The Walker Kings

A Megalomaniac's Demise, A Forgotten Evil's Arrival, and An Unplanned Confrontation

With a kick in the door, the Walker Kings barges in the bitch’s room. An obsidian golem blocks the door of another room, surrounded by obsidian walls, made with materials conducting Abalach Re’s defiling magic. The room is crowded by progenic mutants, chanting the queen’s name as the ritual is completing itself. Alderun quickly goes around the room, looking for the main ritual itself, while the rest of the team storm down the black guardian. Soon the progenic knight finds the sorcerer-queen, draining the power of the Nawabs, the “challengers” called by the Standard of Battle. Alderun tries to put a stop to her defiling, but the queen unleashed to him an ancient magic. With one word, Abalach Re almost crushed the swordmage’s existence, only saved by his progenic nature. The Renegade rushes in to aid the mageknight, only to be ambushed by the queen’s Kuo Toa assassins, as well as overwhelmed by the mob of mutants. But he is quickly saved by the war god’s magic and the dwarven king’s might. They soon reach the swordmage, almost obliterated by Abalach Re.

Alderun soon figures out the true nature of the ritual, using the Nawabs as final sacrifices to the calling spell. He telepathically informs the Avangion, who then informed the whole group. Cypher quickly acts upon this knowledge, and tries to save the other Nawabs together with King Mindhammer. The rest of the team preoccupied the queen. Together, they were able to slow down the ritual by saving the Nawabs, but Abalach Re has another trick under her sleeve.

Inside the obsidian-walled throne room, the queen finds herself surrounded by the Walker Kings, almost at mercy of Visarion’s wrath. But she escapes the threat, teleporting herself at the door of the room. She then caused the room to collapse, trapping the whole group beneath obsidian rubbles. Abalach Re laughed maniacally, as she pronounces her victory, but she underestimated the Walker Kings’ tenacity. The war god and the dwarven king forced their way out of the rubbles, and lunged the escaping sorcerer-queen. The four-armed Visarion finished off Abalach Re, but the queen’s laughter was not in vain. As she withers, she finished a blood ritual, uttering a request from “champions of Rajaat”. Her last words were a call for vengeance against the Walker Kings. Her blood crept slowly through the whole room, painting it with hatred to her killers as it glows.

Cypher reminded the group of their main task, stopping the Ragnorra from “corrupting” Athas. Alderun grabbed the Standard of Battle, and tried controlling the green star’s path. They managed to change its course, and shot the star to Yaramuke, obliterating the undead ruins with verdant energy. It was off their calculation, as it was too far from Raam. But they were able to bridge the distance riding kanks blessed by wind spirits. They flew the distance between Yaramuke and Raam within hours. As they get closer, they are astonished by a giant verdant stalk attached to the sky. And soon they see the crater with the Ragnorra slowly rooting its way to Athas. Winged abominations flew in the vicinity, so they stealthly made their way down and look for an entrance. They have little time to spare, so they rushed their way to the heart of the crater…


They have been to many challenges and they know their limitations. They have spent much of their strength fighting Abalach-Re, and they intend to play their cards smart as they enter the heart of Ragnorra.

They made their way to the cave stealthly and with great caution. They evaded winged abominations and lava monsters. They even encountered a being much like the former queen of Yaramuke, which should have been dead for ages. But they chose to head on, avoiding unnecessary casualties, and they eventually reached the core of the cave.

A large dome houses the trunk of the huge verdant stalk. Countless abnormal vegatation surrounds it. And what guards it is a giant ooze-like monster and a bunch of progenic creatures, which seem to control the energies from a various mutated plants. Alderun instinctively knew what they are capable of, as well as the verdant grass. He plans to use these power source to their advantage.

Bjorn rushed forward and took on the giant blob himself, while Alderun and The Renegade backed him up. Visarion and Cypher chose to kill the progenic shamans and their lackeys, as they sense they’ll become more of a threat than a simple nuisance. Alderun harnessed the power from the progenic surroundings, but Ragnorran ooze knew how to use it as well. The ooze pomelled Alderun and King Mindhammer with it, but the avangion was able to assist them fight back. Soon the wargod and the prince of Nibenay helped beating up the blob, but it was the last of it.

Weakened by the attacks, the ooze suddenly jumped to Cypher, and swallowed him whole. It oozed its way in the prince’s body, and took over his conciousness. The Ragnorra now has Cypher, using his tricks and skills against the weary party. Visarion and Bjorn did not falter and attempted to “free” Cypher. They jokingly comment about Cypher’s “eventual treachery”. The only way to kill the ooze is to weaken its host, and the team intends to do it so.

Cypher eventually escaped from the ooze’s control, but left him much weakened compared to before it attacked him. The ooze escaped to the ground, slowly absorbed by the stalk’s roots. What follows is something more than they can handle.

The ground shooked. The ooze must have supplied Ragnorra from the team’s strength. As the caves stopped trembling, a face crept and slowly grew from the verdant stalk. It was the mother herself, Ragnorra, as she declares her verdict upon Athas. She decided to overflow Athas with her great power, and mold it to her own, but it was something the party will not stand for.

The Giant Slayers tried destroying the thick stalk, but the elder herself was invulnerable. Ragnorra was virtually unstoppable, as she belittles the team and punishes them with waves of powerful attacks. After much thought, Alderun found out about Ragnorra’s weaknesses, vital points attaching her to Athas. It was their only hope of stopping her takeover, by uprooting her from the land.

