Dark Sun: Shards of a Broken Crown

Restructuring for 5e
yay 5e

This game fell off over the last year but renewed interest has me cooking up a new chapter set in a different city-state.

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Under-Tyr The ruins of a temple from a bygone age

The Heroes had decided to search out the abandoned temple when light and voices echoed down the hall they had come. A raggedy group of beggars and urchins cautiously inched their way up the passage toward the heroes. They were led by Jossi a street performer and member of Tyr’s Eyes that was known to Marcupio and Varis. After introductions, the raggedly group recounted their flight into Under-tyr. Templars above ground had begun to arrest the ne’er do well that hung around respectable districts. The Templars have been emboldened by a new decree from the King. All suspicious individuals were to be arrested and questioned about recent terrorist acts against the crown and Tyr.

One member of Tyr’s eyes offered to travel with the heroes in hopes of finding another exit to the surface. Ofeen Nole, a head strong dwarf who is effectively blind and well into his stone years. The wily old dwarf projects raw emotion into allies around him and uses the way to navigate his surroundings. The heroes pass through several empty courtyards and yawning plazas that show evidence of a culture long ago buried and forgotten before encountering the camp of a necromancer and her cohorts. Thankfully her underlings and herself are away. In her lair were swarms of zombies tethered in place and room for many more. Awakened rot grub swarms feasted on the animated corpses and drew the party in to the zombies clutches. The party overcame the hazards of the necromancer and searched through her personal effects to find much information on rituals that involved contacting a spirit from the Gray. Nearby a side cave leeches ethereal mists from a breach into the Gray. This necromancer Temmnya has cobbled together a hasty ritual to allow audience with a power far more ancient and evil than Tyr has seen. Abel the young man from Tyr is concerned Temmnya might have used this entities power before when he was first animated as an undead warrior. This revelation interests Sandra the Hexblade most because she has also reached out into the Gray and bargained with a Collector, a being she knows very little about.

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Into Under-Tyr thru the Tembo's Teeth

Previously
The Heroes traveled across the Tablelands toward Tyr in search of those responsible for purchasing Abraxus’s dray Coterie. They were going to be forced into recovering artifacts for an unknown organization in return for their freedom. Upon reaching Tyr’s gates they see a great crowd milling about the Caravan Gate. The heroes discover that non-human travelers are being scrutinized by Templars and House Vordon guards. Those seeking swift entry have to pay a hefty
bribe and be thoroughly questioned about an incident. Templars have been searching for those involved in a series of attacks that have further destabilized tyr. Varis an elf thief in the heroes group knows of a path thru the Tembo’s Teeth in Under-Tyr into the city.

Into the Tembo’s Teeth
Varis leads the group thru a series of tunnels that interconnect with sunken streets, dizzying stairs and light-less courtyards. The group doubled back a handful of times because the path has been blocked off by a cave-in. Signs point to Templars sealing off known exit/entrances into Under-Tyr. Part ways along an underground trail that hugged a cliff face voices were heard far below in the ruins of a crumbled building. The party moved along more cautious of attracting attention. They eventually entered a great cavern where the remains of a temple teetered precariously over a chasm. Ancient Hieroglyphs of conflicting belief covered what few walls remained standing. This site looked to be re-purposed many times over several centuries before being buried in a catastrophe long ago. A trapdoor near a broken statue of a demonic creature was accidentally found by Abel. Inside the remains of Priests who wielded a shard of Necromantic Obsidian rose to drive away the Heroes. The encounter quickly became overrun with undead swarming those still above in the ruins and those below in the priests rectory. The heroes overcame the zombies and hurried past the temple into another series of tunnels that would hopefully lead to the surface. They climbed up stairs that might have connected to the basement of a warehouse once but a fresh cave-in blocked the way. Varis was troubled because members of his old gang-The Toothcutters- had been seen in the mob of zombies. The group planned to return to the Temple and move thru the lower level in search of another way out or strike out into another section of Under-Tyr.

