The group left the Fang Hills and traveled to The One Tree but found little there at first.
Near the roots of the tree they found a cave that reached beneath the massive tree. Inside the cave was nothing but footprints. They were of elves and they traveled to and from the cave. Someone had the idea that this cave could be a meeting place, so they decided to watch and wait.
From the treeline, a few days later, they saw two elves cautiously approach and enter the cave. Following them, they finally found the secret entrance. Deep below ground they finally came to a guard tower where they met the Dark Elves for the first time.
Eventually they were put in contact with Zeria, leader of the dark elves. She told them their story about how the Arch Mage had poisoned their tree long ago and it is dying. The elves had moved underground and are slowly turning into drow elves. Zeria explains that the Arch Mage’s power grows as we speak and he must be dealt with before it spreads across the world. She asks that they try and wipe out the Aqium Wizards and she is doubtful that the One Tree can be saved at this point. Un’Goro used commune with nature and felt that the tree would need an epic level healing solution to save it.
As the heroes exited the One Tree they saw that the Obelisk of Seta-Re had illuminated, indicating the Arch Mage was present. They made a bee line for the monument set in the desert and magically a door appeared. They entered the structure and found themselves in the Fortress of the Ur Mage.
Later they would learn that the Arch Mage has ascended into the position of the Ur Mage, most likely after a sacrifice of the Snow Queen. Later, the Ur Mage would transform himself into a lich and instigate the Great War.
The first room of the fortress was dining hall, with warm food on the table and two leering gargoyle statues flanking the door.
Ravenclaw shrugged his shoulders and took a bite of the food, transforming himself into the food itself. A moment later, a slightly transparent version of Ravenclaw appeared, having traveled to death’s door. Eventually those who die in here and swooped up by the Ur Mage before entering death’s realm and brought back to suffer more in the fortress.
The group saw the gargoyles animate and rattle off two rumors about the fortress before they proceeded to the room with the Ur Mage’s spellbook.
The spellbook was massive, 4′ × 3′ × 1 and bound in the scales of a tarrasque. Two undead, with their mouths stitched shut, hold up the table which the spellbook rests. The group tried and tried to open the spellbook with no luck.
The next area was a hallway of paintings. Triton followed up on a rumor about looking through the eyes of the Ur Mage and felt a momentarily flash of madness but was able to pull away in time. Tetsu-ko looked at the blank door and Un’Goro opened it. A trail was beyond that led to Charon, ferryman of the River Styx. The group quickly returned to the hallway.
Next Triton looked at the final painting and sees a wraith that would perfectly mimic his movements. Tetsu-ko noticed that around a corner, was a table with a thin layer of dust except for a spot where something rested on it. Triton mimicked walking around the corner to pick up the item and handed it to the mirror. Sure enough the wraith returned to the mirror and handed Triton and urn through the mirror. Inside the urn was the electrum dagger.
The next room was strange. Tiny, arcane black hands retrieved little odds and ends throughout the fortress and brought them back to a large crack in the wall here. Triton found a scroll of reverse transformation here. Further into the room was a tiny pyramid under a glass shell. Inside the shell were miniature slavers controlling slaves who are building the pyramid. Across from that is a pool of water with the bottom filled with gold sand. Un’Goro parted the water and scooped up a handful of miniature gold pieces.
In this room the group saw a throne with statues of three adventurers. Before anyone triggered it, Tetsu-ko noticed a trap on the symbol of the Ur Mage in the center of the room. Ravenclaw disabled the trap with one of his arrows.
Inside a secret compartment on the throne was a chime of liberation which the group used on the statue of the dwarf paladin to free his spirit.
The summoning chamber contained three arcane circles which confounded the group. the circle of protection gave them the impression that they could safely summon a demon from. Ravenclaw boldly walked into the next one and was immediately dragged into hell for eternity. However, the Ur Mage pulled him back into the fortress once again, this time a little weaker than before.
Deciding to forgo the teleportation circle, they instead moved to another large room. Two great statues stood in the center of the room with an acidic substance dripping from the ceiling. Tetsu-ko was able to run along the walls and get down to the bottom to scoop up treasure off the floor. Everyone else used the rope of climbing and was able to retrieve a few items for themselves before taking too much acid damage.
Here in another hallway they saw two statues; one of a golem and one of a medusa. Behidn both were secret doors, the medusa one is activated safely but using the electrum dagger across her throat.
Beyond the golem was a room with a magical paintbrush painting a picture of a stone door with no handle. The group noticed that it was painting over something else, a portrait of a lich, which they believed to be beyond the real door in this room with no handle. Behind a curtain was a painting of the Ur Mage and Asmodeus playing chess together. The size and style of the painting is similar to those they found in the hallway before and this one could be the one that was missing from that area.
Un’Goro hung this painting up in that hallway and was presented with this chess situation and told it was his move:
The half-orc stared at it for a moment before moving white rook to take black knight, putting black into checkmate. As he did this, they were immediately transported to a real life chessboard and witnessed the black knight piece crumble to the ground.
