Andrannar

On the Road to the Fortress
The party returns to the Malachite Fortress

After resting and recovering their strength, the party decided to return to the Malachite Fortress. Clearly, it was still important to the minotaurs and orcs and the party wanted to find out why. Also, Alena pointed out that the primordial was once imprisoned somewhere beneath the fortress. Perhaps they could discover what once bound him as it might offer a clue on how they could do it again.

The party left the ruins of Tir Kitor, following the old road that once joined the eladrin city and the dwarven fortress. As they followed the worn route, they ambushed a group of orcs. Their enemies had deadly archers and a storm shaman, as well as the usual brute warriors. A fierce battle erupted as both sides used the rocky, mountainous terrain to their advantage, but the party’s teamwork helped them overcome their foes.

They continued on, till they reached the Malachite Fortress around dusk. There was a large open field before the entrance to the dwarven fortress. The stone and wood remnants of an old dwarven surface village dotted the field, and from the party’s vantage, they could see the ribbons of smoke rising from at least two campfires within the ruins. Not wanting to enter the ruined village at night, they kept a watchful vigil and prepared to enter before daybreak.

When the appointed hour had come, the party gathered themselves and tried to stealthily approach the nearest building in the village. The lack of much cover made things difficult, and they were soon spotted by a number of orcs on watch. Rather than engage the orcs in the open where they could be surrounded, the party rushed in and bottle-necked the orcs at the entrance to the building, where Brathis and Vorsk stood with readied weapons. Alena and Lyris launched their spells over the heads of their allies, further hampering their enemy’s movements.

The spellcasters’ invocations left flames to burn at the feet of the orcs, and with no room to move away, the fires scorched the trapped brutes. The fighter and paladin systematically hacked away at the survivors, grimly felling their opponents. Through the smoke and flames, they saw a lone surviving orc flee out of the back of the building. Cursing, Vorsk darted after it. As the dragonborn entered into the street, he pulled up short as the orc disappeared into the maze of buildings.

Vorsk looked over his shoulder as the rest of the party joined him. As warning cries and sound of activity sprang up around the village, the group took a defensive stance. “Get ready,” the dragonborn growled. “They know we’re here.”

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In Memory of the Fallen
Heroes fall, and others are called to arms

The party continued their journey to the Malachite Fortress, traveling south through the forest, following the banks of the Felanduin River. They found evidence of an old, paved road to the now ruined eladrin city of Tir Kitor along the riverbanks, with the occasional paving stones peeking out beneath the soil and long grass. As they traveled further, they came across a body at the river’s edge, the current washing the corpse ashore. A quick investigation revealed it was an elf male, cold, but not yet decomposed. Shivra was grim as she finished her examination, and the party unsheathed their weapons and continued south, but much more cautiously.

A distant howl carried on the breeze was the first warning the party received, and a number of answering howls put the adventurers further on edge. They gathered into a defensive formation, slowly moving along the river, all of them scanning the edge of the forest for any sign of danger.

Shivra was the first to see the massive direwolf step out from the shadows of the forest, seventy feet away. Covered in dark grey fur, it stood nearly six feet tall at the shoulder, and it bared its teeth and gave a low growl. Malroc growled in response and brandished his axe. The companions cursed aloud, as it was joined by another direwolf and a pack of lesser, normal wolves.

In a flash of grey, the entire pack sprang forward in unison, their quick strides bringing them upon the party. They pounced, fangs bared, and those that made it past the party’s defenses knocked their quarry to the ground. The wolf pack’s tactics made the ensuing combat chaotic, as the wolves were able to repeatedly swarm and drag the adventurers down to the ground.

As the party desperately fended off the wolves attacks, they were dismayed to see them joined by another direwolf and its orc master. The orc howled in glee as it saw its wolf allies tear into the besieged adventurers and it charged, swinging a cruelly edged greatsword. The ensuing fight was ferocious and deadly, but the party was able to regroup somewhat. On a more even footing, their superior teamwork and mighty powers were able to swing the battle in their favor. Eventually, they were able to kill their opponents, and the last two direwolves fled rather than face the risen fury of the heroes.

Weary from their fight, the party decided to try and find a place to rest. Seeking cover in the forest, Malroc found a suitable, defensible location. The wounded company tried to take shelter, but the howling of wolves indicated that they were still being pursued. They quickly took a vote. While some wanted to flee, the majority wanted to make a stand, and so they assumed a defensive position and awaited their foes.

The wolves that had been tracking their scent were the first to attack, their forms seemingly grey streaks as they charged through the shadowed forest. As the party fended off the small pack, the wolves were joined by their orc masters. Most were great brutes in heavy armor, wielding large, deadly axes or spiked clubs. They were also accompanied by a few orcs who used longbows to deadly effect, as well as an orc shaman capable of conjuring lightning to strike at the adventurers.

The battle was intense, and though the party was able to slay many of their enemies, the orc archers and warriors’ attacks started to break through the adventurers’ defenses. Caught in an attrition battle that they could not win, one by one the heroes fell before the orcish onslaught. As he watched his friends dying around him, Stravo made the painful decision to flee. Vowing to return and save the fallen, the half-elf bard darted away through the forest and made for the town of Westreach.

Alone and outnumbered, Malroc resigned himself to his fate. Roaring exhortations of strength to his ancestors, the powerful minotaur refused to die easily. “You may kill me,” the warden growled, “but I’m taking some of you with me!” The promise of death flashed in Malroc’s eyes as he brought his axe down upon his foes, spilling their blood across the forest floor. Inspired, he fought, dodging his enemies swings and striking back at their weak spots. The minotaur smiled grimly as another orc fell beneath his axe, but the remaining orcs managed to flank the lone hero. Malroc let out a roar as he felt a blade pierce his side. As his life force ebbed from his body, Malroc summoned the last of his strength and brought his axe across in a mighty swing, tearing across an orc throat and nearly severing its head. The minotaur dropped to his knees, covered in the blood of his opponents, and as the darkness enveloped him, Malroc had a smile on his face.


Far away, Stravo raced north along the river, his eyes red from tears shed for his fallen companions. Though his wounds burned and his muscles ached, the half-elf refused to stop. Hours passed and the bard kept running, not slowing till he saw the lights of Westreach. Exhausted, he staggered into town and toward the home of Lyris, the one ally he still knew. She wore an alarmed expression as she answered the door, seeing Stravo alone and uncharacteristically worn and haggard.

Lyris ushered Stravo into her family’s home, and the bard sorrowfully related the account of the disastrous fight. Lyris listened quietly, knowing full well the pain of losing friends. She promised Stravo that in the morning, they would find people to help him, but for now, he needed to rest and recover from the ordeal. She directed him to a guest bedroom and Stravo was fast asleep moments after his head hit the pillow.

When the next day dawned and the sun illuminated the morning sky, Stravo woke to find himself more thoughtful and somber that he could ever remember. After quickly washing himself and cleaning his gear, he left the room to find Lyris. The bard found her in the kitchen, a quick meal already prepared. She knew of people that might help, after a quick breakfast, the pair of half-elves left to find some aid.

Lyris knew of a cleric in town that might possess the power and knowledge necessary to raise Stravo‘s companions. She led her friend through the old city streets and arrived at church dedicated to Pelor. There she introduced him to Quinn Bronn, a human priest. He was older as humans reckon, perhaps in his mid 50’s, balding with whisps of gray hair.

