4th Neth, 4710. The City of Lepidstadt , North-West Ustalav:
As Rastomir, Vlad , Herod and Vlad’s Thralls surveyed the empty city, an eruption of magical energy ascended skyward in a pillar of light that slowly expanded into a 75ft tall by 35ft wide gateway. Investigating from a safe distance, the two Deathless watched as scores upon scores of people wandered through the portal, traversing dimensions from a dark and foreboding place that they left behind them. Scores become hundreds who become thousands, and it soon became apparent that the missing citizenry of Lepidstadt were returning from where they had been relocated.
Vlad descended upon the people in secret, controlling one and luring him away to discover they were indeed the people of Lepidstadt, who had been magiced to the city of Shadow Absalom in the Shadow Plane. He learned that they had found themselves taken there unwillingly and that the “Mad Wizard” had, with the help of a “Dark Stranger”, assaulted the centre of power in the city; a Shadow Citadel. Though just a commoner, the man knew little of the details, so Vlad moved on to a member of the ruling council of the city, and discovered that “The Mad Wizard” was in fact Ahrmin Zakolov, and that he had captured the ruler of Shadow Absalom – Argrinyxia – who was later freed by The Deathless.
At this point, at the end of the precession of returning dimensional refugees, Victor, Gregor “the Butcher” Romavitch, Ursk Rathar and Alexandria Zakolov came through the portal. With them was The Wizard Ahrmin Zakolov, Ursk’s companion Faeona Yllyaries and even Gregor’s presumed dead wife, Rosalee Romavitch. As the portal closed behind them, the group met up and Rastomir introduced Herod to his fellows while Rosalee recounted the fact she, too, was Deathless. While she did this and explained everything she knew about the other Deathless – Agnir, , and The Nightwalker. She pointed out that the tenth Deathless, one who possessed the Bodak-Aspect was unknown to her.
Between them, Gregor, Rosalee, Alexandria and Ursk explained what had happened; about how The Nightwalker had somehow influenced Zakalov and forced him to create both the Deathless and to try to slay the Umbral Dragon and leader of Shadow Absalom, Argrinyxia. While they explained that Zhakalov was beginning to return to normal the longer he remained away from The Nightwalker, Victor was lured away from the group by a mysterious Human man, who he would shortly learn was known as Stoalis Longthorne. Stoalis had some revelations to reveal to Victor, surrounding the fate of the lost God, Aroden and the possible connection with The Deathless.
Preferring his colleagues to be privy to the information, Victor and Stoalis returned to them and, while Alexandria took her father to recuperate at within the walls of Lepidstadt University, the others retired to Ursk’s magically-shielded abode (A Mage’s Magnificent Mansion built into a pendant) and Stolais, revealing a copy of The Starfall Doctrine, showed how he had used a cypher of his own design to unlock hidden code within the text. There were many, and not all of them relevant, but he shared with the group the ones he thought they might be interested to hear about. They read:
Know that Aroden is not truly dead, only not walking among the light.
Those who would see Our Lord brought low exist in light as well as shadow.
Where Aroden resides, no living soul may enter. Only the dead may seek his wise counsel.
Far north of where the Star fell, in the land of Shadows and Graves, Our Lords awaits where the wild trees grow, under the greatest leaf and the widest bough, near to where the moon lies reflected in still waters.
The Man of Shadow will meet him, learn from him, and through the impossible will repulse the Starkiller. and
The Last Azlanti and The Man of Shadow must meet, or all life – and unlife – will end.
Stoalis was keen to go, and explained to them he had been following them for over a week, but lost them when they entered the portal. He asked for their help as there was the potential that one of the greatest mysteries of the modern age – what happened to the God Aroden – could be answered and, openly being a worshipper of Aroden himself, Stoalis pointed out the obvious connection between Victor and “The Man of Shadow” mentioned in the text, as well as the fact “only the dead” would be able to reach the God.
The group debated. Victor wished to help Stoalis. Gregor was primarily concerned with the safety of Alexandria and Zakalov, but also pointed out the potential danger that whatever “The Starkiller” was could bring. Rastomir and Vlad wanted to travel to Gallowspire to collect armaments for the possible challenges ahead. Ursk, happy to do whatever was decided upon so long as the possibility of battle entered the situation somewhere, remained neutral.
Stoalis said he had discovered the area mentioned in the writings, but could not again acess to it – a large, seemingly dead tree in The Mainsnarl Wood, near Lake Lias, there in Ustalav. Saying he could show the group where it was, he was open about the fact he would need the group’s assistance to access it.
When the group discussed what to do in front of Alexandria and Zakalov, even the slightest mention of Gallowspire flew the old wizard into a rage, so Rastomir and Vlad decided to go there on their own and meet the rest of the group back in The Village of Dharnic which was not too far from Maidensnarl Wood.
While Vlad and Rastomir teleported to Gallowspire, the rest of the group travelled to Dharnic Village where they found that not only had the town been ransacked, but that a mysterious statue had appeared. Though nothing usual about the statue itself, Zakalov identified a cube held in its hand as “The Cube of De’Marchant”, a teleportation artefact that allowed instant, precise travel to whomever was attuned to it. Unclear of why it was there or how it had arrived, Zakalov cleared it of being non-dangerous in and of itself, and also said he would rather spend a week or two recuperating at his tower. Alexandria and the rest of the group were not too sure about that, armed with the knowledge that Tar-Baphon may once again be on the rise, so they managed to convince the wizard to travel with them and Stoalis to the place he referred to as The Tree of Sorrows in Maidensnarl Woods.
Gregor sent a magical message via raven to Rastomir and Vlad who, shortly after the Lich, Shadow and Graveknight left Dharnic, relayed to the Vampire and Wraith that the group had gone on ahead and would await them at The Tree.
Arriving a few moments before, Stoalis and his group found the tree and entered a chamber beneath it, and located an impassable wall – at least to those alive among them. Testing it, Victor found he could pass right through without any problems. Rather than travelling in unprepared, they waited for Vlad and Rastomir to join them before pressing forward.
Leaving Zakalov, Alexandria, Faeona, Herod, Rosalee and Stoalis behind, Gregor, Rastomir, Victor, Vlad and Ursk traversed the wall and into the stone chamber beyond. Following it a short distance, they found a large empty chamber which housed a suspected green crystal, approximately six feet in height, suspended a couple of feet magically above the floor. After seeing something in the crystal that the others did not, Victor sprung forward just as a Gristly Demonand materialised in front of him, and three Tarry Demonand behind him, separating him from the others.
After a heated battle the group were able to despatch two of the three Tarry Demodand, and the third vanished as the Gristly Demodand was finally slain. At the same time the green crystal shattered and, with an semi-invisible pulse of powerful magical energies, the God Aroden was released back into the world of Golarion…