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Demon's Winter


     There  were  five  of  us..... all brave adventurers. Well, to be
honest,  all  but one of us were brave, but more of our cowardly dwarf
companion later.

     The  strongest  amongst  us  was a Ranger who went by the name of
Lone.  Tall he was, and fast in battle. Our cleric was a fellow called
Clarence,  He  worshipped  the god Illo. Illo is the god of life so we
knew Clarence's ability to return the dead to life (when his god heard
his  prayers)  would  come  in  handy  in  our quest. You'd think that
Clarence  would  be  a  man of peace because of his god's distaste for
battle  but, don't you believe it. I was surprised to see how often he
threw  himself  into the front ranks of some our biggest battles. What
can  I  say about the next member of our band? Fidget is a dwarf. He's
quite  strong, moderately fast, certainly not stupid - and the biggest
coward  in  Ymros. But his skill at disarming traps would be useful so
we put up with his whingeing. Apart from anything else, he made a good
pack-horse!

     Our  wizard  was  a canny fellow called Izzy. Izzy is a dark elf,
skilled  in item lore and learned in fire runes. And me? I'm Zeke, the
leader. I may not be the fastest or strongest but I'm the smartest and
when you're hunting big game, brains can be very useful.

     We  met  up  by  the ruined village of Ildryn. Clarence bowed his
head at the sight of the ruins but the rest of us (except Fidget) were
itching  to  get our hands on some weapons and bash some heads! So our
first  stop  was  the  nearby town of Seaside. I bought myself a short
sword  and  Lone  grabbed  a  mace  while  the other three settled for
knives.  A  quick  stop  in camp outside town and we were equipped and
ready for a scrap.

     While we were in Seaside, we heard a useful rumour in the tavern.
Evidently, an evil priest, name of Jesric, had gone off on a quest for
a  powerful  crystal.  He  was  working  for  someone  called Eregore.
Clarence  said  we  should remember those names in case we met up with
them in the future.

     Our  next  stop  was  the College of Hunting where Lone learnt to
hunt.  We  knew  it  would  save  a lot of gold if he could supply our
provisions  rather  than us stocking up at the tavern and paying their
exorbitant prices. For the same reason, we agreed to camp out whenever
possible  rather  than  staying  in  inns.  The sooner we got a decent
amount of gold behind us, the sooner we could hire a ship and set sail
for more adventures. Even Izzy seemed quite excited at the prospect of
a bit of sea-travel.

     The  town  of  Elborat  was  our  next stopping place. And there,
things started to get interesting. In the tavern, an old woman told us
how  her house had been burnt to the ground by kobolds. Their camp was
to  the  south  and  their leader was a brute called Uffspgot. I saw a
gleam  in  Lone's eye and we grinned at each other. "Come on", I said,
and, as one, we turned and left Elborat, heading south.

     The kobold camp wasn't far and inside were several camp fires and
tents.  We  prowled  round  cautiously.  Several  tents were empty but
others  contained living quarters for the kobolds. In another, a woman
was  being  harassed by some of the foul creatures. None of the groups
of  kobolds  lasted  long!  The woman thanked us and rushed out of the
tent - who could blame her?!

     One tent contained maps which showed that towns other than Ildryn
had  been  attacked.  In another, Clarence spotted something; a scroll
half-burnt in a fire. He read it out to us. "It's hard to make out the
words"  he  said  "It's  very  badly  charred.  Ah, hang on, .... cult
worships  Xeres  ....  catacombs  under the Temple of Gamur" he looked
questioningly  at  us,  but none of us had heard of it either. "Here's
another  useful bit" he added, "ermm .... codeword -x-". Izzy gave one
of  his  rare  smiles  and  said  "better  look for this temple then".
Continuing  round the camp, we finally found Uffspgot's tent. He had 2
kobolds and 2 orcs with him - no problem. Before we attacked, we heard
him  say to one of the kobolds, "we do not attack again till my master
Xeres  commands  it". By the time we had finished with him, his master
would  have to shout very, very loud for Uffspgot to hear him. By now,
we  were feeling pretty good. I celebrated by learning the mace at the
College  in  Akistu. Izzy suggested we head for the Guild in New Gleon
to  see  if  we  were  ready for advancement. We were! On our way back
across  the  island, we stopped at the College of Potion Lore for Izzy
to  do  some studying. I won't bore you with our minor battles, though
some  were  quite spectacular - and lucrative. Just let me say that we
found  plenty to occupy our sword-arms and we NEVER ran away, not even
Fidget, though he tried to keep out of the action as much as he could.

     Travelling  north  again, we found a tunnel leading under the sea
to  an  island.  We walked warily through it. In one side room full of
mist,  an  old  man met us. He warned that the one we were seeking was
just  a puppet. He added that the puppeteer was eternal and his talons
far-reaching.  Leaving  him,  we  continued onwards. At the end of the
tunnel,  we  saw  a  message  painted in blood. Fidget read it out and
blanched.  "Beyond this point lies the temple of the Death Lord, not a
place  for  those  who cherish their lives". Lone just managed to grab
the  back  of  Fidget's trousers before the cowardly dwarf headed back
for the mainland!

     Inside  the  temple,  we  gave  the  codeword and were shown to a
stairway  at  the  back.  Lone pushed Fidget to the front to check for
traps.  I must admit that considering how much his hands were shaking,
he didn't miss one.

     Down  the  south corridor, we found the words "gloriosus victime"
carved  on  a wall. In a room further down, Izzy found a scroll and we
moved  a  bookcase  to  find  another exit. Through this doorway was a
morgue  of  sorts.  A  man lay in a glass case in suspended animation.
"Leave  him till later" suggested Izzy so we went back to the corridor
and  turned  left. In a laboratory, a cage of rats caught Fidget's eye
(he  must have been hungry) but Clarence picked up two vials of serum,
one red and one blue which he handed to Izzy.

     Back  to  the  stairway  and  north. Past another trap and into a
guardroom.  A  quick  scrap, then on to the next fight with a group of
Xeres'  followers  in  another room. Then we retraced our steps to the
other branch of this northern corridor. In one room, I noticed a trail
of   footprints   leading   to   a  wall  and  stopping  dead.  Closer
investigation showed us a secret tunnel.

     It  was hard to map and several times we got lost. But eventually
we  came to the end of the tunnel and a Skull Room. Three passages led
off.  Two  of  them  split, each leading to an armoury. In each one, a
piece  of  weaponry  or  armour  lay begging to be taken. But hovering
round  them  in  each case were some glowing spheres. Should we try to
take  them?  While  we  hesitated  in the first room which contained a
special  mace,  Izzy solved the problem and grabbed the mace. At once,
he  was  surrounded by will 'o wisps. But they were easy to defeat and
soon all four items were ours.

