The pounding echoes of the drums of the Thunderhorn minotaur clan boomed and rolled across the Beast Plains like a storm thunderhead, and all of inhabitants of the plains took notice. The animals of the plains scattered before the minotaurs like leaves before an autumn gale, and wiser barbarian tribes did likewise, or risked enslavement or eradication. In the vanguard of the minotaur tribe stood Malroc, one of the finest warriors among the Thunderhorn Clan.
Malroc was a warden, one of the few chosen at birth by the spirits of the tribe to be a defender and champion of his people. The blood of his ancestors surged true through his veins, whispering to him of the ancient ways. Unseen by the uninitiated, the spirits of beasts, trees, the earth and sky would often swirl about the young minotaur, offering their guidance and power. In times of need, Malroc could channel the power of these spirits through his body, accomplishing deeds far surpassing those of normal warriors.
Malroc had been trained by First Warrior Taerak, the mightiest fighter of the Thunderhorn clan, except for Chieftain Durgroth himself. The whole tribe spoke of the growing fighting skills of Malroc, and Taerak himself had said that Malroc would most likely succeed him as First Warrior. When the day came that Taerak disappeared, seemingly on a quest, many in the tribe began treating Malroc as the First Warrior’s heir apparent. As Malroc’s first honor, he was given the duty of meeting with a group of emissaries from the Hawkstone Vale.
Across Hawkstone Vale, its settlements’ rulers looked upon the minotaurs with fear and apprehension. For many years, the Thunderhorn Clan had been peaceable and approachable enough, engaging in trade with their neighbors for their mutual benefit. But lately, the minotaurs had become increasingly aggressive, turning away foreign merchants and attacking other villages and barbarian tribes.
In search for answers, Lord Talamius Hawkstone, the ruler of the city of Hawkstone, decided to dispatch an official representative to the Thunderhorn minotaurs. The emissary needed to be someone well-known and well-connected, for the minotaurs to respect. He also needed to be expendable, in case the minotaurs were becoming as aggressive and savage as the rumors claimed.
Lord Hawkstone decided on sending an eladrin swordmage, Crono Telrunya. Crono was the son of a noble eladrin house, as well as serving in the Stone Hawks in a limited capacity. Also, Crono’s grandfather was Magnus Telrunya, a renowned hero who had once defended the land in years past. And although Lord Hawkstone hated putting anyone at risk, if the minotaurs were foolish enough to attack or even kill Crono, then the eladrin would be welcome allies against the Thunderhorn Clan.
And so, Crono set out for the village of Hawksbridge, the settlement closest to the Thunderhorn tribe’s ancestral lands. Hawksbridge had frequently traded with the minotaurs in the past and would have the most knowledge of the barbarian clan. In addition, a detachment of Stone Hawks were stationed in the village, to provide the eladrin with the information and support he would need.
Crono welcomed the dangerous assignment. In ages past, House Telrunya was given the task of defending the village of Hawksbridge and the surrounding land. And despite the heroics of Magnus and his other ancestors, the reputation of House Telrunya had fallen in recent years. Some years ago, an orc tribe had threatened to invade. Crono’s father and uncle had defeated the invaders, but at great cost to the defenders. In addition, injuries to his father and uncle had left them unsuitable for combat. But now that Crono had come of age and completed his arcane training, he was determined to restore honor to the family name.
Once he arrived in Hawksbridge, Crono met with Donnell Waynwood and Meggaro Elleric, the two highest ranking members of the Stone Hawks garrison. They advised the eladrin swordmage to enlist the aid of Stravo Vangelis to aid him in his mission. Stravo was a local bard, who had travelled far and experienced much, and had even travelled among the minotaurs within the last few years. His quick mind and his knowledge of people could prove quite valuable to Crono’s mission.
And as Stravo was quick to tell Crono, “Don’t worry about a thing! I’ve dealt with these minotaurs so many times, I’m practically a member of the tribe! This meeting, or negotiation or whatever you want to call it, will be over with in no time! The Thunderhorns love me! I promise! Relax, and just trust me on this!”
As fate would have it, Stravo’s best friend and constant adventuring companion was Eth Elleric, Meggaro’s son. Like his father, Eth was trained as a druid. And like Meggaro, channeling druidic powers came very easy to Eth. But where Meggaro was stern and serious, Eth was light-hearted and fun-loving. And while they both wanted to protect the land and its people, Eth craved excitement and adventure. Accompanying his friend on travels and adventures was much more entertaining than being stuck in the same old boring town for years.
