Adventure 1 – Darkskye Crashdown
Perhaps it was only the after effects of the teleporter, but Gillian swore she felt the ground shift beneath her feet as Vaelen marched her towards a group of guards to collect his bounty. Too angry to look at the guards she instead took in the sights. So this was Darkskye. With a quaint village in the distance and enchanting signs of the Archmage’s magics present around her the flying island might not have seemed so bad if she didn’t know that the worst criminals in the empire were imprisoned in the crystal tunnels below. The ground shuddered again and the young sorceress felt a ripple of magic pulse from the tunnels below. Deep within the flying island wild magic stirred.
Billups felt a ripple of magic disrupt his song and slowly lowered his three string guitar. Whatever the ripple was, it had set his nerves on fire. By the looks of the magically attuned guards in the recreation room that served the Archmage they felt it too. It was the only warning he would get before the entire room started shaking.
In their cells both Tycho and Jasmind felt the tunnels begin to shake. It only lasted a few seconds and seemed to emminate from directly below them, deep where the tunnels were still mined for crystals. An explosion? Jasmind felt a warning from the Great Wold Wyrm scratch at her mind, but the next moment the room shifted sending her crashing into the bars of her prison cell.
The world reeled around him and Kzzmet peered down into his now empty mug. Wow, whatever Tycho had smuggled in this time was good stuff! Coming from a dwarf, that was saying a lot. He never knew of the danger he was in until the entire room tilted sending him, his drink, tables and chairs crashing towards a wall.
Vaelen saw firsthand the reason that the entire island lurched to the side suddenly, though perhaps he wished he hadn’t. Like a sudden storm a massive shadow overtook the island. The roar that followed was deafening. His ears were ringing too loudly to hear a guard in front of him shout to take cover in the prison tunnels, but by the way the guard was frantically waving his arms the cleric turned bounty-hunter understood the message. Tightening his grip on Turrock and Gillian’s chains he half ran, half dragged them towards the tunnel entrance. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a massive red scaled claw reach out of the sky and shred through a guard tower like tissue paper. Bricks and mortar rained down around the three of them like a hailstorm. Vaelen, Turrock, and Gillian barely made it into the prison tunnels before the entire ground lurched beneath them.
The Red had attacked Darkskye.
In Horizon, the city of wonders, the Archmage looked south east. Beyond the window of his flying tower, past Gorogan’s Maw and the two-hundred mile rift known as the Abyss lie the Red Wastes. While his mortal vision could not see that far, the image of the wastes burned in his mind. Once, long ago, the Wild Wood forest had stretched east to Horizon. Now all that remained was a scorched deadlands that civilized folk dare not enter. In another age when the Great Gold Wyrm used his body to seal the Abyss the Red had swooped down to unleash his destructive power on the demons that had escaped. The demons had burned, along with everything else in the Red’s wake. As the preserver of peace in the Empire, the Archmage has sworn not to allow such destruction from the Red to harm the lands again. For uncounted years the Red was kept at bay just outside the Empire, but now for reasons unknown the Red had returned. Through his arcane magics the Archmage could feel the vicious attacks the Red unleashed on Darkskye. Tapping into the nodes he had strategically placed around the Empire that drew arcane power from the ley lines, the Archmage began to gather his power. Once he had gathered the energies he required he activated an arcane barrier around Darkskye with enough power to repel the Red. Little did the Archmage know was that the crystals deep within the island had just become unstable. As the Archmage’s power surged through the island the magic buried within the crystals overloaded and went wild.
It was to Billup’s surprise that his three string guitar survived in one piece when he, everyone and everything else in the prison recreation room went crashing into a wall as the flying island suddenly lurched to one side. As the bard picked himself and his instrument off the floor he looked around. Next to him a dwarf prisoner emerged from behind the splintered wreckage of a wood table. Near the door a group of guards were trying to maintain order and tend to the wounded. Billups never had a chance to offer them assistance. Before the high elf could take a step the floor began to rumble. A cluster of large amethyst crystals burst forth from the floor and impaled everyone near the doors. Whatever danger they were in had just started.