     In  another  room, we found the words "forward 3 and right 1 will
get  you out of a crush" carved into the floor. We had no idea what it
referred  to  but  I  felt we'd missed something so we returned to the
main passages. Back in the lab, Clarence (bless his bald pate) found a
secret  passage.  We  found  a  food storage area and a workshop with,
among other things, a mallet. At the end of the corridor was a temple.
Moving  the  altar,  we  discovered  yet  another  secret  passage and
cautiously proceeded down it.

     Part  way along, I heard the whirring of massive machinery. "This
is  it,  guys", I said, "remember the carving .... forward 3 and right
1"  and  dashed  forward following this pattern, the others hard on my
heels. A bit further and we came upon a black doorway carved with gold
runes.  Listening,  we  could  hear  chanting coming from behind it. A
hobgoblin  stood  between  us and the door, but not for long, and with
him  dead on the ground, we hurtled through the doorway, past the body
of  the  dead hobgoblin, and found ourselves in a black room. In front
of  us  was  a ghostly, white figure, Remondadin. Lone led the attack,
and the five of us, working together as never before, finally defeated
him. With Remondadin dead, the black room was strangely silent.

     On  our  explorations  under  the Temple of Gamur, we had already
noticed  a group of wizards praying in the underground temple, but not
to  Gamur  -  they  were  praying  to  the  evil Xeres. Clearly, these
catacombs  were  only  part of a small cult that worshipped Xeres, the
demon  who  had destroyed Ildryn. It was also clear to us that we must
find Xeres himself before he found us.

     We  left  the black room through a doorway to the south and found
ourselves back in the main Temple. However, Clarence reminded us about
the  man  in  the glass case and pointed at the mallet that Fidget was
carrying. So we returned to the morgue.

     With one swing of the mallet, the case was shattered and we could
see  the  man  more  clearly  but he still didn't respond. Izzy looked
closer. "He's in a deep trance ...... I wonder ...." and reaching into
his  pocket  he  pulled  out  the two vials of serum that Clarence had
found  in  the  laboratory  and given to him. He examined the man, who
stared  vacantly  into space. "I'll have to risk it" he said, and gave
him a mouthful of the blue serum.

     Suddenly,  the  man  sat  up.,  a  wild  expression  on his face.
"Qoorik!, I've seen it!" he cried and grabbed at Izzy's shoulders in a
frenzy.  "They  tried to shut me up, but I've seen it! Its entrance is
hidden  in  the  forest to the north-west of Idlewood." As if his body
had  given up the last of its strength, he slumped back onto the slab.
Izzy shook his head and sighed. "He is still alive but only barely; we
will get no more help from him. Leave him in peace" and, with sadness,
we  left  the  room,  vowing to avenge the poor wretch who lay within,
bereft of his senses.

     No-one  tried to stop us as we left the Temple. We headed towards
the  south-east  of the island where, on our previous explorations, we
had noticed another tunnel heading out under the southern sea.

     Not far inside, we found ourselves in a large cavern, filled with
the  sound  of  rushing  water.  A  message  carved  in the floor read
'Pirates' Cove - enter at your own risk'. "Them's fighting words" said
Lone and Fidget went a sickly shade of green.

     Passages  led  off  north,  south  and west. Along both north and
south  passages,  Fidget  found  and disarmed traps and soon after, in
each  case, we were attacked by thieves who we quickly slew. A College
was at the end of each tunnel, Disarm Traps in one and Detect Traps in
the other. Having no need for either, as long as young Fidget was with
us, we retraced our steps to the main cavern.

     At  the  end  of  the western tunnel, over a stretch of water, we
found  the town of Pirates' Cove. Surprisingly, despite the warning at
the  entrance  and  our  rough reception in the other tunnels, we were
completely  ignored.  But, in the pub, an old man was telling the tale
of  Malifon,  so we paused a moment to listen, though we had heard the
tale  before,  many  times. "....and Malifon made the Earth his home",
said the old man, "but soon the Ancients became angry at him and, in a
great  battle,  banished  him inside a volcano to live till the end of
time".  He  finished  his  tale  and  picked  up his tankard to take a
draught.  Lone  tapped  my  arm.  "Sometimes,  my friend, with all the
things  we  see  and hear, I get the feeling the end of time isn't too
far  away".  Somehow, I had to agree with him. Malifon's volcano might
be the last thing any of us saw.

     We  left  the Cove and tried to decide where to go next. While we
were  deciding,  we  visited  two of the Colleges. Fidget had died and
been resurrected twice during recent battles, so the small man decided
to  improve  his  skills  and took a course in fighting with the mace.
Lone  learnt  beserking,  which  he  felt might give him the edge in a
tight  scrap. At a nearby town, Fidget purchased a morningstar then we
took  another trip to the Guild at New Gleon and found we had advanced
enough  to  gain  another  few  levels.  Hereafter,  we visited Guilds
whenever we came across them, to check on our progress.

     We  bought  a  ship  in  the docks and set out to sea. I had also
learnt  hunting  skills, so between us, Lone and I kept the five of us
well  supplied  with  fish  on  our  long  sea voyage. We travelled to
various  islands  along the coast, but never straying too far from the
main island where we had started our travels. We also investigated the
small islands in the inlets along the coast.

     Lone  enrolled  at the College of Armoured Skin which Fidget said
sounded  disgusting. However, this skill gave him even more protection
in  battle.  At Dragontooth, we heard a rumour in the pub that someone
had  found  the  Shard  of  Spring  a  few  months back. The Shard had
disappeared  200  years  ago  and no-one had seen it since. It is said
that if anything happens to it, we will all be destroyed by the winter
that  will  follow. While we were in Dragontooth, Clarence enrolled at
the  College  of  Mace  and  later at the College of Persuasiveness at
Chandris.  It  would  help  us get a better deal when we purchased new
equipment. All this time, Izzy had been using a +1 crystal dagger that
we  had  collected  earlier.  Our other fights had gained us some more
useful equipment and I had a mace, constant speed +2. We also had some
other  weapons  that  we  had  collected and since our ship now needed
considerable  repairs,  pirates  and  sea  monsters having taken their
toll,  we  sold  our spare weapons at a local marketplace. We had also
gained two cursed axes which we got rid of as soon as possible!

     To  the south, we found two islands, and on the furthest south of
these,  the  town  of  Idlewood,  mentioned by our friend in the glass
case. We bought a lantern in the marketplace and visited the inn where
we learned that deep within the ancient demon city of Qoorik, there is
a  place  called  the  Amber  Vault where one can seek guidance in the
flaming  runes.  The dungeon entrance, invisible till one stepped into
it, lay a short distance away.

     We  descended  into the depths, Fidget checking for traps once we
reached  the  bottom  of the staircase. To the west, we found a great,
black  archway  covered  in runes and south of that, more passages and
rooms led off.

     In one room to the far east, we entered a room where three slaver
demons  attacked us. The fight was long and hard but when it was over,
Fidget  spotted  something in a far corner. It was a black metal wand.
"I'll take that" said Clarence as he reached past the thief and tucked
the wand into his robes.

