Fraas walks boldly past Rand, and touches the Heart. Nothing. He looks down at the nearby gnome, and is struck by the sudden quiet of the chamber. As he looks around he notices that he and the deceased gnome are now alone in this room. He tries to remove his hand from the Heart, but the act brings on the grip of death and he barely manages to steady himself barely keeping his hand on the Heart.
For the rest of the gang, when Fraas approached the Heart, he simply vanished. As they look around, they realize they are no longer in the Heart’s chamber, but upon an island of black volcanic sand. Heat emanates from where the stairway was. Lapping water, smell of campfire. Carved stone pillars surround the small island and the Heart now appears crystalline and is melted into the obsidian ground. In the distance they spot other islands, volcanoes and an encroaching lightning storm. Beyond the heart, a sandbar path leads from their island of to a far off black tower. Zinn privately recognizes this, almost expecting its appearance. There are signs of someone recently being dragged along this sandy path.
At this point the group realizes that there are several feral orcs who have been stirred by the party’s sudden appearance on this isle. One of the orcs is a one-eyed priest, a worshipper of the ancient and savage evil orc god, Gruumsh. The orc-priest shouts in a primitive orc dialect “MORE CAPTIVES FOR THE BLOOD GOD!” At this, Zinn casts swift bull strength but misses her shot at the priest. Several orcs try to grab Zinn & Rand. Beck slices twice, dropping one orc. Bork bombs the priest, two others retaliate with a charge and the flat side sides of their axes. In a shocking display, Rand decapitates his attempted grappler. Shah turns invisible in attempt to gain positional advantage on the orc-priest. Sentinel charges. Aven shoots one of the orcs into a pure splatter of bone-flecked jam, intimidating one of the remaining orcs who makes an attempt to flee. Strangely, the religiously garbed orcs look pleased at the weapon’s display.
Meanwhile, the lone Fraas starts careful attempts to manipulate the stone Heart, with the tenuous fear of again removing his hand. As he toys with the sliver of Heart he starts hearing sonorous ringing and glowing runes fading in and out.
Back on the beachhead, Gfed’s weird words destroys one orc while also hitting the orc-priest hard. Beck slashes one as it runs away toward the tower. Zinn gets hit by an axe, and barely misses the orc who was fleeing in terror. Rand, without warning clocks Zinn. It quickly becomes clear that Rand is under some form of mental control as his glazed eyes are directed to the tower when he whispers, “I will bring them.” He knocks Zinn out cold.
Bork sends a crossbow bolt into another orc as he moves toward Rand. Shah’s invisibility pays off as he sneak attacks the orc-priest, after which Sentinel’s charge deals the deathblow. Lacking other options, Aven fires at an advancing Rand.
Back in the chamber of the Heart, Fraas continues to wiggle the sliver of heart ever so carefully, this time using his windsense to help guide it more precisely. He can see glowing runes, getting closer, blue light turning white.
Gfed runs for cover. Beck gets another axe wound. Bork bombs. Rand’s wounds begin closing. He charges at Bork but misses. Shah sneaks behind Rand.
Fraas ever so cautious makes a bumbling mistake. No progress.
Gfed’s scorching ray misses. Rand hisses at him. Beck severs an orc’s lower and upper halves and shouts, “Sir Rand, why are you attacking us!?” “My new liege commands it.” Sentinel gives Zinn a potion and she rises with her bow at the ready. Bork bombs at Rand who retorts “SO BE IT!”. Bork taunts, “bring it on!” Rand moves at Bork and slashes. Shah uses burning hands. Sentinel punches with fists of fury, but misses. Aven shoots at Rand again.
Frustrated, Fraas stumbles a bit more.
Gfed emits a scorching ray and Rand dissipates into a misty, vaguely Rand-shaped vapour cloud, moving upward…
Gfed sends his eagle to chase after the only remaining orc who had fled. Moments later, the raptor returns with bits of orc throat tangled in its jaw.
Beck picks up Rand’s fallen hammer, while Sentinel kneels in prayer for Rand.
Bork & Zinn inspect the throbbing crystalline heart. Shah detects good around the island, and passes out when his probe is directed at the heart.
