Chapter I: The Gunslinger

Rogue's Port
Rogue's Port

The Death of Love

     I remember it like it was yesterday: peace, and then chaos. Love, then loss. Life... then death. They buried my husband, a good man, in a closed casket. No matter how hard I fought, how loud I screamed, begging the tiefling sisters to show me his body, they refused to and the good Father escorted me out. Perhaps George's death is too hard on me, but I think something else is going on.
     Too much is happening, all at once! First, the Thieves Guild comes up out of nowhere, filling my streets with blood and boddies. Then, not even a month later, a large spire of light tore the sky open. Although it was very far away, everyone could see it: a star fell from the heavens. Next thing we all know, news reaches us of a great battle held at Onatar's Gate, between Demons and the Skoraeus Legionaires. The God-King Thalumend declared victory against the Demonic hordes, stating that "If it had not been for the brave actions of five heroes, the battle would have been lost." Shortly after that mess, Thalumend declared an ancient Rite - The Hammers of Kalrosh would be reborn, and the titles were appointed to each hero. But nothing about this adds up - The Hammers are only declared once every century. Those who know their lore say that this means that the end times are upon us, as the prophecy states that "A rising hammer will beat the lands until the forests scatter like sands." I know not what that means, I'm just an officer of the law... And a dead husband who would never meet his child.
     The hefroes actually visited our town, although they weren't what I was expecting. Just some people, in stone armor, here to find Yefsnir. Her last family, Servilus, the Iron Sorcerer, was killed. The poor woman grieved, and I was there for her. Together, we held ceremony for his body, burning him as he wanted. Yefsnir was a kind woman. I spent her last few months by her side, giving her my company. She always did me the honors of measuring my baby bump, seeing just far I was coming. She died before I could introduce her to my daughter, who I named after her: Yefsnir.
     Fast forward a few more months. I tried enlisting on the force, who I used to work wonders with. They rejected me, stating that "The Sheriff thinks my work is too risky to the town, and that we need to secure peace in what parts of the city we have left." But I could hear the Guild's Gold clinking in their pockets. My city has fallen to grief, and that is what I have become: grief. I work in my mother's tavern, trying to keep the drunks in line and keep some food on the table, but this isn't working.
     I'm going to do it. I'm going to take my child, some gold, and get out of here. Maybe my family will follow me. Maybe we can-
     The door of the tavern bursts open, a cold wind blowing in like death. A figure clad in black stands at the door of the tavern. I've never seen anyone like him before, nor felt a presence like his. I feel fear, cold, and I can't move. The figure, with his clay mask, sleek hat, and black-featherd cloak, walks over and sits down at a table. As he reaches inside his cloak, I unfreeze and reach for my gun.
     "Wait for it... Wait..." I keep telling myself. As the man's hand exits his cloak, I don't see a gun or a weapon of anykind: I see a bird, a crow to be more precise. Recently hatched a few weeks ago, I'd say, it's black feathers barely sprouting.
     The bird is laid on the table, it's eyes still closed and it's wings are broken. It must be in great pain, and I feel the cold and fear escape me. The man looks up at me, waving me over.
     "Good evening sir. H-How are you today?"
     The man just looks at me, and hands me a list alongside a bag of coins. Most of the ingredients are things we carry often: Twig of Spruce, some misteltoe (for the holidays, ofcourse!), ginger, arrowroot, and cup of coffee.
     I run off and collect the ingredients, along with a book of our inventory and how much they cost. I hand him the ingredients, adding up the cost of the goods, but things aren't adding up to anything close of what he gave me.
     "Uh, sir? These ingredients only cost half of what you gave me. I'm afraid that-"
     As I hold the gold coins in my hand, trying to give them back to him, but he just closes my hand with his. Warmth.
     Then, the man focuses on his baby-crow. He pulls out a small mortar and pestle, grinding up the ingredients and combining them with a flask of water. He mixes up a salve, and takes off his gloves. He rubs the salve over his palm, and then his hand glows green! I've never seen magic, heard of it, but never seen it! It's so beautiful, and the light from his hand touches the bird and slowly absorbs into the tiny creature. Before my very eyes, the bird's wings are mended, it's bones snapping back in place. The baby rises up, hopping into the man's hand and placed onto his shoulder. With a baby-voice, the bird begins kawing at it's new master. The man, whose voice is raspy and torn, begins kawing back at the bird, like he understands it and speaking with it.
     I don't how, and I don't want to question it, but this brings out a flame from within me. Although close to the brink of death, the bird man restored a defenseless creature back to it's prime glory. And that's what I have to do for my city: It is helpless, with no one to mend it's wounds. The guard strayed from the path of righteousness, and the guild will surely break it. But the law and the guild were always beneath me.
     I walk up to my room, my mother shouting at me as I ascend the stairs. I open the door to my room, looking into the crib of my child one more time. Her brown eyes, much like her father's. I can't let her home fall to ruins. I have to fight. For her, for me, and for George. My mother charges through my door as I snap on my harness, packing my pistols and ammo in place.
     "Ohhhh no! Not this life again, Alethra! You can't! The city is in ruins! We can flee, ya know!"
     I turn towards my mother, her face wrinkled with age and worry. Her hair looks grayer than I remembered...
     "Only cowards flee. The only person in this town willing to do anything is me, Mother. I have to put my family first; my city. I can do it this time, just like last time!"
     My mother's face, red with anger, peers into my soul. Gods... that woman is scary. "You had George for all that, honey! He was strong, He had-"
     I laugh at my mother. "Ha! George was a good husband and a partner. He had a good heart, but ye gods! He couldn't shoot, he couldn't fight! Why, the first time he went to cuff a crook, the man almost peed himself!"
     My mother crosses her arms. "Well, the guards said he did a lot of work!"
     "Ugh... he did do good work. But the guard didn't want to acknowledge a woman, mother. It's called gender stereotypes."
     "Okay, But Alethra, what about your family? What if you die?"
     I open the window. "I can't. Not until my thirst is sated." And on that night,I later learned the death of love.

