The Eclipse

Making Decisions

Following the battle with the ghosts, the heroes split up. Astrid and Grey Mist along with MagLev stayed at the museum. Gonzo and the Bat returned to the Aerie to make use of the healing chambers. Xue Zen, refusing to return to the Aerie, checked in to a local hospital for treatment.

At the Aerie, the pair was greeted in the morning by Lee Sung’s minions along with the healer Sun Ye. After accepting her services, Gonzo and the Bat returned to the museum.

At the museum, the Curator and Exhibitor expressed their displeasure over both the theft of the mummy and the destruction of the ceiling in the exhibition hall. In a fit of pique, the pair announces that they will be exploring their alternatives for the protection of the exhibit.
Astrid’s respiratory infection continues to worsen. She lets the rest of the team know that she is heading to the hospital. However, MagLev discovers her on a couch with a far-off look in her eyes. It is determined that Astrid was physically incapable of going to the hospital unattended. If she tries, she ‘shuts down’ and generates memories of travelling to the hospital. Yet another unattractive feature of her clone lineage. MagLev accompanies Astrid to the hospital where they can find no reason for her affliction.

While Xue Zen continues to recover in the hospital, the rest of the Vanguard (alon with Miss Ming) remain on duty at the museum for the next three nights. In the middle of the third night, the villain Guf walks into the museum bringing a box of doughnuts and a couple of thermoses of coffee. He banters lightly with the heroes. At Astrid’s request, he uses his transmutation abilities to repair the ceiling.

Grey Mist asks Guf, ‘hypothetically…. If it wasn’t you that stole the mummy…. Who else might have been interested in acquiring it?’ Guf considers the question and says that a villain named Destikothesis and his band of Revenants might have been interested in the mummy…. But he believes that the Vanguard encountered them in New York… and if they wanted the mummy, they would have taken it after defeating the heroes.

The following morning, the heroes and Guf leave the museum. The Curator meets the heroes and informs them that their services will no longer be needed because the PITs team will be handling security at the exhibit – although he was pleasantly surprised to discover that the physical damage done during the battle had been repaired.

After the three intervening days, Astrid’s illness becomes significantly worse –to the point of affecting her effectiveness. She leaves the rest of the team and boards a plane for her childhood home in California.

Discovering her absence, the rest of the heroes (except Xue Zen) return to the Aerie in order to locate her using Teacher. They are able to locate her via the gps in her communicator. MagLev flies to California to find her.

Meanwhile, Xue Zen returns in disguise to Center City. He visits Stanislaw in the hospital and sets up a base of operations in New Jersey. The first phase of his plan involves contacting various ‘unsavory’ acquaintances he knows from his street performer days in San Francisco.

Grey Mist makes plans to attack the SWORD base identified by Silent Rage – and plans to attack it alone if necessary since his teammates are spread out across the country. Gonzo talks him into waiting for a few days while he performs some recon on the known entrances to the hidden base.

The heroes recall the rail exit from the base that exits at a remote privately run airport. Gonzo invisibly watches the airport for a couple of days. He observes several points of interest:

  • There is a regular guard at the hillside entrance to the railway.
  • There are two hangers – one that is run by the airport owners for the regular customers, and one that is privately held and locked tight.

In the meanwhile, Astrid discovers that her father’s house (no sign of Jason Kurtz) and lab are abandoned. In a fog, she checks into Cedars Sinai. While in the emergency room, a familiar looking doctor arrives at her bedside. He asks how she is doing and prepares to inject her with a hypodermic. She resists the shot, determined to first figure out why he is so familiar looking. He admits that he knows her well and that she knows him as Epsilon. She asks how long she has known him and his reply is, ‘from the beginning’. He then says something that she doesn’t understand – mostly because she immediately blacks out.

MagLev arrives at the hospital and is shown to Astrid’s bed. She finds the bed empty except for Astrid’s communicator.

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A Spooky Encounter in Boston

As they stand over the bodies of their fallen adversaries, the members of the Vanguard stare dejectedly into the sky at the receding form of Astrid. Without warning, a rainbow-hued anomaly appears before them, and as it clears the heroes see the unconscious form of Astrid along with the smiling Miss Ming! Miss Ming points to the rapidly disappearing speck and states that the Astrid that the unknown assailant has taken is actually one of her illusions. She also recommends that the group vacate the park before the villain realizes his mistake.

Agreeing with the illusion, the heroes gather up the fallen victims and return to the Aerie. Also in the Aerie are Agent Artis Shannon (the groups MEDUSA liaison) and his newest recruit; the Cleaner. Agent Shannon is predictably terse with his introductions and quick with his exit.

The members of the Vanguard gather on the roof with their bound captives. The Cleaner takes an active part in the interrogation, breaking one of Spyder’s toes and threatening to break more before Gonzoconvinces him that as heroes, they cannot stoop to those methods. Showing no reaction to the broken toe, Spyder calmly looks at his compatriots and instructs them not to say anything.

Realizing that the Spyder is the leader of this group, the Vanguard decides to separate him from the other three. The Cleaner takes Spyder downstairs into the main living area. While Cleaner is keeping a close eye on the villain, Spyder escapes from his bonds and makes for the window. Utilizing his super speed, the Cleaner blocks the window, but ultimately is no match for the powerful villain. Before losing consciousness, the Cleaner is able to call for help.
Up on the roof, the heroes hear the cry for help followed quickly by the crash of breaking glass. The Unknown Soldier and Grey Mist make their way downstairs and find the unconscious body of the Cleaner and a shattered window. The pair search the headquarters believing the Spyder to be hidden somewhere inside. Their search is unsuccessful and Teacher confirms that there are no other living beings in the complex.

Reacting to the sound of breaking glass, Gonzo flies off of the roof looking for the fleeing supervillain – but he is unable to locate the Spyder either.

The heroes return to the roof where they continue the interrogation. In a fit of pique and frustration, the Unknown Soldier knocks the Desert Nomad back into unconsciousness. Longarm taunts the heroes by demanding that his toes be broken too! He demonstrates the futility of breaking his limbs by twisting his own toes 720 degrees using his stretching abilities. When threatened by Enerjon, he blissfully turns on his force field power laughing maniacally. Enerjon takes his time pummeling the force field with power blasts until Longarm removes it.

Cowed by the show of force against immobilized captives, Silent Rage indicates that he is willing to answer questions – but will need his arms untied as he is a mute and can only communicate effectively through the written word. The heroes separate him from his companions and, under careful guard, they untie him and provide him with writing materials. They learn the following information from the villain:

  • The invisible villain that escaped with ‘Astrid’ was the Headhunter
  • Headhunter probably flew back to their base of operations – arrogantly located in the same SWORD complex that the heroes attacked previously.
  • This group is not accustomed to working together; they were assembled for the mission from the ranks of SWORD
  • Their specific mission was to capture Astrid
  • Other groups of villains may be in the base of operations
  • He is not aware of the clone project. He indicates that there is a hierarchy in SWORD and he is not very high in the ranks
  • The ‘Boss’ that directed them on this mission is the Wild Boar

Having learned all that they can from their captives, the Vanguard calls the NYPD to collect the villains and cart them off to jail – knowing full well that the villains will likely be out on bail quickly. Enerjon complains bitterly about the bail system.

