Level 15

The Paths of Light and Darkness

Summary: The heroes travel to the oriental realm of Kara-tur to find the long-lost heir to the throne of Impiltur.
Takes place 18th of Eleint (The Fading) through 17th of Marpenoth (Leaffall) in the year 1478DR (The Year of the Dark Circle)

During the latest malfunction of the Star Sextant, the Moon Elf head researcher, Patono, ran a full diagnostic test. The results included a list of all the places a gate had been opened to during the last 100 years. To his surprise, an unauthorized gate had been opened to the oriental land of Kara-Tur just prior to the Year of Blue Fire. Through some investigation and hard questioning, his security turned up some astonishing news.

Prior to the coming of the Spellplague, young King Imbrar II had been informed of the Star Sextant by his inner council. Wanting to see the device in action, he had been allowed to participate in several planar explorations with a group of Moon Elf Star Rangers. During one of those expeditions, the king had, in Patono’s words, “participated in conjugal relations” with the beautiful Star Ranger, Moenna Nónámo. Moenna later discovered she was pregnant, and apparently shamed by her condition, covertly used the Star Sextant to flee to the far side of the world. The Spellplague hit shortly thereafter. During the cataclysm, King Imbrar died valiantly while attempting to lead some of his people to safety. The disappearance of Moenna and the potential heir of Impiltur had gone undiscovered in the aftermath of the Spellplague. Until now…

The heroes were dispatched through the gateway to the same location Moenna used. They appeared in a lush, tropical jungle. After exploring for a bit, they were set upon by some man-eating white apes. After defeating the apes, the adventurers discovered a village with dwellings made of dug out pits topped by large leaves. The village was the home of a clan of Korobokuru (Oriental Dwarves). The Korobokuru were less stout than their western cousins but more hairy and unkempt. They also had particularly long arms and bowed legs. After determining that the party was friendly, the Korobokuru invited them to enjoy their hospitality. The dwarves told the adventurers of the great sage, Yoshi the Wise, who could help them with their quest. After they had consumed much sake and the Korobokuru had picked a few of their pockets, the party was led to Yoshi. They were much surprised to see that Yoshi the Wise was a large, talking celestial badger. Yoshi shared some tea and special fortune cookies with the party before he “put them on the path.” The party became disoriented, and when they returned to their senses, they were on a road just outside of a grandiose city.

The party discovered that they were outside of Imperial City, the capital city of the Kingdom of Shou Lung. In the central marketplace, the party inquired about Moenna and eventually found a very old woman who remembered her. The woman remembered as a young girl she had helped a midwife deliver a child for an elf fitting Moenna’s description. She recollected that the birthing was difficult “because of those narrow elven hips.” The elf had died in child-birth but a baby-boy had survived. He was put up for adoption with a group of monks, but the old-lady could not remember which group.

The heroes emerged back into the marketplace and were promptly challenged to give up their quest by a group introducing themselves as “The Ten Brothers.” When the party refused, an old fashioned kung-fu brawl ensued. Each of the brothers could take on the form and/or powers of an animal from the Shou Lung zodiac. They attacked the party honorably, with only with a number of brothers fighting an equal number of the heroes. Each time a brother was defeated, a new one jumped into the fighting ring. As the party battled the brothers, they noted that each bore a tattoo of the zodiac. Afterwards, they also noted that they had only defeated nine opponents. Victory was short-lived, as the imperial guard stormed in and arrested the heroes.

After explaining their mission, the party was brought before the Emperor of Shou Lung, who surprisingly greeted them with much enthusiasm. The Emperor held an audience with the adventurers in the imperial garden where his only daughter lay on a bier covered with fallen leaves of cherry blossom. As it turned out, the Emperor’s young daughter, Eiko, had recently been attacked by a clan of vampire assassins intent on turning her into one of their members. The plot had been foiled by Ryu, the Emperor’s minister of security. However the girl was bitten. The Emperor had Eiko placed in stasis until a cure could be found. Yi-hou, the Emperor’s minister of magic, had just unearthed evidence that during the Spellplague, a swath of spellfire had been released with the power to turn life to undeath and undeath to life. Far to the north, the Celestial Dragon Monk Clan still stood guard over the remnants of that flame. The Emperor had taken the party’s arrival as an omen that his plan to have Eiko taken to the spellflame was the right path. Like her, several of the party were cursed with undeath (after their encounter with Szass Tam) and needed the cure. Also, the leader of the monks was an old man known as the White Dragon “possibly in reference to his skin color.” He would be about the right age as the heir the party was looking for. The Emperor invited the characters to join the expedition he was sending to take his daughter to the monks.

