Battlegrounds in Midlothian, VA

Monday night, January 8, 2018, I played some casual commander at Battlegrounds in Midlothian, VA. Battlegrounds is relatively easy to get to located on rt60 (Midlothian Turnpike) a few miles south from rt288 and north of rt76. The shop is tucked away in a nice shopping center with plenty of parking. Flanking the LGS is Diamond Billiards and Kabuto Japanese House of Steaks and Sushi both of which have great reviews. There is plenty of cheaper alternatives for your culinary pleasure within walking distance. An Arby’s, McDonalds and Subway as well as a Food Lion all have space in the shopping plaza. Overall I would rate the location a 4.5. The only thing that would make this location better is if it served coffee and sandwiches on site. It’s relatively easy to find, plenty of parking and multiple food choices.

The people at the counter were friendly and when I asked about a few card choices for my artifact build they both had good responses. Unfortunately, I already run a Metalworker and a Lotus Petal in my deck or they would have made a sale. The staff gets a 3, while they did know the game and did point me to where the commander players were seated they didn’t really make an effort to talk to me past that or ask where I was from.

There is one shared bathroom for the LGS. I would think that my wife would probably use it without complaint at least once. It wasn’t spotless but it wasn’t grimy either. It would pass a health inspection. I do like the monitor in the bathroom that advertises store events. That was a cool touch. Speaking of touch, there were a few used towels that my kids would be trying to grab laying near the trash can, for that reason I rate the bathroom a 3. No better or worse than your average LGS.

Loved the sign advertising “Yummy snacks from the snack god $1.” Plenty of yummy goodness and beverages for gamers needing a quick sugar rush or chips or needing to snap into a Slim Jim. They had a good selection of drinks as well. I think my 2 years would be very satisfied with any of the snacks there, rating 4, a little above average on the snack selection and pricing. Well done sir, well done.

There were plenty of singles and well-stocked product available. I saw a binder behind the counter for just about every set printed along with a few bulk boxes. I would wager they could pull just about any common or uncommon you would want to build with. The display case had all the standard and modern staples, even including a few legacy cards. I give Battlegrounds a 4 for product and single selection.

The six people I sat down with had a mix of decks. It was a healthy mix of the net decks and homebrew and my Esper Combo deck was able to hold its own. For the most part, the competition was good, everyone there seemed to just want to have a good time jamming commander. Though there is always the one guy, am I right. I give both the Meta and the Locals a 3.5. Very friendly but I had to ask to join and one guy complained because another guy proxied (the post on their calendar read proxies welcome for the event). Now I do have to say I do agree that it is a little janky to proxy original dual lands but hey we all new proxies were allowed.

Overall I rate Battleground in Midlothian, Va. a 3.7, definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area or live in Richmond.

Commander Deck: Espir Combo

I use EDHRED to build most of my commander decks, but this time I thought I would try something different. The primary group I play with build and play tier one competitive decks, so this deck may not be a fun build in your group. A lot of players frown on the type of combos I put in this deck. I built a deck purely on the combo pieces I had in my collection. I chose Ravos, Soultender and Silas Renn, Seeker Adept as partner commanders. Their combined effects should allow me to recur creatures and artifacts from my graveyard to keep my combo pieces on the battlefield.

Ravos, Soultender

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to be as fast as possible so I kept the mana curve low. As you can see from the chart the majority of my spells are below 3 converted mana casting cost, 44 cards to be exact.  The remaining 21 spells are my finishers though if you can get 5-8  three drops on the battlefield you can combo off and win the game.

The mana base ended up a little heavier in white mana than I initially wanted but still seems to have a good balance.  Colorless mana makes up 33% of the overall deck composition, with enough mana rocks and multicolor lands that casting spells have not been an issue when gold-fishing this deck.
 
 
 
The whole point of this deck is to have an endless amount of combos in your hand and on the battlefield.  There are several ways to prevent all damage dealt to you and or to your creatures.  Darksteel Myr, Palace Guard, Palisade Giant with cards like Ghostly Possession, Pariah, and Indestructibility are a sure way to lock your opponent from causing you damage. Archon of Justice and Kami of False Hope with recursion effects from Ravos or any of the other artifacts and enchantments on the board makes an endless loop of damage prevention. Infinite mana combos allow you dump mana into artifacts like Walking Ballista, Snake Basket, and multiple recast effects, like Nims Deathmantale with Phyrexian Plaguelord to clear your opponents board. Take a look at the list and let me know what combos you see in the comment section.

DECK LIST
Ravos, Soultender (commander)
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept (commander)
Artifact:
Ashnod’s Altar
Chromatic Lantern
Commander’s Sphere
Fellwar Stone
Manalith
Nim Deathmantle
Ruined Stalactite
Sensei’s Divining Top
Serene Steward
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Soul’s Attendant
Spawning Pit
Spine of Ish Sah
Sword of the Meek
Thopter Foundry
Well of Lost Dreams
Aetherflux Reservoir
Snake Basket
Metalworker
Artifact Creature
Composite Golem
Darksteel Myr
Ornithopter
Pili-Pala
Walking Ballista
Guardian of the Gateless
Creatures:
Ajani’s Pridemate
Archon of Justice
Blood Pet
Bloodthrone Vampire
Bog Initiate
Butcher of Malakir
Cloud of Faeries
Deadeye Navigator
Grand Architect
Grim Haruspex
Judge of Currents
Kami of False Hope
Leonin Elder
Magus of the Coffers
Mirran Spy
Palace Guard
Palisade Giant
Phyrexian Plaguelord
Priest of Yawgmoth
Soul Warden
Tidewater Minion
Vizkopa Guildmage
Wall of Limbs
Vela the Night-Clad
Sourcery
Plague of Vermin
Enchantments:
Enduring Renewal
Fool’s Demise
Ghostly Possession
Ghostly Prison
Indestructibility
Lifelink
Palace Siege
Pariah
Instant:
Disallow
Psychic Barrier
Render Silent
Stoic Rebuttal
Lands
Arcane Sanctum
Azorius Chancery
Caves of Koilos
Command Tower
Concealed Courtyard
Dimir Aqueduct
Dromar’s Cavern
Drowned Catacomb
Evolving Wilds
Exotic Orchard
Field of Ruin
Glacial Fortress
Grand Coliseum
Inventor’s Fair
Island
Island
Island
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Orzhov Basilica
Path of Ancestry
Plains
Plains
Plains
Plains
Prairie Stream
Reflecting Pool
Reliquary Tower
Swamp
Swamp
Swamp
Swamp
Swamp
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Warped Landscape