Astrid’s flu-like symptoms continue to get worse. And the Unknown Soldiers nightmares also get worse – in this one he is in epic battle with a cloaked villain that radiated EVIL. After the exhausting ebb and flow of the fight he is hurt mortally, but is victorious. The villain’s cowl falls away and is revealed to be the Grey Mist!

In the morning, the battered and bruised heroes are met by the now familiar site of Lee Sung’s minions arriving with their catered breakfast. The head minion indicates that the ‘Uncle’ is aware that the heroes may be in need of some specialized services. He introduces the heroes to Sun Ye , a young Chinese woman. Sun Ye goes to each of the heroes (except Xue Zen who refuses) and lays hands on them. Sun Ye has the ability to bestow her own power of regeneration on those she touches and all of the heroes are quickly healed. Xue Zen leaves the Aerie and goes to the hospital for treatment.

Following his first aid, Xue Zen travels to Washington D.C. and visits Devea in her Georgetown townhouse. Devea is especially cold and unwelcoming. Since the Vanguard left Center City, Stanislaw felt morally obligated to come out of retirement and stand up against evildoers in the Vanguard’s absence. Unfortunately, the civilians of Center City in an anti-costumed hero rage ambushed the elderly hero and hospitalized him. It is unknown at this time whether or not he will emerge from his coma. Devea sternly lectures Xue Zen and demands that the Vanguard return to right the wrongs.

Xue Zen promises that the Vanguard will return to Center City following their obligations in Boston. He also asks if Devea can help determine whether his Uncle has exerted any undue influence on Miss Ming or himself. Devea studies him for a moment and replies that there are traces of his Uncle’s influence about him – but that Lee Sung is probably distracted from his current goals by the presence of the other sorcerer that the Vanguard has brought into this world…. Baron Zelmut.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team prepares for their scheduled trip to the Boston Museum to guard the exhibition. Grey Mist receives a phone call from Guf. Guf renews his invitation for dinner for that evening. He suggests that the heroes arrive around 7pm. The heroes, knowing that the museum closes at 5pm, respectfully decline. The Vanguard sends the Unknown Soldier, the Cleaner, Grey Mist, Astrid, Enerjon, Gonzo, and the Bat to Boston.

Once they arrive at the museum, the heroes head immediately to the museum. They had previously recommended that the museum not display the Scroll of Destiny and instead replace it with a forgery. They are pleased to find that the exhibitors followed their suggestion – Grey Mist is even more pleased to have his original replacement scroll returned to him (apparently the museum finds crayon on construction paper to be an inadequate replacement).

Xue Zen leaves Washington and catches a flight to Boston. Astrid meets him at the airport. Also meeting him at the airport is a limo driver bearing a ‘Xue Zen’ placard. Xue Zen and Astrid converse with him and he hands them an envelope – containing an engraved invitation from Guf for dinner this evening. The heroes decline the ride and the invitation and join the rest of the group at the museum.

Following the closing of the museum at 5pm, Enerjon and Xue Zen patrol the entrance level while the rest of the heroes take up posts in the sub-level where the exhibit is being displayed. At 6pm, Enerjon sees a long black limousine pulls up to the front door. To his surprise, his Vanguard communicator goes off. To his greater surprise, it is Guf calling! Guf renews his invitation one final time (in their best interest!) and states that he has sent a car for the heroes. Enerjon abruptly declines and the limo glides away.

Later that evening, about 9pm, Xue Zen feels an icy sensation and sounds the alarm. At the same moment, 4 ghostly sprits came through the floors of the sub-level and a glowing purple disc approximately 12 feet in diameter appears on the ceiling. The ghosts include:

  • A ghostly teenage girl – Mist
    *A Civil-War Era Colonel – Colonel Elgin
  • A hellish female ghoul perpetually burning with blue fire – Heloise
  • A Colonial-Era spirit (complete with powdered wig) – Banchiee

The four spirits immediately converge on the Golden Sarcophagus of King Rhamadad and begin to lift the slab lid. Gonzo grabs the lid telekinetically in an attempt to keep it shut, but the combined might of the ghosts is too much for him to overcome. The lid is thrown to the side and a ghost in Egyptian headdress flies from the sarcophagus. The Egyptian ghost has the mortal remains of King Rhamadad in its arms and it flies through the portal in the ceiling.

Astrid has been in her astral form and she follows the ghost through the center of the portal, and Gonzo and the Bat follow immediately. Astrid, to her surprise, flies astrally right through the floor to the main floor – apparently unable to fly through the gate. To her greater surprise, Gonzo and the Bat (in their all too physical forms) come crashing through the floor leaving a gaping hole. Gonzo’s unconscious body falls to the floor.

The remaining heroes team up to pound the daylights out of Heloise and after a couple of big hits, she cackles maniacally and flies up through the purple disc.
Mist touches the Unknown Soldier and he feels as if his very soul is wrenched from his body. The ghost then begins attacking with his Power Blast ability. She successfully uses his power to fell the Bat.

The heroes luck begins to turn and they are able to successfully knock Mist and Banchiee through the walls to the point where they fail to return. Xue Zen battles with Colonel Elgin striking him repeatedly with his sais. Grey Mist correctly guesses that this particular ghost is immune to normal physical attacks and between his telekinetic/magnetic blasts and Enerjon’s and Unknown Soldier’s power blasts they are able to repel him.

Silence falls over the museum. Grey Mist ponders, ‘Is it really stealing? Looks like the Pharoah walked out with his own property….’

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Ambush in Central Park

Following the battle with Doctor DNA’s Fuzzy minions, the heroes of the Vanguard transport the unconscious villains to jail – and the unfortunate Kevin Scudder to the morgue.

An examination of the plane’s cargo reveals sufficient medical supplies to stock a small hospital – raising the question of what are Dr. DNA’s plans in the coming weeks.

The next few days pass uneventfully. Much to the surprise of the heroes, the fuzzies remain in jail – everyone expected them to be quickly bailed out by the Wolfpack.

Enerjon meets with the Director of Exhibits for the museum and conferences with the Director of the Boston Museum. He convinces them to display a fake Scroll of Destiny and keep the real one in a safe place. The feeling of the heroes is that the Scroll is the primary target of the villains and should not be put at risk.

In the meantime, concerned with the evolving independence of Miss Ming, Xue Zen decides that it is best to leave the Aerie and escape his Uncle’s sphere of influence. He moves into a small apartment in Brooklyn.

The following day, when Lee Sung’s minions arrive with the breakfast buffet, they comment on the absence of the nephew. Enerjon explains that Xue Zen has moved and provides the minions with his forwarding address. Astrid (still fighting her cold) takes advantage of the opportunity to complain that the healing properties of the Aerie do not seem to be as effective as they had been previously.

Xue Zen’s concerns about the illusory Miss Ming grow when she begins to show signs of corporal behavior. While on patrol, Xue Zen notices Miss Ming interact with objects (such as turning the pages of a magazine). He questions her about what his Uncle has been teaching her, but her answers are coy and non-committal.

The Vanguard is also preparing for the trip to Boston to protect the museum exhibit from potential thieves. The Grey Mist places a phone call to Guf to let him know that the Vanguard will soon be in the area. Guf invites the heroes over for dinner while they are in town and assures them that he has no interest in stepping foot in the museum while they are in the area.

