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First Night Edit

The gang had gathered together at the Oplidrome for the regular game. This week was Max’s turn, and he seemed pretty excited to unveil a new map. Sam, Erin, Greg, Paul, Maggey and Dave sat around the table, while Max handed out character sheets and made sure everyone had pencils and dice.  The map was rolled up in the middle of the table.

Max stepped back into the kitchen for a beer and was saddled with requests for a few more. As he rummaged around for suitable drinks, Dave and Paul were looking at the rolled up map with curiosity. They reached out and started to unroll the heavy paper.

“Musta shelled out a bit to have that printed,” Sam mused, well familiar with exorbitant printing costs. The map was in full color and close to three feet long. It depicted a full world, with multiple jagged continents and a system of oceans and seas dotted with islands.

Maggey look at the one of the islands suspiciously – some trick of printing made the island seem to glow in the dim light of the room. Looking up she asked, “what happened to the lights?”

Erin looked out the south window over the park, “woah – the storm is really picking up. It’s almost black out there.”

Greg nodded, “The lightning is heading this way too. That last strike was pretty clo-”

*KA-ZAK!*
The whole room was engulfed with blue-white light and the sound of the air shredding apart.

Max sprinted back into the room as thunder rocked the house and the power failed, “guys! What was...” Three beer bottles clattered to the floor as Max stood in stunned amazement. Where his friends had sat there was nothing but empty space and swiftly fading motes of blue-white light, and a bright blue glow coming from a small island on the map.

“Holy shit.”

Enter Daera Edit

As the light and pressure built, Sam, Erin, Paul, Greg, Maggey and Dave each experienced the dizzying feeling of being stretched through multiple layers of reality. The sensation was not unlike how traveling through a stargate looks like it feels, but with a lot more confused screaming and barely-contained nausea.

The whirling light and dizziness suddenly receded with the sound of fading thunder, and the six friends found themselves standing together in a strange and massive room. It was circular, like the inside of a tower, and the walls seemed to be made of some sort of soft gray river stone, smooth and twisting upward in vaguely hexagonal whorl. The air smelled faintly of ozone and lavender – a decidedly odd combination.

The chamber itself was about forty feet in diameter, and Paul noticed on one wall a half-dozen semi-circular cubbies cut into the wall that seemed to each contain a nice leather backpack with a sphere of white light hanging about it. It was the same kind of soft light that illuminated the whole cavernous room, though there were no other obvious sources of light.

Maggey was the first recover, “okay… so what just happened to us?”

Dave muttered something about this whole thing being pretty suspiciously similar to the beginning of Erfworld.

Just as their feelings of fear and panic began to be replaced in full by deep-seated confusion, the walls spoke.

“I am sorry for bringing you here.” The voice, androgynous and ageless, sounded remorseful with a hint of exhaustion.

Erin gave the room a sharp look of reproach, while Sam and Paul settled into defensive stances.

“Who are you, and where is here?” Maggey asked, taking a step toward the wall with the cubbies.

“I was known as Kela the Guardian and this is my tower. I have brought you to my planet, a world called Daera,” the voice replied. It seemed to have great depth, like speaking to an ocean or a mountain.

“Are you a god?” asked Greg, only partially kidding.

The voice called Kela genuinely laughed, “No – there are misguided beings of this world that think of themselves as gods, but I am not one of them. Do not believe anything that calls itself such. They are pretenders.”

Paul gave the high-vaulted ceiling of the room a dubious look, “So… you brought us here, and you’re sad about it and everything, I’m assuming you need something from us. What is it and why can’t you do it yourself?”

The walls seemed to draw into themselves a bit before Kela replied, “Many years ago, I was assassinated and my sister Fetae trapped my soul in my tower, then imprisoned me below the mountain where my tower used to stand. I am only dimly aware of what goes on in the rest of the world, and am powerless to affect it. I need to free myself from this curse and reform my body so that I can start to undo the damage done by Fetae. I called you here because I need someone to gather the five keys to undo the spell.”

“And you couldn’t call on someone from your own world?” Sam asked.

“No, I was able to use my dimensional pool to reach across spacetime, but I don’t have anything within my tower that can reach laterally across my world, or even pinpoint any suitable minds for the task,” Kela sounded a little more tired.

“Well, can’t you try again? We’re not exactly world-class treasure hunters.  Why don’t you go pick up some special forces or something?” asked Erin.

