The party ventured back to the Demonskar and down into Vaprak’s Voice. There they faced off against the hill giants and ettins, who were a little better prepared this time. After a few battles, they fought their way to a room with three “angels”. Tancred quickly detected their evil auras and the beat-down was on. Once dispatched, the three “angels” turned out to be hags. The party then found the magical staff Alakast hidden away in a secret compartment and a strange mirror in a nearby room.
Having defeated the hags and retreived the staff, it was time to settle the score with the fire giant whose flying, fiery anvils had brought about Dreori’s demise. The party settled into another very tough battle, but emerged victorious after Caleb landed the killing blow.
Leaving the giant’s corpse smoldering in the hallway, it was back to investigate the strange mirror. The mirror turned out to be a portal that led to a series of identical rooms with mirrors of different colors hanging on the walls. After a little trial and error, the party discovered the correct combination of colored mirrors and found themselves standing in a room with a locked iron door and a very despondent paladin lying on the floor.
Alek Tercival, paladin and member of the Church of Pelor, had been found! Alek explained how he’d been tricked by the three hags and pleaded with the party to help him retract his challenge of Terseon Skellerang. The party readily agreed and set to work on the locked iron door.
Breaking the door down revealed a short staircase and a small temple whose entrance was blocked by sand. Sand?! But there isn’t a desert within hundreds of miles of the City State. Could it be that the mirror had transported the party clear across The Wilderlands?
As the party set out to explore the area, a demon appeared at the entrance to the temple. Nabathatoron the demon bellowed, “You shall not save your friend, mortals! The time of peace is at an end!” Alek Tercival charged into battle with the demon and was quickly cut down. It looked like Nabathatoron would escape when the party’s mage proved himself invaluable by casting a spell that not only hurt the demon but kept him stunned for several rounds. Let the hacking commence!
The celebration of victory over the demon was momentary, however, as Alek deperately motioned for Caleb to come close to hear his dying words. When he spoke, it is not the voice of Alek but rather that of the angel you had met in the woods so many days before. “There is naught left for you in Cauldron, heroes,” she began. “To return is to enter your own graves and to bring doom upon all you love! Trust the sign of the Smoking Eye if you wish to save them all!” The paladin’s eyes then slowly closed, and he passed from this realm.
After a proper funeral for Alek had been performed, the party headed out into the dunes in search of some other human presence. After only a few hours, the party was again ambushed by creatures from the demon realms. As the party made quick work of a few foolish Babaus, a strange figure appeared to help them. After the battle was ended, he introduced himself as Kaurophon and explained that he had been sent to bring the party to a place called Occipitus, a bit of celestial realm that had fallen into the abyss. There, he stated, the party must pass the Test of the Smoking Eye. Though Tancred could see evil in his heart, Alek’s final words were still fresh in each of their minds, and they agreed to travel with the strange being.
After casting a Plane Shift spell, this is the sight that greeted the party. “The sky seems to be made of flame, bathing everything in a reddish glow. Off in the distance looms a massive skull: a white monolith the size of a small mountain. Clouds of flame stream from the skull’s single exposed eye socket and up into the sky. About a half-mile ahead stands a cluster of gently curving white pillars, almost as if giant rib bones had been stuck in the ground. In the distance looms a steep mountain ridge whose top seems to touch the fiery sky. It stretches around the entire horizon – as if you were standing inside a vast bowl with a fiery lid. The ground is spongy and wrinkled. It’s more like skin than dirt.”
Let the test begin!