After Stravo introduced himself and explained his predicament, Quinn seemed genuinely moved. The old priest said he had the resources to enact a raise dead ritual, but that he was too old and frail to accompany the bard back to the spot where he lost his friends. Quinn did have other contacts throughout the city, so he might be able to gather a group of adventurous individuals to aid the bard in an attempt to recover the remains of his fallen allies.

Stravo nodded somberly, and Lyris reassured her friend that no matter who Quinn found, that she would join him in his adventures and restore his companions. When they met again with the old priest, he had a number of new faces accompanying him.

The first was Brathis the Bold, a mighty paladin of Pelor. Fate or divine guidance had led his adventures to Westreach. The stories of Stravo and his fallen allies indicated that they had worked for good, and to protect the settlements of Hawkstone Vale. With orcs and worse creatures preying on the innocent, Brathis would help the bard eradicate them and revive his friends.

Next was Vorsk, a powerfully build dragonborn. Stravo recognized him as the innkeeper of the The Smiling Siren, but the dragonborn’s muscles and the ease of which he handled himself with weapons and armor left little doubt of Vorsk’s prowess. The draconic warrior hinted that he had served some time in mercenary companies, and while running an inn was a nice rest, it would be good to see a bit of action again.

Finally, Quinn smiled as he introduced Alena, a youthful, attractive and scandalously dressed eladrin witch. Orphaned at a young age, Alena had learned the arcane ways by picking up bits of knowledge gathered from certain town elders who lived just outside of Westreach. She was familiar with the forest and her growing curiousity and desire to test her magical skills prompted her to answer Quinn‘s call for aid. The frown on Brathis’s face as he studied his new ally, as well as her imp familiar, clearly showed his skepticism, but the paladin stoicly said nothing.

Stravo thanked them for their willingness to aid him. Concern for the fate of his slain friends drove the half-elf though, and he asked that they leave as soon as possible. Quinn nodded and invoked Pelor’s blessing upon them as the new party gathered their belongings. Lyris imparted her gratitude to the old priest, and the group left to find the bodies of Stravo’s companions.


The group made haste, talking and introducing themselves as they walked along the path Stravo laid out for them. A traveling ritual from the bard enabled them to cover ground much more quickly, and with some luck, Stravo was able to return to the site of his previous adventuring party’s last stand.

The signs of the earlier battle was clear. Blood was spattered along the ground and trees, and the earth was marked by boot prints and drag marks. Alena even managed to find a few discarded weapons among the forest undergrowth. But there were no sign of any bodies, or Stravo’s fallen friends.

Stravo cursed in frustration, but the howling of wolves echoing through the forest left little time for contemplation. “To arms,” Vorsk growled, and he and the paladin moved to protect their allies.

The wolves came at them from all sides, though with careful positioning, the warriors managed to keep the beasts away from their spellcasting companions. The witch and wizard’s spells arced through the forest, blasting their foes. And the bard waded into combat, crying for vengeance, his great fullblade slicing hungrily into his enemies. The wolves stood little chance against the combined fury of the party, and there were no orcs to help them.

After the battle, they searched for tracks, or some clue of what happened to the missing bodies. They could not find anything recent, but Alena and Vorsk found some older orc tracks heading south. Having little else to go on, Stravo led them to follow the tracks. After following a winding path, the trail soon led back to the river, and the old road to Tir Kitor.

The sun was shining, and the weather was warm, with a gentle breeze. In the distance, they could make out the ruins of the eladrin city. There were no obvious signs of activity from the abandoned settlement, and as they approached, they saw that the most prominent tracks skirted the city altogether. The party had a quick debate, as some wanted to investigate the ruins, while others wanted to stick to following the tracks. In the end, Vorsk decided to wait for the others outside the city limits. The rest of the group would do a hopefully quick investigation of the nearby buildings.

As the party entered the ruins of Tir Kitor, there was a moment where they could feel a slight tingle and Alena’s imp familiar became agitated. Another step later, they saw the sky darken with clouds, the wind became stronger, it began to rain and they could see occasional flashes of lightning nearby. On a suspicion, Lyris took a few steps backward. Another slight tingling sensation, and the weather was once again sunny and pleasant. For her companions further in, it was still stormy and tempestuous. This all but confirmed some sort of magical ward or barrier surrounded the city, and the weather within was different from the weather without. She told the others of her findings, and they voiced their speculations on the nature of the warding. It seemed to do them no ill, so they continued their exploration.

Brathis led the way, and the first notable, intact building seemed to be an old manor house. The image of two griffons combatant was etched in the stonework above the door, as well as on the great wooden double doors themselves. There was the sound of some commotion inside, and as they cautiously approached, they could make out the forms of some dark red, demonic creatures ransacking the house, looking for something.

A lucky bit of stealth enabled the the party to sneak close and get in to defensive positions. The fiery demons soon were alerted to their presence and moved to attack them. Stepping unflinchingly toward their enemies, Brathis waded into battle with the unholy fiends. The demons started to flank the paladin, but the bard was ready to aid his friend. Pressed into frontline combat, Stravo did not hesitate to bring his fullblade to bear, hacking at the fiendish opponents. As the warriors engaged in melee with their opponents, the witch and mage continued to blast away at the foul creatures with their spells.

After the defeated demons collapsed into piles of ashes, the party began to examine the ruined manor. After a bit of searching, Alena found a small, silvery signet ring hidden beneath the remains of a shattered cabinet. The eladrin witch placed it on her finger and admired it. Much like the main door, it too bore the image of griffons combatant on it. That image was again repeated on another set of locked doors leading downward toward a basement or cellar. These other doors gave off a faint magical aura, and while they remained locked for everyone else, they opened at Alena’s slightest touch.

Behind the door there were stairs, leading to a crypt beneath the manor house. There was an upper crypt, where rested the most honored members of the family, and a larger mausoleum, where the rest of the family’s remains lay. A heavy mist swirled and clung to the mausoleum floor. As they cautiously explored the undercrypt, they discovered a large, ornately decorated sarcophagus, lying in a place of honor. As they approached, the mist began to coalesce into the forms of ghostly figures and they rasped a warning to the party.

“Only the blood of House Gryffonsheld may enter here safely,” the phantasms warned. Almost in response, the ring on Alena’s finger pulsed. The witch told the ghosts that she did not know her parents or their lineage, but the specters did not attack or tell them to depart. The party asked a few questions, and the ghosts spoke freely.

The spectral figures related that the city had been destroyed by an ancient primordial, Ty-h’kadi, an elemental being of storm and lightning. It had originally been bound beneath the Redstone Hills, near the Malachite Fortress. Some unknown force had released it, and it rampaged, destroying much of the fortress. After it escaped, it rampaged through the countryside, until it came to Tir Kitor. As it attacked the city, the eladrin High Mages realized that they did not have the power to stop it and the city would soon be crushed beneath the primordial’s assault. They appealed to Corellon, who gave them a powerful ritual that would imprison Ty-h’kadi and bind it once again. The cost of the ritual was great, however, and would require the sacrifice of the High Mages’ lives.

The High Mages made the sacrifice, enacted the ritual, and saved what was left of the populace, capturing Ty-h’kadi, and raising a ward about the city. This ward kept the evil elemental creatures trapped within, as well as preventing their allies from entering the city. The trapped creatures have begun looking for ways to disrupt the ward. The spirits warn that if the elementals or demons find a way to disturb the resting places of the High Mages, that may weaken the warding and allow their escape. On a greater scale, this too may weaken the binding that imprisions the primordial.

