Part 1: Dark Sun Rising
The adventure began with a shimmering portal, a tempest of hot billowing sand, and the appearance of a one-armed man and a horrific creature that might best be described as a demonic, reptilian dog. Wasting no time, the group took action immediately. Parios and Silas moved to engage the creature at close range, while nimble Jillia kept her distance in order to use her reliable longbow. Despite the demonic appearance of the thing, Parios’ favored weapon, Lightbringer, had no extra effect despite its blessed enchantments. Silas ably wielded the Spider Staff, won in combat from the drow Black Spider, and did considerable damage, though the hellish beast seemed immune to the Staff’s poisonous magicks.
Wyn took time to stabilize the wounded stranger with a quick prayer of healing, and noticed that the man looked exactly like Silas. But the group had little time to wonder about this, when, once the first creature was dispatched, two more emerged from the portal to take its place. Drawing on his limited knowledge of arcane magic, Wyn attempted to learn more about the portal by taking a closer look, but failed at first. Silas, Jillia, and Parios remained steadfast in the fight, though Jillia was considerably wounded by a bite. Wyn kept working at the portal, and finally determined that a dispel magic spell would be needed to close it. Fortunately, the gnome Plankspanner arrived shortly thereafter, and managed to get the portal closed. The twin beasts were slain quickly, leaving behind an incredible mess of sand, wrecked tables, and the gruesome carnage of battle.
Silas’ double introduced himself as Silas of Tyr, and explained that he came from another world, Athas, a harsher, distant plane of existence with a dark sun. He came to the Realms in order to stop Iarno Albrek, also known as Glasstaff, from enacting a plan to consume the power of Faerun’s sun. The group recognized the name as being a wizard they had dealt with near Phandolin weeks earlier, but recalled seeing a man who might have been this alien Iarno in Neverwinter earlier that day. Parios grew a bit confused by all the talk of other worlds and duplicate people, and wanted to know which direction to point his greatsword. The otherworldly Silas told him that Iarno was near the distant village of Harken, some three days travel away. The villainous mage was using a solarium nestled in the mountains there as a focus for his destructive spell.
With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, the group readily agreed to help. Silas of Tyr opened a portal with the wave of his hand, giving the group a view of Iarno’s solarium, where a white-robed cleric was bound in chains. Detecting the magical intrusion, Iarno tuned to his foe, muttered a word, and shot a bolt at Silas of Tyr, disintegrating him into dust. Soon thereafter, a horrible, bull-like monstrosity with slavering jaws arrived through the portal. With its maker fallen, the portal then dissipated, leaving the party alone with the angry bull-thing. It tore up the bar even more, even shooting flames from between its horns at one point, but the group was able to dispatch it, though it was a hard fight. They nursed their wounds and discussed how to proceed in their new quest.
Part 2: Cowbane Begins
The obvious place to begin was the Arcane Emporium, where the other Iarno has been seen earlier. The group inquired of the merchant about the strange wizard, but learned little. They also checked in at the Temple of Selune, and an acolyte there verified that a priestess had been sent to the Harken area a few days before. After some discussion, it was decided that immediate transportation to Harken was needed. By trading in the golden breastplate found in Wave Echo Cave, the group was able to get teleported, ending up just outside Harken. The weather was incredibly cold, far worse than it should have been for the season. Inquiring around in Harken led the party to the home of a halfling farmer and his wife, who were the only people familiar with the solarium.
Travel by foot was cold and miserable, but thankfully the farm wasn’t very far outside of town. A group of circling buzzards led the group to what appeared to be the caravan with the missing priestess. Searching through the rubble, only frozen bodies were found, with no priestess to be seen. Strange, ice-covered arrows covered the area, as if they had been rained down from the sky itself. One survivor was located, and upon being healed, he revealed that the caravan had been attacked and the priestess taken. The party took the caravan guard with them as they journeyed toward the halfling’s home.
As the blizzard intensified, Jillia’s keen eyes spotted a towering figure near the halfling’s barn. Further inspection revealed the figure to be a dangerous frost giant, with cows slung over each shoulder, presumably to be used for his dinner. Jillia took the first shot at long range, enraging the giant. Parios ran up a tree, in order to set up something cool and exciting. Wyn used his flails to flick a flaming orb at the approaching giant, setting its clothes and the cows on fire. Just after Silas hit it with a burst of fiery soot, the giant hurled a flaming cow at Parios, knocking him out of the tree, and the man-sized elf landed with an ungraceful thump. Turned out it was indeed cool and exciting, but for the giant, not the luckless elf. As the battle was joined in close quarters, the frost giant proved to be a dangerous foe, dropping Parios unconscious despite his elven rage.
