Ginny-Bo, octogenarian swordsman lies dead, his body brutalized by the axe of a bandit just beyond the skull marked doors that are the entrance to Pahvelorn's lower halls. Ginny-Bo, originally hired in the slums of Illum-Zugot, was not only a mascot for the adventurous band sometimes called the Order of Gavin, but also a valued member of the group, responsible for landing the fatal blows on many dangerous enemies.
The ill fated expedition back to Pahvelorn occurred almost as an after thought, with the adventures spending much of the week trying to determine how to get rid of a dragon, soul-bound to Eariyara as a result of last week's battle with Purgle the Brown. Purgle's electrocuted body was left to rot between his magical bonfires, and he and his boat looted. On Purgle's body Eariyara discovered a magical ring, inscribed with the name of an ancient dragon "Melisophotis the Terrible". Using the ring a wizard can command the dragon, though it has a chance of breaking free, but once worn the dragon and wizard are irrevocably bonded. The party collected a number of treasures from Purgle's boat and and settled down to wait for the dragon's return, hidden amongst the trees.
Soon Eariyara began to feel an awesome presence and shortly after dragon wind announced the arrival of Melisophotis. The party delt with the dragon cautiously and discovered that it's life was now bound to Eariyara's - and while it didn't much care for Purgle, it's preferred solution to this predicament was to lock Eariyara in a cave somewhere safe. Beni (obviously parroting Lau Taxan's teachings) declared he wished to free the dragon out of obligation to free any enslaved sentient, and the rest of the party figured that a highly intelligent, loosely bound, deadly monster, with nothing to stop it from killing anyone except Eariyara and that owed them a bad turn for the murder of it's family was a poor traveling companion. The dragon agreed that if it was freed it would leave the towns and trade of Gazemoral, Illum Zugot, and Zorptah alone, but was cagey about flying far away into exile and remained rather menacing.
Heading towards the town of Illum-Zugot, the band incinerated a pile of fungus sprouting corpses beside the road, but followed by a bemused dragon, no bandits or other forest denizens molested them. The walled city of Illum-Zugot was a different story however, and the terror of the dragon's coming meant that even with 'Bishop' Karna (known as the prodigal of Illum-Zugot, and a close vassal of the Priest King) leading the way the party was met by ranked pike squares and primed siege equipment. Eariyara and the dragon were forced to stay outside Illum-Zugot, while the party went within to train and engage in other activities. The sorceress and the dragon were not left in the cold however, and thousands of her gold pieces were spent on a dragon sized portion of mead, numerous oxen and other baubles to amuse the great beast, while the child sorceress questioned it about its understanding of magic and its history.
Within the white city the party members went about thier business - Tarvis preached in the square about battle and victory on behalf of the Hidden Empire - his enthusiasm, colorful tales, obvious battle prowess and the flow of free wine making up for any lack of eloquence. Karna, prayed and fasted seeking knowledge amongst the Priest King's scrolls. He succeeded in learning the secrets of divine fear, but only at the cost of a terrible vision: The fall of mankind to ravening packs of the demon creatures, mocked as 'Tangles', but only to set aside rightful terror. Karna's vision showed that the demon army would triumph if the necromancer fell, and that the necromancer's end was soon to come. Beni, passing gold out like water amongst the thugs and hedge wizards of Illum Zugot sought the history of Purgle, and his alleged master, discovering that the dead wizard served an exiled apprentice of Orcus - an ancient sorcerer of great power - perhaps the last master of the Hidden Empire and more terrible than any pot bellied devil god of legend. Pron, the beast-like warrior child cursed the cruel laughter of his home town and guzzled enormous portions of exotic intoxicants. Lau Taxan walked amongst the poor of Illum Zugot passing out wine soaked bread, bought with Beni's gold, and shouting strange quearies down drain pipes in a high pitched voice, like a chorus of squeaking rats. Later the Shaman descended into a deep sewer where some beggars whisper that the kidnapped child of a corrupt, venal priest was cast into a dry cistern filled with hungry rats.
Karna took his prophecy to the Priest King, and the patriarch believed his vision, promising to reinforce the Southern frontier but refusing to aide his life-long enemy the Necromancer of Trollmund. The party believed Karna more completely and resolved that after a final trip to Zorptah to intimidate and the Griffon lord with thier dragon, they would aide the necromancer's war effort. Again traveling with dragons has a certain advantage in the calculus of terror, and nothing bothered the party on its trip South to Zorptah, where the Griffon Lord still held sway.
Zorptah was changed, the Griffon Lords army still drilled in it's square, but a manic preacher of the Eternal Empire roamed the dusty streets preaching the end of the world, and the populace was slowly trickling East, fleeing the doom they were sure would come and the army of occupation they were convinced could not stop it. Meeting with the Griffon Lord was fruitful, he granted the party (and its dragon) a special relief from his tax on treasure recovered from Pahvelorn, and asked for intelligence. Beni told him of Purgle the Brown, the massing armies to the West, as well as mentioning the Southward realignment of Illum Zugot's knights, and the party's own road building efforts.
