Beyond the angel’s portal lay a mist-covered jungle. As the Champions set off to explore it, they heard a voice in the distance, whispering to them over the buzz of insects and the rustling of wind through vine-covered branches:
“Inner conflict can defeat a soldier more quickly than an army.”
“What good is his blade without his breath?”
“Your friend’s very thoughts are stained with guilt.”
“A single fear can unleash a torrent of nightmares.”
“Any fool who would die for honor is better off dead.”
“His headstone is the last page in the book of his life.”
Erdanen demanded that the speaker show himself, but only laughter was heard. Just a few paces ahead, the party came upon a clearing and saw Jett, waist-deep in quicksand. Wracked with fear and grief, he pleaded with his friends to turn back, but they would not be kept away. They approached to help, but something stood in their way…
Komè saw it as Vecna himself, cackling madly.
Blank saw it as a small army of doppelgangers.
Erdanen saw it as an unmarked tombstone, his body half-buried beneath it.
Ionen saw it as Erek-Hus – the ancient primodial that slew his original incarnation.
After recovering from the initial shock, the Champions realized the creature was the manifestation of a quori spirit, a nightmare who fed off the fears of thinking beings. They summoned their courage and fought it, though it changed form many times during the course of the battle. Komè managed to free Jett from the quicksand with a well-timed prayer of summoning, and Erdanen reminded the swordmage of how much of a hero he truly was; he could never escape what he’d done to Bugug, but he had the rest of his life to better himself and learn from his past mistake. Blank aided him by saying that she, too, had lost her parents at an early age – she knew much of Jett’s hurt, and how it was easy to blame himself, but just because bad things had happened to him didn’t mean he had to give up.
Rededicating himself to his blade, his friends, and his god, Jett helped his fellows destroy the monstrosity for good, and eagerly volunteered to accompany them on their quest to find Tiamat’s ritualist.
While sharpening their swords on a heroslayer hydra (and learning that hyrdra heads may very well have the power to regenerate), Ionen carelessly struck Komè with a blast of energy, inflicting a wound far more grievous than intended. It bled with unnatural speed, and as it did so, the dragonborn felt revitalized.
After dispatching the creature, they arrived in a shantytown full of dejected, rag-wearing peasants – every one of them a traitor to their kingdom or kin. Seeking information, the group happened upon a dragonborn named Shiv, who grudgingly told them to see Sarissa the seer.
Sarissa’s hut was easily found, but the old halfling refused to give them the information they sought without a price – 100 gold per question. None of the Champions were pleased with her, but they paid the cost anyway. She said the only way out of Monadhan was to get the key of the dominion – the Sword of Kas. She also said it was guarded by the darklord, Arantor, a name which Erdanen and Ionen recognized from an old ghost story. Suddenly, a disfigured woman appeared outside the hut, asking for the seer.
The moment she laid eyes on the heroes, the woman bared a set of fangs, and was joined by a handful of similar creatures – vampires! They sought to slay Sarissa for consorting with outsiders, but Blank valiantly blocked the path of the would-be assassins until they could be destroyed. Sarissa refunded their money and more, telling them that Kas, their leader, could be found in the graveyard outside town at midnight.
On their way out of the shantytown, the heroes were ambushed by another group of vampires, this one led by Gwenth, a lieutenant of Kas’. Her gaze caused them to erupt into violence against each other, but all too soon they shook free from her power and turned their attacks on her. Wilting under their assault and heavily outnumbered, Gwenth turned and ran, but Blank followed her. Gwenth tried to hide in the grimy river that flowed through the town, but the psion daintily plucked her from the water with her psionic gifts and ended her with a thought.
Instead of Kas, the party came upon another lieutenant: Rolain. Komè convinced him not to waste time on fighting, as all he wanted was to speak with his master. He went to bring Kas the message, but the smell of living flesh lured a loathsome Desecration to the surface before Rolain returned. Though impossibly large, it fell easily.
Upon explaining their situation, Kas was intrigued. The sword had not been in his possession for some time, and he was eager to reclaim it. Kas agreed to call off his servants, if the newcomers could return his sword to him. In addition, he would personally lead them to Vaerothim, the demiplane where Mornujhar hid with the ritualist.
Komè agreed to the bargain, and Kas explained that the ritualist was actually a lich named Onthorirfel, who had been sealed in Monadhan for some time for betraying Vecna. With Tiamat’s help, though, he’d found a way to escape, and had even managed to turn Monadhan from his prison into a near-impassable obstacle barring the way to his new home.
Rolain brought them to the caverns, where they fought a naga, a troll, and a small group of cambions in a chamber housing an underground river. Further in, they found a strange chamber filled with floating platforms, guarded by a void lich and his ghostly slaves. Jett fell from the platforms and nearly broke his leg, and the group decided that fleeing was the best option.
Finally, they came upon a torture chamber filled with rakshasas and their trained gray render. Blank matched their leader with manipulative magic, while Jett squared off against the hulking render. As they fought, blood spilled from the wounds of Champion and rakshasa alike flowed into a strange channel in the ground that gave off an unearthly power. It flowed towards a strange mosaic at the southern end of the room, but was stopped by Ionen’s flaming breath when he decided he’d rather not see the obvious trap’s effect. Komè, after watching Jett’s arm nearly torn off by the rampaging beast, calmed it with a power word of Peace. Contented, it went back to sleep in its cage, and the rakshasas proved powerless without its aid. The blood, however, flowed southward as the channel was renewed by the fighting. In desperation, Ionen threw his weight into Jett, throwing him clear and putting himself squarely in the line of the trap’s fire. The mosaic changed into a hellish landscape with cavorting demons, but nothing else happened.
Licking their wounds, the party decided it would be imprudent to proceed further without rest, so Komè opened the way to his Solace Bole.