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Cruel as a Desert Wind

Abraxus and Darsaadi recount a tale of their betrayal in Tyr. Both dray are part of a coterie that had set up an exchange of arcane reagents for a relic of dray craftsmanship. The deal had gone bad and the group had been overcome and captured by unidentified assailants who posed as Veiled Alliance. Darsaadi discovered that his group had been sold into slavery and now the survivors were property of House Tsalaxa. With the freeing of Tyr’s slaves, the survivors of the Crimson Scales were moved to a remote Tsalaxa fort. Abraxus has been looking for a lead on vengeance since the day he himself escaped the slave pits of tyr. Rescuing the Coterie will fulfill his desire to lead his clan brothers out of this dire situation. 4 c647 e091 603385 800
(This image is a preview of the new terrain I am using in future games. Here the characters have stopped by a small Oasis near a village to rest and draft a plan in approaching a Tsalaxa Fort.)
The group set out from Tyr traveling in a small caravan. They spent the first night fighting back marauding Belgoi Stalkers who had entranced members to walk unprotected into the desert. Later that same night a Silk wyrm stalked the survivors till the morning sun deterred it from striking. The next day the group camped near a settlement and witnessed a phenomenon of desert tribes. The inhabitants were travelling by night performing a ritualistic dance macabre where they exchanged places with the dead to keep from falling prey to them. The Heroes continued on to the nearby town where a Harvest-King was tethered to the gray by defiled sand. The spirits and corpses of the dead were slowly passing thru the barriers of the gray to prey on the living. Upon defeating the Harvest-King certain members of the group were tapped by entities in the Gray. A shade of a woman who had performed the ritual was seen as an echo in the closing of the gate.
The next day the Adventurers continued on to Fort Tsalaxa and hatched a plan to pose as potential slave buyers. Thanks to Varis’s shady background they bluffed their way past the guards and met Oathem Tsalaxa, the Fort’s Overlord. He was busy entertaining another Buyer, Arra of Draj. The Slaver had made her decision quietly as Oathem explained the value of his sensitive merchandise. He also regrettably informed the group that he did not have slaves suitable for combat, his gladiator merchandise had been recently sold out. Abel was about to inquire about dray slaves when he saw what Arra had intended for her two recent purchases. A mul held the waif-thin girl steady as Arra pushed a young man to the ground and swung her mace overhead for a skull crushing bash. Abel surged forward and absorbed the blow with the power of his mind. The slaver lashed out and set her Inix on the party, she would not abide the disrespect these wanderers had for her. The skirmish was quick and bloody. Arra lay bleeding into the sand as Oathem had her bodyguards trussed join his stock of slaves. Oathem stooped low to whisper last words and crumbled worthless glass on her dead body, the payment she had sworn were gems mined in Draj. Oathem withdrew from the bloody mess and invited the players to choose from his remaining stock for he had business to finish inside. The crack of a door being thrown open and the rush of several dray roaring in draconic quickly put the idea of a sale behind them. Abraxus had finally located the remains of his Coterie and they were in the midst of a change of leadership, a bloody affair for Dray.

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Intermission-Arena and Brickyard Rumble

Having found the Lost Cistern and delivered the information to Murter Dyan, the heroes were asked to follow thru on what they had found scratched onto the Cisterns Interior. A partial Map of the Table lands, which responded to a fragment of clay marker the group carried. Dyan felt this info was crucial and retained the heroes while his underlings retrieved Varun, the human who had originally sold the quest to the Cistern. There in Dyan’s estate the heroes stood by while a mind-bender, Azzer, plumbed the depths of this wretches thoughts. A location was gleaned, an ancestral estate deep in the warrens.

The heroes set off, some motivated by reward, others on retainer by Dyan. Along the way the group ran headlong into a marching Riot of brickers that pushed them deeper into back-alleys. The Buildings loomed around them while hooded figures slinked in the shadows. By the time they arrived at the estate they had survived attacks by Ruin-Creepers, a group of feral halflings and the undead that swarmed up from the underground Elven River near the estate. In the depths of the Estate the heroes overcame a dwarven apprentice of Aravek who guarded fragments of information on the creation of Aravek’s Cisterns. Destroying the wight also shattered an unstable gate into what could only be the gray, where motes of dread phased through to dominate flesh. The group also met a primal wanderer in the depths. His motivations where his own but he helped banish the wight.

