Walking Backward Through Darkness

A First Mis-step

Sent from Absolom by Venture-Captain Aramis of the Pathfinders to recover the journal of one of his agents, the party travelled to the borderlands between Taldor and Qadira.
Following the description of the location of a lost temple from the missing agent’s last missive, they made their way into the mountains and along a narrow canyon to a cave. Entering, they found a narrow crawlway that led to an underground chamber with a high, domed ceiling but no other ways in or out.
Searching the area, Arahana Titan Smasher uncovered a tarnished silver rectangle, buried in the dirt floor. As she examined the item, the entire party fell upwards towards the domed ceiling. Falling and disoriented, Arahana thought, momentarily, that she saw a shadowed figure watching them.
Before she could confirm this observation, however, she hit the ceiling. Landing heavily on her companions, only Arahana remained conscious as the portal built into the chamber’s ceiling activated and dropped all of them into a room covered, floor to ceiling, with mosaics of celestial beings.

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Tastes like Penguin
Orlock's Journal

Scorpion Soup Recipe


Ingredients
½ cup vegetable oil
scorpion (usually 30 – 40 living scorpions)
125g pork (or eidolon)
1 large garlic bulb, crushed
fresh ginger root, about 3cm, chopped
salt and pepper
½ litre water
1 handful dried Varisian dates
1 handful dried red berries
1 large carrot, sliced

Preparation
Heat the oil in a large wok. Stir-fry the scorpion for 20 seconds.
Add the pork, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir-fry briefly, then add the
water slowly.

Add the other ingredients and simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes.

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Naught but skin and bones

Having destroyed the vermin infesting the area around the Forgotten’s ‘cell’, the characters, joined at last by their now-conscious svirfneblin companion, pressed onward through the second portal and into the next level of the prison complex.
The great undead dragon that greeted them in the following room gave some indication of what was to follow – a temple and crypt filled with undead – but, fortunately, its guardian seemed not to care about people exiting the portal.
Leaving the Ravener for later… our heroes also decided to bypass the sigil-encrusted doors with their ever-so-subtle indications of magical traps (shattered bone fragments and the outlines of scorched angels on opposite walls) and concentrate their efforts on the more… accessible… areas of the complex.
Amidst the dust and decay, battling their way past skeletons, wights and vampire spawn, our heroes begin to regret not buying more rations before going adventuring…

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Cool and refreshing

Battered and… drained from their battles with the undead of the crypts our heroes stepped through yet another portal and into icy stillness. Finding themselves in a small chamber looking out over a great cavern within a glacier, the party set to seeking our a way down the 30 foot sheer ice wall to the cavern’s floor.
Thanks to the forward planning of the half-orc barbarian, the party managed to make it down with only minor frostbite and made their way to the only feature on the unnaturally flat cavern floor – an igloo.
Inside, they found an exciting slippery dip that helped them on their way into the next temple complex. Sliding feet first into a guard chamber, the party struggled to its feet as the remnants of the guards – a shadow and the skeleton of a polar owlbear – tried to prevent their entry.
The temple inside, all carved from the ice of the glacier, was structured around a symbolic hallway – a corridor in the form of the lost goddess’ twisted, rectangular holy symbol – and populated by a handful of elemental creatures left as guardians by the priests when they abandoned the stronghold, plus a few creatures that found their way in through the tunnel dug by a white dragon seeking a safe place to lay her eggs.
The mighty party slaughtered their way around the temple, pausing only for a refreshing dip in icy slush as part of the corridor gave way beneath their feet (oh, and for three days to heal between their three minutes of combat). Looting to their hearts’ content, they allowed only one creature to escape their wrath – a white dragon wyrmling that fled… probably to tell its mummy.
Amongst the better preserved goods of the ice temple, the party also finally found some enchanted items to assuage their growing hunger and thirst – although not until after they had tasted the other, other, other white meat – half white-dragon warg.
Now they stand, bundled in layers of unfashionably out of date clerical robes, before the next portal which, by all signs, leads somewhere significantly warmer…

