Stoners

It's Starting To Fall Apart

Ripples In The Air

Glittering ripples1

On her way to investigate rumors of a plot to kill the Fire Prince, Sy’Vah-esh noticed strange waves in the very elemental fabric of her land, like ripples in a pond. Having never felt or seen such a thing before, she followed them to their epicenter and discovered what seemed to be a crack… in nothing. Although the Land of Air seemed to continue far beyond this point, her outstretched hand could feel an invisible wall with no apparent end. Tracing the cracks, she noticed they seemed to be growing until the wall suddenly shattered away from her, violently pulling her into the darkness beyond.

She found herself falling through some sort of tunnel. There seemed to be no natural illumination, but when the elemental energy from her land came spilling in with her and came into contact with the walls, they lit up with a brilliant glow and she could see that they appeared to be comprised of gray crystal.

The walls of the tunnel parted into a massive space so vast that she could not see any sides, only darkness. After falling for what seemed like an eternity, she was swept up by an invisible force and sent careening out through another tunnel opening. Twisting and turning through a series of tunnels, she finally rolled to a stop on the stone floor of yet another tunnel. Lost and confused, she heard noises and saw light up ahead…

Can’t We All Just Tinker Along?

Work shop

Happily tinkering on his next great invention in his workshop, Frank felt a tremor and heard a loud cracking sound outside. Looking out the window, he saw a great crack spread across the sky. From it’s edges bled red energy, turning the sky crimson before there was a brilliant light and then everything went dark…

Who Is Hunting Who?

Elk

Silently racing through a forest, Grizzly and New Moon were closing in on the elk stag they had been tracking when they felt a tremor and heard a loud cracking sound. Looking up, they saw a great crack spread across the sky. From it’s edges bled red energy, turning the sky crimson before there was a brilliant light and then everything went dark…

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Prairie Dog

Prairie dog

As Butterfly chatted with her friends, Hawk and Prairie Dog, along the edge of the Great Rift, a surprise tremor interrupted the three monks’ conversation. Sending his senses through the earth, Prairie Dog suddenly shouted, “Intruders!” and sent Hawk to warn the monk elders.

Diving into the chasm, Prairie Dog and Butterfly rapidly descended the 100 feet to the bottom and burrowed down into the ground. Emerging into a tunnel, they faced three animal miners with a mechanical drilling device. Seeing the monks, the miners attempted to flee since they were forbidden to enter this sacred area, but Butterfly sent one of them sprawling to the ground so that he could be questioned as Prairie Dog destroyed the mining device.

While Prairie Dog guarded their prisoner, Butterfly inspected the wall the miners had been excavating. They appeared to have uncovered a massive Life Blood Crystal with a large humanoid arm hanging limply from the broken crystalline structure. As Butterfly peered at the body encased within the crystal, the elders arrived and assisted with removing it from the wall and tearing it open.

Within the crystal were two Goliaths, Grizzly and New Moon, laying entwined in each others embrace. Behind the spot where the first crystal had been, the elders found a second crystal with another humanoid inside. Cracking that crystal open, they found a Tinker Gnome with a mechanical arm cradling a strange machine with a circle of blades. Once cracked apart, the crystals lost their red color and became dull grey.

Having been working in a distant workshop or hunting Elk seemingly moments before, Frank, Grizzly and New Moon opened their eyes in confusion. Mongoose, Head of the Monastery, recognized them immediately. Although he’d last seen them about 300 years ago when he was a young student at the monastery, they didn’t look like they’d aged a day. The trio had no idea how they had come to be in the crystals and had difficulty remembering what had happened to them, especially since that same day the monk had last seen them. Mongoose attempted to help them remember some of the important events that had transpired, including the raising of the gods, the aversion of a war and the relocation of the Goliath tribes to the Wildlands.

Having been drawn by their voices and the light from the smoldering excavation device, Sy’Vah-esh approached the group seeking answers about how and why she had been brought to this place, but it was as much of a mystery as the others’ situation. After Sy’Vah-esh described her journey here, Mongoose sends Butterfly to assist Frank, Grizzly and New Moon in their investigation of what had happened to Sy’Vah-esh and Butterfly glows to light the way back down the tunnel.

The party found themselves winding through numerous intersecting tunnels attempting to find the path Sy’Vah-esh had traveled. Eventually they found a tunnel coated in the grey crystals she had seen. When Grizzly touched one of the crystals, his body fell lifeless to the stone floor. New Moon rushed to her husband’s side as Butterfly attempted to connect with his mind. However, her mind was simply transported to where his had gone and she also fell to the ground.

Grizzly found himself at the edge of a forest on a cobblestone path leading up to an old cottage. An old human woman came out of the cottage and greeted him, welcoming him to her afterlife. Distrustful of the situation and most humans, Grizzly attempted to intimidate the old woman and gain some answers, but she forcefully projected him away from her cottage into the forest where he collided with Butterfly.

Meanwhile, New Moon had been calling out to her husband, and with the help of her healing magic, he managed to follow her voice out of the crystal and the old woman’s afterlife with Butterfly following close behind. Hearing of the old woman, Butterfly decided to go back into her afterlife to speak with her further and learned that the party appeared to have found the Underworld and that the grey crystals hold different individuals’ afterlives. The old woman also told her that there was a guardian of the Underworld who might have more answers, but to be careful not to anger it.

