The world of Athas is a bleak place- death is cheap and acts of kindness are few and far between. All the desert, and barely a drop of water to be had.

But it wasn't always this way...

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Dark Sun Redemption: Freedom Session 4 Recap
Morning came, and another day of scorching heat greeted the slaves on awakening. The day was slightly humid, but not so much so as to make it oppressive with the denied promise of rain. As light spilled into the holding area where the prisoners were, an insufficient breakfast of a minimal amount of murky water and lumpy porridge was placed into each cell.

The prisoners had to eat fast, for shortly thereafter, the heavily armed military began to bring them out in groups, to disappear around the corner towards the way they had been herded towards before. When it's the slaves' turn, the guards are noticeably more nervous, their crossbows on a hair trigger, ready to take them down at a moment's notice. Xavkul chuckles darkly, but none of the other slaves say anything.

They are herded from their cells, through corridors that stink of unwashed human, fear, and less innocent smells that point to one undeniable fact- beings have died here, and will again. The guards usher the prisoners through a portal, where they can see the light of the sun for the first time in several days. A grate closes behind them, leaving them without guards, and within the reach of several weapons to their specifications off to the right. It is apparent that they are to take their weapons and head into the arena, and the spikes on the portcullis gives the unspoken threat that hesitation will not be brooked. But they decide not to put this to the test, as they go out in the harsh sunlight.

The roar of the crowds is deafening as other gladiators come out from the other doors; twenty in all- five sets of five gladiators.

"My people, this is a celebration of the spirit of Tyr, and the ushering of the city into a new era." Kalak's voice echoes from the royal box, able to be heard throughout the arena. "This will require sacrifices, from us all. But I am sure that the people of Tyr are more than ready for them."

"But that is for another time. For now, enjoy the games!"

One of the guards signals to the arena, and the more hardened looking gladiators turn toward the stands. "We who are about to die, salute you!" they shout out, and the melee is joined.

In the first few minutes of the fight, it is obvious that the fighters fall into 3 different groups. Those that are cannon fodder, that die in these first minutes- either cleanly, or mewling on the sands of the arena. Then there are those that are fighters, but who've never been in the arena. Some find out the hard way that fighting in the arena is different than fighting in other venues, as they die beneath the weapons of someone a little more skilled as the time wears on. Others are seasoned arena fighters, and few fall in the beginning of the competition. The prisoners choose to fight together, watching each others' backs, which proves to be a good tactic. They are able to fight off the challenges from those that know more about the arena.

As the field is whittled down to 12 remaining fighters, the competition seems ready to move into the final stage, but Kalak holds off the arena master as he goes to call a stop to the fighting. Instead he motions him over to talk to him. The arena master runs to do Kalak's bidding as the Sorcerer-King stands in his box.

"As you know, normally the grand tournament would proceed into the finals a this point, but I have a surprise for you, in celebration of my people's success."

At this point, as if triggered by Kalak's words, the center of the arena lowers, and after a moment's pause, raises back up again, three ravenous tigers on chains in the middle of the platform.

"To the death!" Kalak's voice roars, and the crowd roars in response as the fight continues.

'What's going on?' Rut thinks to Hannto, hoping that he hears. '...blocked,' the only thing that he gets back, but Gwind gets a more complete vision of the problem. 'Kalak is preparing the ritual now! I'm not sure how... But I'm monitoring the situation.'

The fighters are close, and though blood is spilled, no one goes down. The half-giant, Xavkul is almost mauled by a tiger, but they group kills it, then follows up with the next two tigers in order, leaving the other fighters to fight against each other. As the tigers die, Rut sees something that is most interesting happening in the spirit realm to match the deaths in the arena; the spirits of the tigers are seemingly channeled into Kalak!

'We have to stop him now! The ritual is taking place as we speak!' Gwind and Rut both hear Hannto in their heads, his tone urgent. 'First we have to contain the energy so that Kalak cannot access it. Have the others move to the hot spots I direct you to... quickly!'

'Won't he notice?' Rut asks, skeptical.

'He will, but I have another distraction planned.'

And indeed, even as he says this, resistance fighters burst into the royal box, fighting to get to Kalak.

'You have to get this done quickly, for the pawns I put into place are no match for Kalak, or indeed even the full might of his guard.'

Rut doesn't even ask how he's supposed to get them to go to the spots, instead channeling his fear into an urgency that he uses to convince them. "You have to move where I tell you to- something greater is going on here, and if we don't stop it we're all dead!"