     We  returned  to  the  corridor and travelled south, then west. A
doorway  beckoned;  Lone  moved  to  the front and shouldered the door
open.  It  was  a  blacksmith's  shop. Inside, the blacksmith - an old
troll,  his  face  disfigured so that one eye was permanently closed -
gasped  as  we  entered. Then he seemed to compose himself, smiled and
spoke.  He  said he had been working on a new weapon, designed for the
ones  who  wish to kill Xeres. Lone stepped forward, thanked the troll
and took it. It was a jewel-encrusted broadsword. However, I cautioned
him  not to use it until we had identified it properly. My caution was
well justified; it turned out to be cursed!

     Heading  back  towards  the  stairs  we  had  entered by, we went
through  a doorway and found ourselves in a stately mansion with three
doors  leading off the main hall. In a bedroom, which looked as though
it  hadn't been used for a long time, Fidget investigated a bed with a
straw  mattress  and emerged grasping a pair of spectacles. He perched
them  on  his  nose and said "these make me feel smart". Lone laughed.
"They  must  be magic if they make YOU intelligent" he said. The dwarf
made  a  face, pulled off the specs and passed them to the wizard, who
patted Fidget's shoulder to try to cheer up the small man.

     We  also  collected a blank piece of papyrus and in a library, we
came across a tome, the only book that was left. Izzy tried to read it
but  failed  till  he wore the spectacles. Then he told us that it was
about  some  gods  called the Ancients who created everything but died
out many eons before man ever walked the Earth.

     In  the corner of the library was a bookcase. Lone and I moved it
and  behind was another room. Black runes were carved on the walls and
at  a  desk,  a  skeleton,  its  skull  shattered  but  its hand still
clutching a quill pen, caught our attention. I saw a piece of paper on
the  desk  which read - Ymros is mine! - and pointed out to the others
that the arrangement of the runes matched the number of letters on the
paper;  five  runes,  a space, two runes, space, then four more. "I'll
memorize the runes" said Clarence, with a glazed look in his eyes.

     Two doorways back on the main floor had so far been barred to us.
One,  a  tunnel from which the stench of death blew out, turned out to
be,  apparently,  a dead end. The other, the entrance to a dark temple
of  red  stone,  was  also  impossible  to  enter;  the  sense of evil
permeating  from it and an unseen force both combined to push us back.
"There  must be another way in" murmured Izzy. "Clarence? Do you think
the wand might help?" The cleric shook his head. "There's nothing here
to  operate  it  on"  he  said  "but  perhaps, the arch we saw when we
entered? That was black and covered in runes...."

     We retraced our steps to the arch. Clarence took a deep breath (I
think  we  all  did)  and  used  the  wand.  The  next  thing, we were
transported to a small room. A door lead south. Quietly, Fidget pushed
it  open  and  we  crept through. A corridor on the other side was the
entrance  to the Demon's temple. The entrance was not unguarded though
-  in  front of us stood a level 6 mage, a level 8 fighter and an evil
spirit.

     Manoeuvering  into position, we quickly dealt with our assailants
and  then  investigated the surrounding rooms. In one, a staircase led
downwards so we took it.

     At  the  bottom  of the stairs, we entered the third level of the
dungeon.  A  room  to  the right contained an empty bag which Clarence
took.  A  corridor  lead  north  and a small, elegant room to the left
housed  a level 14 mage, a priest of Xeres. "A human!" cried Lone "How
can  he  ally  himself  with  that  fiend?" and the lanky ranger raced
forwards, oblivious to the imps who obviously acted as servants to the
priest. A short but vicious fight ended in our victory and a prize - a
skeleton key - which Izzy took.

     In  another  room to the top left, an apprentice's room (the only
inhabitant  a  level  10 mage who quickly gave up the ghost), Clarence
spied  a  pile of red dust which he collected in the bag. To the right
was  an  altar room complete with skulls on the blood-splattered walls
and  drawing of demons. "Love the decor" muttered Fidget as he examine
the  altar which had demonic references to the demon Xeres. Lone and I
pushed  the  altar  aside to reveal a short passage into another small
room.

     Clarence  took  a  pile  of small black coins from one corner and
then  investigated  a  censer  in  the room. Noticing a residue of red
stuff  inside  it,  he  quickly  poured  the red dust into it. A demon
appeared  and  said  "the  father  of  demons sees all. Only those who
possess  the Demon Crystal can escape his sight" and then vanished. "I
wonder  where  that  can be?" said Izzy. "Oh well, no doubt we'll find
out - sooner..." "...or later" added Fidget.

     As  we  walked  towards the northern doorway from the altar room,
Clarence  had a closer look at the coins and passed some across to me.
They were ominous black objects with a picture of a scythe on them.

     Through  the north door, we found a large area with several rooms
around  it.  There  were  some  corridors that transported us to other
parts  of  the dungeon too which made life very confusing. In one room
at  the  south  end,  Clarence collected two more items, two phials of
liquid,  one  a  greenish  ooze  of goblin blood and one a transparent
silver  fluid which he told us was unicorn blood. In the same room was
a microscope but we were unable to move it.

     At  the  north  of  this level, we entered a room with a stairway
guarded  by  two  gargoyles.  After  we slew the creatures, we stepped
warily downwards into the darkness of the fourth level. This level was
somewhat  smaller  but interesting to explore. In one room was a magic
circle  though it seemed to serve no purpose. Another area was a small
graveyard which had a large tomb with a magical stone door at its west
end.

     Walking  cautiously  south, we came upon a wall of silver bricks.
Izzy  pointed  into  the  distance to draw our attention to a fabulous
silver  palace  visible above it. However, there was no doorway in the
wall.  Around  the corner at the end of this passage, we surprised two
slavers  who  were  attacking  an old man. After we had dispatched his
assailants,  the  old  man  thanked  us  and explained that he was the
groundskeeper  of  the  palace. He went on to tell us that there was a
secret  entrance  into  the palace through the silver wall we had just
passed. As he slowly trudged off down the alley, we retraced our steps
and  Fidget  walked  along the wall, suddenly turning and disappearing
from our sight as he walked straight through it!

     We  followed  the dwarf and found ourselves in a beautiful garden
with  trees  and grassy walkways. In the centre was a healing pool but
fortunately  we  were  in  no  need of it - yet! A door led out of the
western  end  of  the  garden  and we passed through it into a hallway
guarded  by a large silver snake. I thought we were in for trouble but
luckily  the  bigger they are, the harder they fall and with all of us
working  together  to  defeat him, even a huge serpent didn't survive.
Two  rooms  led  off; one was empty, the other provided us with a jade
torch which burnt with a magical blue flame.

     I  took  it  and led the others back to the main room where I had
previously  noticed  a pillar shaped like a serpent with an open mouth
full  of  oil.  Using  the torch on the pillar opened a secret passage
leading  west. Luckily Fidget was checking for traps as we walked down
it  as  he  discovered  and disarmed a trap which could have caused us
some injury.