The party pledged to help the spirits, to keep the High Mages’ bodies safe, and to keep Ty-h’kadi safely locked away. In gratitude, the spirits offered the party some items of magical power, to aid them. In addition, they promised additional aid as the heroes prove themselves worthy. The companions thanked them and after a brief rest, returned to Vorsk, who was bewildered by the story they related to him.

The reunited friends continued following the original trail, which led around the city and to a small group of buildings that was once a merchant’s waypoint. As they investigated, they were ambushed by what appeared to be one of Stravo’s former companions, Shivra.

Hissing a curse toward Stravo, she directed swarms of giant spiders to attack the adventuring group, while she darted in to attack from the other flank. She surprised her former ally, blasting the group with spells that Stravo had never seen her enact in life. With her spiders, Shivra almost proved a match for them, battling them fiercely. As the party killed the last of the spiders, Shivra vanished into the shadows, vowing that she was not yet done with Stravo. Shaken and wearied by their battle, the party returned to the crypts beneath Gryffonsheld Manor to rest and recover.

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The City of Hawkstone
Investigations in the city uncover new revelations

After a bit of discussion, Crono and Trinkstein decided to return to the library at the Magistus Arcantheum to try and discover some information about the names hinted at in the note they had found earlier. This time, their research was much more rewarding.

While they couldn’t find anything specific about Podif’s well, they stumbled across a reference to an obscure, explorer named Samman Podif, who lived in ancient Dalar. He had spent much of his life researching, and searching for extra-dimensional portals. It was mentioned that he had perhaps found a portal or two that was ancient even by his reckoning, possibly predating the creation of mortals.

They also luckily stumbled across a brief mention of the name Amarindul. In the journal of a sage over 200 years old, Amarindul was recorded as one of the offspring of Vostrakhan, a then-notorious blue dragon that preyed on Dalaran wizards and citizens.

Satisfied by their research, they returned to the inn and rejoined their companions. Shivra and Stravo decided to do some less scholarly research of their own. The poison used in the assassination attempts of Serida Bonhart and Barristan Hark, Ground Thassil Root, was very rare. Perhaps those in the city with less lawful backgrounds would know who to talk to about it, or where to get it.

After talking to a few of the locals, Stravo discovered that the Guilded Dagger Gambling Hall was known to be a shady establishment where disreputable folk often met. The drow and half-elf left their companions behind, and made their way across the city, eventually finding the gambling hall. It looked like a fairly non-descript building, perhaps an old warehouse that had been converted into a slightly shabby place of business. On the street outside, a few cloaked figures leaned against the nearby buildings, and both the rogue and bard could feel the weight of many stares upon them.

A group of masssively muscled half-orcs acting as bouncers warned Stravo and Shivra to watch themselves. Any act of agression, or attempt to cheat the games, would result in at least the duo getting thrown out, but the half-orcs hinted that the actual punishment would likely be much worse. Stravo nodded in understanding and gave his assurance that they would cause no trouble. The bouncers snorted, but stood aside to let them pass.

Inside, there was a bar and small dining area to one side, next to a much larger room filled with gambling tables. There was a constant low murmur of people talking in hushed tones, accompanied by the tumbling of dice, the shuffling of cards, and the clinking of coins. Stravo and Shivra casually made their way to the bar, purchased a few drinks, and began to talk with the bartender. The drow remained hooded and cloaked, but many of the other patrons were similarly secretive, so the rogue did not stand out.

The bartender seemed unfazed when Shivra mentioned she was looking for Ground Thassil Root. He informed them he could likely get them a small supply, but refused to divulge his source. The bartender commented that much of their store of ground root was bought out a few weeks ago, by a group of six tieflings that had passed through town. He couldn’t tell them any more about the tieflings, where they came from, or where they went, but told the duo that perhaps the town guardsmen who were on duty might know. Tieflings weren’t common, so the guard would likely remember a group that large.

Stravo thanked the bartender and gave him a generous tip. On her way out, Shivra asked if the bartender knew anyone who might be able to find more information within the city. The bartender smiled and told her he would contact someone who could do the job. But to set up the contract, the person would find her.

Stravo and Shivra returned to the inn that served as their base of operations. The bard would next go to the city gates, but this time, Crono would join him. The half-elf and eladrin left their companions and made their way to the gates to talk to the night watch.

The guardsmen manning the gate were talkative and forthcoming with Stravo and Crono, readily disclosing that they did indeed remember the group of tieflings pass through, nearly 3 weeks ago. A bit of insight and some probing questions revealed that the tieflings essentially bribed the guards. The guardsmen did not record the tieflings names, did not search them thoroughly, and did not have them followed. Crono was able to determine that despite the guardsmen’s incompetence, they weren’t being evil, just acting foolish and lazy. After their ineptitude was laid bare, the guardsmen swore to redouble their vigilance and follow protocol much more strictly. Before the bard and swordmage left, the guards told them that a few days after they arrived, a group of four tieflings left. What happened to the other two, they did not know.

Crono and Stravo returned to their friends and recounted the news. As the group were deep in discussion, they were approached by a cloaked man who apparently had been sitting in the common room with them for quite some time. He introduced himself simply as Kel, the informant that they had asked to meet with. After a bit of haggling, they agreed to a deal. Kel and his associates would scour the city and find any remaining tiefling assassins or discover where they went. If they were still inside the city walls, he would have them followed. In return, the party would pay him 500 gold, plus an additional 50 gold for each week he had to continue to follow the tieflings. He or one of his associates would get in to contact with them within 24 hours of the next time they returned to Hawkstone. They agreed to the terms, and Kel bid them farewell, quickly disappearing into the night. Tired from the previous day’s activities, the party returned to their rooms to rest for the night.

After a brief discussion the next morning, the party agreed that they needed to return to the Malachite Fortress. They would travel via ship to Westreach, then travel south to get to the Redstone Hills, with the fortress soon after.

Before they left, Trinkstein went to pay his respects and leave a small offering at the shrine to Moradin. An elderly priest there warned the dwarf invoker that he had a premonition the night before. The forces of evil were growing in these lands, and some of these forces sought to destroy something Moradin had created. Trinkstein pondered this, as it could be interpreted in many different ways. He thanked the old priest for his insight, and the entire party made their way down to the docks, to find passage on a ship to Westreach.

The voyage to Westreach took nearly a full day, and it was evening by the time the ship arrived at its destination. As the ship made anchor and was moored, the party went above deck and caught their first glimpse of the settlement. The night was clear, and the autumn moon shone down brightly on the harbor town.

Westreach was once prosperous, but had obviously come upon rough times. Much of the city was dark and abandoned, with many neglected buildings gradually succumbing to the ravages of time and disrepair. Maybe a third of the city was still lit by torches and lanterns and still looked inhabited. The party disembarked, and made their way onto a street illuminated by lanterns, looking for an inn.

Not far from the docks, they came across a dimly lit establishment. The faded painting of a mermaid on the weather-beaten sign above the door proclaimed it The Smiling Siren. Crono shrugged, opened the door and entered, and the rest of the party followed the eladrin inside.

Inside, the fire burning in the common room hearth did little to dispel the darkness that clung to the edges of the room. The light from a few sputtering torches offered little illumination as well. The common room was filled with tables, surrounded by chairs, but maybe a quarter of the chairs were actually occupied. Behind the bar, a muscular dragonborn eyed the party cautiously, giving them a polite nod. As they sat at a table, a tired-looking barmaid hurried to take their order.

