The Return of Guistenal

Welcome to your Athas, your place in the Dark Sun

Join the adventures of out stalwart group as they do what they can to eke out survival in the world of the Dark Sun – Athas

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Getting their Silt Legs

Asterion the barbarian, general of Guistenal, Volkann the fighter, first noble of Guistenal, and Korrin, spy of Guistenal, are set a task by the templars of Guistenal, delivered by their handler Jha’Near, to test their nascent powers. The job is simple. In the near future the characters may be in need of mystical writings, some of which can be found in the tomb of Evarosh, a wizard of note. To get there the characters will need to consult with an oracle kept in the Tower of Pragnost. The tower is magically locked but a pass phrase can be found in the treasure room of the Tower of Olande. Simple really.
Travelling to the Tower of Olande they find a once great building in a state of decrepitude and ruination. Searching the lower levels they discover the treasure room but other inhabitants are there. A baazrag and her spawn. The characters boldly move in to attack but Asterion, the strongest of the party, is rendered unconscious with two blows (admittedly he had a bad trot and completely missed every attack) and Volkann, the hardiest, retreats to get a second wind. XXX manages to distract the mother Baazrag with some crunchy morsel and they manage to drag Asterion away.
Rethinking their tactics the party manoeuvre to a position where they can get a better shot at the Baazrag and within a few rounds they manage to defeat it a hell of a lot easier than they were doing before. But the challenge isn’t over and they find the treasure room door is magically locked. Searching for a clue they realise that the bas relief on the door of a tavern with a minstrel is a clue. Further searching reveals the notes they need to play and open the door, finding some loot as well as the pass phrase to the Tower of Pragnost.
The Tower of Pragnost is set near the edge of the Sea of Silt and the entrance is a bridge over a silt estuary. As the characters cross they are beset the tentacle of a silt horror which, while bruising them up a bit does no lasting damage. The pass phrase spoken, the characters enter the Tower of Pragnost.
The characters discover some loot, but more importantly a pool of freestanding water. In a land of drought and thirst they find cool, clear water. As Asterion starts to wash his face in it a voice booms from the water telling him to clear off. Correctly adducing that this pool is the oracle they try to ply it for information and it seems that here is where Korrin shines, being able to talk and manipulate the (who was rather desperate for the attention after all these years). But just as success seems to be within their grasp Korrin fails and while the pool begrudgingly gives them the location the resulting psychic strain curses them with the inability to be able to spend a healing surge till they complete their present quest.
Gaining the location of the Tomb of Evarosh (a days travel across the blistering sands of Athas) the characters get some kanks from Jha’Near as well as desert supplies. To successfully cross the desert they need to make many skill rolls (Nature in particular, right up Asterions alley – no not there you idiot). Unfortunately someone (Asterion) completely cocks up all his rolls, wasting their supplies and forcing them all to loose a healing surge.
Entering the hidden valley the characters know where to go but are intercepted by a group of vulture-like beings. On a whim Volkann flaps his arms like a lunatic. The aarakockra ask who it is that challenges them and Volkann keeps up by trying to intimidate the creatures, threatening them with death. The aarakockra, after a short discussion decide that if they yield the characters must give them something. Volkann wants to press the advantage but Asterion jumps in and offers his gem that he got from the treasure vault in the Tower of Olande. Happily the Aaracockra run off with their prize.
(In an amusing note Chris states “be a bit of a let-down if they were all minions anyhow” to which I show him my creature compendium showing him that they were minions, but now richer).
Entering the Tomb of Evarosh they characters quickly find several stone tablets with some handy rituals written on them. As Korrin tries to pry them off a voice from the darkness asks who dares defile his tomb. There is some banter back and forth and Korrin tries to talk Evarosh, or his ghost, (or someone completely different, they just don’t know) and Korrin tries to see his opponent who is standing in the shadows in an alcove. As he approaches the form disappears from sight to appear later in another alcove.
Asterion, who is nearby, dares to see the intruder who simply points at him. Asterion’s mind fills with images of worms eating into his flesh and the psychic effect does enough damage to render him unconscious. They decide attack might be a bad option. The being, perhaps it is Evarosh, has a request. Take the tablets, in return they must work to destroy Nibenay (sure, he’s just another uber-powerful sorcerer-king). Korrin agrees.
The characters return to Guistenal having completed their task. They get a pat on the back, enough experience to go up a level, and a much needed rest.