The Renegade found a vital point at the roots of the stalk, and Visarion took it out with a blast. They discovered that there were two vital points existing within the trunk itself. Cypher quickly scaled the trunk with little effort, only to be stopped by a thousand-winged monster. The Renegade remembered something, and pulled up from his bag vials with Gorgon poison. Alderun and Bjorn applied the poison unto their blades, hoping it will be effective against the elder evil. The progenic knight called their spirit-blessed kanks, so that the rest of the party can ride up the stalk and assist Cypher. Visarion shot down the winged creature, and Cypher was able to advance to the top. Ragnorra soon started hindering the party by controlling the kanks they are riding. The war god’s ride was slowly turning into a winged abomination, so he flew off using his sorcerous wings and killed the kank before it had a chance. Using his corruptive shadows, Cypher was able to destroy a vital near the top. Alderun and Bjorn rode their kanks to the last vital point at the middle of the stalk. They struck the nerve with their poisoned blades, and it was effective. Alderun made the decisive blow, and caused the stalk to weaken its grasp from Athas. Ragnorra cried as her stalk slowly topples down.

Cypher pulled out the magic carpet and flew before the branches he was holding fell. Alderun and Bjorn rode out with their flying kanks, while Visarion carried The Renegade. They flew out from the crater and watched the mighty evil crumbling to the ground. They thought it was over but the day was not. They have almost forgotten about a certain summoning the bitch left them.


Soon the Walker Kings sensed strong powers coming their way. One by one, the sorcerer-kings and queen appeared. Hamanu of Tyr, Lalali-Puy of Gulg, Tectuktitlay of Draj, Nibenay of Nibenay, and even Dregoth of Guistenal. All of them vitalized by the green star the party has just destroyed. They were the “champions of Rajaat” Abalach-Re summoned, who are to take revenge for the her killers, whether they like it or not. Hamanu was ready to fight, yet Dregoth chose to side the Walker Kings. Each one had his own piece of mind to give, yet all felt the tension that everyone else will give little or no care about it.

Things were about to heat up when a more powerful being flew over their heads. The Dragon himself came to the scene and looked over them. He uttered that he did not care for the outcome of their feud. So long as they deliver the tribute he demands for each ruler, their respective nations will not be scorched to the ground. He only demanded this, and fled away, assuming back to his lair.

Each of the champions choose not to avenge Uyness’ death – at least for now. They went back to their respective regions, and vanished from the scene. With the greater evil vanquished, The Walker Kings each decided their own paths to take. The avangion suggested that they make a blood oath – much like what the champions of Rajaat did – that they will come to aid when one is in great peril. The team agreed, and the ritual is done. After the oaths were spoken, the kings made their own way into Athas. What the future holds is something they have not grasped yet but they look forward to.

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The Battle of Kled and the Journey to Raam

With the adventurers having prepared for the inevitable confrontation with the armies of Abalach-Re, the day of battle finally dawned on the fledgling dwarven kingdom of Kled.

Joined by his new stalwart allies from Ledopolis and Tyr, King Bjorn Mindhammer easily repulsed the Raamite army’s attempts to storm the gates of Kled. However, the dwarf gladiator was mystified at the shocking change that had come over the Raamite army. Where the dwarves of Kled had expected to fight men, they instead faced warped, gibbering horrors, blasphemous mishappen things that bore little semblance to the flesh of man.

As the tides of battle raged, reinforcements arrived from the South and East. Rising from the eponymous Forest of the Renegade, the halfling and his Urikite companion Alderun were the first to clash with the fringes of the mutant host. Failing in their attempt to sneak past the army, they were quickly embroiled in combat with the serried ranks of abominations.

From the Southeast, crossing the Great Alluvial Wastes came Cypher’s Nibenese caravan of supplies and provisions, accompanied by Dhojakt and his picked host. Should the Nibenese convoy reach the encircled city, then no siege could possibly starve out the dwarves. After inciting Dhojakt into charging the rear lines of the Raamite horde, Cypher edged across the flanks in an attempt to sneak the caravan into the city.

The strangest of all allies emerged from the Northeast. Flying low over the dunes on his magic carpet was the new godling, Visarion. Seeing the opportunity to display his newfound divine powers, the godling flew straight into the Raamite forces, blasting away with arcane and divine might.

Amidst the confusion, a small force of unwarped Raamites were convinced to defect from the mutant host. Finally convinced of the madness of Abalach-Re’s designs, they linked up with Cypher’s caravan, and with their aid, punched through the mutant lines, emboldening the dwarven defenders.

With the mutant host beset on two fronts by Dhojakt’s thugs and Visarion’s divine majesty, Bjorn chose the moment to counterattack out of the gates of Kled. In a titanic clash of armies, the allied forces routed the Raamite host.

With the immediate threat repulsed, the adventurers and their allies met to plan their counter assault. Alderun provided chilling impetus to their planning: Ragnorra was coming, and starfall was nigh. Abalach-Re had sacrificed her own army as a diversion so that she could cast a ritual to bind the star to her unopposed from within her center of power in Raam. In the end, it was decided that allied forces would begin to march toward Raam, possibly to intercept whatever forces might remain to Abalach-Re, and also to fight off other forces that might claim the heart of the star once it arrived. The adventurers themselves would go on ahead to Raam to raise rebellion and attempt to stop Abalach-Re’s rituals.

Using magic provided by Raamite defectors, the adventurers summoned a skyray as transportation, allowing them to swiftly bridge the miles between Kled and Raam. Arriving at the city’s outskirts, the party clashed with strange, winged abominations, as well as a chaos beast that was once the drey sorcerer Lerilyn Toar. Defeating these threats, the party arrived to find the city in open revolt, and with the aid of the rebels, they entered the palace of Abalach-Re.

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Interlude

Ragnorra grows ever closer, and the star above now matches the size of the crimson sun. Forests begin to sprout here and there, consuming everything in their growth.