After a round of drinks, the party rented a couple of rooms for the night. The next morning, the group talked to a few people in the inn’s common room and found the house where Lyris and her parents lived. They talked to the half-elf wizard for a while, discussing their plans. They inquired about the way to the Malachite Fortress and Lyris told them all she knew of it, as well as a bit of the region’s history.

Once, there was a great eladrin city further inland, named Tir Kitor. The eladrin had a mutually beneficial alliance with the dwarves of the Malachite Fortress. They built a road between the two settlements and together, they created many wonderous works of art and magical power. They used Westreach as a shipping point for exporting their goods, and in turn, the human port town prospered and grew.

For some unknown reason, contact with both the Malachite Fortress and Tir Kitor abruptly stopped. One week the trade wagons were arriving, laden with items of exquisite workmanship, the next week, nothing. Many expeditions set out to discover what happened to the two cities, but few ever returned. The handful that returned could only report that they found the settlements abandoned and ruined and that they dared not enter to discover more. They wove tales of undead and worse monsters roaming the blasted and deserted streets of Tir Kitor and all should avoid the cursed place.

As the trade disappeared, so too did the prosperity of Westreach. Merchants, craftsmen, and others had no reason to stay, and hundreds of them left on each ship. In time, only a small fraction of the city’s once thriving population remained. Lyris ended her tale with a warning, that the citizens of Westreach avoid the ruins of Tir Kitor at all cost.

Stravo smiled at the wizard’s warning, but reassured her that they had defeated many terrible creatures. Their destination was the Malachite Fortress, and so might bypass the ruined eladrin city altogether anyway. Lyris nodded and bid them farewell, and the party headed out of town, to return to the dwarven fortress in the south.

The adventurers traveled for the rest of the day. Malroc was unnerved, moreso when he realized that the forest was unnaturally quiet. He kept a hand within easy reach of his axe, but no threat showed itself. Eventually, nightfall arrived, and the companions stopped to make camp.

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A Spreading Evil
Dark forces test the city of Hawkstone

The party approached the city gates and a large number of guards gathered to stop them, wary of the powerful and dangerous-looking minotaur. Stravo delivered to them a letter written and signed by Barristan Hark, explaining the group’s good intentions and worthy deeds. Cautiously agreeing, the guards stood aside and let the heroes enter Hawkstone.

The party traveled to the temple to Pelor, to see if they could get their companion, Trinkstein restored to life. They met with a dwarf cleric, Durgrim Ironedge. He agreed to help them, but asked that they help the church in return. Something was interfering with the normal operation of one of the smaller shrines in the outlying farms and Durgrim asked them to investigate. The party accepted, and Lyris agreed to accompany them.

The small chapel was not far, perhaps a thirty minute travel from the city gates. It stood in isolation, surrounded by flat farmland, with only a few trees in the churchyard to provide any shade. It was near dusk when the party approached, the setting sun making the church cast long shadows across the ground. In the deepening twilight, the party could make out the flicker of candles behind the stained glass windows of the chapel.

Shivra was the first to the door, her keen ears able to make out the soft droning sound of someone chanting continuously. When her companions joined her on the doorstep and looked at her questioningly, she could only shrug. Malroc and Crono took up positions by the entrance, and the big minotaur opened the heavy wooden door.

Within the chapel, an unholy ritual was being completed. A screaming villager was sacrificed, and his bones seemingly dissolved. The resulting sac of flesh moved of its own accord, and it joined other creatures like it, showing that this was not the first such ritual. Two male cultists performed these rituals, a human and tiefling. They sent their newly created minions into combat and launched debilitating spells at the heroes.

The battle was fierce, but Crono and Shivra were able to attack the spellcasters and keep them from affecting the battlefield. Meanwhile, Malroc and the others were able to keep the demonic flesh creatures at bay, eventually battering them into oblivion.

The heroes found more villagers, bound and gagged, in a room in the back of the small church. They released them and sent them on their way. In the catacombs beneath the chapel, they found another cultist, trying to create undead from the bodies of the buried. Another straightforward battle had the adventurers prove victorious. On the bodies of the vanquished cultists, the party found strange, unholy symbols. It was of a two-headed, dog-like beast, its heads facing away from each other.

They collected what they could from the fallen cultists and made their way back to the The Hall of the Dawnlord. Durgrim thanked them for their efforts, and the ritual to raise Trinkstein was undertaken. Soon enough, the dwarf invoker was restored to life.

With the party intact, Lyris bid her companions farewell. She would journey as soon as possible to the city of Westreach, to rejoin her parents. The half-elf wizard thanked them again, inviting them to seek her out if they ever were in need.

It was decided that Crono and Trinkstein would travel to the library at the Magistus Arcantheum, to find if it held any knowledge of the Orb. Stravo and Malroc would travel to see the wizard Annazar, to see if he knew anything about the cursed sphere, and also to determine if he had any contact with Marthell. Shivra would remain at the inn, and try to avoid drawing any attention to herself.

After a brief introductory period, the librarians at the Magistus Arcantheum agreed to let the swordmage and invoker peruse the archives. The duo could find very little information about the Orb. What few passages they could find only hinted at the Orb potentially holding incredible power, but also a dangerous, corrupting influence.

The bard and the wardern were similarly fruitless in their search. The wizard Annazar wasn’t even home, his energetic (if ill-informed) apprentice explaining how his master rarely told him anything that didn’t pertain to his magical studies. At a loss, they returned to the inn and meet up with the rest of their friends.

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The Wizard's Intrigue
A tower and a song

Before leaving Hawksbridge, the party found out that the wizard Marthell had been seen recently in town, looking for one of his apprentices. It was rumored that she had stolen something and fled his service, possibly hiding in town. In more welcome news, one of the Stone Hawks had discovered and killed the tiefling assassin, the one that had tried to end Barristan Hark’s life.

Remembering that they had previously sought Marthell‘s aid, the party agreed to make a quick visit to the wizard’s tower before they headed north to Hawkstone, to find a cleric to raise Trinkstein.

They arrived at Marthell‘s tower and found it abandoned. After a bit of investigation, they discovered clear signs of battle, with devastation that ranged throughout the tower. Many of the tower’s magical defenses were still active and the party had to fight their way through them to find clues of what happened. They could find no survivors, and little of value. Of the wizard, Marthell, and his apprentices, there were no signs.

The party salvaged what little they could, and the group resumed its journey north to the city of Hawkstone. The limp body of the dead dwarf Malroc carried was a a grim reminder to everyone that time was of the essence. They moved with a sense of urgency, and covered a great number of miles that first day.

As the sun began to set, Stravo Vangelis’s keen hearing picked up the sound of pipes playing in the distance. Even at this long range, his trained ears detected the pull and persuasion of magic masterfully laced within the tune. He warned his companions as they moved to investigate, and the careful drow took precautions to stuff her ears with leaves and perhaps mitigate the power of any enchanted song.

A clearing in the woods a few hundred feet ahead revealed a campfire with two figures around it. One was a female in long, ornate robes, who lay prone and motionless, with blankets around her, while the other sat on a nearby log, playing the aforementioned set of pipes. As the party approached, Crono and Malroc recognized the musician as a satyr, a mercurial fey creature of magical power.

Just being close to the satyr as it played made many of the party feel sleepy, and the satyr refused to stop playing. They attacked the fey creature. It had a charmed displacer beast waiting hidden in the woods, and it immediately leapt out to attack the party. The battle was difficult as the satyr laid many fey enchantments that made it difficult for the party to progress. Thanks to the party’s teamwork and perseverance, they were able to vanquish the satyr and its displacer beast thrall.