Darsun Meadowbrook – Hawk Guardian of Solonar

We have returned to my homeland and left the burning sands behind. I am grateful to be alive and now I must return to my mother Maradre to hear if there is any word of my father. I will maintain contact with the party of adventurers that I traveled within the desert by occasionally visiting Elventree. But, following our people’s tradition, I will not lead the adventurers into our tribal lands. I will also trade in Elventree as my people have done for a long time. I will study the ways of the fletcher, bowyer and wise men who understand the weather. I will also practice swimming in the woodland ponds and rivers. I will meet with Serrilion as he appears to be the treasurer of the party and ask that he assist me in turning all of my shares into easily transportable gemstones. What I have to contribute to the party treasury includes 1,740 gp, 30pp, a handful of gems and another gem, 4 earrings value – 1800 gp, 1300 gp, 900 gp, 900 gp. A magical flail, a magical dagger, 3 bone scroll cases and a copper medallion. I will purchase magical arrows as they are available and place the remainder of my gems in the safety of my mother’s temple until I can utilize this treasure to construct a temple of my own to glorify Solonar Thelandria. I will participate in the hunt to assist in feeding my people and in the full moon celebrations to the hunting people of Solonar. I will replenish my supplies of necessities to work the priestly magic of Solonar. I will spend three moons to complete my task and visit with family and friends. If my father has not returned, I will continue my quest to find him. If he has returned and all is well, I will return to the adventuring life until I am able to construct a temple in a more suitable location.

Our initial forays into the forest have met with limited success. I have found no indication that my father has been here recently. The meeting of the Dragon Cult seems to be a false lead, which is no surprise coming from the mouth of evil. Maybe the rumored dragon bones will present a better opportunity. If there are truly these bones and they are to be used for evil purposes we should go there and destroy the bones. I would like to hunt down these twisted Dragon Cult members and extinguish them from the face of Faerun.

I am also interested in finding out more about Hillsfar. The evil that appears to emanate from there is of great concern to me. There can be no peace or goodness in isolationism and racism. The half-orc we rescued is an indication of what will happen to all good people if we allow evil to continue to exist.

My search for my father has become a secondary concern to me. The wisdom granted to me by Solonar has me convinced that this party of adventurers has a higher purpose in creating a world where the good can live in peace. Hopefully, I cross paths with my father or find out what has occurred to keep from home for so long, but I must put aside my selfish search and consider what good I can promote in this world of chaos.

Darsun Meadowbrook – Hawk Guardian of Solonar

Addressing the adventurers in Elventree

Fellow adventurers – I will be leaving for Phlan without delay. I have received word regarding my father’s whereabouts. He is likely in great peril and it sounds like Phlan is under siege by evil forces. I would be honored if you would all join me in this quest. I have found you all to possess bravery and insight that will certainly help me in successfully rescuing my father and possibly saving Phlan.

Darsun Meadowbrook – Hawk Guardian of Solonar

Meanwhile back in the civilized area of Phlan…Darsun heals from his self-inflicted wound and continues his studies of bodily health while waiting for the group to decide the best way to divide the treasures they have obtained in their recent battle. He searches out ways to replenish his magical arrows, including seeking the aid of wizards and holy men. He also furthers this possibility by constructing his own high-quality arrows that could be blessed or instilled with magical properties. He asks The Grim and Serrilion if they know they know how his arrows could be given greater power through magic. He enjoys an occasional brewed beverage at the inn and listens to the songs and stories of the bard Ysberin Gurganus and enters into conversation with him as time permits. Darsun also makes a last plea to Betal Woodleaf to answer the call of Solonar, “He is truly the god of wood elves, I have seen your battle skills and knowledge that you are a protector of the good, you should join me in worship at the next full moon when we have the opportunity to visit my tribe.”

Chronicles of Serillian, part 13

In Phlan

During our brief time here in Phlan, our adventures have been many. After our initial foray into the uncivilized area controlled by humans proved unsuccessful, we returned to the Bitter Blade Inn and took a couple of days to regroup and strategize. My notes will be brief as there is much to do in this place and time is of the essence to most of our missions. The forces of evil do not rest to recount their tales as I would.

Darsun recruits some mercenaries to help in the quest to find his father Biltow. The party grudgingly accepts these new members temporarily, who are Darsun’s responsibility. One of their members, a gnome wizard simply known as the Grim, proves himself exceedingly useful. I spend my time seeking information regarding the possible whereabouts of Biltow and his band, as well as other rumors of the city.

After two days, we follow a lead that there is a band of orcish slavers outside the city. On our way to their camp, Grim and I scout ahead and come across a green dragon. We follow it for some time until we can no longer keep up with it, and note that it flies off towards the mountains to the northwest. Perhaps we will hunt it down later and seek the treasure of its lair.

Upon arrival at the encampment, it is raining and the orcs stay inside their makeshift buildings. After a quick survey of the area, we discover where the prisoners are kept and determine that it would be foolish to attempt a full on assault of the place. We use magic, illusion and the storms to distract and confuse the orcs. We extract all the prisoners safely without a fight. It is a daring but wise rescue. Biltow is reunited with his father, and they once again are both free to walk different paths.

We return to town and meet back with the New Phlan Council. We tell them of the humanoid army massing outside the city a few miles out. A council member entreats us to explore the library, as it may hold important information to help defeat the occupying forces. We set out for the library the next day. We part ways with the mercenaries, save the Grim, who has for now joined with us.