Somewhere close to Raam, Lerilyn Tor stalks the now four-armed Visarion curiously. Suddenly she falls down, dead, and a strange thing begins to grow on the stump where her arm once was. Visarion, his mind still reeling from the the embers of divinity growing in his soul, fails to notice. Elsewhere on the Tablelands, defilers and undead also spontaneously die and become fertilizer for enraged growths.

Those who were healed by Ragnorra suffer from odd growths. As it rapidly takes over their bodies, a new sentience takes over, consuming that which was once alive. They haunt the uninfected for sustenance, tearing them apart as the spawn of Ragnorra consume them. Those who wear the veil everywhere begin to curse what they worshipped just a few weeks ago.

The city-states become the last bastions of hope as the sorcerer-monarchs, the only defilers strong enough to resist the plague, defile the odd growths in their city. Tektuktitlay recovers the handsome form of his youth. Hamanu grows feathered wings. Andropinis shines like the sun. The templar wives of Nibenay simultaneously erupt in sudden orgasmic pleasure; their king remains unseen. Sadira combusts, becoming a birdlike creature of flame that burns the unnatural growths around Tyr. The Oba of Gulg merely smiles at the irony.

The Raamite army twists and turns, becoming an army of horrid monsters as they slam onto the walls of hidden Kemalok. The underground dwarves remain unaffected by the star. Still, the king with the iron crown’s first test begins.

Beyond the Silt Sea, beyond the Valley of Fire, as the souls of his kaisharga return to their phylacteries, the true king of the world spreads his wings. Things are about to change.

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Bjorn and a Game of Thrones
Democracy, Bjorn Style

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Work by yours truly (Corpse Corpuz)

As the days wind down to the coming of Ragnorra, Bjorn Mindhammer sits on his throne as the new king of dwarves,
crowned by none other than the spirits of the Kings of Kemalok. He is faced with a challenge unlike he had
ever faced – rallying the dwarven peoples of Athas to wage war against the forces of Abalach Re. Strong in body,
mighty in battle, and perhaps even charismatic in combat, he is now charged with uniting a people.

He thinks to himself that talk is cheap. He wishes that he need not talk to men of different lands who play petty
or play nice. He wishes that he may face the Sorcerer King himself, but he knows that his days fighting for
entertainment in the pits of Nibenae are far removed from the challenges ahead.

Things were so much simpler.

Now he recieves his guests at his court. The first notable dwarf was Bruthambar, chief of the Rock Cutter Clan
from Ledopolus. Bjorn had once met Bruthambar a long time ago, early in his adventures. Along with his fellow
Walker Kings, Bjorn foiled an attack on Bruthambar’s dwarves and his bridge by hill giants from the neighboring
island. The lord Mindhammer himself helped fix repairs on the bridge as the attack ensued.

They had much laughs when Bruthambar recognized the new king. He told Bjorn of the progress on the bridge, and
bragged about the sturdiness of his creation. The new king himself bragged about how he told the Rock Cutter
that he would one day be legend.

The cheif Rock Cutter promised Bjorn the allegiance of few hundred dwarves. Good news to the building of a
mighty army. Bjorn is joyed by the new allies, but just as the dwarves of Kled, these men would only be an
oversized militia. Ransacking the old armories of Kemalok would give them the edge in arms and armor over
anything they could concievably face, but the battlefield losses would also ensure the enemy’s army will be strengthened by dwarven steel.

But before anything could be decided, Bruthambar is rudely inerupted by Ulruun. The dwarf was a noble of Tyr,
and had come to give offerings as a show of allegiance to the new king. Ulruun had made a loud entrance telling
the king that he need no dwarves from Ledopolus. Brash as he was, he had the king’s attention. He brought fourth
three Muls that were to serve the new king, and along with them, a chest that contained three cast iron crowns.
Three crowns that had once been worn by the Kemalok kings themselves.

Intimate power 18
Image is Joseph Griffo, Court Dwarf from the film Intimate Power

Bjorn Mindhammer is overjoyed by the offering. He tries one of the crowns himself, and it fits perfectly. “Yes,
I am the king”, he thinks. With his vanity properly stroked, he rises and calls to the crowd. Words were not his
weapon though, but bravado was ingrained deep into his core. He told of how a great day would come soon, and
a mighty battle would wash over Athas. He told them that this is the day that dwarves reclaim their glory. That
even the mighty Muls would reclaim the glory in their blood. That they would defeat Abalach Re and that Bjorn
himself would slay the Sorcerer King.

Ulruun for one was shocked to hear this.

“What war?” he asked. “There’s a war?”

Suddenly, the brash guest turned meek. He apologized to the new king, saying that perhaps he was over eager to
present these gifts.

“You didn’t know there was a war coming?” Bruthambar asked.

“I only came here with these gifts as a formality! I would not have come here knowing of a war!”

“Bastard!” Bjorn exclaimed. He was insulted by the rich and fat dwarf of Tyr. He never liked the rich nobles.
They did not work. Their hands were soft, their bellies round, and they were weak. Perhaps he should slay him
where he stood. At least he had the Muls.

Or so he thought.

The Tyrian dwarf apparently had these Muls blackmailed. Bjorn appealed to the Muls, with their strength and
honor, and dwarven heritage. The Muls said that Ulruun had their families hostage, and there was little that
Bjorn could do to sway them.

Suddenly, out of the shadows, a long chord of flesh shoots out wrapping around the king’s neck. Though caught by
surprise, Bjorn’s insticts flare up to create a psionic barrier to protect him. He sees the assassin, human like,
with the flesh from his finger stretched out to be used as a garrote.

