A log of Arkisbaine’s travels.
With some searching and experimentation, we discovered that the large ring of standing stones were portals to pocket planes – each containing an identical ring. In no particular order, we found swampland, snow-covered mountains, heavy forest, plains, and one teeming with mindless undead.
Various creatures inhabited these small worlds. The forest, for example, seemed filled with dire animals. It was the first gate we had discovered, and Toulan attempted to sneak through the gate and peek at what was on the other side. He found himself looking upon a dire bear, which quickly sniffed him out. When he didn’t return as quickly as expected, we stepped through the gate ourselves and found him being wrapped up in a bear hug. We managed to rescue him, but I myself was brought low by the massive bear. I woke up in Elodie’s village and was told that several days had passed – I had died and been restored by the village priest.
Another encounter was with a great dinosaur that was hunting near the rings when we passed through. By this time, we already knew that one of the gates led to some abyssal grey rock without air or gravity. We tricked the creature through the gate to save ourselves.
Our main purpose, however, was to find the orc raiders that were troubling Elodie’s village. We soon discovered that they were at war with a foul cult of Vecna. The orcs sought to find the Eye of Vecna, a cursed relic of that lich, with which to grant more power to their god, Grumsh One-Eye. I have little qualm with letting these two evil cults fight to the death, but if there is any risk that Grumsh could truly find the eye, we must intervene. It would be more beneficial still, if we should be able to destroy the eye to arrest the power of this Vecna cult.
In our searching of the gates, we discovered that the Vecna cultists were using some of the pocket planes for living and worship. The orcs were aware of this, too, and sending raiding parties through the gates in search of the eye. On more than one occasion, we witnessed the orcs attacking cult outposts. We avoided the orcs for the most part once we knew their purpose, and since they seemed sure that the eye was with the cultists, focused on getting into the cultist places ourselves.
After a few small fights with cultists and their undead cohorts, we pressed our way into their main temple. We finally found a an entrance that showed no sign of use or obvious means of entry. Our halfing focused his being and delivered a series of powerful punches to demolish the door. We found ourselves confronted by an evil priestess and her golem servant. When our parlay came to naught, she set a mechanical trap in motion which locked us in a portion of the chamber and looked to slowly crush us. Ohlakanii, our ingenious bird, used a magic device to teleport us out of the trap and surrounding the priestess. The priestess, a mummy in fact, quickly perished in armed melee, and the golem was rendered inert.
Having learned the mechanical nature of the trapped chamber’s lifting floors, we uncovered a secret room wherein we found not the Eye, but the Hand of Vecna – an equally vile relic of the lich. We knew it to be evil by sight alone, and were loath to touch it. We wrapped it up and hid it away in a backpack, letting the stalwart Toulan carry it. He seemed to me to be of a temperment that wouldn’t be lured by its promise of power.
We decided that we could not bring the relic back to civilized lands, for fear that news of the relic might lead to attempts to steal it from us. Instead, we retreated to the den of a white dragon we had slain in the pocket plane with the wintry mountains. There, I crafted a shrine to my master of the north wind, beseeching him for guidance or aid in the destruction of the Hand. I was rewarded by a vision in which I was promised a guardian would appear to protect the hand while we sought out the eye. Once both were found, we were charged with destroying both relics.
It was said that the guardian would find us in due course, but our concern that agents of Vecna or other power-seekers might seek out the hand, made us feel that our isolated location was the best place to wait. We hid the hand away in the frozen cave and settled in. Days passed, however, and others of the group did not seem to share my patience. No one thought anything amiss when Toulan told us that he was going out of the cave, but when he did not return in due time, we grew concerned.
We decided to seek him out, but when we went to retrieve the hand that we might keep it safe with us, we found it missing. Our concerns raised, we followed Toulan’s tracks through the snow to a point where we found a great amount of blood. Our fear that Toulan was attacked were mixed with confusion that his tracks led back through the gate and in the direction of the nearest human town. In haste, we hurried after the halfling and caught him up within a few hours.
The poor halfling had obviously succumbed to the lure of the Hand. Despite his attempt to hide his wound beneath gloves, the bloody sleeve of his left arm left little doubt that he had cut off his left hand and replaced it with the relic. He could provide no excuse for his actions, and could only admit that he had taken the hand and fled. I could sense no evil in him, but we could not risk leaving the cursed item grafted to his wrist. Ohlakani bound him up with a spell, and I attempted to cleave the hand with my great sword. Two mighty swings could not manage the task, however, and Toulan broke free of the spell. He sought to run, and knowing his skill at hiding, and fearing what powers the hand might provide him, we couldn’t risk giving him any time. Alas, the three of us were forced to kill our friend.
Our experience with the Dire Bear, however, gave us hope for his return. We removed the hand from his wrist, and I took it under my protection. I blame myself for not taking the responsibility from the start. We returned to Port Kenboch and the Temple of Bahamut being built. There, we were able to secure the Hand in a vault that had been constructed for valuables, and the priestess was able to restore life to Toulan. I was sad to see that Toulan had been twisted to a dark path through his merger with the Hand, and we did our best to keep him restrained while we sought ways to cure his soul of the evil that now inhabited it.
On the evening of his awakening, Toulan sought to escape the temple. He broke free of his bonds, and in response to the commotion he caused, I roused the others and ran to his locked room. We found that he had smashed his way to freedom with a hole in the wall of his room. We gave chase into the streets of the city, where he used his magic to climb onto the roofs for his escape. We did not want to risk killing him again, and so were forced to let him flee.
Fearing that the Hand was not safe with Toulan loose in the city, we gathered it up and headed back towards the secluded ice cave. On our way, we were accosted by that which we feared – a band of Vecna cultists hunting down the hand. We quickly dispatched them, however, and made our escape. Not long after our return, although two weeks had passed since my vision, a great golden dragon arrived and vowed the safe guarding of the Hand. With that, we surrendered it up and left in search of the eye.
We returned to Elodie’s village and told them all that had transpired save for the Hand. It seemed likely that the threat to their village was at an end now that the Vecna cult no longer lured the orcs within proximity of it. In return, we learned that the orc raiders were coming from the north, over the mountains. We bought mounts and were granted a guide from the village to take us north towards the orcs.