In the couple of days since we last entered the slums and area by the well, it seems that the troops and adventurers have pushed back the humanoid forces. We boldly and quite foolishly walk through the area we previously battled the kobolds and hobgoblins, since we saw no obvious signs of them. For our arrogance, we are met with a rain of arrow fire. We quickly dodge this and make our way to the library.

We enter the library, and there is little left that seems useful to us. We wander through several rooms and search for the information that the council member has asked us to find. There are several books of interest that we find, but nothing seems to immediately impress us. Darsun does find a manual of note that instructs one how to improve their health and stamina. Other volumes give names of dark powers and their locations on other worlds. One book references a magical pool. We keep what seems of importance and leave the rest.

In a room filled with debris a strange creature we haven’t seen yet fixes his gaze upon our small gnomish friend. He is instantly turned to stone! We do what we can to avoid its eyes and the same fate as Master Grim. With spell and sword, after a few close calls we slay the creature. It has a modest treasure that we collect, and I carefully remove its eyes, tongue and claws for preservation and use in my magical research.

The diminutive, but life size, statue of The Grim is placed in Darsun’s magical sack for safe keeping. You know that you’ve been accepted by a group when they dub you their garden gnome. Rest assured, little friend, we will see you returned to flesh again.

There are a few apparitions that haunt the place, and one particular creature sat fixed at a desk watching us. While we eventually vanquish these fiends, one has laid its icy hands on the heart of Orson, partially draining him of his life force.

After a few hours of searching, it is agreed that there is little more to interest us here. We decide to make our way back to the civilized area of Phlan with the information we have. We’ll seek a way to restore our friend to life and further adventure.

Back in town, we decide to split and be as productive as we can. Betal and Hope visit with Bishop Braccio, who implores us to take back the Temple of Ilmater that has fallen to the scourage of Bane’s influence. He agrees to return The Grim to flesh to assist us in this quest, as long as someone in the group will accept a spell that guarantees our completion of the task.

Darsun visits with the New Phlan Council and turns over the books that may be useful to the council. When alerted to the chance to bring back The Grim, he meets with the bishop and takes responsibility for his restoration. The Grim is made whole again, and we prepare to make our way to the temple the following day.

Meanwhile, I attempt to decipher the nature of the items we received while in the library. We have a magical bag that can hold many times its apparent size, a potion of healing, and two other concoctions that I cannot comprehend. When The Grim returns, he completes the analysis. We have a potion of strength and a jar of healing salve. These items are distributed to Betal, Bowser and Hope. For the next several hours, The Grim and I compare magical knowledge and exchange arcane formulas. It will be good to have another wizard to coordinate spells with. The Grim has many spells that I am grateful to obtain. And for his part, the gnome is surprised by the selection of spells I have. It is a good night of study and discourse.

We carefully avoid the mysterious fog that surrounds the river leading to the temple area. We land unseen in the compound and look to avoid the patrols. The first building we enter we surprise the occupants; a few simple male orcs and a female orc cooking something that is surely unfit for our consumption. A melee ensues, and we easily come out on top. The ruckus has alerted others to our presence, and we now take chase to try to silence those that have seen us so the entire place is not aware of our infiltration.

Through a series of blunders, we end up slaying many orc warriors in a barracks room. In our haste, we have probably caused more damage to ourselves than our enemies have. I have tripped and sprained my ankle, slowing my pace, and get a nasty cut on my face. Darsun has somehow managed to lose grip of his blade and hit himself. Some of our group is hit with friendly fire.

In his zeal to try out his new spells and slay our opponents, Grim attacks with a blast of fire, which consequently sets the place ablaze. At first, we attempt to put the flames out, but soon realize that it will be no use. We abandon our voluntary firefighting and the building as well to flames.

We come out to see arrows coming down from the sky firing at more orcs. Broknar has been outside taking care to keep any soldiers away. We run down and kill a few more orcs of no importance. Orson takes a leather symbol of some type one of the orcs was wearing and puts it on. As we turn the corner, we see the entrance to the temple.

Darsun and Orson make their way in first. They are met with an old and nearly blind orc, who feels the symbol and lets the two inside. Bowser, Betal, Hope and I gather around the Grim, and he once again has us vanish from sight. We slip into the temple before the old man closes the door. Broknar remains invisible and in flight.

There are several temple guards posted around the pillars, and an altar of sacrifice to the far end of the temple. The old orc shuffles around, leaving Orson and Darsun free to explore the temple. Curiously, no one questions their presence and they search a few rooms without finding anything. The remainder of the group huddled around the Grim move down the temple as well.

Soon Orson tires of this and creeps up behind one of the guards. He slides his blade into the neck and spine of the orcs, and it instantly falls. The guards seem to take no heed of this, and we kill them without much of a struggle. We search the temple more thoroughly and find what must be some artifacts of Ilmater. These are gathered and we make look to make our way out of the temple.

As we go to leave the temple, we hear reinforcements coming. We’ve been spotted, and most of the group decides to meet the enemy in the streets. Darsun comes out of the temple, but decides his odds are better fortified inside its walls. I would rather have easy means of escape outdoors should things go badly, and the battle begins.

Hope takes a great leap of joy and is on top of one of the buildings. The Grim and I round the corner, seeking cover and preparing to cast spells. Betal, Bowser and Orson are more exposed in the center of the street, and Broknar remains somewhere nearby invisible still.

The Grim strikes first and black tentacles erupt from the ground in the middle of their forces. Several of the enemies are struck by the ebony tendrils and some are caught in their grasp. I use a powerful spell to become completely invisible to gain the advantage of surprise.

Their forces have both priestly and arcane magic, and the tendrils are dispelled. Betal is frozen in place, unable to move. Then a huge wall of fire appears, catching Betal and Bowser in its flames. I am close enough to feel the searing heat from the flames. Protected by magicks, the heat does little damage, but enough to ruin my spell. I instead grab a potion that gives me flight and drink have the vial. I get out of the heat of the flames unseen. Bowser grabs Betal and moves towards the temple, also away from the fire, while Orson moves towards the building that Hope is on top of.