Insulted and enraged, Bjorn immediately tells the guards to stand down before they could act, and he points to
Ulruun telling him that this is what happens to his foes. The king draws his steel hammer, charges the assassin,
and smashes his face to the ground. Limping, the assasin fixes his seemingly clay face, and fades into shadow.

Bjorn smirks, and rubs his ring, and channels the power of true sight. Again he charges the cut throat, this time
catching him off guard, and putting him to the ground. Quickly, he sheathes his hammer, and draws out a heavy
blade. He composes himself, points to his guests and says, “you stand with me, or you die.”

He then beheads the assasin.

Impressed with Mindhammer’s strength, honor and bravado, the Muls reassess their position. “Perhaps there is
another way.”

“Kill the fat Tyrian!” Bjorn relplies. “Pledge me your allegiance, and we will find a way to rescue your families!”

“Yes lord,” say the Muls.

Ulruun panics, pleads and cries, but the Muls make short work of the dwarf. Frazetta
Work by Frank Frazetta


Shortly after, Sadira enters the court. She is told of the events that had transpired, most notably, the blackmail
of the Muls. Slavery. Unacceptable. Bjorn asks her to travel to Tyr imidiately to rectify the problem, and
perhaps gather allies for the upcoming battle.

The lord Bjorn Mindhammer now sits back on his throne, wondering if there are enough men to be rallied against
the Raamites. Diplomacy will gather him his warriors, but will it be enough?

He tires as he waits for that question to be answered.

Whatever happens, Bjorn will make sure that this battle will be for the ages.

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The Birth of a New Light and of a Verdant Abomination
Alderun, Renegade

As the dawn rises at the newly reinstated kingdom of the Kemalok Kings, the Walker Kings have decided to pursue their own ends, in order to strengthen them in the inevitable clash with both the Raamite forces and Ragnorra. The star is heading close to Athas and its effects are already being felt all around.

The Urikite and the halfling went to Renegade’s forest. As they were heading nearer, the duo saw that Ragnorra was already speeding up the growth process of the forest. Renegade gave the Urikite permission to control the growths by defiling the forest but suddenly a voice boomed across the desert like a peal of thunder.

Airdjinnbywillrhodes
Art by Will Rhodes for non-profit use

A storming djinn appeared out of nowhere and threatened the pair, all the while flexing his muscles like a jock. Renegade replied that he was the guardian of the forest to which the djinn replied “I wasn’t informed”. The djinn and its lackeys then proceeded to attack the pair but managed to hang on until Nibor arrived to chastise the djinn, whose name was introduced as Colombo. While resting in the sanctuary, Nibor and Colombo reported to Renegade that there was a lot of undead walking towards the tree of life. Alderun surmised that it was the work of the star. Feeling responsible, Alderun took the task of containing the overflowing raw energy, using himself as a vessel.

After resting, the two of them prepared their rituals of strengthening. Renegade crafted a ring, one that he needed for his transformation. Culler’s blade reacted, showing its dragon-slaying form, proof that the halfling is one step away from his desired ascension. His appearance bore no drastic shift, but he was emanating a hulking spirit.

Image from WotC (Figure of Destiny, M:tG Eventide, art by Scott M. Fischer), for nonprofit use

Alderun, on the other hand, absorbed the Ragnorra’s presence from Renegade’s sanctuary using a seed from the source. With his bonded blade, containing his will and soul, he struck his own heart then replaced it with the verdant seed. His body soon became a being of life and death, but his mind is intact and his own.

Renegade left the sanctuary a changed being. As for Alderun…


Image of The Plant Undead, Category Seven
of Hearts (Kamen Rider Blade series),
for nonprofit use

Let’s just leave it at that.

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We're Hunting Water Drakes.... Be very quiet!!!

Arlbor heads to Nibenay in search of a mischievous water drake that has infested Nibenay’s hot springs. He brings along the twins, Kyra and Lars. He wanted to gauge their fighting abilities and to see what they were actually capable of. Along the way, he also accompanies the ever so mysterious Cypher back to his home city.

As Arlbor entered the city of Nibenay, a flashback reminded him of the former city that used to reside on the same spot. He recalls of the figure that used to stand on the pillars where statues of an unfamiliar king has been erected. He was confused. The djinn kept on asking what has happened to the former ruler, of its citizens, its culture and its laws. Cypher briefly explained almost everything to djinn with regard to the changes that happened in the past centuries. But he left out one minor detail from him that open display of the arcane arts were no longer allowed in the walls of Nibenay.

Just a few moments later, they find themselves surrounded by the templar wives of Nibenay. Arlbor could not believed that a djinn such as he was being arrested for a simple dispay of his nature. He was proud, confused, furious and was about to unleash his anger through his sword but silence followed as soon as Cypher started revealing his true identity and suddenly took his “original” form. The templar wives , convinced, took Cypher and Xafra out of the picture.

Image courtesy of Square Enix from the game “Vagrant Story”

Arlbor accompanied by the twins continued to head toward the springs to take out the drake. As soon as they arrived, mist covered every nook and cranny of the network of caves of the springs. Arlbor was trying to track the whereabouts of drake until one of the twins asked “Are we there yet?” Arlbor snapped back at the child for being so reckless. It was too late though, as the Water Drake started rending its sharp claws at the fire djinn. He was able to take some nasty blows from the nasty drake and was also able to retaliate with his own attacks accompanied with his bladesongs. The twins did a follow-through with their own set of attack to aid their uncle. They were trading blows with each other but the drake was taking the upper hand of the battle. The djinn, desperate, was able to muster a combination of attacks against the drake which finally put it down. The drake tried to deal a parting blow to one of the twins, but the djinn plunged his longsword into the ribcage of the beast.