Once the satyr and its enchantments died, the prone woman was soon roused from her magical slumber. At first, she tried to give them a false name, but after a bit of questioning, confessed she was in fact Lyris, one of Marthell’s apprentices.

Lyris told the party of what happened at the wizard’s tower. Demons disguising themselves as men broke in to the tower, looking for something. One of the demon leaders was suspected to be an incubus, capable of taking the form of another, or even possessing their body entirely. Marthell and his apprentices fought them, and the spell battle devastated most of the building. One explosion slammed Lyris to the ground, knocking her unconscious. When she woke, she saw her master defeated and being tortured. The other apprentice, Agrana was nowhere to be found. Afraid for her life, Lyris fled the ruined tower, with only her most essential items. Her plan was to head north, perhaps to Hawkstone or back home to Westreach.

The party agreed to accompany her to the city of Hawkstone. She feared pursuit by demons, and the party could use the abilities of a trained, experienced wizard. After resting for the night, the party continued north. They saw no pursuit, and no signs of war or battle. Before long, the city walls of Hawkstone came into view, and they approached the city gates.

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The Battle Renewed
The party returns to finish the green dragon ....

The party explored the tunnels beneath the green dragon’s lair a bit further. Finding it relatively safe, they took the reprieve as an opportunity to rest and recover from the previous day’s grueling encounters. As her companions rested, Shivra‘s reverie reminded her of her past in the Underdark. The deep tunnels, beneath tons of earth and rock, held an odd comfort for her. But the Lands Below were never truly safe, and the wary drow did not let her guard down, especially so close to a dragon’s lair. As they rested, Shivra occasionally heard faint rumbling and scraping sounds echo down from the dragon’s cavern, but their rest was otherwise undisturbed.

After hours had passed, the rest of the party stirred from their sleep. Despite some aches and sore muscles, they felt greatly refreshed. Crono used his magical sword, Goldenclaw, to radiate light similar to a torch, its pale yellow glow piercing the unyielding gloom.

“So what now?” Malroc asked. The big minotaur sat against the tunnel wall and fished through his pack, eventually finding some cured pork and dried fruit. He began to eat as looked over at his friends.

“We go back. We go back and we kill that damn dragon.” Stravo spoke with a grim determination. The bard was in the middle of sharpening his sword and had paused to talk. “We finish that foul beast before it has a chance to recover from the wounds we gave him!”

Shivra nodded her assent. “The creature was sorely wounded. Perhaps we were close to slaying it?” The drow rogue glanced around at the rest of her party and casually held out her new, magical dagger. “In any case, there are items of magical power in that treasure hoard. Items we could certainly use. This dagger was just one of the many powerful items the green dragon has no doubt collected.”

Stravo nodded in agreement. “Also, we have slain many of the dragon’s allies. We should strike again, before it has an opportunity to replace them!” The other party members looked at each other. Privately, they may have had their doubts about returning to face the dragon so soon, but the bard seemed set.

Their path agreed upon, the party soon worked out a plan. Malroc would take up position at the bottom of the chute and boost the other members up, in hopes to get the entire group into the lair as quickly as possible. Their combined powers would hopefully pin the dragon down and their teamwork would eventually subdue and slay the hated wyrm.

The party cautiously made their way back up the tunnel, looking for the slightest hint of danger. About fifty feet from the tunnel entrance, Shivra held up her hand, gesturing for the party to stop. Her nose wrinkled, as the drow detected the odor of oil. She crouched, running her hand through the water trickling down the tunnel. She rubbed her thumb and forefinger, feeling a slight greasy slickness. The rogue turned to her companions. “Oil,” she whispered. The others nodded, then gestured for her to continue.

The party continued up the tunnel, Shivra wincing at each clank of her friends’ armor as they moved into position. They heard some movement in the cavern above, and an occasional shadow would block the sunlight that streamed down from the cavern entrance far above. After a quick glance and a nod at each other, the adventurers sprang into action.

Malroc quickly moved to the base of the chute, ready to boost his friends up. A shadow and noise above didn’t distract him as first Crono, then Shivra used him as a springboard, their fey teleportation powers stepping them through reality to the cavern above. As the drow seemingly emerged from the swordmage’s shadow, the dark elf and eladrin saw two objects falling through the air: a barrel, followed closely by a lit, burning torch.

The bottom of the chute exploded in a firestorm, with Malroc catching much of the blast. The stalwart minotaur gritted his teeth against the pain, but set his feet within the pool of burning oil, readying to boost his remaining friends up. Stravo nodded grimly at the warden’s determination and the bard charged into the blaze, leaping into Malroc’s hands. The minotaur’s powerful muscles flexed, propelling Stravo up into the cavern above. The half-elf found his footing and stood, pulling his longsword out and into the ready position.

Trinkstein took a deep breath and began his run, but his footing slipped on the oil, and the dwarf was unable to get a proper leap. The invoker tripped and fell into the fire. Malroc instead grabbed at his fallen friend’s clothes and waist and hoisted Trinkstein over his head, heaving the dwarf out of the pit. The warden tried to follow, but slipped amid the burning oil and was unable to clamber out of the hole.


The fight was furious and deadly, with the dragon aloft keeping much of the party out of the fight as it swooped in to attack isolated members, or breath if they bunched up too much. Trinkstein was able to dislodge the dragonspawn who was mounted atop the large green wyrm, and the draconic ally plummeted into the pit.

In the tunnel below, a wounded Malroc battled the fallen dragonspawn, the two massive warriors trading fierce attacks, each inflicting tremendous injury upon the other. The dragonspawn was still stuck within the pool of burning oil, while the minotaur was able to shift out of it. Winning the war of attrition, the mighty warden struck his enemy a resounding blow, flinging his opponent backward into the oil, and the dragonspawn did not rise again.

Above, the dragon continued its hit and run tactics, its relentless assault wearing down the strength and energy of the band of heroes. The party was resolute, determined to see victory, and they continued to fight. Despite their mighty efforts, all were battered and bloodied by the dragon’s constant attacks. Eventually, Trinkstein collapsed, struck down by the wyrm, and the difficult call was made to retreat.

In a show of fantastic bravery, Stravo singlehandedly held the dragon off as his friends gathered the fallen dwarf and slipped back down the pit, into the tunnels beneath the cave. It was only with repeated urging from his allies that Stravo was able to leave combat, as focused and fearless as he was. The bard ducked the dragon’s claw attack and darted for the pit, tumbled into the chute and rejoined his companions.

The green dragon did not follow them below, but they could hear its roars and bellowing. The group moved further down the tunnel for safety, then checked Trinkstein’s injuries. With sadness, they discovered that the dwarf had suffered many horrible wounds and had been killed. Stravo resolved to see their friend restored to life, and the rest of the party voiced their agreement. In the meantime, they rested.

After a number of hours had passed, Shivra had recovered sufficiently, and the drow determined to check on the whereabouts of their draconic enemy. She stealthily made her way back up the tunnel. The fires had burnt itself, and much of the oil off, but the scent of fire and ash clung heavily to this part of the tunnel. As Shivra approached, she could neither see nor hear any movement in the cavern above.

With a swift, acrobatic run up the side of the chute, Shivra flipped, twisted, and landed in the dragon’s cavern, her deadly blades at the ready. It was empty, with only stone, shadow, and silence to greet her. She cautiously made her way around the cave to see that the dragon had departed, taking nearly all of its treasure hoard with it. The drow shook her head in disappointment, still pocketing a few stray, loose coins for her troubles. Shivra returned to her friends and relayed the news.