His words, combined with the hypnotic haze the audience is clearly in convince the others to follow their lead. It is very much akin to moving in water at first as they proceed to their points.. a passive sort of resistance, that intensifies as they get closer to their spots, becoming at last almost insurmountable. But Gwind and Rut are able to channel Hannto's power to oppose the power of the hotspots, helping them finally get to their spots. As they do, they feel the power being contained, almost as if it will explode from their bodies. It wants to go to Kalak, but they are able to hold it until Gwind and Rut get into the places told by Hannto, and then release it into the pair, to be channeled into Kalak, along with Hannto's addition- a payload that makes it the antithesis of the power of the Sorcerer-King.

At first, Kalak appears that he might be able to handle the unwelcome power, as he begins to take on draconic form. But as he swells up, deformations become obvious in the scaly nature of his skin, and he disintegrates under the stress of the power, finally exploding in pyrotechnic display. At that point, the trance that the crowd is in dissipates, and there is pandemonium in the arena.

The party is able to take advantage of the riot to escape under the arena, guided by Hannto through their link.
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Dark Sun Redemption: Freedom Session 3 Recap
Spoiler for Gwind

The slaves made their way down the corridor, in full flight from the guards behind them. They knew that they had to find a sanctuary to hide or at least put something between them and the guards before they were run down; these new guards didn't seem the same as the ones that they had subdued. These seemed more professional and better equipped- from the spears that the guards in the forefront carried tipped with obsidian, to the crossbows that the ones in the rear carried. They exuded menace as they came after the escapees- not at full speed, but keeping formation as they followed.

Rut rounded the corner, and saw more cells down the hall, and a strong door to his right. Though the door provided more resistance, if he could get through it, they could put it between them and the pursuers, so he put his shoulder into it, trying to knock it open. But he was too slight to make this work, and bounced off of the door.

"Xav!" he yelled. "Break it down!"

The half-giant picked up speed as he ran down the corridor. He caught a glimpse of an outline in the wall, and realized that they were running right past a concealed door. But without knowing what it was, or if it was locked, he chose to go the way that Rut had already run, bringing his shoulder down to rush the door.

Just before the thundering half-giant reached the door, Rut heard a click from it- like the unlocking of the door...

Xav hit the door with his full might- finding very little resistance as the door flung open as he hit it. Stair lie before him, and he knew that he could not slow down in time. So he continued on into the darkness, down the stairs. In the spare light in the new corridor, he made out a door at the end of the hall, so tried to use his momentum to carry him through, for he saw light under the door. This time, he solidly connected, and there was a great, deep sound as he connected. The door gave- but it didn't break; he considered himself lucky that his shoulder held out as well as it did with his speed; that door was quite solid!

The others followed behind Xav. Rut wondered for a moment how the door had opened. He saw another corridor leading to the left, but chose to lock the door behind them (cutting off the other escapees behind them) following his cell mates.

As they came to the solid door, it was very evident that it was made to keep someone out- or in. But before they could make more observation that that, darkness descended. Right before falling unconscious, Rut noted that he felt the pull of magic in the corridor...

Spoiler for Gwind

Spoiler for Rut

Spoiler for Gwind and Rut

The slaves were thrown back into their cell, though this one was at the end of the hall, rather than the middle as they were before. The act of being bodily thrown into the cell, along with the noise that the guards made awoke them jarringly from the slumber in which they had been placed.

"Wha's going on?" Xav asked, his mind still muddled with cottony fog.

"I guess we'll find out," Rut answered, shaking his head.

The cell door was closed, a contingent of guardsmen outside the door. "You will find that we are less forgiving than your former jailers; your performance made the arena guards call out the militia," one of their new guards said. "As you can imagine, we are less than pleased with this duty; so give us any excuse, and you will find what trained soldiers can do."

The prisoners said nothing to this threat, so he continued. "You'll be classified for the grand melee, and the toruney that follows. That would have been found out at processing today, but with your performance, that was skipped."

He threw shifts in through the gate; one sized even to fit the half-giant, Xav. "What weapons do you use? Melee and thrown only; the crowds prefer close in combat."

After taking their order as if he were taking a meal order in a restaurant, the guards left, though soon they were followed by an actual meal. Not skimpy as before; apparently the bare victuals on the previous day had been only to help shake out the weak from those who would be in the arena.

Other than this interruption, even that night, they were left alone, to contemplate what awaited them on tomorrow, and prepare themselves in whatever manner they saw fit...
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Dark Sun Redemption: Freedom Session 2 Recap
The slaves tried to take control of their situation as much as possible; cannibalizing the mul for additional food, then stripping his bones for weapons. Through the use of their abilities, they were able to desiccate his skin, making macabre pouches for the smaller bones. The cell was like an abattoir, but they were at least equipped and full.