     The  study  at the end was small but lit by an unknown source. It
looked  empty  too  but  Izzy's eagle eyes spotted a silver pen in one
corner  and  he  passed it to our cleric who filled it with the silver
unicorn's blood.

     The  pen  began to glow and Lone gave the piece of papyrus he had
collected  earlier  to Clarence. The pen seemed to move with a life of
its own and we watched spellbound as it wrote a message on the papyrus
that Asaht is the Holy City of the Ancients.

     In  the  same  room, tucked away and so we almost missed it (it's
lucky Fidget has good eyesight) was a tiny scroll. The dwarf picked it
up  but  the  writing on it was far too small for even him to read. We
walked  back  up to the room where we had found the microscope. Fidget
put  the  scroll under it and said "this could be useful. It gives the
location  of  the  Ice  Temple  of  the Ancients - it says it's in the
tundra  far  to  the  north."  "Perhaps we'd better head that way once
we've dealt with Xeres" said Lone.

     At  Clarence's  suggestion, we returned to level four and entered
the  graveyard. The cleric tried the skeleton key on the tomb door and
the  door  shimmered and changed from solid stone to a curtain of blue
light.  I  led  the way as we stepped through and found ourselves in a
larger graveyard with tombstones stretching far into the distance.

     The  graveyard  was full of mist and our footsteps were strangely
dulled  as  we slowly traced a path between the stones. The stones got
closer together and gradually we found our path being blocked by them.
But  at  one point, Izzy stepped forward and the tombstones shifted in
front  of  us.  We found several other places in the maze that did the
same  thing  and  by manoeuvering carefully, we found we could clear a
path through the whitened blocks.

     On  the other side were more stones, though dotted sparsely about
on  the  damp earth. Ahead of us, way to the north, Lone pointed out a
large  mound so we headed that way. But soon, a river crossed our path
and  we  were  forced  to travel along the bank, hoping for a place to
cross. Instead, we were startled when a shadowy figure appeared out of
the  mist - a ferryman. He said nothing, just held out a skeletal hand
and  waited  silently  but  expectantly. Izzy hissed at Clarence, "pay
him",  and  the  cleric  cautiously held out the black coins. The bony
fingers  closed  over  the  coins  and  the  deal was made; we had our
transportation over the river, though it wasn't what we had expected.

     "Not  more  graves"  muttered  Fidget  as we disembarked from the
ferry  and  we  saw  yet  more  gravestones  stretching  into  the far
distance.  There  was  a  passage  between some stones to the far west
temptingly  labelled  "exit" and the dwarf would have taken it if we'd
let him but Lone led us through the stones to the mound we had noticed
from the other side of the river.

     The  path  we took led to an entrance, but it was guarded .... by
the Gravekeeper and his entourage; an evil spirit, a ghoul, a skeleton
mage,  a  ghost,  a  zombie  and  a skeleton. The Gravekeeper advanced
towards  us  through  the  fire  and  mist, his skeletal form striking
terror into all our hearts, but I knew we were equal to the challenge.

     Lone,  Fidget  and  I  laid  about us with our weapons while Izzy
blasted  away with spells gleaned from his knowledge of fire runes and
Clarence tried turning the undead creatures. The fight was hard but we
succeeded  in  destroying our enemies. The Gravekeeper, the last to be
overcome, dissolved into grey ooze which turned into smoke and floated
away  with  the  mist. Before us, a dark, ominous tunnel lead into the
mound  and we knew an important confrontation awaited us down in those
sulphurous depths.

     The  lowest level was strange in shape, a central maze of tunnels
and  my  heart started to race as we went to enter it. A stone archway
framed the entrance and a huge fire blazed in front of us. A ruby eyed
snake  -  a salamander - barred the way. As it died, a voice rang out,
echoing round the whole area. It was Xeres! "Woe the mortal who stands
in  my way" he cried "for Death shall follow swift my hand." But there
was no choice, we could only go forward.

     So,  we  walked deeper into the tunnel, Fidget checking for traps
but finding none. The path wove round and round with several dead ends
but finally, we came to the centre of the maze and Xeres himself stood
before  us.  He  looked  down  at  us  and said "so you have found me.
Killing  me will not end the destruction." His eyes passed over all of
us  in turn and he continued "There is something bigger here than your
mortal minds can understand. If you kill me, all of Ymros will go down
with me."

     Xeres  was  flanked  by two salamanders, a gargoyle and a slaver.
Izzy  discharged  the biggest column-of-fire spell I had ever seen him
use straight at Xeres (like the rest of us, I think he panicked a bit)
but  it  did the trick and the demon was obliterated. His minions fell
swiftly  though  not without cost to ourselves. With them all dead, we
looked  through  the archway ahead of us and saw the town of Idlewood,
looking  far  more peaceful now, but as we passed through the arch, we
all felt we had missed something.

     Izzy  slapped  his  hand  to his brow in exasperation. "The Amber
Vault,  remember?  We  heard about it in Idlewood but I didn't see it.
Come  on,  we  have  to  go back and find it. It must hold some useful
information for us." A quick trip back through the dungeon and we were
back  at the lowest level. To the south of the area, the normal fabric
of  the dungeon was replaced by a length of brickwork. This difference
gave us hope that we had found the location of the Vault and we walked
along the wall till we found a secret passage.

     Inside  was  the  Vault.  Flaming  runes  covered  the  floor and
skeletons  of  demons hung on the walls. The heat almost drove us back
but  Clarence examined the runes closely. "I can translate some of it"
he  said "using the runes we found earlier that said 'Ymros is mine'."
He  frowned.  "That gives 'se-re- en-r-n-e ...'." Izzy interrupted him
"that's  got  to  be  'secret  entrance'  surely?" "You're right" said
Clarence, "and that gives us a few more letters and means it's easy to
translate the rest of the message.

     'Secret  entrance to Ice Cathedral leads to Demon Crystal'." Lone
grinned and reminded us of the message we had got earlier (it seemed a
lifetime  ago)  when Clarence had burnt the red dust in the censer. At
least now we had a new location to aim for - if only we could find it.

     We  started  our search for the Ice Cathedral, travelling by boat
from  island  to  island, looking and searching, avoiding ghost ships,
fighting  pirates  and  sea  monsters  until we began to doubt that we
would  ever  find  it.  On our way north, we found the College of Fire
Runes on one southerly island. But we pressed on, going ever north.

     Landing  on  one  northern island, we spotted a dungeon entrance.
Lone led the way as we entered a twisting passage. In a large room, we
came  upon  the biggest ice dragon we had ever seen - alright, I'll be
honest,  none  of  us  had  seen  one before .... but he WAS big! Izzy
prepared  to cast a column of fire at the creature but before he could
do anything, the dragon moved forward, his blue scales glinting in the
dim  light,  and  breathed  a  spell at the wizard who was immediately
frozen in ice.