The Lord of Crows

     Crow Lord walks towards town, alone. For about a year, the party had gone seperate ways, lost to their purpose. They've been too distracted, trying to find lore about the demon princes, searching for relics and ways to beat whatever threats they spoke of. However, research hit a wall, and there was no going forward. Whatever the demons needed, they weren't looking for help, despite asking for it from King Thalumend. Without purpose, the Hammers scattered, pursuing their own ambitions.
     Stormdrake reopened his monastary, opening it's doors to those who would protect the seas. The worship of Talos continued, and everyday Crow Lord looked over in his direction, waiting to see the storms part and the seas safe. The blessings of Talos only came once, but the great drake grew in power, much to Crow Lord's disbelief. Thunder and Lightning became his realm, and he called forth storms only a god of thunder could.
     Spider stayed in Dal'Krosh and became a guildmaster to a spy network. With her sources, Spider had been able to keep everyone in touch. Prag'tar was a sneaky Ogre, but she promised Stormdrake that she would never stop searching for the monster. Her spy network has become quite secretive, but everyone speaks of it under whispers. The Web this, Spider that. Those who followed Spider became spies, much like her, although few actually chose to become monks. Crow Lord doesn't like the rumors, but those that chose to become monks had to pass a test, which few have returned from.
     Tharyn and Warsch travelled the land together. The two polar opposites had done much for the land, healing people, or communing with the dead. Together, the two became known as ghost whisperers, and solved crime. The two also delved further into their powers, which caused a temporary rift between the two. For several weeks, Crow Lord and Warsch travelled together, however the paladin's talks about The Silver Flame began to annoy him. Unable to talk, Crow Lord was unable to shut the paladin up, aside from leaving notes and causing vines to attack him. Which is definitely one of his more useful powers. Eventually, Warsch was reunited with Tharyn, and the two left Crow Lord - he couldn't have been happier.
     Warsch accepted what he was, and started training with his angelic form. After some time, Warsch developed the ability to summon spirits, one of which was a horse. Agro, as it was called, was golden with a sadle of silver. The horse could gallop faster than Crow Lord could fly, could communicate telepathically, and was technically a ghost, so when it came to fighting bandits and the lot, Agro was a valued asset to the party.
     Tharyn became a true Necromancer, however, she lived by Warsch's standards. Her bone collection grew, and eventually she resorted to magic to create a bottomless satchel to contain her bones. When the party got together to stop one of Orcus's Necromancer's from raising the Dal'Krosh graveyard, Tharyn single handedly turned each undead against him, beating him to a pulp and sending him to jail. The guards had a look of sheer terror as four skeletons dragged him through the gates. Madness, or so they screamed. Tharyn siezed the man's soulgem, replacing her own. She picked up on a new skill, enchanting. Her skills could have used some work, but she did manage to make some pretty cool things, such as a ring of planar communication for each member. Crow Lord could finally communicate to his friends, but found himself wearing the ring less as time went on.
     As for Crow Lord, He pursued rumors of Cao Cao throughout the lands. Apparently, the fiend had visited, but ducked out when Onatar's Gate crumbled. Against his knowing, Cao Cao was last seen in Rogue's Port, heading onto a ship back to the mainland of Vle'anos. Crow Lord left the party, seeking his own vandettas. The demon princes had never come for the party, so they knew not what path to follow. Crow Lord split, but learned to hone his talents even further. As a druid, Crow Lord could transform into animals. However, it took some practice, but eventually Crow Lord learned how to polymorph animals into larger creatures. He never used the talent often, as animals grew wary of his magics, but certain situations called for it. A rat could become a thief, for example, or a house cat into a lion.
     However, Crow Lord eventually found misfortune, exposed in flames. A year ago, Crow Lord had trouble creating two flame blades. Now, flame blades are just for show. Fire seemed to beckon at his will, just as Stormdrake could command the storms. Without meaning to, a candle could engulf an entire building. Crow Lord left civilization for some time, trying to control the fire that could consume others. However, as time went on, Crow Lord's fear of flame grew. The other elements barely responded as well. Water would rise to his command, but did not do much. He could open holes in the earth, but burying bodies seemed to be the only use it had. Sure, he could summon storms, but lightning and thunder struck randomly, sometimes not at all. Crow Lord doesn't take his mask anymore. About half a year ago, when Crow Lord defended a fishing hamlet from water elementals. As the fiends surrounded him, Crow Lord tried to summon floating flame blades, but instead he exploded in flame, which seared most of his face. Crow Lord didn't continue his flame training, sticking only to his use of flameblades and simple fire spells.
     As Crow Lord approaches the gates of the city, he hears the sound of haggard breathing, similar to a hag's. He turns around, expecting trouble, but only sees the black cystals of the Darkstone Forest mocking him, the sunlight trapped in their structures. A memory floods his brain: The Forks of Skoraeus and the poor angel who lost her life on the dark spire. Why would such a thing come to mind?
     As he turns toward the gate, Crow Lord hears a cracking from a thin crystal tree near the town's gate. A mighty limb falls, shattering upon the ground, sending a small nest of birds into the air. Crow Lord dashes forward quickly, trying to catch it. "Too slow!" He thinks! Instinctively, he kaws and black wings sprout from his back, sending him through the air and catching the nest. He lands in the dirt, holding the nest to his bosom with great care. However, the collapsing of the crystal tree was too much, and the children are all dead, the force of the fall killed them all. A true shame, he thinks to himself. They were so close to freedom, their black feathers beginning to sprout color, ready for flight in a few weeks.
     As he prepares a small hole in the ground for burial, he hears a tiny kaw from one of the birds. "Life!" he thinks. He looks back at the nest, one of the babies with broken wings moving about, in great pain. Crow Lord grabs the bird, and dashes off through the gates and searching for a tavern.

The Hags of Rogue's Port, Part I

     Crow Lord mends the bird. The barmaid who was helping him takes off upstairs, an older woman following him.
     With new life, the bird kaws at him, its confusion at his appearance obvious.
     "Oh, great Crow. Why do you blend in with humans? Why not take to the skies? Why are you grounded, wrought with dispair?"
     Crow Lord pulls the bird off his shoulder, looking at it. "You are most wise to have such curiousity. I will tell you my story, little one."
     As Crow Lord prepares to tell his story, he notices two tieflings on the other side of the tavern, dressed much like apothecaries and herbalists. However, something about their hands looks familair. As he channels a small amount of magic into his eyes, focusing on them like a hawk, he sees them for what they are: Hags. Despite the near perfection of the spell, Crow Lord sees the scratching of their sick nails as they rest on the table. He focuses his hearing, listening in.
     "These killings have got to stop, Sister! Too many die, and for what?" Says the green one, sipping on her ale.
     The blue hag smiles, her teeth grinding like knives into a steak. "So long as the killings continue, so does our business. We should head out tonight. Keep an eye out for trouble."
     Crow Lord pullls out his ring. "Calling all Hammers! Calling all Hammers! Come in! Come in! We have a hag situation at Rogue's Port! Make here on the double!"
     The hags look over at Crow Lord, as if hearing his thoughts. They get up, and begin walking out of the tavern. Crow Lord chases after them, his baby crow hidden under the scruff of cloak around his neck. As he bursts outside, looking left and right, he sees nothing.
     "No sign of the hags anymore, however, I will not end my pursuit!"
     He doesn't hear any response from the rings. Perhaps they were like him, and stopped wearing them altogether. As Crow Lord walks out from the tavern, his senses keen on haggard breathing, noxious odors, and sudden strong movements, detect a window opening above him. He prepares for an ambush, ready to cast a fire upon his foes, but out jumps Alethra, wearing an overcoat and weighed down by her equipment. Before he can react, the woman plunges on top of him, barely missing his hat but tackling him to the ground.
     Alethra wasn't expecting a sudden obstacle to her fall. As she leaps out the window, she sees shadows dancing across the streets but not the Crow standing underneath her. She lands on top of him, knocking him to the ground, her head landing softly on his chest.
     Before she can get up on her own, she is thrown with great strength off the large Crow. "Kaw Kaw!" He screeches.
     "Hold up! I didn't see you there! Sorry about that!" Normally, Alethra is more alert than that. However, he does dress in rather dark cloak. She dashes into the night, her overcloak flapping behind her like a pair of wings.
     Crow Lord stands back up, and checks on the baby-birdy.
     "What happened, Mother Crow?"
     Crow Lord dusts off the baby, kawing as he speaks. "First off, I am not your mother. I am Crow Lord, and secondly, we were just used to break a woman's fall. Why she decided to jump out a window, I'm not sure, but she was armed to the teeth?"
     The bird peeks out from below his hat, taking in it's surroundings. "Perhaps, Lord of Crows, she has a nest to protect?"
     Crow Lord pushes the bird back into his hat. He climbs up the top of the tavern, trying to get a vantage point over the city. However, the roof is too short, and he must ascend to the top of a church tower.

Trouble Brews...

     Crow Lord sprouts his wings, and soars to the top of the church tower. From here, he can see everything with his hawk-like vision. Hours pass, and all he sees is Alethra running around, leaping from building to building, guns smoking in some situations, threatening and punching people in the face. "She's good..." He can't help thinking.
     He diverts his attention all around, seeing nothing resulting of hags. However, in the middle of the cold night he hears a scream from the very tavern he was just in a few hours ago. He soars down, expecting to see a hag or two, but from the same window that Alethra fell through is a large blue ogre, it's hideous maw dripping with saliva. The ogre drops in front of him, it's yellow eyes challenging him to a great chase. Crow Lord eyes the ogre, seeing that there is nothing about it any different from the hag's: blue skin, long nails, white hair, and a nasty, fetid cloak that reeks of death. But in it's arms... A child!
     Crow Lord sprints forward at the ogre, but the creature takes off just as quickly. Crow Lord, realizing that his human form isn't fast enough, leaps forward and transforms into a large crow. As his clothes meld into his form, the baby crow is left with nowhere to hide, the only option of survival it has is to cling onto the feathers on it's lord's neck.
     Crow Lord flies at the creature gaining on it with increased speed. As he raises his talons, ready to stab into the ogre, a large blob of webbing encases the ogre. Crow Lord tackles into the oni, knocking it over into the webbing. However, Crow Lord is also entrapped in webbing. What could produce this much webbing besides-
     Spider appears out of the shadows, walking out from it like some sort of assassin. The ogre begins cutting away and pulling the web, breaking free.Spider expects this, and places her palms together in front of her. A wide assortment of colors radiate from her, distorting the buildings around her like some kind of acid trip. The oni stumbles around, one hand catching the ground, but before Spider can lash out at it, a large foot kicks her in the chest.
     Spider flies back into a corner on a building, the wood snapping as her momentum carries her forward. She gets up instinctively, her body still dazed by the blow.
     Crow Lord, despite his fear of flame, focuses his magic and casts Flamecoat. Each black feather of his turns bright orange, flames rising from his body. He flies forward at the ogre, melting through the webbing. As he closes in on the ogre, the devious creature looks back at the fire-engulfed Crow, it's eyes wide in fear. In a panic, the mindless beast throws up the child with tremendous power.
     Crow Lord will not let more children die tonight. He ends his focus on the flamecoat, and soars upwards at the baby. He reverts his form, hoping to catch the baby in his arms. Spider, taking her focus off the child, looks back down for the oni, but can't sense a single heartbeat or footstep near her.
     Crow Lord catches the baby in his arms, the poor thing not making a sound. As he lands near the tavern, he knows something is wrong. He opens the blanket around the baby, and is horrified at what he sees. A child, with claws having dug deep into it's precious little torso. The inn keeper, a woman with a strong nordic accent comes running out, seeing the grisly sight of a blood-soaked innocent. Crow Lord uses up the last reserves of his magic, pouring every healing spell he knows into the child. Spider walks behind him, placing her hand on his shoulder in compassion.
     "You did all you could, old friend. Only a pure evil would have resorted to killing a baby."
     Crow Lord takes off his hat and mask, but feels a sickening lump rolling around in the hat, lifeless. His heart sinks even lower, fearing his magic.
     As he turns the hat over, looking inside, he sees the baby crow opening it's wings. "My Lord, you nearly fried me! How could you!"
     Crow Lord sighs with a heavy heart, and turns to the sound of heavy footsteps on the alley. Down the alley, only a few feet away, stands a woman clinging her left shoulder. Her black hair soaked with sweat and blood, but her face is soaked with tears.