The Griffon Lord cowed and satisfied, the party spoke with the Wizard of Zorptah, a seemingly sane and learned man, obsessed with the stars' motions and the return of Castle Pahvelorn. The old man claimed that the castle was returning and that the stars foretold dooms. He was otherwise cheerful and refreshingly amicable, compared to the wizards of the North. A deal was struck with the astronomer where the party would trade a pile of glowing magical blocks recovered from Purgle for knowledge, spells and magical artifacts. Additionally the party managed to enlist the sky wizard as a magical and scholarly adviser with the promise of further gifts of odd magic and news. The wizard even knew a ritual to destroy the ring of dragon control and free both Eariyara and the terrible beast. He was willing to undertake the ritual and the dragon agreed that for 1,000 GP a month it would harass the armies of the demon invasion to the West for six months in addition to its promise to forever leave the three Eastern towns and the party unmolested.
Perhaps out of a yearning for simpler times, the early days, when plundering tombs did not come attached to the danger of an encroaching demon army, the band decided to venture back into the Pit of Pahvelorn. Climbing to the yet unopened lower portal, the party discovered a tall stone door marked with and surrounded by sculpted skulls, skeletons and other motifs of death. With Beni's assurances that the macabre decorations were not dangerous they entered the vaults for the first time in months.
Beyond was a huge vaulted chamber, eighty feet square, and decorated like an underground cathedral. Beni began to scout the chamber, sneaking forward with a candle in his hat and discovered several plain sarcophagi with crude stone warriors on the lids, and a pile of rubble with wind whistling behind it. Hugging the North wall Beni also discovered a pair of mysterious shadowy figures that strode along the wall towards him, vaguely humanoid and reeking of terror sweat. The Rat catcher ran back to the party, pursued by the two fel spirits and shouting a warning. The spirits were fast however and even as Karna was calling upon the light of the Eternal Empire to smite the undead, one of the spectral terrors caressed the priest's throat, leaving five long frostbitten marks and leeching his life energy.
Even drained of purpose and vitality Karna's will was strong enough to send the terrors fleeing back into the darkness. The party followed, hunting the monsters, and caught the first skulking in the Northeastern corner of the hall where it was destroyed with a barrage of holy water. The second abomination was found behind a tomb, and dispatched by a silver crossbow bolt from Eariyara's clumsy body-guard Fitzwalter. Completing the search of the tomb, a grisly sacrifice was discovered at the tombs center, where the withered husks of several commoners were scattered at the foot of a crude sacrificial cross, obviously drained of life by the tomb's shades.
Excited to have cleared the tomb of ancient undead evil, and unduly dismissive of the sacrificial victims, the adventurers levered open the first sarcophagi, discovering a well preserved suit of ancient chain armor. As the party began work on the second sarcophagi, a crossbow bolt from the darkness caught Beni in the back, knocking the rat catcher to the floor. He croaked "poison" and began to wretch just as a pack of armored warriors burst from the darkness clad in spikes and gruesome trophies. A huge axe wielding warrior squared off against the screaming Ginny-Bo and focused his brutal wrath on the ancient warrior. Swordsmen stabbed Karna visciously, but the priest remained standing, while another bolt caught Fitzwalter instantly in the throat. The following battle was a haze of blood and images.
Fitzwalter, loyal to his pay, coughs his life blood at Eariyara's feet trying without success to trigger his crossbow... A swordsmen leaps at the green faced Beni as he hunkers behind sarcophagi... Karna and Lautaxan hammer at the Axeman, who shrugs off the blows of their weapons and cleaves Ginny Bo with a horrible ferocity... Eariyara knocked aside by a cruel sword sweep and crumpling beside Fitzwalter...
Yet in the end the adventurer's honed battle skill and magic proved greater than the subterreanian warriors' ferocity. Karna, despite his wounds, summons the power of the light, and two swordsmen are stunned with awe, including the one preparing to dispatch Eariyara, who stands, clucthing her wounds and mouths a curse of slumber. The axe warrior begins to snore peacefully just as he pulls his weapon from Ginny Bo's lifeless body. Beni suddenly stops dodging, and like a cornered rat, leaps at his armored attacker, stabbing him repeatedly in the face with a short gripped arrow caked in wyvern blood. Pron, the hairy prodigy of battle, drives Beni's borrowed elf saber slowly through the jaw and brain of the last swordsman with a look of cruel glee until the man goes limp. Meanwhile the fleeing crossbowman, responsible for Fitzwalter's death and numerous other injuries, is torn limb from limb by a pack of sickly gray dire rats called forth from the bottom of the world by Lau Taxan's guardian spirit the Rattus Legatus.
After the horrible battle the enemy is slain with vengeful glee, except for a single swordsman, who Eariyara promises supernatural tortures, and the bodies of the adventurer's henchmen are recovered for the long climb back to Zorptah.