Locked in their cells, Jasmind and Tycho could only hang on to the prison bars and pray that their world would stop shaking. Clusters of purple crystals were breaking though the corridor wall that ran along their row of prison cells. As a guard ran past one of the crystals began to glow and shot him full force with a beam of wild magic. In an instant the guard disintegrated into nothingness, save his clothing and the prison cell keys. The keys! Jasmind reached through the bars of her cell with all her strength trying to reach them. She almost reached them too before the island tilted again. When she regained her senses she saw Tycho in the cell next to her twirling the keys around a finger. “You’re lucky I like you. If you weren’t a member of my crew I would leave you in that cell. Let’s get out of here.”
Vaelen looked over his prisoners as chaos erupted around him. While he no longer heard the Red’s roars outside, it felt like the island was tearing itself apart. Worse yet, if the gut wrenching feeling in his stomach was correct, the flying island was no longer flying – it was falling. Soon there would be no more prison cells to lock his two marks up and if they survived the crash they would be free once again. The sorcerer perhaps he could trust, but the half-orc demon worshiper never. Dropping their chains the cleric brought his warhammer to bear as he loomed over Turrock. Before he could land a fatal blow the wall behind Turrock collapsed onto the half-orc, doing the cleric’s work for him. Vaelen lowered his warhammer and looked at Gillian. “Take a step out of line and you’ll meet the same fate as him. Let’s go. I have an old dwarf friend in these cells that I’d rather not see dead.”
The purple crystals may have cut off the door to the prison recreation room, but as Darkskye continued to break apart one of the other walls crumbled giving Kzzmet and Billups a new exit. The bard was too distraught to notice the crystals that had overtaken half the room start to pulse with energy, but Kzzmet did. Just as the crystals fired off a beam of raw magic the dwarf grabbed Billups by his delicate elven arm and pulled the bard through a hole in the wall. Billups took the back end of the blast, but he would live. Not wanting to spend another moment here the two of them started heading towards the prison entrance in search of other survivors.
The sound of rushing water was Jasmind’s only warning. She grabbed onto the bars of the prison cell she had just exited and held on tight. Not graced with an elf’s enhanced hearing or quick reflexes, Tycho was not so lucky. As the wave of water hit it carried him screaming down the corridor. The rush of water only lasted a minute. Jasmind concluded one of the water reservoirs in the prison must have burst. If it had been the lake she would have surely drowned. Once it was safe to move Jasmind took off down the hallway after her halfling companion. She found him towards the end in a room screaming not in terror, but in delight. The fighter stopped his yelling to beckon her over. “What a rush! Look where the tide carried me!” Weapons and armor were scattered around his feet. The water had knocked open an armory closet used by the guards. Selune be praised, perhaps they could get out of this in one piece. The two quickly armed themselves and set off towards the upper levels of the prison.
Kzzmet couldn’t believe what was happening. Either Darkskye really was falling, or he was drunker than he thought. “This’ll make one helluva song for ya, laddie!” he called out to the bard behind him. Billups couldn’t help but smile as the two of them entered a cavernous intersection. From a tunnel leading to a row of prison cells emerged a halfling and an elf, obviously prisoners but surprisingly armed. Kzzmet smiled, “Tycho! Good ta see the crystals didn’t skewer ya.” A moment later, a balding human carrying a wicked looking warhammer twisted around a corner with a half elf in tow. “By the dwarf kings beard! Vaelen? What in seven hells are ya doing here?” Vaelen opened his mouth to answer when a horrible ripping sound shook the island. With a loud groan the portion of the island that housed the prison tunnels broke away from the rest of Darkskye and began to tumble end over end.
Gillian was the first to recover when the tunnels stopped spinning. As everyone regained their footing she noticed that the prison tunnels has complete reoriented themselves – They were now standing on the ceiling. Through a crack in the wall Gillian could see the magic barrier that still surrounded parts of the island and the forest below. Large portions of the forest had been flattened by glowing chunks of rock. Oddly, the larger portions of the island such as the one they remained on had not crashed yet. The laws of gravity did not seem to apply here, warped no doubt by the magic of the crystals. While she had no doubt that they still would crash, it was hard to predict when. Inside the tunnels the shift had knocked dirt free from the walls and crystal dust was thick in the air, giving everything a shimmer glow. She pulled a piece of fabric over her face and instructed the others to do the same. “The magic feels wrong. We need to get out of here. Don’t breath the dust in.”
