The campaign begins when the characters discover, buried in the ruins of an ancient fortress, an inter-dimensional gate and the aftermath of a battle that played out many years ago.
After searching the bodies of the dead, the characters discover the pieces of an unsolved puzzle: specifically, an enchanted green gem and a magical map. These two items, combined with clues taken from the runes of the chamber walls, lead the characters to a startling realization.
Caught in this gate is the demon lord, Draxorith, who was thought to be banished 150 years ago by six Rukemian wizards. In actuality, the banishing spell failed because the demon's soul was kept safe in this magical green gem. So instead of being banished, the demon lord was caught between dimensions, unbeknownst to the conclave of Wizards who banished him. However, after 150 years, the gate is failing and Draxorith is beginning to break free back into the mortal realm.
This discovery leads the players into a quest... no less than a continent-wide scavenger hunt. The map guides them on their journey, during which they seek six skulls, the remains of the six wizards... now long dead. Once the skulls and the soul gem are returned to this gate, the Banishing spell that failed so long ago will finally complete and Draxorith will be banished forever.
For centuries after having fallen to the ogres and goblins of the Malus Mountains, Duthelm was in political chaos. Only gradually did these belligerent races coalesce into a unified whole. But these races were warrior races, and war was inevitable. Led by the greatest chieftains among them, the forces of Duthelm struck out against their nearest neighbor, Kitar. The ensuing war began in 2563 C.Y. Known later as the War of Demons, it eventually engulfed all surrounding towns and villages and scarred the lands. Several powerful factions within vied for control of Duthelm and it's capitol, The Citadel, and this fragmentation served to weaken Duthelm. As the war escalated in fury, Kitar sought aid from its benefactor, and Rukemia was pulled into the fray. Battle was joined, and things looked bleak for the divided leadership of Duthelm.
A year into this war, a dark cult devoted to the worship of the demon lord Draxorith had managed to rise in power and infiltrate the ranks of Duthelm. This cult was known as "The Knights Of The Abyss". As the war progressed, they gained a position of authority in the Citadel.
In the year 2563 CY, this cult, working with the Black Sorcerers, began to work on an ambitious project to turn the tide of war in their favor. As a nation of warriors, they needed a leader, a lord whose banner to flock to. The Knights of the Abyss declared this leader to be their own lord, Draxorith, and together with the Black Sorcerers determined to summon him forth from hell and into their realm, to lead the forces of Duthelm to victory. After months of preparation, the sorcerers opened a gateway to the hells and ventured into the dark recesses of the multiverse. From the darkness, they returned bearing a huge crystalline rock of emerald hue. The Black Sorcerers enchanted this gem with the most powerful spells and prepared it for an even greater spell. This crystal was named the Avisarr. (Pictured above) Then, in an elaborate and complex ceremony, the dread lord Draxorith was summoned to the mortal realm using a special spell. But his dark soul, his living essence, was placed within the ensorcelled stone.
The nature of this summoning and the disjoining of Draxorith's spirit gave the demon lord and his followers several advantages. As long as his soul was housed safely in the gem, Draxorith could not be physically killed. Beyond this, he regenerated and was immune to many forms of magic. Only the highest ranking officials of Duthelm were aware of the special nature of the summoning and the existence of the Avisarr. The Avisarr itself was kept under heavy guard by the Knights within the Citadel.
Once he was summoned, the demon lord took the reigns of the nation and led Duthelm in a large invasion into Kitaran territory. These events resulted in such an eruption of bloodiness between Duthelm and Kitar that it would shake the eastern realms to its core.
Four years into the demon war, with the resources and manpower dwindling on both sides, a group of powerful Rukemian spell casters, three wizards and three high priests, united in an effort to boost the strength of the forces of good and crush Duthelm completely. They called themselves the Conclave Of Freedom and they created a mighty stronghold hidden by magic somewhere in the great forest of Snowy Timber.
This fortress was built in the western reaches of the Snowy Timber along the Kitar- Duthelm border in the Krothian Hills, a hilly region of heavy mineral content at the foot of Mount Kir, a dormant volcano. This site was selected by Kelandor, the leader of the Conclave.
In this hidden lair the Conclave of Freedom worked long and hard for the final defeat of the wicked realm and its demon lord, Draxorith. The fortress, hidden by magic, remained undetected by Duthelm.