The Unknown Soldier continues his daily patrols. He is suddenly ambushed by four supervillains – Longarm, Silent Rage, and his arch-enemy Desert Nomad (all previously encountered in the hidden SWORD base here in Manhattan) along with a powerful Spider-Themed villain that was one of the villains encountered in the fight at the bread factory after Astrid was kidnapped by the Reavers. The Soldier is able to send out a cry for help over the communicators as he is attacked. The villains demand to know where ‘Number 8’ has been hidden. The Soldier is unable to answer the question… because he doesn’t know. Before he can reveal that only the Grey Mist knows where the android has been taken, he is knocked unconscious by a power blast from another assailant somewhere above him.

The Grey Mist, Enerjon, Xue Zen, and Astrid respond to the distress call in time to see the Soldier crumple to the ground. They immediately join in battle. In the opening moments of the fight, the Grey Mist swoops in and crushes Longarm with a single blow from his mace. Xue Zen begins trading blows with Silent Rage and Enerjon challenges the fourth villain (revealed as ‘Spyder’). Astrid hangs back and peppers the combatants with paralysis beams while avoiding the attacks of the Desert Nomad.

Enerjon and Spyder trade titanic blows back and forth – neither able to avoid the attacks of the other. The outcome of that duel was in doubt until Grey Mist joined the fray – Spyder dropped between the combined attacks of the heroes.

Astrid successfully paralyzes the Desert Nomad, but only for a second as the strong-willed villain breaks free. The delay is enough however for a blow from Grey Mist’s mace to put him down.

Xue Zen and Silent Rage battle exclusively until Silent Rage sees the Nomad go down. Once he is alone, Silent Rage immediately changes his target to Astrid. Astrid manges to paralyze the villain and Xue Zen is able to finish him off with an illusory disintegration blast.

Having seen the Power Blast that knocked the Unknown Soldier to the ground, Enerjon begins scanning the sky for an invisible opponent. After a few minutes, he is successful in seeing a spatial anomaly in a vaguely humanoid shape. He blasts the invisible foe with his power blast confirming the presence of yet another enemy. The unknown, invisible, flying enemy ignores the attacks of the heroes and swoops down to attack Astrid. Astrid takes several blows from a bladed weapon and is quickly rendered unconscious. Her prone form is picked up off of the ground and appears to be hoisted atop an invisible shoulder and the villain begins to take to the air.

The Grey Mist takes magnetic control of his steel cable and wraps Astrid up, but the villain’s prodigious strength is too great for the hero’s magnetic might and he is pulled into the air along with Astrid. Grey Mist adds his telekinetic might to the tug of war and begins to pull back toward the ground – but a single blow from the villain’s weapon severs the cable and the two go shooting off in opposite directions from the forces released. Astrid disappears with the villain.

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Blasts From the Past

A couple of days pass and the heroes of the Vanguard recover from their adventure at the museum. A number of significant events occurred during this time:

  • Xue Zen continued partying through the night at various clubs with Miss Ming and the illusory Frank Sinatra. While in a crowded nightclub, Xue Zen catches a glimpse of Baron Zelmut across the room. When he tred to get a better look, the Baron had disappeared.
  • The Unknown Soldier continues to have disturbing nightmares. The most recent being a vision of himself in a labcoat walking down a long hallway with numerous doors. Through windows in each door, he sees himself (or clones of himself) in a bubble of some sort with various tubes running between the body and machinery.
  • Miss Ming continues to show increased independence from the control of Xue Zen. She absented herself on several occassions to keep appointments wit his Uncle Lee Sung.
  • Astrid catches a bad respiratory infection… which is odd because she has never gotten sick in her life before
  • The Scroll of Destiny was returned to the museum. The curator has closed the exhibit due to the damage. The exhibitor is packing up the undamaged pieces and is preparing to transport the exhibit to its next destination… Boston.

The heroes’ brief respite from action is shattered by an emergency alert from Teacher. A group of villains has attacked a cargo plane at La Guardia airport. Local authorities responded to the airport and the villains took refuge in a small hanger. Xue Zen, the Unknown Soldier, MagLev, Grey Mist, and Gonzo responded to the call for help.

Shortly after, the Vanguard arrives at the hanger. The Unknown soldier uses his x-ray vision to look inside the hanger, but all he saw wan an impenetrable darkness. Xue Zen and the Unknown Soldier wait at the front door and Gonzo waits by the back door while Grey Mist and MagLev fly above the building. Grey Mist rips a hole in the metal ceiling and immediately a burst of energy struck from inside the pitch interior of the hanger knocking MagLev from the sky.

The heroes rush into the building and are unable to see in the darkness. Suddenly the darkenss recedes and coalesces in a vaguely human-like shape revealing the foes. In addition to the ‘dark-man’ (called Twilight Hunter by his compatriots, the heroes see five other masked villains:

  • A shapely woman in a blue-silver costume running with incredible speed referred to as Zephyr
  • A flying man with Power Blasts called Pulsar
  • A small, mousy man in a brown/earth-tone costume with disintigration powers called Decay
  • An 18’ tall man with vaccuum generation powers called Jupiter
  • A woman in a black and white costume hiding behind a force field called Protocol

The battle rages back and forth, but the reasonably inexperienced villains had very little chance against the more seasoned Vanguard. Decay is knocked unconscious almost immediately and the team focuses their attacks on the giant Jupiter and the speedy Zephyr. After a judicious amount of damage, Grey Mist levies a tremendous blow with his mace and Jupiter is felled – permanently.

Once attention is turned to Zephyr, she changes tactics and uses her speed to zoom in and out of the battle striking with Vibratory powers and vacating the battle before the heroes could counter attack. Grey Mist delays his action long enough to get a strike in as she returns to the fight nearly knocking her unconscious. Staggering, she ran away from the fight and escaped through the police cordon.

Decay rises from the floor — apparently having regenerated some of the damage he had sustained — and runs for the back door. He is immediately knocked back down with a single blow from the Unknown Soldier.

Meanwhile, an aerial fight ensues between Grey Mist and Pulsar while Xue Zen and Gonzo concentrate on the Twilight Hunter and The Unknown Soldier concentrates fire on Protocol.

The combined fire of the heroes is enough to overwhelm the Twilight Hunter. Protocol reveals the power to project the emotion of apathy… and while the heroes just don’t care to fight, she slips out of the hanger and escapes.

Pulsar is knocked unconscious by Grey Mist’s mace and as he lands on the ground his mask slips off. The heroes recognize him as Tony Penderghast… one of the original fuzzies. The other fallen villains are revealed to be the fuzzies Kirt Campbell, Sid Herbert, and the unfortunately deceased Kevin Scudder.

They admit that Zephyr is really Mary Platt and Protocol is Mackenzie Bedford. The plane that was attacked by the fuzzies was carrying medical supplies.

It appears that Doctor DNA has arrived in New York…

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A Brief Summary and Apology

First the apology… I am about 4 weeks behind in updating the adventure log… and as a result, I have lost my campaign notes. What follows is a summary of major encounters thta occurred over the last 2 sessions. Further details will be added as time allows.

Upon their return from their battle with Totem, the Vanguard were ambushed on their roof by a group of familiar supervillains. The Beholder led the opposing force which consisted of the Desert Nomad and Wildcat. Also with them were two familiar-looking villains… one with windstorm powers and the other a walking steel statue. The heroes were too much for the collection of villains to handle and the majority of the villains were knocked unconscious quickly. The Nomad and Beholder were able to teleport away with the steel-man and the Wildcat. The Desert Nomad was quickly bound by Enerjon and hauled off to prison without being questioned. Uponafter his arrival at the jail, one of the Wolfpack was on hand to arrange his bail. The Nomad’s current whereabouts are unknown.

