When last we left our adventurous group of vault hunters they were going through various elemental planes to (hopefully) find the healing flowers of light. Activating the portal at the end of the path in the plane of fire, they were whisked away to the plane of air. Here, they found themselves in a vast sea of air which seemed to stretch on endlessly in all directions. A skill challenge ensued and the party managed to use their various skills to find another well-hidden portal and successfully reach it. Jack left a teasing note for his air elemental lady friend (who was summoned but did not arrive in time) and the party teleported to what would be the final stop in their most Excellent Adventure!
They found themselves on a disc-shaped platform in the middle of blackness, surrounded by billions and billions of stars (use Carl Sagan voice for last bit). The nearby “stars” were examined by various characters and proved to be large crystals of woven creation, containing all four of the elements and sparkling with the most pure of light. As this was going on, the party heard a booming voice welcoming them in Draconic and then telling them it would attend to them in a moment. [Cue elevator music: “Please hold until a service representative is available. Your call is important to us …”] In the meantime, keen-eyed Lenneth looked around some more, Ash waited, Charlotte examined, Jack wondered if he should grab a crystal [maybe hide it under his hat?], Moradin did grab a crystal, and Jacqueline hid and THEN grabbed a crystal.
At long last, a very ancient dragon appeared through a tear in reality and welcomed the party (and was a bit surprised by their non-dragony nature). Asked their purpose for traveling there, Ash informed the old dragon Bellarius of the party’s quest for the healing flower of glowing healing-ness. Not only had the old dragon heard of the petals (Excellent!), he was guarding access to it (oh, okay …), and refused to let the party have it (dude!), and would fight them if they tried to get it (Bogus!). However, immediately after issuing his threat, the old dragon then offered each adventurer a gift as reward for their accomplishments [talk about mixed signals].
At this point, things became rather confusing as several characters [and players] misheard, misinterpreted, or misunderstood the situation and words of Bellarius. Most of the party believed they were being presented with an “either/or” proposition: either take the fabulous gift and stop seeking the petals, or refuse the gift and fight! For Ash, there was further confusion as the dragon seemed to suggest giving up his current course in life and return to his old one (gift of shadowdancer gear). Sneaky, undetected Jacqueline was spared the next few angst-y moments as characters struggled with their choice. Charlotte was silent, Moradin and Ash wanted to refuse and fight, Jack was busy choosing his gift, but Lenneth couldn’t resist the shiny moon sword of awesomeness she was presented with [author’s note: which made me feel like a dirty rotten traitor … or coward. Probably didn’t play the character correctly there.].
At this point, Lenneth finally made an “understanding” roll and was informed by the DM that, in reality, we were all being stupid [authors note: my words, not his]. It seems Bellarius was gifting the adventurers for all they had accomplished so far and that gift was NOT tied to continuing or not continuing to attain the petals. Ash et al, could take their gifts AND fight the dragon for the petals. So Ash got his shadow dancer set, Lenneth got her moon sword, Jack his mysterious coin, and Charlotte her book (Moradin would hold off on his “wisdom” until later and Jacqueline would eventually receive boots after her presence was revealed). What followed was an EPIC battle with the ancient dragon. Ash (clearly the main character of our little story) took the brunt of the dragon’s attacks, while the former in combination with Jacqueline’s garotte and Moradin’s dragon-poison arrows did most of the party’s damage. Though the party did not wish to kill Bellarius, they did so accidentally with ongoing damage and the ancient one disintegrated into particles of light before their eyes.
Within the domed vault the dragon was guarding, the party found a tiny, old tree with three glowing petals. One was picked and Ash hurried everyone off to the exit portal, eager to revive the empress. Along the way, several characters stole, er … appropriated some crystals (some with good intentions and some with more shady ones). Heading through the final portal, the party reappeared at the entrance to the imperial tomb and most rushed off to attend to the empress. Charlotte, however, believing the noble guardian gone and fearing that the path was now open to more nefarious adventurers, sealed the vault by activating its traps.
Driven by Ash’s urgent desire to kis … I mean, cure the empress, the glowing petal was made into a potion and then fed to the sleeping beauty. Lo and behold, she awoke (without a kiss!), looked lovingly into her savior’s eyes, and said those magical words Ash had been yearning to hear: “I … I’m really … hungry.” [Ah, the romance.] With both parties now properly awake and willing, they kissed at long last and lived happily ever after (yay!).
… until two hours later when a dastardly cliff-hanger of an epilogue ruined their long-term happiness (doh!)! What will happen in season two of “Empire of Change?” Will the empress finally take the throne officially? Will Ash finally get to spend quality time with the empress without bad guys butting in and ruining it? Why has the Goblin King appeared and how did he acquire three golden orbs of mind-control awesomeness? Who is the man commanding all the evil dragons? Why did he crash the empress’s party and why does he want to sit on her throne for only a moment? Will Jack acquire a ship and be able to use his mysterious coin? Will Lenneth look even more beautifully awesome using her new moon sword? Will the party ever get an extended rest? Tune in next time, for all this and more, on: Empire of Change, season two!