At the end of last session, we left our heroes in a perilous spot. Two of their number had fallen to the depredations of the wyverns nesting in the Black Keep and the situation seemed grim.
With no real choice, the party eventually decided to re-activate the Black Menhir and return to Oerth. They had been warned this would be difficult and painful, but they had no idea how bad the return trip would be. Pain—physical and mental—swept through their bodies. While most of the survivors managed to resist this pain, it horribly drained Narfu’s vitality.
Back in the chamber with the caulborn the party rested. The caulborn agreed to send the party back into the Dark Forest, but first our heroes had to regroup. Grooble transported Zainnis’ and Karelia’s bodies back to the library above via a dimension door. There he secured a raise dead for Karelia, but sadly the party’s funds could not stretch to two such miracles. Instead, Grooble cast gentle repose on the young ranger’s body in the hopes that by the time the party returned from their explorations of the Dark Forest they could have the requisite funds to raise Zainnis from the dead
A small amount of luck was with the party, however. One of the library’s defenders—Ariquis—was a powerful sorcerer and the blood of ancient dragons flowed in his veins. He agreed to accompany the adventurers into the Dark Forest. Even more amazingly, it transpired the sorcerer hailed from Ratik!
After another day’s rest, Grooble and his companions returned to the rest of the party, who still guarded the Black Menhir. Ariquis was introduced to the party and preparations were made to again explore the demi-plane lurking beyond the Black Menhir.
The caulborn reactivated the ancient stone and suddenly the party were elsewhere. This time, ready for the stones foul guardians to burst forth from the menhir, the party scattered. However, things did not go as expected.
This time, instead of a normal rot grub swarm (or two), black creeping shadow creatures resembling seething carpets of grubs burst forth from the pulsating menhir. Much faster than the rot grubs fought last time, the creatures rushed upon the party, draining Thaladan’s and Cortana’s strength. As the battle turned, the creatures slowly coalesced into vaguely humanoid shapes comprising ghostly, pulsating maggots. Karelia identified the creatures as greater shadows and lashed them both with a fireball. Sadly, Narfu—fighting one of the shadows—didn’t see the fireball coming and took the full brunt of the explosion. Alive, but badly burnt the monk fought on as Ariquis lashed the beasts with magic missiles and the paladins unleashed their divine energies upon their foes.
Shortly both shadows were grievous injured, but Cortana was similarly afflicted—the foul undead had leached so much of his strength he was unable to stand! Before the creatures were finally destroyed, Narfu was also grievously injured.
An orgy of curative magics were unleashed on the paladins and monks from the party’s rapidly depleting wands of lesser restoration.
However, as the injured were being restored to health, a great bellowing roar sounded from the Black Keep. Atop the castle’s ruined tower crouched a wyvern—alerted (again) by the sounds of battle. As it leaped into the air and swooped toward the party, Ariquis—summoning every ounce of his dragon-born lineage—called out in Draconic, “Stop, we want to talk…”