Butterfly returns to the tunnel to fill the party in when they suddenly hear a screaming sound and see a black substance shooting down the tunnel rapidly towards them. They fled back the way they had originally come but the blob was obviously flying faster than they could move so Frank turned his strange bladed machine towards it and blasted the black ooze to a halt with powerful winds.

They discovered it was an Acid Elemental who had followed a similar course as Sy’Vah-esh, and after trading not-so-friendly words with it, the party suggests the elemental touch one of the magical crystals. Instead, it throws a glob of acid at some of the crystals, destroying them. That seemed to catch the attention of the guardian, however, which suddenly and violently destroyed the Acid Elemental.

Sy’Vah-esh and Butterfly attempted to communicate with the guardian, but its powerful mind overwhelmed them. They did manage to learn that the Underworld was in danger of collapsing before losing consciousness, however.

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Into The Heart of Darkness

Old Allies Reunite…

Elemental army

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

Hieroglyphics

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?

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A Plan Begins To Blossom

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Smoke1

After a hearty breakfast of sausage, grubs, an arm and a bowl of syrup, the party forgot their dreams and headed out to find materials for Frank to work with. Outside the inn & tavern, Grizzly and Butterfly noticed a mass of smoke moving quickly and unnaturally through the shadows. Grizzly recognized it as a smoke elemental, which had been used as agents of the fire elemental army in the last war. Sy’Vah-esh added that they could also be useful informants of fire elemental activity and are sometimes friendly to her people.

The party set off in pursuit of the elemental and approached it when it stopped outside of Sarin’s tower. They learned it had come to these lands the same way Sy’Vah-esh had and that it had been following a fire elemental that had gone inside the tower. Concerned it might be up to something, the party proceeded into the tower and found everything inside slowly melting. They hurried down the long hallway to Sarin’s throne room but arrived only just in time to hear Sarin say, “There isn’t much time. We must hurry.” Then he and the fire elemental flew out of an opening Sarin created in the high ceiling and disappeared to the south.

The melting began to accelerate, so Frank attempted to carry the party out through the hole in the ceiling before it closed, but they couldn’t hold on. The party found themselves floating in darkness as the interior of the tower melted into nothingness. Hypothesizing that the appearance of the tower may be controlled by its inhabitants, the party successfully experimented with willing a flower, metal nut and eventually the front door to materialize. However, anything they created in the tower turned to dust once they took it outside.

Concerned that someone might just happen along and use the tower for nefarious purposes while Sarin was gone, Frank and Butterfly willed a guardian into being. Guided by their combined intentions, it took the form of an intelligent Sacred Flower. Interestingly, it did not disappear when they left the tower.

Wanting to finally get his inventing components, Frank went to a local smithy and purchased 10 light shields to convert for his purposes. Grizzly and Sy’Vah-esh wanted to go hunting outside of the city, but the other party members didn’t think this was a good idea, so Grizzly and his wife went to go spend some quality time together while Frank, Butterfly and Sy’Vah-esh returned to the tower.

The Tower

Dry stone wall and vine tom wray

When the three party members returned to the tower, they found it had been enveloped by vines with white blooms. The vines parted for them and they entered to see the inner hallway waiting for them once more with more vines running along the walls. The Guardian Flower greeted them and Butterfly decided to spend some time talking to it. Frank created an ultimate workbench and tools for himself and got to work on his elemental detector. Sy’Vah-esh created a little slice of home for herself in another room and enjoyed the peaceful familiarity of the wind blowing through her hair, at least until Frank needed to test his rather invasive (and phallic) probes on her.

The Guardian Flower told Butterfly that it was part of the tower and the tower was part of it. The Flower explained that the tower was formed from extra-dimensional fabric and that it also held many items of power and memories of its previous inhabitants. At her inquiry, The Flower told Butterfly that Sarin and the fire elemental had been discussing how the God of the Predators was in the Land of Fire trying to recruit new followers before they left. It then told Butterfly a story from the memories of one of the tower’s inhabitants:

There was once a ship of explorers, but the boat they sailed flew through the stars instead of on water. They discovered a world with a very unique and powerful magical nature and decided to explore it. However, a fierce storm rose up around their great ship with seemingly intelligent and malicious intent, and they crashed to the ground.

With their ship destroyed, the surviving crew found themselves marooned on this alien world. It was choked full of life both benign and ferocious, and beings of great elemental power also wandered the land. It was difficult to survive as the land and creatures seemed to be constantly changing. Plants grew and evolved unnaturally fast, the terrain seemed to be in a constant state of upheaval, prey seemed to immediately develop new ways to avoid being hunted, and predators seemed to keep getting better and better at killing them. In disagreement, they decided to split up – some heading towards the mountains and higher ground, some heading towards the sea and some staying in the lush forest where they had crashed.