Betal is immobile, and Bowser and Grim are pinned down unable to get around the wall of flames. Bowser drinks a potion to give him the strength of a mighty giant, grabs his axe and begins to break through one of the boarded up windows. They’ll be inside the temple within minutes to hold up with Darsun. Orson climbs upon the building that Hope is on top of. Broknar is nowhere to be found. Hope stops moving, frozen by an unseen force.

The leader of the forces pulls back with a few key figures, and I make my move. I cause a powerful force to erupt in their midst, and many of them are trapped within its confines. Their leader isolated, several of the troops in plate armor rush back to support and protect him. None can penetrate my magick. The Seldarine have smiled upon us. I drift directly over the group and release a shimmering ball of lightning that, while cannot penetrate the magick of my sphere, kills or severely hurts most of the guards that went to support their leader.

While Bowser is smashing through the wooden planks to gain entrance to the temple, the ogre mage appears around the wall of fire and hits the group with a ball of fire. His hair singed, and with a vengeful glace, he charges the magick wielding ogre. With two mighty blows, he plants his axe deep into the chest of the ogre, nearly splitting him in two. With a look of disbelief, the ogre drops to his knees. Bowser looks him in the eyes, spits in his face and hurls some dwarvish insults at him. He watches as the ogre collapses in a pool of his own blood.

A few of the forces are make their way towards the temple doors. Orson leaps down from the building he was on to attack a couple of enemies that have come up to the side of the temple. He stumbles, but is still able to cast his magic rope at them. They are bound tightly, and no help is near to free them from this ensnarement. Orsun grins as he draws his blade, relishing the thought of slicing their throats.

The tide has quickly turned. The two remaining soldiers, seeing their leader helpless and their other forces failing quickly before us, decide to retreat. I watch as they get in a small boat and head down the river. I decide to hover and land on the roof, still invisible to, to wait for their leader and his henchmen to emerge from my sphere.

The two other remaining soldiers in plate armor force their way into the temple and meet Darsun in combat. Bowser finishes smashing through the boarded door, and the Grim enters the temple through the window. Darsun had drank a potion to make him an even more potent in battle, and begins to pick apart the plated enemies. The dweomer binding Betal has faded as well, and both she and Bowser enter the temple. The Grim uses fire magick and a ray of flame erupts from his hand, burning one of the soldiers to the ground.

I yell to my comrades to surround the sphere, so we can take the leader in a few minutes once the field comes down. The group follow suit and begin to surround the sphere. While I cannot make out his curses, I am sure he is spitting hate at us. Then he begins to chant. He turns and slays one of his own! The other underling turns in horror and attacks the master, but is no match. He, too is felled, and a wicked grin spreads across the leader’s face. A darkness emanates from the sphere, and a booming voice calls out ‘not yet, my faithful servant’ as ominous clouds block the sun from the sky. In a moment, the rays of the sun show once again. The magical sphere I created dissipates, and the darkness fades as well. The leader is gone, with only the sacrificed bodies of his companions remaining.

The battle is won, and we gather a king’s ransom of items from the bodies. We return to Phlan and present the temple artifacts found to Bishop Braccio. We are greeted as heroes, and given accolades and promised aid and favors as long as Bishop Braccio runs the temple that will now be rededicated to its rightful god. Bishop Braccio immediately gathers his forces to eliminate any remaining orcs and retake the temple. Darsun is released from his bonds. I feel that a celebration, well earned, is soon to ensue.

Chronicles of Serillian, part 12

The desert lands beyond, where the Star Gems and death await.

The strange new land we are in takes a few weeks to become familiar with. I spend most of the time perfecting my art, studying mystic writings and weaving magicks. We hear strange tales of the desert and are warned of places not to go. Places that no one will dare visit. No one except us.

We make our way into the desert and travel north as Aman Al-Raqib bids us. We have a few chance encounters where we meet strange snowmen, common bandits, and bugbears. All fall before The Swords, or disperse after we ravage their initial forces. My skills with the blade have noticeably improved. I am truly becoming a fine sword mage.

One night, I awake to see that Rochendir has been partially swallowed by a huge purple thing that has come up from the sands. It is flailing him around half way in his mouth. He is unconscious, and his cloak is pulled over his head. While he is defenseless. the rest of the team assaults the huge beast and brings it down. We secure Rochendir, and decide to see where the worm came from. With effort, we haul the great carcass out of the ground. It tried to swallow Rochendir whole, so I suggest that we gut the creature and look for more fallen prey or to see what else it has inside it’s stomach. We recover some trinkets, and Stonebreaker is pleased.

We find a part of a huge statue buried in the sands and begin to investigate. This must be where one of the Star Gems are hidden. The sand nearly swallows us as we slide down into an ancient building. There are a few giant spiders that we quickly dispatch. We find a pair of doors that are impassable, locked by some powerful dweomer. We attempt to tunnel into the sand in search of another passage. We dig directly into the lair of the tarantulas! They begin to swarm out from everywhere, and we rush to find a path to escape.

As we run past a hall, we enter a large set of doors. Stonebreaker attempts to save the mounts, and with it our supplies and treasure. It is too late, the animals have been poisoned. He and Rochendir rush back to the rest of the party as we slam the doors shut. The room is filled with three sets of large statues with staves that reach all the way from the floor to the ceiling. At the end of the hall, lies a magnificent gem atop an altar. This must be the first of the Star Gems. But how to get to it? It seems too easy.

As we approach the first set of statues, what appears to be a thin silk curtain of blue appears between staves. It is impassable, from floor to ceiling. I toss a pebble at the blue, and it freezes and bursts instantly. Now we need to figure a way around it. I have a way to avoid the freezing power of the blue veil, but my concern is that other sets of statues will not be the same type of trap. It would be a complete waste of a powerful protective scroll if it allowed us only to pass the first barrier. We continue to search for some clue to get us past the statues.