The war dragged on for several more years. Duthelm gained in strength and the surrounding lands suffered. Finally, in 2570 C.Y, the Conclave attempted a bold plan. Under Kelandor's direction, they prepared a very powerful magical trap within their hidden stronghold a gateway to the darkness of the multi-verse a doorway through which they hoped to banish Draxorith back to his own realm... permanently. Without the focus provided by their dread lord, fragmented Duthelm would surely fall. This gateway, which was built as a great circular shaft in the largest chamber of their lowest level, was named the Conduit. The hall which housed this shaft was to be known as the Hall of Banishing. The construction of this magical trap was not made known to the general body politic of Kitar or the Rukemian Empire. Very few knew of its existence.
The six wizard leaders of the Conclave all worshiped Ynthar and his teachings had worked their way into Conclave magic. The nature of the banishing spell which had been prepared would separate Draxorith - body, mind and spirit, and then banish him once and for all. The symbol of Ynthar was adopted for the Banishing Ritual and Chamber since much Yntharian lore was used in the magical construction of the banishing spell and the Conduit. The holy symbol of Ynthar was inlaid in the floor of the Hall of Banishment with color tiles with the Conduit at its center.
Such was the strength of the dweomer, that it's preparation required the very essence of the casters. Each caster bound part of his soul into the trap and as a result each would suffer a shortened life span if the trap succeeded.
The Conclave allowed the stronghold to be seen... once... and its location found its way back to Draxorith. A full assault was prepared and launched against the home of the notorius Conclave.
The Duthelmian army swept down from the hills with Draxorith at the lead and smashed through the Conclave's token outer forces. A climactic battle ensued within the mammoth fortress. Fighting broke out in all sections. Through careful manipulation and tactics, the Conclave was able to maneuver Draxorith into the lower level into the Hall of Banishing.
With precise timing, the six leaders of the Conclave took up positions amidst the fighting and began casting the Banishing Spell. With their first syllables, Draxorith was bound to the center of the chamber. As the spell casters raised their voices and continued the spell, Draxorith lost his physical form and disintegrated into a thick, churning green mist. Draxorith called to the Avisarr. Even though it was safe back at the Citadel, many kilometers away, Draxorith still had a strong connection to it. He tried to draw upon it's power to free himself. A tug of war between gem and Banishing Spell ensued. Such was the intensity of this unseen magical conflict, that the symbol of the banishing spell was burned into the Avisarr gem. (Pictured above) Despite the power of the Avisarr, Draxorith was unable to free himself from the Banishing spell. His physical and mental components, now nothing more than mist and energy, were sucked into the Conduit where they remained floating helplessly, caught between worlds.
The Avisarr was not completely ineffectual, though. It still contained Draxorith's soul - the third component of a living being according to Yntharian spell. The Banishing spell attempted to force all three parts of Draxorith through the Conduit - body, mind and spirit. Body and mind it had. But the Conclave of Freedom had not known of the Avisarr's existence during their preparation of the Banishing spell. Unfortunately for the Conclave, the spirit of the demon lord was now safely housed within the Avisarr gem. In this way, the Avisarr acted like an anchor, keeping enough of Draxorith in this world to prevent the banishment from completing. A stalemate resulted. Draxorith was caught in the Conduit - caught between dimensions. The Banishing Spell ended. The Conduit sealed on both ends with the demon lord caught in the middle.
One Black Sorcerer, Vistar, was present at this battle and witnessed the Banishing. Seeing this, he immediately broke off from battle and, while the warriors fought, studied the glyphs on the wall and analyzed the magical spell which was being cast. He quickly deduced the chamber, its function, the nature of the spell and what was happening. (Vistar was also aware of the Avisarr gem and realized that it's existence was helping to thwart the Banishing spell.) With this information, Vistar used his own magic to escape from the battle and hurriedly fled back to Duthelm.
As the spell ended and conduit sealed itself, brilliant light and peals of violent thunder cascaded through the fortress. Upon seeing their lord dispatched before their very eyes, the Duthelmian troops fled in terror.
After the battle, and the Conclave's partial victory, Kelandor realized that the Knights of the Abyss would stop at nothing to save their master. With magic divination, he could foresees the entire Duthelmian army marching on the Conclave Fortress, crushing it to gain access to the conduit and free their lord. Without consulting the others, he decided to play the ace-up-his-sleeve, the volcano. The fortress had originally been built at the foot of the dormant volcano, Mount Kir. A decision that Kelandor had insisted upon. He decided to locate the fortress here so that if ever there was a need, he could, with one mighty spell, trigger the volcano and completely obliterate the fortress.