The explorers who stayed in the forest did not last very long and soon there was only one remaining. Living in constant fear and starvation, the man was failing fast. He knew it was only a matter of time… until he suddenly came across a clearing in the dense woods. Not 10 yards away stood a magnificent elk stag. Beautiful, delicate white flowers bloomed where his hooves met the ground. The man fell to his knees, overcome with awe at the majesty of the creature before him. He seemed to instinctively know that he was in the presence of a god, and when their eyes met he felt a wave of compassion from the Great Stag.

Through cracked lips the man whispered, “Please… help… me.”

In his mind, Sarin heard the response, “What do you desire?”

To which he replied, “I just want to fly away from here. I want to go home.”

The Great Stag responded, “So be it. I will help you so that you can escape this place and the predators that seek to end you.” And he turned and walked away.

Filled with joy and hope Sarin managed to stand, but immediately fell to his knees once more. Pain doubled him over as his shoulder blades changed and elongated and muscles moved and stretched. Two great wings erupted from his back. Realizing he had been misunderstood, he tried to call out to the stag, but the god was either gone or simply couldn’t hear his weak cry. Weeping bitterly, Sarin fell to the ground and waited for death.

After hours of experimentation, Frank decided to scrap his dildo harness elemental detector design and go with an interactive map screen design (to the relief of Sy’Vah-esh), with which he located an elemental rift that opened immediately after another tremor. Proceeding into the sewers, the party went to the location of the fire rift but could not see it. It closed, so Frank switched the detector to locating elementals at the suggestion of Sy’Vah-esh, and saw a fire elemental at their location.

The party realized the detector was correct, they just weren’t far enough down, as a powerful fire elemental wearing metallic scale robes erupted into the sewer from below. Hoping to gain useful information, the party engaged the impatient elemental in some less-than-friendly conversation. It dodged their most important questions, however, and unsure of whose side the elemental was on, Frank pointed it in the correct direction towards home.

Butterfly suggested that Frank should use the detector to see if they could see where Sarin and the elemental he had been speaking with had gone, and it appeared they were heading towards the Elemental Lands, as well.

The party decided the miners causing the collapse of the underworld and possibly the rifts in the Obscura containing the Elemental Lands (and untold additional damage) were the most pressing threat, so they headed out across the Wildlands once more despite the late hour and lack of protection from The Watcher. As they traveled, the party encountered a group of strange, childlike, plump creatures playing in the mud at the side of the road. They turned out to be Gnaw Demons, and once they had injured Sy’Vah-esh, they swarmed on her in an increasing blood frenzy.

She could not be brought down, however, and the party dispatched the unpleasant beings then moved a mile down the road to make camp and tend their wounds. It wasn’t long, though, before they began to hear the sounds of howling. And as night descended around them, the howls started getting closer…

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Survivor: Wildlands

Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

American werewolf in london lifesize 2

As the howls closed in around them, Butterfly flew up to get a look at what was coming. Eight large wolf-like creatures garbed in hunting clothes and equipped with spears across their backs were charging in fast. Realizing they might be intelligent, the party attempted several tactics to trick or reason with the pack, but were unsuccessful. Butterfly identified one of the beasts as larger than the others and therefore the likely pack leader. Acting quickly, she stunned it before it could reach them, causing the monster to crash to the ground. The party hypothesized that defeating the pack leader might spell victory, but that plan was unfortunately forgotten quickly in the chaos of the assault.

Fargrim confidently charged out to meet two of the oncoming wolf-monsters and Frank prepared a trap for three more, trapping two of them successfully in a wall of vines. The beasts revealed that they were dangerous foes, however, and the pack leader quickly recovered from his stunned state. Leaping off the back of another wolf, it launched itself 25 feet into the air, snatched Butterfly in its jaws and proceeded to use her for a game of tug-of-war with yet another wolf. Grizzly came to her rescue, though, and powerfully hacked into the pack leader to give her the opportunity to escape.

By this time, the party had learned that the Were-Gnoll-Wolves brought an additional threat. Their bite infected their victims with a powerful curse, slowly turning them into werecreatures frenzied to the point of attacking the closest target, which sometimes was an ally. The party managed to fight the effects just long enough to execute their original plan. After some mighty blows from Grizzly Winterhill‘s axe, the party finally dropped the pack leader and the rest of the Were-Gnoll-Wolves moved off into the night. Grizzly’s spirit bear then freed them of the curse by striking the spirit of the wolf from them.

The party relocated their camp once more and spent the night trying to sleep through the sounds of monsters feasting on the two piles of corpses they’d left behind. The next morning they awoke to a red sky. They discovered it was being caused by smoke rising from the long dormant volcano they had to pass in order to reach their destination. They made haste, only stopping briefly to clean up (more or less) in one of the towns they passed through. They even purchased seven horses with the agreement to free the horses after they helped them reach their destination. But would they travel fast enough?

The Eruption

Pyroclasticflow

While only halfway around the volcano, a massive tremor shook the ground and the top of the volcano erupted in a massive cloud of hot ash and rock. Butterfly used her power over the winds to protect them from the deadly and overwhelming power of the pyroclastic flow, but searing hot chunks of rock rained down around them and the horses panicked. Between the treacherous terrain, obscuring ash cloud and deadly debris, four of the horses were killed and several of the party members seriously injured, including Frank’s Fanny Jr.