With no rope to climb out, their way was clear. Follow the tunnel and see where it leads. With Shivra at the lead, the party made their way down, traveling for nearly an hour until they heard the sound like a rushing water. They soon discovered that their tunnel ended in a large cavern, with a subterranean river flowing through it. Three other tunnels exited the cave. Shivra, with her experience in the Underdark, was able to determine that two of the tunnels led further down. One continued up, and was their most probable exit. Additionally, she found a number of tracks crisscrossing the cavern floor. A number of booted humanoids had been here, likely within the last 24 hours. Some had left from all three exiting tunnels. The rest of the party pondered this as they made their way up the ascending tunnel.

They followed this tunnel for what seemed like hours, until they eventually exited upon the surface. The exit opened up to a cave, the stars and the night sky overlooking what could only be the Dragonwater River. Excited to finally get a measure of their bearings, Malroc confidently lead the party back north, certain to eventually reach Hawksbridge. Concern for their fallen invoker drove them, and they continued with very little rest, hurrying to revive the dwarf as soon as possible. In time, they saw the lights of Westfork across the river. Encouraged and knowing their exact location, they spurred on even faster.

They arrived in Hawksbridge exhausted, but they refused to rest yet. The party made their way yet again to Threecoins Chapel, in hopes priestess Serida would be able to restore Trinkstein. It was with disappointment that she informed them that she lacked the ritual components and could not perform the raising. She did enact a minor ritual to preserve the body for a later resurrection. Unable to travel any more, the party left the dwarf’s body in care of the priests. They went to the Sleeping Wizard Inn to find rooms and rest.

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Into the Dragon's Lair

The party decided to descend into the opening at the top of the rocky plateau, confident that the dragon’s lair was hidden within. Trinkstein volunteered to descend first. He was the least experienced climber and clumsy on the rope. If he fell, at least he wouldn’t hit an ally on the way down. Malroc agreed, though with reassurance that he and the rest of the party would follow soon after.

The hole descended about twenty feet through stone, before giving way to a much larger cavern, perhaps an additonal fifty feet in height. The afternoon sun illuminated the cave directly beneath the opening, but much of the rest of the cavern was still shrouded in darkness. Trinkstein gave a sigh as his companions finished tying the rope securely to a nearby tree. His arms and back were still sore from the climb up the butte, but the stoic invoker didn’t offer a complaint. With a whispered prayer and a wave, the dwarf grasp the line and began his descent.

As Trinkstein painstakingly lowered himself hand over hand, he was able to catch glimpses of the cave he was entering. Stalactites and stalagmites were scattered throughout the cavern. Just beneath the opening, it appeared that a large stalagmite had been broken off, and rainwater had collected in the resulting basin. Just beside it, a small, ten-foot wide pit in the floor of the cave continued further, deeper beneath the earth.

The party descended into the dragon’s lair and wass ambushed by its dragonspawn minions. They were also joined by a dragon wyrmling, as well as the larger dragon who commanded them. The battle was fierce and difficult. As the party battled the dragonspawn, Malroc could hear the dragons talking between themselves. The minotaur was especially disconcerted to hear the bigger dragon hiss, “Mother is not going to be pleased.” The younger wyrmling could no longer resist entering combat and its older sibling quickly followed. The party soon found themselves overmatched, especially once the dragon’s forces were reinforced by the returning wyvern. There was a pit that lead to a tunnel beneath the lair, and the party was able to escape into it.

The pit and tunnel served as the dragon’s waste disposal and numerous bones littered the floor of the tunnel. Beneath the dragon’s lair, they encountered a gelantinous cube, an ooze that feasted on the dragon’s castoff garbage. Weakened after the fight with the dragon, they almost were engulfed in the gel cube. Using outstanding teamwork, they worked together to destroy the mindless ooze. Seeing no pursuit from the dragon’s forces, they paused a moment to consider their next course of action.

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The Search for the Dragon's Lair

After some discussion, the party decides that finding the green dragon’s lair is a priority. If the orcs were to discover the dragon was dead, they would be free to loot the treasure horde and make off with all the valuables. After a bit of thought, Malroc remembered that green dragons favored lairs in the woods, often elevated and always well hidden. He warned the others of this, letting them know that it might even make its home in the upper branches of particularly old and large trees.

Discovering the dragon’s lair in the wood would be the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. The party reasoned that it would be easier to track the orcs and hope that they would camp near the dragon’s home. Determined, the party turned around and made their way back deeper into the woods.

Finding their way in the forest, in the dark would have been difficult for most people, but Malroc‘s sense of direction was perfect. The party eventually returned to the site of their previous battle with the orc warband. Once there, it was a small wait before Shivra’s keen eyes found the tracks of the archers who fled the conflict.

The trail proved of little help, as the woods in the area was crisscrossed with the orc raiders’ tracks. There was a moment of indecision, and the party took some time to make their choice and rest. Taking a guess and a leap of faith, Shivra decided to follow the tracks that led deeper into the forest.

The drow scouted and marked the trail for her companions, and the foliage only increased as the group continued further southeast. The canopy of leaves overhead made it difficult to mark the passage of time, but they continued traveling for what seemed like three or four hours.

Amidst the shadows of the forest, Shivra sensed something out of the ordinary. She stopped and the rest of the party halted, instinctively taking up defensive positions. Slowly, she crept forward, her senses sharp and alert. Through the trees and undergrowth before her, Shivra was able to make out the shape of a tent, its olive green blending into the colors of the forest.

The stealthy drow cautiously moved forward and discovered a number of other tents nearby, along with barrels and crates, filled with food, water, wine, ale and oil. The tents were arranged in a cunning manner, so they blended in with their surroundings. But Shivra could find no sign of any inhabitants. Nothing moved or made a sound within the campsite.

Shivra returned to call her companions and they all entered into the well-hidden campsite. They spend some time examining the tents and the surrounding area. There were 3-4 sleeping rolls in each tent, along with some scattered weapons. On some of the crates and barrels, Stravo recognized the mark of the the Firebrand Merchant Guild. And on the farthest edge of the campsite, they discovered claw marks consistent with the dragon they recently killed. Looking up through the canopy, Malroc saw broken branches such as a dragon in flight would have made. “We’re on the right track.” Malroc pointed toward the shattered branches. “This way.”

The party continued on through the forest, until the trees thinned out. Before them lay an enormous rocky protrusion jutting from the surrounding foliage, its sheer walls towering one hundred feet above the forest floor. Even the tallest nearby trees barely reached halfway up the cliff-like edge. The party estimated it was nearly two hundred feet in diameter. Vines and moss clung to spots on the red-brown stone, but wind and rain had worn much of the rock bare. At the top of the ancient butte, the party could make out small trees and other vegetation growing.

“Could this be a good spot for a green dragon lair?” Crono asked. Malroc nodded.
“Perfect.”

After a quick inspection, the party could see that there were no cave openings in the cliff face. Any lair entrances would be at the top of the massive rock. Malroc and Crono were the strongest climbers. They volunteered to make the difficult ascent first. They would carry rope which they would secure at the summit and would aid their companions in the climb.

The minotaur and eladrin began their climb up the side of the butte. Crono‘s keen eyes found handholds up the steep edge and his nimble athleticism served him as well as Malroc’s incredible strength. They had ascended over halfway up the rocky outcrop when they heard a loud shriek nearby. The wind blew freely above the trees and was loud in their ears, but there was no mistaking the shrill cry of a large, predatory animal, nor the second call that answered the first. On the summit of the butte, the climbers saw a draconic shape lumber to cliff edge. Roughly the size of a draft horse, it spread its wings and launched itself into the air. As it took flight, the minotaur noticed the creature’s lack of forelimbs and deadly looking stinger at the end of its tail.