Arlbor plunged his bare hands to the same spot where he dealt the killing blow and pulled out the heart of the deceased drake which was still beating. The djinn chanted as the heart continuously beat as if in unison. As the the chants continued the heart started to freeze and the beating faded. The cycle of the elements were finally complete. Arlbor has finally mastered the four elements which would allow him to harness the infinite energy of the inner primordial within him.


Courtesy of http://www.creativeuncut.com/gallery-06/gwn-monster-djinn.html

The kids started playing with the dead drake as they tried to take some of its scales. They asked the djinn if they could do something with it and the djinn just waved in approval to avoid any hassle from the twins. Arlbor was mending his own wounds through the use of his inner vigor. To his surprise, an eye grew out of his palm. As he looked at the twins, they too have grown eyes on their foreheads. Arlbor was quick to deduce that this might be the effects of ragnora and he only knew one way of suppressing its effects. He started defiling the life out of the eye and the eye went to a benign state.

As soon as they went out of the cave network, they were greeted by Cypher. Arlbor greets Cypher but tries to hide the state of his palm until the brats spilled out everything. Arlbor could only release a deep sigh but as soon as he was about to let one out , the twins presented him with an armor fashioned out of the scales of the beast. The djinn could only let out a smile after receiving such an exquisite gift.

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The Sound of Drums
Excerpts from Visarion's Log

On the road to Raam, Day 1

Rode with Nanda Shatri towards Raam, with some haste. The current state of affairs was a tad disconcerting, but I was confident. I’d defeated the bitch queen time and again before, so what was another? I’d go to Raam and free the hostages, thus crippling her army. I’d also cut Abalach Re off from one of her sources of power—this dead god Badna—and hopefully that can turn the tide.

It seems like a tall order for a single Dray, really, but then again, I was never an ordinary Dray.

On the road to Raam, Day 2

We ran into a group of Raamite soldiers. Things were close, but we pretended to be the merchant Lord Nikana and his daughter Lady Leia. A lone soldier dared to defy our claims (which were, to be fair, entirely false), but a quick staredown and a couple of veiled threats put him in his place.


Lord Nikana and Lady Leia of House M’ke.

Damn, but that Cypher is rubbing off on me. I guess that’s what happens when you travel with such a… slimy character.

(And yes, Cypher, I realize you’re in all likelihood reading this right now somehow. No offense meant.)

On the road to Raam, Day 3

Today was largely uneventful, but a strange thing happened. In preparation of our evening meal, I lit an arcane fire, as I usually do. But it was… different, somehow, than usual. The fire seemed to burn brighter, and I found my gaze transfixed at the flickering embers. Nanda Shatri did not seem to note anything out of the ordinary, so perhaps the light was just playing tricks with me. Then again, there have been accounts of prophets who see visions in flame—screaming nonsense about some lord of light—but that has never happened to me.

It is strange, when I think about it. My entire arcane career has had me more biased towards harnessing the power of cold. And yet, after the battle wherein we claimed the Orb of Darkest Defiling, the arcane energies seemed to overflow in me, and I was filled with a yearning to channel the power of fire. Why is that, I wonder? I hadn’t given it much thought before, but to be drawn to the polar opposite of your primary source of power seems a bit unusual. Could something have reached out to me, then, using the power of the orb to plant some compulsion in my mind?

Well. Such thoughts are like to drive me fully insane (arcanists are already half-insane, really).

Raam – Day 4

Arriving in Raam, for whatever reason, aggravated my concerns somewhat. I remained entirely focused at the task at hand, but… something was off. Almost immediately I felt dizzy, my head pounding like a drum. But I couldn’t let that affect me, so I stayed calm and carried on.

After discussing tactics with Nanda Shatri, we decided to head for the Sepulcher of Badna. To do that, however, we needed a way to get in. Fortunately, we ran into a certain sculptor who owed me a favor. It turns out he did the sculptures of Abalach Re’s consorts that were buried in the Sepulcher, but just pretending to be the sculptor’s assistant wouldn’t cut it. We needed one final piece to make it convincing—Nanda Shatri would have to pose as Abalach Re. She objected initially, stating concerns about mimicking the sorcerer queen’s voice. I showed her I was more than capable of doing this for her. She sighed, defeated, but ultimately agreed to help us out. A quick glamour had her assume Abalach Re’s form, bare buttocks and all. I convinced her to take the lead, as this was tactically sound, and for this the sculptor seemed quite grateful, initiating a peculiar fist-bumping motion I was largely unfamiliar with.

Getting pasts the guards was simple, but the Sepulcher itself was difficult. It was for me, anyway, though I do not know if this was the case for the others. The pounding in my head intensified, and I realized my head didn’t feel like a drum; rather, I could hear a drumming noise inside my head. I looked around to see if anybody else noticed, but it seemed I was the only one. That concerned me somewhat, but there really wasn’t much else I could do other than bear with it.

A short walk led us to a statue of Badna, and the drumming noise grew louder still. It seemed to be coming from the statue… but it was actually coming from underneath it, somehow. Upon further inspection, it seemed the base of the statue hid a door leading downward. Nanda Shatri and I pressed forward as the sculptor offered to stand guard.

Every step I took, and the drumming grew louder, and louder. One two three four, one two three four, one two three four, one two three four, a constant, incessant rhythm in my head. What was this sound? What did it mean?

I was vaguely aware of three figures standing between me and the source of whatever it was that was calling me.

Fools. They did not stand a chance.

I know I must have just stood there, in the field. Perhaps I defiled… I do not recall. I remember only the embers, and the drums. Because that’s when I realized what was making that drumming noise. It is in my head still, though it bothers me no longer. That constant beating—there can be no mistake.

They are the drums of war.

And I am the god of war reborn.


Image taken from Holienetta. For personal, nonprofit use.