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Bodies to Fill Rooms

Jha’Near, the templar handler from lower Guistenal (as they have decided to call the cavernous under layer that the characters aren’t openly invited to, though Marsh has seen a small part of it when he undertook the templar loyalty ritual) has suggested that it might be prudent to start finding people to populate Guistenal. They also let the characters know that there is a small community called Farat not far away that might be inclined to enjoy the benefits of a city (the city boasts reservoirs capable of sustaining at least 20,000 people, high walls capable of preventing most enemies, gardens and a view – OK its the same view everyone else has).
The four characters, Marsh, a Kalashtar Monk (and templar), Volkann, Korrin (who its decided can act in the place of the Foreign Office or diplomat), and T’Jown (a Half-giant rogue – yeah we’ve already heard the jokes – who controls the first guild of merchants), set out for Farat across the desert along four extra kanks laden with jugs of water (a gift). Asterion, fascinated by the gardens, stays behind. Unfortunately, due to terrible luck circumstances conspire against the characters and they lose two kanks on the way.
When the characters arrive at Farat they find it besieged and under attack from Hejkins, psionic creatures that hate those who dig and scar the earth. The characters approach from the mound that the hejkin chieftain and his entourage, four guards and a chanter, watch the battle. Marsh runs forward to the attack and finds himself knocked unconscious by the cruel claws of the chieftain (luckily he brought all his slaves and three of them drag him off to safety – well two, one dies for his trouble and the others spend a few rounds snogging him to health). Marsh is backed by T’Jown who manages to stand his ground, especially when the chanter attacks his own chieftain, betraying him. The other four guards are soon slain and the chieftain is left facing the characters alone and is knocked unconscious.
The characters enter Farat victorious having routed the Hejkin attack. Wazig, the community elder, tells a tale of woe where the hejkin have been attacking them for the last three days. The characters offer a solution – move to Guistenal. They are very eloquent (well Korrin is anyway) and they manage to convince the community to up and move to Guistenal. The town, over the next few days, packs its gear and they set out into the desert back to Guistenal.
Along the way the caravan is jumped by some clever kenku that mimic a large predator cry, scaring the front part of the caravan while they try to secure the last. But they have to contend with the characters. The fight is fierce (with Marsh being taken out by a minion, its agreed that Marsh was the most hopeless player of the night, taking the crown from Asterion who sucked the previous week) but ultimately fatal for the kenku and the characters once more prove their worth for the new members of Guistenal. Returning to Guistenal the character report to Jha’Near to find him seeing off the hejkin chanter that attacked the chieftain. Bemused, Jha’Near explains that in politics it is best to hedge your bets.
Guistenal now has a population of over one hundred and its army has jumped from one general to include eighteen troops. Its a small beginning, but a beginning none the less.

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The Heart of Thamarask - Part 1

