The party left Winterhaven with Rond Kelfem and Doven Staul, returning home to Bysorth. After several days of travel down the rough old road, they descended out of the rugged mountains and into the hilly outskirts of Broadvale Valley. Not long into their 11th day of travel, they encountered a squad of Guardians camped off the road.
The soldiers were gathered around a small rift, which they claim had appeared not more than a week prior. A set of strange equipment was sitting boxed next to the soliders, which they explained were components to something called an astral spike, a complex explosive that created a powerful arcane surge that disrupted and closed portals.
Their squad leader seemed agitated, and after some conversation Dav learned that they had come out with another small squad of Cabalists, who had ventured into the portal the night before to set up the equipment on the other side. It was a simple operation that should have taken a half hour, but they had not returned. He had sent in two men to check on them after an hour had passed, and they had not returned either. None of the other soldiers were willing to pass through the portal to look for their comrades.
Kelton and Sephori were able to use their arcane knowledge to assemble the Astral Spike on their side of the portal, but the device needed to be activated from both sides of the rift. The party volunteered to cross through the portal and trigger the device on the other side.
Beyond the portal the party found themselves in a warm, lush, verdant, forest. The air smelled sweet, almost intoxicating, but there were no sounds of animal life nor any sort of breeze. The components of the other half of the astral spike were mostly assembled, but a key component was missing. Savik was able to locate the trail of the soldiers, leading down a deer path into the forest.
The forest was rich with delicious fruit, which Savik tried, and sweet smelling flowers, but silent and devoid of any animal life. Savik lost the trail before long, and attempts to backtrack led them nowhere, as the path they followed somehow looped back onto itself.
Their only choice was to venture deeper, and eventually they came to a lakeshore. The water was absolutely still, and in the hazy distance they could make out a small island. On the shore they found the armor and weapons of the soldiers scattered about, but no other sign of them.
Fashioning a raft, the party paddled out to the island. The island contained a beautiful walled garden surrounding a smooth stone dome, to which their appeared to be no entrance. A large marble statue stood in the garden, in the shape of a nude man of indeterminate origin. Sephori seemed enamored by the statue, so well carved it seemed almost alive, and began to molest it. Upon receiving this affection, a portal appeared in the dome and the party ventured inside.
Inside the party encountered 4 of the 5 missing men, lounging about, eating and drinking. They were pleased to have company and invited the party to relax, eat, and await their host. They weren’t interested in discussing their duty, leaving, and as to the whereabouts of the missing man they simply said he was gone because he was boring.
Before long their “host” arrived, emerging from the upper level. He looked exactly like the statue outside, a fair skinned man with long white hair. His presence was intoxicating, like a night of mirth and good drink. He said his name was Toma, and asked the group if they’d like to stay.
Resisting his lure, the party said no, they were leaving and taking the soldiers with them. Toma seemed upset and declared them all bores, and told the soliders to deal with them. A fight broke out, and 3 of the four soliders fell before Toma was slain. Upon Toma’s death, the fourth man snapped from his stupor and surrendered, explained they he had been charmed. The beast had forced the four of them to hunt, torture, and finally eat the fifth man in some sick game.
The air turned chill and then icy cold as the warm, lush place became an icy waste in the matter of minutes. The party ran across the frozen lake, the fifth soldier in tow. Upon reaching the shore the solider, near death from the cold, donned his clothes and armor and handed over the missing part to the astral spike.
The party raced back toward where they hoped the portal was, pushing through ever deepening snow and fierce winds, when a winged beast attacked from above. The howling monster chased them all the way back to the clearing where the portal lied, where it landed and attacked. Dav, Savik, and Sephori did battle with the creature while Kelton sent the surviving solider through to activate the spike on the other side. Assembling the device, the party activated it and leapt through the portal just as the device went off, exploding with a massive force and closing the rift.