Over the course of the night, sudden banging, screaming, and other noises awoke them several times. Thankfully, this was their first night of this, but they knew that if they had to put up with it over the course of several nights, they'd get weaker with the lack of sleep, especially if they were not fed sufficiently.

The morning came, and with it another group of guards policing the row of cells. From what they could see from their perspective, it seemed that the guards were removing the dead and badly hurt from the cells, as baser instincts weeded out the weaker, so that only the strong survived. When the guards came to the slaves' cell, they saw that the number was now down to three. The tiefling pointedly picked his teeth with one of the mul's bones, sparking a narrowing of the eyes from one of the guards as they proceeded on. After the passing of the guard, things quieted down for a bit- then they heard the sounds of someone being dragged down the hall.

"This one," the voice said authoritatively. "Get it open."

They saw soon enough that the guards referred to their cell, as they came to the bars. "Get to the back of the cell," one of the guards said to them, as they waited for compliance.

The slaves did as asked, and one of the guards opened the door, leaving way for a new occupant to be thrown into the cell- a longtooth shifter. The cell door was quickly closed, leaving the slaves to their own devices in their space.

The shifter put his back to the wall, his eyes sweeping the occupants of the cell. For their part, the other slaves sized him up also, and seemed to come to the conclusion that he was better as a cell mate than dinner. They had barely begun their introductions when they heard the familiar sounds of boots in the hall. But this time, it was accompanied by the opening of cell doors, and the sound of feet retreating down the corridor.

"Make your way down the hall... orderly like. Someone will be there to make sure you don't lose your way."

After a minute, another cell door was heard to open.

"Make your way down the hall... orderly like. Someone will be there to make sure you don't lose your way."

This continued, until they got to the slaves' cell. But as the door was opened, the slaves surged out, trying to overwhelm the guards.

"This is our best chance... let's take it!" the half-elf said as he ferociously charged the closest guard.

It was a hard fought battle, though the half-elf releasing the prisoners in the next cell and the last group of slaves returning to help in the break tilted it in the slaves' favor. That, and the overconfidence/fear of the main guard that delayed his call for help. The last guard was downed just as they heard the approach of more booted feet.

"We have to get out of here," the tiefling said, already moving away from the guards.

"That takes us where they were herding us," the half-giant said.

"No choice for now," the half-elf replied. "We have to play this out now."

Dragging along the corpse of the main guard, the slaves ran down the corridor, away from the approaching guards...
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Dark Sun Redemption: Freedom Session 1 Recap
As the line of slave carts came over the next dune, the sun-baked city of Tyr came into view. It was a huge city, with crenelated stone walls that stretched upwards toward the sky several cubits. Those imposing walls gave the impression of being built with blood, sweat, and tears, just as much as the cement that held them together.

Not many buildings were tall enough to be seen from the perspective of the slave train other than the palace- an almost pyramidal structure that peeked out over the city walls. The progression wended its way inexorably towards the unforgiving city, though it turned aside rather than go through the huge gates that led into the city. The prisoners could see as they passed within view of the main gates that there were some sort of preparations in progress for some sort of celebration- festive banners that seemed out of place fluttered weakly from the huge gates.

But the entrance that the newly captured slaves did not even have that level of festivity in sight, instead being a smaller drab literal hole in the wall of the city, that led out of the sun, and into a darkened tunnel. It would have seemed that being out of the sun should give some relief from the heat, but this wasn't the case, as the tight environs were like an oven, and smelled of unwashed masses, waste, and blood.

The slaves were processed quickly as their respective wagons came to the group of templars awaiting the new arrivals. Any speech was met with brutality almost as bad as the example they had left in the desert. Instead, the slaves were expected to stand in silence as they were carelessly stripped, their items taken by the head templar or passed through the lower ranks. Dice could be heard in the background as some of the guards gambled to see whom would get what loot. The prisoners were then shaved to reduce the chances of lice or other vermin, marched to 6 cubit by 6 cubit cell in groups, and the door secured behind them. Again and again they did the same thing, efficiently moving through the masses as they went along, only interrupted by bursts of merciless and brutal violence when they were opposed.

The elemental was singled out for questioning by the overseer, a stocky human with a nose that had been broken more than once, giving his face an angular cast. "What the hell are you?"

"Genasi," the elemental replied. "Cindersoul Genasi."

The overseer regarded the Genasi for a moment, looking up and down her strangely constructed body.

"Slave?" the overseer asked the head templar. "Or attraction?"