“Up! Quickly!” Malroc‘s voice carried a sense of urgency. "We don’t want to be dangling halfway up this rock when this thing notices us!" Crono nodded and the climbers doubled their efforts, their muscles straining to carry them to the top.

The two defenders pulled themselves to the summit of the butte, in time to see the second creature launch itself into the air. It gave a piercing shriek and lashed its tail stinger at them as it flew by. Its partner returned and the two began circling the minotaur and the eladrin, alternately stinging and clawing with their hind legs.

Malroc and Crono did their best to avoid the wyverns’ attacks, struggling to secure their rope to a nearby tree and tossing it down to their waiting companions. As Shivra, Stravo, and Trinkstein tried to make their ascent, the circling wyverns would dart at them and claw them loose. The drow and dwarf in particular barely escaped a devastating fall, only to grab onto the rope at the last second. Eventually they made their way to the top, and once the group was reunited, they were able to kill one wyvern and drive off the other.

The top of the butte was flat, with small trees and shrubs scattered around. At the center was a large hole, perhaps 20-25 feet in diameter, with a ring of trees around the edge. As they approached, they discovered that it descended for another fifty feet or so, opening into a larger cavern inside. The party took a moment to rest, and decide how to continue.

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Troubles at Westfork
Short conversation leads to new developments

Being so close the village, the Heroes decide to continue on to Westfork. As they moved further along, the sheer cliffs on their right began to give way to gentler, rolling hills. Being in the dark of night, they were among the village before they even realized it.

Numerous places along the nearby hills were terraced, cut flat to make way for the rounded doors and windows to different halfling burrows. Occasionally they could make out chimneys from these underground homes jutting up out of the earth, whisps of smoke rising from them. There were few buildings above ground. Between two hills, a gurgling brook flowed down, past a mill with a large waterwheel, to meet with the river below. There were a couple buildings next to the river, along with what looked to be surprisingly extensive boat docks. The party realized the groups of trees they had been walking alongside were actually ordered rows of fruit trees. As they looked around at the view, they could see other orchards in the distance, along with what may have been a vineyard. Shivra slipped away from the rest of the party, melting into the shadows to scout ahead. The remaining trio continued toward the center of the village, their eyes taking in their pastoral surroundings.

“Hi-ya! Are ya gonna be in town for a while?” The voice seemed to come out of nowhere. The party members whirled and looked around, only to see a young halfling male standing right next to them. He was dressed in ordinary clothes, with his hands in his pockets, and his childlike face dimpled as he smiled. “My name is Aldon. What’s yours?”

Malroc‘s eyes narrowed with suspicion as he studied the halfling, who was barely taller than the minotaur’s knees. He was cautious of trusting anyone who could sneak up on them so easily. It took Stravo a moment to shake off his surprise, but the outgoing bard regained his composure and greeted the young halfling with flourish. “Well met, friend Aldon! We are the Heroes of Hawksbridge! This is the mighty warrior Malroc, the spellsword prodigy Crono, and I am the world famous bard, Stravo Vangelis! No doubt you’ve heard tales of us?”

Aldon smiled apologetically and shrugged his shoulders. “Ummm, sorry. No.” There was bit of awkward silence as Stravo stared dejectedly at the halfling, the half-elf’s bluster momentarily deflated. “Soooo …,” Aldon looked at the minotaur and eladrin. “… do you guys need an inn?”

Stravo let out a sigh. “Yes, my little friend. Take us to an inn.”

The halfling’s eyes lit up. “Great! You guys will love our village inn! Its got the best food and drink for miles! Soft beds and warm hearths! Its perfect!” Aldon started down the hill into the village, gesturing for the party to follow. The trio followed but stayed on their guard, wary of any trickery or deception.

Their halfling guide led them to one of the few above-ground buildings. It was a large wooden building that promised a simple comfort, the golden-red light of the hearth-fires leaving the windows aglow. The weather-worn sign above the door named it The Inn of the Brass Tankard. Aldon opened the door and invited his new friends in.

The fires in the common room hearth were low, but the warmth they radiated dispelled the night chill any of the party felt. Numerous wooden tables were set up around the room, each surrounded by worn, comfortable-looking chairs. Most were sized for halflings, although a few larger ones were set up as well. A lone innkeeper was the sole inhabitant of the common room, an older, white-haired halfling who sat behind the bar, slowly cleaning a bucket full of drinking glasses.

The party was surprised to find that the Brass Tankard had rooms sized for humans. They paid to stay the night there, then made their way to their rooms, to rest and recover. In time, Shivra made her way to rejoin them, but only after having investigated much of the village. Finding it non-threatening, the drow rogue was able to relax a bit and find a moment’s respite.

Later in the morning, the party woke up refreshed, the aches and soreness of their previous adventures little more than a memory. There was a constant low murmur coming from the direction of the inn’s common room, so after the companions readied their gear, they opened their doors and went to break their fast and find some food and drink.

(More to be added soon!)

The party talked to the locals and heard of numerous rumors, most notably of a green dragon that has been attacking merchant barges traveling along the Dragonwater River. As they talked to the halfling residents to find out more information, they were approached by a haggard, road-worn dwarf named Trinkstein Trollbane. He revealed he was a survivor of a merchant group that was ambushed by a green dragon, and that the dragon had orc allies. Intrigued, the party decided to investigate the matter. Trinkstein, an experienced invoker, accompanied them, for the dragon had taken an item of great importance to the dwarf.

The party traveled across the river, to the area where the attacks occured. They were soon set upon by a large orc warband, led by a shaman able to channel necrotic energy. A ferocious battle ensued. As the fight slowly began to favor the heroes, two of the orc archers fled deeper into the forest. The party continued to focus on the orcs who remained to fight, depleting their numbers till only two remained.

Shivra demanded the two orcs surrender or die, and after a little persuasion, both were disarmed and bound. The party interrogated them and discovered that they were indeed part of an orc band allied with the Thunderhorn Clan. Acting on orders from Chieftain Durgroth Bloodmane, they were charged with disrupting the flow of merchant travel along the Dragonwater River. In the distance, the party heard a horn sounded. Shivra and Malroc eliminated the captives and the party moved to a better hiding spot.

As they tried to rest, they heard movement in the forest, gradually getting closer. The party decided they needed to leave, and they tried to make an escape back to Hawksbridge. As they traveled through the forest at night, they were ambushed by a young green dragon. Its poisonous breath caused many problems, and the combat was fierce. Spurred on by desperation, the party was able to land many powerful strikes on the creature. As it tried to take flight, Malroc’s mighty swing slammed the dragon back to the ground, its lifeless body crashing into the heavy undergrowth.

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The Quest Renewed

After bidding farewell to Eth, the party decided to unwind a bit at the Sleeping Wizard Inn. Upon their arrival, they were greeted with cheers and salutations. It was early evening and many had come to dine at the inn, or enjoy a drink with their friends. Stravo talked to Danae Amurren and agreed to perform his music in the common room for the evening.

Malroc missed the days when he and Luak would have friendly, yet ferociously competitive arm-wrestling bouts in the common room. He loudly challenged any who would dare, to test their might against his. There was a group of off-duty Stone Hawks in the corner of the inn, and after a few drinks, a trio of the strongest soldiers swaggered to the minotaur’s table. They slammed their coins down, eager to set a wager on beating the powerful warden.

