4th Ed D&D In London

Kobolds! Kobolds! Kobolds!

The party scattered and engaged the kobolds, meeting them head on. Whilst the reptilian creatures had the clear advantage in numbers, it quickly became apparent that they were incredibly outmatched in skill and toughness. Several died almost immediately, either skewered on blades, blasted with bolts of magical energy or shot with crossbow bolts.

Waylander had ducked off the road into some bushes, using the cover to make devastatingly accurate shots. Aran fought two-weaponed, slicing and dicing his way through the crowd. Next to him, Elwanen and Cass stood side-by-side, blades glinting in the sun.

One kobold, seemingly a little tougher than the others, was fighting with two weapons of his own. As Aran ducked under a swing of his blades and struck back, the kobold grabbed slyly ducked behind a comrade and watched as Aran gutted him instead, laughing. Aran spluttered with annoyance and swung again, locking blades together and shoving his foe back.

Another kobold stepped out of the incoming crowd. Remarkably, he appeared to be almost covered in rats swarming over his body. He looked up at Riam and pointed, shouting something in Draconic, and the rats poured off him and swarmed over the young Halfling. Yelping, Riam did his best to fight them off as they clawed and bit at him. Still, with his scourge slapping them off him, he was able to avoid the worst of the attack.

A couple of brave kobolds ran around the main battle, taking a long way round to engage Theron hand-to-hand. The first two were blown backwards of their feet by his counterattack, a Thunderwave, but the third leapt over the blast and struck the Wizard. Cursing, Theron moved back and continued to launch spells, but with a stunning display of kobold agility the foe dodged every time. “Ah, a little help here?” commented Theron as the rusty blade of his enemy sliced him in one side.

Despite these individual successes, the group, aided in part by the human that had joined them, quickly turned the tide. The second the two-weaponed kobold dropped his guard, Aran was able to run him through and drop him, and Cass and Elwanen soon cleared the foes surrounding them with a mixture of cleaving strikes and wide sweeps of his sword. Riam shook off the rats and launched back at his foe, dropping him with a charging attack, whilst Waylander continued to wreak havoc, summoning a globe of magical darkness to hide in and taking his shots from within.

The last kobold left alive was the one desperately battling Theron. The Wizard kept moving back and firing more spells at his foe, and with increasing desperation he watched as the small, scaled opponent dodged around them all. With the rest of the party watching with some amusement, having cleared the area, finally Cass stepped in and apologetically decapitated the small creature.

“Having some trouble, Theron?” asked Aran wryly.

“It just! Wouldn’t! Die!” shouted Theron in return, his face a mask of panic. “I tried everything! Magic Missile! Thunderwave! If it had gone on any longer I would have had to use Flaming Sphere! I hope that never happens again.”

Patting him on the back in a comradely fashion, the young human they had rescued introduced himself and apologised. “My name is Javier Sanchez. I’m so sorry that had to happen to you. I’ve been chased by those creatures for the last hour or so, and when I saw you I just headed over and hoped you could help. Thank you so much. Where are you headed?”

“We are on our way to Fallcrest to pick up some debts and tell some grand tales,” replied Aran. “And yourself?”

Javier responded “Ah, you see I’m on my way up to Winterhaven. I hear there is some adventure to have around that place, and beyond! Although hopefully slightly less perilous than facing thirty kobolds by myself.”

“Well, give our regards to Lord Parrag,” replied Elwanen. “He is a friend of ours.”

“I think I will!” laughed Javier. “Truly, it was great fortune of mine to have met you all!”

After he had shaken hands with everyone, thanked them again and headed on up the path, Theron commented “What a nice guy.”

An hour later he realized that Javier had stolen 200gp out of his money pouch.

Return to Linden Field

After spending one final day in the town, the newly-crowned “Heroes of Winterhaven” left amidst scenes of some celebration, and sadness. Aran had spent the previous day journeying back and forth to the Keep and speaking to Sister Linora at the temple. He had been reasonably secretive, but after some pressure had stated that he had “a cunning plan” about fashioning a weapon out of the blue crystal shards that he had found. According to the Halfling, both Sir Cregan and Sister Linora had agreed to bless the shards in the names of their respective deities, and Aran was confident that once he had found someone who knew the correct ritual to create the item, he’d have a powerful new item to use against his enemies.

Elwanen finalized his tithing agreement to Lord Parrag, signing a document detailing the agreed uses of the money. The Lord seemed quite keen on the idea of extra funds, and the once word had gone out there were several sturdy young farmers lads (and farmers daughters, too) that had expressed an interest. It seemed as though the area was an untapped resource in terms of adventurers.

Waylander received a couple of gifts from the group. He had expressed an interest in the hand-crossbow (“A typical Drow weapon,” Elwanen had muttered) and Thair Coalstriker had managed to come up with one for him, along with an old set of leather armour that looked decent but had seen better days. Thusly armed and armoured, the recovering Drow had accepted the group’s offer to travel with them until such time as he made a choice about anything else he might want to do.

A few day’s travel saw the group returning to Linden Field, the site of their first adventure in the Shadowhaunt Mausoleum. Quinn Stasi, the local silversmith who had asked them for aid finding his sons, was overjoyed to see them. His face fell, however, when he heard the tale of the two bearers of the Kaius Thunderhammer that had been retrieved and given to the group. Both Rangrim, the Dwarven Paladin and Fangorn had perished whilst fighting with the hammer, and with a heavy heart Quinn accepted it back from the group.