Dyan was pleased up[on the return of this crucial information and requested the heroes to attend the First Coucil of Nobles. He would gather his resources to survey the lost cistern meanwhile he proposed a civil project everyone could benefit from. Water, Pulled from the air, around strategic locations in the Tablelands would give Tyr footholds for new forts and outposts. Dyan passed the fame onto the heroes but his proposal was met with disagreement and outright ridicule. Tyr is broke, It has no funds to support an army much less to build cisterns in the wastelands. The first council of Nobles quickly devolved into chaos and screaming matches. The exclusion of the Artisans and freed-slaves added more fuel to the fire when they managed to force their way into the council hall.

The heroes had seen enough of the wisdom of the Council and decided to aid a mul in need, Nori a bricker reached the Group through Drogan. A well-liked supervisor had recently been killed in an accident in the Brick Yard Kiln and Nori suspected foul play. She asked the heroes, who had a good rep in the city to ask what the Templar in charge intended to do about it. Heroes where pointed to Quaan, Templar of the 6th Rank and overseer of the Brickyards. Quaan is an over worked man of middle ages and uninteresting features. He keeps guards on hand to dissuade agitated workers from attempts on his life. Because of the many years Kalak poured into the creation of the pyramid other civil projects have fell into decay. One only need to see the long line of messengers bearing wax tablets and papyrus scrolls standing their turn to bury this man in bureaucratic regulations and orders to see why he is oblivious to the happenings in his work yard.

Suffice it to say after a few hard looks were shared at the heroes and their questions, the group retired to the Weeping Widow Wine Sink. The group passed the time in whichever vice they preferred and discovered a member deep in his cup wrapped in the arms of a dancer, Sandra. After that encounter the group heard that practice fights would be held until the Arena was made ready for preliminary rounds. Tyr was hosting its monthly games in hopes to raise a purse for civic projects and the reward was grand-master training in martial, the way of the unseen, or other rewards the king might grant.

After a few fights between the rougher free-slaves and some junior gladiators several members in the group scored enough points to advance into the next round of fights that would be held nearly a week later. During the conclusion of the last fight, disaster struck the stadium as several beasts were freed from their pens and turned upon the crowd. The heroes sprang to defend themselves and chased three culprits into the Brickyards.

The group lost some of the terrorists in the crowds gathering in the brickyards outside an administration building. The situation was volatile, dwarves and a trio of thri-kreen had brought a concern to the overseers attention but were being turned away. They turned on the nearest Templar, Erdane who approached in pursuit of the culprits. Just as the group had the upper hand an explosion rocked the Brickyards and rained down debris and smoke over the area. The Kiln of the first Flame had roared explosively to life. Rawr subdued the dwarf and hauled him half-way across Tyr to Dyan’s estate. The group needed answers while Abel and the others chased after an elf sniper. Erdane took up his templar duty and pursued the final culprit, a Tiefling, into the Kiln.

The heroes faced a Tiefling who worked at a crude ritual in the Kiln. Fire hounds burst from lava pools and a Magma Strider charged amid the heroes. Varis weaved between the blaze and struck at the Summoner who brought up a reflexive veil for protection. Marcupio capitalized on the dazed summoner and struck a killing blow but his blade passed harmlessly through a mirage. After the fight a sour Templar attempted to restrain the group but quickly thought otherwise when a dead body began rising from the ashes of the blaze. His guardsmen fled at the sight of Abel’s singed corpse. In a strange turn of events the reagents that were used in the summoning were claimed by Darsaadi. He said that when his clan and Abraxus were taken as prisoners, templars had confiscated his arcane goods. In finding his belongings he offered a quest to the group, Cruel as a Desert Wind.

The group regrouped at Dyan’s estate. Some members had come under the attention of Gregol the templar. Some brickers had seen them at the scene of the explosion, things are in chaos in and around the arena/ brickyards but Dyan has information his mind-bender tore from the dwarfs mind before he succumbed to his wounds.

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Lost Cistern of Aravek
after the events of Vault of D. M.