On the remaining three horses, the party finally made it to the edge of the Great Rift, but only two could see the edge in time. The third horse with Sy’Vah-esh on its back galloped right over the ledge. Instead of plummeting to their deaths, however, Sy’Vah-esh drew upon her powers and teleported them safely back onto the ledge. Unfortunately, lava had also reached the ledge. Acting quickly, Frank healed Fanny Jr. and sent a powerful blast of cold air at the lava using Grizzly as an unmovable pillar to brace himself against. The lava rapidly cooled and provided a barrier against more flowing magma, which was diverted around them.

With ash falling like snow around them and lava flowing on either side, the party turned towards the Great Rift once more and pondered how to safely get themselves and the horses to the other side… 100 feet away.

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Miners & Bad Touching

The Maiden of the Sea

The castle by sputnik2

The party found themselves needing assistance across The Great Rift, so Frank flew the short distance to the monastery on the other side but could not find any of the monks. He therefore decided to construct a basket to fly everyone across, but the basket’s ties failed and almost crashed down upon the rest of the party. Grizzly deflected it with his axe, however, and sent it careening down into the sea 100 feet below.

When Frank and Butterfly flew down to retrieve the giant basket, they discovered a beautiful light glowing under the waves and also noticed that the lava cooled impossibly fast when it touched the water. There wasn’t any steam rising from the water, as well. They decided to take the plunge and swam down into the water, where Butterfly discovered the large amount of sea life congregated there was surprisingly friendly. They also saw that the source of the light was coming from a beautiful submerged temple which, according to a talkative octopus, housed the Goddess of the Sea. The octopus assured them that not only should they be able to breathe under water there, but that falling from the ledge far above would not harm them.

Butterfly trusted him and tried breathing in the water, which worked, so Frank followed suit then flew up to demonstrate to the other party members that they could safely jump down into the water by allowing himself to fall the entire distance and safely splash into the sea. Grizzly didn’t trust him, though, and decided to sacrifice another horse to make sure it was safe. After he chucked the poor animal over the ledge, Butterfly and the remaining horses turned against him for his borderline evil actions and sent him over, as well.

The party decided to pay a visit to the Goddess of the Sea once they were all under the waves. She was still in the form of the beautiful, tiny fish that She had been trapped in while imprisoned in the Cave of Sorrow. Grizzly found a kindred spirit in a shark who was also in the temple while Frank spoke with the goddess, who was still very grateful for his assistance in freeing Her and gladly helped the party reach the top of the cliffs on the other side of the Rift (with their cleaved metal basket in tow).

Snakes In The Grass

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The party found that they could not enter the mine tunnel because of the volcanic eruption so they headed into the forest in search of some cave entrances the monks informed them of. Along the way they encountered a farmstead with numerous animal corpses lying around the property. They appeared to have died of fear while trying to reach shelter, so the party decided to investigate the central building and see if anyone survived. Despite detecting the presence of minds inside, the door was locked and they did not respond to the party’s calls, so Butterfly sneaked inside to investigate.

She could not find anyone inside at first, but then she discovered a trap door to a basement. The animals below were not hiding, however, they were congregated around their new leader – an evil soul that had been freed by the collapsing underworld. They also weren’t survivors, they were the souls of the slain animals and they all came up to ‘free’ the party members from their mortal constraints, as well.

The party members fled, but as they fell one by one Frank used his laser to destroy two of the animals’ souls, temporarily stopping the attack, then managed to destroy the evil soul leading them. Meanwhile, Butterfly and Grizzly’s spirit bear forced the souls back into their bodies.

With the animals brought back to life, the party continued on until they came across an Azer smithy named Mirg Rockbiter from Fargrim’s homeland. The Council, the secret wizard leaders of the animal cities to the West, had once tried to enslave him like they had with Frank. Mirg was an inventor who had traveled to the area to work with ‘the mad genius’ and had his inventions stolen by The Council. He was more than happy to lead the party through the caves to the active mine tunnels nearby.

Frank used his invention to pinpoint the closest miners, who did not seem overly inclined to stop mining at the party’s requests. After a little show of force which left one miner dead and almost everyone injured, the miners agreed to lead them back to the central mining headquarters in the Kingdom Beneath, a complex of re-purposed ruins beneath the animal cities, in return for not destroying their mining equipment (or any more of them).

The foreman of the mining operations was thankfully more open to listening to them and arranged a meeting with The Council. After carefully wording how ceasing their mining expeditions would benefit them, the Council agreed to temporarily halt operations and sent the party to the edge of the Obscura to learn more about the damage that had been done to it and ascertain the state of the Land of Fire and its inhabitants, in particular The Fire Prince.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Penetrating The Palace’s Defenses

Land of fire

While drifting through the Land of Fire towards the palace, Grizzly and Butterfly noticed a hidden elemental on another chunk of floating rock. It turned out to be a smoke elemental spy Sy’Vah-esh had used for information gathering in the past. He assisted the party in approaching and entering the palace less conspicuously, although he disappeared once they were inside.