Fraas is able to stabilize the piece. Closer… Careful…
Gfed inspects the surrounding pillars finding them to be magical and connected to a planar conjuration. Aven surmises that the pillars are not the central part of the conjuration and suspects instead, the heart. There are rough, grotesque faces on the pillars. Zinn recognizes the totems as vague history lessons from her youth. Beck touches a totem to no effect.
Fraas stumbles and the piece is back where it started. Ooops.
Looting the orc bodies, they don’t find much, but Zinn does get an axe upgrade. Beck tracks the dragged markings. Gfed picks up a ripped book-binding from the start of the tracks where it appears a previous scuffle occurred. The back side says, “With love, from Sieffre.” Was it Elin?
Shah awakes mildly aroused, “the heart is super good.” Bork touches the heart, but get burnt. Zinn tends to his wounds. Bork tries to push the heart with an orc’s axe, but the weapon just melts.
Above them are uncountable stars. The sky looks unfamiliar. There is a natural breeze, balmy, sulfuric.
Still no progress for Fraas.
About 30 minutes have passed. The Rand-shaped mist floats away further toward the tower. The group, using Zinn’s sword, speaks with the dead priest. The answers to their questions of who his master was, who enchanted Rand and who was dragged away are not especially helpful. “Blood God”, “Blood God”, “Magic Lady”.
From afar they spy a sudden burst of activity at the tower. A Draconic shape alights. There is was seems to be a smaller winged humanoid. A Draconic roar calls out. Sentinel recalls a similar sounding roar several days ago echoing outside the Griffton tavern. Battle-weary, they begin to make camp.
Suddenly and without warning Fraas appears with his hand on the glowing Heart, as the group has suddenly returned to its chamber. Rays of light beam out of the Heart, sending light missiles that hit everyone in the chest. One is even sent into Rand’s lifeless body that has appeared on the nearby ground. Rand appears to be merely dead and not undead. Three more beams shoot upwards, through the roof of the chamber, out of sight. Unsure of what just transpired the group feels only a strange sense that something mythic has just occurred.
The Heart is now glowing bright, with seven sets of runes on individual slivers of stone. Fraas dutifully transcribes them into his notebook while Bork provides him with a lesser restoration potion.
Fraas and the rest of the party quickly retell their stories for each other as they collect Rand and the gnomish female’s body, and begin to make their way back to town. The tunnel is still filled with tendrils of dark energy.
When they get back to the were-rat chamber, bodies appear to be more naturally decomposing. At the Crossroads, tracks are found that lead to the halls of fire, but there are no tracks out, as that path and one other are now closed off with stone. They check the Oracle’s throne room, but find no change. When they get back to town it is noticeably warmer. Further, the corpses in town are also found to be naturally decomposing. Several townsfolk are busy hauling away the bodies.
Back at their room in the tavern, the bards set to work on raising Rand from the dead. The first attempt yields nothing. Though, on the second attempt, Rand awakes. He recalls everything his vampire self did. The last thing he remembers was a whitish dragon, ancient, and a winged woman alongside. They were fighting an amorphous darkness atop a dark tower.
A round of hugs follows. Fraas, suspiciously approaches Rand with his throat exposed as if to test if Rand still has his bloodthirst. Gfed smacks and scolds Rand, who retorts with another hug. Fraas suggests that afterward they call a town meeting. Inspecting the gnome corpse closely, Aven suspects that this is Zorian, the mad gnome. Before any further inquiry, the group agrees that Rand should go see his mother.
Rand dons a hooded cloak and they all head into town through the tavern. In passing, they determine from a bar patron that 5 days have past since they left for the tunnels, and it’s been 3 days since the dead turned normal. It’s beautiful outside even with the crickets, bugs, reeking smells and people hauling bodies off to charnel pits.
At the Bardukes’, Rands mother grasps him in a tearful embrace. She steadies, a little embarrassed at her emotional state, stiffens her composure, fixes her beard. She tells of bad news, that Rand’s father disappeared 4 days ago and is suspected dead. He was just too worn down by what transpired. Rand decides to stay the night at home, while the rest of the group head back to the tavern.
On the way back, they are told that Sieffre’s ship was delayed due to pirates, but it is now in port.