near his doom, and he changed back to the man that had fathered Black Arrow and Karina, Bartholomew Garth.

Bart spoke feelingly to his children for a few moments. He then insisted that Black Arrow must kill him lest Garth regain his strength and take control of him once more. Black Arrow was more than willing to comply, and fired a single arrow that took Bart off his feet and left him dying in the dust.

Bart had warned the party of an orb hidden in the hills that Garth had used to communicate with someone. The party located this orb. When Greywolf picked it up, it activated, and soon the party was in conversation with Colstan Rhuul himself. Rhuul seemed unperturbed by Garth's destruction. He even noted that he would deactivate the Lucifer Engine to allow the party to use its magic once again. This seeming magnanimity was greatly undermined when he announced that his undead army had surrounded the party and would be invading the open area within the mountains to destroy them shortly.

During this conversation, the party could see Gondal, strapped to a board or table, being dragged in behind Rhuul by two of his zombie attendants. Rhuul ended his conversation at this point. As the stone went dark Gondal began to scream.

Black Arrow cursed and announced that Colstan Rhuul was a werewolf.

As the party contemplated this fresh horror, the sounds of shuffling feet and moaning could be heard, rising from the two entrances to the valley of the Lucifer Engine. Colstan Rhuul's undead army would soon attack...

So goodbye, yellow brick road,Where the dogs of society howl.You can't trap me in your penthouse,I'm going back to my plow;Back to the howling old owl in the woods,Hunting the horny backed toad -Oh, I've finally decided my future liesBeyond the yellow brick road...

- Elton John, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

- Oz, "The Wizard of Oz"

 

 

 

Miscreants Robbery Map

Miscreants Robbery Map

 

 

Colstan Rhuul

Colstan Rhuul

 

 

Elrich Meets Black Arrow on Lycnathrope Hunt

Black Arrow

 

 

 

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