<u>Session 37: Calistril 11, 4718 AR-Pharast 16, 4718 AR</u>
Rex remained behind and Drebb again accompanied the party into the wilderness. Just before you all reached the Chaos Rift, you had to dispatch eight of the mutant gargoyles. You entered the rift on Calistril 13 and were set upon by four wyverns, which proved to be no match for you all. Then you dodged a minor rock slide before camping for the night.
You arrived at the waterfall portal to Pandemonium on Calistril 15. Atish and Mags managed to close the rift, but it exploded into a burst of chaotic energy and Drinna was turned to stone! Mags prepared a potent magical incantation to reverse this effect.
The next week was spent mapping out the remnants of the Rift. On the 24th, you came to a box canyon at the extreme northeastern end of the Rift. Between the three great pillars that demarcated this hollow from the rest of the rift was a short plain of dust and broken statues. The statues include 2 wyverns, 7 death dogs, a female elf sorcerer, a male gnome wizard, a female gnome barbarian, a male halfling wizard, a female half-elf ranger, a female elf rogue, a male human barbarian, a female dwarf fighter, a female half-elf monk, a male human wizard, a male orc barbarian, and a male fetchling barbarian. The humanoids were in various postures of fear or battle, and it was quite obvious that these statues were the victims of a petrifying attack of some sort. In addition, each had been smashed or partially destroyed so attempts at restoration would result in a gory mess. Belflin locates the occasional track in the dust of a large, three-clawed reptilian beast that he identified as a particularly large basilisk. The tracks were sporadic in the soft dust and could not be followed. You all decided to wait, and sure enough, the creature came to you. A lightning bolt from Mags and arrows from Belflin ensured that the beast did not get close enough to petrify anyone.
Exploring further, you found a side draw that penetrated the cliff walls here heading in a northwesterly direction. The walls rose steeply in crumbly crags on either side. Shreds of wispy spider web dangled here and there occasionally disturbed by the canyon’s breezes. Ahead the draw narrowed further and was obstructed by a larger concentration of webbing that completely blocked passage. Within this webbing was a massive spider, large enough to touch either side of the draw with its bloated body. Its many jointed legs twitched as it peered at you ominously. Gambler began to climb the cliffs to get in a sneak attack but discovered that two ettercaps had the same idea for ambushing the party. Belflin stole Gambler’s fun by taking the aberrations out with his arrows. You all discovered that the “spider” was actually a ruse made up of debris in the web to distract explorers from the creeping ettercaps. Gambler spotted their lair and climbed up to loot it. The ledge had a scattering of web-shrouded bones and debris and mixed in with this detritus was a human skull with two diamonds in its eye sockets and four emeralds in its jaw. As Gambler watched, dust began to stir around the skull, seeming to form into a humanoid shape. As the halfling reported this, Atish became panicked and insisted that Mags immediately take everyone onto the Shadow border plane. Once there, the normally unflappable cleric explained that Gambler had disturbed a powerful undead known as a demi-lich, and that you all surely would have died if you tried to face it at this time.
Once back in town, you all turned over your maps to Sister Sara, and she agreed to send a cadre of holy warriors and priests to destroy the undead. You all then spent ten days preparing to explore the final quadrant of the Desolation, the Boiling Lands. You decided to enter the Boiling Lands to the north and work your way back south towards Tsar. You successfully bypassed a pair of bonestorms as you arrived at the edges of this region on the evening of the Pharast 3.
The main fighting in the Battle of Tsar occurred in the western half of what would become the Desolation, the area closest to the walls of the city itself and what would become known as the Western Front. The Boiling Lands lie in what is the northwestern quadrant of those fields. These twisted and battle-wracked lands get their name from the many craters that dot the landscape like the boils of a diseased beggar from the back alleys of Tsar itself. In addition, the name is derived from the many geysers and boiling pools of mud that appeared during those terrible battles and in the years since. This is the wettest of the Desolation’s regions but let the traveler who dares to drink from the natural springs or boiling fountains of the area beware. The reason for the strange terrain features found here, unlike elsewhere on the battlefield, is the way in which the Battle of Tsar unfolded here. For it was here that the most powerful of the clerics and sorcerers within Tsar’s walls plied their worst magic against the attackers. Eldritch comets of fire and exploding stones fell like hail pounding the terrain and troops here. Likewise, hideous plagues and diseases were unleashed against the forces of good that continually attacked from this quadrant. As the casualties mounted, it was here the wizards and priests of the Army of Light responded in kind, ripping through the enemy ranks with attacks of terrible or insidious magic.
Miles of muddy trenches were dug and still crisscross the scarred landscape. These were fortified and improved upon, becoming the last homes for many of the soldiers who fought and died on the battle plains. Great wooden towers rose from these trenches providing vantage points and artillery emplacements, though most are little more than the splintered remains of the rotten foundations. The strange moonscape holds many geysers, pits, craters, and pools of boiling sulfur or mud, many hidden beneath deceptively thin crusts waiting for the unwary traveler to tread upon them. The stench is an unbelievable mixture of rotten eggs, soggy compost, and suffocating death. Visibility is never more than 100 feet and usually less. Your first full day on the blasted heath saw you all survive a bout of acid rain as well as an attack by a strange beast known as a Gray Render. In addition, you all discovered the joys of random geysers erupting.
Four more days of slogging through the scarred wasteland passed uneventfully before you were attacked by a group of elementals that were made up of the very toxic mud of the cursed region. Then on the 14th of Pharast, you were lured into a mud bog by a pack of Will-o-Wisps, which you all chased off. As you camped that evening, you all wondered how much more of this blasted area you could take.