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.

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.

Return to Game Sessions

The sound of the Watcher’s voice still echoed through the cavern as the party made their way to leave. Shivra in particular moved with extra caution, her eyes ceaselessly scanning the cave, even after the animated skeletons collapsed into lifeless piles of bone. Encountering a powerful being in the Underdark was enough to set her on edge and keep her alert.

“Did anyone see who, or what the Watcher is?” Even though they had gone some distance from the entity’s lair, Malroc’s question was little more than a whisper. The party glanced back and forth at each other, all of them shaking their heads no.

“It matters not.” Stravo’s loud voice pierced the stillness of the dark tunnels. The bard grinned happily. “We made an alliance with a powerful creature. We know what the minotaurs and their orc allies found. It could have tried to fight us, but instead, it aided us. I think we came out ahead, here.”

“We entered into a pact with someone powerful, whom we could not see! We don’t really know who, or what we’re dealing with! And you’re happy about that?!” Shivra hissed angrily through clenched teeth, her frustration rising. The drow shouldered her way past her companions, muttering dark elven curse words the entire time. She made her way to her customary point position at the forefront, becoming a shadow flittering just beyond the edge of the torchlight.

“Just get us to the surface.” Eth muttered. “I prefer sun and sky to these dank caverns.” The others nodded their agreement and continued in silent contemplation, content to follow their drow guide.

The party’s return to the surface was uneventful. as Shivra’s canny guidance steered them safely to the main entry chamber of the Malachite Fortress. It was late afternoon on the surface, and the reddish gold light streaming through the massive, open fortress gates cast a warm glow throughout the chamber. Stravo sighed in relief and allowed himself a smile. However, Malroc let out a low, rumbling growl and swung his heavy axe into the ready position.

“We have company.” The minotaur’s axe pointed toward the open fortress doorway. In the distance, the rising smoke of a campfire was a dark ribbon against the afternoon sky. “In the ruins below.”

“Did the orcs return?” Crono‘s hand easily rested on the pommel of his sword. Shivra was silent as she stalked toward the entryway, her two daggers flashing out of their sheaths. The big minotaur followed after the drow, his expression grim. Stravo and Eth could only shrug as they fell into line, content to trust in their comrades’ judgement.

The party goes to investigate the campfire, and are surprised to discover that it belongs to a group of six elves. Eth realized that he knows them, scouts and warriors from his home village of Thorlian Crest. They have followed the party and sought them out, so that they could deliver a letter to the elf druid. Eth recognizes his father’s insignia stamped upon the missive as he breaks the seal and begins to read.

Eth relays the gist of the message. His village has been attacked, by invaders from the Feywild. Some villagers were captured as well. Stravo felt that there was something else that Eth wasn’t saying, some other reason that required his return. Eth looked visibly pained at not being able to tell his friends everything, but a higher duty compelled him to keep silent. They would not be able to join him in his sojourn into the Feywild. At best, he was able to hint to the party that there was something nearby his village, within the Feywild, that required a strict guard and was of the utmost importance. Eth would accompany his friends back to Hawksbridge, but after that, would join his elf friends in returning to Thorlian Crest.
The rest of the party was stunned and dismayed by the news. They could appreciate Eth’s sense of duty and loyalty to his village and did not try to dissuade him.

The journey back to Hawksbridge was quick and uneventful, in part due to the elven scouts that now accompanied them. The mood was somber as Eth bid his friends farewell, promising that they would see each other again soon. The party paused a moment before they entered the town gates, watching the group of elves travel northward and vanish into the forest. They entered the western gate and made their way to the town square, discussing their next moves.

Survival in the Mines
Game Session 9

In the depths of one of the mine passages, the Heroes of Hawksbridge battled a number of Abyssal beasts and a large, beastial, and terrifying demon that came through a portal, as well as an evil spellcaster. With the group tired and bloodied, Malroc decided it be best to head back up to the mine entrance and rest in one of the rooms of the Malachite Fortress. After barricading the door as the best they could, they settled in for a much needed rest. A good night’s rest seems to be too good to be true… and it was.

