Karlstadt wasn’t working out for the party. G’Nash didn’t want to be there at all, and Gresh didn’t like the crowded city conditions. Lythor and Cellestine were intrigued by the potential magic to be gained, but the party as a whole wasn’t too keen on sticking around to get to know The Seven. They stayed long enough for Cellestine to gain trust from The Reminder’s henchmen and thus gain a spell. The spell Generation Gap turned out to be not so useful, but the party was on the way out of town in any case.
They made their way north through another abandoned city, then on to a more populated one. The party was able to restock food and supplies there, to some extent, and spent the night. It was there that they learned a bit more about the Old Arch-Mage that lived in the area, Wilibald Schwartz. He apparently lived in a swamp far to the south.
So the party set out, heading south, off any known road. Through hills and swamps they journeyed, until ending up in Thungren, a small town of nervous peoples. The party needed time to heal up, after having a tough fight with some giant ants. They shacked up in an abandoned house. Planning to spend an extra day there. In town, Cellestine and Lythor figured they would entertain the locals by playing music. It was then that the threat came. It seemed a pack of thieves were running the scene in town, and they wanted the party to leave.
Lythor responded by putting three of the knaves to Sleep. These they tied up and dragged back to the house. Gresh and G’Nash interrogated the trio, killing one and employing the Skull, Zyklon to terrifying effect. The thieves spilled that the town was in the control of a dozen thieves, and that they had taken all of the children of the town captive. The youths were all being kept in a barn outside town.
Party members headed out to find this barn. Passing through the town of frightened peoples, they found the barn already set alight. A half-dozen thieves were pouring oil on the walls, building the flames. The party responded with violence, causing the thieves to flee. They broke into the burning barn, smashing through the walls, and began freeing the panicked children. One child far in the back was frozen in fear. Cellestine braved the falling, burning timbers and rescued the child.
The town was very thankful and created a plaque with the character’s names on it. “The Heroes of Thungren” rested the night in luxury and gained a henchman, half-way decent with a bow. From there the party headed west, toward the Great Swamp where the Wizard named Swartz lived.
They skirted away from Karlstadt, recognizing that the Bastillian army was probably already there. And made their way to the south side of the swamp. During camp, they were beset by a large pack of wild and hungry dogs. The dogs put up a fight, slaying the new henchman and biting deep into the others. Cellestine’s Sleep spell ended most of the threat, but party members were down and a lot of healing was needed. They waited an extra eight hours before pressing on into the Great Swamp.
Eventually the party came upon a path, leading north and east. They followed it north to a mound, surrounded with standing stones. This mound had a door, with a passage beyond. They avoided death by fire but then abruptly met the arch-mage, in the very stone passage.
Swartz was a very strange man, apparently a necromancer for all of his bone fetishes and claims of undead minions. He was happy to see the party and had a brief re-acquaintance with Zyklon, thinking the Skull was some kind of Lich. Zyklon, for his part, was non-plussed at meeting his old friend. Swartz had undergone a few changes over the last century, had lost his refinement and seemed a bit crazy. In any case, Swartz had a mission in mind for the party, something he was loathe to carry out on his own.
He asked the party to journey to an ancient set of caverns, on the backside of Goblin Hill. Swartz feared the coming of The Insect Goddess, a malign creature that ruled the world in eons past. The recent increase in insect activity and the opening of the fortifications on Goblin Hill gave him reason to believe that the vile Goddess was returning. As Swartz currently lived in what was once a shrine to the Insect Goddess, he knew that the Goddess would be none to happy with him if she did return. This knowledge aggravated him, but he knew the way to prevent the goddess from re-appearing. There was a ruby statue in the shape of an ant. If the statue was broken, then the Insect Goddess could never return to the world above. Swartz knew where the statue was, but more importantly, when.
Swartz entrusted the party with a scroll, the scroll contained a spell that would allow the party to briefly go back in time some 10,000 years, to a specific date. The party would have to be in the right place, described as a Sacrifice Chamber deep inside the Goblin Hill caverns, before casting the spell. After finding the chamber and the spell’s casting, the party would be in the same room as the Ruby Ant, and would be able to fetch it. Even broken, the rubies would be worth tens of thousands of Gold Pieces. Seemed a win-win situation.
The party set off to the north, met up with Rellim, their companion, and learned of the dark fate of Karlstadt. The Ranlilians of Bastillia had razed the city to the ground, slaughtering most of the city’s population. The smoke of a huge fire and the smell of death permeated the air. The party decided to avoid the wreckage of the city. They headed west, skirting the roads as possible and avoiding contact with people. Traveling through the wilds took longer but the party steadily made their way up to Goblin Hill.
It seemed that the Bastillians had gotten there first, laying siege to the “Re-Education Center” on the north side of the hill. As the caverns apparently had their entry on the south side, the party tried to avoid contact with the besiegers. Sadly they did encounter a scouting party, and slew them all, so they feared being sought out by the Bastillians.
After a surprisingly short search of the south side of Goblin Hill, the party discovered a hidden entrance to the ancient caverns beneath.