The group all assumed roles of various chess pieces:
King – Tetsu-ko
Queen – Triton
Bishop – Un’Goro
Knight – Ravenclaw
Pawn – Quinvalur
And they had to battle the black pieces, but they were limited to melee attacks only. This put the wizard Quinvalur in a tough spot and he took a great deal of damage in this room. Triton pulled an alabaster mace off the wall and discovered it dealt maximum damage to the black pieces. The group defeats the black pieces and a portal that was behind the black knight lights up. The group entered and found themselves in the alchemical room.
Various golems work in this room, some turn items to gold and back to its normal state, some retrieve ore from below them, and another creates more golems. A scroll rack in the back contains various unknown commands for the golems when they are fed them. The group manages to get a silver key they found turned into gold. Which is good because they do find a gold door in this room. Un’Goro manages to get them to return the miniature gold pieces to normal sized (10k). Last they feed a scroll that makes all the golems attack. They make a hasty retreat to the next room.
This room is mostly underwater and Tetsu-ko shows off by running across the surface back and forth, retrieving items along the way, and even catching a glimpse of the map of the fortress.
Un’Goro uses water walk to get everyone to the next room. A round object embedded into the floor, under a layer of mucus is in this room but the group goes no further with it. Tetsu-ko mentioned that after she glimpsed the map, she realized that they forgot to check out the secret room behind the medusa.
A timer is set off and the group quickly makes it to their appropriate spot. A massive head of a djinn opens it mouth in scowl and Tetsu-ko jumps into the mouth and come up empty handed. But then throws up a magical lamp. Tetsu-ko is offered one wish: Wealth, Power, or Knowledge. She picks Knowledge and the Intelligence of everyone in the group goes up two points. Except Quinvalur who was already at 20.
Also in this room the group finds a secret passage to the inner circle of this fortress. however their is river of souls between them and the inner circle and they couldn’t find a landing place on the other side.
Beyond the chessboard room they group came to another area and found a basin of water that gave visions of this fortress. Everyone looked in and saw a vision:
Un’Goro – spotted someone cutting open the mouths of a undead to open the spellbook
Quinvalur – saw someone rolling dice in this room into a turtle shell bowl
Ravenclaw – saw someone placing a giant eye in a cyclops who had none before
Triton – saw someone step on the “Bahl” letter and get killed.
Tetsu-ko – I’m sure saw something but I can’t remember what it was.
The group pressed on and found an eye-less cyclops in the center of pillars. Someone had the idea that the round object covered in mucus might have been a giant eye so they returned to that room.
Sure enough, it is an eye and when they uncovered it they noticed it looked in three spots on the cobweb ceiling. Removing the cobwebs revealed 26 paintings of people. They could tell it looked at:
It spells out ASK. They group asked the question about where they could get the gold key. The answer was the cyclops.
The group returned to the room with the cyclops and Triton, empowered with resistance to lightning damage, entered the circle and gave the cyclops the eye. Lightning shot forward and encapsulated the doors, barring the exit. Un’Goro gouged out his own eye and they were allowed to leave the room.
In the next room in order to retrieve items, the group had to recreate how they had died so far in the fortress using dolls of themselves.
The next room was deadly. A void wraith was summoned into this room and it controlled a sphere of annihilation. Ravenclaw was nearly killed in the first round, and another was badly injured as well. Tetsu-ko banished the void wraith for one minute while they came up with a plan. A hand of Asmodeus juts out of the wall, as if beckoning for something. Reluctantly the group gives it the wand Tetsu-ko just used. The void wraith and the sphere reappeared and the hand uses the wand to destroy both, but everyone took a fair amount of damage as well.
Here a pool is filled with gems as the bottom and a large girallon sits at one end. Quinvalur dives in and grabs one and places it in the open hand of the girallon. The closed hand opens revealing five soul gems. Quinvalur tries to grab them all and earns the anger of the beast, killing the greedy wizard instantly. Triton retrieves equal gems for soul gems and gets them all, while the ghostly image of Quinvalur returns.
The group returned to the alchemical room and used the gold key from the cyclops to enter the inner ring. They came to an room with spirits produced armor and they spotted a way to get to the center of the fortress but it required making a jump over the river of swirling arcane magics.
Here Triton was able to use his knowledge from the field journal and his previous vision to see some of the steps to make and some to avoid. Ravenclaw deciphered the pattern that spelled out Ur Mage using the first letter of each name.
This room contained a chasm in the center with a magical rope hanging in mid air. The chasm is hundred of feet deep and you can hear choppy water far below. Tetsu-ko climbs down, nearly slips, but reaches the bottom. Her she see souls of the dead enter the gates of hell. Somehow she knows that a lever, just inside the gates, must be flipped for them to proceed further into the fortress. She gives an impassionate speech to the souls to flip the lever but to no avail. She decides to enter the gate of hell and do it herself. She dies.
Sure enough, a ghostly image of Tetsu-ko returns to the others and the sounds of chains lowering a drawbridge can be heard nearby. The group can now enter the center room or continue exploring the fortress.
The story continues in End of the Third Era.