The Company of the Black Lantern had been driven from Dwarvenhearth after a surprise attack by dark elves somehow already inside the city. Undeterred by this turn of events, however, the members went back in, more prepared than ever. Once inside the ancient dwarven stronghold, they found a temple complex and began to explore, harassed by dwarven vampires that served some greater master: a dark elf vampire named Zachean. Zachean also controlled a large cadre of stone giants and the orc tribe that served them. Pitted against all these foes, the company was forced out of Dwarvenhearth again. Meanwhile, another Black Lantern plan began to take shape. Ever since they had occupied the wizard Ressad’s underground tower (which he had taken from the dwarves), their friend and Grailwarden dwarf ally Hansk had watched over the place. Now the company set to fortifying it. The characters even hired elven mercenaries and warriors to help defend the place while they were away. The group now had a base deep underground.

They began establishing themselves, both in the local area under the city and—through word of mouth—above ground. People began to take notice.

Meanwhile, Shurrin, Sister Mara, Serai, Aliya, and Zophas investigated the nowabandoned Temple of the Ebon Hand, a church devoted to chaos. The Company of the Black Lantern had, long ago, dealt a serious blow to the cult, and since then the cultists had disappeared. Going on instinct more than anything (since they were still interested in finding out more about chaositech), the adventurers found a few traps and cultists in the lower reaches of the temple—as well as a secret passage into an extensive and still operational chaos temple hidden underground. More importantly, however, they discovered that a shipment of newly discovered chaositech from the Vault of the Kython was being shipped up into the city in a few weeks through a place called Mahdoth’s Asylum.

But they could investigate those leads no further, at least not for the moment. They owed their old druid friend Andach a favor, after he’d saved their lives in the Necropolis. His secret grove-home on sacred Clasthamus Isle lost its protective magical wards on one night a year, on the feast of Godsday. The adventurers had pledged to go to the island in the middle of the Necropolis to help him defend it on that night.

Gathering help from the vigilant Keepers of the Veil—among them, their undead-hunting friend Feruch—the group met with Andach and made plans. They would hold the bridge leading from the Necropolis to the isle, and the druid and his apprentice Hennam (along with a legion of animals and awakened trees) would defend the rest of the island from invaders that flew, teleported, or swam.

A terrible battle ensued on the one bridge to the island that night. Undead, the Fallen (demons), and the humans who worked with them both (the Forsaken) stormed Clasthamus Isle, the only place in the Necropolis where they held no power. Ghouls, skeletons, wights, and far worse creatures came in wave after wave. The demons flew on magical pentagram-platforms and made ranged attacks. But the defenders held. They even survived a terrible betrayal: Hennam revealed herself to be a Forsaken agent positioned there months ago to help build a magical gateway onto the island from the Forsaken’s headquarters, the Dark Reliquary. The forces of good emerged victorious, although many fell. Andach himself was slain by a powerful lich, one of the original Wintersouled: mighty creatures of unlife who first began raising the undead of the Necropolis hundreds of years ago.

But great rewards come to the stouthearted, and those who’d fallen were raised—all but Andach, whose very soul was trapped in a soul bind spell. With both Andach and Hennam gone, an awakened lion took control of Clasthamus Isle. And with the passing of Godsday into the following dawn, the sacred place regained its magical protections against the forces of evil.

Though his allies wanted to help Andach, they also had to stop the shipment of chaositech. But they still needed more information. Knowing the dangers that lay ahead, they called upon the help of their friends—a call answered by Chanticleer of the Company of the Black Lantern and his cohort, Quilambril. This combined strike force attacked the chaos temple and rooted out the corrupt priests within. Even the dread Demon of the Bells, summoned by the high priest of the temple, could not defeat them. Once again, the servants of chaos and evil—the cultists of the dread Galchutt—suffered a terrible blow at the hands of the adventurers. But perhaps even more significant, the two parties of stalwart heroes learned that together, their might was undeniable. The bonds of friendship forged were so strong that Shurrin even returned with Chanticleer to help the Company explore Dwarvenhearth.

Next: More Dwarvenhearth! More dark elves! And what’s gotten into Sercian…?

©2005 Monte J. Cook. All rights reserved.