Escape from Raam – Day 5

I must be quick.

My companions ran, and I am alone. I remember little. Only what I felt.

Extra arms—that’s new. Okay. One never can tell with these things. I could have grown an extra head, or had no head. Legs. Yes. I still have legs. And wings, of a sort. Good. Mostly intact. Still a dray. That is good.

I am too weak, still. I cannot face her yet. I need… I need… something. I don’t know. I hunger. I thirst. But I do not know what I need.

I must make for Kled.

I wonder how the others fared…?

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Homecoming
(Cypher, Xafra)

Accompanied by Xafra, Arlbor, and the twins, Cypher returned to where the Walker Kings began their journey, Nibenay, realm of the Shadow King.

Taking advantage of the djinn’s lack of knowledge of the past few centuries, Cypher used Arlbor’s indiscreet displays of magic in order to attract the attention of Nibenay’s Shadow Wives. Then he revealed his identity to the templars in order to prevent them from dealing with the offending magic user in a more permanent manner.

Splitting off in order to pursue his vendetta against Djenna of the King’s Law, Cypher entered Nagaramakam shadowed by Xafra. The mul’s skill at infiltration surprised Cypher. He noted the weaknesses in the royal palace’s security, making sure to have the most obvious flaws plugged, while keeping a few of the more obscure holes to himself. After all, it paid to be prepared. All the while he kept an eye out for the berserk…thing that had been hounding him for the last few days. A nasty brutish thing that was perhaps a bit too much like himself.

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(Astral stalker art from WotC, MM1)

Once within the audience hall, Cypher and Xafra were pitted against the shadow prince’s dark twin in a gruelling battle that ended with the double slain, and Cypher triumphant. Staggering the shadow beast, Cypher clamped his jaws down on the thing’s throat, teeth ripping through flesh and cartilage to drink deep of the unnatural thing’s essence. He arose, reborn.

Cypher

(deviation by krisium)

With the twin defeated, Cypher allowed Nibenay to slay Xafra. The mul had trespassed on forbidden ground, and after all, they couldn’t have her revealing the secrets of Nagaramakam. Able at last to claim his position as one of the children of the Shadow King, Cypher nevertheless could not move openly against Djenna. Yet. That vendetta would have to be set aside for the moment as Cypher fulfilled his promise to the dwarves of Kled. Informing the Shadow King of developments in the Ragnorra crisis and Abalach-Re’s attempts to seize control of the rogue star, Cypher was able to convince Nibenay to provide tacit support and supplies to the fledgling King of Kemaloc, Bjorn Mindhammer. With the assistance of nobles of House Kiyaka, Cypher was able to mobilize the merchant houses of Nibenay to generate a large convoy of supplies and other sundries that an army on the field would require. Arms and armor, the dwarves had in abundance, but it required more than that to keep an army fighting an entire campaign, and Nibenay would supply all of that for the dwarves of Kemaloc. Even at bulk rates, the profits for the merchant houses would be quite healthy. Coordinating with the noble Ahli Kiyaka, Cypher’s logistics caravan would soon be ready to supply the dwarves.

A slightly more irksome development was the fact that Dhojak was to accompany the forces being sent to Kemaloc, with a picked force of his minions in order to strike out at the advancing Raamites. Having to put up with the brute would be irritating. But then again, there was always the hope that the big lunk would get himself killed in action. If only Cypher could be that lucky.

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Kemalok Before You Leap

In this episode of the Walker Kings…

The situation seemed dire. Bjorn Mindhammer stood ready, answering the challenge of the fallen Kemalok kings. He stood in Raked’s chambers, ready to face the fallen king in the eye… which proved to be difficult, seeing as Raked was beheaded.

What Raked lacked in headgear, however, he made up for in ferocity. Hands of bone gripped Raked’s maul tight, and he was not alone; Raked’s honor guard rose, oaths to protect echoing in the dank chambers. Winged serpents flew and hissed, sleek scales crackling with electricity. Though Bjorn and his companions had faced the guardians of Kemalok before, they had never encountered a challenge such as this.

But when two kings clash, only one shall kneel. And after a grueling fight, this proved to be Raked.

Bjorn nodded satisfaction at the victory. He could not celebrate just yet, as there were conquests yet to be had in this castle. The artifacts of the Kemalok kings, his by right, had not yet been returned, and there would be no leaving without them.

The group realized the castle was actually one of several smaller castles put together, and so they set out to explore the complex systematically. After their initial foray was rebuffed by a hidden Maze trap, the group backtracked and tried elsewhere, with better success. They eventually reached Rohuv’s library, where their old “friend” the sphinx awaited with another riddle. Alderun managed to put his scholarly skills to use, however, and his knowledge of proper library maintenance actually helped everybody else for a change.


Image taken from Jonathan Ewert. For personal, nonprofit use.

As the bookcase slid aside to reveal a hidden room, Bjorn once again had to face another Kemalok king. A huge gash across the cadaver’s chest marked this king as Rohuv, who also had his honor guard by his side. Not that he seemed to need it, as he looked imposing enough with just his armor and morningstar.

Or imposing enough for a normal adventurer, at least. But clearly, Bjorn Mindhammer is not a normal adventurer. With the rest of the party keeping Rohuv’s honor guard at bay, Bjorn dealt a mighty blow to Rohuv’s already gashed chest, splattering bits of viscera and sinew across the stone floor. The souls of the dead could only gasp their response, though no one can say if this was in fear or in awe (or both, at that). Bjorn Mindhammer was undoubtedly there to fight. Could he be the champion they were seeking? Could he truly become the Dwarven king, the one who will unite the dwarves of Athas and seek vengeance for the fallen?