A new hero (Gonzo) is introduced to the team by Agent Shannon.

The Vanguard was also asked to safeguard an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts currently on display at the New York City Natural History Museum which has come under attack by various villain groups in other cities. The Grey Mist identifies three objects that might be likely targets for super-villains; the Jewelled Ankh, the Golden Sarcophagus, and the Scroll of Destiny.

The Grey Mist meets with Guf and determines that the Boston ‘villain’ is not likely to attack the exhibit while it is in NYC.

The Grey Mist decides that the Scroll is the most likely target and creates a duplicate out of construction paper. They hide the real scroll in another room with Astrid and MagLev guarding it while the rest of the team guards the primary exhibit room.

On the third night of their vigil, a group of villains attacks the exhibit.

  • Destikothesis: claimed to be the reincarnation of an Egyptian Pharoah. Possesses magical powers
  • Bast: claimed to be the avatar of the Egyptian Cat goddess. Possesses catlike reflexes and claws as well as the ability to control a small army of cats and invisibility
  • Toa Culkum: claimed to be the reincarnation of a mighty Aztec Warrior
  • A Caveman with tremendous strength and gravity control powers. Possesses the power to turn invisible
  • An amphibious warrior

The battle was mighty and members of both sides were felled in the conflict. However, the heroes got the upper hand and the remaining villains teleported away with their fallen comrades. Enerjon got his fallen teammates to the Aerie for healing. The Enerjon and Gonzo returned to the museum and interrupted the returning villains from their search for the Scroll. Outpowered, Enerjon was knocked unconscious and Gonzo grabbed the scroll from its hiding place and flew back to the Aerie with it to return it to the curator the following day.

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A New York State of Mind

The Vanguard’s first week in New York passed in a haze of fetes, dinners, and celebrations. It seemed that every person of influence in New York wanted to become acquainted with the heroes. The highlight of the week was the tickertape parade through the boroughs followed by the celebrity softball game where the Vanguard took on members of the Yankees and the Mets.

The heroes reacted to the hoopla in various ways:

  • Xue Zen along with his illusory companions Miss Ming and Frank Sinatra threw himself into the city nightlife with reckless abandon. He received quite a lot of paparazzi attention initially, but after “Frank” roughs one of the camera jockeys up, they gave him a wider berth.
  • The constant media attention also seemed to crack the Grey Mist from his shy shell – a new hairstyle and autographed glossies greeted the paparazzi during the first week.
  • Astrid, on the other hand, grew increasingly reclusive as a result of the increased attention. She received a huge amount of attention from the paparazzi – appearing in the tabloids on a nearly daily basis.
  • The Unknown Soldier continued to patrol the streets, and was successful in capturing a number of minor criminals. All the while he was unfailingly polite to the populace of the city and posed for many pictures with the citizenry.

During the week, the new probationary members left for Richmond to pack up their belongings and close the Liberty Force headquarters.

Aside from all of the parties and excitement surrounding their entry into the city, the heroes continue researching the various crises that have confronted them.

  • Using the Aerie’s supercomputer, the Unknown Soldier investigated the Bishop’s finances. Much to his chagrin, after days of analysis he was unable to identify a single discrepancy in the Bishop’s books. Certainly there was no evidence of any funds diverted from legitimate sources to fund any technological device suitable for augmenting mind control powers or for power equipment to provide the necessary energy. The Unknown Soldier persisted in his belief that the Bishop is a metahuman.
  • Meanwhile, the Grey Mist flew over to Boston to meet with Guf. His purpose in meeting with Guf was to determine if Guf knew any information regarding Lee Sung as well as to determine if there were any magical or illusory influences on the happenings in New York. Guf seemed amused to be treated as a magical consultant and assured the teen hero that what is happening in New York is definitely not an illusion. Guf does confirm that Lee Sung’s family has “knowledge of the Occult”.
  • Following his trip to Boston, the Grey Mist flies to Center City where he assumes his secret identity and seeks out Sergeant Ralk. The Sergeant greets the costumed hero warmly and syas that he doesn’t understand why the Vanguard is getting such bad press – he never thought that they are as bad as everyone says they are. After the interview, the Grey Mist comes away feeling that at least one person in the city isn’t brainwashed, drugged, mind controlled or whatever else has its grip on the city.
  • When Lee Sung’s minions use their security access to enter the Aerie to check on the heroes’ comfort and needs, Astrid tells them that the Vanguard requires a secret way out of the building so that their every entrance and exit is not monitored by the press. The minions respond that they will bring her request to the ‘Master’.

Late one morning, the heroes’ wrist communicators sounded an unfamiliar tone and a voice from the device requested that they all report to conference room number one. All of the members within easy range reported immediately including Xue Zen, Tree Brother, the Grey Mist, the Unknown Soldier, and Astrid. Once they were all seated, the large video monitor mounted on the wall turned on in a brief blare of static which was immediately replaced by an idealized Asian female Avatar.

The avatar introduced itself to the Vanguard as “Teacher” and informed the heroes that a crisis was brewing in upstate New York. Reports are coming in that the town of Woodamsville has been destroyed. The Vanguard’s aid has been requested. Tree Brother offers to remain in the Aerie monitoring reports and the remaining four heroes head for the roof helipad. Teacher informs them that she has already taken the initiative of paging the pilot and that he is waiting on the roof.

From the distance, the team sees that the reports of ‘destruction’ have been greatly exaggerated by the reports. Where they had been expecting total devastation, they instead see a typical rural town that has experienced a great amount of damage. Furthermore, they see what appears to be a town or county fair of some kind in a state of panic. Armed men are stalking through the crowd striking indiscriminately at the fairgoers. They also see two metahumans – one encased in ice armor and one dressed in a cloak and cowl carrying a staff with glowing energy wrapping around it. He periodically blasts a bit of that energy at a victim as an energy blast.

Astrid orders the chopper to land a short distance away from the fairgrounds to avoid it being shot out of the sky. While it descends, the Grey Mist flies directly into battle attacking the cowled figure screaming, “Back to your Dungeons and Dragons game nerd!” Despite landing 2 direct hits, the cowled figure does not fall. Nor is he alone as the teen hero is also attacked by a high speed villain.

As the rest of the Vanguard converge on the fight, the speedy villain comes to a stop in front of the Grey Mist – making eye contact. To her horror, The Mist turns his mace on Astrid yelling, “Payback for the PS2 witch!” The Unknown Soldier realizes too late that the Mist has been mind controlled and before he can attack, the speedy villain disappears into the crowd.

Meanwhile, Xue Zen approaches the armed villains from the other side of the fairgrounds. He hears the villains say something like, “the hound says that he is over this way”. Xue Zen summons the illusion of a large number of police cars converging on a group of 5 of the crooks. The cops spill out of the cars, weapons drawn, demanding that the villains drop their weapons and hit the dirt. The crooks do not comply with the cops’ demands and in a hail of gunfire, all 5 of the villains are knocked unconscious.

The Grey Mist continues to batter Astrid until she is knocked unconscious while trying in vain to break free of the mental domination. The Unknown Soldier screams for Xue Zen’s help as he fights the Ice-sheathed villain, the cowled villain, the speedy villain, and the Grey Mist single handed. As Xue Zen joins the battle, he discovers yet another villain. A tiny (one inch tall) villain cracks him in the ankle with incredible force – the mighty mite then follows the punch up with a disintegration blast. The heroes are in danger of being overrun!