The Final Break

     Alethra hears a loud kaw, and looks up to see a large flaming hawk soaring up into the sky. Despite her average vision, she can see the hawk transform into a man, with large black wings. He catches something in his arms, and flies towards her mother's tavern. As Alethra darts between alleys, dashing to home, she comes face to face with death itself. A large hooded figure stands over her bloodied child, and a disfigured man running his green hands all over. She screams out, only as a mother could, and pulls out her pistols, firing every round she has.
     Spider reacts faster than Crow Lord, raising her arms with peace mind. She sprouts four arms, and begins catching bullets. A woman, with tears streakig down her face runs at the child, holding it's broken and bloody body close to her. Both of them stand back in shock, the pain of the woman's loss inflicting wounds upon them. Niether of them can hear her words, only the sobs that escape her. The tavern owner falls onto her knees, trying to support her daughter, but Alethra strikes out with a fist and knocks her over.
     The night lasts for what seems like eternity. As the sun rises, the woman's voice is sore and ruined, her eyes unable to produce any more tears. She lays there, the last hope she ever had for love or life, dead. The Father of the church walks over, hearing of a fuss, and tries to calm Alethra.
     No words can calm her, but the Father walks away. "When you are ready to bury your child, Alethra, I will have a spot prepared at the church."
     Crow Lord takes off his cloak, wrapping it around Alethra. It's warmth helps settle her.
     Crow Lord follows the Father, who picks up a shovel and begins digging. Crow Lord picks up a shovel, and Spider watches.
     "Ah, I appreciate your help, friend. What is your name? Did you know Alethra?"
     Spider speaks up for him. "He can't talk. His throat was torn open."
     Crow Lord nods at the man, showing off his throat scar. He then points towards Alethra's location, holding his hand over his chest and nodding.
     "Ah. Such a cruel act. Nothing in this town seems to be going right. I've live here for years, hoping that things will fix themselves. I keep praying, but the bodies keep piling up."
     Crow Lord kaws at the man, trying to reassure him. "He's trying to reassure you. If he could talk, he'd say something like 'Never give up. Never surrender.' or something. My philosophy has always been to act. Prayer and meditation only benefit you, but no one else. The journey within must be the catalyst to bring peace. Action, met with wisdom, will always triumph."
     As she finishes speaking, two women approach from within the chapel. Two tieflings, that is.
     Crow Lord throws his shovel at the blue one like a spear. With his hands, he conjures up a quick set of vines, which wrap around the women quickly.
     "Wait!" groans the green one. "We aren't who you think we are! Please! We are here to help! Just give us a chance!"
     Spider rises from her rest. "Crow Lord... these are the ones you were referring to?"
     Crow Lord nods.
     The blue one speaks. "We have lived here for many years! We know who you are: The Hammers of Kalrosh, Slayers of Bleurhelga! We didn't want to work with her! As matter of fact, we found a way to fulfill her desires without murdering folk! We just wanted to be left alone to live good lives!"
     By this point, the father of the church is completely flabber-ghasted. "What is the meaning of this?!"
     Green speaks up, trying to persuade. "Please! We know what that creature was, and want to stop it! We aren't evil!"
     Spider looks at Crow Lord, shrugging her shoulders. "Well, we have known hags who weren't entirely evil before, right? Let them go, dear Crow. They might escape you, but they won't be able to escape me."
     Crow Lord cancels his spell, the roots of the vines returning to the ground.
     Alethra walks up to the Father, numb to the conflict and surrounded by her family. Her child is wrapped neately in cloth, no sign of blood seeping through. She hands Crow Lord back his cloak, her face heavy with despair.

The Hags of Rogue's Port, Part II

     The funeral ends, and Alethra runs back to the tavern, tears falling from her face once again. The Hags follow Crow Lord and Spider back to the taver, which has been closed for the day. The tavern owner stops them from entering. "I'm sorry... but we're closed. Maybe for the day, perhaps a while."
     The blue hag speaks up. "Shane, we know what killed your daughter. We have business to discuss with these two, and we need privacy. We also want to discuss a few things with Alethra, to help her find rest. Let us help her."
     Shane grunts, her eyes welling up with tears. As Crow Lord and Spider prepare to enter, a loud cracking of thunder fills the sky. The sun is covered in clouds, and a huge bolt of lightning strikes the ground outside the city. Floating through the gates, with a massive brass spear on his back, is Stormdrake, clad in brown robes over the stone armor he had a year ago. He floats over towards Spider and Crow Lord.
     "It's good to see all of you again. Hag's, right? Let's crush them! Where do we go!"
     Crow Lord shakes his head no, holding his hands up. Spider sighs, and speaks. "We need to ask them a few questions first. Any update on Warsch or Tharyn?"
     Stormdrake looks confused, then snaps out of it. "As far as I know, the two were investigating the Forks one more time. Something about how one of them, when activated, could be used to bind even the demon princes. Anways, talk later. Hags."
     Alethra sits at a table, working her way down an entire bottle of wine. The two hags walk over caressing her back and speaking with her. Alethra looks up at Crow Lord, her eyes filled with vengeance.
     "You! The oni grabbed my kid, and you let her *hiccup* die! Some hero you are! HA!"
     The sisters pull the bottle away from her, and continue to soothe her. The green one speaks up. "Don't mind her. She's had it rough. Take a seat so we can begin."
     Crow Lord takes a seat directly in front of Alethra, writing down a few questions for the hags to answer. As he's writing, the blue hag begins speaking.
     "My name is Bluevela, and this Greehne. You can just call us Blue and Green. Anyways, we are hags: I am a Night Hag, and Green is a Green Hag. Our purpose here was originally to create a safe haven away from the coven, before Bleurhelga found us. You see, I escaped many years ago from my mother, a monstrous hag who killed for the joy of it. She would plague dreams, twisting them into nightmares, and would force me along. After five years of that, I could not go on. So, one day we were trapped in the dream of a good knight, a mage of sorts. In that nightmare, the man had his family killed, and picked up a sword to cut down the hag that killed his family. That man was Servilus, who you all know very well. However, the hag warped that nightmare, making it so Bleurhelga would devour the boy alive. I didn't like that, so I turned the boy's fear into a bravery, giving him a set of knives to defeat the hag. Little did I know, he was the Iron Sorcerer, and cut my mother to ribbons. I was very pleased."
     Stormdrake looks annoyed, feeling the tip of his swordspear. "And the... point?"
     "The point is, We knew Servilus. We are trying to do good, just as he asked of us to do. After I killed my mother in his dreams, I went on to free more hags, who travelled away from this forsaken land. We decided to settle down in town, using the recently dead to procure ingredients to channel our forbidden magics. with them running at full power, we've been able to protect people's dreams and even cure diseases and ailments unseen across the land."
     Alethra reachs for the bottle in a drunken frenzy, but Green slaps her hand. Alethra recoils, rubbing her hands and making a sad puppy sound.
     Crow Lord hands Green his notes. "So questions! Finally! Okay, so in regards to Bleurhelga's quest and the corpse made of different limbs, that was our doing. We scrounged up recently dead, and would create zombies out of them, placing the spirits back into the vessels. The vessel would agree to our contract, and then die a few days later. We collect, get a limb, and forge the Vessel of Ultimate Evil.
     Which brings us to the next question: Why make a body of severed limbs? Normally, a single body with an altered soul-medium is very powerful. However, for each person, the location of the soul is stored in different locations. If you are familiar with the tale of Achille's Heel, then this should make sense. A person has but one weak spot on their entire body. For some, it's in the arm or leg, among other things. When we alter the soul-medium, the location of the soul becomes much stronger. With multiple limbs, the power that this vessel could contain would be massive. A single soul of evil is so powerful, it immediately burns out it's vessel. However, stored in a heartstone, the energy from the soul can be diverted, such as into every limb. That's why the ritual had to involve so many hags. As for the final question, what do we know about that blue ogre?"
     "The blue ogre is an oni. We don't know from where it came from, but we can hazard a guess that it lives in the Darkstone Forest. We don't dare go anywhere near there, however. Something far more sinister lies within."
     Stormdrake slaps the table. "Looks like we are going in! When do we strike!"
     Spider grabs onto his back and forces him back into his chair with surprising strength. "We do not go to them, that would be walking into a trap. Instead, we set our own trap. Wait for the Oni to attack again, but this time limit the possibilities for it to escape. Lock the gates *She points to Crow Lord* put a bird in the sky *She points to Stormdrake* prepare an ambush, particularly raining lightning bolts upon it. I'm going to to give it a sticky landing. We'll communicate with rings, despite Warsch and Tharyn. Blue and Green, do you have anything that could help?"
     The two hags look at each other, and smile back at Spider. "We have a few spells we can try. Weaken the oni."