It was too soon to think of such, Bjorn knew. Another challenge overcome, but still more lay ahead. The party pressed on through the abandoned hallways of Rohuv’s castle and made their way towards Borys’ castle. As they reached the sphinx once again, they looked around to see shelves lined with books and two braziers. The riddle seemed fairly straightforward, really: ash was required. And though it pained the intellectuals of the group to see it happen, books were fed to the flames, who greedily lapped them up and spit out ash in large quantities. This lured a floating skull with gemstones in its eye sockets to the party, and Alderun recognized it as the skull he had encountered earlier.

“Who are you? What do you know about this place?” asked the Urikite scholar, curious as to the skulls presence.
“I am the Lord Herald of Borys,” replied the skull, “and I know much and more about this place. But there are only two things you need to know, at the moment: that it is my duty to protect it in the name of my master, and that dead men need no further information.”

Pillars rose up suddenly around the room as the Lord Herald’s gemstone eyes spat out fires. Initial attempts to harm the old lich were inefficient, and everyone quickly realized that the pillars were tied into its essence somehow. So the party split into two groups: one to take out the pillars, and the other to keep the demilich contained. The former group did its work quickly, and it immediately merged with the latter group, but that one group would have its hands full. The Lord Herald clearly had the skills to back up his strong words, and his mastery of destructive and necromantic spells was plain to see. But the mages of the group would not be outdone, while the warriors of the group would not be outdone by the mages, either. A concerted effort saw the group prevail eventually, but that victory was costly, as their resources were depleted and their bodies were battered and bruised.

The killing blow led the skull to be engulfed in flames, but the arcanists realized that he was not truly dead. The mages then conducted a search for the phylactery, but it was nowhere to be found. Might they encounter the Lord Herald again? Visarion knew it was possible, but nothing could be done for now. “Let’s just stay vigilant for that one,” he told the group, his tone sounding uncharacteristically grave. He could see that the others had their objections, but he could also tell that they realized he was right. After a concert of silent nods, the party pressed forward.

They got to Rkard’s throne room this time, and who else would be waiting for them but the Sphinx? He greeted the group with another riddle, and it took some time for them to figure out what the right answer could be. They managed to piece it together, however, by calling upon their skills of linguistics (“…and general cleverness,” quipped Cypher). The sphinx then nodded satisfaction, and vanished, never to be seen again.

At that point the items of the Kemalok kings floated above the throne, and the shambling undead bodies of the fallen assembled on the sides of the dais. Each plucked an item and handed it to Bjorn, their body language seeming rather submissive. This became blatant, however, as they knelt before Bjorn, who would be the last to rule, the sole Kemalok king of this era. They beckoned him towards the throne, and Bjorn obliged them. “We have gone far,” said Visarion, as much to himself as anyone else. “Farther than any who have ventured here, at any rate. But now, you are truly king! Well, king Bjorn? What say you?”

Bjorn seemed to contemplate for a moment, then guffawed his response. “It is said the crown is heavy, and it may be at that. But I am Bjorn Mindhammer! And Bjorn Mindhammer is strong!”

A hidden door slid open then, and sunlight shined into the throne room. Bjorn stepped out, his eyes adjusting to the light… and he saw the people of Kled standing, mouths agape, looking upon Bjorn Mindhammer in all His regal glory. “Your king has returned!” proclaimed Bjorn, and the party echoed the sentiment. “Long live the king!” replied the people of Kled, kneeling now before Rkard reborn.

All was not well, however. A rider approached from the distance, and a hooded figure stepped off. The crowd parted to let the new arrival through, who pulled back her hood. Nanda Shatri stood there, clearly uneasy. “Visarion,” she spoke, her voice a little shaky. “Everyone. Come quickly. She has returned… it is time.”

Visarion knew. The encounter with Abalach-Re had been close, and they had narrowly escaped through Kensidan’s sacrifice (who provoked the sorcerer-queen as she fled, true, but V could think no ill of the dead). Nanda Shatri carried dark tidings indeed—Abalach-Re brought the major houses of Raam to heel by taking hostages, and she quickly mobilized the largest army in Athas to seek out the Walker Kings.

“It will not work,” Visarion murmured. Cypher had pressing business in Nibenay, and Bjorn would want to secure the people of Kled (and the riches of Kemalok) and try to keep the forces of Raam from overwhelming them. Alderun expressed a desire to contact Hammanu, and to perhaps convince him to help repel the Raamites. “We are spread to thin, so we cannot respond in kind.”

Visarion knew. All of this had occurred to him already, ever since he let Abalach-Re fly away wounded. He did not have a choice, really, but he regretted all the same.

But all was not lost. The sorcerer-queen’s grasp on Raam was tenuous, as she commanded the loyalty of the major houses only through the hostages she held. If they could be freed and sent to safety, somehow, and if word could be sent to the heads of the houses, then the tide would be turned on its head in a matter of moments. Abalach-Re would not—could not—strike at so large a force, because that very force served as her military, and that would leave her exposed to Urik’s counter-attack. She would have no choice, then, but to vacate Raam and regroup.

Visarion knew. He knew what had to be done.

“Very well, Nanda Shatri. I will go to Raam.”
“Very good,” she replied. “And your friends?”
“Their tasks are their own, Nanda Shatri. And they cannot help me in this.”

“I will go to Raam. But I must go alone.”


Raked’s head rolled along the stone floor, the severed neck leaving a trail of blood. The blonde champion laughed as he watched his handiwork, his eyes twinkling in the torchlight.