The band of Lunatics, Mercenary’s and Adventurers succeeded in turning a profit on their latest exploit and deserved only the finest Tyr could offer. They holed up in the Golden Inix, an Inn that catered to soldiers of fortune. The night was filled with celebration, inebriation and bad ideas. Drogan fell in to competing in feats of strength and athletics with a trio of brickers. After
half a dozen games where drogan had held his own he was led aside and implored to take up a quest for the free-slaves of Tyr. Abruptly, a rotund man passed through the bead curtained threshold of the inn. He called for Wine and clapped hands with a Dray that was sitting apart from the crowd. To be continued…

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Vault of Darom Madar
Before the Lost Cistern of Aravek after Sand Raiders

The heroes, Abraxus, Drogan , Shelissa , the Knight and a defiler named Viridus joined a caravan led by Ghul Tomblador on a journey to the deep desert in search of the Vault of Darom Madar, it was rumored to be in the canyon of Guthay. After much adversity they found the cavern by dumb luck. One such harrowing tale was when the heroes were beset by a Gith tribe who were crushed with the aid of Ghul’s champion A fierce Tarek gladiator. Inside the dead still guarded the ancient tomb. Their guide and supposed key into the inner sanctum was an ally named Viridus Madar, who claimed to be the last living scion of the Madar House. Viridus rarely cooperated and even fled the spirit of his ancestor who guarded the treasure room. Luckily spirits of long dead adventurers rose up to fulfill their dying wish of unearthing this treasure they had died in pursuit of. Their spirit forms helped strike down Darom Madar and slipped into a restful afterlife. The heroes were rich! They estimated the vault held riches in excess of ten thousand coin. Several characters pulled one treasure that they saw with favor. Unfortunately, the heroes had taken a few days longer than had Ghul agreed to wait for them near the canyon of guthay. Upon arriving at the agreed upon site they found nothing but the remains of a battle between gith and the caravan. Shelissa was mortally wounded, lying atop the bodies of heaps of gith. On the horizon drogan spied the caravan moving into the alluvial sand wastes. With great haste the group reached Tomblador and convinced them to turn around with tales of the riches they found. The group recovered the treasure and began their long journey to Tyr where Ghul had contacts to offload their sensitive goods. During this journey to tyr the group was joined by Dreyfuss a sage and the Tarek elite left the company. Within a day ride to tyr the group was beset by a highly disciplined group of raiders that were in the employ of house Wavir. Miryon Vor, dwarf, identified himself as the leader of a Wavir sponsored caravan that had lost most of its crew searching for the Vault. He swore and oath the riches would never leave the desert and fired bolts into the slave crew of Tomblador. After felling the dwarf the caravan had too few slaves to man a laden silt skimmer. It was left behind, hidden in the sand maybe never to be found again (there goes 4500gp). The caravan made it back to Tyr where Ghul sold his slave crew outside the city much to the ire of Dreyfuss. Inside Ghul needed a few days to liquidate their assets and would meet the group at the Golden Inix. Abraxus, the knight and allies hatched a plan to retrieve the lost wagon laden with treasure. They found the wagon being picked over by Kruthik and foolhardy rushed them to drive them off. A hive lord burrowed up to defend the clutch and made short work of the group. The only surviving member fled back to tyr by crodlu.

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Sand Raiders
after blood sand arena before Vault of D. Madar

The heroes spend the night tucked into a Caravanserai, sure they will be forcefully ejected as soon as the sandstorm subsides. Luckily the moment the wind lessens, sometime near the early dawn, a dwarf and the remains of a caravan push through into town and the caravanserai.
" Aid! I require scouts to recover a wagon lost in this blasted storm. 100 gold ceramic coins to the
party who comes to Rhotan vor’s aid. I shall be eternally in debt to you and so will be my house Wavir."

Only a few members took the bounty, Drogan, Abraxus and Shelissa. Benlys had thanked the party for helping him reach altaruk and had left sometime during the night.

Before the group left altaruk, still apprehenisive at the thought of being caught in the open with a sand storm very nearby a tall man walked straight toward them. He was armored in a polished carapace plate armor that had been painted white and carried an obsidian sword that gleamed whiter than the sun. " That caravan doesn’t stand the chance of cool rain in High sun, we have to help, I will help you."

The group braved the desert and survived the attacks of a tribe of silt runners, kruthiks and a ssuran before recovering the cargo and the few remaining free-men. Unfortunately the one adversary that wasn’t susceptible to blade or spell defeated them. Athas’s blistering heat proved too much and forced the heroes to abandon the majority of the wagon and its goods.