The Spider's Trap

     Spider clings to the bell tower with hardly any effort. In the year since Onatar's Gate, Spider spent time practicing with the cloak, learning it's true powers. Not only does the cloak allow one to project web spells and walk around like a spider, but the Cloak enhances ones abilities. With the strength of two barbarians, Spider could climb this tower using two fingers. Maybe one.
     Thunder roars ahead, with stored lightning ready to strike at any moment. Crow Lord flies overhead, his bird form hardly seen against the clouds. It's a quiet night, despite the trouble that looks ahead. As Spider focuses her ki, trying to sense the oni, she spots something peculiar. There's a little boy, with white hair, playing in the mud. Several other children, despite how late it is, are playing with him.
     "Nothing seems right about that boy..." she says. Overhead, Spider sees Crow Lord swoop over, getting a better eye.
     "That's because that isn't a child, Spider. Look at his eyes." Spider squints in, trying to get a clear view of the boy's eyes.
     "I cannot. Moving in closer." Spider crawls into a patch of shadows, into the realm of shadows. As she runs down a hallway, visions of light surround her. As she peers through each vision, she sees a good spot to spy on the kids from. She steps through, back into the real world. She peers at the small child, seeing his yellow eyes set with a single black pupil.
     "That's got to be an Oni! But the children, there's no way to do this without casualties!"
     Crow Lord reverts his form soaring into an an alley behind the children. "On my mark, prepare yourselves!"
     Crow Lord walks out towards the children, making eye contact with the children. "Kaw Kaw!"
     The children gawk at the man, even as he produces blades made of fire. They turn to look at each other, seeing their one white haired friend begin to shift, his skin turning blue and his form growing to several times his normal size. They scatter towards the Crow man, trying to get away from it, but the creature grabs one of the children and begins running. As it steps out of the alley, a dart hits it in the neck, cutting through to it's artery. Blood spills out, scattering upon the pavement. As the creature slows down, a mighty flame blade cuts through the creature's arm, severing it entirely and freeing the child. Crow Lord pulls the boy out, getting as far away from the oni as possible. Spider lobs forward a blast of webbing at the creature, however it expects this and vanishes.
     The hags fly out, trying to locate the oni. "There! Towards the main gate!" They each fire off a ray of sickness, but miss the creature.
     The boy vanishes from Crow Lord's grip, turning to air in his palm. He flies upwards, seeing the oni running towards the main gate. Stormdrake crashes donw in front of the massive ogre, and tackles into the creature. As he swings with speed towards the blue ogre, trying to sever it's arm, the creature pulls the child in front of it. "Coward! It's using the child as a shield!" Stormdrake telecommunicates with the team.
     Stormdrake stops himself from killing the child, but the oni kicks Stormdrake in the gut with it's foot, sending him back agains the gates of the city.
     The oni charges forward, getting away from the flying Crow Lord, and charges right at Stormdrake. It tackles right into him, planting it's shoulder right into his chest. Stormdrake can feel several of his bones snapping from the force of the charge, the wooden gates breaking behind him. As the Oni charges over him, Stormdrake tries to grab onto the child. However, his draconic talons slice through the oni's arm, going clean through. As he lands in the dirt, out of breath, the Oni charges for the woods.
     Just as everyone loses hope, a mighty golden stallion charges out of the woods and pushes the Oni back. Riding the horse is Warsch, with a mighty black hammer raised over his head. He roars, going into his burning angelic form, and bashes the brute in the face with his mace. The oni stands up off the ground, throwing the child away into the dirt. Before the child lands, Crow Lord flies over and grabs the child, breaking his landing and protecting him from the collision.
     Warsch leaps off his horse and holds the mace out in front of him, and then charges it with holy light. The oni reels away from the holy light, which radiates off the mace like a beacon of direct sunlight. Warsch smashes the creature in the stomach, causing blood to splatter out of it's mouth. The Oni swipes it's claws out at Warsch, who blocks it with his animated shield. As the fist cracks against his divine shield, a blast of holy flame blows off the Oni's hand. The poor fiend backs away from the paladin, clawing it's way away from his towards the party. Warsch grabs the creature by the foot, his burning hands melting through the creature down to the bown. With impressive strength, he pulls the creature back, dropping his mace. Warsch grabs the Oni's jaws with his bare hands, snapping them apart. His flames melt the creatures's flesh, leaving nowthing but a sick skull covered in burnt muscle. As it's seared eyes wriggle in pain and confusion, Warsch wraps a single hand around it's skull and shatters it's skull.
     As the Oni is defeated (brutally) and the boy is saved, the group hears sounds of gun shots from the city. As they run back in, they see several blue ogres flee over the town's walls in different directions. Alethra runs towards the main gates, shouting. "Ye all missed a few!"
     The woman is drunk, and in no condition to be wielding guns at this hour of night. Speaking of which, guns shots, lightning blasts, and screaming awaken the town. Those who are not sleeping are obviosly thieves and the such, who skulk off towards the shadows, staying out of sight. The town converges at the gates, wondering what the ruckus is. That's when people start wondering where their kids are. The boy that Crow Lord saved runs out towards his mom, but too many parents have their calls unanswered. The Judge steps forward, his eyes sagged with sleep deprivation.
     "Now what is the meaning of this! Who dares to awaken this peaceful, honest city in the middle of the night?!"
     Warsch smacks his lips, preparing a good response. Tharyn taught him much in snarkiness during their past year, but before he can open his mouth the people begin shouting. "What is that blue thing on the ground!"
     The Judge lifts up his arms, trying to calm everyone down. "Calm down! Too much noise! This here is a beast, and our heroes here-OH! The Hammers of Kalrosh! They have killed a massive beast! Well done! Saved the city!"
     Warsch speaks up. "SILENCE! Your city is not saved, not yet! Oni plague these lands, and we have come to slay them! However, you must all return to your homes and wait for your loved ones to return. The only have all fled, so the city should be safe for now. Lock your doors, and wait for dawn to break!" The villagers murmur, displeased with Warsch's demeanor. They return back to their homes, tired and ready for sleep. Others have worried faces, wondering where their children have gone off to.
     The Hammers, the hags, and Alethra all return to the tavern. Warsch walks in with Tharyn's statue, the woman perched like an angel with her arms spread wide and lips pursed, ready to kiss something.
     Warsch looks at a stone secured to his wrist, and raises his arm out.
     The stone surrounding her flesh falls apart, and Tharyn burst out of the stone, falling forwards towards the floor, but lands safely in Warsch's arms.
     "Mwa-Woah! Warsch, were are we? Rogue's Port?"
     "Yes, Tharyn. I told you, we'd be here faster than you're curse would end."
     Tharyn smiles at him. "Well, thank your gods for that horse of yours! Anyways, get me caught up."
     Crow Lord slips on the ring and begins telling everyone the full tale. Alethra begins to sober up, and passes out against the bar. The morning sun begins to shine in, and Alethra wakes up, everyone sitting around a table and eating eggs.
     Warsch tells a story involving Tharyn and Agro. "So I did what any gentlman would: I offered Tharyn a seat on Agro! So, I get her up on top of the sadle, alright. She's up there, looking smug as usual, and then bam! Falls through him, right into mud. Covered and caked in the stuff. It was at that moment that I realized that Agro does NOT like Tharyn."