The heroes fight back valiantly. The Unknown Soldier strikes with precision accuracy with his power blast and Xue Zen summons a huge snake to attack the wounded cowled figure before switching to shooting energy blasts himself. Between the two heroes’ coordinated attack, the cowled figure is knocked unconscious. Xue Zen moves to grab his staff, but the staff disappears – it was an illusion!

As the villain falls, the Unknown Soldier sees the remainder of the armed villains converging on a single spot. He disengages from the immediate fight to prevent them from reaching their goal. As he turns his back on Xue Zen, the Grey Mist turns his attention from Astrid and fixes his glare at the Chinese hero. The teenager makes short work of Xue Zen and turns to chase the Unknown Soldier into the crowd.

As the Unknown Soldier reaches the armed villains, he fells one with a well aimed power blast. Unfortunately, the speedy villain suddenly appears in front of him and fixes the hero with his gaze. The next thing that the heroes know is that the Unknown Soldier and Grey Mist are standing side by side and the villains have all vanished.

The villains are not the only ones to have vanished. The police responding to the call inform the Vanguard that a small boy was kidnapped by the villains. His mother, Margaret, is under sedation and is suffering from shock.

Astrid and Xue Zen regain consciousness and the pair begins to reconstruct what happened. The villains apparently arrived at the fairgrounds in a large RV. They spilled out of the vehicle and caused random destruction on the town square in a successful bid to cause panic and minimize direct confrontation. Following the initial burst of violence, the armed henchmen fanned out in groups of 2 or 3 to search for their target (apparently young Denny). After the heroes arrived and were defeated, the villains located Denny and then the speedy villain teleported everyone away, including the six unconscious villains.

The heroes locate the abandoned RV. With a quick call to Giuseppe Valentini they enlist the vast resources of the NYPD to track down the ownership of the van. A registration check identifies the RV as being owned by the Amerikorp LLC company. Amerikorp appears to be a holding company with few real assets and is obviously a front for some other organization. A more detailed investigation will take time and Detective Valentini promises to get the information to the heroes as soon as possible.

Before leaving Woodamsville, the heroes do manage to talk with Margaret Stoyer. Amid her panic and concern, she reveals that Denny has exhibited some metahuman power.

The heroes return to the Aerie where they use the facility’s supercomputer to try to identify the villains they encountered. With little to go on they have no luck identifying any of their foes – until Detective Valentini calls back with a report on Amerikorp. There is a tangled web of corporate entities, but the computer boys have made a tentative connection between Amerikorp and the terrorist organization Totem. The kidnap of young Denny takes on a more sinister aspect – Totem does not kidnap for ransom… Totem kidnaps young metahumans as a recruitment tool.
Once the heroes begin searching known Totem members, they are successful in identifying three of the terrorists:

  • The cowled villain is an illusionist known at the Grand Vizier
  • The speedy mind-control villain is known as Blink, the”Now you see me – now you don’t” terrorist
  • The Hound, the name that Xue Zen heard, is a high ranking member of Totem. He is valuable to the terrorists since his primary ability is the power to sense and identify metahumans. He was apparently one of the armed villains that grabbed Denny
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Return of the Conquering.... Heroes?

Standing on the deck of the Culver watching the dragon dissolve, the heroes are joined by the Professor. During the happy reunion, the Unknown Soldier asked him what happened to him after the battle at the temple. The Professor related a tale of how after he was hit with that immense beam of pure magic energy, he was transported to a limbo-like place for a time before he was able to escape back to the plane of his origin. Once freed, he immediately went to aid the heroes in the Dusking, and fortunately arrived on the scene as the battle was joined with the dragon.

As the green mist faded and the raucous cheers on the Culver died down, the Vanguard grew steadily aware of the silence emanating from the other Navy Vessels. A smaller Navy vessel pulled alongside the Culver and a group of sailors and officers boarded the ship. The senior ranking officer (Captain Amos Dale) assumed command of the Culver for the purpose of taking her back to the Shipyard for repairs. Captain Dale called the heroes together and apologized to them. He had been given orders to expel the Vanguard from the ship. Given the events of the past 7 months, official policy is that they are no longer welcome on Navy property.

Shocked, the Vanguard realizes that another month has passed since Tree Brother joined them in the fog. He sympathizes with the Vanguard since he believes that they are not the threat that others believe. Captain Dale tells the heroes the events of the past 7 months – a tale that agrees with Tree Brother’s description. He also warns the heroes that they will not find a warm welcome in the city. Bishop Fairwell’s campaign against them has left them near Pariahs among the population. Many citizens fully believe that the Vanguard abandoned the city out of cowardice.

Not wanting to cause the Captain any problems with his command, the heroes use their unique skills to leave the Culver. Since their headquarters has been damaged through several attacks as well as condemned, the team meets up at the Richmond apartment of Amaya Kibatsu – the temporary secret headquarters of Liberty Force. Liberty Force welcomes the Vanguard into their base – but no one is happy with the arrangement as the 2 bedroom apartment does not have the physical space necessary to accommodate the sheer quantity of people comfortably – a situation made worse when Grey Mist’s delivery emergency delivery arrives… a 72” plasma screen tv and Playstation 3.

The team debates about what to do next. A quick call to Agent Shannon is made and before long, the MEDUSA Agent arrives at the apartment. In his gruff, disapproving manner, he tells the heroes that nationally the opinion of the Vanguard is not too bad – some news outlets have run with the vanishing heroes and cowardice angles, but especially after the story of the battle with the dragon gets out, they should have no trouble with their reputation outside of Center City. Now that the Governor of Maryland has made it clear that his state will no longer be considered as a site to host the federal super team, MEDUSA has been working with other cities along the East Coast to find a suitable home base for the Vanguard. Not surprisingly, it has not been difficult to find candidates – several cities are bidding on the right to host the team. He asks if the group would prefer an underground base, a skyscraper base, or a base similar to the one they have been using. With one voice, the Vanguard responds that they would much prefer an underground base. The feeling is that a ground-level base is too exposed and a skyscraper base is not only exposed, but runs the risk of putting innocents in danger. For the first time, a ghost of a grin appears on Shannon’s face – ‘I’ll see what I can do’. Before leaving he lets the team know that their federal pay which has been frozen will now be made available to them.

After the Agent’s departure, the heroes debate excitedly about the possible locations for their new base. The Bat joked, “If we were in New York City, I could be Batman’s partner!” The Grey Mist immediately responded, “You’re a bat… you would have to be Robinman’s partner!”

During the debate, Astrid places a phone call to Stanislaw the phone is answered by Devea. She responds distantly to Astrid and then accuses the hero, “You have brought a friend back from the Dusking – I have felt his presence. What deal did you make that allows him to enter this world?” It sounds as if Baron Zelmut has followed the heroes into the Material World. Astrid asks if he is a friend of hers – Devea responds icily, “No.”
Devea also tells Astrid that Stanislaw is not in. It seems that after the Vanguard’s “cowardly abandonment” of the city, Stanislaw felt the need to become active again and leave retirement. “He is currently out ‘on patrol’ – whatever he means by that.”

Growing impatient while waiting for Agent Shannon to get back to them, the Unknown Soldier decides to go out on patrol himself – he feels that they are still responsible for Center City. Astrid joins him on patrol while Grey Mist and Amaya Kibatsu follow them on patrol while in their secret identities. Xue Zen takes advantage of the break in the action (as well as the liberation of his money) to visit several car dealerships to replace his destroyed truck.