Back in Altaruk the group approached Rhotan for their 100gp reward. To say rhotan was disappointed at the loss of his goods to exhaustion, not raiders, slavers or a monster but exhaustion! irked him. He gave the heroes 20% of the reward but that did not sit well with drogan and abraxus. They intimidated the dwarf into paying them in full and luckily rhotan was alone. “Take yer gold, but heed me well, you’ve crossed House Wavir, watch yourselves.” " and you white knight, your reputation is not what I expected if you keep this company" with that Rhotan retreated to his emporium. The Heroes had just began to discuss their next move when Tellemon and
Guards arrived to make good on their threat from the day before. “A caravan lead by house Tomblador is marshaling outside the town walls. It’s time to go.”

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Blood Sand Arena

After a long and dangerous trek from Tyr, you finally arrive at the gates leading into Altaruk. As Kaldras speaks to mercenary guards who palm the proffered ceramic coins, your eyes travel up the smooth walls that enclose the town. More guards, armed with obsidian-tipped spears, perch at intervals atop the wall. Every third guard faces the town rather that the landscape. As Kaldras wraps up his conversation, he motions for the caravan to follow inside.
You meander through a ramshackle bazaar, watching as elf merchants haggle and assortment of buyers. Realizing this must be the elven market in Altaruk, you start thinking about what you should once Kaldras pays you, Within minutes the caravan stops, and Kaldras greets members of his Moonrunner tribe. As elves begin unloading the cargo, Kaldras asks you to unhitch the kanks while he fetches your wages. He dissapears into a nearby tent.

Benlys the swordmage spots the approaching elves fingering their blades rather than eye the cargo. A flash of scintillating colors burst over the market as he yells, warning of treachery.

The fight is brutal and quick, Abraxus maneuvers the group into a defensible wedge and drives them into the tent Kaldras stands near. Kaldras sneers as the fighting closes but he is overcome by Drogan berserk rage and Abraxus’s tactics. The elf peddler ordered his tribe to knock out the heroes and even used innocents as shields but it was no use.

  • Abraxus* stood victorious over the elf peddler as he drew a blade over his throat, “Courage is going from failure to failure even after loSssing your coin
    As you stand over the body of the fallen elf, a murderous glint shines in the members of the moonrunner tribe. Before you can land another blow, a commanding voice reverberates through the market square.
    “Hold! Stay your weapons! By the authority of Arisphistaneles, I order you to cease your violence!” Mercenary guards armed with razor sharp obsidian spears pour from every nearby passage. The elves’ eyes flick warily in your direction as they wait to see how you’ll react to the captain’s order.
    A battle scarred human male in a polished carapace breast-plate strides towards you. The sun reflects brilliantly off his bared steel short sword. Everyone’s eyes are drawn to the precious metal. “I am Tellemon, captain of the guard of this quarter, You have violated the peace, and I demand to know why.”

“Dangerous slaves milord,” says a young elf who identifies himself as Kaldras’s son. “They slew my father who was charged to return them to their owner in Balic. They would have harmed more of my tribe have you not stopped them lord, I beg they are punished and banished from Altaruk.”

The heroes bungle a response, only holding their rage in check and managing to point fingers as the elves being treacherous.
“yes, yes, the moonrunners have long brought coin into this town and you four are new. I believe you are dangerous and for that you will fight in the blood sand arena, all winnings you might earn will be paid to the moonrunners for their loss. Thereafter you four are to leave town on the first caravan out from here, you wont cause trouble on my watch.” says tellemon.

The heroes participate in a game “Coins in the Coffer” against a band of Gith gladiators. They lose because of the Gith’s underhanded but fair tactics. The crowd having bet on the humans erupt in outrage and the four are met with contempt on the town. Later that night a sandstorm blows over the area and everyone is forced to stay indoors until the morning.

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Freedom
Beginning of campaign

A deafening BOOM rocks the bone cage you stand in, shoulder to shoulder with other gladiator slaves. Moments later a shock wave knocks dozens unto the sand and tweaks the mekillot bone ribs that comprise your cell. A disheleveled man croaks “Freedom” over the rising dust and as one hundreds of slaves surge forward to the exit of the Pit.

For generations unto generations, every city of Athas has been dominated by powerful sorcerer-kings, fierce tyrants who rule unchallenged the scattered great oases.

Unchallenged, that is, until now, for at last one city has overthrown its oppressive lord and freed itself from the shackles of blind tradition.