Malroc easily dispatched his first two challengers and he laughingly collected their gold coins. Stravo continued to play music as this went on, changing the songs’ tempo and lyrics to increase the dramatic tension. The third competitor was a smiling, dark-haired soldier by the name of Khorlan. Perhaps the minotaur was fatigued from his earlier bouts, but it was with a look of surprised elation when Khorlan forced Malroc’s hand down to the table. The entire inn erupted in a blast of cheers as onlookers congratulated the stunned soldier.

Over the roars of approval, there came the jarring sound of plates and glasses crashing to the floor and a woman’s high-pitched shriek cut through the common room. Everyone turned to look toward the sound. In the back of the common room, a serving girl had dropped her tray. She screamed again, pointing in horror at a man who sat at a nearby table. The man was collapsed and writhing in his chair as he clutched at his throat, deep red blood welling up from beneath his hands. The crowd in the common room reacted to the sight of blood, screaming and starting to run for the exits.

A quick, knowing glance between the party members was all it took for them to spring into action. Malroc moved to block the door, with Crono supporting him. Shivra leapt upon a table Stravo ran to try and aid the victim. As he approached, the bard was hit with the cold shock of recognition. “Gods be damned,” he cursed. The dying man was Barristan Hark, a cleric of Bahamut and the village magistrate.

Stravo immediately sprang into action, desperately trying to channel what rejuvenating powers he was capable of, and remember all the healing lore he had heard. His efforts were rewarded, as Barristan’s bleeding began to slow. The magistrate was still deathly pale, and his breathing was shallow and ragged.

Meanwhile, Shivra‘s keen eye had picked out a hooded figure that was behaving suspicious. She shouted a warning out to Malroc, who made a clumsy, awkward attempt to grab the hooded suspect. In a surprising burst of speed and agility, the target ducked and spun under the minotaur’s outstretched arm, running out the door.

Thinking quickly, Crono spoke the arcane words and whipped his sword forward. An arc of lightning shot forward, toward the fleeing suspect and wrapped itself around him. A sharp yank, and the figure was dragged back to the doorway where Malroc waited. The suspect threw back his hood, revealing he was a tiefling, with reddish skin, dark crimson horns and glowing, red-gold eyes. He hissed a curse and brandished a pair of daggers, dripping with a pale green fluid. As the warden and swordmage closed in around him, the tiefling called out for aid. Almost immediately, another tiefling revealed himself, joining in the battle.

The tiefling pair were a powerful duo. With Stravo distracted and tending to the fallen magistrate, the battle was more evenly matched. As the battle continued, one of the tieflings wreathed himself in flames, burning at any who got too close. It was only after a long and fierce fight that the fiery tiefling was struck down, amid a burst of flame.

“They’re not paying me enough for this,” the other assassin swore aloud after his partner fell. He spun, his dark cloak whipping about and enveloping him. It seemed to swallow him up, only for the tiefling to reappear two dozen feet away. Before anyone could react, the assassin pulled out a flask from his belt and took a quick drink. In the blink of an eye, the killer disappeared from view. There was a gasp, followed by a curse from Shivra. The drow hated to see her quarry get away.

The party checked the area to make sure the tiefling was truly gone, while Shivra began going over the body of the fallen assassin. Aside from the gold in his pouch, she also discovered two empty belt sheaths. What weapons did they once hold? If the other tiefling had utilized poison, did this one use it as well? Were there any trace amounts on the sheaths that they could use to identify it?

Stravo checked to make sure that Barristan‘s condition was stable. The magistrate’s wounds had stopped bleeding, but they needed to get him to a healer as soon as possible. He waved Malroc over, and they gently lifted the unconscious cleric in their arms. They would take him to Serida Bonhart at Threecoins Chapel.

As they left the inn, a patrol of Stone Hawks rushed up, concerned and alarmed. The party explained what happened. Some of them left to inform Sergeant Donnell Waynwood while the rest formed a watchful perimeter, escorting the party as they continued onward to the chapel.

When the group arrived, the only person holding night vigil at the Threecoins was Marek Goodweather. The young priest’s eyes widened as he saw the party and their escort enter, carrying the wounded magistrate. His shoulders slumped and he closed his eyes, shaking his head in sorrow. “Not you guys. Not again.”

Marek led them inside and had them set Barristan upon a table. He intoned another healing prayer upon the injured magistrate, then left to bring back Priestess Serida. In the meanwhile, Sergeant Waynwood arrived with more soldiers. The party explained the assassination attempt and it was decided that the prominent town leadership should be under a protective watch, until the situation had settled down. Serida soon returned with her acolyte, and she immediately got to work. Barristan would survive, but by a narrow margin. Sergeant Waynwood arranged to have a pair of guards within and outside the chapel until the magistrate recovered.

Despite the healing, it would be some time until the magistrate was fully restored. Sergeant Waynwood began an investigation of the assassination attempt, and with the help of Priestess Serida, they discovered that the same poison was used in an earlier poisoning attempt on Serida herself. The realization left the priestess shaken and unnerved. In a show of gratitude for saving the magistrate, Serida donated two healing potions to the party.

There was a discussion on where the party should travel to next. Some wanted to go to a library or arcane academy, to find more information on an item like the Orb. Hawkstone and Merithalar were the first considerations. The eladrin city might be difficult for Malroc and Shivra to enter, but would most likely have the knowledge they needed. Even Hawkstone might prove problematic for the minotaur, as the aggressive actions of his former tribe may cause those in the city to fear him as well. But perhaps a letter of recommendation from a prominent Hawksbridge official might help?

During the wait, the party talked to Bordin Ruthek, the local armorer. They managed a deal to commision an enchanted shield for Malroc. He agreed, and promised it would be ready by the next afternoon.

Later the next day, Barristan recovered enough to talk to the party. He thanked them for rescuing him. Unfortunately, he could remember very little about the night before. He could not recall anyone who might have a deadly grudge against him either, at least no one who might hire a pair of assassins. The thankful magistrate did write a glowing letter of recommendation for them, if they did chose to head toward Hawkstone.

As the day wore on, the party was deciding where to continue from here. It seemed that heading to any of the cities to find a library was wasting time, heading away from the conflict. After examining the map, they decided to travel to the village of Westfork. It was on the other side of the river and possibly in the path of the advancing minotaur threat. Wasting no time, they soon picked up Malroc’s shield and began the overland trek.

With Stravo playing a tune to hurry their traveling, the party made great time. It was late in the evening, however, before they found the old path that led to Westfork. As they traveled down the path, following the river, they felt as though they were being watched. They could see nothing, but occasionally something would cause stray dirt and pebbles to fall from the high cliffs overlooking the path. The party could do nothing, but continued in a cautious manner.

As they drew nearer to the village, they saw a distant campfire with some indistinct figures spread out around it. Approaching, they were able to make the forms of minotaurs, members of Malroc‘s former tribe. A scout alerted the other minotaurs of the party’s presence, and they readied themselves. The Thunderhorn beast-men recognized Malroc, and called out, naming him traitor.

Soon, battle was joined, with the powerful minotaurs causing havok and confusion among the party. One of them was able to channel the powers of nature, spreading arcs of lightning about the battlefield. As combat progressed, however, the party’s steady determination and teamwork began to assert itself, taking down one opponent at a time. Eventually they held the advantage, and struck down the last, stubborn foe.

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