The party found themselves in a hallway with no visible windows or doors except for a molten metal barrier at the end. They had difficulty discerning any magical or physical options for opening the door, so Frank decided to create a probe for seeing through to the other side. Unfortunately, his quick invention did not handle the heat well and exploded, injuring a few of the party members and surprising the guards on the other side.

After some quick explaining and pleading, the guards divested the party of their equipment and begrudgingly allowed them to gain audience with the Fire Prince, who was very pleased to see Frank, Grizzly and New Moon again. He described a plan to hunt down the God of War and purge the enemy elemental army out of the Land of Fire, which Fargrim thought all sounded like a great idea. The rest of the party was hesitant to trust the idea of cracking the Obscura in order to vent the elemental army out, since the idea seemed to have come from Sarin, but they decided the energy from the army might be able to heal the Obscura or even briefly energize the Heart to heal the world.

With the head of the Fire Prince’s guard serving as a reluctant guide, the party decided to head to the giant volcano at the center of the Elemental Lands in order to gain access to the Obscura and try to request assistance channeling the energy of the enemy elementals. They realized the ‘Death Crystals’ might be some sort of energy receptacles and could have been used as a conduit for elemental energy in the past, but they still needed help in making sure the energy went to where it was needed.

Along the way, the Fire Prince’s guard assisted them with avoiding the attack of a Fire Elemental beast along the way, but after the usual charismatic comments of certain members of the party, he let them deal with a massive Ash Elemental monster on their own. The great, sweeping paw attacks and burning ash clouds of the creature battered and choked the party, and its partially immaterial body resisted the strikes from their weapons, but after an extended and unwavering onslaught from the party it finally collapsed into harmless ash.

Once they reached the volcano, the blustering of the party finally drove their escort away and the party was faced with figuring out how to get through the Obscura. The volcano used to be the outlet for elemental energy channeled from the Heart to feed the Elemental Lands. They had been told that some elementals had ventured down into the volcano after it had become inactive, but those elementals had never been heard from again. Luckily, the Fire Elemental mage they had met in the Wildlands finally arrived after traversing the long route Frank had directed him to take. The party had learned he was the Fire Prince’s archmage who’d developed a spell for causing rifts in the Obscura. He agreed to help them safely reach the center of the volcano and open a rift to suck them through the Obscura if necessary, although he was unsure who, if anybody, would reclose the rift.

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Crystal goddess

Standing on the invisible surface of the Obscura deep within the volcano, the party signaled the elemental mage to begin his spell. Within seconds cracks spread through the glassy Obscura until it shattered beneath them, pulling them through. They found themselves falling through a massive, crystal encrusted shaft deep into the center of the world. Butterfly and Grizzly tried to call the Guardian of the Underworld to them, but were unsuccessful. The crystal walls opened up around them as they plummeted through a massive chamber so large they could not see any side.

A huge floating crystal appeared below them as it began to glow brighter and brighter as they fell closer and closer. Fargrim summoned their demon and convinced him to fly them away from colliding into the crystal by promising to free him one day. Sy’Vah-esh began floating to slow her fall, but continued to move towards the crystal. Grizzly and New Moon had no way of stopping, however, and fell right into the crystal. They did not seem to impact the side, though, but simply disappeared without emerging on the other side.

Although she could fly, Butterfly decided to follow them into the crystal, and one by one the other party members followed. Inside the giant crystal, they were greeted by a warm, female voice that welcomed them. She introduced herself as the world and answered their questions as best she could, telling them that she had created the gods long ago in response to the desires of the creatures who lived upon her. To use the anatomical metaphor the party was using, she explained that just as the place they had all originally met was like her Heart, since it pumped life throughout her, the party was now it what would be most akin to her Mind. Grizzly’s Spirit Bear, whom she seemed to know, then showed up to explain a few more things.

Bear told Grizzly that he could now speak to him because their bond was much stronger than before. He also clarified that he did not specifically ask Sarin to kill them, but he needed them placed into the crystals to be released when the time had come because he could see disaster approaching and knew they would be needed. Since Bear was unable to just ask, he approached Sarin for help as he has a particularly close tie to the spirit world and didn’t have such boundaries.

Too many of the world’s inhabitants were just taking without replenishing resources, so Bear knew something would have to give. Unfortunately, few listen before things get really bad, so he waited for the heroes’ tombs to be disturbed. And now people needed to make a choice: either bow to the gods (these or new ones) and empower them to provide what is needed; return to a less-controlled system with the Heart active; and/or live off of renewable resources such as the lifeforms living on this world, as Grizzly’s people do.

Bear then told everyone what certain members of the party already knew, that the mechanisms for change were already in place: Butterfly has been on a mission for the Great Stag to prepare insectkind for the ritual to gain intelligence and communication so she could lead them in His ways, bringing Him a large boost in power to allow Him to heal the world. Although they agreed that Caedo also had a place in this world, the party thought that they might still need to stop the Wolf God from doing the same recruiting with his army of violent elementals, which could create another power stalemate between the two brothers. Regardless, Sy’Vah-esh wanted to see the army stopped to save her people and see their energy go to heal the Obscura that supported her lands. As extra insurance, the party also discussed requiring an alliance between the Great Stag and Goddess of the Sea. Finally, they discussed requiring Harmonis (aka The Great Stag) to allow predatorial ways to remain an option to the lifeforms of this world.