     Lone  and  I  rushed at the dragon, weapons at the ready, trapped
the  beast  in a corner and slew him before he could do more damage to
our  party.  Clarence and Fidget didn't get a chance to strike a blow.
We  collected  our  poor,  frozen  wizard  and  explored  the lair and
surrounding  tunnels. Despite the attentions of mountain giants and an
ogre,  we  completed  our explorations quickly, finding the College of
Ice  Runes in a northern passage and, in a small room to the south, an
icicle which Lone took.

     A  quick  trip to the healers restored our friend to full health,
though it cost us quite a bit of gold, and we continued our search for
the Ice Cathedral.

     "Land  ho!"  shouted Fidget, rousing us all from our slumbers and
we  leant over the rail to see an island to the west. Was this the one
we  had  searched  for all these weeks? Yes! On the island, we found a
temple  made  from  blocks  of  ice.  "This  must be the Temple of the
Ancients" said Izzy. We could tell that once it had been beautiful but
the  blocks  of  ice  were  tumbled and cracked so that the once-proud
edifice  now  lay  in  ruins. Inside, we found the entrance to the Ice
Cathedral  but  the scattered blocks that had formed the entrance many
centuries  ago  had  fallen  to  block  the  way  in. We knew from our
discoveries  in  the  Amber Vault that there was a secret way in - but
where? Lone led the way again as we started to search for it.

     We  found  it  at  last, a secret passage through a wall. The Ice
Cathedral  was  still  beautiful,  despite  the  great damage that had
occurred.  At  one  end was an octagonal pedestal of blue ice on which
was  a  dark  violet  crystal. "The Demon Crystal" whispered Clarence.
Dark  mist  swirled between us and the crystal and I could see strange
shapes  forming  in it and then dissolving again. For a moment, I felt
it  seemed to examine us, then it cleared to reveal the crystal in all
its  horrifying  glory.  Clarence  stepped slowly forward and took it.
Then we left the Cathedral as quickly as we could.

     Back  outside,  in  the main body of the Temple, a library in the
north-west corner had been ransacked, just a few scrolls littering the
floor.  Clarence  pushed  the  scraps  of parchment aside to uncover a
prayer  scroll  which he took. A passage east looked a likely route to
take  but  a  noise  alerted us. Rounding a corner, who should we come
across but Jesric of the High Temple of Malifon!

     He turned to us and said "Until I find the Demon Crystal, I claim
these  ancient  ruins  to  be mine!" His tone told us he would take no
argument  on  the  subject but, unfortunately for Jesric, we had other
ideas.

     Despite  his  sword  and  armour,  we defeated him fairly easily.
Fidget  noticed  a  medallion around the dead priest's neck. "It shows
he's  Malifon's  High  Priest" said the dwarf, taking the heavy amulet
and  passing it to Lone. "It might come in useful then" said the lanky
ranger, tucking it into his pocket.

     A  doorway  nearby  led  into  a corridor. The air was chilly and
instinctively,  I  drew  my  cloak tighter round me but it made little
difference. A squeak from behind me made me turn, to see Fidget, mouth
open, pointing a little distance down the corridor. What the small man
had  noticed but the rest of us had missed was - a pair of ghosts! One
was  an evil-looking man, the other a kind-looking priest. They seemed
to  be  arguing  and,  to  our amazement, we could hear what they were
saying.

     One  voice  said "You are a fool! Your god is dying and still you
pray."  The other responded "He is still strong. Find me a god who can
break  these walls and I shall worship him instead." As we walked into
the  next  corridor, the voices followed us. "Long have I quested, and
at  a  volcano  a  spirit  conquered my mind. It is a spirit as old as
time.  It  once  was strong, but was defeated and rests now, regaining
power  ....... behold its power ....." We all gasped as images of fire
and pain engulfed our senses.

     Faint  heartbeats  echoed in our minds as the ghost said "Oh Dark
One,  whose power is so great - I cannot worship thee. Instead I offer
to  you  as  sacrifice  an  old  fool  who  cannot see a candle in the
shadows."  We  all  got  the  impression of a blade and pain, then the
heartbeats ceased. I realised we had witnessed a murder from long ago.

     Returning to the main body of the Temple, we found a door made of
ice,  and,  noticing  a  hole  in  the door, Lone inserted the icicle.
Suddenly  we found ourselves transported to the other side of the door
in  an  Altar  Room  with an altar of blue ice against the south wall.
Clarence  put  the  prayer  scroll on the altar and as the last of the
foreign  words  from  it  left  his  lips, the Temple was flooded with
light. A powerful voice spoke to us.

     The  voice  spoke to us, not aloud but through our minds. It told
us how the White Knights had created an Orb of great power, capable of
acting  as  a  catalyst  between  the  Ancients and Mortals. The voice
continued  to explain that it was the last of the Ancients who Malifon
believed were dead and that, with help, Malifon had broken through the
Imprison  spell that had trapped him. Ymros was doomed unless he could
be  bound  again. Finally, the voice said "Through the Orb, I can give
you  the power to renew his binding. It lies in the Vault of the White
Knights,  northeast  of the desert, guarded by Kalek-Zin, the greatest
of  the  Knights.  He  can surely be persuaded to give the Orb to you.
When  you  have it, return to me and I will give you the powers of the
Gods. The Ancient has spoken." The light faded and the voice was gone.

     Reverently,  we  left the Temple of the Ancients and sailed east,
passing  a  few  islands,  until  we  came  to  a  small  one that was
mountainous  in the centre but had an inlet that could be entered from
the  south  coast.  We  landed  on a beach and to the north, found the
entrance  to  the Vault of the White Knights. Appropriately, the walls
inside  were  painted  white  and  Izzy pointed out the Knights' names
carved  on  them.  "This  whole Vault is a memorial to the Warriors of
old"  he  explained.  An  octagonal  pool  sparkled  in the centre and
Clarence  identified  it as a healing pool. I realised this pool might
come  in  useful as I expected some challenge awaited us inside; there
seemed  little  chance  we could just go in and take the Orb. A secret
passage in the north wall led into the Fire Chamber of Kalek-Zin.

     Though  a wall of fire ahead of us filled the room with light, no
heat   emanated  from  it.  "Karek-Zin's  burial  chamber,"  whispered
Clarence.  "The  greatest of all the Knights." An alcove in the flames
became apparent and we edged towards it. Inside we could see a glowing
Orb and I sensed great power coming from it. We moved into the alcove.
A  pure white spirit weaved in and out of the flames, guarding the Orb
whose  colours  changed as we watched it. Clarence reached towards the
Orb  to  take it from its pedestal but the spirit intervened. "The Orb
of  Evertime  is  the greatest artifact of the White Knights" it said.
"If  used  unwisely,  it could endanger all of Ymros but since I sense
Ymros  is  already in great peril, I will release it to you if you can
show you are worthy of it. Pass the tests within the Vault and the Orb
is yours.

