The past few days have run together. I cannot wait until we can leave this inhospitable land. No sooner had we left Fabia, than we found ourselves in barren desert. The sun is unrelenting, and there is nowhere to take shelter from it. The guides spoke no Thyatian, and so it was difficult to communicate. After about two days, we rode in the desert when we spotted some riders coming in our direction. From what Kethlan later could glean from the guides, the riders were nomad tribesmen of some sort. They rode up to us quickly, and at first it seemed that they might charge us. Instead, they rode around, rattled their swords and heckled us. The guides did not seem too concerned. Rather suddenly, Eckhart dismounted his camel and began to don his armor. The nomad who appeared to be the leader taunted Eckhart and without warning, kicked him in the chest. No one was sure that Eckhart should fight, but a challenge had been issued and Eckhart accepted. The leader rode off a ways, and then swiftly galloped toward Eckhart. Eckhart calmly set his halberd in the sand, braced it with his foot, and prepared for the attack. The charge ended in horrific fashion, with the nomad leader impaled on the end of the halberd. He was beyond even my help. The remainder of the nomads were naturally furious, and began throwing javelins. Because some in the group felt that not retaliating was the best way, we did not fight back, and so the attack subsided. Eckhart put down his weapon, and the nomads bound him. After binding him, they forced him upon a horse, and rode off with him. I fear that it may be the last time we see him. The decision to let him go still weighs upon me. When we reached the outskirts of Abbashan, we began meeting locals. In a similar manner as the nomads, there was a great deal of posturing, aggressive bumping and saber-rattling. It was clear that we were unwanted. As we rested at an oasis outside of town, we met a man who hailed us. He said his name was Phaecius, and indicated that he had been a Thyatian Legionnaire. He told us, as foreigners, it would be unwise for us to enter Abbashan. Later, as we proceeded, we saw a young man being beaten by some other boys. Adanel broke up the fight and shooed the others off. He gave the boy some food and water. We thought little more of it, and pondered how we might gain entrance to the city. Just then, the young man who Adanel helped called to us. He told us that we should not enter the city, and as if to reinforce the point, we saw some guards at the gates searching people who were entering, and knew no good could come of it. After some discussion the young man, named Ravi, indicated that he had seen the caravan, and that the wagon from it hadn’t gone into town. Phaecius volunteered to try and track where it may have gone, and so we set out. On the way, Adanel bought Ravi fruit and some clothing, and gave him a dagger. The young man was overwhelmed. He had probably never seen such luxury. As I looked closer at his gaunt face, it was a reminder of many such faces I have seen in my years of Devotion to Halav while tending to the poor, sick and needy. Phaecius tracked the wagon to a mansion outside of town. Night was drawing near, and so the group discussed what to do next. We noticed that a light was on in one of the upper rooms, and that the door was slightly opened. While we talked, Ravi snuck over to the barn and found that the wagon he saw was there! We went to look, and confirmed that the books were inside of it. At that point, we began to head inside. As we entered the house, and ascended the stairs, we saw a blue-robed figure in a room. When we went into the room, he turned and exclaimed that he was Sebn al’Massar, a sorcerer, and that we were going to be destroyed. The man raised his hands as if to begin casting a spell, and then Eil ran him through. A single blow and he perished. I thought it odd that one who was supposed to possess such great power could be felled so easily. Just then, we heard someone else coming up the stairs, and turned to face him. We saw a man, armored in leather and holding a scimitar standing there. He spoke quickly in Thyatian and indicated that we should not attack. He said his name with Urian, and that he had been forced into servitude by al’Massar. He thanked us for liberating him and others that al’Massar had brought under his control. He had barely finished mentioning it when Kethlan saw a scroll on the table. He immediately snatched it from the table and began trying to burn it in a small candle. Moridin yelled and tried to snatch the scroll from Kethlan’s hand, but the elven monk was too fast. Eil blew out the candle, and so Kethlan ripped the scroll in two. He accused Moridin of being involved with arcane magic. I watched with some interest, as I anticipated the arrival of this conversation. I would never have predicted that it would come at this time is such a faraway place. Kethlan was visibly angry as Moridin worked to explain his belief that while there are foul magics in the world, that Moridin believed that there were also magics that could be tamed and used to help others. Kethlan stated that if Moridin was going to try and tame magic, he would be the Watcher, and that if he felt Moridin’s attempts were destructive, he would do what he needed to stop him. Kethlan gave the torn scroll to Moridin, who breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the scroll was not torn on any of the needed script. The others seemed more or less to accept this explanation. As soon as the discussion was done, Urian indicated that al’Massar had found the location of some evil artifact in a buried city in the desert. This city, called Jepuur, was once populated by evil fire mages called the Mageian. Urian told us that we should seek out this artifact and destroy it, before it came to foul use in someone else’s hands. We agreed, and made preparations to venture into the desert. The next day, we set out with camels and horses for the underground city. Again we traveled into the unrelenting heat. After four days, we came to a small oasis that had a small village. The people there told stories of a city that had been swallowed by the earth in the wrath of immortals. We set out again the next day. As we travelled, we encountered this large creature with what appeared to be crystals protruding from it. Battle ensued, and we soon discovered that the crystals were made of salt, which burned in our wounds. We finally felled it, tended to the wounded, and continued on our way. After a few more days of travel, we arrived at a