The adventurers were in a tough spot. The Guardian, now revealed to be a man named Vyenthris Phoenixrun, could have killed them at any time he chose to.
The magus seemed immensely calm and collected while throwing ideas back and forth with Neo. It was odd, as though the focus took the silent burning of his blood out of his mind. It felt good.
Vyentrhis was a cunning man though. While he was willing to go along with much of the plan, he refused to be the bait himself. Instead he suggested someone of the group should be the bait. Crestfallen, Al’ev turned to the rest of the adventurers for ideas on how to spread rumors about so that they might reach Azar’s scaled hide.
A few of them suggested using Al’ev’s brother and he almost instantly hated the idea. But he did have to admit, the plan had some sense of thought behind it. His brother would likely be far more trusted than anything else he had thought of. Because of this, the group decided to go with this solution.
Then came the hard part. They had to leave Caramel behind. Al’ev was sure he wasn’t the only one who felt like he was betraying a friend in doing so, but one thing helped him move the plan along.
“If you are successful and you defeat this Azar, I’ll leave Caramel in your collective care.” Vyenthrus had said.
Turning from adventurer to adventurer all of them but the cleric, Desira, decided to leave and set the plan in motion. Desira had decided to stay behind with Caramel.
Al’ev thought he understood why and would have likely done the same in her position, but he also knew that in doing this, she had just made their mission a bit harder. Still, they had work to do and the adventurers pressed left the mansion behind.
Using currency obtained from Vyenthrus prior to leaving, they rented mounts that would make their travel to Trinity much quicker. They wasted little time in setting off from there.
They arrived in the still recovering metropolis three days later and found Al’ev’s brother and Sindri Stribog in a discussion involving a rather intimate affair that the red half dragon had been in at some point previously.
Interrupting before things got out of hand , Al’ev asked his brother if he would assist the adventurers in their plan to rid the world of Azar.
Using every hook he could think of proved to fall short of convincing his half brother, whom Sindri had taken to calling Zell, to go along with their plan. His blood rising, he finally asked what he would have them do instead.
Zell suggested that they look to the shadier areas of Trinity to spread rumors. He knew that Azar had several contacts in low places that would get the information to the Phoenix seeking dragon.
The adventurers had no choice. They elected Velius to spread the rumors and spent the next two days waiting for the rogue to finish up. Then they set off to find the cave system that Vyenthrus had mentioned would make an ideal place for the group to confront Azar.
It took them a couple days to make their way to the likely area. The alchemist, who had still refused to give his name, and Al’ev along with Tharrison “harry” Balg managed to track down an entrance to a cave system that may serve them as the location for the trap.
They entered the shaft in the ground after the alchemist spotted a rope latter that was hidden in some nearby brush. When they reached the first ledge only fifteen feet down, they found the first oddity of the cave.
A fully functioning pulley system sat waiting and appeared to be in good repair.
They proceeded cautiously lowering themselves further down into the cave in two groups. The air began to take on a funny smell as they went deeper and several within the group felt themselves getting dizzier as they reached the floor.
Waiting for them at the bottom was a strange bubbling pool of water. It was not warm and only faintly had a sense of magic. Best guess was that there was some sort of gas responsible for the bubbles, but they couldn’t confirm that. Whatever was in the air turned out to be highly flammable, however. Crim discovered this when he lit a torch on fire and there was a small explosion of flame. Noting this, the group proceeded even more cautiously.
Eventually Velius dove into the water and found another pulley system that seemed to be slightly different than the one above. He pulled on one of the ropes and was startled to feel it give way a bit. He surfaced to share his discovery. By this point, Sindri had taken out his bottle of endless air and had started using that to counteract the effects of the oxygen deprivation that had started to affect the group.
The alchemist decided to dive in next and with the aid of Al’ev’s dancing lights spell was able to find another of the ropes about ten feet down. He pulled it and everyone was a little startled to find the water quickly draining from the pool. The alchemist made it back in time to watch a bridge extend from under a wall to where the group stood waiting.