The technologically advanced animals had run out of new Life Blood Crystals to both power their inventions and make Earth Flesh, so they had started importing actual animal flesh and lying to say it was still Earth Flesh. Although not without flaw, this plan could potentially continue to sustain the carnivorous animals of the cities, but they could also use Frank‘s guidance and unique insight into their ways in order to find a new energy source. If they continue their mining operations there is a risk of causing damage to the world again, but perhaps Frank might be able to show them another way… that is, if their leaders’ past crimes against him are not too great to overcome (or the leaders are not too powerful to overthrow).

Fargrim faced the most difficult choice. He wanted the Heart started up again as his people also utilized Life Blood Crystals, but Frank had convinced the party that opening the rift to the planes and removing the gods was not the best way to go. And Sy’Vah-esh definitely did not like the idea of draining the energy of the Elemental Lands to repower the Heart. Maybe there was another option. Didn’t Frank say something about Dwarven gods?

Exhausted but comforted by the love and protection of their great mother, Terra Animus, the party lay down to rest and think through the paths that lay before them… and decide the fate of the world.

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A Farewell To Old Friends & Enemies

By The People, For The People

Spirit bear

The party awoke feeling energized. In fact, the entire Mind of the World felt energized. The rift they had left open in the volcano had started pulling energy from the Elemental Lands down through the crystal conduit tunnels. Apparently the Fire Prince had either failed to close the rift or had not gotten there yet. Assuming the latter, the party followed Grizzly’s Bear to a nearby cavern to meet with The Great Stag and the Goddess of the Sea in order to forge an alliance.

Despite their best efforts, unfortunately, the Goddess seemed uninterested in assisting any land creatures. They did learn that the Gods were true representatives of their followers, however, and it was simply because he only had the most battle hungry of followers remaining that the Wolf God had become increasingly focused on war to regain power. If the people of the Wildlands returned to following the Wolf God, they could revert his focus back to protecting the predator way of life and perhaps bring it back to the lands that had lost a sustainable method of survival.

In order to do that, though, they had to move quickly back to the Land of Fire and make sure the Fire Prince didn’t kill the Wolf God. What’s more, the party theorized that the Fire Prince might actually be in a position to take on the Wolf God’s power if he was able to slay Him, and even Frank agreed that might not be a good thing.

A New God

Elemental army

The party followed Grizzly’s Bear through a network of caves back up into the Land of Ash. Frank created a sled to transport them safely and quickly. As the ash cleared, they finally saw what had kept the Fire Prince from closing the rift. A great battle was raging between the armies of the Wolf God and the Fire Prince. Frank directed the sled up into the air to get a better vantage point but the extra strain on the ‘runners’ caused them to explode. Butterfly acted quickly and kept her non-flying comrades from floating off then they all scanned the battlefield.

They located the mage who was supposed to open the rift and channel the enemy Fire Elemental army down into the crystal conduits. He was beset by a ring of elementals so Butterfly, Fargrim and Sy’Vah-esh went to assist him long enough to let him cast his spell. Meanwhile, Frank flew towards where the Wolf God and Fire Prince were battling. The mage’s spell casting was successful, but Frank’s initial attempts at physical intervention were not.

Fearing words would prove to be a deadly distraction, Frank tried a different tactic and fired his elemental laser at the Wolf God. It seemed to give Him a boost in power, however, and he suddenly struck the Fire Prince down. The prince desperately thrust his flaming sword deep into the Wolf, but the god survived the final attack and ripped the prince apart.

The other party members had noticed Sarin watching from above and decided not to act, unsure of his motives. Sarin flew down as the prince and god were finishing their battle, drawing his mighty sword as he descended, then cleaved into the Wolf God, destroying him. Sarin then smiled at the party and vanished with Frank looking on in horror at what had just transpired.

The elemental armies had primarily been sucked through the rift, and bolstered by the influx of power, the Mind healed the Obscura and Elemental Lands, closing the rifts. Although still planning to perform the ritual to bring intelligence to insectkind and empower the Great Stag to finish healing the world, the party figured they’d better check to see whether Sarin would prove dangerous to the Great Stag before He expended all of His new follower granted power.

They traveled to the tower at the center of the City of a Thousand Skulls and found the vines were no longer covering the walls or hallway within. Butterfly was relieved, however, to find Sarin had kept their Sacred Flower Guardian alive and was chatting with it on his throne. Sarin also assured them that although he was the new God of the Predators, he had no interest in attacking the Great Stag when He was weak. Whether it was because he was already the ruler of the general Wildlands populace or simply not one of the original gods, he did not seem to be under the spell of war that the Wolf God had been.

So the party continued to the Hall of Communication where Butterfly called the insects to her and the Great Stag bestowed intelligence upon them. He then healed the world and, turning into a butterfly, He and Butterfly flew away together. Frank was in a state of mourning and wanted to spend some time in the monastery, so before the party made their way to the technological animal cities to finish dealing with their concerns there, they decided to part ways for a short time to help each of their different people through these new times.

