Two titans embraced, locked before a ring
Then the stone is sundered and forth the powers bring
Upon the sign the bearer must decide
To call upon the powers and cast them both aside
Tenser’s magical mirror to see if they could locate Tovag Baragu. At first the band had no success. So they tied to scry on an area not far from the ancient Stone Circles and eventually located a place about 10 miles from the site. This was an area known as the Dry Steppes and consisted of vast stretches of prairie where rainfall was scarce and few rivers flowed. Once the area was well watered and fertile, forming the homelands of the Baklunish Padishahs and Sultans, but it was destroyed by the Invoked Devastation in the war with the Suloise. Here, in the central portion of the steppes the land was still pleasant and rich, and it was rumored to be home to large hordes of Baklunish nomads that still roamed the area under the rulership of various khans. But from what the band could see through the mirror, the fearsome tribes of the steppes, so often mentioned in explorers’ texts, were strangely absent. So the band, seeing no visible threats anywhere nearby, stepped through the portal formed by the magic mirror and entered a distant land where the air was uncomfortably hot and dry.At this point, the band used various means, both magical and non-magical, to fly over the land in the direction of Tovag Baragu. For most of the way, they encountered no obstacles and no signs of intelligent life. But when they got to about 3 miles away from the Stone Circles they came upon hundreds of Baklunish tribesmen. These nomads had camped around the Stone Circles completely surrounding them on all sides except where they touched the salt flats on the southwest side where a large lake once existed. Unsure of how to proceed from here, the band decided to land, so as not to draw a lot of attention to themselves, and approached the nomads. When they drew near to the nomads, Nero and Alavarius tried to greet them in a friendly manner. But the nomads did not respond other than to glare at them with stone cold expressions and step to one side, is if the band had been expected. Realizing they would probably not get much information from the nomads, the band continued to walk towards the Stone Circles and as they passed by, the nomads parted and made no effort to challenge them. Instead, whole families looked toward Tovag Baragu, expectantly waiting for something. The area was strangely quiet with only occasional whinnies from the nomads’ horses breaking the silence. When the band got to within 1,000 yards of the Stone Circles, they saw a figure standing at the very center of the rings. It appeared to be human and it sometimes moved to one of the arches only to resume its position at the center of the ruin. At 500 yards, the band was reasonably certain that the figure was Turim Varostak, the manifestation of Vecna. But at this point, he gave no indication of having seen the band. The air shimmered between several of the arches. Shadowy movements could be seen through these, but it was impossible to make out any details. At 100 yards, the band was certain that the figure was Turim, and unlike the old sailor they knew before, this Turim, while once-again one-legged, was very energetic and vital. He no longer stooped and moved about the center of the circle with speed and grace. But he still gave no indication that he had noticed the band’s arrival, as he was busily engaged in some other activity. Between the arches, more detail was now evident. There were five different scenes visible. Three showed moving figures, one of them a large mass of bodies. The fourth was black with shimmering spots of light. The fifth scene was a greasy dull gray, unrelieved by any features save an occasional change in hue. At this point, the band stopped and made their final plans. Despite the desire to try and take him by surprise and attack him, something that was deemed as a hopeless plan of action, they decided to approach him and speak with him and see if Vecna would indeed reward them with power that they could hopefully use against him. But just to be on the safe side, they decided to cast several preparatory spells on themselves now and even came up with a contingency plan if they decided to run. All the while, Kieranen was carrying the Sword of Kas, and he could feel the sword’s powerful desire to destroy Vecna. So he kept it ready should it be needed. When the band felt they were as ready as they could be, they continued to approach the Stone Circles. The outer most ring was about 900 feet in diameter, so as they stepped up next to the outer ring, they were about 450 feet away from Turim. There was a sort paved roadway leading to the center of the rings which the band followed along, and as they passed by the first ring of the circle, some members of the band seemed to become aware of a subtle shift in their surroundings. But looking about they could see nothing different either within the circle or outside. As the band drew closer to Turim and the center of the rings, they could make out some of the details of the five scenes that appeared within the arches as if they were windows looking out into other worlds. The scene nearest to them and to their right seemed to show the strange land of an empire of a much older age. The people there dressed in clothing that had long since been outdated, with garments that at the time were seen only in tomb paintings and ancient statues. Racially the people had an appearance of ancient Keolanders, before the influx of the Suloise. Other clues also seemed to support the antiquity of the scene such as chariots, bronze weapons, and strange races mingled with the predominant Flan. The second scene, moving counter-clockwise from there, showed a city that was grim and filthy. The streets were filled with goblins and orcs. Skulls seemed to the predominant motif in architecture and decoration. To Alavarius, this scene