We finally discover a secret door with what appears as a clue to get past the statues. Upon approaching the blue veil, I speak the words and the veil drops. Success! As we approach the second set of statues, I again toss a stone past them. This time, a yellow veil appears, and the stone is shattered by a field of electricity. Good thing we didn’t waste the scroll, it would have been of little use here. I speak the second phrase, and the veil drops. The third set of statues has an orange veil of fire to pass, and with the command words we safely transverse it.

At last, the first of the Star Gems is in front of us. It is black and sparkling like the night sky of stars. It is beautiful. The gem sits on a box, with the box upon the altar. I attempt to grasp the gem, but it is stuck. There is a powerful dweomer on it, but I can sense no trap. I pull with more force, and the gem comes free in my hands as I stumble backwards. A wisp of vapor appears, and as it rushes past us we hear a maniacal laughter fill the halls. This cannot be good. Have we already freed the efreet?

We have little time to contemplate the consequences of our actions, as we need to collect the remaining star gems. I unroll my magic rug, and tell Rochendir, Stonebreaker and Broknar to get on. Our new dwarven ally sprouts large, black bat-like wings with a smile. What a sight this will be to see, a flying dwarf! We open the doors and fly past the remaining tarantulas, heading toward the doors which we first came upon that were unpassable. With a phrase, the doors open before us. But this appears to be a dead end.

It’s time to leave this place, but Stonebreaker is insistent on reclaiming our treasures and supplies. He swoops down with the carpet after the rest of the team flies out to safety and waits. In a few moments, he returns with that smug look on his face that says ‘we don’t leave valuables behind’.

We continue to travel north in the desert, without our steeds of pack animals. We are slowed down, and the burden is heavy. Luckily, Rochendir and Stonebreaker bear the burden well. We switch to traveling by night and resting by day, as the heat of the desert is too much for travel when the sun is at is climbing in the sky.

We meet a few wanders and hunters, but nothing of note. When we come what appears as a pool of water in the desert, I first assume that it must be some type of illusion-a mirage that a wishful, thirsty mind conjures. Luckily, the pool is no mirage, but is a magical. Rochendir investigates the pool, and seems transfixed for a few moments. He does not appear as though he has fallen under any enchantment, but I will be cautious to take note of his actions and words the next few days. One can never be too careful with magic pools, as we have already found out!

Then again, magic pools are sometimes a boon. What at first appeared like a simple pool now becomes a true oasis. Trees that we did not notice appear and shad us while we are there. The water is cool and reinvigorates us. We fill our water skins and continue on our journey.

We soon come upon tent city in the desert. A tribe of nomads perhaps. We are approached by their guards, and we tell them of our quest. It looks as if these people are allied or the tribe of Hetmann, and we shall make camp here with the merchants for the night. We’ll meet with their leaders and hopefully get more information on where to find the next of the Star Gems.

Stonebreaker’s last recollections to us: “We have slain and intimidated the evil doers and obtained a piece of the puzzle we are trying to solve. Thank Helm for our insightful brother elf, we were able to bring forth some treasure from the belly of the worm that nearly devoured Rochendir. I am pleased with my new dogs and they have already proven useful in battle. I only hope they do not meet the fate of nearly every horse who makes our acquaintance. Our new brother, the dwarf is full of surprises. His bat like wings and mighty axe will surely aid in our endeavors if he does not join our previous party members in death. I hope that the leader of the oasis has more information than the other travelers of the desert we have met. For people so adept at surviving this harsh environment, they don’t seem to have much useful knowledge. Possibly it needs to be beaten out of them. I would certainly like more information on the rumored jeweled city. It gives me great pleasure that this adventuring life is full of opportunities to kill the evil of Faerun, but it certainly could be more profitable. As slavery seems to have some acceptability in these lands I wouldn’t mind freeing some slavers of their purses and maybe some amount of their blood.”

The captain of the Pegasi riders brings us to a plush tent in the center of the camp. Such fine creatures, they remind me of home. While I am not part of the Green Isle’s air defenses, I should love to learn to soar with these magnificent beasts. I have already flown on a dragon, perhaps there will be time for me to return and learn to be a wind rider myself. Could you image my return home, a Keryfaern riding a Pegasus, or even a Dragon! I will have to visit Kaitlyn, our Steel Dragon ally, and see if she will grace me with more time upon her in flight.

The large, luxurious tent is obviously the lodging of the leader of these people. We are introduced to the sheik and what appears to be his second in command. There are several dancing and serving girls, as well as a few large guards with scimitars. The captain speaks to the sheik and his adviser, and at first there is little interest in us, although we are clearly out of place in this strange land. The sheik finally signals for the dancing to come to an end, and we are given an audience. In these situations, I usually act as the diplomat for the Swords. After relating our strange tale and discussing our mission to help bring the completion the prophecy of Martek, there seems to be a little more interest in our presence. Of course, in this land these are bedtime stories and fables, so we need something a little more substantial for credibility. I produce the black gem of night, the first of the Star Gems. There can be no doubt now that we are more than just strangers.

The sheik relates a tale of intrigue and asks for our assistance. His first son’s bride to be bares an ancient mark that might be a clue for us to complete our mission. She disappeared, abducted, and she is not the only person to go missing. Somewhere among the sheik’s people there is a faction that seeks to overthrow him. He asks that we help return his first son’s (Hassan’s) bride to be (Shadala), and offers us enchanted scimitars as assistance and reward. In addition, he offers his second son, Korus, to guide and work with us to help find Shadala. We offer to assist, and accept his scimitars as partial payment for our swords.

We are given basic quarters and provisions, and begin to consider the possible suspects. There is a dervish cult that worships the old gods, as well as the Sand Voyager’s Guild, the merchant group of these lands. Of course, Broknar and Stonebreaker mention the other obvious culprit-someone from inside the sheik’s inner circle that would benefit from his downfall. That places the sheik’s second son, Korus, as a prime candidate as being involved in the plot. Of course, it’s not as outsiders can simply go accusing the sheik’s son of conspiracy. We need to have proof and be certain of who is actually behind this crime. Most importantly, we need to recover Shadala and discover the clue that she has for us to find the next Star Gem.