     Everyone laughs, even Tharyn who no longer wears a sour expression on her face all the time. Alethra looks up at all of them, despising them for their happiness. "You fools do realize that many families are missing their children right now? Aren't you all supposed to be heroes!? Looks more like moochers and lazy-good-for-nothings to me!"
     Tharyn looks at the human, sadness in her eyes. "We have a plan to strike during the day, when the creatures of evil are less prepared."
     Stormdrake sets his mug of coffee down. "I'm telling you, we should strike at night! They'll be less prepared!"
     Alethra pulls up a chair, and sits backwards on it facing them. "I'll tell you an interesting story. There was once a woman who gave zero fucks. Then she had a child, who she named Fuck. Unexpectedly, Oni came and took ALLLL the town's fucks, also killing said woman's Fuck. So now, this woman has no fucks to give, her patience wears thin, and no one is doing anything!"
     Spider sets her silverware down. "Alethra, you have been harmed, and are dealing serious wounds to yourself. It is time to-"
     Alethra stands up, kicking her chair over. "It is time to act! I heard you say it, towards that Father fellow! 'mwehehe prayer and meditation blah blah DO SOMETHING! If you won't, I will!"
     Warsch tries to calm her down. "You cannot hope to go against those creatures yourself. We barely managed to defeat one ourselves."
     Alethra lets out a huge puff of air through her nostrils. "You're supposed to be heroes. Legendary adventurers, who slayed countless demons at Onatar's Gate. We all go out together, and chop them down! Surely, if that doesn't sound great, you have something for me that'll even the odds?"
     Everyone looks at Tharyn. She closes her eyes, regret heavy on her face. Warsch looks over at her, anger suddenly on his face.
     "Tharyn! Don't you even think about it!"
     Tharyn pulls out the Black Book and Graz'zt's amulet. "This is it, Warsch. She wants power, here it is! This is the only contact we've had with the demons! If we can summon him, then we can figure out what to do next!"
     Warsch slams down on the table. "This is about your curse and you know it! There are green and blue hags in this town, Tharyn! Surely they can undo the spell!"
     Tharyn throws a spoonful of egg at Warsch. "I've spent the last fucking year running all around this wastland of a continent, and for what? No word on the demons, no word from Durnoghma about the Necropolis, and sure as hell no word on WHAT THE HELL TO DO. This woman has nothing left but drinking herself to death."
     Warsch speaks softly. "She already has enough inner demons, Tharyn, we don't need to mess her up even more!"
     Alethra looks at the forboding objects. "Sorry, but what is going on?"
     All of a sudden, a flame bursts in the kitchen. Shane runs out, coughing and waving a towel in the air around her. Through the smoke steps out a rather large obsidian fellow, with white teeth, a golden crown wrapped around his head, black and red eyes, and a smile that spits out "Hello! I am Graz'zt, lord of jolly good times! Tell me Alethra: You've lost everything. I've seen it all, your sad past. What would you do to get vengeance? How much would you give away, sacrificing?"
     Alethra chokes down whatever spit she had in her mouth before it went dry. Before her stands something so fearsome, it freezes the blood in her veins. She mutters a response, which comes out like a squeek. "I'd give my entire soul."
     Warsch stands up, knocking over his chair. He rushes at Alethra, but Graz'zt raises his palm and pins him against the wall. "Now... now now now, Warschey! This woman has nothing left. Perfect exchange for one of my delicious *he pulls out a piece of paper, licking it with his weird forked tongue* deals!"
     Alethra breathes in. "What are the terms and what do I get in return?"
     Graz'zt smiles at the woman. "Take a seat. This is heavy, I know." he waves a hand, and a chair slides over under Alethra. The Black Book and amulet hover over towards Alethar, floating in thin air. "Here's the deal! You sell me your soul for all eternity. You get to live forever, as my pawn, but that's not all bad! You get free will, but every so often, maybe like once a year, you have to fulfill an errand! But I'll sweaten the pot! You get 10 years to do as you please! And, if you sign early, you get a bonus from yours truly! Choose between a sick weapon, or perhaps a book full of forbidden secrets! Do you like dogs? Because you could have... a new Dog! All you have to do, my dear woman, is open that book, turn to the last page, and sign your name in blood. Then, get some of that sweet red on that nice amulet, and you're set!"
     Warsch struggles against the wall, trying to activate his angelic trigger to power through Graz'zt's power. "Ale...thra... NO!"
     Alethra looks at the paladin, a single tear streaking down her face. She shatters her wine bottle, spilling its contents all over the floor. A loud scream from Shane pierces the room. "Alethra Shane Piccart! How dare you dump wine all over my-"
     Alethra cuts her palm open, and turns the pages on the book until she gets to the last one. The page is soaked in blood, different hues casting across the page like oils in a rare painting. The most recent droppings, an Iron Hag's black blood, dabs on the page. Alethra holds her hand over the page, blood coursing onto the page. Then, as she stares at her blood absorbing in the book, ancient words scatter, into words she can read.
     "To those who wish to-"
     Graz'zt interrupts her. "Ah ah ah! Read, memorize it, but never repeat it!"
     Alethra reads over the page, her eyes growing wider the more words she soaks in.
     Graz'zt smiles at her. "Now... touch it! Go on! It won't bite! Unless you want it to."
     Alethra grasps the amulet with her bloodied hand. As blood curls over the stone, refusing to drip on the ground, the amulet instead forms into a single object that her fingers wrap around. Her hand fits around a handle, her finger squeezes into a trigger, and then *whoop!* Alethra is holding a blackened silver gun, with fine emroidery and red arcane letters running down the barrel of the gun. With sadness and anger, Alethra pulls the trigger curious to what could happen.
     A fine lazer jets from the tip of the gun, which blasts a hole through the wall outside. Alethra's mother's face contorts in anger, turning purple. Alethra's half brother, a half-orc, walks down and covers his mother's eyes. He takes her upstairs.
     Graz'zt looks at Alethra, a smile on his face. "You have 10 years, starting today. I'll be with you every step of the way, kiddo! Oh, and Tharyn! *Tharyn looks at him, his smile getting oddly creepier as he waves a hand over her.* Consider yourself cured! Just be carefule not to prick yourself on any needles, alright? Oh, and you're probably going to ask me about saving the world, right? Take my girl out for a spin, I'll get back to you shortly."
     When Tharyn opens her mouth to answer, smoke fills the room, then returns to a sinlge point inside the kitchen. Warsch falls off the wall, and runs over to Alethra. He turns over her palm, looking over it to heal the damage caused, but her wounds have already closed. With a heavy sigh towards Tharyn, he turns back to Alethra. "So are you ready to act, or not?"
     The hags return to the tavern, ready to help out the party members. "So we agree that the neither option is the best one. If we go during the day, the Oni will be on high alert. They do require rest, but we don't know if they've prepared traps for us. If we go now, we might be able to avoid some of them, and we might be able to save those children. However, if we go at night, we can for sure catch the Oni offguard. However, the forest will awaken at night, along with whatever creatures call that rotten place home."
     Warsch nods his head. "How large is the forrest? By map, the place looks like seventy acres, however I'm curious if we can get in an out before sunset."
     Blue shakes her head. "Assuming we have a reliable way to track them, it shouldn't take us too long."
     Crow Lord speaks in their minds. "I can easily track them if I transform into a direwolf. They had a sickening smell, and will be easy to follow."
     Alethra hangs in the back, looking at her gun, which she holds in both hands. Crow Lord walks over, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Kaw?"
     Alethra responds quickly, as if immediately understanding him. "Yeah... yeah I'm fine. Let's just get this going, and end those bastards!"