     Exploring  the Vault, we found two secret passages, one on either
side  of  the  Vault. We found that these linked with each other, also
passing through a room adorned with paintings of the ancient Warriors.
Leading  off this maze of passages we found a series of rooms, one for
every  class  of  adventurer,  not  only  our  own but also visionary,
scholar  and  others. We entered each room in turn. Each was a proving
room  where  we would be called upon to show our worth, each according
to  his  own class specialities. In rooms that did not apply to one of
us  a  voice  told  us we were free to leave. Lone had to fight a cave
bear,  Fidget  to  disarm  a  trap; gradually we all completed our own
tasks.

     Leaving  the  final room we returned to the alcove. This time the
spirit  allowed  us  to take the Orb and Clarence reverently picked it
up.  Even Fidget seemed somewhat subdued as we turned and retraced our
steps  to  our ship and from there, sailed west to return to the Altar
Room  in  the Temple of the Ancients as we had been instructed. On the
way,  night  fell  and  as  we slept on the ship we all heard the same
voice  speak  to  us.  It said, "The Orb of Evertime now is yours, but
your  quest  remains  in  vain. I was alive before mortals touched the
Earth and no mortal there can touch me. It is true that with the Demon
Crystal  I  can  lay  neither tooth or claw on you. But I can make you
wish  you were never born." "Let these words of Malifon be heard - The
sky  shall flare the Earth shall bleed. All that is dark shall rise up
in Glory, and all that is Light shall be trampled underfoot."

     It  was very hard to go to sleep the next night in case the voice
returned.  It didn't .... but instead we experienced visions. Dark and
gloomy forests and rivers of blood ... great battles and a black force
with  power  beyond  our  comprehension.  One  by one, we saw the gods
killed  -  the  Eagle,  the Swan, the Raven, the Woman of Colours, the
Tiger.  One by one they were defeated and fell into the flaming waters
below.  We  saw  clerics  all over Ymros wake up to a new day with the
feeling   that  something  had  been  torn  from  their  souls.  Great
thunderbolts  fell  from the skies and each temple was turned to ruin.
We  woke,  stunned.  Clarence  put  into  words what we all suspected.
"They're dead," he said, his voice quavering. "The gods are dead. What
can  we  do?  Who  will  help  us now?" "I have a feeling that will be
answered  when  we  get back to the altar room," said Izzy, laying his
hand  on  the  cleric's shoulder - though he was no longer a cleric in
truth, his god having been destroyed with the rest.

     "Come,"  continued  the  wizard. "Let us see what the Ancient One
has to say." We returned to the altar room, using the icicle to enter,
and  once  again  Clarence used the prayer scroll on the altar and the
Ancient  One  spoke.  "You  have  done  well.  With the Orb, I may now
transfer  some of my power to one of you. I offer to make one of you a
God.  The  Power of the Ancient Ones lies in the God Runes. Two spells
it  allows  you  to  cast in camp are Uncurse and Imprison." The voice
went  on to explain. "To keep Malifon from communicating mentally with
the  natives  near  the  volcano, we put a curse on the land round it.
This is done through the three crimson glyphs. Each glyph sustains the
curse  on  the  land  round it and any mortal who walks there will rot
with  every  step. You must destroy each glyph using the Uncurse spell
while  camping  on the same space as the glyph. Until all three glyphs
are  destroyed, you will not be able to use the Dark Chapel to go back
in time to the Dawn of Man."

     The voice paused, then continued. "Only in the Chapel of the Past
will  you  find the entrance to Malifon's volcano. Imprison is used to
seal  off  a  passageway  and  the room it leads to so no creature can
pass.  This  is  what  you  must  do  to defeat Malifon as it would be
impossible to kill him in combat. Even all the Ancients could not kill
him. His power is so great that even the Demon Crystal will shatter if
you  come  too  close  to  him. Cast the Imprison spell when the Demon
Crystal  glows  white,  it  costs 100 spell points." There was another
pause and then the voice said, "One will be given enough experience to
gain  the  wisdom you need and 200 spell points with which to cast the
God Runes. Go to my holy city and convert to my faith for, in the time
to come, the new gods shall falter and die. Good luck."

     We  sensed  we were being scrutinised and then the voice asked us
who  wished  to become a God? I looked at Lone, he looked at Clarence,
Clarence  at Fidget and Fidget at Izzy. Izzy didn't look at anyone. He
just  stepped  slowly  forward  and said "I do." We expected some sign
that  our  friend  had been elevated to such a rank but, no. He turned
back  to us, looking no different, but calmly reminded us that we must
travel  to  Ancient's  holy  city. We had previously learned at Qoorik
that  Asaht was the holy city of the Ancients, so it was to there that
we set sail. Entering the oddly-shaped temple at Asaht, Izzy converted
to  the  faith  of  Ancient. A trip to the Guild confirmed that he had
indeed  gained  several  levels  of experience, and we were once again
ready  to  continue  on  our  quest.  "Where  to?"  asked Fidget as we
returned  to  the ship. "East", replied our divine companion, his eyes
fixed on the distant horizon.

     Directly  east  of  Jacanth  we found a small, mountainous island
with  an  inlet  containing  a healing pool. We sailed back out of the
inlet  and  continued  east  where  we  found  another  larger island.
Anchoring  the boat on the shoreline, we started to explore. We walked
into  the  mountains  and  through  onto  a sandy beach with buildings
around  it.  To  the northwest was one containing a small room full of
maps  showing  a  volcano south of the island and the Dark Chapel that
the Ancient One had mentioned to us on an island to the south of that.
Back outside and along the beach to the south, a ship lay at anchor on
the  inland  sea. Guarding it were two mountain giants and a Titan - a
huge figure wielding a huge, shining sword. Lone gave a battle cry, at
least  that's  what  I  think  it was, and we attacked. Within a short
space of time, the ship was ours.

     We sailed back towards the entrance and, leaving the ship, walked
along  the  beach  to the east. A short bridge led over the water to a
small  island  and  a bell tower. Just inside the entrance was a short
corridor.  Two  rooms led off, one north, one south. In the north room
was a skeleton mage called the Bellkeeper; a powerful assassin, he had
been  hired  by Eregore to keep watch over the bell tower. He screamed
threats  at  us and attacked. Lone and I killed him and as he breathed
his last, we felt a cold force fly past us, followed by the ringing of
a massive bell to the west. In the south room was a dog, obviously the
Bellkeeper's  pet,  but  at  the end of the corridor was something far
more  important  -  a  huge bell. On the wall above the bell were some
runes  and,  squinting  at  them  slightly,  Clarence translated them.
"'Ring  bell  at  midnight'"  he said. "But how?" asked Fidget. "We're
always  asleep  at  that time - it seems impossible to stay awake that
long." Confused, we returned to the outside of the dungeon.