Tyr, once known as a decadent sprawl of slavery and vice, has roused itself with terrifying energy. It was a storm long brewing. For two decades, the slaves, citizens, and nobles of Tyr suffered under the increasing madness of King Kalak, struggling at his command to build a massive ziggurat in the heart of the city. Its purpose cloaked in mystery, the people only knew that it was destroying them.

First, there were extra taxes to pay for material, and then more and more slaves were pressed into its construction. Output from Tyr’s greatest resource, its fabulous iron mines, slowly dwindled as Kalak concentrated all the city’s efforts on his ziggurat. The citizens, then the nobles, began to suffer as trade with other city states languished. Although they were worried, the fear of Kalak’s ire was sufficient to keep the nobility cowed.
It was only in the last few months that the oppression grew too great. With the ziggurat nearly complete, Kalak’s obsession reached new extremes. The host of High Templar Tithian, Master of Games and Public Works, formed press gangs to scour the streets, enslaving the poor and indigent. The Templars commandeered almost every slave in the city, from the meanest bricklayer’s apprentice to the wealthiest nobles’ last few field-hands. With the plantation workers depleted, nobles’ fortunes teetered on the brink of ruin and the city faced eventual starvation. Yet to this all, Kalak turned a deaf ear. The little concern he once had for his people seemed to vanish like smoke.

It was in one of the press gangs’ sweeps that Drogan the Mul from the Tamwar wastes and Shelissa the Shell were captured. Abraxus the Dray Dune Trader and his kin just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time selling the wrong reagents, when Veiled Alliance agents ( A dwarf and human, Tuzul-dwarf and “Two-Coins”-Human) double crossed them and offered/sold them as slaves to a Templar . Meanwhile, Benlys “Old Keen Blade” was looking to establish a connection with the Tyrian Veiled Alliance since he was from the Altaruk’s cell. He found himself sitting right next to the preserver Mahlanda in a tavern, as she was trying to escape from Templars and their Half-Giant retinue. Once again, it did not take long for the Templars to use the lack of answer to their questions as an excuse to take everyone in the inn prisoner.

That’s how all four characters were unfairly made prisoner and sent to the slave pens. There, they labored under harsh conditions, threatened with death every day, to build Kalak’s monumental folly.

The five eventually got noticed by gladiator overseers and moved to the gladiatorial pits for training. As the Ziggurat was nearing completion, the High Templar of the Games and of the King’s Works, Tithian, was more in need of good fighters, than of slaves. The group started training relentlessly and easily won their test fight against an Id Fiend.

Then the day of the games arrived. Ostensibly, the games were meant to celebrate the completion of Kalak’s rainbow-colored ziggurat and they were to be the greatest spectacle ever staged in Tyr. Everyone, even the lowest slaves, was expected to attend. Most came by choice, for the contest was free and promised to be at least a small spark of relief from Kalak’s strangling reign. Stragglers and slaves were herded to the great arena by the sorcerer-king’s Templars. With the stone tiers filled to near overflowing, the stadium thundered as the crowds screamed for their favorite warriors on the sands below.

Just what happened next, and why, is unclear. It is generally agreed that the gladiator Rikus threw his spear at King Kalak at the same instant that a huge explosion burst over the king’s balcony. Some say Kalak died instantly; others maintain he escaped to his palace. Whatever the result, the people tried to flee, but they discovered that the stadium gates had been sealed. The people, panicked and acting on some instinctual urge, turned on the Templars, symbols of Kalak’s oppression.
Suddenly, hundreds of people, then thousands, died where they stood. Golden streams of powerful magic flowed from the dying toward Kalak’s ziggurat. From there, sinister greasy smoke rose over the city. In hindsight, some survivors claim the dragon had come, its terrible magic bringing death to all. Others blamed the rebels who had angered King Kalak.

While the citizens rioted in blind panic, Kalak’s slaves, lead by the characters seized the opportunity to break to freedom. After the gates were forced open the panic rose to desperation as riots swept the city and slaves, merchants and anyone with anything they wished to keep fled into the desert. There the heroes banded with a family of Elves hurrying their two kanks across the bedrock to the town of Altaruk. The Elves offered a place among their caravan to the adventurers as guards against the numerous slaves and raiders running amok near Tyr.

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