From the Arcane Recordings of Lord Commander Serge D’Amours following his retirement from the Order of Research as saved by Vismont, his final squire.
“Stop shouting Vismont, for Mysteria’s sake I am blind, not deaf you silly boy.”
“Now, the party had just finished exploring Lord Rilish’s lair, that would be Lady Taresha’s evil elder brother. We had finally found the missing piece of a hidden door and followed it to what was to be Rilish’s private chambers. As we entered, it became clear what we were dealing with… A Lich. Rilish had brokered a deal with evil and had set himself up as a formidable foe. Attempts at parley seemed to fail both sides as Taresha’s anger boiled over into action. Backed by three gargoyles that weakend all around them, the battle was joined.
I dropped a Winter’s Wrath that covered the vast majority of the room, slowing down all the creatures. Lady Ana, as was her way at the time rushed in and tied up both the Lich and two of the Gargoyles. Taresha had set herself up in a corner and continued her sibling rivalry with shot after shot. The remainder of our party remained tied up in the doorway with the remaining Gargoyle that made Lady Wandra’s life very hard.
“In retrospect, I should have seen the differences. While powerful, this creature we saw as Rilish was no Lich, close, but as they say, no cigar. There were other clues, but we were young and impetuous. In the end the creature fell, but it did not crumble to dust or disappear as one would expect from a Lich. On closer examination, with the mask and robes removed it became clear. Not only was it not a Lich, but it was not even Rilish as this former creature was a human.
“We set to looting. Yes, looting Vismont, no need to sound shocked. In those day your Lord Commander was not above a bit of looting. I had just found about my destiny and had not quite embraced the Order as a real entity. Besides, nothing wrong with a bit of treasure earned at the business end of a Frostburn.
“Lady Wandra having a bit of skill with locks, set to the three chests. It was a good haul. Plenty of gold, platinum and a fair bit of gems too. On the third chest the Lady must have missed the trap, for when she opened it the blinding light flashed across the room and she was gone. To say the least the remaining members of the already depleted party were a bit concerned.
“Some arcane sleuthing between myself, Master Zakiti, and Lady Ana we were able to trace her signature. Interestingly enough I was able to determine that she did not go to the location she was suppose to. Something had intercepted the arcane transport and taken her to another location. One that I feared was much worse.
“Wanting some additional data before trying to follow Lady Wandra I cast History Revealed on the proto-lich to see if we could get anything useful. I wasn’t sure if it would work on the dead if they were previously dead or undead so you can imagine my surprise when the visions came. It seems the former Lorthar Helven had several memories he wished to share. His most shocking was becoming a proto-lich under the guidance or Rilish. A dark act to be sure. He also had memories of joining the Ashen Covenant… More on that later…, Lorthar’s spilling continued with his corruption to the service of the Necromancer sometime after his knighthood for the Kingdom of the Isles. His last major memory, one that he shared with the party, the fight to his death.
“Between the visions and Lady Ana’s history and given the specific type of Gargoyles we encountered it was clear that a militant Orucs Cult, The Ashen Covenant, had risen up since the Spell Plague to fill an evil vacuum in the north. An north is where Lady Wandra’s signature sent us.
“We gated into the furnace, not more than half an hour behind the missing Lady. It was hot, hotter than I have ever been and still in this material plane. Although we had no proof, we are sure following the maps that had entered Mt. Doom itself. After searching and a bit of endure elements ritual from Lady Ana we found Lady Wandra in a type of throne room. She remained calm and cool while the remaining four of us were drenched. As she was often seen from that time forward, Lady Wandra seemed to have a close affinity to her new mace.
“What? Master Zakiti? Of course he wasn’t sweating. Silly Git, man is made of crystal, of course he didn’t sweat, but the heat was oppressive enough that he too was effected. If there are no more interruptions, the I would like to continue Mr. Vismont.
“We explored what we could, which wasn’t a lot and only found an odd unadorned temple. A glass box of unknown material and a blue flame was the only feature. Lady Taresha’s keen eyes had found a seem and Lady Ana’s strong back moved the box to reveal a very dark, very cool, and very deep whole. The dropped sunrod fell and fell and fell until we could no longer see the light, but no sound of contact was ever heard.
“We returned back to Rilish’s private chambers via Arcane means, after establishing another transportation circle at the mount. A brief discussion and we opted to return home. We had been gone for three weeks on travel and we wished to re-organize and plan or next steps.
“Very much to all of our surprise that when we returned home it appeared that we had arrived at a tournament. Large tents and pavilions were standing within the grounds and our Foreman, Richard, seemed out of place acting as a de facto Majordomo. It seemed we had visitors.
“We quickly changed garb and bathed having been in the field we were in no condition to take on visitors. Richard had told us that the two parties were the Númenórean and a smaller Order of Research contingent. Lady Ana greeted the Númenóreans but was reproached from being ‘just’ a female adventure, they had come it seems to see me. These were not just Númenóreans, but Knights of the Phoenix Guard and they have come to swear the allegiance to me of all things. The standard caveats applied about the King and such, but within those loose guidelines the new Phoenix Guard were at my call. We worked up a quick liaison capability so that an interface with the Guard could be maintained.
“Next the three members of the Order arrived. They stated that Isengard was ready to reveal itself and I only had to go there to move good and righteousness forward. We discussed the current events and ways to speed access with an arcane gate, but I knew my time of being a ‘free spirit’ was coming to an end.
“Finally, Richard came to us and let us know about ‘The Spirits’ as he called them. It seemed that shortly after we left that everyone in the local began having nightmares and that voices and sounds could be heard on the wind. And it seemed that it was all centered on the well in the courtyard. Well, poor Master Zakiti had placed that mysterious orb there for safe keeping. Not safe enough it would seem.
“We set up watch and had our opportunity to see and speak with these ‘Spirits’. As Master Zakiti had feared, they were the Shardminds that were collected to the stone. Something or someone had pushed or pulled them away and they were in pain. My immediate thoughts ran to the Baron. Lady Ana’s betrothed had wanted the orb for some nefarious purpose and can only assume this was the start.
“And that is a story for another day. I’m tired Vismont and my voice is cracking… Get me a heated brandy if you please…”