Tycho had just finished securing a piece of clothing over his mouth when he heard hoots and howls echo through the hallways. A group of prisoners and guards emerged from a crystal lined tunnels. With their strange gate, glowing red eyes, and mutating crystal growths protruding from their skin it wasn’t difficult to tell something was wrong with them. Most of them still looked humanoid, but others had been warped by the crystals into lumbering brutes. Not one for diplomacy, Tycho tossed Kzzmet a pair of hammers he has pilfered from the guard closet earlier and raised a two-handed longsword. Not waiting to hear what everyone else would do the halfling charged into battle.
Tycho’s charge might have been epic if he hadn’t tripped over a cluster of crystals and crashed into a nearby wall before reaching his opponent. Jasmind sighed. She was mid thought wondering how the halfling had survived this long when the high elf bard ran in and tripped over Tycho. In a tangled mess of limbs the two tried to wrestle themselves free from each other. How could two people both critically fail an attack in a row?!? Well someone would need to save them. Striding forward the paladin raised her sword and brought it down to bear on the closest infected brute.
“Bloody hell” Vaelen muttered before jumping into the fray. The infected brutes and mutating infected humanoids put up a fight, but with Vaelen’s holy invocations, Gillian’s super charged magic, Billup’s battle cries, and the martial expertise of the rest of the group, the party emerged victorious. They never had a moment to celebrate though because at that instant the tunnel started to collapse.
As the party frantically ran down a tunnel Billups caught sight of one of the Archmage’s elite guards. “He has the key to the barrier! Follow him!” the bard shouted and led the party on. The guard was running for his own life as crystals continued to burst out from the tunnel walls. Billups sensed a warning from the Archmage again and barely avoided a beam of light shooting out from a larger crystal. Before they knew it, every crystal along the tunnel was firing beams of pure arcane energy at them. Vaelen, Jasmind and Tycho led the charge, deftly dodging their way through danger. The rest were not so lucky and suffered a few nasty burns and cuts.
When they turned a corner, they found the sizzling corpse of the guard on the floor, obviously killed by the crystal beams. Tycho rifled through the guard’s belongings, “Waste not, want not, eh?” He handed three potions out to Vaelen, Jasmind and Kzzmet. He was about to discard an odd shaped rune when Gillian reached out and grabbed it, placing it in her pocket. When the hafling turned the guard over, he saw a solid looking great sword with the pommel of a bear. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, he sheathed it behind his back. The guard’s slippers also looked to be in fine fashion and handed them over to Billups, who reluctantly slipped them on.
Gillian was just about to tell the rest they should get moving when the island slammed into something solid and the wall in front of them crumbled away. The air just beyond the wall rippled with purple magic indicating the magic barrier was still up. Beyond the barrier not a few feet away was the most massive pine tree any of them had ever seen. Gillian yanked the key from the guard’s burnt hand and held it out to the barrier. The barrier gave way and she was buffeted by a sudden rush of wind. The sorcerer turned to look back at her party and raised her voice so they could hear her over the wind. “We may not have another chance like this!” Without another word Gillian leapt out into the open air.
Tycho gave a wry smile to the rest before following the half elf out. Another shudder from the island was all the encouragement the rest of them needed. One by one they too made a leap of faith towards the tree. Jasmind’s tree branch broke upon contact and she plummeted through the canopy to the forest below. It was not long before Billups came crashing down from above her, his leg catching one of the low hanging branches as the high elf hung upside down above the forest floor.
As the rest of the party made their way down the massive pine tree, they took stock of their surroundings. The forest was alive and covered in the strange crystals that had broken free of the island. Some smaller crystals littered the forest floor while others seemed to be alive, melding with certain elements of the forest itself. Large crystalline structures had formed around the trees, streams, and boulders. In the distance they could see a village and farther still a road, likely the one that led to New Port. Above them the smaller chunk of the island they exited had already begun to spin back up into the air. As it moved away they could see a larger portion of the island floating closer. They would have to move fast. If the larger section of Darkskye crashed, it would be right on top of them.