The party consisted of a palanquin to bear Eiko, an honor guard of imperial soldiers, and some servants to bear the supplies. There were several persons of note on the expedition:
• Yi-hou: The minister of magic and leader of the expedition. The haughty sorceress dressed in a brightly colored silk kimono. Single-minded in her mission to carry out the emperor’s orders, she had little time for the characters except to boss them around.
• Ryu: The minister of security. A disciple of the Hooded Cobra clan, this monk was ritually bound to keep his face shrouded at all times. The grizzled veteran had guarded several generations of the imperial family. Blaming himself for Eiko’s condition, he diligently monitored her and the expedition for potential threats.
• Ginko: The minister of information. Contrary to most spy masters, this guy was very flamboyant and outgoing. He was usually dressed in red robes and armed with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. Ginko quite often hung out with the characters and acted as their travelling guide.

The first stop of significance was at the temple (more like a gambling hall) of the 7 spirits of luck. The party was invited to go by Ginko. Rumor had it that if you gambled well enough, the spirits themselves would appear for a high stakes game at the end of the night and grant a wish to the winner. This chance to remove their affliction was enough to tempt the undead characters into going. The temple was a large ziggurat. The lower level was occupied by every imaginable game of chance. Only those that won enough were permitted to enter the upper level for the high stakes game. Miraculously, all of the characters and Ginko did will enough to advance. This included some memorable proposition betting by Alkorahil and Tsol. Alkorahil acted as the barker and Tsol performed feats of strength. The upper level of the temple was cubical and decorated like a giant die. The characters were shooting craps and mostly losing when Ginko got caught palming dice. This angered the spirits of luck, whose avatars appeared and attacked the party. After driving off the spirits, the party was allowed to leave. Ginko apologized profusely to the heroes for cheating to try and help them win.

The next major encounter was at the province of Kirin, home of the Sisters of the Six Sighs. Waiting at the river borderline were the indistinguishable sisters, who were all clad in matching kimonos and waving identical fans. They refused to allow the undead party members into their realm until they proved their worth by removing something “ugly” from the river downstream. The heroes proceeded down the river and were attacked by Kappa – strange, troll-like creatures with bowl-shaped depressions in their heads. The depressions were filled with water. The creatures regenerated from their wounds at a remarkable rate until the characters discovered spilling the water caused them to weaken. Some of the heroes even tricked the Kappa into politely bowing, which caused them to spill their water.

“You can get farther with a kind word than you can with a sword.” – Yoshi the Wise

After defeating the Kappa, the adventurers were admitted into Kirin. The undead party members were shown to a bath, while the live ones were offered both a bath and a massage by the lovely sisters. Shortly thereafter, the bath house was attacked by ninja assassins. Alkorahil survived the entire encounter fighting mostly solo and sans armor (and clothes).

After the fight was over, the heroes reunited with the other members of the imperial party. The imperials were also battered from fighting off the ninjas. Ryu grasped the torn robe of Ginko, anxious to know if the princess was safe. On Ginko’s arm, the party spied the same zodiac tattoo possessed by the other 10 Brothers. Seeing their reaction, Ginko morphed into a human-fox hybrid form and bounded away before the adventurers could catch him.

After more travel, the heroes finally arrived at the Monastery of the Celestial Dragon. An imposing structure built into the side of a mountain, the Monastery was dominated by a tall, rear tower carved to resemble a 2-headed dragon. The party was taken to an audience with the White Dragon. They were disappointed to see he was simply an elderly, white-bearded, oriental man. He told the story that during the Spellplague; he had witnessed spellfire spring up in the middle of a pitched battle between some samurai fighting for their lives against a band of cursed undead spirits. The undead had returned to life (the White Dragon hinted one of them may have been him), but all living things touched by the spellfire were transformed into twisted undead. The spellfire grew with each ki (life) that it touched and threatened to spread like wildfire. This so disturbed the Kara-tur deities of Life and Death, that they each dispatched their angels to contain the spellfire. Their angels, in the forms of a phoenix and a raven, each sacrificed themselves to seal away the spellfire. The spellfire was sealed at the top of the dragon tower. The White Dragon warned that breaking the seals of the avatars and feeding fuel to the spellfire could cause it to burn out of control as the gods once feared. Ryu, knowing the kind of girl Eiko had been, stated that she would never be willing to unleash such potential harm on others for her own sake. The undead heroes also reluctantly agreed that the risk was not worth curing their own condition. But Yi-hou, ever dedicated to following the exact orders of the Emperor, reminded everyone that it was an imperial command to place the girl in the spellfire. The White Dragon reluctantly agreed to obey. When the adventurers and Ryu began to resist, she unleashed a prismatic spell that blinded them all. The heroes heard the White Dragon issue a command for the guards to restrain them. When their eyesight returned, Yi-hou, the White Dragon, and the girl were gone, but they were now confronted with many dragon samurai. Suddenly, Ginko (Fox), disguised as one of the samurai, appeared and dropped a chandelier on the enemies. He explained that he had always been aware of the danger of unleashing the spellfire, but neither the Emperor nor Yi-hou would listen to him. Ginko also feared that the temptation would be too much for the undead party members, so he had tried to sabotage the mission. Ginko apologized for not trusting the party earlier and asked for their help to stop the others from releasing the spellfire. The characters agreed, and he led them through some secret passageways to the battlements of the Monastery.