     To  the  east  of the island a small path led into the mountains,
and  at  the  end  of  it we found a small hut. Inside, an old peasant
woman  greeted  us.  Smiling,  she  waved  her  hand  to encompass the
interior  of  the  hut with its sweet-smelling herbs. "Please stay. If
you  wish,  you may sleep here in comfort" she offered. Izzy smiled at
her.  "I  accept,  on  behalf of myself and my companions" he said. We
settled  down and were soon sound asleep. But suddenly, we woke to the
screeching of an owl outside. Everything was still and quiet, the moon
seeming  suspended  in  the heavens with a magical feeling to the air.
But  there  was  no  sign of the old woman. Collecting our weapons, we
walked  outside  into  the  darkness.  Fidget looked up at the sky and
gasped. "It's the middle of the night. Quick, let's go to the bell and
ring  it!"  We  hurried  down to the bell tower and rang the bell. The
sound  of  angels  crying  opened up from the heavens, then everything
went  quiet  again.  Lone  frowned.  "Now  what?"  he said. "Nothing's
happened!"  Despondently,  we walked back outside, having no idea what
to do next.

     Boarding the ship, Clarence suggested we set sail to the south as
we  hadn't  yet  explored  in  that direction. Leaving the ship on yet
another  small,  sandy  beach,  we had walked just a few steps when we
noticed  a  gate, standing open, inviting us to enter. With a chuckle,
Izzy  said,  "I bet this was shut before we rang that bell!" and, with
Lone  leading  the  way,  we entered. A short way down the corridor, a
voice  from  nowhere  spoke. "Only those who worship Malifon may enter
this  temple.  What  is  thy  name?".  Quick  as  can be, Izzy replied
"Jesric".  "You  may  enter," said the disembodied voice. The corridor
led  deep  into  the  mountains into a small room which was completely
bare.  "This is strange," said Izzy. "Where's the temple?" We explored
every  inch  of  the  room,  then  returned  to  the  corridor. To our
surprise,  where  there  had  previously been a bend in the passageway
there  was  now a crossroads. To the east was a healing pool but south
another passage beckoned us deeper into the mountain.

     Soon  we came to a small, square, sand-filled room with its walls
painted  to  depict a desert landscape. Two huge salamanders leapt out
of  the  sand!  Defeating them, we walked to the south end of the room
and a passage suddenly opened in the east wall as the doorway, through
which we had just entered, vanished. Through the new exit a bridge led
over  a  small  stretch of water and split, one piece going north, one
south. As we explored the area, we discovered that the whole place was
a   series   of   transporter   rooms,  each  with  its  own  climatic
characteristics.  After  the  desert  room, we found one with walls of
fire,  twenty  feet  high,  guarded  by  a fire elemental; another was
bitterly  cold  as magical snow fell onto us and an ice demon surveyed
us  with  its cold, blue eyes before attacking. Soon we had mapped the
area,  apart  from one section. In one seemingly normal room, a purple
haze  filled the north wall. I tried to walk through it but failed and
none  of  the  others  had any better luck. But on the side wall was a
crystal  eye.  Lone  pointed  out  the  carving  above it. "'Only high
priests  allowed  past  this point, show identification'", he read. "I
wonder...."  and reaching into his tunic, he drew out the heavy amulet
we  had  taken  from  Jesric after he died and held it in front of the
eye.  Then  he  smiled at us as the mist slowly dispersed and we saw a
corridor leading north.

     Thus  we entered the main part of the High Temple, with its high,
engraved  ceiling  and wide hallways. The size of the building dwarfed
us  (with  apologies  to  Fidget) and made me feel very vulnerable and
helpless.  To the left, a doorway led into a room of dreams and to the
far  southeast  was  a  beautiful  cathedral,  guarded by three orange
spellbinders  -  giant  snakes which moved hypnotically before us. But
the octagonal room to the north, with its crystal floor decorated with
geometric  designs  and  inscribed  'Only  the  right  path will bring
rewards' seemed more promising. We discovered that the north, west and
east  walls  were  not  solid, though they appeared to be at a cursory
glance and, remembering the inscription on the floor, we went east ...
right.  Once  through the "wall", we found a corridor going north with
two doorways. The first one led into a room inhabited by a demon lord,
selected  by  Malifon  to  watch over Eregore and make sure he did his
job. Killing the demon lord and his two attendant hounds, we entered a
second room whose cracked walls still bore evidence of a complex spell
which  had  once been carved there. It appeared to be the God Rune for
breaking  a  binding  and  Izzy  pointed  out  the  places  where  the
apprentices would have stood to cast the spell.

     The  second  doorway  from  the  main  corridor  led  into a room
containing  a  large  crystal  ball. To my amazement, the voice of the
Ancient  One  issued  from the crystal, assuring us that we were doing
well  but  that  we  must go on, for Malifon had gained control of the
Shard of Spring and was planning to destroy it. All of us knew that if
that  happened  the  world  would  be  plunged  into  deepest  winter!
Hurrying,  we  had just rounded the corner of the next corridor when a
voice  rang  out  -  it was Eregore! "So, you have found me," he cried
from  the  northern  end  of  the  room  we were about to enter as his
followers,  a  collection  of highwaymen, thieves, fighters and mages,
watched  with  evil  eyes  glinting.  He  pointed  at us. "Destroy the
infidels!" he shrieked, and the motley crew advanced towards us.

     Eregore's  followers  attacked us and the fight was long and hard
but eventually we were victorious though none of us escaped unscathed.
Eregore  stood  at the north end of the room in front of a large black
mirror  and  a look of horror came over his face as he realised we had
triumphed. I led the way as we walked towards him. As we got closer we
could  feel evil emanating from the black mirror but to the other side
of  Eregore  I  noticed a beautiful, round, multi-faceted mirror which
hung  by  a  thread  from the ceiling. Eregore spoke. "You fools - you
believe  you  are  so  powerful.  You have no idea what true power is.
Malifon,  my  master, is the supreme power ... you're lucky he let you
live so long." "He cannot harm us as long as we hold the Demon Crystal
of Kalek-Zin," replied Izzy, in his usual calm voice.

     Eregore  looked  questioningly  at the mirror, then said, "Who is
this Kalek-Zin?" "He was the greatest of the White Knights, but, alas,
has been dead for centuries," responded Izzy. Eregore looked even more
worried  and  we  realised  he was but the tool of a greater power. He
looked  to  the  mirror  for  more  guidance  and said, "All the White
Knights  are  dead.  There  is  no-one  to  stop me taking over Ymros.
Malifon  will  help me take power and make me ruler of these lands." I
was  amazed  when  Fidget stepped forward and said, hesitantly, "If he
plans  to  help  you,  then  why  has  he stolen the Shard of Spring?"
"That's  not true!" screamed Eregore, turning to the mirror. He stared
at  it  and  asked "Do you have the Shard of Spring?" A powerful voice
spoke  from the mirror and replied "Yes." Eregore shook with fear like
a  child.  "If  you destroy the Shard, a bitter winter will strike the
land." Then he thought and added "Of course, you will spare your loyal
followers....."  The  voice spoke firmly "Your purpose was to free me.
Now  you have done that, I have no need of you." "Why?" asked Eregore.
Malifon replied, "My winter shall cleanse the land of mortal souls and
once  again  silence  shall  embrace  the Wind and Gods shall walk the
Earth."