After the banishing, Kelandor and the other five wizards knew that their trap had only been a partial success. They knew that Draxorith was caught in the Conduit, but because they were unaware of the Avisarr, they didnt know why. This was a precarious stalemate. In addition, Draxorith still wielded considerable power even from within the Conduit. While not able to free himself, he was able to cause problems and wreak havoc on the fortress.In the days immediately following the battle, the Conclave forces cleaned up, dealt with the aftermath, and tried to figure out why the banishing spell had not completely worked.
Meanwhile, back at the Citadel, Vistar went before the ruling council of Duthelm and explained what had happened. Vistar believed strongly that Draxorith could be saved. The Council supported his ideas and preparations were made for another, albeit hasty, assault. They were determined to take the Conclave Fortress and free their lord.
While the Duthelm military began preparations for the assault, Vistar made preparations of his own. Vistar convinced the other Black Sorcerers and the Knights of the Abyss that the Avisarr may be the key to freeing Draxorith. They agreed. Vistar took the Avisarr and the special box which they kept it in (a box created to protect the Avisarr and conceal its energies from detection by the enemy).
Vistar also took the time to create a magical map based on the auras of the six conclave leaders. This map would help him track down the six men who were responsible for the capture of their lord. Vistar was not sure whether the Avisarr would work and he knew that if it didn't, he would need to track down the six Conclave leaders in order to free Draxorith. Because of the body/mind/spirit setup of the Banishing room, he would need at least the conclave leaders physical bodies to undo the spell, if not their help at swordpoint.
When preparations were complete, the Duthelmian soldiers united into a single force and launched another assault against the Conclave fortress with Vistar and some Knights of the Abyss in the lead. This second assault occurred mere days after the first - much earlier than the six wizards had anticipated. The six wizards had very little warning, hours at most, before the Duthelmian horde poured over the horizon and swept down into the valley.
Kelandor was ready for them, though. At Kelandors command, the six leaders, leaving a small army of Rukemia's finest behind to guard the chamber, teleported to a small bluff over looking the fortress at a distance. All six united their power for another cooperative spell - this one aimed at Mount Kir. The volcano, which had lain inactive for so many years, erupted violently at the wizards' prompting. A thunderous explosion was followed by a cloud of ash that roared through the area. The mountain spewed forth a river of lava, hurling boulders and thick mud over the entire valley. Vistar and his Knights of the Abyss were last seen entering the fortress, where they would soon fall in a climactic battle in the heart of the chamber, leaving no survivors and leaving Draxorith still unfreed. As the armies of Duthelm and Kitar did battle, the fiery storm of the volcano engulfed them. A hasty double-retreat was begun, but it was too late. All soldiers present on both sides were swept away. The fortress and battlefield were completely obliterated, buried under a hundred thousand tons of rock, ash and molten lava. This event, joined with the apparent banishing of Draxorith, helped bring about the end of the war and an unstable peace.
Another reason why Kelandor chose this location for the fortress: Due to the exceptionally high mineral content, the earth and rock surrounding the area of Snowy Timber partially blocks magical energy. After the eruption, the magic blocking nature of the rock and mud proved to be even more effective than Kelandor had guessed. In the aftermath of the eruption, he found himself unable to scan the remains for life. No spell could penetrate the rock and scan into the ruins below. The issue of Draxorith would remain buried under thousands of tons of magic-blocking earth.
In the days that followed, both Duthelm and Kitar withdrew into themselves to lick their wounds. Kelandor and the other five wizards were hailed as heroes and praised for their actions. None of the six mages ever mentioned the horrible sin they had committed, both in leaving the Banishing spell uncompleted, and in sacrificing the lives of thousands of men to seal away the threat. All six, especially the three priests, would go on to spend their lives wracked with guilt. Kelandor suffered worst of all. After the great battle, he had time to reflect on what he had done. It was because of his plan that so many had died.
These events played out 150 years ago. The entire area was obliterated. The fortress was utterly buried. The Empire had won the war, but at a terrible cost. The entire fortress was given up for lost. The six masters never again spoke of the fortress and each retired and fled for distant corners of the world to live out their remaining years in disturbed peace.
The Fortress of the Conclave, covered by a hundred thousand tons of rock, was eventually forgotten. Those few who remember the exact location died off one by one. Since that time, no one has ever been able to locate the ruins of the Fortress of the Conclave.
The Avisarr, it's magic-shielding box, and the magical map with detects the essence of the six masters all sit on the floor of the Banishing Chamber, next to Vistar's body. Those Knights of the Abyss who remained behind searched for the buried fortress, for the Avisarr and their lost lord, but they would never succeed. The magic-blocking properties of the earth, combined with the vast area covered by the devastation have made it a near impossibility.