While on patrol, the Unknown Soldier and Astrid encountered definite hostility from the populace – to the extent that some people even cross the street to avoid coming into contact with the hero. Undaunted, the heroes continue to walk the streets. After an hour or so, the pair were confronted by Bishop Fairwell and several of his followers. The pair held a brief conversation with the Bishop where the Bishop let it be known that the Vanguard are no longer welcomed in Center City. The Unknown Soldier responds by outright accusing the Bishop of being a super-powered metahuman with the power of mind control. The growing crowd grows increasingly hostile as the Soldier levies accusations against the Bishop.

During the confrontation, the Grey Mist manages to use his weakness detection camera on the Bishop and his compatriots. The Bishop’s friends included:

The Bishop recognizes the Grey Mist in his civilian clothes and admonishes him. The Mist leaves the scene – returning shortly later in his superhero identity. The conflict continued to escalate until it became evident that the citizens were going to become violent. The heroes decided at that point that discretion is the better part of valor and left. As a parting gift, the Grey Mist conjured up a rain storm.

The heroes try to map out the effective limits of the suspected mind control field so that they can identify the center of the area. They reason that one man is not powerful enough to affect a whole city so he must have some kind of transmitter. Their results were inconclusive. The citizenry appeared to be more hostile the closer they got to the Bishop’s mansion, but they were not able to establish any definite pattern that would justify an unlawful inspection of the property. The Grey Mist uses his electrical power to knock out the power to the area of the city that includes the mansion – but there is no change in the behavior of the populace.

That evening, Agent Shannon returns to Kibatsu’s apartment and informs the Vanguard with a bit of a sadistic grin that the potential underground headquarters fell through when Charleston was unable to meet certain guarantees. The team will have to settle for a skyscraper base in New York City – and be extra careful to protect the civilians living in the building below them. While Shannon is describing the base, Grey Mist takes off and flies at top speed to check out the property immediately.

The base is on floors 32 and 33 of a skyscraper in Manhatten as well as rooftop access with a helipad and helicopter. It is luxuriously appointed and has state of the art security, computer, and communications equipment. There is also a pilot on retainer who lives on floor 28. Agent Shannon looks increasingly despondent as he describes the facility. The entire complex was donated by a private citizen, Lee Sung. At the mention of the name Lee Sung, Xue Zen gives a noticeable start.

Grey Mist comes rocketing back and demands that the team come and see the new digs NOW! Through a combination of flight and teleportation, the Vanguard and Shannon arrive in Manhattan quickly and are blown away by the facility. Only Xue Zen is less than ecstatic about the arrangement.
When pressed, he admits that Lee Sung is his Uncle – and that he believes that he is the true owner of Xue Zen’s magic equipment. There is undoubtedly some ulterior motive for his Uncle’s generosity – and Xue Zen is certain that he will get the worst of it when the other shoe drops.
Agent Shannon informs the Vanguard that Lee Sung is throwing a major banquet in their honor to welcome them to the city. Everyone by Kibatsu and Xue Zen eagerly attend – and those two attend, just not so eagerly. Xue Zen attends with Miss Ming and Frank Sinatra – blatantly flaunting the powers of his ring in front of his Uncle.

While at the banquet, the heroes are introduced to a great many NYC VIP’s. In addition to Lee Sung, some notable guests include Lucas Wolf and Detective [Giuseppe Valentini]] who has been recently promoted and will serve as the Vanguard’s police liaison. A great time was had by all, except for the Bat who commented loudly that the Sushi was undercooked and Agent Shannon who never seems to have a good time.

Upon their return to their headquarters, Agent Shannon asks the members of Liberty Force to join him in the conference room. Within minutes of the door closing, the members of the Vanguard hear loud noises, thumping and screaming coming from the conference room – they go bursting in to see a group of Medusa Agents raising a clatter, the members of Liberty Force looking confused and Agent Shannon clicking a stopwatch, “4.3 seconds – not bad”. Apparently, the exercise was some kind of loyalty test and Agent Shannon announces that the members of Liberty Force are being brought in as probationary members of the Vanguard.

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Exit the Fog

Following the Vanguard’s victory over the pirates aboard the USS Culver, the heroes decided to take the fight to the Vampires. They quickly contacted the heroes left at the hidden Navy camp and White Star began teleporting the remaining sailors to the ship. Meanwhile, Xue Zen astrally recovered Astrid’s floating body and returned her from the astral plane.

The ship’s Chief Medical Officer is among the men at the camp and he was able to use the ship’s medical facilities to provide much needed first aid to the heroes. The heroes ransack the ship for any anti-vampire tool they can find, including: wooden stakes, garlic, small mirrors, religious icons, and even a fire axe for beheading. The Grey Mist and Unknown Soldier even go so far as to devise tin-foil hats and borrowed sunglasses to try to foil the vampires’ mind control ability.

While they make their preparations, the heroes hear the sound of a small outboard motor approaching – rushing to the deck of the culver, they are shocked to see Tree Brother approaching in a small boat. He joins the heroes on the Culver and immediately demands to know what they have been doing for the past 6 months! Apparently time flows at a different rate here in this in-between world! There have been major problems back in Center City since the Vanguard entered the fog.

They devise a plan to sneak into the castle to confront the vampires and destroy their coffins so that they can be permanently destroyed. The Vanguard disguise themselves using Xue Zen’s illusory powers as the First Mate and a number of captured sailors. In their disguise, they approach the castle while the Culver floats in the waters off of the dock. To their relief, the disguises seem to hold as they are not confronted by the vampires while working their way up the steep path. Shortly after entering the castle, a large bat flies into the large antechamber. The bat flaps around the room for a few seconds and flies down in front of the group as if to land before them. The bat does not land however. Letting out a keening cry, the bat takes off rapidly down one of the corridors. The heroes charge after the bat, but the bat is able to elude the heroes – perhaps through a better working knowledge of the layout of the castle.

Assuming that the vampires now know that the heroes are in the castle, Xue Zen and Astrid enter the astral plane and perform a high-speed reconnaissance of the castle. Between the two, they are able to direct the heroes through the castle to a large subterranean chamber where the battle is joined between the Vanguard and the four vampires. Having faced each vampire at least once previously, the heroes concentrate their efforts on eliminating the weaker female vampire minions to limit the number of attackers they are facing while Xue Zen and Astrid are prepared to astrally follow the vampires back to their coffins following their transformation to mist. Tree Brother’s arrival could not have been better timed as his Staff is capable of providing true sunlight. He fills the chamber with sunlight causing tremendous pain to the three vampiric minions. Baron Zelmut fixes him with a dreadful glare and immediately moves to attack the Wooden Hero. The Unknown Soldier jumps in front of Tree Brother and takes the full brunt of the Vampire Lord’s attack.

To everyone’s surprise, after Grey Mist delivers a crushing blow to the youngest vampire, knocking her unconscious, she does not turn to mist and drift away. Baron Zelmut curses the heroes and reveals that the vampires are incapable of shifting forms while in the presence of garlic – the foraging of the Culver’s kitchen paid off! The heroes redouble their attacks and in short order have incapacitated all three of the Baron’s subservient vampires.

