Victory had been won, and the green dragon highlord lay defeated. The Companions set to work interrogating him, learning of the Dragon Emperor Arakias and his Crown of Power, which conveyed magical protection. Salah-Khan spoke of the likely locations of Ariakas, depending on how the war to the west was going. The Companions also told their story to the curious the bronze dragon, Clarion, who listened intently before telling his tale, which included the revelation of the theft of the good dragon eggs.
The heroes kept Salah-Khan captive and returned to the minotaur isle of Mithas.
After returning, the group spent the next month helping the former privateer Maquesta Kar-Thon secure her new role as Pirate Queen. In repayment, she arranged a meeting with the imposing Minotaur Emperor: Chot Es-Kalin. Minotaurs believe “might makes right” and Emperor Chot showed the scars of many fights in the great arena proving his strength and thus his right to rule.
The powerful minotaur seemed uncertain of their motives, especially their request for him to remove his troops from the dragonarmies. Chot boasted that the minotaurs would never be slaves again, as now they would be conquerors. Deldred brought in Salah Khan to discuss the true role of the minotaurs in the dragonarmies, and their subservient role after the Dark Queen’s victory.
Chot was not happy. He stepped forward and twisted the Highlord’s head backwards. The once proud warrior-assassin Salah-Khan limply fell to the ground. Growling, Chot agreed to withdraw his support and troops, but refused to engage the dragonarmies unless their vessels sailed into minotaur waters. The minotaurs would remain neutral.
Sailing west on the flagship of the new Pirate Queen’s fleet, the Companions arrived in Kalaman. After two weeks on the boat they were glad to reach land, especially Deldred. Surprisingly, the entire city knew of the heroes, calling them by name and asking questions. They were brought to the finest inn and given the best food and drink, all free of charge. It turned out that the bronze dragon Clarion arrived at the city, and spread tales of the great heroes and their victories in Silvanost, Balifor, and the Blood Sea.
The next day was the Spring Dawning festival and the entire town celebrated the Companion’s achievements. Plays were watched, snacks were consumed, and Deldred easily won a drinking competition.
The next day the Companions were surprised with an invitation to the Whitestone Council. The uneasy alliance of humans, dwarves and elves was reconvening by the front line to establish a renewed offensive. Even the elves had come along to negotiate. After angry discussion and more indecision, Arcus took the initiative to teleport the entire council to Silvanost, all to prove to the Silvanesti ambassador the Heroes had indeed aided their people. This included the elven princess Alhana Starbreeze, who was overseeing the reconstruction of Silvanesti, still bearing the scars of Lorac’s nightmare.
Shamed by Alhana Starbreeze who named the heroes “friends”, the ambassador quickly agreed that the elves would join the renewed offensive. Unwilling to let the Silvanesti alone fight for the elves, Porthios, prince of Qualinesti, agreed to also send troops.
With the war going well, the heroes planned their next move: sneaking overland to Neraka, capital of Taman Busuk, center of the dragonarmy’s territory, and the very heart of darkness.
Before the group could depart, a massive shadow appeared over the city of Kalaman: a flying citadel. A small keep wrenched from the ground and floating on a spur of rock atop magical storm clouds. Exiting the flying structure was a blue dragon and rider, the Blue Dragon Highlord – also known as Drake the Traitor. He gave an ultimatum: surrender the Green Gemstone Man and have the good dragons submit to the will of the Dark Queen. Failure would result in the destruction of Kalaman and any other cities that resisted.
The Heroes decided to fight. Arcus was supplied with sketches and landscape paintings and reports from scouts, to enable him to teleport into Taman Busuk. Teleporting to the mountainous region, the Heroes moved southward. After passing through a small, occupied town they came across a slave caravan. They rescued the captured slaves, despite a mild earthquake that cracked the earth asunder and half-submerged Deldred in lava.
With the freed slaves in tow they reached the occupied town of Jelek, and met with the head of the local resistance: the Hidden Light. The resistance leader, nicknamed the Butcher because of her actual occupation as the town butcher, told the Companions there was no easy way to Neraka. Hammered by lance-wielding knights atop metallic dragons, the dragonarmies had pulled back for a meeting of the surviving Highlords. The Butcher also said that an old befuddled wizard advised her that the best way to Neraka was in the opposite direction, to the southwest. Curious, the Companions followed the advice and discovered a small unremarkable path into the mountains.
Following the path, they came across a massive curled dragon, sleeping in the sun. Its golden scales were dull and worn with age. Sleeping atop the dragon was a bearded old wizard: Fizban the Fabulous. He chastised the group for poor manners after waking him and agreed to accompany them.
The path they were following led to an aged and forgotten city. It was divided into eighteen sections, each with a subtlety different style of architecture. In the middle was a sizable black slab of rock, worn and pitted. Arcus walked onto the surface and a glowing doorway appeared, a portal to an unknown place. Inside was a massive entryway leading to a giant-sized throne. A voice announced they had entered a place of challenges, that they would be tested.
The first test was a challenge of wisdom.
The Companions struggled through a flooded tower, trying to discover the way out, which was reportedly the way up. This proved challenging as the tower looped back upon itself, twisting like a möbius strip. In each of the Tests a gem was required. In this test it was hidden in an alcove behind a row of clay golems. Not wishing to fight the half-dozen golems, Arcus simply used the enchantment Mage Hand to levitate the stone to them.
They followed the flowing water around, discovering a table of enchanted food that held Squee and Deldred captivated before they were pulled off. There was a room full of bewitched dwarves desperately trying to paint a room between fits of dancing caused by an enchanted music box, which resisted Arcus’ attempts to disintegrate it. Finally, Squee hit upon the idea of aiding the dwarves in their task, which greatly decreased the time painting.
While exploring, Squee accidentally released a captured elven spirit bound to a painting. The spirit followed them for some time, before attacking when the heroes were distracted. Despite seemingly being slain, she returned again. The heroes quickly deduced she was bound to the painting and destroyed it.
Finally, the Heroes discovered a secret door in the library. They struggled for some time to open the sealed door but eventually deduced the secret. This led them to a spiral staircase leading up and down. They emerged through the top of the tower and returned to the throne room in a flash of light.