They still search to this day...
The hardest part is getting the characters started. Basically, the characters, somewhere in their adventures, stumble upon the buried ruins in the Snowy Timber forest. There are several possibilities for this which will be discussed in the Prelude section. While exploring the ruins, the characters recover a number of enchanted items - most notably the Avisarr gem, the magical box which contains the Avisarr, and the map. This, combined with a few books and research notes, are enough clues for the characters to learn the dark secret hidden within these ruins.
It should be noted that when the characters emerge from the ruins, all they have is a box, a gem, a map and some miscellaneous scholarly notes. The gem radiates magic but cannot be identified. The box is simply a magical shielding container for the gem. The books and notes are all encrypted.
The map, however, should intrigue the players. It appears to be an accurate map of the continent of Ithria, but when unfolded, two magical hair-thin beams of red light form cross-hairs, centering on an area of the Mercian coast. It shows them a destination, but does not tell them what lies at the destination.
The campaign should proceed like so... the players follow the coordinates indicated by the strange map and at each location, find a enchanted skull that radiates magic similar to the gem. After each skull is found and recovered, the map changes to show them a new location. One at a time. At first, the characters don't know the significance of the skull or the map. The map is simply an intriguing clue to a larger mystery and it leads them from one adventure to the next.
During the early part of the adventure, the characters will decipher the strange encrypted books and notes (Through their own resources or outside help) and eventually discover the truth (see below). Exactly when they discover the truth is up to you. It should be sometime before they have recovered the first or second skull.
The characters learn that the only way to end the stalemate is to allow the banishing spell to complete by throwing the Avisarr Gem, with Draxorith's soul inside, into the Conduit (the interdimensional gate), thus getting rid of the "anchor". However, the gate is sealed shut. The Avisarr cannot be thrown in. The gate has to be opened first and then the gem can be thrown in.
The gate can only be opened if all three components - body, mind and spirit - are returned to the chamber as was planned when the spell was first attempted. Just as a key can unlock and lock a door, so too can the three components open and close the Gate. Mind and spirit are already in the chamber. (The glyphs of magic and spell itself is mind, the spiritual essence which each mage had sacrificed to make the spell work is spirit). However, the third component, body, is not present. The physical bodies of the six original casters must be found and brought back to the Banishing Hall in the ruins. When this is done, the Gate will open. The Avisarr can be thrown in and the banishing spell, after having been held in a stalemate for 150 years, will finally complete its work and Draxorith will be banished, body, mind and spirit. The Gate automatically seals shut after the Banishing spell has done its job.
Assuming that your players are curious and typical adventurers, they will follow the strange map and the trail of clues to adventure. Once they have figured out what's going on, and assuming they are heroic, they are going to want to prevent the return of this demon lord. In order to do this, they will have to use the enchanted map to locate the remains of the six original casters, return them to the Banishing Hall, open the Gate and throw the Avisarr in. (Actually, only one piece of the body is required. The skull is likely to be intact and is a major bone of the body. It's also somewhat symbolic. Therefore, it's likely that they will actually end up searching for and retrieving six skulls rather than six full skeletons).
To make things really exciting, there's a time limit. The Gate is failing. In order to seal the gate shut, the six conclave masters created 64 Anchor Glyphs. Each anchor glyph is a spell and puzzle by itself. Draxorith has to solve and dispel each anchor glyph to break free. With each success, he gets better and quicker at solving the next glyph. So the process speeds up drastically towards the end. He has been working on these anchor glyphs for 150 years and only has solved some of them. However, the remaining glyphs should go much quicker. When the last anchor glyph fails, the Gate opens and Draxorith returns to the world. It's only a matter of time. If Draxorith gets out on his own, he will have overcome the Banishing spell and throwing the Avisarr in the conduit at that point will prove futile.
The characters are going to spend the majority of this campaign traveling. In the first couple of sessions, the characters acquire the map and the Avisarr gem. They also pick up the clues which they will later put together. In the following sessions, they are going to follow the map and travel all the continents tracking down, finding and acquiring these six skulls. Each skull is in a different nation and in a different situation. Each skull is an adventure in itself. In my experience, each "Skull Quest" takes 2 or 3 sessions. Finally, once they have acquired all six skulls, they have to go full circle, back to the ruins in the Snowy Timber for the big finale.
|FAQ||The Anchor Glyphs||Prelude||Skull
This page last updated Wednesday, December 24, 2008. Copyright 1990-2009 David M. Roomes.