It’s midday, so we decide the go out exploring on our own. No doubt we’ll be watched by the sheik’s network of informants, and may even have attracted the attention of the conspiracy. We’ll have to be vigilant. The first place we decide to visit is the Sand Voyager’s Guild outpost. Perhaps we’ll pose as slave traders from a foreign land.

We arrive and decide to do a quick survey of the landscape. An older building, the guild’s warehouse and offices, the local cantina (Happy Hogan’s Desert Igloo), a bookseller and a fortune teller. I guess it’s time to get our fortune’s read!

The old lady offers for read our fortunes for a mere copper. Stonebreaker gives her a silver, and we each receive a reading. Rochendir’s fate is interesting, so I’ll relate what I recall. There is a red hawk with a broken foot. Tied around its claw is a black ribbon with a crow’s feather. I do not know what it means, but it must be of significance. After we all hear our fates, we ask if the she there are any known enemies among the traders of the sheik. She says that all are saddened by Shalada’s disappearance. She also quietly mentions that Tolonus, the master of the guild, is rumored to be missing as well. When Stonebreaker asks about the slave trade, the old lady changes her demeanor and says that there is no slave trade here. We should change our cover as traders of animals.

Just prior to departing, the old lady signals to me, recognizing me as an elf who must be of some importance. She whispers of some strange intrigue to me. I thank her for what she has shared and quickly rejoin the group. A few have moved on to the cantina, but I take a few moments to go the bookseller. The only useful information that I gather from him is that the oldest building at the entrance of the encampment is that of elder gods.

We meet the proprietor, a fine Halfling, Master Hogan. He brings us warm mead and welcomes us. Again, the slave trade seems to be tolerated here, as Hogan has a few slaves serving in his establishment. However, the trade does not seem to be active in this post. We ask about Tolonus, and the Hogan asks what we know of him. We gain his trust, and he says something is not right. He received written word from Tolonus just two days before, but no one has seen him. The new guild master has supposedly taken residence in the encampment, so we’ll try to pay him a visit. Of curious interest, it seems that the date from the sacred white palm grow trees within a ten-day! I would surely like to get a few of those and bring them back to Evermeet, or maybe as gifts to the elven people I visit throughout Faerun.

The new guild master will not see us, and we decide to leave that see what information the old temple may hold. In the old temple, I decipher the runes after some time. The writings and voice of the alter guide us to a location near the white palm. More cryptic clues, does anyone in this land speak straight?

We head toward the white palm oasis and come upon an obelisk in the sand. As we are examining the writings on the obelisk and about to enter into a hidden passageway into it, we are ambushed by assassins. The attempt to kill us with poison darts, but of course that does not work out too well for them. They must not know whom they have been sent to kill. We manage to slay three of the four fools, and I place the last one under an enchanted slumber. When he awakens, Broknar is threatening him with his own poison dart. Instead of allow us to interrogate him, he throws himself upon his own poison barb in Broknar’s hand and is slain. So much for acquiring any knowledge of who may be behind the plot. We’ve drawn someone’s attention, but whose? The elder god’s cult worshippers? The Sand Traveler’s Guild? Someone from inside the sheik’s own camp? We are no closer to answers.

We enter the obelisk and procedure to explore the structure. The first door appears to be magically trapped, and I use my magic to temporarily dispel the dweomer. Stonebreaker forces the gate open, and as he begins to lift it, we see zombies guarding the mechanism to open the door. We quickly dispatch the undead, and secure the door. A few more zombies arrive in the area which we also dispatch. We cross a series of liquid troughs in the next room, which leads to a magically trapped antechamber. With no apparent way past the glyphs, we stumble blinded and singed through to the next room. I get a sample of the red fluid in a flask that Stonebreaker had before we press on.

The next room opens to a huge vaulted ceiling with several columns and a statue of one of the elder gods. Its eyes gleam with brilliant red gems, hypnotically calling out to Stonebreaker. He does a quick search for traps and sees nothing, so he scales up the statues and begins to pry out its eyes. Of course, we all suspect that no good can come from this, and even Broknar states the obvious that this can’t be good. Stonebreaker’s moment of glory is cut short, as two huge arms appear from the statue and swing at him. He evades them, throws the gems into his pack and scales back down the statue. In a few short moments his pack begins to glow and smolder! The gems become incredibly hot, and Stonebreaker dumps his pack out. The gems turn molten before Stonebreaker’s eyes. Easy come, easy go my friend. There is sure to be more plunder in our future. Treasures that do not belong to ancient gods.

We enter another chamber with three basins of colored fluids. I attempt to gather some of the clear liquid as in a flask but am burned by the pure evil of unholy water. Stonebreaker begins to ponder getting some of the ichor substance, but I caution him against it. It is best to leave this place now. The last time Broknar disturbed a basin of water in shrine, he angered the wrath of Mystra. The goddess probably has still not forgotten the offense.

Broknar continues to occasionally do the opposite of what we suggest or would expect. We come upon a pair of doors, and as Stonebreaker, Rochendir and I look to head toward the one on the right, he leads Bowser to the left door. I do not know if both or only one of the doors was trapped, but we fall into magical trap that has us looping into the pit by the statue with the burning gem eyes. I unroll my flying carpet, and Bowser uses his bat-like wings, and we head towards a lower opening of the pit of never-ending descent.

We wander through a passage and come upon a small stone pillar. Broknar asks a simple question, and to our astonishment a voice speaks an answer. Unfortunately, the questions was of no consequence and neither was the response. Perhaps we can finally get some useful information to help us on our quest. I ask about the whereabouts of the Star Gems, the princess and the conspirators. The voice speaks answers, but they do not make any sense. When we ask the last question, the voice repeats an answer. Another confusing distraction, but we will find the answers we seek.

Next we come upon an altar of an unknown god. As we approach, the altar speaks to us, seeking a sacrifice. Stonebreaker and Broknar proceed to place their scimitars on the altar, and they are granted a strange glove- like item. The items are powerful weapons against the undead, but are only useful in the hands of a priest.