“My, my, Borys. If I continue at this pace, I will have to share in your wages!”
Borys sniffed. “I am grateful for this… display, Albeorn. But there is much work to be done yet.”
“Oh, and you would have me do this as well? I demand your wages in full, then!” The other humans chuckled at that.
Borys shifted in the throne, then stood. “Let me show you how I settle my debts first, o blonde one,” he remarked as his sword slid from its scabbard. “Then let us see if you wish to do business with me in the future.”

flash

The attendant entered the waiting room, his bearded face looking grim. “Your Grace,” he said as he bowed. “We have inspected the corpse, as you requested.”
“And?” demanded King Rkard.
“There is no doubt, Your Grace. Only a Vorpal sword could cut through armor like that.”
King Rkard’s face hardened, and he nodded. “I see. Very well. Fetch my armor and craghammer, Regdar. I shall have need for both before the day is done.”
“At once, Your Grace…”

flash

“Just tell me why!” Rkard bellowed. He breathed heavily now, but his grip on the craghammer remained steady. “We ruled as brothers, Borys! I do not understand!”
Borys was laughing now, a manic gleam in his eyes. “I am to be human now, Rkard! Don’t you see? The humans are the future of Athas! And I shall be part of that future, as a human—and as something so much more…” He stared Rkard right in the eyes, then, his grin widening. “How I wish you could be part of that future, brother,” he proclaimed as he reached for his sword. “But I am afraid that simply cannot be.”

Rkard shouted a furious war cry as his anger boiled, and the earth rose up as if to swallow him. It did not quite do that, however, as large rocks stuck onto his plate and shield. His skin seemed to harden then, as if he were being engulfed by dark pebbles. His beard caught fire, and soon flowed like molten lava. He was Rkard no longer, at this moment, but something more.

“Come then, Borys,” bellowed the thing-that-had-been Rkard. Its voice was similar, but deeper, as if the earth itself spoke in concert with the king. “Let us end this.”
Borys merely smiled. “With pleasure.”


Caelum’s eyes shot open, and he found he was in a cold sweat, his hands feeling clammy. He stepped out of bed—shakily—and made for the kitchen. He grabbed a small cup and started to pour himself some ale, which was a traditional Dwarven nightcap (it served the purpose of any other specialty drink, for that matter, at least insofar as the dwarves were concerned).

The visions—and there had been several, but he really only saw the last three—were disturbing. The memory crystals were granted by the sphinx on each correct answer, and this was entirely new to Caelum. Nobody had even encountered the sphinx to that point, and Bjorn’s group really went all the way. Part of him had been glad that Renegade’s telepathic link allowed them to share the visions; they were clearly of great historical value. But another part of him wished he could take it all back; some things were just to horrible to see.

Caelum was disconcerted, and he felt entirely alone in that. He looked out and had to wonder if the others felt the same way he did. But the streets were silent, and the king’s building was dark. Nobody else had lost sleep to the visions. Nobody else shivered in their sleep.

He gulped the last of his ale down, still at fully half a cup. He blew the light out of his lamps, and started to turn in. Sun grant that the visions would not haunt him any further.

“Dwarves with beards,” he murmured, just as sleep came to him.

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Left for Kled

In this episode of The Walker Kings…

“Hey, Dwarf! Go do what we’re paying you to do!”
“Alright, I’m gunna—HRGAAAKH!!”
“…uh, whoops.”

XAFRA UPPERCUT!”

Our intrepid heroes, after definitively defeating a dastardly dray and a dubious destroyer, soon move to descend into a dwelling of doubtful dwarves. But lo, it seems that Kled is actually allied with Tyr! Shock! The Avangion Sadira meets up with our motley crew of ruffians and rascals to inform them of such. “They should be more helpful, then!” said V. “They’re dwarves,” replied Sadira. “Oh right,” said everyone else. Still, the dwarves fulfill their end of the bargain and removed the curse from Visarion and Arlbor.

Lyanius, the resident dwarven elder, agrees to welcome the party on the condition that they go to the underground city of Kemalok to complete a series of trials, and also tasks his son Caelum, the local sun priest, to accompany the group as their guide. “Alright,” said Bjorn. Upon acceptance of this, the town activates Feast Mode! Everyone is fed sparsely but given plenty of ale to compensate, so they basically ate as well as any dwarven king ever did.

Visarion, Renegade, and Cypher run around town roughing up some locals, and get some good info for their trouble. Spoiler alert: the slaughter stones only activate when people are holding weapons! This would prove to be very useful as the group crossed the bridge to an iron grate, and as Caelum followed, V briefly considered tossing a dagger his way, but he quickly realized this would be awesome wildly irresponsible. Instead they all worked to get the grate open, and emerged into the underground city of Kemalok.

As soon as they walk in, the items of the Kemalok kings start floating up into the air, flying straight into the castle. Jinkies! The group followed the rogue objects inside, where they had to overcome a group of undead dwarves and an earth elemental. They saved the last hit for Bjorn, but oops, it was the wrong elemental! Aw, snap! So they killed it right quick.

Next they encountered a puzzle involving statues of the Kemalok kings surrounding a wooden bowl that seemed to be filled with water, with a memory crystal inside. A guardian sphinx whispered cryptic words in the party’s general direction, piquing their interest intellectually and prompting a scholarly verbal exchange. Bjorn, however, soon grew tired of all this newfangled “thinking” that the group was doing, reached inside for the crystal, and just barely managed to retain use of his arm. “Well, that didn’t work,” Cypher quipped. So the group went about solving the puzzle using even more “thinking,” (much to Bjorn’s dismay) and they actually manage to get the right answer! Bjorn then reaches for the memory crystal and views a follow-up flashback to the earlier memory crystal that he picked up, but he is interrupted by a thundering voice, followed by the sound of beating wings…

Will our woeful wanderers withstand this winged warmonger? Be sure to catch our next episode: Kemaluk Before You Leap!

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