Old Allies Reunite…
Around 300 years ago, Frank worked with the Azers, a group of fire-infused descendants of dwarves who had once been enslaved by fire elementals long ago, to develop weapons that were instrumental in defeating a new attacking fire elemental army. In this battle, he met a young Azer Battle Sphere driver named Fargrim. Although usually a gnome of few words (if only), Frank told stories about the Heart of the World, said to be a rift to the planes and the source of the massive elemental energy of this world.
With the energy crystals the Azers use to power their inventions becoming scarce, Fargrim decided to seek out this Heart, but instead discovered Frank and his companions down a prairie dog hole. With some assistance from the Prairie Dog, a monk Master of the Earth, the party was brought above ground once more and Fargrim discovered they had somehow shut down the Heart. Worse yet, they told him that the Heart was the source of the energy crystals and wasn’t producing them anymore, plus another type of magical crystal which comprises the underworld and holds afterlives is also at risk.
After some discussion with the monk elders of the monastery, two ideas surfaced about what might be causing the tremors and potential collapse of the underworld: the mining efforts of the animal cities to the West or rifts opening, possibly being caused by fire elementals trying to get out again and possibly connected to the planned assassination of the Fire Prince.
Fargrim decides he’d better stick with the group and the party set off in search of materials to allow Frank to invent a tool to locate the rifts that seem to be opening up. Butterfly reminded them of an enchanted cave to the North that might be a good source of powerful metals and it became their first stop.
Frank and Grizzly have been inside this cave before. 300 years ago, it was the home and cage of the last remnant of the Goddess of the Sea. Although she and her guardian are now gone, Grizzly discovered that the walls of the cave still weep actual tears for her betrayal and imprisonment. Considering this, Frank decided that it might not be a good idea to obtain any raw minerals from this location.
…And Old Enemies Remember
The party decided to head to the nearest city instead, the Dragonkin city at the center of the jungle. On the way, Butterfly discovered beautiful flowers with nectar that produced a euphoric effect. She managed to stop herself before drinking too much, but Grizzly, who thought this nectar sounded great, drank a great deal and seemed to start suffering from a powerful drug addiction. Concerned, Frank tried to take the flowers from him and was thanked by a vicious strike from Grizzly. Having gotten a hold on the flowers, however, Frank flies away with them and Grizzly eventually shakes the effects of the nectar.
The commotion had attracted the attention of other jungle residents, though, so as the party proceeded deeper into the jungle, they walked right into a Spider Monkey ambush. The multi-armed simians pelted Frank with jungle juice bombs that incapacitated him, then tried to stick the other party members to the trees with webbing so they could take Frank into the underbrush and eat him. Frank fought off his paralysis, however, and flew into the sky, flinging monkeys into the jungle as the other party members quickly dispatched the monkeys below.
A Dragonkin scout had seen the fighting and took them safely to the city. Unfortunately, the historian they sought out in the great pyramid at the center of the city remembered Grizzly and the crimes he committed against their old queen, an ancient red dragon. After some tense moments and poorly chosen words, Fargrim handed over his precious Life Blood Crystal and the party was allowed to safely leave the city.
Failing to obtain metal components once more, the party headed deeper into the Wildlands. The first town they came to had a wall of fire guarding it from the dangers that roamed the Wildlands. Although the guard seemed friendly, the smithy there seemed suspicious of the party’s open ties to the monks and intentions to create technology reminiscent of the animal cities to the west, so the party had to move on once more.
They continued on towards the largest city in the Wildlands, the City of a Thousand Skulls. The road is long, however, and night falls while they’re in the middle of nowhere – a very dangerous place to be at night in the Wildlands. Grizzly consulted a vulture passing by overhead and learned that something was watching them in the growing darkness that seemed to be scaring everything else away. Butterfly scanned the growing shadows around them in search of a mental presence and located someone, whom she invited to join their camp.
A shadow separated from the darkness that Frank and Grizzly recognized. The Watcher had taken notice of their arrival in the Wildlands again, and seemed to take particular interest in Butterfly. As she exchanged information with him, however, it seemed this time he knew less than the party, so he offered to take them to someone who should know more.
The Watcher led the party safely across the dark lands to the grim walls of the city. After disabling the senses of the night guards, he let the party through the gates and took them to the dark tower at the center of the city. Once the home of the evil tyrannical ruler of the Wildlands, the tower now housed another familiar figure for Frank and Grizzly, Sarin.
The imposing figure of the undead angel sat on the Grey Ghost’s old throne and welcomed them with his unnerving, eternal smile. Grizzly showed him open animosity, but Butterfly welcomed conversation with him. If his words could be trusted, Sarin confirmed that the technologically advanced animals to the West were causing the subterranean instability because of their increasingly desperate drilling.
The next question the party faced, then, was what to do about it. Sarin tells the party that elemental energy could be drained from the Elemental Lands to recharge the Heart and allow it to heal the world. As this could have devastating consequences to her homeland, though, Sy’Vah-esh did not seem thrilled by this suggestion. Fargrim suggested that perhaps they should just turn the Heart back on, however that’s done. It could repair the world and start producing crystals again, which his people also rely on. Frank was hesitant about that idea having worked so hard to bring the gods back into the world and stated that it wasn’t that simple. He explained that when the Heart was pumping there were no gods, and vice versa, and that the gods might be better for keeping the peace than the constant threat of incursions from the Elemental Planes. His suggestion that the gods were interchangeable with the power in the Heart also indicated that perhaps the power to heal the world might already be present with the help of the gods.
Exhausted, the party left the tower and found an Inn & Tavern that was still open to rest the remaining few hours of the night. In the darkness of this strange land, the party all dreamed vivid dreams. Were they memories, portents of things to come or perhaps just fantasy?