While Tree Brother continues to bathe the chamber in true sunlight, the Grey Mist, White Star, Enerjon, Xue Zen, Amaya Kibatsu, Astrid, and MagLev turn their attention to attacking the Baron. At the same time, the Bat and the Unknown Soldier break out the stakes, mallets, and fire axe to permanently strike the life from the undead horrors lying comatose. With his powers being robbed from him by Tree Brother’s sunlight, his servants about to be permanently slain, and his attention distracted by the sheer number of attackers – Baron Zelmut began negotiating a deal with the heroes. He offers to not only allow the heroes permission to leave the fog, but to dismantle this in-between world. It will take 1000 years to regain the power to generate this world to attempt to anchor the Magic World to the Material World. In return, the heroes must agree to allow him and his minions to escape.

Already weary from the battle and uncertain as to whether they could prevail in the fight against the baron, the Vanguard accepts the Vampire Lord’s terms. With a look somewhere between a smile and a sneer, Baron Zelmut casts a spell and the heroes (especially those in tune to magic) immediately feel the excess magic begin to drain from the environment. They heroes rush to exit the castle and White Star teleports everyone back to the Culver where they are welcomed by their first glimpse of the sun in over a week. The sailors have the ship ready to sail and Grey Mist has them sail to the site of their first confrontation with the pirates. Using his magnetic powers, Grey Mist recovers all of the gun emplacements that had been knocked from the ship. Then the Culver heads for the land bridge. As the surrounding fog begins to burn off in the sunlight, the heroes’ final act in the in-between world is to unleash the Culver’s guns and destroy the unnatural bridge.

As the fog completely burns off, the Culver finds itself being approached by 5 additional Navy vessels. The cheers and hoopla from the Navy men is quickly cut short by the roar coming from the far island. All eyes turn and spy the huge form of the Undead Dragon. As they had been warned by the Professor, the dragon was powerful enough to select which direction he wanted to go following the destruction of the in-between world – and it apparently has decided to travel to the Material World.

As all eyes stare on in horror, the dragon opens its huge wings and takes off toward the north. Not wanting to allow the dragon to escape, the Grey Mist immediately takes off after it. Exiting his body and going astral, Xue Zen also takes off in an attempt to distract the beast. Neither hero gets too close however, as missiles from all 6 Navy vessels strike the dragon. The dragon wheels about and blasts one of the ships with its Icy breath weapon. The ships scatter to avoid the coming attack and the heroes enter combat with the dragon. A myriad of power blasts, electrical strikes, laser blasts, crushing blows from Grey Mist’s mace, and illusory attacks by a giant robot, a kraken, a rival dragon, and a series of attack aircraft coupled with the very real missiles from the Navy ships strike the beast from all sides. The dragon countered with its might breath weapon and incomparable strength. One Frigate is destroyed by the dragon’s breath and another is so badly damaged that it has to flee or risk sinking as well.
The battle rages for what seems like hours and the heroes take terrible damage. Suddenly, from the sky, they see what appears to be a second sun – and the Professor swoops down from the sky and enters the battle providing healing to those who are hurt the worst. His aid comes too late for Amaya Kibatsu however as a devastating blow from one of the beast’s claws crushes her against the side of the Culver. The heroes prove victorious and the dragon is eventually struck from the sky. As its body crashes into the ocean, it dissolves in an acrid green smoke.

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Taking the Fight to the Foe

The heroes gather their wits following the titanic battle atop the hill and as they stand in the rubble of the ruined temple, they realize that their enemies will now recognize them as a threat. With the absence of the Professor, their source of easy healing, the Vanguard decides that it cannot win a protracted battle of attrition and that they have to go out and take the fight to the vampires aggressively.

The team debates the merits of either attacking the land bridge or seizing the Navy Ship. Astrid astrally performs a high speed recon of the major island group and learns the following:

  • The land bridge is being constructed by a large group of the clay golems that they had defeated at the temple. She counts no fewer than 15 golems either at the bridge or at one of the 5 stone quarries on the island.
  • The golems are being directed by one of the younger-looking vampires
  • Following the destruction of the arch, the sailing ship has reverted back to the Culver. It is floating listlessly in the waters to the North of the dock below the castle. The pirates are still aboard the frigate, but they do not appear to be able to operate the vessel. The port gun emplacements have all suffered severe damage – probably from the Grey Mist’s destruction of the cannonades.

The Grey Mist votes loudly for a speedy attack on the land bridge. White Star and Enerjon argue if they capture the Frigate, then they can get the stranded Navy men aboard and they can use the Frigate to attack the bridge.

The argument continues the entire time that the Vanguard uses their small boat to navigate around the island. As they approach the Eastern end of the main island, a loud roar is heard from the Western end. It sounds like the dragon has woken from its nap and is beginning to move! The Grey Mist ends the argument by taking to the air with a battle cry and flying toward the land bridge. Not wanting to separate the team, the rest of the heroes follow the impetuous teenager.

Much to their surprise, their blitz attack worked! Almost before the vampire was aware of their presence, the heroes descended upon her like an avalanche forcing her to retreat into her mist form. Lacking direction from their vampire master, the mindless golems continued on their work and ignored the heroes.

The Grey Mist turned his weakness detection on the seven golems present and discovered that the runes carved into their forehead are the Hebrew script for ‘Truth’. Erasing the ‘Aleph’ from the inscription changes the script to ‘Death’ and deactivates the golem. The Vanguard, assuming correctly that attacking the golems would result in the distracted golem attacking the heroes began engaging the golems one at a time. Careful strikes eliminated the alephs on each of the golems and the telekinetic powers of the Grey Mist deposited the deactivated golems into the ocean where they began to melt. The Vanguard followed this battle by attacking the golems at the various quarries and eliminating them entirely.

Flush with victory, the heroes immediately made plans to attack the Frigate. The reprise of the earlier confrontation bore little resemblance to the original. This time, the heroes were aware of the presence of the two super villains and attacked them in a cataclysmic confrontation. Combat raged across the decks of the ship. A crushing blow from Dok sent White Star unconscious to the deck and Astrid was soon overwhelmed by the swordplay of Mezlo and was forced to flee the battle. The heroes fought back however and a joint effort by Enerjon and Grey Mist battle through Mezlo’s protective cloak and knock the pirate captain out.

The battle against Dok was a bit more difficult for the pair, and through their repeated calls for help, Astrid returns to the fight. Dok immediately targeted the other astral traveler and with a single crushing blow brought Astrid to the very brink of death, leaving her floating unconscious above the frigate. Enerjon and the Grey Mist used Astrid’s distraction to levy crushing attacks against Dok, but the first mate would not go down. In retaliation, Dok crushed Enerjon with a massive saber blow that sent the hero reeling. Dok sensed his ultimate victory and moved in for what would have almost certainly been the killing blow when suddenly, the Grey Mist attacked from behind with an unprecedented display of violence. The blow from the teen hero’s mace forced Dok back into his corporeal form and sent him flying across the deck where he collapsed in a heap.

The two heroes stood in the aftermath of the battle and made sure that White Star was still breathing. Suddenly, Enerjon looked up at the unconscious form of Astrid high above their heads and mused, “Now, how are we going to get her down?”

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In the Fog
The Magic Continues

The surviving heroes stood for a second in the silence following the Professor’s ebon blast before springing quickly to action. They gathered up their fallen comrades and quickly made their way to the navy men’s hidden beach encampment. In the following days, the Professor is able to not only heal the group up to full health, but is also able to return Astrid from the dead. The action is not without cost however and it takes the Professor a significant amount of time to recover from the spell.