Fargrim went to convert his people into followers of Sarin, who promised to provide new energy crystals in return. Sy’Vah-esh went to establish relations between her people and the new ruler of the Land of Fire, the mage. New Moon had an urgent desire to return to their people, to see the current chieftain in particular. But they would all meet again soon to continue their mission to reverse the destruction of their world and right the wrongs that had been done to them and their friends or loved ones.

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And So A New Era Begins

Power In The Palm Of His Hand

Power stone

Having learned Mirg Rockbiter had been taken captive by the secret circle of 13 arcane animals that rule the technologically advanced cities of the Great Forest, the intrepid adventurers reunited once more to rescue him. Sarin gave them a spirit that was skilled in the power of possession but warned them that he was dangerous. The spirit helped them slip past the guards undetected, but had a rather horrifying sense of humor, forcing Frank to feel the need to destroy him when the mission was complete.

Frank used his memories of being captured by the animals of the city 100 years in the past to find where they might be keeping Mirg. Thankfully he was being kept in the same facility, and the party was able to successfully free him. Surprisingly, however, he was not the only captive. A flood of memories rushed over Frank as he beheld Lini, a female Tinker Gnome whom he had invented with and become very close to 300 years ago while they were both being held captive. Lini appeared to have not aged a day, and even more amazingly, she seemed to have overcome the curse of having her inventions constantly fail or behave in surprising ways.

Together they fled into the forest, but were quickly pursued by the animal mages. The party prepared for a fight they didn’t know if they could win, when Fargrim announced he was the emissary of Sarin. Surprisingly, the leader of the circle, a rather sinister snake in black robes, backed off quickly, apparently having some sort of history with Sarin. When Fargrim pushed further, the mage acquiesced to starting to use Sarin’s energy crystals and allow the church of Sarin to be established in the cities.

Finally safe from the circle, the adventurers headed north towards the ruins of a craft that once flew through the stars, a place of advanced technology where Frank and Lini had learned much in the past and was the source of the animals’ tech. Frank was remembering more and more now, and believed he may have learned the secret of propulsion for the great ship, which used a system of energy conversion that could be useful to this world, or perhaps just escaping it…

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To the End of the Underworld

Beetle horde

The group discussed their distrust of Saren’s puppet, Fargrim, while the Fiery Dwarf was off “visiting his temples” via the strangely evil shadow-teleporting powers he now possessed. The plotting (and Frank’s womanly gossip) was interrupted when they happened upon an animal caravan with its inhabitants apparently murdered.

Sy’Vah-esh and Frank proceed farther down the path to investigate some of the corpses. They found strange wounds on all of the victims. Frank and Grizzly dug into the wounds to discover that organs were missing, but Grizzly made note of the fact that the flesh still tasted good.

Soon thereafter the group was confronted by a beetle on the ground who confessed—eventually—to taking part in the murder of the entire caravan. In an even shorter amount of time legions of insects began to gather and surround the corpses which the group was beginning to investigate.

The beetles seemed intent on enjoying fresh meat, but through diplomacy, the Butterfly was able to convince them to allow her to meet with their queen. During said meeting, the beetle queen accepted the Butterfly’s offer to use the summoned “Earth Meat” instead of continuing to consume “live” creatures.

Meanwhile, Frank avoided conversing with the insect horde and focused on creating random inventions. Grizzly, on the other hand, decided to debate with the insects on the philosophy of the predator and the hunt. Fortunately for all, the Butterfly returned with an agreement from the queen beetle to sustain their masses on this alternate form of sustenance before Grizzly’s banter escalated into a full-on battle.

The group continued onward into the beautiful forest, complete with ancient trees reaching toward the heavens. This time their peace was disturbed by a low rumble in the distance. Glancing back in the direction they had come from, the low rumble quickly turned into an incredibly loud shaking of the earth accompanied by a mind-shattering feeling of pain.

Frank once again began constructing random contraptions. In an unexpected twist, he actually used his invention! It allowed him to tunnel into the ground so that he and the Butterfly might be able to use their healing powers to stop this unknown creature. The burrowing creature picked up speed quickly, forcing the two to pursue at breakneck speeds. Eventually the two were queued in to the fact that they remembered feeling this sort of mental power when they were faced with the Guardian of the Underworld.

Frank and the Butterfly pushed themselves to the limits, but their effort was not enough. Their healing powers didn’t have enough of an effect and eventually the Guardian of the Underworld’s rampage came to an end with a final burst of mental imagery: A huge soul crystal stood erect within the chamber of the Earth’s Mind for the Butterfly, while Frank saw a small one secreted away in a beautiful, but tiny cavern. Immediately following this final image, a huge pillar of blackness bursts into the sky.

Their dismay pushed them onward, toward their next goal: the highly sophisticated spacecraft.

Lini wasted away once they reached the ship. The mighty Bear Spirit appears suddenly and begins to console the sorrowful Frank.

The group decided to awaken both the female pilot and child from stasis. After having done so, they discussed whether or not Sarin should be made aware by either letting Fargrim know of the new discovery or keeping it secret.