No sooner had the giant finally been slain when another cry across the snow-filled battlefield was heard: this frost giant had a mate, and she was furious! Knowing Parios was in no condition to engage a second giant, Wyn ran forward to hold the line, trusting in the overpowered nature of his defenses. For a time, the ploy worked, as Jillia and Silas showered the crazed female frost giant with arrows and magic from afar. But then, a couple of unlucky hits sent the overconfident paladin to the ground, bleeding. Parios went full on rage mode, and was able to take the she-giant down with three truly obscene attacks in one round.
The halfling and his wife had been watching the whole time, and were shocked that the group was willing to risk their lives to save a couple head of cattle. Though grateful enough to provide a warm dinner and a place to stay overnight, the halfling was unwilling to guide the party to the solarium. He warned of the dangers in the mountains, as well as the frigid conditions. Settling for a crudely drawn map, the party settled in for the evening, taking a well deserved rest.
Part 3: That’s No Bull
The next morning, despite the reservations of their host, the group departed for the solarium. Travel was fairly uneventful, though a crevasse barred their way for some time, until, after several failures, a nearby tree was felled and used as a bridge. A brief encounter with an adorable and incredibly lifelike fairy princess left the group feeling invigorated, and covered in sparkling fairy dust. At last, the final destination came into view: the dome of the solarium, with Iarno somewhere inside. Silas used charges from the Spider Staff to give each group member in turn the amazing capability to crawl up the dome walls like an insect, or an arachnid. Spotting a large crack in the dome, the group made their way inside.
The room they arrived in held several stone statues of knights in armor. Above the floor on one side was a balcony. There, looking down on the group, were Iarno and a dangerous looking man with a wicked longbow. With a gesture, Iarno animated the stone knights, and they moved to attack the party. The bowman nocked an arrow as Iarno walked away. The group was in a precarious position, with a trio of formidable opponents on the ground, and the threat of wicked arrows from above.
Parios drew upon his internal rage and worked himself into a frenzy of blinding speed. Jillia all but disappeared into the shadows before launching shots at the statues. Wyn called upon his patron goddess, Selune, asking for her blessing upon his friends, and then moved into the fray. The bowman, perhaps fearing Jillia’s ranged capabilities, shot her with a freezing arrow. The nimble elf was unable to avoid the attack, and was held in the icy grip of the arrow’s magic.
Realizing the danger that the bowman presented, Silas drew upon the mysterious energies of his master and cast a spell of darkness upon the archer. The spell was extremely potent, and the bowman appeared to have fled the combat. Without the threat from above, the statues were far less challenging, and were reduced to broken bits of rubble in short order.
With a sense of urgency, the group set off up a set of stairs nearby. Climbing to the top, they arrived at the upper layer of the solarium, with the dome stretched above them. Iarno stood beneath an arcane lens of some sort, which appeared to be channeling the light of the sun into his body. The priestess was chained to the device, pale and unconscious, her life force presumably powering the hideous spell. A giant, bull-like creature, like the one that had bent sent through Silas of Tyr’s portal in the bar, stood between the adventurers and their opponent. With a mighty charge, it rushed at Parios. His man-sized elven muscles strained mightily, but the barbarian managed to hold the bull-thing to a standstill. Jillia wisely chose to aim her attacks at the lens, which cracked more and more at the force of each arrow. Silas and Wyn, ever the good raid members, assisted the tank Parios in taking down the bull-like monstrosity, leaving only Iarno himself.
The wizard, angered at the interference, let loose spell after spell, ranging from mundane spells like magic missile and burning hands to more unique, and more powerful incantations. At one point, Iarno caused bright flashes of searing light to sweep over the room, dealing serious damage even to those who were only glancingly hit. The wizard was quite powerful, and managed to drop Parios with a final spell, but the combined might of Jillia’s arrows and Silas’ staff attacks was too much for the otherworldly mage to overcome, even despite Wyn’s incompetence. The priestess was freed, both Faerun and Athas were saved, and the day was won.