Continuing on, we come upon a bridge over a chasm. The group takes flight over the bridge for safety, and come out to a room from behind a statue. There is a trail of platinum pieces leading to the statue, and Stonebreaker happily gathers them all. Doors on both sides of this chamber lead to exits. Again, Broknar decides to take the opposite door that Stonebreaker, Bowser and I move towards, and Rochendir fool heartedly follows him.

As Stonebreaker opens our door to an empty chamber, we hear a shout from Broknar. Rochendir rushes into to room, and we all move to help. I see the first of the undead fall before Rochendir, and Stonebreaker rushes in as Broknar lets fly an arrow. When I get to the door, I see both Rochendir and Stonebreaker struck by the undead fiends, and become visibly weakened as part of their life force is drained. I fire a blazing beam at one of the creatures, searing it with a blinding light. Rochendir and Stonebreaker fell two more of the creatures, and one comes out to attack me. Broknar fires a couple of arrows into one and it falls over. The beast on me attempts to steal part of my essence, but I swiftly dodge it. As the wight turns to engage me again, Bowser’s axe comes down upon it, and it finally falls motionless.

We recover a few items the undead were guarding, but at an immense price. Two of our companions have been weakened, victims of the life draining ability of undead. Perhaps this will convince Rochendir that he is indeed one of the living, and not becoming a creature of the dark. Be careful, for if you are not cautious, you may become one of the living dead after all. And brother Broknar, must you continue to take the opposite course of action we recommend?

Ancient prophecies, conspiracies, kidnappings, cryptic fortunes, assassins, voices with nonsensical answers. This is truly a land of confusion!

From the first, I was unsure of rogue, pirate and freedman known as Stonebreaker. Maybe we as elves are no better than the other races, for we all have our prejudices. No matter that Stonebreaker was a zenar’hakavarn (half-orc), in the end I considered him a ravanthas (friend). Let these pages be an honor to his memory as he honored us with his all too brief time with us.

After battling the undead, we took a moment to reconsider our somewhat impulsive and reckless ways. Time is so short for my companions, they sometimes become impatient and make poor decisions. We discuss tactics that would perhaps slow us down, but at the same time prevent another disastrous encounter. If we only would follow the plan…

We continue on our way through the halls, searching for the Star Gems and the means to defeat the evil karaskillis (flaming demon). The corridors of this place seem to be filled with an endless array of traps. After a few twists and turns, we come upon a rotting corpse in bandages that should have died long ago. Not desiring to take any chances after our last encounter with the undying, I decide to take care of this creature myself. I summon a cube of flames to send the creature back to the fire pits it came from. Darsson smiles as the creature burns to cinders.

Round and round we wander, and we see another person ‘just dropping in’. Stuck in another trap of continual falling. I use our enchanted rug to stop her endless descent, and bring her to the next level we have yet to explore. As the gods would have it, the young human is a priestess of Lliira. A little disoriented, she says ‘you have a flying carpet’? I answer ‘doesn’t everybody’? I guess my humor is a bit out of place.

She relates to us that she was exploring the Haunted Halls with a group of fellow adventurers and ended up transported here by the magicks of one of the tapestries. She is, literally, a gift of Hope from Lliira to us. Perhaps the goddess still watches over us and sends aid in this dark place as thanks for our part in assisting her not so long ago. Although her jingling bells are somewhat, how shall I put this delicately, inappropriate for us to maintain the element of surprise, I am actually very fond of our new companion. Her joy and spirit is sure to lift us from the foul mood we are now in.

While we were finding Hope, Broknar decides that having target practice on another mummy in the endless falling trap would be entertaining to pass the time. After several shots, the creature stops struggling but now continues to perpetually dive. Falling forever; as forever as his corpse remained animated unnaturally in this world until now.

Several passages later, we come upon a room with blinding light. Light so bright that we can barely see anything in it. It is likely a trap, but we can think of no immediate way to see into the room. I pull out my unpredictable friend Sykerylor (Maelstrom), point the wand and speak the necessary words of power. In seconds, a beautiful, plush green carpet of grass covers the floor of the room. I smile as it reminds me of my living island home. More importantly, it somewhat mutes the overpowering light, allowing us to see a couple of focused light beams running the length of the room at differing heights.

While we discuss what to do next, Stonebreaker let’s his impatience get the best of him. He begins to hug the wall towards the left, hoping to find a way through the room. He moves into the room a few feet and looks back at us with a snort, as if to say ‘see, there’s no need to be so cautious’. The last vision I have of Stonebreaker is his cocky grin as a new beam appears a few feet later. In a flash, all that he was or will ever be disappears in a wisp of smoke. There is nothing left of our companion or anything that he carried. At least he did not suffer, and he now is forever free. Goodbye, old friend. We will not forget you.

Broknar and I discuss the idea of starting a fire, and perhaps the smoke will allow us to see the rest of the dangerous beams of light. Hope tries a prayer to Lliira, but it seems to have little effect. Broknar and Bowser get the body of diving mummy and we soak it in oil. While I hate to destroy beautiful grass I have just grown, it seems we have little choice but to try this. What I would hate even more would be to perish in this place. We light the mummy ablaze, and the smoke reveals another pair of beams cutting at angles across the room. Down the center of the room we crawl to the other side of the room, with no further loss of life.

Shortly after we pass through this trap, we come upon a room shrouded in darkness. Hope calls upon the goddess Lliira to shed light, and we are suddenly face to face with an immense being of fire. The amulet that the sheik gave me hums and glows, and a blast of blue light emerges, striking the efreeti in its chest. The creature snarls in pain and releases a ball of fire in response. Hope falls from the burst of flames, while the rest of us are still standing. Some smoldering worse than others. Myself, I am just barely singed by the blast…

Khalitharius, Evil Efreeti Prince, Scourge of the Desert People

Shortly after we pass through this trap, we come upon a room shrouded in darkness. Hope calls upon the goddess Lliira to shed light, and we are suddenly face to face with an immense being of fire. The amulet that the sheik gave me hums and glows, and a blast of blue light emerges, striking the efreeti in its chest. The creature snarls in pain and releases a ball of fire in response. Hope falls from the burst of flames, while the rest of us are still standing. Some smoldering worse than others. Myself, I am just barely singed by the blast…

We are no match for this creature without the power of Martek, but we cannot retreat without at least slowing Kalatherius down so we can safely crawl through the room of beams. Broknar turns to run, and Bowser grabs the limp body of Hope. Rochendir rushes to attack the fire lord and I stand fast with him. By the grace of Correllon Larethian, Rochendir is protected and his daggers pierce deep into the efreeti. Still reeling from blast of my amulet and now the sting of Rochendir’s blades, the evil one slips into the astral as I see the silver cord before it disappears.