“Daera is what you would call a ‘fantasy world’. It follows rules and structures consistent with the games you play. I needed someone with the knowledge to understand this world.”

“And we’re the best you could find?”

“You were the best available option, yes.”

"That's fucked up."

"Yes."

As the gang continued their dialogue with Kela, they learned the following:

Kela’s tower used to look out over the world from the top of Mount Reikol, It now lies over 500 feet below the peak of Mount Reikol, with no trace of it on the top except for a the faint remnants of the path that used to lead there.  This happened twelve hours after Kela’s body was destroyed and her essence was infused in her tower.

According to Kela, a great power called Fetae sent a powerful assassin to slay her.  The assassin, a creature known as Hadrun, was successful, but was in turn slain by the magic released in Kela’s death.  Fetae is said to have then completed a ritual that bound Kela’s spiritual energy into the tower, preventing Kela’s spirit from escaping or reincorporating.   Well over 5000 years have passed since then.  Many of the short-lived races will likely have forgotten Kela, or know the name only in legend.  Elves, dragons, and some giants will remember Kela.

Kela tells that the rivalry with Fetae has gone on for eons.  Kela thinks of herself as a female, and says that her sister, Fetae and she were one of the first living creatures to gain sentience on the planet. The two sisters were originally some kind of reptile, which she calls Sarrush, and through some mutation or natural magic, were never able to die by old age. In time the two learned magic and changed themselves into the form of various dominant creatures of the world, taking new forms in new ages.  For thousands of years, they have appeared as many-hued dragons: Kela metallic and Fetae chromatic.

To hear Kela tell it, the rivalry between the sisters began as the elves were rising as powers in the world, tens of thousands of years ago.  Apart from the sisters, the Sarrush species died out some thirty thousand years ago, done in by low fertility and a war with servants of Chaos. The two Sarrush wished for the elves to protect the world against Chaos, but it was not in the elves makeup to be bound to ideology.

Instead, Kela decided to guide the elves to greater power, helping them to learn to harness magic and taught a philosophy of coexistence and mutual defense that would serve to stir the elves to action against the forces of Chaos and other supernatural threats to the world. Fetae, for her part sought to turn one of the elven kingdoms into a military state that would serve as the bulwark against invasion from the outer planes. First her philosophy, and then Fetae herself was rejected by the elves.  Fetae fought against them, trying to impress her designs on the elven people with naked force, but with Kela on their side, the elves repulsed Fetae and wove a powerful ritual of protection against her.

This was the ultimate insult to Fetae, and she has forever considered the elves an enemy to the cause, and with them, Kela. Fetae found the Goblins much more willing pawns, and from them Fetae was able to raise up Hobgoblins and Bugbears into dominators of goblinkind that would in turn serve her will.

Kela tells the characters that due to her imprisonment, Fetae has been able to tip the balance of the world such that the elves are now dying out. The fair folk are long-lived but not immortal, and they are constantly under attack from the goblin kingdoms. She knows that there are five keys which, when assembled and brought to the tower, will free Kela from her prison and allow her to recreate her body.

Kela is certain that one of these keys is held by the elves, and at least one is definitely held in the goblin lands. As for the rest, she has no idea, but again, the elves and dragons may remember. The keys are most certainly not in the form that they were in on the moment of her imprisonment, so they will have to do some investigating.

Once Kela is able to reform herself, she will be able to send the humans home, and promises to do that and more if they are able to restore her.

The lights in the room brighten on the cubbies with backpacks. Kela says, “The packs and their contents are yours to keep. Touch the lights and be empowered with the strength you’ll need to survive in this world.”

Dave was the first to pick up a backpack, sling it on, and then touch the white orb of light. As he touched it, the light suddenly shimmered and poured into his eyes, while a portion of the radiance was transformed into a shockingly ugly hat. Gleefully, Dave reached inside the hat and pulled out a book and an odd-smelling cloth pouch. Plopping the hat on his head, he grinned with satisfaction.

Satisfied that Dave didn’t explode, Maggey followed his lead, pulling a thick, beautiful book from the light. Again with the light in the eyes thing. Maggey blinked several times, “woah.”

One by one, took an item from the light and absorbed whatever power the light represented.