Mid-way through the night, their presence did not go unnoticed. The interruption by a patrolling group of foes didn’t prove to be difficult, but not having gotten a full night rest made it challenging. Once the battle was done, the group finished their rest and decided to head back down into the mines to search for the orb.

Now taking a different passage the Heroes of Hawksbridge encountered a nest of kruthiks, bug-like, reptilian creatures that swarmed the party from many holes in the cave tunnels. Their unusual tactics made the battle interesting, but the heroes prevailed.

Once they regrouped, they decided to keep heading forward. After a few hours travel through dark and dank tunnels, the passage opened up to a giant cavern. This cavern had a ominous and powerful essence about it with dead bodies littering the ground. A large rift split the cavern in two and only a natural rock bridge connected the two sides. Slowly the group crept up to the narrow bridge alert and ready for anything. Malroc started across the bridge with Crono and Eth following close behind while Stravo guarded the rear and Shivra hid in the shadows. Then it happened, the only thing the party wasn’t expecting.

Once the group made it halfway across the chasm, there was a noise, a rustling sound. Before the group knew it, dozens of the dead had risen surrounding them. Being extremely out numbered, the party figured fighting was the only way out so they prepared for battle. Before the fight really got started, there spoke a booming deep voice. The voice announced itself to be “The Watcher”, an entity charged with the mission to protect the orb. Stravo, being the crafty diplomat, convinced the great entity that they shared the same goal. Persuaded, the Watcher told the group of the history of the orb and it’s immense power and the evil it could wield if in the wrong hands.

With the group gaining the entity’s trust, they made a bargain for the Watcher to spare their lives in exchange for the party returning the orb. Not only did the Watcher agree, but also offered some equipment to aid them in their quest.

Beneath the Malachite Fortress
Game Session 8

It was with great concern that the Heroes of Hawksbridge regrouped after their latest battle. Their elven druid, Eth had fallen in combat, and their drow rogue, Shivra was too gravely wounded to move on her own. In a feat of incredible strength and endurance, the powerful minotaur warden Malroc hefted both limp bodies over his massive shoulders and the party set off back toward the village of Hawksbridge.

The seriousness of the situation demanded that the party not rest until they were safely in the confines of Hawksbridge. Luckily, fate was with them and they returned to the village without further incident. Serida, the cleric of Threecoins Chapel, was able to revive the fallen druid as she had with Luak, but she warned the party that she could not keep performing such miracles, for the afterlife cannot be avoided forever. Their next casualty may prove to be a permanent loss, lest the Raven Queen come looking for the wayward soul.

The party kept their return to Hawksbridge as brief as possible, for they were eager to return to the road. Shivra had suggested the idea that perhaps the orcs had not found whatever they were looking for, and maybe the party had scared them off before they had unearthed their prize. She suggested they make haste to return, lest the orcs make it back to the Malachite Fortress before them, and find whatever treasure they sought.

(More to come soon!)

A Journey Interrupted
Game Session 7

Emerging victorious in the battle with the kobolds, the Heroes of Hawksbridge found a book written in a strange language. Deciding to have it translated, they agreed to return to Hawksbridge. Crono felt it most closely resembled Draconic script, and as they made their way back to town, they pondered on who could decipher it for them.

Upon their return to the village, they made their way to the Sleeping Wizard Inn to talk to Dani and ask her advice. The beautiful innkeeper could only shrug her shapely shoulders. “If its Draconic, talk to Vhonarrys at the Grinning Dragon Inn. If its magic, maybe see if you can get that reclusive wizard to read it . . . what’s his name? Marthell? You know, the one who lives in that tower just to the west of town.”

The Heroes thanked Dani and left the inn, heading to the Grinning Dragon on the other side of the village. It took very little urging to convince Vhonarrys to translate the text. The burly dragonborn hunched over the book, reading it at the end of the bar.