There, they caught up with the imperials getting ready to enter the dragon tower. The White Dragon and a group of monks carried the girl into the tower and slammed the door shut. Yi-hou stayed behind to slow down the characters. She surprised the heroes by revealing her true form as a Couatl (flying, feathered serpent). The heroes fought a running battle against her and a seemingly unending number of dragon samurai wielding flaming swords, while the thief characters tried to unlock the door. Eventually, the heroes managed to unlock the door, enter the tower, and slam the door on their attackers. Fox scampered away again at the last second, saying he needed to go warn others in case they failed.

Ascending the tower was not a linear event. The avatars had created paths of light and darkness throughout the tower to contain the spellflame. The paths intertwined in a pattern where dimension and gravity held no meaning. In the event [played out on a Tsuro game board], undead party members created a dark path and living party members created a light path, as they attempted to corral the avatars of phoenix and raven, who had been released by the passage of the monks.

“Fire has no form of its own, but clings to the burning objects. Light clings to darkness.” – Yoshi the Wise

Finally, the heroes arrived at the top of the tower, but were too late as the spellfire had already been unleashed. The White Dragon had been transformed into a specter made of spellfire and his monks had become Plaguechanged Ghouls. As the undead attacked them, the spellfire blazed unchecked. All of the party members were touched by the ever-growing spellfire but were too busy battling the undead to worry about its effects. At the last second, rather than risk the dishonor of being turned into undead, Ryu committed seppuku and stabbed himself with his sword. Meanwhile, Yi-hou had continued her pursuit of the adventurers. Just as she flew to the top of the tower, a spout of spellflame came gushing out of one of its stone dragon-heads and struck her. The party saw the Couatl plummet back down towards the ground after being hit. Ghryll fell valiantly in battle after being hit by an onslaught of adaptive blue bolts from the specter. Finally, after a grueling struggle, the heroes emerged victorious. However, the spellflame still threatened to erupt out of control, and angels of life and death no longer had sufficient power to contain it. Reaching out for an anchor, the raven of death found Ghryll’s deceased spirit, still lingering and ready to fight on. Reaching out for an anchor, the phoenix of life latched on to Alkorahil’s essence, born in the celestial energy of the astral plane. Together, using every ounce of their spirit, the combined will of the heroes and the angels managed to trap the spellflame once again. As life and death once again intertwined, Ghryll’s body was returned to life and given a parting gift of a cloak from the Raven Queen. Conversely, Alkorahil’s body was killed (again), yet somehow his spirit lived on in a body powered by undead energy. He too was presented with a gift for his sacrifice. The angel of life granted Alkorahil his own sword – Dark Phoenix.

  • Tsol’s exposure to the spellflame removed his undead status
  • Madrakkar’s exposure to the spellflame removed his undead status
  • Alkorahil’s experience had left him undead
  • Andraste’s experience had tragically ended her life and no amount of magic or prayer could reunite her spirit to her body
    • Ghryll’s experience had removed his undead status and raised dead
    • Bahardim – the spellflame always has an element of unpredictability. Instead of getting changed to undead he was spellscarred.
    • The princess Eiko’s vamparitic curse was removed from exposure to the spellflame. During the battle, she spied her friend Ryu bleeding from his wound, and used the same herbs used to keep her in stasis to preserve his life.
    • Ryu – On the bleeding edge between life and death, he was unaffected by the spellfire. When the heroes went to heal him afterwards, his mask had burned away, revealing his face. Instead of the wrinkled, oriental features they were expecting, he had pale skin, round eyes, and middle-aged, half-elven features. They had found the heir.

After-aftermath: The new-born dracolich wormed her way deeper into the cool, darkness of the cave. The warm sunlight, always so precious to her, had become impossible to bear. Her mind reeled in confusion. She had obeyed every command to the letter. The others had been the ones to disobey the will of the gods, but here she lay cursed for all eternity. Yet karma had a way of coming full circle. She would have her revenge.

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