Warning: Some spoilers for the module The Banewarrens appear below.
As mentioned before, the Company of the Black Lantern—the elves Vexander, Gaerioth, Sercian, Tellian, and the dwarf Dazlo—had worked with the Runewardens against the chaos cult, but in time they went their own separate way again. Their goal: to return to the Banewarrens and find an ancient artifact known as the diadem, placed there by mistake aeons ago by Danar, who had believed it to be a bane. They discovered through consultation with a sage named Ishara Jare that the diadem lay in a vault in a place deep within the Banewarrens called Tremoc Korin—the Baneheart.
Re-entering the Banewarrens wasn’t terribly hard. Many of the protective seals had already been broken by invading dark elves looking for the Black Grail. However, the company members knew they needed to not only get into the warrens and find the artifact, but reseal the Banewarrens before they left, to make sure no one would ever get in again. Their research had revealed that doing so required that they destroy the Banewarrens key (which was, in fact, the mummified hand of Eslathagos Malkith, creator of the place), now in possession of the dark elves. And the only way to destroy it was with the item that had helped slay the Dread One originally: the staff of shards. Still more investigation revealed that the staff was broken long ago, and the only piece still known to exist was in the hilt of an intelligent dagger named Yaeshla, “sister” to the Runewardens’ intelligent dagger, Shayla. In fact, it was Shayla who revealed this last piece of information. Yaeshla was in the hands of the Pactlords of the Quaan, old enemies of the Company.
Following a magic spell keyed to search for the signature rings worn by all Pactlords, the company encountered a male medusa monk and his green dragon ally, both Pactlords, under the city. The Company of the Black Lantern trounced the Pactlords and learned from them that they must go through a portal into the Quaan itself, a tiny “half-world” created and sustained by magic. The adventurers learned that agents of the Pactlords—called Pactslaves—posing as Lothianite priests had such a portal in a chapel in the Rivergate District.
The Black Lanterns sneaked into the chapel and made it all the way up into the belfry before engaging their foes. After dispatching the fallen cleric and the fake priests, they found the magic portal at the top of the belfry.
Passing through it, they entered a dismal gray swamp that stretched for mile after slimy mile in every direction. This was the Quaan. Slogging—and fighting—their way through this strange half-world, they finally came upon the Black Manor, the very heart of the Quaan. Battling through ogres, ogre-magi, a behir, and a kythonesque serpent creature druid, they found Yaeshla and still another portion of the staff. What’s more, they learned that the remaining part lay within the Banewarrens, specifically at the top of the Baneheart.
Returning from the Quaan, the elves of the Black Lantern rested and planned. They knew they had to get both the Banewarrens key and finish putting together the staff of shards to destroy the key, after resealing the Banewarrens for good. When they were ready, Vexander used a teleport spell to take them back to a familiar area.
After much exploration and some encounters with undead and various Banewarrens guardians, the group entered a huge shaft that apparently ran up through the Spire of Ptolus. This was the Baneheart—the object of their goal. Here, they were attacked by a vrock demon and ambushed by dark elves. These were new dark elves, sent into the dungeons after the Company had virtually eradicated all who had explored the place earlier. The elves, realizing that “competitors” had (re)entered the Banewarrens, had only just made it to the Baneheart themselves. The ensuing battle was costly, although the Company of the Black Lantern emerged victorious in the end. The members considered it prudent to leave again to recuperate in the city above. Fortunately, Vexander’s teleport spells made this fairly simple, and the very next day they were back in the Baneheart.
Unfortunately, foes were waiting for them. Ever since the Company of the Black Lantern had laid waste to the fortress of Ul-Drakkan, the dark elves of House Vrama sought revenge. During their encounter the previous day, one of the elves recognized the members of the company and teleported away. Word spread through the very highest echelons of the dark elf hierarchy, all the way to their goddess/mistress, Gorgoth-Lol.
“These strikkesh* have inflicted a wound upon us,” Gorgoth-Lol said to her high priestess in Nluguran, the dark elf city beneath Ptolus. Violet hate glistened in her many spiderlike eyes. “And we do not forget such transgressions. Blood for blood, my children—that is our way. We shall send those against whom they cannot triumph: my own personal Hand of Vengeance.”
* The dark elven word for surface elves
And so when the Company of the Black Lantern reappeared in the Baneheart, vicious foes out for their blood waited for them: a succubus rogue, a dark elf fighter/wizard, a drider cleric, a half-fiend dragonne, and a vampiric half-dragon.** These malefactors, called the Hand of Vengeance, clashed with the Company of the Black Lantern in a titanic battle. Terrible spells were unleashed, and neither side held back. The combat shook Tremoc Korin itself. In the end, the Company of the Black Lantern carried the day. Even the elite forces of a goddess fell before them—though a pair of them escaped. But once again, the adventurers had to retreat back to the city using magic. Not only were they all sorely wounded, but Sercian had fallen to one of the drider’s spells.
After they brought Sercian back to the realm of the living, the group returned. Expecting another ambush, they teleported high up into the shaft of the Baneheart, each of them magically flying, figuring that even a bit of an error in the wide shaft would not result in any great calamity, and they were correct. Within the shaft were many balconies and many doors. After exploring various of these chambers and facing down a powerful advanced kython standing on a chain bridge in a room full of chains, they came to a chamber guarded by an iron golem. This guardian must be warding something important, they thought, and they were right. After destroying the golem, a search revealed… the diadem! All that remained was to find the rest of the staff of shards. The group rested, then proceeded further—to the top of the shaft, where the Dread One himself was said to have fallen in battle against mighty heroes.
However, they found the shaft’s top now filled with webs that had not been there before. Cutting their way through, they found that the dark elves had returned—en masse. Powerful wizards and clerics stood at the ready, next to dark elf warriors armed and armored in the best chaositech their vile race could muster. The dark elves had decided once and for all to have it out with the Company of the Black Lantern. Those assembled were the last remaining willing and capable volunteers they could muster after the defeat of the Hand of Vengeance.
After all their victories, the members of the company had grown overconfident. So many dark elf champions and mages had fallen before them, so many fiends and monsters lay dead in their wake, that they imagined themselves unstoppable. But here, at the top of Tremoc Korin, the legendary luck of the Company of the Black Lantern—one of the greatest adventuring companies ever to plumb the depths below Ptolus—ran out.
Sercian was held by a spell almost right away, and Dazlo quickly fell victim to a similar effect. Chaositech-blade-wielding fighters finished off the two helpless heroes. Gaerioth was overcome by spells even as he fought solo against a horde of dark elves. Vexander was disintegrated after felling a number of foes with lightning bolts. In the end, Tellian found himself alone. Under the effects of a spell that allowed him to fly, he started to flee, then he thought, “No, I can still finish them off. I can still save my friends.” But the dark elves proved too numerous and too strong. Though his arrows flew truly, they were too few. Tellian died, falling down the shaft that ran the length of the Spire’s interior.
The Black Lantern shone no longer. The company was dead.