The templar, a more refined, if more muscled than an administrator would normally be man in scale armor adorned with metal accented ceramic medallions holding his flowing cape on his shoulders. He took his time evaluating the question before answering "Slave," with a toss of his hand.

The Genasi was placed in the cell with four others- one of the half-giant guards, a tiefling that had been caught up in the battle, a brawny mul, and a slender human.

These were survivors, for once they were in the cell and the guards gone the half-giant hunkered down in one corner of the cell, appropriating a bone he found on the floor and sharpening it against one of the walls. The tiefling and the human began to do likewise, all very aware of not only the suffering going on beyond the cell door, but also the suffering that might take place within the cell itself. The mul paced around the cell, looking out to see what was going on in the long hall, before looking back to his cellmates- specifically the human.

"What are you looking at?" he spat.

"You know anything about this place, mule?" the human asked instead mildly.

"What did you call me?" he asked, his voice dangerously low.

"Mule. That's what you are isn't it? I haven't seen many of your kind... aren't you normally slaves? That's why I thought you might have been here before."

Seeing that the slur was a mere slip, the mul calmed down a bit. "Yeah. I've been here before," he said, sighing. "And hoped never to be back."

"In that case, we'd better be trying to find a way out."

"Out?" the mul laughed. "You really don't know anything about Tyr. These are the pens below the arena."

At this, the half-giant laughed darkly.

"What's your problem? What are you laughing at?"

The half-giant regarded the mul for a moment, making sure he had his full attention before answering, "I smell death."

The mul held the half-giant's gaze for a moment before shaking his head.

"So that's a better reason to try to escape, right? Die here... or die escaping. What's the difference?"

"At least if we escape, we can die killing them instead of entertaining them," the half-giant interjected.

"Ok, so say we escape the pens, what then? We really stick out like this."

"One step at a time," the human said, regarding the door.

Though sturdy, the door wasn't locked, just latched with some sort of gravity mechanism. The human experimented with it, then after a moment, realized he couldn't do it by himself. "Half-giant. You want to get out, right? Why don't you help?"

The half-giant considered for a moment, then came to his feet slowly. After looking at the latch, and getting instruction from the human, he said, angrily. "I can't do this! My hands are too big. Get the little one over there," he said, pointing to the tiefling.

"So? You want to help?" the human said.

The tiefling shrugged. "Why not?" he said, dusting his hands off as he came to his feet. After checking to make sure that no guards were in the immediate area, the pair worked the lock.

"Put it back," the tiefling hissed. "We should try this when there's less light- we won't last a second if we try now."

As if to punctuate his words, there was a scream cut short down the hall.

The human nodded, and the lock was placed back. Then, instead of retreating from the gate, he asked, "Anyone over there?"

"Ungh... yeah," a low voice responded.

"What do you want?" another voice responded after a second.

"We're getting out of here," the human responded.

"Yeah... just like those other berks down the hall. None of us are going anywhere but the pits."

"Not us... and we need a few good people to go along with us," he rejoined.

"A few good people? Or a few good distractions?" the voice replied cynically, and there was an answering laugh from within the cell.

"Does it matter which? You get your chance just like us."

"What's the plan?"

"Nothing past getting out of the doors. Unless you have a better one?" Silence greeted his query, and after a moment's pause, he continued. "You in... or out?"

"We'll be here... it's not like we're going anywhere."

That done,

As they continued their preparations for a bloody night, the slaves were disturbed only twice. Once for dinner, which turned out not to be enough to sustain them all. The slaves decided to give the food to the half-giant, as it is what would be expected- that he would use his size to gain an advantage. And indeed, the same sort of scenario that the human predicted could be heard to be playing out as shrieks and sounds of pain echoed through the hall. The second time the guards made rounds again to place torches into the sconces on the wall, casting deep shadows through the tunnel.

"Other than the gate, we'll need one of the lights," the human said to the others.

"I have that handled," the tiefling answered.

"It has to be fast, and silent... as long as possible," the human continued, looking out the gate.

"We got it..."

Just at that point, they heard the sound of one of the gates splintering, and steps in the tunnel.

"Perfect... let's go! We've got to take advantage..."

But in the background, the yells of exultation became screams of pain. The laughter of the guards overlaid it, as they walked towards the prostrate forms of the slaves spread out on the hard ground. Looking out the cell door, they could see that the commotion had drawn the attention of the other slaves, as hands gripped the bars of the doors he could see. But more striking were the guards walking casually towards the slaves. One placed his foot on one of the slave's neck, forcing his face into the ground. But the slave seemed not to notice, so intent was he on whatever was causing him pain.