Paul received a pair of vambraces, and as the white light was absorbed into his eyes, he looked at his hands with a gleeful cackle as the tips of his fingers were limned with fire.

Erin pulled free an exotic glass flower and breathed deeply as she absorbed the light.

Sam received a heavy ring, and when he put it on and fiddled with it, the metal of the ring flowed out over him, turning into an impressive suit of heavy medieval armor.

Greg reached out, as and he made contact, tattoos flowed over his arms and legs. The symbols and creatures inscribed on his skin glowed with power for a moment and then faded to look like normal ink. He asked, “are you guys D&D characters now too?”

They thought about it for a second, and Dave nodded, “yeah, pretty much.”

“Alright then.”

Paul just kept laughing to himself.

Inside the packs, each found a suit of padded armor, a dagger, some rope, rations and a strange silver box.

The voice spoke, “I know that people from your world are very concerned about hygiene. That box should take care of cleanliness for you.

“Now, about your quest.  I need you to go out into the world and return the five ritual keys to me. I know very little about them, but the elves should have some knowledge, at least as to what they are and where you might find one.”

“And in return for the keys?” Paul asked.

“I can send you home.”

The group looked somewhat disappointed. Paul responded, “I hope you can come up with something better than that by the time we return – what if we decide we don’t want to go home?”

“I shall consider alternative suggestions – once I am whole, there will be much I can provide you with.”

Erin had to ask, “how do we know you’re telling the truth and that you’re the good sister?”

“You don’t, yet. But talk to those who remember me. I was know as Kela the Guardian.”

Sam nodded, “Good enough for now.  Now how do we get out of here and go find those keys?”

The lights of the sunken tower focused on a wide crack in the wall, “There was an explosion outside my tower about a century ago – it felt like a botched mining operation.  I can feel air traveling back and forth – that crack will lead to the outside. Follow it, and return to me, heroes.”

The group held a quick conference.

“This is nuts, but what the hell, right?”

“Are we all good with this?”

“Eh, seems like fun. If we die, we’ll probably just wake up, right?”

“If you die here, your soul will be trapped on the astral plane surrounding Daera until it can find a way back to your own dimension. Luckily, there are resurrection spells. I trust you are familiar with the process?”

“Hmm… shit.”

“Let’s do it anyway. It’ll be fun.”

“Okay. Yeah. We’re doing this.”

And so the adventure began. Edit

The Earthlings crawled their way through a cramped tunnel, following the original directions of the sentient underground tower, Kela.  Sam went first, with his armor making a bit of a racket, while Paul went next with a magically conjured light. Apart from Sam, they were all wearing their padded armor, which had the benefit of keeping their knees from getting scraped up on the rough and uneven tunnel floor.

After several minutes, Sam came to a four-foot high pile of rocks blocking their path.  With a bit of pushing and heaving, the rocks gave way to a cave that was about fifteen feet in diameter and a comfortable ten feet tall. Looking around there were markings in red paint (Paul checked and made sure it was paint and not something else) on the wall and some serious scorch marks all over the cave. It smelled faintly like gunpowder, and at the opposite end was a rotten wooden frame that looked like it had been a doorway at some point, except the door itself had been shattered outward. Bits and pieces of wood and rusty metal littered the floor.

“So, mining operation?”

“Yeah, looks like they used too much boom and not enough brain.”

“This wood is really old though – it’s totally rotten though,” Erin poked at the door frame and peered out into the darkness of the tunnel beyond.

Past the doorway, the tunnel was still natural, but much more spacious than before. With a mix of curiosity and trepidation they ventured forth, with heavily armored Sam in the lead and Paul following with the light source. They came to more rotted beams in the tunnel, signifying what was once a doorway. The group went inside to find a side cave some twenty feet in diameter and maybe ten feet tall. Inside this room was the blasted apart remains of a table and chairs and what looked like six humanoid skeletons.

The skeletons were of something that looked like a monkey, maybe three feet tall with a wide, flat skull. Sam was immediately able to tell that the creatures were definitely not monkeys, however – the pelvis and shoulders were narrow and the arm bones were human-like in proportion. This creature would have been fast for its size and good at running away.

From the looks of it, the creatures had been killed by the concussion blast of whatever powder keg blew up the first room. The rest of the skeleton’s cave looked like the creature’s base of operations. There was a bunch of rusted and broken stuff in a state of uselessness. The one thing they were able to salvage was a wrapped set of fuses, though the six surviving fuses were definitely delicate.