The Darkstone Forest

     The large group heads out with the sun overhead, it's light passing through the crystalline trees. The lore about the stones is long and confusing, as they operate in a similar fashion to the Sunstone Forest. However, instead of storing light during the day, the stones instead warp it into darkness. As they walk further into the woods, the crystals grow higher and higher above their heads. Even though they see the sun shining overhead, the world is darkness around them. Many of them naturally see through the darkness as if it were dim light, but those can't cling to the allies around them.
     The party follows Crow Lord, beast shaped as a dire wolf. The trail he's following is straight forward, and before the party knows it, they are at the mouth of a large cave, a viscious odor coming from within. The party falters before entering, trying to come up with a plan. However, in the middle of their speech, they hear loud, thudding footsteps approaching them. As they turn towards the source, they see it: A large golem made up of dark crystals and rock. The golem swings downwards, trying to smash all of them, but a large column of bone raises up from the ground and blocks the golem's arm. The party dashes inside the cave, hoping to avoid the golem, who stands outside the cave, trying to claw it's way inside. As they continue further inside, they hear it's ferocious roar, and the distant tudding of it walking away.
     The cave they find themselves in is unlike anything expected in the darkstone forest: geodes, rubies, saphires, and other gems dot the walls. As they walk in further, their greed tugging away at the back of their minds, they come to a large opening, where they find many children in five cages. As the party surveys the scene, they detect no further paths to take and no enemies in the vicinity.
     Crow Lord reverts his form, running towards one of the cages and trying to break the lock. As each member tries their best effort to break or lockpick the cages, Tharyn waves her wand over one of the cages. "It's locked via some kind of spell. Whoever is behind this expected interference, and prepared to make this difficult for us." Tharyn and the hags each work on a cage
     Alethra looks around, hearing a voice speaking to her in her mind. "This would be a good chance to test your skill, Alethra. Learn to channel the powers I gave you. Free the children!"
     She speaks, alerting everyone else. "But how? What do I do?"
     Graz'zt sighs. "Just... touch the lock and focus."
     Alethra walks over to a lock, rubbing her hands on it. She closes her eyes, trying to empty her mind. "Good! Now, feel the lock with your hands." Alethra memorizes the texture of the lock. It's coarse like iron, with spots of warmth scattered around it. "Ah, so you feel that heat? What do you think of it? and don't talk out loud, people will think you are crazy."
     Alethra feels a warm spot, and a sudden spart zaps her hand. "Ooh! Careful now! The lock is trapped! While focusing, really focus on an emotion. There are children, trapped against their will, about to be slaughtered. They need you to free them. How does that make you feel?"
     Alethra thinks back in her mind. "Sad. Angry. Desperate."
     Graz'zt laughs in her head. "Angry! Good... focus on that. Channel your hatred into the palm of your hand! Do it!"
     Alethra squeezes on the lock the sparks biting into her hands. As the pain stabs into her hand, she feels unrelenting anger well up inside her. She sees nothing but red all around her. The children look at her in fear. "Why do they fear me?" She thinks to herself. She looks over to a crystal, which is reflecting perfectly to show her what they see. Her eyes glow red, like some sort of villain. She panics, and lets go of the lock.
     Graz'zt sighs. "Ah... first time Warlocks. It's always the same thing. You'll get used to it, Alethra. We'll chat later."
     Tharyn walks over to her, a smile at the corner of her lips. "I see you're beginning to tap into magic, lassie."
     Alethra scowls at the moon-elf. "Don't smile at me, Elf. I don't need your judgement."
     Tharyn sighs. "I'm not judging you. I'm admiring you. I remember the first time I tried to channel magic. My father was my teacher, you see, and he was teaching me how to channel and cast a ray of Frost. Anyways, so I'm focusing on blasting the target into chunks, and I accidentally created a snowball in my hand." Tharyn conjures up a snowball in her hand. As she does so, a man backed up by three oni enters.
     Most of the party have trouble distinguishing the man, his large black cloak covering up his features, his hood pulled over his eyes. But his chin... Alethra knows that chin, but she cannot remember!
     In a raspy voice, the man speaks. "Ah... so you-"
     Tharyn chucks the snowball, which flies through the air into the man's face. He wipes the weak frost from his face, angrily grunting, driplets of water dropping off his chin.
     Gra! found my lair, eh? You're probaby wondering why so many children are trapped in cages, no?"
     Alethra points her demonic gun at the man. "You're going to kill them and feed them to the Oni, just like you did to my daughter! You bastard!"
     She pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. She looks at the pistol, with no insert for clips. She checks for a revolver, but alas there is nothing. Again, in the back of her mind is a large sigh. "Uggghh... Warlock, you got a MAGIC GUN. It doesn't require bullets. Focus your anger into your hand, and pull the trigger. Remember that feeling you had at the tavern? Feel it again. The sadness. The anger..."
     The mysterious man laughs at Alethra. "Wa-hahaha xD You forgot to load up your guns before you charged in here! You Foolish-"
     Alethra channels her hatred in her right hand, pulling the trigger. Unlike back at her mother's tavern, a more serious blast ruptures out from the barrel of the gun. The recoil from the gun is massive, and Alethra can barely control where she fires. The beam travels up into the man's shoulder, burning away his robes and blasting off a chunk of his shoulder.
     He falls back, crawling behind the Oni. "You idiots! Don't just stand there! Kill them!"

The Oni Slayers

     As the party prepares to squash the four foes before them, the man begins chanting in a forbidden language, several small golems made of geodes begin to break off from the wall. The hags keep working on the cages, trying to free the children, but with little success.
     Tharyn opens up her satchel, speaking in an even darker language that the man. From out of her satchel climbs four skeleton warriors, each of which are encased in bone armor. They look at their master, who smiles at them. "Hurry up! Pull out some warhammers. We need you to smash the golems!" The four skeletons each reach into her satchel and pull out large, bone-welded hammers, and charge off to attack the golem on the farthest right of Tharyn.
     Warsch activates his Angelic Fury, burning bright orange with tendrils of orange energy coursing from his back. He whips the Tonitrus, charging it with black electricity. He charges at one of the golems, ready to smash it, but the golem punches the ground with it's fist. At first, the attack seems to do nothing, but as Warsch gets close, a fist raises out of the ground and punches Warsch in his chest. Neither Warsch nor his animated shield have time to react, and he is flung backwards onto the ground. Warsh quickly flips off the ground, his angelic form quickly healing a broken rib. Warsch points the Tonitrus at the golem, focusing the radiance of his power into the mace. The mace glows bright white for a few seconds, and a powerful bright white light surrounded in forked streaks of dark lightning shoots off from the mace, blasting a hole clean through the golem, which crumbles into a pile of rocks.
     Spider raises both of her arms, blasting webbing twice. With precision from months of training, Spider manages to encase every enemy in webbing, stopping their movements. She brings her palms together in meditation, humming with increased volume. As her hums vibrate through the room, she sprouts four arms and prepares to attack.
     The third oni, trapped in webbing, tries to pull itself out of it, but cannot. It reaches out from behind it's back, pulling out a glaive. The oni chucks the bladed star towards Spider with a vengeance, but with all six of her arms, catches the weapon and breaks it in half.
     Alethra pulls out a regular side arm, and with two guns in her hand, begins firing at one of the golem. Her demonic pistol does a decent job at blasting the golem into chunks, but her regular pistol only manages to scratch it's surface. However, the damage she deals is decent enough to blast off one of it's arms.
     The man behind the oni grunts in anger. "You damned fools! How could you all fall into a simple trap! We're the ones who are supposed to have trapped them! Reee!"
     The man pulls out a brown book, clad in golden embroidery. "Aha! Flaming Hands!" The man blasts a cone of flame from his hand, setting the web on fire. As the web melts away, the flames burn each of the oni, who grunt in pain. "Oh quit your whimpering! You'll heal in a few moments, and then-" The man begins coughing, his throat and lungs filled with a noxious odor; the smell of skunk. As he stumbles around, trying to get away from the source, he sees a menacing man dressed like a bird holding open palms towards him. "Kaw Kaw!" He screams with success.
     The golem that Alethra shot waddles over towards her. She backs away from the golem, her back against one of the cages. As the golem prepares to punch her in half, she ducks out of the way, causing the golem's fist to bash into the cage. Due to the power of the magic forcing the lock closed, the golem's arm breaks, leaving it with no arms. As the golem waddles around with no arms, a brass spear slices the damned thing in half, with bolts of lightning blasting off chunks of the golem into the fray.
     Stormdrake spins the spear just in time to block one of the Oni's punches, which sends him to the ground. Both the first and second Oni focus on him, slashing at him with sharp claws. As the second Oni brings down it's sharp four inch claws towards this throat, Stormdrake blasts out some of his homestyle lightning breath, blasting away the Oni with streaks of powerful lightning.
     The golem that Tharyn's skeleton minions attack stands little chance, as the skeletons pummel the construct into pebbles and rocky chunks. Void of intelligence, the skeletons keep bashing away at the golem, until nothing is left but several gems and dust. Tharyn opens up a small baggie, and pulls out several teeth. She holds the teeth in her palm, blowing upon them with an odd purple mist from her mouth. The teeth rise from her palm, coated in magic, and then fly off into through the third Oni. The creature looks at it's chest, with small holes piercing through it's lungs and heart, it begins choking on it's own blood, turning back to look at it's master, who is hiding behind a wall of flames, which he used to incinerate the teeth.
     The oni turns towards Tharyn, it's life fading. Warsch charges at the dying creature, putting it out of it's misery by bashing in it's skull with his Tonitrus.
     Warsch looks at the man, the need to smite heavy on his face. The man takes off, charging up the hole to the darkstone Forest.
     Spider dashes behind both oni, grabbing each one by the arm and then twisting their necks with her free arms. With the room cleared, the hags turn around from their work on the locks. "We almost have the locks broken, however the work is slow. You should pursue the dark wizard and defeat him: We will lead the children back to town."