looked much like how he envisioned the capital city of Iuz, Dorakaa, to be. The third scene showed another city of ancient design, lit by the moons, stars and torchlight. It rose up over the shore of a gently lapping lake. Ships bobbed along the shore and occasionally flying creatures moved across the sky. From its architectural style and its position by the lake, Alavarius presumed this scene to be showing the former capital of the great Baklunish empire which once stood in the exact spot where the Stone Circles were now located before the Invoked Devastation destroyed it. The fourth scene, which was only now becoming more visible as the band approached, showed the remains of an ancient palace, now shattered and broken. The destruction could only have occurred just moments before, since rubble was still crumbling away and people were running in confusion. Even in its destruction, the palace looked both majestic and corrupt. The fifth scene, which was just to the left of the band as they approached, looked out over a gray and gloomy expanse. At first it appeared featureless, but upon closer inspection, the dim outline of a massive skull could be seen in the distance. In all there were five rings of the Stone Circles, each set around the others in a concentric pattern. And as the band continued to approach and pass through each of these rings, Turim still appeared to ignore the presence of the band as it now became obvious that he was actively engage in some ritual and somehow manipulating these windows that looked into these other worlds. By now, the Sword of Kas was practically screaming within the mind of Kieranen to destroy Vecna, and it was all Kieranen could do to keep from going berserk and running at Turim to take a swing at him. To increase its chance for success, the sword revealed to Kieranen some of its abilities, which included increasing his strength and casting a shield spell around him, which it did. Kieranen had also discovered by this point, that the Sword of Kas was a bloodthirsty sword and it had been far too long since it last fed. Though Kieranen fought the sword with every last once of willpower he had, while at the same time trying not let his companions become aware of the struggle he was going through, some of his companions began to notice the strained look on his face and the bead of sweat running down the side of his face. Kieranen realized that eventually his willpower would give out on him and at that point the sword would take control of him – it was only a question of when. However, when the band had passed through four of the rings and got to within 60 feet of Turim, Kieranen felt his strength suddenly returned to normal, though the Sword of Kas still urged him on. The band continued moving towards Turim and about 40 feet from him the band reached the fifth and inner most ring. Here they paused, certain that Turim had to be aware of their presence by now. But still the manifestation of Vecna chose to ignore them, and instead seemed to be concentrating on one of the five scenes set around him. The band waited for a moment expecting Turim to stop what he was doing and address them – but he never did. So, after a moment of awkward silence, Nero finally spoke up and said, “Turim, or shall I call you Vecna? We have come to collect our promised reward. You told us that you would make us great and powerful over all of the Flanaess.” At this point, Turim did stop what he was doing, and turned towards the band to speak to them. But before he got a word out, Kieranen suddenly let out a scream, raised up the Sword of Kas and charged at Turim. But Turim seemed somehow to be expecting this and when Kieranen reached him and before he could swing his sword, Turim lurched towards the elf, reached out his hand and touched him. Kiernan instantly went ridged and fell to the ground paralyzed, while the Sword of Kas slipped from his grasp. Then Turim quickly shot a menacing look at the rest of the band and a familiar wave of awe washed over them leaving them dazed and unable to act. Realizing the futility of trying to fight a being that powerful, the rest of the band just stood there in stunned silence. But, ignoring the elven warrior that now lay sprawled on the ground at his feet, Turim spoke up and said, “So you have decided to accept my offer. I promised to reward you and I will.” Turim then paused with an evil smile on his face. “I will make any one of you my right hand, my voice on Oerth. Soon, when my worshipers step through from the past, I will be the greatest of all gods. Istus, Incabulos, and the others will be nothing next to Vecna. Join me and you will be more powerful than you can imagine. If you want this, all you need do is one simple thing. Kill your friends. Do this and ultimate power is yours.” Nero responded by saying, “But you promised to reward us all.” To which, Turim answered, “I made no such promise. Do you think you can haggle with one as powerful as I? You have heard my offer. Now you must decide whether or not to accept it.” Nero then glanced at his companions, and for just a moment, looked as if he was seriously considering taking Turim up on his offer. Nicholas and Dravos then shot Nero a very stern look and almost in unison responded by telling Turim that he can take his offer and go to hell with it. So Turim looked at Nero once again as if to ask him for his final answer. And though it took longer for Nero to respond, he shook his head and said, “No deal. I too must decline your offer.” “That is unfortunate,” Turim said. “In that case, I no longer have any need for you. And since you have refused me, it is you who can now join Kas in eternal hell!” And with that, Turim waved his hand and suddenly the Righteous Vanguard, along with the Sword of Kas, was hurled through one of the windows, which in reality was a portal to another world. It was the gray and gloomy realm with the massive skull in the distance.
Do not despair. There is more to come.