After having spent some time in the gardens of Guistenal Asterion has some news for the crew. He has discovered that the gardens are well watered and should be thriving but they seem to be battling against a botanical malaise he doesn’t understand. Consulting the oracle pool in the Tower of Pragnost he has ascertained that an artefact, the Heart of Thamarask, will help restore the gardens.
So while T’Jown stays at Guistenal establishing his supremacy over the market place (probably through a lot of veiled threats and not so veiled voilence), Asterion, Marsh, Volkann, and Korrin set out across the desert to make the arduous trek across the desert towards the Cresent Forest where they locate the Heart of Thamarask situated in the Witchgrove at its centre. It goes badly.
They are beset by all sorts of hazards, getting lost, losing supplies, not taking the right precautions against storms and other such dangers. Along the way they did meet a lone aaracockra, looking as though he was heading for the Black Mountains, herding a small group of mekillots (opps, in the original printing they were supposed to be inix juveniles, not quite so intimidating) and the groups passed each other warily.
Later they discovered a large stone pillar which Asterion was keen to investigate and got shocked for his troubles. Then an adult silk wyrm burst from the sand to attack him. It is not long before noble, stout, strong, capable (he does have the highest bonus to attack) Asterion is bleeding on the sand (but apparently he has a glass jaw). Korrin manages to wrest control of the lightning pillar from the silk wyrm and together the group vanquish their foe. Korrin suggests harvesting the silk wyrm for valuables, food, oil, leather, all things which can fetch them some extra ceramic but unfortunately the going is so bad that they also manage to use up all these resources.
Finally reaching the Crescent Forest Asterion, Marsh, and Volkaan stand in awe of such giant greenery for they had only before seen stunted trees and barbed cacti. And the forest is teeming with life that seems to have a hatred for them. Using the clues they have been given they search for the Witchgrove. It goes badly.
They encounter a band of halflings that manage, in a few short rounds, to render all but Volkann unconscious (though Marsh did a fantastic mantis step that bloodied two of the halflings). Volkann, risking all, resuscitates Korrin who uses a powerful arcane spell upon the halfling leader without resorting to defiling. Bloodying the leader Korrin asserts his authority and the attack is halted. The halflings reveal that they are called Lostspears, escaped slaves from the army of the sorcerer-queen Lalali-Puy of Gulg. They state that they hate both Gulgan’s and Nibenese. Korrin secretly reveals his quest to destroy Nibenay and words of friendship are passed.
In the morning the group travel forth again and encounter several ssuran’s (lizardmen for non-Athasian’s) and, in a surprise attack, an id fiend. The ssuran’s die quickly at the skillful hands of the characters but the id fiend is more problematic with its snapping jaws and quick slashes more so than its mental assaults. They characters even manage to capture the beast alive and quickly tie it up. They find it a hard captive as it constantly tries to mind control them and animals nearby. Korrin calls upon the Lostspears again and over some nice roast ssuran they show how to brew a drug to keep the id fiend docile.
Continuing on the characters seem to have nothing else to fear, apart from getting lost, and after following the completely wrong trail markers end up at the west gate of Nibenay. Deciding not to get put out by it they enter Nibenay to try and sell their id fiend captive and perhaps eyeball the closest competition.

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Nibenay Interlude
Day 1

Approaching the magnificently caparisoned West Gate of Nibenay with their id fiend in tow, Asterion, Marsh, Korrin, and Volkann decide to pass themselves off as beast hunters. The slave-guards at the gate are helpful enough to give them directions to the arena and Volkann hears them mutter under their breath that with such a beast in tow they are unlikely to be bothered. The group wonders what they mean but soon note that the resplendent architecture redolent on the outside of the city walls is more careworn in this district.
Stopping at the first tavern they come across for a refreshing beer (which they have to enjoy outside) the group bicker about whether to sell the critter at the arena or not but Korrin insists on finding a psionic training hall. Luckily a helpful individual leads the characters to the Academy of Fierce Purpose just a little way down the road on the way to the Arena.
Keen to be rid of the beast the group make their way to the Academy of Fierce Purpose, a building of unblemished beauty patronised by the nobles of the city, where the masters almost fall over themselves to help the group. After much haggling the sale of the id fiend is secured for the price of 4,795 ceramic pieces. Deciding to live it up a little the characters ask Pelador (their guide) shows them to a nice taven (with soft beds, room slaves, and decent hot meals) where they can rest for the next few days while they replenish their supplies and prepare for another sojourn in the Crescent Forest to look for the Witchgrove (oh, and to check out how other cities work)

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