The heroes hold an impromptu meeting and summarize the tasks that they have before them:

  1. They need to stop the golems from constructing the land-bridge to the Maryland coast
  2. They will be unable to leave this “In-between World” until they either gain permission from the Lord of the place or are able to defeat him.
  3. This world is strongly aligned with the Magic World. Somewhere here there is a portal connecting this world with the Magic World. That portal must be destroyed
  4. The Professor warns that once the portal and the Lord are destroyed, this pocket dimension will cease to exist and all will likely be returned to their own realities. He cautions that the dragon may be powerful enough to choose to instead travel to the heroes’ world instead of the Magic World. It may be wise to destroy the dragon while they are still here.
  5. The navy men would really appreciate the return of their warship.

After a brief debate, The Grey Mist (aka Gandalf the Grey… Mist) and the Unknown Soldier convince the rest of the team to borrow uniforms from the Navy men and attempt to capture the ship. They plan to use their own boat, and while dressed as the Navy men, make it appear that they are attempting to escape into the fog. The heroes man the oars while the Grey Mist again powers the boat by lodging his mace in the prow and propelling it using his magnetic powers.

While on the ship sailing south around the largest island, The Grey Mist enjoys one of his Mountain Dew soft drinks – and is surprised to discover that it also was transformed by the magical rules dominating this dimension. The high caffeine count has translated into an energy providing elixir.

It does not take long for the heroes to spot the huge warship off in the distance and before their eyes, the warship changes course and heads straight for the heroes’ ship. The Grey Mist slowly accelerates the ship to ramming speed. They see figures on the warship gathering around a huge cannonade at the prow… but as fate would have it, in their eagerness to blow the small craft from the water, the unfortunate crewmen fail to properly arm their weapon and it explodes in a huge purple blaze. As the enemy cannonade explodes, the Grey Mist lifts the heroes’ boat into the air and flies it at the warship.

Taking advantage of the distraction, White Star teleports along with Enerjon to the warship’s Crow’s Nest where the pair quickly overcomes the pair of pirates stationed there.

Astrid physically enters the astral plane and flies over to the warship, the Bat flies over to the warship under his own power, and the Mist, Unknown Soldier, the Professor, and Amaya Kibatsu travel aboard their vessel. The Grey Mist barrels their small ship into a group of unsuspecting pirates manning a cannonade and knocks 2 of them into insensibility and accidentally snapping the spines of 2 others and knocking the cannonade emplacement overboard. Battle is quickly joined and using their element of surprise, the heroes quickly incapacitate more than half of the pirate crew.

A pair of super-villains enters the battle after the initial round of surprise. The first appears as a quick-moving outline of a humanoid form wielding a huge scimitar – Astrid sees him clearly and the group quickly realizes that he is on the Astral plane just like she is. Enerjon locates the second hiding in the shadows huddled in his shadowy cape. The Grey Mist identifies the pair as Dok and Mezlo.

Dok speeds into the combat causing huge damage when his scimitar connects. Mezlo remains in the shadows using weakness detection on the heroes and using his mind control powers to cause the Unknown Soldier to freeze helplessly in combat. The heroes fight valiantly, while the Grey Mist systematically destroys the cannonades on one side of the warship. Following the completion of that task, the Unknown Soldier signals a retreat. As the words leave his mouth, Dok levels a hug blow that pierces his defenses. The Soldier falls to the deck murmuring the immortal phrase, “He barely hurt me…”

The Bat grabs one of the unconscious pirates and flies off toward the Navy hideout. White Star (along with Enerjon) teleports directly to the hideout. Astrid zips away astrally. The Grey Mist and the Professor gather up the unconscious bodies of the Unknown Soldier and Amaya Kibatsu (who also fell to Dok) and they take off in the smaller boat.

It takes the fleeing heroes only about half a second to realize that Dok is following them astrally. Fortunately for the heroes, the Professor is able to direct beams of light that teleport the various heroes to safety and Dok is not able to follow them to the hidden camp. Back at the hidden Navy camp, the Professor is again able to heal all of the heroes back to full health. Grey Mist, the Bat, and the Unknown Soldier take the opportunity to interrogate their captive. He is very cooperative – especially after the Bat levels his fear inducing gaze upon him. The pirate (Betel) confirms the following bits of information:

  • Since this land is in perpetual twilight, the vampires are not restricted in their ability to be active. Since there is no daylight, they do not have to hide from it.
  • The vampires live in the castle
  • There are four vampires – the three woman vampires and the vampire lord
  • Two of the female vampires appear to be identical twins
  • He has never been inside the castle
  • Both of the Warship Officers (Captain Mezlo and First Mate Dok) have traveled to the castle. During those times, the Warship stayed tied up at the dock area at the foot of the hill on the north side of the island
  • He is not aware of any secret ways in to the castle
  • He and the rest of the pirates have been sailing these waters aboard the Warship for about 8 months
  • He has never spoken to either the dragon or any of the vampires (“Honest men avoid both…”)
  • He has seen an eerie green light flickering atop one of the hills on the main island
  • His homeland is called ‘Altharus’ – it is a magical place where vampires and other evil beings are ‘not uncommon’
  • The pirates were hired for this job by Baron Zelmut
  • If he is returned to the pirates, they will likely kill him – Mezlo will know that he talked The heroes decide that they cannot just let him free – nor can they morally return him to his former mates – so they instead rechristen him ‘Gumby’ and leave him in the custody of the Navy castaways (with explicit instructions that he is not to be harmed or mistreated).

After a brief debate about their next step, at the Bat’s suggestion, the group decides to investigate the flickering green light. They take their boat and sail around the southern end of the island (successfully avoiding the Warship) until they see the flickering green light. The heroes beach the boat and negotiate their way up the 180 foot hill via teleportation and flight and approach the source of the light on foot. Rounding a hill, they find an ornate temple with 2 clay statues flanking the door. From inside the temple, a strong green glow erratically flickers.

White Star and Amaya Kibatsu approach the temple and true to expectations, the statues attack the ladies as they approach. The heroes enter battle with the golems and are surprised when a green bolt shoots from inside the temple causing immense damage to the Unknown Soldier. White Star attempts to enter the temple to confront whatever is inside, but she finds her way totally blocked by the golems. Astrid astrally flies right past the golems and enters the temple where she sees Delphine standing next to a stone arch. The arch is filled with a green glow and as Astrid enters, Delphine speaks a word and an energy blast shoots out of the arch striking Astrid. Astrid flees the temple before she can be hit again.

The combined efforts of the heroes knock one of the golems into tiny pieces. As they turn their attention to the second, another bolt of energy strikes the downed golem and it reconstructs into a smaller version of itself. The battle continues with the heroes battling golems while dodging energy blasts being frustrated by the raising of the golems even after they are defeated. During this battle, Amaya Kibatsu is once again knocked unconscious.

Eventually, the heroes are able to not only knock down both golems simultaneously, but they are able to dash past the downed golems into the temple before one could be raised. In a fit of rage, Delphine lets off a huge blast of energy from the arch striking the Professor who disappears in a green mist. Even without the Professor, the lone vampire is no match for the combined wrath of the remaining heroes and she quickly is forced to revert to her mist form. The heroes then turn their angst upon the arch itself and within seconds of concentrated attack, the arch collapses in upon itself in a green tinted explosion.

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