The Dark Tower

     The team all break out of the cave, following Crow Lord as he tracks the man. Despite being a relatively small forest, the winding paths they have to follow cause the chase to last until nightfall. As the sun falls beneath the horizon, the crystal structures around them begin to glow purple, illuminating the area around them. For the first time of that day, the woods don't seem so terrible. The chase finally ends when Crow Lord reaches a clearing, where green vegetation and life flourish around a large purple stone: The heart of the forest. Dark energy courses off the stone like a plague, each hero feeling the cold grip of fear around their throats. They look past the stone, at a tall dark tower built around one of the cyrstalline trees. One of the windows opens up, and the man, covered in blood, screams below.
     "You fools! You are more than dead now! Dread! I summon thee! Protect your master!"
     From the large crystal, a loud thundering sound can be heard. The ground splits open, and the large golem they saw earlier rises from the earth. A large crystal pokes out from each limb. The golem looks at them, it's dead eyes filled with nothing but hate.
     Warsch whistles, summoning Agro. As the spirit horse runs in, Warsch leaps on, pulling up Tharyn as they ride past her. Crow Lord sprouts wings, taking to the skies and raising his hands down towards the ground. In direct moonlight, Crow Lord conjures a several columns of flame to strike up from below the golem, but the creature walks through the flames, ignoring them. Stormdrake does the same, conjuring a large thunderstorm and striking the golem with blasts of lightning. Flakes of the golem's rough exterior scatter off the golem, but is otherwise unremarkable. Spider falls back into the shadows, vanishing from sight and rising up from the shadows cast by the golem. She runs up the golem's back, trying to locate a weak point, but punching both the crystals and the rock yield no results. No odd runes are shown on the golem's surface, so the golem has to be controlled through some different way.
     Alethra stands there, looking up at all the heroes who are distracting the golem. Alethra walks past the fight, ignoring the golem entirely, and blasts down the large stone door to the tower. As she walks in, she hears a loud ruckus from above. The stairs are covered in blood, most likely the wizard's. As she walks up to the tallest tower, Alethra holsters the demonic pistol, pulling out her regular pistols. She comes to a door, pressing her ear against it.
     Inside, she hears desperate breathing, the sound of medical bandaging being stretched, and then a man shouting "Excellent work, Dread! Crush them!" The man grunts in pain. "Ah... my shoulder! She blasted my bones clean off, that bastard Alethra!"
     She kicks down the door, her old guard training paying off. The man raises a wand, but he is too slow and Alethra shoots the wand out of his hand, along with a few fingers. The man's hood is draped down, revealing his face to Alethra.
     "Father Donovan? But why?"
     The man looks down in shame. "You know exactly why, Alethra. The town, soiled by impurity... It wasn't always that way! I prayed to Kol Kurran, but nothing! The Thieve's Guild continued to wreck havoc across our city! So, I thought about fleeing, but alas! Where would I go! And so, I came to these woods, where I thought I'd let the nightlings kill me. But instead, I came across a sorcerer, who taught me about controlling Oni and creating Golems! In one night, I knew I could change everything! So, I continued being a priest during the day, but at night I fled out of the city into these woods, continuing my training and research! I would release the golems and the Oni, killing all of those who ruined our city! And then... I would create golems with the souls of humans! The ones we loved, brought back!"
     Alethra frowns at the man, anger taking hold of her thoughts. She shoots the man in both knees, cripling him. He falls against the wall, grabbing the window for support. "The oni lost control, and killed children, you bastard! My baby... torn to pieces!"
     Donovan looks at her in shame, his eyes closing shut. "I know. I tried to make them... obedient to my cause. I had their loyalty, ofcourse, bought with trinkets from the church. But their hunger for child flesh... it was too much. I know. I'm sorry what pain I caused you! But, if you let me continue my research, I can bring your child back!"
     Alethra fires more shots into his knees. "Nothing you bring back will ever resemble my child." She reloads her clip, and fires her remaining twelve rounds into the man's chest, the force of each bullet pushing him further and further out the window, until it is too much and he falls out. As she looks outwards, She sees the golem fall back into the hole it rose from, the stones that it held it together falling away from the large purple crystal that apparently hid in his body. The crystal stands up to half the hight of the tower, but it's width takes up at least a third of the clearing.
     Alethra picks up the man's book looking throughout the tower, but seeing nothing out of the ordinary. She walks back downstairs, taking note of all the empty space in the tower. As she walks outside, the heroes stand and wait for her. The sun strikes through perfectly on the crystal, display it's full contents.
     In the very center of the crystal is a woman, with human features and black hair spread throughout. Crow Lord places his palm against the stone, trying to commune with nature, but the stone offers no secrets.
     In the back of her mind, Alethra hears Graz'zt. "Aha... so we finally found one of the twin sisters. Well done, Alethra!"
     "Twin sisters of what?" She says. But no response. The party turns towards her, curious as to what she just said. "Twin sisters?"
     Alethra, forgetting that she spoke out loud, response to them. "Graz'zt spoke in my mind. Something about this being one of the twin sisters, but he isn't responding to me. I think we should try to hide her."
     Everyone looks at her like she is crazy. Stormdrake says to her, "Hide her? How? Crow Lord is the only one who can manipulate the ground, and even still he can only open up six foot holes. Unless... can you?"
     Crows tries to use his magic to sink the crystal, but only manages to open up a small hole in the ground.
     Warsch shakes his head. "I think we need to keep a close eye on-" All of a sudden, the bright moon overhead is blotted out by a swirl of dark smoke, casting the area in complete darkness. Smoke begins to fill the area, and the party is flanked on all sides by wisps of smoke.
     "They're trying to seperate us from the crystal!" Warsch shouts, pulling out a long iron chain from a satchel.
     Spider presses her palms together, and then channels her ki around her. She glows bright white for a few seconds, pushing away the shadows. Then, a shape of spider in the form of light walks forward, mimicking her every movement.
     Warsch smiles. "Demons! This is what I was born for!" He shouts, blazing with angelic fury. He charges forward, his chains blazing with holy fire, whipping through demons into oblivion. A demon of shadow completely manifests before him, swiping it's claws at him. Warsch ducks, then dashes behind the demon and wraps the chains around it's neck. Warsch begins pulling on the chains with great angelic strength and beheads the demon, it's grotesque form scattering into dust. However, only Warsch has an easy time with the demons, as the other demons have natural resilience to the elements. Physical attacks have no effect on the creatures, and elemental attacks barely have any. Stormdrake summons lightning bolts at the creatures, but his spells have no effect.
     Agravated, he raises his spear to the sky shouting "Brothers! Lend me you aid!" Four mighty spirits descend around Stormdrake, light emanating from their presence. They each turn towards him, nodding their heads and charging away as a group to fight the demons.
     Crow Lord clasps his hands over his amulet, calling for the powers of the moon to lend him power. A giant column of light cuts through each demon, scattering them like dust. The beam begins to follow a path, running circles around the battlefield.
     Alethra fires off with her demonic pistol, its blasts piercing through a demon's face, the force of the blast strong enough to break their terrible astral bones. She fires with her regular pistol, but the bullets fly through the shadows like fog.
     Tharyn pulls out an anceint soulstone, and begins casting Soultrap on nearby demons around Warsch, who break upon his weapon and shields like water upon a stone shore.
     However, the heroes are not the demonic horde's focus. As they're attention is scattered, the demons attack the crystal as commanded, their astral energy coursing into the stone, overloading it with necrotic energy. As Crow Lord turns his attention to the dark void crystal behind him, he redirects the moonbeam towards the crystal.
     A large tower of light descends upon the dark crystal, which begins to course with radiant energy. Cracks splinter throughout the crystal, light energy coursing down into the woman in the center. As the crystal is overloaded, the woman's eyes and mouth open, and the crystal shatters with the force of a 9th-Level Fireball, blasting everyone and every demon away.

