Vexander, Sercian, Tellian, and Thoreaen—the current roster of the Company of the Black Lantern—needed to find a criminal in Ptolus named Aggah-Shan, who had stolen an important book they were hired to recover. Aggah-Shan operated a number of illegal casinos in the city, all of which featured a new game called Mrathrach. Their investigations uncovered the fact that the game was magically sapping chaotic energies each time it was played and directing them to some terrible machine hidden beneath the city. Using clues garnered from their adventuring comrades, they learned the location of the machine and went to confront Aggah-Shan directly.

Of Kython and Aggah-Shan

When the elves arrived at the machine’s subterranean location, it was more than they’d suspected. The huge and terrible device was hundreds of feet tall, surrounded by scaffolding upon which kython, the creatures of chaos created by the Galchutt, maintained all the machine’s complex functions. The machine, an awesome expression of chaositech, was an abomination that had to be destroyed—but how? The group moved in to attack, hoping to inflict some damage with spells.

Much to their surprise, however, they found that the machine absorbed magic as well, using its energy for its own dire (and still unknown) purposes. The kython repelled the company’s attacks, and the party fled.

Gathering its strength, the Company of the Black Lantern returned to attack the machine and its guardians again. This time, they found more success and slew a number of the kython. Knowing a bit about machines Sercian entered the interior of the device itself and sought a way to disable it from within. However, the machine had more kython guardians inside. Again the company had to retreat after suffering terrible losses, but not before making two discoveries. First, the adventurers got far enough to see that a serpentine being resided within the machine, devouring all the energies it absorbed. (The characters did not know it, but this was Mrathrach, one of the Vested of the Galchutt, who had been slain 20,000 years earlier. The kython looked upon him as a patron and sought to bring him back to life. Secondly, they saw Aggah-Shan himself at the bottom of the cave with the machine, and discovered that he was a lich working directly with the kython.

Worse, however, Aggah-Shan saw them and gained enough information to track them. As they rested in their favorite inn, Iridithil’s Home, Aggah-Shan himself teleported in and attacked. Fortunately for the company, their old friends Chanticleer and Quilambril were also at the inn at the time. With their combined forces, they defeated the lich, after a costly battle. But every lich had a phylactery, they knew; they would have to find it in order to destroy their foe permanently. Plus, even destroying him still did not get them the mysterious book they sought.

The only way to locate the book would be to find Aggah-Shan’s real lair (and thus, probably his phylactery as well). At this point, Sercian brought his new friend and lover, Fesamere Balacazar, into the picture (although he did not reveal her/their deception with regard to the book). She suggested that they go to Aggah-Shan’s most exclusive casino and high-class bordello: the White House in Oldtown. Much as they had done before, they infiltrated the casino posing as patrons. After much searching and not a little subterfuge, they found a secret area beneath the casino. Holding off guards and guardian monsters with a wall of force, they explored this area and found a terrible thronelike chair. A careful examination revealed that it was trapped and magical. They determined that the chair would transport anyone sitting in it somewhere (Aggah-Shan’s inner sanctum?) but in so doing it would produce spikes and razorlike blades to slice the person to ribbons. Unless, of course, that person were nothing but a skeleton (like, say, a lich), in which case the perfectly spaced blades and spikes would inflict no harm.

Impetuous as always, Sercian leaped into the chair. Knowing where each spike and blade would go, he managed to avoid some of the worst of the damage, but was still terribly mauled as the throne took him to where Aggah-Shan kept not only his phylactery (which Sercian destroyed), but the book and other treasures. Unfortunately, the elf discovered that the only way out of there was a return trip in the throne. He didn’t survive the trip back, but his friends managed to escape with his body and return him to life in short order. In the fracas, the company learned that it was Fesamere who was after the book all along, but she paid them as promised, so ultimately no one was entirely unhappy. But they never did learn what the book was.

Undead Like Me

After a good rest, the company learned that an old enemy had resurfaced: the dark elf Vastare, who had once impersonated Sercian. Apparently, the dark elves were exploring the areas beneath the city near the Prison. So, the group returned to their old haunts and found the trail of their enemies, but not the dark elves themselves. Instead, they encountered the entity that they had learned about long ago, one who had built this area of the dungeon looking for a way to get at the Black Grail, an evil artifact of great power.

The entity was Sokalahn. He was also a lich, but no ordinary one. He was an undead half- demon, far more powerful than even Aggah-Shan. Sokalahn had awoken after years of sleep, disturbed by all the activity around his home. Apparently, in his quest to get at the Black Grail, he had managed to draw on the power of another ancient artifact, called the Entropy Sphere, to weaken the protections around the vaults that held the grail (and thus creating an unstable magical zone called the Conflagration). These vaults were created in ancient days to hold evil artifacts and terrible curses, keeping them away from the world. The vaults were called the Banewarrens and Danar, the saint who created them, was eventually corrupted by the evil therein. He became the entity known as the Dread One, Eslathagos Malkith, and it was he who created the fortress Jabel Shammar at the top of the Spire that rose above Ptolus.

The group assumed they had to get past Sokalahn to find a way into the Banewarrens to follow the dark elves. They were mistaken in this belief, and it cost them dearly. They suffered a terrible defeat at his hands and were forced to teleport away, leaving Thoreaen behind. It was around this time that Gaerioth returned from his aborted attempt at exploring the Jewels of Parnaith, so he reinforced them when they went back down.

Sercian, however, chose not to accompany the group.

When they returned to Sokalahn’s lair, they found a terrible sight, a portent and warning they did not heed: Thoreaen had been killed and reanimated as an undead creature. He was entwined in a web of razorwire, the hilt of his holy sword imbedded in his head. The undead paladin was forced to renounce and curse the name of his deity, Lothian, over and over again. Horrified and angered, the group went after Sokalahn again.

This time, the lich slew them all (except Sercian, of course) and brought them back to a semblance of life as vampires. In an ironic turn, he commanded them, as well as an undead dwarven defender he had slain years earlier, to go into the Banewarrens and kill the dark elves that had already entered. Looking for the Black Grail, the dark elves had stolen a key from his vaults that allowed them passage into the Banewarrens. Sokalahn no longer desired the artifact, but he did not want to see it in the hands of anyone else, either.

Utilizing the unstable magical zone known as the Conflagration, through which no living being can pass, Sokalahn transported the undead Company of the Black Lantern into the Banewarrens. They obeyed his commands well and killed most (but not all) of the dark elves in the warrens, as well as their demonic and monstrous allies.

Meanwhile, Sercian enlisted the aid of the powerful priests of Gaen to help him find his friends. They learned of the company’s fate, and entered the Banewarrens (now unsealed by the efforts of the dark elves) to help. The clerics and paladin of Gaen fought against the vampires and managed to subdue them. Once back in the city, they brought the dead members of the company back to life, as well as their new Grailwarden dwarf ally, Dazlo.

Next: Barbarians invade. Magic ends. Everything gets worse.