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You were A-mazing

Stepping through from the Ice Temple, our heroes found themselves at the top of a warm, dusty complex of rooms built into an ancient pyramid and, somehow, without their Magus, who had failed to rematerialise on this side of the portal.
Another gripping adventure followed – in the group’s typical 5-minute bursts of adventuring followed by weeks of resting and healing up. The pyramid was largely deserted, but for a wraith and a pair of exploring scorpion-men who, sadly, did not realised just how great a taste for scorpion flesh our heroes had acquired in their previous adventures. With full bellies and morals intact (as they had only eaten the scorpion parts…), they ventured lower, into a maze filled with more delicious… I mean… dangerous… foes.
Battling past these creatures and ancient traps, our heroes came face to face with the maze’s guardian, a surprisingly strong and cunning minotaur who bloodied their noses twice – forcing high-speed retreats through the maze – before finally being felled. The heroes disappointment grew as the creature’s body faded away, preventing their planned victory feast.
It did, however, allow them to take the only exit, past the powerful wards designed to prevent people entering from outside the pyramid. From there, they climbed the outside of the pyramid (pausing only to slay an elemental creature of some sort who was objecting to their presence on his holy pyramid) and found the next portal spinning in the empty air above it.
At around this point, their magus appeared – having followed them through the pyramid after being… delayed in transit… in the previous portal.

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A Fey Worse than Death

Forcing their way through a narrow passage cut through a thorny hedge, our heroes found themselves in a midnight garden, where neither sun nor moon shone and the only illumination came from the bright stars and the strangely glowing fruit on the trees.
Following the thorny hedge, they discovered the garden to be a square mile in extent – and filled with creatures whose forms disguised their true natures. Battling butterfly-stirges, unicorn-nightmares and blink-wolves, they completed a circuit and discovered a second portal on the far side of the garden.
Resting after their battles and wandering, they soon discovered that even the sky was not as it seemed – as the drow’s eyes and skin began to burn while resting under the stars. The starlit sky itself was an illusion, hiding the risen sun but even knowing this did not allow their eyes to pierce the veil.
Further dwelling on this, however, was cut short when a huge plant creature attacked their camp. Our heroes battled manfully – or, at least, humanoidfully – maintaining their resolve even while listening to the telepathic pleas for help from the summoner’s eidolon who was swallowed early in the combat and was paralysed and being slowly digested (rather than being dismissed by his master).
After another extended rest to recover from this battle, the party finally struck out from the edge of the garden to search it dark heart. Here they, eventually, discovered a dark manor and, despite the warnings of a dryad, made to enter – pausing only to exchange words with the pair of heads mounted on spikes on either side of the gate.
Battling their way past the topiary and other thorny guardians, they forced their way into the manor and attacked its master – a shadar-kai illusionist. His minions defeated, however, he fled into the garden while the heroes debated the pros and cons of freeing or killing his prisoners and charmed servants. Eventually deciding on the former, they puzzled out the operation of the portals in the manor and sent everyone through before summoning a pack of dogs and tracking the shadar-kai down – eventually cornering and killing him with the last of his blink-wolf pack.
Triumphant, they took his black key and made their way to the portal on the far side of the garden and crawled through – to find themselves back at the portal by which they had first entered.
Cursing tricksy fey, they made their way back to the manor and exited via a second tapestry portal.

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The Dark before the Fey

Whoops! This whole episode clearly slipped everyone’s minds. Before the Fey Garden, our heroes ventured into a temple complex in the underdark, blocked off by cave-ins and revealed again by the slow action of water and then the somewhat faster action of a drow wizard’s slaves.
Fighting past swarms of bats and darkmantles, they found their way into the caverns occupied by the drow, slaying merrily as they went. The drow wizard, realising that bad things were afoot when his warriors failed to return, unleashed his enslaved djinn, whose invisible exploits battered and bruised the party until they drove him off.
Eventually, the party returned to the temple proper, which seems to be a summoning device of some sort that the wizard was trying to activate. Here they slew the wizard and his bodyguard – after another less than successful encounter with the djinn, who dropped several of them into a room with a strange wraith-like creature. This freed the djinn, who promptly departed, leaving the party to deal with the drow’s slaves in their typically even handed manner (slaying only one of the three).
The surviving slaves then led them to a nearby supply outpost run by a retired dwarven adventurer where they were allowed to recover and restock before heading onwards.

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Blinding Beauty
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