Alethra's Vision

     Alethra slips into a dream, trapped in a white void. Before her stands a statue, made of stone with great stone roots spreading out into the floor. The statue looks like a demonic bat, and it twists it's head upwards, looking at Alethra. It's fanged mouth opens up, letting out a steamy breath. A trickle of blood spurts from the statues mouth, falling upon the floor of the white void and filling it with red. Alethra backs up, stepping into Graz'zt. He smiles at her, his red eyes glowing with satisfaction. Alethra turns back towards the statue, seeing a woman very much like Tharyn sitting in it's arms, blood pouring over her. She pulls back her hair from her face, her skin white like marble and her eyes glowing red instead of gold. She smiles, her fangs extending like needles.
     Alethra wakes up, Warsch touching her with an orange light. As she regains control over her body, Alethra slaps away his hand. She gets up, and walks over to the crater of the crystal. The woman from before lies still, her long hair covering up much of her body. Crow Lord jumps down into the pit, pulling off his cloak and covering her. Warsch looks over the ledge, dropping down a long iron chain for the druid to grab onto.
     Crow Lord sets the woman down upon the dirt, healing any injuries she might've sustained. The party gets a good look at the woman: her skin is like pure marble, not a single flaw on it's surface. Her black hair is smooth like silk, but is not oily. She begins to open her eyes, which are jet black. She places a single hand on Crow Lord's face, taking off his mask. The woman's hand is as cold as ice, and as she touches his skin he finds himself learning all of her memories, and vice versa. Her memories flood his brain, confusing him. None of them fit on a perfect timeline, scattered like fish in a river. But she gets everything out of him, even the memories he had lost. With a huge migraine pulsing in his brain, Crow Lord falls away from the woman. A single name comes his mind: Daimon Krough.
     The woman sits up, wrapping the cloak around her frame as she stands up. She smiles at the party, speaking with a matured voice, with words that seem to chill the air around her. She looks around in confidence, knowing all that Crow Lord knows.
     "My name is Selene. I am a Deva, but much of my past is lost to me. I was banished by the gods, same as my sister, and as my grace fell to despair, so did I. I have been trapped in that stone for an eternity, but I am debted to you, Daimon Krough, for freeing me."
     Warsch tilts his head. "Who is Daimon Krough?"
     The woman lifts her arm at Crow Lord, helping him up. "This is Daimon Krough. I read his mind, unlocking his lost memories in the process. He has much to take in, and will be weak for some time. However, we do not have time: With my awakening, the demons and angels will be going to war."
     Tharyn's brow lowers. "Angels? You mean the Deva, like you?"
     Selene shakes her head. "So much worse than me. I can't even call them Deva anymore, as they have cast aside their virtues and stray from the path of justice, cutting down innocent life more often than a demon. The demons attacking the stone were trying to possess me with necrotic energy. If they had succeeded, I would have become an angel's worst nightmare."
     Warsch is curious. "Just what are you? A Deva, yes, but why are you so important?"
     Selene speaks, her voice crackling like a flame. "I don't know. It's always been this way, since I could first remember. We awoke, and have been hunted ever since, killing both angels and demons throughout the years."

The Lady of Darkness

     The woman throws off Crow Lord's cloak, and floats into the air. The darkstone fragments all around her begin shattering, becoming an oddity of shapes and dust. The fragments then secure themselves to Selene, forming into chains and plates that wrap around her pale flesh. Her armor forms, the light refracting into the armor, giving her a purple glow that makes her look otherworldly, like some kind of aberration. She holds out her hands, and two handaxes made of shattered crystals form into her hands. She floats back down, a cape made of very fine fragments descending off her black pauldrons, flowing in the wind like fine silk. The woman holsters her dual axes, and creates a long strip of black clothe in her hands, similar to her cape. She ties the cloth around her eyes, which flows a few feet behind her head.
     She looks at the party, her black eyes hidden by the cloth. "My sister resides in the sunstone forest. If the demons or angels were to get their hands on her... it wouldn't be good. We shoould finish up whatever you were doing in these parts, and then make haste."
     The party escorts the children back to the town, returning them to their worried parents. As the party prepares to leave, they are approached by the two hags, who remain in their tiefling forms. Green speaks with a friendly tone. "We understand your concerns with our natures. To be honest, we weren't very trustworthy of you all either, given your reputation as hunters. However, we think of you as good friends now. We understand your motives, at least a bit better. You have done good for our town, and we would like to help you all before you leave. We noticed that your crow friend cannot speak, and I would like to know why."
     Crow Lord pulls down his collar, revealing the large red scar that expanded his throat years ago. The green witch runs her hands over it, gasping.
     "You are lucky to have survived a wound such as this. Your entire throat was cut open, severing your wind pipe and cutting into your vocals. Whatever healed you did a decent job, but it left a massive scar throughout your wind pipe, and your vocal cords. Luckily, the scarring on your throat is thin, so your breathing isn't hindered in any way, byt your vocal cords are thicker and unable to vibrate. There isn't much magic, aside from ancient and powerful ones, that can heal scars. Lucky for you, I know of a few tricks to heal scars, however the spell is quite costly. Here's a list of the ingredients."
     Crow Lord looks at the list, nodding his head. Tharyn takes a peek, gasping with disbelief. "Waaa! These items are impossible! A diamond worth fifty thousand gold?The petal of a Sundowner Rose? Blood of the Subject? Annnd a heartstone. Yeesh!"
     Green smiles. "Most of those ingredients are actually quite easy. The heartstone we've already begun working on, as that mad priest was corrupted from some form of sleep-spell, with a magic quite similar to Night-Hags, resulting in a near perfect ritual. She's working on extracting his heart before the town buries him. The blood is easily obtained. Hag magic, which is quite messy, is fairly straightforward. We just need to get a bowl of Crow Lord's blood. The diamond should be easy to find, as I've read up mines near Skoraeus's Throne. Finally, there's the matter of the Sundowner petal. We only need one, but grabbing the entire blossom would be ideal. It's a pretty rare flower, but when you head to the Sunstone Forest, you should be able to find one at night. Due to the sun's harsh rays, it remains closed, but opens up at night when the light from the stones gently beat upon it's petals."
     Spider cracks her neck. "Why are you burying the priest? Doesn't the town already know what he did?"
     Alethra shakes her head. "This town has already been through enough. The last thing it needs is to see a good man fall into evil. I hate him, despise him, for what he did to my daughter. But nothing I can do will bring my family back. The only thing I have left is this city, which I intend to protect once I'm done helping you 'heroes' out."
     Tharyn smiles at her. Alethra's eyes focus on her teeth, expecting to see the knives from her vision. Instead, she sees the regular teeth of an elf. Tharyn raises her brow in curiousity, then speaks. "So you're coming with us then! Fantastic! The seven of us, fighting against the seven lords of the abyss and maybe the dickbags of heaven! It'll be great!"
     Alethra nods her head anxiously. This woman, Tharyn... why did she appear in a vision? Why the statue, covered in blood?"
     The party heads out, expecting to walk the entire way. As the gates close behind them, a familiar ship lands before them, but the captain is unlike any of them have seen before. Expecting McHagay, most of the party smiles in excitement. Then, a dashing Kenku clad in a gray tunic with a patch over his eye walks to the ledge. A large scar streches up from his beak, carving through his eye and going towards his forehead. In a combination of different accents and tones, the bird speaks. "I have come seeking the one they call Paladin Warsch. Is that him, there yonder?"
     Warsch smiles, an old friend come to greet him. "Captain Blackwing! My old friend! I am-"
     The bird throws a bottle at him. "I've not come on friendship, sir! Last I checked, we left on bitter terms, that we did! I saved you from drowning, and you may have saved me from the noose, but then ye went and tried to sober me up! Anyways, I've got a favor to ask of thee. Doth thou remember the Dragon Turtle, who destroyed our ship and sunk me crew 'n captain Redmaw?"
     Warsch shakes his head, grinding the shards of glass into the dirt beneath his boot. "That I do. What is it you need?"
     Everyone just looks around, massively confused by random appearance of the bird. "I've been in contact with some underground spies, I have! They believe the turtle was bribed by some bandits of the Prag'tar. I earned this here ship, you see. Scouted the lands, searching for a bandit cove. I believe I have found them!"
     Stormdrake walks forward. "If you have quarrel with those bandits, my good Captain, then I would be more than welcome to assist you in anyway."
     Warsch pushes past Stormdrake. "We will fight with you, but only one condition: you must take us to the Sunstone forest."
     The big bird begins to smile, or something like that. His beak opens up, and the party can see his gray tongue wiggling around in excitement. "Then get on up here, sirs and maddams!"
     The party walks aboard, with Selene walking up last. Captain Blackwing eyes her, his natural senses picking up on her smell. He walks over Warsch, whispering in his ear. "Who is that there woman in black? She smells of ye, but of something darker. You reek of charcoal to me, ya see, but she smells of black liquorice."
     Warsch places a hand on the captain's shoulder. "I don't know what she is. A fallen angel, perhaps, but her intentions are questionable. If you can, watch your back around her."

Proceed to Chapter 2: The Twins

Check out two new characters: Alethra, Warlock Gunslinger and Selene, The Fallen Angel