Once everyone had climbed down the pine tree Kzzmet moved to help Billups when a thunderous crash erupted from a small rise to the west. The massive form of a stone golem burst through the foliage. Glowing purple crystals lined his arms and back. It looked as if the crystals had cracked his normally durable exterior and forced their way inside his body. His eyes glowed red from the wild magic coursing through his being. The golem cracked his hands, and seeing Billups still hanging from a tree, charged in.
The golem used Billups as a punching bag, hammering into the suspended high elf’s form almost cheerfully. Barely catching his breath, Billups called upon his elven heritage and vanished in a silvery wink. The bard reappeared on the rise behind the golem. Sighing in quick relief the bard straightened himself and began a song that would strengthen his defenses. Tycho and Kzzmet let the melody fill them with courage and they flanked the massive construct before them. The golem was quick to deflect the blows and returned the favor with gargantuan amethyst fists.
Seeing her new allies in trouble, Jasmind readied her sword and shield, preparing to charge. She never saw the crystal shards at her feet come alive until one of them sliced into her side. The damage was minimal and she was about to laugh it off when she saw thirty formations of crystal shards manifest all around them. “Okay, that could be a problem. “
Gillian saw the true threat in the multitude of crystals slashing and cutting away at her allies. She sent a quick shock of electricity into the body of the one nearest her then did what she feared she wouldn’t have to – She tapped in to the demonic magic the diabolist had infused within her. She felt her blood boil and her skin crawl as infernal sigils light up across her body. Out of the corner of his eye Vaelen saw the shadow of horns and wings unfurl from the young sorcerer. With a horrifying scream the sorceress unleashed a massive arc of raw lightning onto the crystalline structures. The bolt of lightning ripped through the crystal shards, obliterating over half of the field before finally connecting to the golem itself. Gillian struggled to keep her will her own as the demonic power flowed through her.
Kzzmet and Tycho continued to dance around the massive golem, slashing and hammering away at the creature. Kzzmet took another heavy blow knocking him to the floor. As the golem raised his colossal fist above him for a deathblow, his eyes glazed over. Billups’s voice whispered into the creatures mind befuddling him. The golem looked up towards his crystalline brethren and saw the reflection of his enemies in the crystals. In a frenzy, the golem crashed into the whirling crystals attacking Vaelen, shattering the remaining of them with two quick strikes. Jasmind saw the opening in the golems defenses and struck the golem’s back with a powerful smite. With a wailing cry, the crystals along its back shattered and the construct crumbled to the floor.
Vaelen shouldered his warhammer and strode over to the half-elf. He had trusted the sorcerer until this point, but he would not tolerate having one touched by demons in his midst. “What in seven hells was that, and what abomination are you?!” Gillian glanced up at the human cleric, but never had a chance to answer. From above came a deafening rumbling sound. The lake atop Darkskye had burst and any moment now thousands of gallons of waters would threaten to drown them. Gillian grabbed Vaelen and pulled him towards a pine tree. Tycho and Jasmind ran up to the same tree and grabbed on tight. Gillian never saw Kzzmet and Billups before the water poured down on them.
Billups never had a chance to run towards his allies since he had teleported to a high rise to escape the golem. Instead he grabbed hold of another tree near him and held on for dear life. The impact of water knocked the air out of his lungs and left him choking, but his grip on the tree held. It felt like a lifetime passed before the water stopped. Rising unsteady to his feet the bard looked out over the rise to where his allies had been. The trees below had snapped from the impact of the water and had been washed away down the Wild Wood’s newest river. None of his allies were in sight….
This was a fast paced adventure that never let players catch their breath. Everyone had a great time.
The introduction to Part 1 asks players the reason Darkskye is crashing into the Wild Wood. Our party decided that reason was that someone tried tampering with the crystals to control or capture one the Three, but the magic energies in the crystals went wild and exploded. Since the adventure is written that Darkskye follows the flight path to the lair of the Red it made sense to say that the unnamed individual was targeting the Red. The Red normally resides outside of the dragon empire as entering the realm would set off the Archmage’s wards, but the fact that someone dare try to control him has him too enraged to care. The Red is too dangerous to keep around, but it was fun bringing in an Icon that typically does not physically appear in the game.