A voice came from a hall beyond the adjoining room.
“Jeffrey, do you have any idea how long it takes to fill this up?”
The group tried to play the part of whoever Jeffrey was, and apparently succeeded well enough for the other voice to call back and say he was going to report this to his boss.
Crim wasn’t about to let this happen and shot off faster than an arrow launched from a composite longbow. He caught the owner of the voice, a halfling, and knocked him out with a sap then brought him back to the rest of the group who decided to go up to the first ledge. There they waited to question him.
Above them they saw a very familiar group of people watching from above. Vyenthrus, Caramel, Desira and several of Vyenthrus’s bodyguards watching.
The halfling was not the easiest to get information from. After trying to bluff his way through a plausible explanation for why they might find an unconscious halfling in the middle of a cave system, Al’ev turned the questioning over to the Alchemist. The questioning quickly became an interrogation when the Alchemist took the halfling back down into the cave and tried to use the lack of oxygen against the halfling. He was unable to glean much information from the halfling beyond this being private property they all weren’t supposed to be on and that the halfling was part of a group of cave going beings. Bringing him back up, the group discussed what to do next.
While the group discussed this, Velius watched as the halfling manged to free one of his legs from the quick binding job the group had done. He was hobbling towards the rope latter that lead up. He decided to forcibly stop him by stabbing the halfling through the back of the knee.
Sindri was audibly distraught by this action and Al’ev was frowning. But the halfling told them a little more information they decided was just enough to go forward with. Desira could see the wound of the halfling and noted that several of her allies appeared to be singed. She cast a channeled heal and fixed all of these issues all at once against Vyenthrus’s orders.
After learning of five more cavers who were supposed to be in the caves below, they let the halfling, who said his name was Finus, go. They yelled at him to go back to his home, Nottinghamshiretonville, and to not return to this place for it was likely to be very dangerous soon.
They then proceeded down into the cave system, passing the bottle of air around to keep their heads clear. They followed the tunnel and soon came up on the sound of what sounded to be some sort of card game. Velius sneaked forward and discovered three halflings playing a game at the table and could hear something wooden being dragged out of the room. The other thing of note was the fact that the air appeared to have grown even more saturated by the explosive gas that had permeated the cave system.
He went back to group and shared this info. Sindri had a plan on what to do then and decided to put it into action. He silently moved forward and inched his head around the corner to glance into the room. He began using his abilities to speak into each of their minds.
The halflings thought it was Finus messing with them and threatened to come back into the hall and beat some sense into him if he didn’t stop speaking into their minds. Sindri continued with another halfling’s mind and began to share what cards the another was holding. He kept at this until Sindri asked if Celestrus had any thoughts. Saying he had none, Sindri joked with the blue dragon who existed in his staff if he could make a really loud scary booming voice.
“REALLY LOUD SCARY BOOMING VOICE.” Celestrus yelled out of the crystal.
This got the halflings riled up enough. “That’s it Finus!” They came running and Sindri used a spell to hide in the rock wall.
Crim had, by this point, made his way silently onto the ceiling and was waiting for the last of the halflings to pass when he dropped and cut the halfling in two. The other two continued on, not noticing the loss of their comrade. Advancing forward, Crim finished off another one with a single slice. The last made it to the group in time to be tackled by Al’ev. He was then knocked out by a Sap to the head.
The group advanced into the room where the halflings had been playing their game. Crim quickly finished off the elven leader who had a crossbow and had failed to hit one of the group members upon entering.
Sindri, Al’ev and the Alchemist went over to where there were several crates stacked up high. Sindri and Al’ev determined that there was magic within the crates and, though Al’ev voiced concern because they sensed of evocation magic, a school that was saturated with flame spells, they chose to open the crates.
Within they found what appeared to be numerous fireball necklace beads and the threat warning in the minds of the adventurers shot up faster than a star could across the night sky.
Al’ev decided to check on the last of the people who were expected to be in the cave, the likely owner of the sobbing that came from behind the stacks of crates. Upon reaching the other side of the wall of crates, the halfling attempted to scramble up the volatile containers. When he reached the top, he lunged and fireball beads scattered across the room.