Once the fire lord is gone, we begin to search its chamber. There is lush bedding and a huge lamp. I rub the lamp, half expecting to see Lemmy appear before us. Perhaps I was still mourning the loss for Lemmy’s former master, our fallen comrade Stonebreaker. Unfortunately, nothing happens. Then I notice that the there is a stopper on the bottle with some runes on it. I open the stopper, and instead of a djinn appearing, it’s the bride-to-be of the sheik’s first born son. She thanks us and asks to be returned to her people.

I ask if she has any idea why the efreeti would capture her, but she is unsure. She does know that the amulet and the mark on her palm are somehow part of Martek’s prophecy to defeat the fiery elemental. I ask to see the mark on her palm, and match it to the amulet. Once I match the amulet to her palm, I am able to get valuable information. It speaks of the city of Phoenix, and words of power to speak once we get there. There is nothing else of value here.

Rochendir and I rejoin the others, and we give Hope a potion to heal her. When she comes to, she uses a scroll and is instantly healed. She helps heal Rochendir and I take a few quaffs of potion myself. As we return through the beam of light room, we meet another traveler. Hope shrieks ‘Darsun!’ and throws her arm around him. Darsun and Hope are the last two from their group that were adventuring in the Haunted Halls, and they have been reunited.

I greet Darsun in the language of his mother, for he is a zenar’quess (half-elf). He has taken his human father’s surname, and has the skills of both mother and father. A loyal follower and priest of Solonor Thelandira and a ranger of the woods. I have both Hope and Darsun given a Harness of Seeker, and explain the powers to them. Priests can be useful in this accursed place.

While continuing to look for the way out, we come across a room with a brilliant red stone atop a high pillar. A beam of light shines down upon the stone, and is refracted throughout the room. This must be another of the Star Gems! Sensing a trap, Hope wisely evokes the power of Lliira to discern any unseen dangers. Of course, the room is not safe to enter. To avoid any immediate danger, I unroll my carpet of flight and several of us hop aboard to claim the jewel. When we retrieve the stone from the pillar, it raises up, and more beams begin to flash throughout the room. I quickly replace the gem on the pedestal, and it sinks back into place, with only the original refracted rays visible. With the use of Broknar’s merchant scale, I empty out a waterskin to match the weight of the stone. This time, when we take the gem, I put the waterskin in its place. The pillar does not fall, and the rays are quelled. Success, the second Star Gem is gained!

We have recovered another Star Gem, saved the girl and have valuable clues to help us on our journey. Darsun is anxious to leave this place, and I concur. It’s time to return the princess-to-be to her people and continue on our mission. We look to find our way back to out. In this place, that is no easy task.

Seeking a way to the desert above, we come upon a room with a skull atop an altar. This is obviously a tool of evil, and we decide to not tempt the gods again. As we exit this room, we are met by a group of assassins as we met outside the obelisk, led by what looks like an evil priest.

Without hesitation, we attack. Hope begins to encourage us with a chant, arrows fly and Rochendir enters the fray. He slays one assassin, but then is struck by an arrow in his left arm that Broknar let loose. Wheeling from the pain, he is then hit by an assassin’s blow dart. His body falls, certainly from the poison that they use.

Enough of this, we will not lose another Sword, nor will I allow the evil priest to turn the tide. I unleash a sticky mass of webs, and all the enemies are held fast. Broknar and Darsun pick off the assassins with arrows, but I ask them to leave the priest to me. I pour some oil on him, and ignite my finger with magick. I let the flame die out, but the priest knows what I mean to do if he does not cooperate. I ask him what he knows, but he is more concerned about the skull from the other room. I say that we have the skull, and it is apparent that he has no more useful information he is willing to share with us. Broknar launches an arrow into his heart, and he passes. With any luck, whatever evil master he thought to serve now torments him in eternity. The only thing remaining is to take whatever is valuable from his body, and I recover an enchanted mace and a ring.

It’s time to leave, but there is some debate about what to do with the skull. I say leave the evil rot in this place, but Broknar and Bowser have other ideas. They decide that leaving the skull is not the right thing to do, and so decide to remove it from the altar. The rest of the group begins to leave, and we hear Bowser yelp ‘ouch!’ as he attempts to touch the skull. They finally end up removing the skull from the room. I cast a glare back at them as let them know that they should stay well away from me with that thing of evil.

We finally emerge from the darkness into the welcoming glow of the moonlight desert. The air is surprisingly refreshing; warmer than the air from underground, but much cleaner and true. Although exhausted from both combat and the tension of being constantly alert, the starry night invigorates us all. We are one step closer to defeating the evil fire-dweller.

Darsun and I decide to take no chances and escort the princess back to her people by means of flight. The remaining adventurers, Broknar and Bowser (who have grown close from battling side by side), Rochendir and Hope decide to dispose of the skull. While I was not in favor of taking on the accursed item initially, I have to admit that I am happier to see it in our hands than in those that would use it for evil purposes. Hope plans on using the joy of her goddess to destroy or weaken the powers of the skull, and if that fails they will bury it deep in the desert so no one shall be able to use it again.

We shall meet back at the camp of the sheik and return the bride-to-be to his first born son. I am not fond of splitting our forces, for there are unseen eyes in the desert that have no heart to do us well. If we do not see our companions by midday, we’ll take to the sky and look for them. May all the Seldarine (elven gods) guide them back to the camp safely and swiftly.