The eladrin and half-elf had gathered around a table in the common room of the Sleeping Wizard Inn, discussing their mission well into the evening. Eth had little patience for the tedium of planning, and as the patrons of the inn began crowding the commons, the elf went to stretch his legs outside.
Crono soon realized that the three of them weren’t enough. The swordmage knew enough of minotaur culture to know that they respected combat prowess and physical might. And while the eladrin was a talented and skilled warrior, none of the three were particularly imposing.
Crono also felt more comfortable having a scout with them, someone who could move unseen through the shadows. He hated surprises, and knowledge, especially advance knowledge of his foes was always welcome. At hearing this, Stravo smiled wide. He knew of just the right person.
Less than two weeks ago, Hawksbridge had a most unusual visitor. In truth, most of the village’s inhabitants didn’t even notice. She was a drow, a race notorious for their ability to move unheard and unseen, and she was stealthy even among her own people. She was strikingly attractive and exotic, with a presence about her that could command a room, but when she wanted to be unseen, she was all but invisible. Her name was Shivra Zar’Haelirin.
Shivra was originally trained as a priestess of Lloth, in a drow city deep in the Underdark. She had a twin sister, Shali, and the two of them shared a bond stronger than any other. One day, Shali angered the Spider Queen. Lloth sent her followers to capture and execute the rebellious Shali, including her twin sister, Shivra. Shali killed her would-be captors and escaped, leaving drow society and heading for the surface. When Shivra discovered what had happened, she denounced Lloth, forsook the priesthood, and left the drow city behind her.
Alone, and without Lloth’s power for the first time in decades, Shivra trained herself in the ways of stealth, learning to strike foes who were unaware and off-balance. The journey to the surface was grueling, but Shivra eventually emerged from a mountain cave, half-starved and barely alive.
There, she was found by an old, human ranger. Although he knew of the drow and knew what evils they were capable of, he had seen too much death in his lifetime and could not bring himself to kill her. Instead, he nursed Shivra back to health, and keeping a watchful eye on her, taught her much about the surface world. Shivra was suspicious of the human at first, but soon realized that his help was real, given with no demand for compensation.
For a time, Shivra lived, at peace and content. It was a way of life she had never known, and the genuine happiness she felt made her question her past life and re-evaluate all the lies that drow society had told her. But all too soon, she felt an emptiness in her heart, which would not be filled until she found Shali again. Also worried that the minions of Lloth might track her to the surface, Shivra bid farewell to the old ranger and ventured out into the surface world, alone.
Shivra knew how the surface races would view a drow, and so she kept to the outskirts of society. She would shadow merchant caravans, listening to guards and traders talk around the campfire, trying to glean any information that would lead her toward finding her sister. When she came to villages or towns, she would wear a deep, hooded cloak and try to blend unnoticed into the crowd. Any story, tale, song, or overheard bit of gossip would draw Shivra’s attention. Every possible lead left her more confused.
In time, her journeys led her to the town of Hawksbridge. There, she overheard the bard, Stravo Vangelis, telling the locals a tale. He claimed to have encountered a drow elf in the lands nearby, only a few weeks previous. Despite the evil reputation of the dark elves, this one had seemed uninterested in conflict, and only wanted to be left alone.
Intrigued, Shivra stealthily followed the bard and confronted him when he was alone. Using the only interrogation methods she knew, she tried to threatened him into telling her all he knew of the drow he met. Surprisingly, the half-elf seemed more interested in Shivra rather than afraid of her. Although he couldn’t clearly remember the details of his earlier encounter, his description sounded like it could have been Shali.
Stravo offered a deal to the drow rogue. She would accompany him as an equal, using her skills in any manner she saw fit to help him and his allies. In return, he would vouch for her among the surface communities, as well as teach her the ways of the surface world. “After all,” Stravo grinned as he spoke, “She came for me once. It’s only a matter of time till she comes for me again. They always do.”
Shivra could barely contain her snarl of distain and contempt, but her own investigations toward her sister’s whereabouts had been fruitless. The half-breed bard seemed like he knew his way around, and he could prove useful. “Very well,” Shivra growled through clenched teeth. “I will aid you as I may. But if you prove weak, or incompetent, I will remove your entrails whilst you watch! And you will beg for me to kill you!” She brandished a dagger threateningly.
Far from concerned, Stravo practically jumped with glee as the drow agreed. He nearly laughed aloud, considering the adventures he was sure to encounter in the presence of a renegade drow! Just wait until he told Eth!
(More to be added soon!)