“Nobody move. Step on one of these…and we’re done.” Someone said, echoing the thoughts of the others.
The halfling scrambled out of the room in the direction the adventurers had come in from. Velius attempted to stop him by tossing a knife at him. But the action only slowed the halfling down. He crawled his way out of the room past T’lemya who stood at the door. Several of the fireball beads rolled after him.
From further in the hall, Vyenthrus and his group had entered the cave system, following the adventurer’s progress. The front line of vampire bodyguards soon saw the halfling crawling towards them and began laughing as he quickly turned around and headed back towards the card game room. The slowly followed, poking fun at him the entire time. Caramel and Desira were unable to see why as they stood behind a couple rows of the bodyguards.
T’lemya, still at the entrance saw the halfling returning but was startled to see the halfling had drawn his own dagger and was heading straight for a fireball that had rolled to a stop about ten feet from his current position. She didn’t hesitate before throwing a dagger of her own into the halfling’s body. But it didn’t stop him.
His dagger fell and the cave erupted into flame. The adventurers had no time to react before their world went dark.
Back in the hall, the vampire group escorting Desira and Caramel also had no time to react. The flame washed over the group and Desira and Caramel heard the screams of agony emanate from their bodyguards before their world too went black.
One by one, the adventurers came to and opened their eyes. The world appeared hazy and everything felt less heavy, as though there was no longer anything holding them to the ground. Only they and the halfling who had destroyed the fireball orb had appeared here. The vampires and Vyenthrus were nowhere to be seen.
As Al’ev saw one of the adventurers float by him as though slowly flying. They were still in the same place they had been when the flame had washed over them all, but at the same time they were not. Several group members tried to grab at objects they could see but were unable to grip them, their forms just flowing through the object.
He realized then that they were no longer in the same plane of existence. Somehow, they had been forced into the Ethereal plane. He crossed his legs, floated in the air and thought long and hard about any instances he could remember reading where this had happened to someone in the past.
Meanwhile, the others were discovering that by simply thinking hard about something, they could will it into existence. Sindri soon found himself surrounded by mostly naked women and was instantly gleeful. T’lemya seemed to have thought up a female with blue eyes and undistinguished form, appearing as hazy as their current surroundings were. Crim had several half naked elven-like figures, though many were male, surrounding him as well. Caramel floated into the room and summoned the long dead Eremes to her. She seemed to say several words to him then handed him his inquisitor’s seal.
Al’ev looked around and watched all of the adventurers float about and summon random things into existence. One was doing just as he was, likely the only other one who knew where they were. Desira was near the entrance the room, watching until something seemed to suddenly catch her interest. She quickly turned to follow. Caramel saw this and followed the Cleric out of the room and down the hall. Al’ev puzzled at what he should do next and decided that sitting in mid air wasn’t doing anything for him. He too followed the cleric believing that if anyone had an idea of how to get back to where they belonged, it should be her.
After all, this was a realm closer to gods and spirits than it was for material creatures like themselves.
The rest of the group filtered out of the room, all following the Cleric who led them outside and into the forest. It was all hazy outside as well, just as it had been in the tunnel. They all came to a stop beside what appeared to be a very large cocoon, the type a creature would change within. This one had been split open though and seemed to now be radiating a silver light near it back wall.
Sindri recognized the silvery sheen to be very similar to his own portals and wasn’t surprised when Desira decided to go through it.
With nothing else to do, the group followed her through and found themselves a bit heavier when they exited the other side. They still weren’t in the right place for they found themselves still lighter than they should be.
Also, they were in a large desert. In the distance nothing of note could be seen with the exception of what appeared to be a large tornado like formation.
A couple of the group members could make out several objects beside this tornado. Appearing to be large rock-like formations.
Al’ev recognized that they were in another plane of existence. This one belonged to the elements. Beyond that he had little to go on and decided that it would probably be a good idea to head in the direction of the tornado and the rock formations for there was no other logical direction to go…