The group set out once more, and within less than five minutes, Sam found himself face to face with an absolutely enormous scorpion! The thing was at least the size of a large SUV, and by its unfriendly display, seemed very unhappy to see them.

With a yell, Sam rushed forward and sank his dagger into the creature’s face! There was a lot of yelling, actually. The creature made an insectoid shrieking noise, Dave and Maggey yelled and attacked with their own knives, Paul cast a spell, and unable to see much of what was going on, Erin and Greg shouted words of caution and encouragement from back in the tunnel. The scorpion battered Sam around, smashed Dave in the shins with its claws, and twice missed impaling Maggey and Sam by scant inches, but eventually their combined frantic stabbing and spellcasting brought the humongous thing down into a twitching mess. Sam looked at his dagger with new respect. Dave, remembering something fun about scorpions from back in Arizona, carefully cut free the scorpion’s poison gland and stuffed the cantelope-sized thing into his hat.

For several more minutes they explored twisting tunnels and empty caves blocked by rotting doors, and then suddenly Sam spotted what looked like a transparent, glistening wall up ahead, just at the edge of Paul’s light. The wall subtly slid forward at less than a snail's pace. With horror, Sam called for a retreat – it was a gelatinous cube!

They ran back down the tunnels at full speed. No one wanted to be paralyzed and suspended in Jell-o while being disintegrated in front of their long-time friends. Maybe it was the pain, maybe it was the potential for embarrassment, but the risk just wasn’t worth it.

They realized that the gelatinous cube would be distracted by the smell of flesh, and so, working as a team, they dragged the scorpion carcass out into the tunnel, sawing off a few legs to make it so the creature would fit.  Then they deposited the carcass in a side-branch of the tunnel, while dragging some of the legs up ahead as a lure.

Luckily, the cube took the bait! While it slurped itself over the scorpion’s body, the group sprinted ahead, confident that they could outrun the creature.

Later in the caves, they opened a rotting doorway to find a room full of holes in the cave wall – and a giant worm-missile leaping straight at Sam! The worm-missile thing was on fire and burned like hell, but luckily, Sam’s armor took the brunt of the impact. It made a series of noises and there was another similar creature that was poking its head out of a hole in the wall.

Paul actually understood the creatures, and heard it say, “Danger! Bipeds have returned! Get help! I’ll fight!”

Paul quickly stepped in ahead of Sam with his arms upraised in peace, “Woah guys,” he said in the worm-things’ language we’re cool. We’re just trying to get out of here alive. Sorry for bothering you.”

Quickly, Paul established a peaceful collection with the strange beings, which seemed to be some sort of wormy fire elemental. Paul also added that they should be on the lookout for a giant cube made of jelly, because the thing had been talking crap about fire creatures and was generally an arrogant sonuvabitch. The worm things let them go without further hostility, and vowed to teach the jelly cube a lesson if they saw it.

Several more hours of cave exploring went by. Some of the side-caves they found had signs of past occupation – old chairs, a rotted desk, a butcher’s cleaver made for child-sized hands. They managed to find a box of gold nuggets and a few other small valuables. In one cave, Dave cast a ‘detect magic’ spell, and suddenly noticed a ping of magic at the far end of the cave. Curiously, he went to look in what appeared to be a natural vent-tube, and came face-to-face with a rat that squeeked when it saw him, and ran away up the vent tube, quickly retreating out of reach and out of sight.

Too late, Dave realized that he could have made the rat his familiar, if the others would have consented to waiting 24 hours for him to perform a ritual.

Eventually, they ran into more of the fire-worms, and Paul talked these guys into being cool as well. The fire worms were simple-minded and easily satisfied with kind words.

Finally, at long last, they came to the end of the cave system, exiting through a mostly-collapsed cave mouth that took a bit of a squeeze for the guys to fit through.

It was night outside, and they were high up on a mountain slope, looking down at what seemed to be a small island formed where the mountain had thrust up out of the water ages ago. The moonlight illuminated some of the ocean, far away, and down the slope to what they were guessing was the east, were the fires of a village or camp.

High above, next to the moon, was a tiny spot of light that looked like a second, miniature moon, and down near the horizon was a third, also small, and darker in color. They were most definitely in a whole new world.

Continue to Session 2

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