large crevice in the ground. Urian indicated that this was the location that we sought. He suggested that we seek the artifact while he and Ravi stayed to watch over and care for the animals. The rest of us agreed, and so we began our decent. We had no sooner climbed down, when the area shook. Not wanting to be buried alive under a mountain of sand, we tried to work quickly to find where the artifact might be. As we moved forward, we saw the trappings of what had once been a city. We soon encountered a strange beetle. As we drew nearer, it attacked. When injured, it began to glow, which grew stronger. Before we could decide what to do, it exploded! While proceeding, we discovered more of these creatures, and the bowmen in our group worked to stop the creatures before they could draw near and explode on us. We continued to explore the area, traveling various corridors and hallways. We soon found a room with a large slab on the floor. We surmised that something must lay underneath, and began to try to find something that would open it. We found another crevice, and thought that the lever might be there. We lowered Kethlan down, but he quickly discovered that there was nothing below but heat and flame. The rope caught on fire, and we quickly pulled him back up. Moridin soon came up with the idea of using a spell from the scroll he had gotten from al’Massar’s house. It seemed that it possessed magic that would allow one to open doors with it. He spoke the necessary words, and the slab began to move. Beneath the slab was a set of stairs which we followed down. We entered a room with a statue and an altar. The altar contained a dedication to the god Thanatos. We left that room and proceeded down some more stairs into a room containing four statues. As we entered, the statues eyes glowed red and they began to move. Seeking a more desirable fighting position, we retreated back up the stairs so that we could try and limit the number of foes we faced. A harsh battle ensued. It seemed that only enchanted weapons could harm these foes, and so I quickly cast blessings upon the weapons of Adanel and Kethlan. As we fought, the statues rained terrible blows down upon Adanel and Eil. At one point, Eil was overcome by exhaustion and collapsed. As the statue raised its’ weapon to finish him, I stepped past him and warded the blow with my shield. We finally defeated the foes, and began to once again go back down the stairs. As we enetered the next room, we saw more stairs, spiraling down for about 100 feet. Adanel led the way, and as she stepped on the first step, was struck by darts from the ceiling. She immediately began to collapse, ut was pulled back by Phaecius and Eil before she plummeted to certain death. After reviving her, we moved on, using shields to protect us from the rain of darts. As we descended the stairs, we came into a room. On the far side of the room, across a crevice, was a tree. Chained to the tree were what appeared to be two men, and in the tree rubies! As I entered the room, a strange and compelling thought entered my head, that I must have the rubies! I was able to beat this thought back, as were most of the others. Phaecius and Eil were not so fortunate, and they jumped the chasm and began climbing the tree. They picked rubies as fast as they could. The men also began speaking to them. I couldn’t hear, but the men appeared to be begging them to release them. As they picked rubies and tried to free the men, fire that was in the crevice between us and the tree grew higher and higher. I began to fear that they would be trapped. They soon seemed to recognize their peril and jumped back. Fortunately, they were not badly injured. We continued on to another room with doors. While we tried to decide which way to go, Adanel suddenly opened a door and passed through it. She was just about to go through another when Phaecius and Eil stopped her. In the room she entered were three doors. Over two of the doors were glyphs depicting fire. Over the other was a picture of a spiral. We backed out of the room and chose another path. We soon came to a large hall in which the corners of the room we could see raised areas with tables and chests, which appeared to contain various sorts of treasures. As we entered, a figure emerged from the elemental pillar of fire coursing from the floor through the ceiling high above. The room was sweltering, but the heat it radiated was staggering. It quickly came toward us, and attacked Adanel. The figure appeared to be constructed of intensely hot bronze with a blazing red helmet. Attempts to strike at it were largely futile. Just then, I received inspiration to use a blessing to create water on it. I did so, and the figure began to sizzle and pop where the water landed, leaving pock marks. The figure immediately came at me, and seeing the effectiveness of the spell, I prepared to cast it again. Just as the second water spell came into being above the figure, he struck at me, striking my body and burning me slightly. The second rain of water washed over him ,and the cooling effect cause he to become brittle and break. He crumbled at my feet. The others then turned to the treasures that lay in the room. Moridin saw the black book on a table and grabbed it. As he did so, the rumbling began again, but far more intensely. We knew we had little time to escape. We grabbed what we could, and Moridin used another spell to open a nearby chest, the contents of which were quickly emptied. We ran the way we came to get out. As we approached the opening back to the outside, we saw that the rope hung far out of our reach. We yelled for Urian to lower it. We then saw him at the opening, rope in one hand, and a knife in the other. He told us to tie the book to the rope and raise it, and then he would lower it back for our escape. We refused, but he told us we would die if we did not heed him. He grabbed Ravi, and threatened to kill him as well. We agreed, and we lowered the rope. After we tied the book to be raised, he pulled it up. He then laughed, mocked us, and fled. We thought we were doomed, as there was no other way out. Finally, the rope dropped. Adanel quickly climbed up, followed by myself. As I came to the top, I saw Ravi, bleeding out on the sand. I quickly used a prayer of healing to make him whole. As the others climbed up, I surveyed the area. The horses were gone, as were most of the camels. We had been tricked. Urian was al’Massar himself. I flushed with anger. How could we have been so foolish? We had just delivered a terrible prize into the hands of a maniac.