“This looks like a child wrote it . . . you found it off kobolds? Guess that explains that.” The dragonborn read on in silence for a few short moments. “It looks like its a religious text of some sort. It describes in simple detail the veneration and rituals of the worship of a being referred to only as the ‘True Lord of the Earth.’ It describes this ‘True Lord’ as being very elemental, with lots of fire, lightning, thunder, burning acid, and freezing cold. If it didn’t repeatedly refer to the ‘True Lord’ as a he, I’d almost think they were talking about Tiamat.”

Vhonarrys reached below the bar to grab a pencil and a piece of paper. “There’s a note written in the back of the book as well. Sounds interesting, so I’ll write out the translation for you. But it says:

Vogran, (Who’s this guy? The guy you got this book from?)

Some foul dwarves have gotten too close to Podif’s Well. Eliminate them. And bring the hatchling (Hmm? That overgrown lizard you brought in here?). Just keep Malyx (Huh? Is that the name of the hatchling, or someone else?) safe. Amarindul’s (Ok, who’s this guy?) wrath will be great, should he be harmed.

—Tiirin (I guess he’s the boss?)”

The dragonborn innkeeper slid the book back to Stravo. “None of those names mean anything to me. Good luck finding out who or what they are.” The party thanked Vhonarrys for the help, leaving him a small stack of gold for his assistance.

The party decided to split, with Stravo and Crono heading west to visit the tower of the wizard, Marthell. Shivra had some unnamed business to attend to as well, something that would require her time for the next few days. The others would remain in town and take care of business there.

Stravo and Crono travelled to the wizard’s tower, which stood a good distance away from Hawksbridge. After a bit of waiting and negotiating with the wizard’s apprentice, the duo eventually met with Marthell. The wizard examined the scroll with great interest, but could recognize none of the names. He agreed to send off an inquiry to his colleagues in larger cities with more extensive libraries, but it would take some time and money to investigate this further. The bard and swordmage agreed to the wizard’s assistance and vowed to return in a week’s time or so.

Back at the village, Eth, Malroc, and Luak handled their mundane business, selling off their old gear and buying new potions and equipment. The goliath seemed particularly moody and distant and the elf and minotaur didn’t bother him. Upon Stravo and Crono’s return, he announced his decision to leave the group. The barbarian felt like a great deal of guilt and shame for needing to be raised from the dead. He felt like he needed some time and more training until he felt like he was worthy to stand beside them again, and so would travel alone for a while. When he felt stronger and worthy once again, he would await them here at the Sleeping Wizard Inn to rejoin them.

It was with a tinge of sadness and regret that the party made ready for their journey, now without their goliath friend. The mood was somber and grey, and although Stravo tried his best to cheer up his comrades, few smiles were to be found.

The party’s misgivings were well founded. At perhaps a day’s travel out from Hawksbridge, the group again encountered another group of orcish raiders, this one very well-equipped, accompanied by a powerful spellcaster and an elusive tiefling rogue. Without the might of their barbarian friend, the heroes had a very difficult battle ahead of them. The spellcaster proved difficult but the tiefling was downright lethal. He possessed a magic ability that let him teleport and become invisible for short periods of time, but enough to wreck havoc on the party. During the fight, the tiefling rogue was able to move past the party’s warriors and land a devastating blow on Eth. The elf druid, caught by surprise, barely had time to cry out before the enemy rogue pierced him through with a poisoned short sword. Shivra tried to come to the fallen druid’s defense, but the tiefling turned his poisoned sword on her as well, leaving her bloodied and extremely weakened. As they eliminated the rest of the enemies, the rest of the party was able to concentrate their attacks on the scoundrel tiefling and enact a brutal vengeance.

Though they emerged victorious, the battle had left them badly wounded and in need of rest, as well as in need of aid for their fallen comrade. Distraught and flustered, they gathered the body of their friend and turned back to the village of Hawksbridge.


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