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Madness Ensues

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After waking the humans on the ship, the members of the party present (that is to say, minus Fargrim) discussed what to do with the people and the ship, expressing concern of what Sarin would do with the knowledge of their existence. The woman took exception to being talked about, and as the party included her in the conversation, explaining the situation and the amount of time they had been asleep, it occurred to them that Sarin came from a crashed ship as well. They asked the woman if she knew of a Sarin from their ship, and she said that there was a Sarin who was a pilot on their ship, and that it was her husband and the child’s father. (BUM BUM BUUUUM) She insisted that Sarin was a kind man who would never do such things, and therefore it must be a different Sarin.

Merida and Naris (the woman and child) listened as the entire tale was told, about Sarin’s trek from the ship and his failure. Grizzly said “Wow, your dad’s a real dick” and Butterfly calmed the situation down. Bear’s presence was requested to discuss what to do with the group, as well as answer some questions about Frank’s involvement and purpose here, as Lini had said that Frank had been brought to where he needed to be. Bear passed the buck (no pun intended) to the Great Stag, and so the Great Stag was summoned, though appearing as a radiant butterfly. The Stag admitted that yes, he had in fact kept Lini alive in order to fulfill the purpose of bringing Frank to the ship. He implied that it might have been related to the power source, but was evasive on that point.

The Stag was informed of the woman and child and their relation to Sarin. Further plans were discussed, and worry was expressed over Sarin attempting to leave the planet on the ship, and what such a departure of power might do to the world. Frank asked for some flowers from the Stag, looking for a quick power source to bring ship’s records back online without engaging the full power source. The power source appeared to be something that ran on the energy of the Universe itself, which mystified all present. The Stag also admitted that he did not know of Lini’s Tinker curse being lifted, and said that such a thing was unlikely to be an accident or side effect. Frank insisted that the curse’s origin was divine, and therefore removing it would have to be divine, at which point he ran off furiously.

Upon getting the logs online, Frank discovered that the ship had actually been descending without issue until it was hit by a sudden and massive electrical storm. Reasoning that turning on the power no longer seemed dangerous, he repaired and activated the power of the ship itself. As it came back online, an audible groan filled the ship, and a face appeared on every monitor, even pushing its way out of the one in front of Frank. It was the Captain of the ship, and he demanded that all leave his ship. As Frank tried to deactivate the ship again and the others raced to the bridge, in discourse with the Captain the entire way, they discovered that the Captain is just a ghost who had merged with the ship somehow on the bridge, that he believed the crew was still alive, that very little time had passed, and that he had gone quite mad. Butterfly’s diplomacy attempts were thwarted one by one by Grizzly’s battle cries and intimidation attempts in another room. Various bits of debris, detritus and toilet seats fly around and attack the party. Butterfly eventually manages to deflate the situation, explaining that the ship is protected by the gods, giving him a flower. When he accepts it, his ghost accepts peace and passes on.

As the survey the ship for damage, Grizzly discovers a metal man, surprisingly not deeming it an abomination. The robot is active, though damaged, but this does not stop Grizzly from using it to play a prank on Frank, instructing the robot to tell Frank he is his father. Frank almost falls for it, but as he glances on the horizon, he sees an unnaturally humongous storm approaching. Despite the damage that would be done to the ship, the party decides to fly the ship away, remembering how the ship crashed in the first place.

Sy recalls a legend of a massive storm elemental called The Devourer, whose only goal is to eat large energy sources. As the party retreats in the ship as fast as possible without hitting any flying animals on the way. Mysteriously, a group of air elementals assist in the escape, and the party gets the ship to the Monks with only one minor splat along the way. The Monks succeed in driving off the elemental, but are none to happy with the group for bringing such a large target to their doorstep. They are not certain what to do with the ship either, but they ask that the party helps to defuse a nearby diplomatic situation while they work on a solution.

The party heads to a nearby insect village, where a bear and an anteater are being held and accused of eating many insects, even after the Insect Ascension. The bear is completely unrepentant, laughing mercilessly at the wheedley-voiced ant prosecutor, while the anteater at least realizes how much trouble he is in and tries to beg off and swear off. In an attempt to give the insects a method to show strength but not create martyrs, Frank invents a shock collar that will punish the wearer if they ever tried to attack an insect, and offering that they should protect the village. He tested it on himself and nearly died from the overload.

The bear resists this, and Grizzly steps up to his defense, saying that this is not how the Law of Nature works. He insists that there is nothing natural about this, that there is no accounting for strength and superiority in such a thing. One small speck of an insect steps up, offering a one-on-one challenge, a fight to the death with the bear. The bear accepts, and as he looks to begin the fight, he begins itching his ear. The bear dies slowly in agony, screaming for 20 minutes as the insect burrows through his ear, into his brain, killing him from the inside. The anteater gladly accepts the collar.

Grizzly offers final warning, saying that the animal kingdom will not accept these actions lightly. The bugs become noticeably upset and ask the party to leave, but Butterfly again defuses the situation as best as possible, staying behind as the party leaves to spread the word of the Great Stag.

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