The head guard walked to a central position, as the others dragged the hapless victims closer to him so the other slaves could see them.

"I come to correct a misunderstanding," his voice boomed, and the other guards chuckled darkly. "Your cell doors are not to keep you in, but to protect you! At night, things prowl the darkness that like the taste of slaves, so it's your choice. Stay in the cell, and have a chance at glory in the arena, and eventual freedom, or honorable death." He turned one of the slaves over with a boot, and the others could see him frothing at the mouth, his eyes wide, his rictus wracked hands grappling towards some unseen foe. "Or leave the cell, and choose... certain death."

With that, he turned, and the guards dragged the now-feebly thrashing slaves behind him.

The human saw movement out of the corner of his eye and turned, but he was not the target of the tiefling. Now holding a bone sliver in his hand, he cut across the mul's neck from behind, eliciting a spurt of bright red arterial blood. It wasn't as precise as the tiefling would have liked, and the mul continued to struggle. He was sore hurt, and his eyes as he looked towards the human showed an awareness that death was near. But he still continued to fight, determined to take his attacker with him.

For his part, the human withdrew to the side of the cell, watching the struggle, even as he shook his head in exasperation. The other slaves would be no help either... the genasi was stunned by the suddenness of it all, and the half-giant smiled, delighted to watch the mortal combat.

The tiefling stabbed him in the side as he struggled to maintain his hold, but the mul was able to get free enough to make the stab for his kidney into a painful scrape across his ribs. He tried to elbow the tiefling, but could not get any force behind it, between the awkward position, and his fleeting strength. Finally, the tiefling was able to stun him with another blow, allowing him to finish the mul with a final strike.

He stood over the corpse of the mul, looking at his fellow slaves. "What?" he said shrugging. "I was hungry!" he finished, as if that explained everything.
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Dark Sun Redemption Intro Recap
The heat of the Athasian desert was, as usual, oppressive. The caravan had wound its way for miles across the harsh sands, occasionally passing rocky outcroppings, depressions filed with silt that could swallow a man whole, and various other dangers. Traveling with the caravan was a motley crew of beings - humans, elves, mul, and even more bizarre creatures.

The caravan master grew noticeably less agitated as the miles fell away, and they approached their goal- the City-State of Tyr. He'd had to supplement his trade with travelers, and it always seemed that outsiders brought trouble. He had the recent addition of the Half-Giant guard to supplement his security detachment, but he still felt uneasy at some of his travelers. The half-elf had a dark look about him, and smelled of trouble. That he could have put off to a in-built paranoia; though he would never ignore that instinct as it had saved him more than once, he had also learned that too much of it was bad for business. But even more was the dwarf with his strange looking bodyguard. He had the revolutionary look to him... and that female that he carried in tow was the most strange thing he'd ever seen.

But soon, they'd be in Tyr, and none of his trouble...

The cry of "Bandits!" let him know that he'd counted his bits before he'd had a chance to cash them in, as he noticed the cloud of dust bearing down on the train from over a far dune.

"Get your lazy asses in gear!" he cried, riding along the caravan on his kank to signal to the drivers to pick up the speed. If they could only get within sight of the walls- he'd paid his fee already for access to Tyr, so the guards would *probably* help them...

But he saw that they'd not get that solace- he could now make out shapes in the cloud, letting him know that their pursuers were much faster than them.

"Circle the wagons! Prepare to meet the raiders!" he cried out, looking for the leader of his security detachment.

He never found him, for soon the raiders were amongst them, and the chaos of battle overtook the caravan. Blood and bone were exposed to the sun as the kes'trekel circled above, anticipating the feast that would follow.

But against all hope, a detachment of guards came over the dune. A bit too late to save the caravan, but early enough to provide succor from the raiders. Obsidian weapons gleamed in the sun as they raced in a charge through the battle, those deadly black weapons arcing up and down again and again, trailing blood through the air. It soon became obvious that this was a third side entering the battle, rather than coming to aid. They ruthlessly separated the strong from the weak like a farmer culling the useless crops. Behind them came caging carts, drawn by kanks to gather that most precious of resources after water and steel- strong slaves. The dwarf with the elemental bodyguard put up a spirited fight, but was doomed from the first... at the very end, he raised his hand to cast a spell, turning the bare foliage around him to ash even as an obsidian blade rendered that feeble effort useless...

The healthy were loaded onto the wagons, and taken over the dunes to the nearby city-state of Tyr.
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Game Master:
Dark Sun (4E)
33 other campaigns in this setting
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