     I almost (but not quite) felt sorry for Eregore as I saw his face
change as realisation dawned. Suddenly he saw what he had done and how
he  had been used by Malifon. Taking a curved dagger, he calmly killed
himself  before  any  of us could stop him. Malifon's voice spoke once
more:  "Your  meddling  has  become a thorn in my side. Eregore died a
fool's death, your deaths shall be worse. For now I shall shatter your
precious Shard and my Winter shall begin. Do not believe you have felt
the last of my wrath, Your pain is my sustenance, your blood my drink.
I do not intend to starve." We heard a shattering sound that shook the
bowels of the earth. The black mirror shattered but the faceted mirror
remained whole. Swiftly, Lone rushed forward and took it, then we left
the Temple.

     Outside, a grim sight met our eyes. As predicted, the land was in
the  grip  of a bitter winter and all the towns were in ruins. We were
on  our  own. "We have to continue," said Izzy. "We've gone too far to
turn  back now." So we returned to our ship and sailed south, avoiding
battles with pirates, monsters and ghost ships now there was no way we
could get our ship repaired. Fairly quickly we came to the island with
Malifon's  volcano and found the glyphs the Ancient One had mentioned.
Anchoring the ship off-shore, we walked to the first glyph, each of us
losing  one hit point with each step. Arriving at the glyph, we set up
camp  and Izzy cast the Uncurse Spell. Lightning flashed and the glyph
was  gone.  The  land  was  now safe to walk on in this section of the
island  so,  once  we had rested and regained our strength, we carried
out the same procedure at the other two glyphs.

     Each  spell  cost  Izzy 50 spell points. In a bay to the south of
the large island, we found a smaller one on which was the Dark Chapel.
On  the  floor in the centre of the building was a large, round circle
of  glass  from  which a never-ending stream of blinding, yellow light
poured  out.  Lone held out the facet mirror over the circle of light.
Powerful  beams  of  light  burst off its facets, blinding us, while I
felt  my head reel. We felt ourselves being sent back in time and when
everything  eventually  slowed  down,  we  found ourselves in the Dark
Chapel  as  it had been ten thousand years ago. The shifting walls had
solidified  into  white  stone  and  the  Chapel  was  filled with the
spectral  forms  of  grossly-disfigured men - haunting images from the
dawn of Man, their heads bowed in prayer.

     At  four  alcoves  round  the  edge  of  the Chapel were circular
carvings  with  runic  inscriptions.  One showed a lightning bolt, one
wind  being  sucked  up  into  blackness,  another the creation of the
universe  and  the  fourth  some  kind of ghostly apparition. Clarence
translated  the  runes:  "Power,  Void, Divinity and Spirit." Soon, we
found  their significance as a spectral priest at the north end of the
room  chanted "Power, Divinity, Spirit...." and paused. "Void" replied
Izzy.  Without warning, a huge, blue fireball burst into the mountain,
melting  the  rock  and opening a passage from which stale air flowed.
The  passage  led  deep  into  the mountain, to a room with an ancient
stone  staircase  which  was covered with runes and cracked by time. A
huge  stone  statue  dominated the room but, as we entered, it came to
life -a guardian was attempting to stop us continuing.

     It  had  reckoned without Izzy's column of fire spell. Luckily he
had  enough  spell  points spare to blast the statue and, defeated, it
turned  back  to  stone. Sulphurous mist flowed round our ankles as we
ascended  the  staircase  to  emerge  in  an  icy  waste at the top of
Malifon's  volcano.  Another pit led down to our left and we descended
yet  again, this time into the heart of the volcano. The Demon Crystal
glowed  violet as we explored the caverns. At the far east end we fell
down  a  shaft,  even  deeper  into the volcano and in this section we
found  a  golden  bridge spanning a lake of fire. It was not unguarded
but  once  the  two  dragons  and  the  demon commanding them had been
destroyed  (our hardest fight yet) we crossed. The crystal was glowing
red as we entered a hall full of purple mist.

     The  mist  swayed as though it was alive and as I looked into the
mist, I saw faces of people we had known and places we had seen on our
travels.  As  we  stepped  into  the  mist,  we  travelled through our
memories  -  the  tent at the Kobold Camp - the octagon room - the old
woman's hut - and the icy tundra of the northlands by the ice dragon's
cave.  During  all  this  time, the crystal had glowed violet, red and
orange  but  as  Lone stepped forward to enter the cave Fidget shouted
"Stop!  Look  at  the  Crystal!"  and I saw it was glowing pure white.
Quickly,  we  set  up  camp  just  outside  the cave and Izzy cast the
Imprison  Spell.  Light  flashed and a resounding primaeval scream was
heard  from  the  depths  of the volcano. The walls shook and began to
crumble  around  us.  As the Imprison Spell took effect, the sounds of
Malifon's  agony  were  quickly  stifled but the walls of the mountain
continued to shake.

     Just  as  I  felt  the  walls  were about to collapse about us, a
strange  combination  of  darkness  and  light  surrounded  us and the
Ancient  One  spoke:  "You have done well. As long as the spell holds,
Malifon's  evil  is contained in the volcano. Many adventurers set out
to  destroy  the  root  of this evil. Many died along the way and many
gave  up  the  quest when they could not find the courage to continue.
You alone have succeeded, time and again ... to destroy Xeres, acquire
the  Orb  of  Evertime,  destroy  Malifon's High Temple and eventually
imprison   Malifon   himself."   "Although  Malifon's  evil  has  been
contained, the effects of his evil are still being felt on Ymros. With
the  Shard  gone,  the  land still lies in Winter and though Malifon's
Corruption is now ended, many towns have been turned to ruins. Perhaps
worst  of  all,  the  Gods  that  the  people  of  Ymros relied on for
centuries  are  dead and the people have lost hope." "I do not say the
work  is  yours  for  you  have  done more good that the land can ever
repay.

     For this reason, I can offer to reward you by making you immortal
and  you  shall  rule by my side for the rest of eternity." I couldn't
see  my  companions  but  I  felt their agreement when I said "We must
decline.  There  is  too much work to be done here on Ymros". "You are
indeed  noble,"  said the Ancient One. "If mortality is your wish then
it  shall  be  granted.  I  will  make sure the rest of your lives are
visited by good fortune and prosperity." And so it was. Lone went back
to the town of Woodhaven and was instrumental in its reconstruction.

     After  rebuilding  the city, he settled down there and lived to a
ripe  old  age.  Clarence became the first in two millennia to take up
the  title  of  High  Priest  of the Ancient One. With his accumulated
wealth, he built an enormous temple to The Ancients and spread word of
the  new  God. Fidget heard in the tavern of untold wealth in lands to
the  north  and went in search of the fortune. He gathered a party and
explored  many dungeons, eventually retiring in luxury. Izzy went on a
great quest for the Lifestone in order to build a new Shard of Spring.
While  he  did not live to see its completion, the new Shard was named
in  honour of him and still protects Ymros. What happened to me? Well,
that's another story!

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