“Maybe it’s just not supposed to be sent from the town?” he suggested. “We shall keep it here until such time as my children are fit to use it, then.”

After arranging somewhere to stay that night, the group settled in at the local tavern and Aran once more told his tale of victory in Winterhaven. A couple of the villages nodded in places as if they’d heard the tale before, and Cass was able to discover that the previous day a merchant had passed through and left some rumours in her wake, talking of the new Heroes of the land.

Aran had also spent some time talking with Quinn yesterday, continuing his strange little quest to get this magical weapon of his made. The silversmith had taken a package and retired back to his workshop, and the following day he handed over a slightly smaller package to the Halfling, and accepted a few coins in return. Theron, feeling as though there was surely something he was missing here, asked what was going on but Aran, tapping his nose mysteriously, said only that “light would be shed on the subject soon”.

The Heroes continued on their way to Fallcrest, walking easily on the road and enjoying swapping banter. At the front of the group, acting as scout in turns with Aran, Waylander strode and kept a sharp eye out for anything approaching. Just before lunchtime, he suddenly froze and then turned.

“There is a figure approaching. A human. Running. He seems upset, and there is a cloud of dust behind that suggests something is chasing him. Either it is very large, or there are a lot of them.”

About a minute later, a young human dressed in leather around rounded the corner ahead of the group. Seeing them, he yelled out “Kobolds! Help!”

“Kobolds?” grinned Elwanen. “I think we can handle a few Kobolds.”

A short distance away, nearly thirty Kobolds drew weapons and charged.

Reporting to Lord Parrag

“Right then,” said Elwanen. “We’ve rescued a Drow, defeated the bad guy and killed his cronies. Now we come to the other really fun bit – the celebrating!”

“We should probably speak to Lord Parrag first,” noted Cass. “He’ll want to hear the full story.”

“And he promised to buy me a drink!” chirped Aran happily.

“That’s right,” added Elwanen. “Plus, I have a sack-full of heads he needs to see.” Spinning around, he headed out the door. “Who’s with me?”

Aran, Riam and Cass headed out with him, with Fau, Theron, Des and Waylander staying behind to talk more with Valthrun. The four adventurers made their way to the mansion house in Winterhaven, passing quickly past the guards and heading into the room where, once again, the Lord sat behind his desk with a mound of paper in front of him.

“My Lord Parrag!” bellowed Elwanen from the doorway, advancing on the desk as though storming a castle. “I bring proof that Kalarel is dead!” He upended a sack of the desk as Lord Parrag scrabbled to remove the more important items. Heads from various creatures spilled across the desk, including hobgoblins, humans, the strange dark creature and that of the Orcus Underpriest – still wearing his helmet. Trailing gore and dripping blood splashed down and the stench was overpowering.

“By the gods!” exclaimed the Lord. “You don’t do things by halves, do you? Well, I suppose there can be no doubt of your victory. I see that only four of you have made it here – did the others survive?” He looked from face to face, trying to read their expressions.

“Fangorn didn’t make it,” said Aran sadly. “He died. But it was a dramatic death! He…”

Speaking quickly, the Lord cut him off. “I’m sure you have a grand tale to tell, my Halfling friend, and I am sorry to hear of your loss. But I would let you all celebrate first, before you recount it in detail for me tomorrow. Agreed? You should rest and gather yourselves – take a moment to enjoy your victory. At that time, we can also make sure that you receive the just payment that was promised to you.”

Standing, he gamely ignored the slowly increasing smell from the various heads now adorning his room. One had fallen on the floor and rolled into the fireplace, where it’s now-glassy eyes surveyed the room with an expression of some surprise. “On behalf of all of Winterhaven, I must congratulate you on your success. When you arrived we were beset by kobolds and had a secret conspiracy going on under our very noses. Now, both of those are gone and we can start the process of rebuilding Winterhaven and making it a finer place to live.”

With large grins plastered across their faces, the companions met up together at Wrafton’s Inn and got, well, plastered.

The party was long, loud and raucous. Aran had the whole room on the edge of their seats, listening to his finely spun tale of glory and death in the rooms under the Keep. Des spoke eloquently of his friend’s battles, the lessons they had learned, and recounted the famous story of the “Rules of Warfare” which had all chuckling. Cass relived her youth by taking a turn behind the bar for an hour, serving drinks with great speed and announcing at one point, bottle in hand “I’m going back to fighting monsters! It’s easier than dealing with you lot!” to general amusement.

Sabbat Fau retired early, but Splug became the first Goblin to enjoy a peaceful evening in Winterhaven, drinking and talking to all about his amazing “Master”. He proved a popular talker, despite his poor grasp of the Common language, but with Riam doing his best to offer some translation and with the alcohol flowing he went along very well.

The following day, nursing some severe hangovers, the group made a full and clear report to Lord Parrag over several mugs of water and some fruit. The Lord listened intently to every detail, making sure that a scribe was able to get every fact down, particularly about Sir Cregan, the undead Knight, and about the portal. Theron asserted that the portal was firmly closed, and that without months of work it could not be reopened.

“I am concerned that news of this will get out and some other group will attempt to open this portal,” said Lord Parrag gravely. “What other guarantees can you give me that this will not happen?”

“I have been thinking of this, my Lord,” replied Elwanen. “I propose the following – I send back a tithe of my future earnings to you, and you use it to make sure that a guard is placed on the Keep against any and all creatures attempting to use it for evil purposes.”

“Splug will also guard the Keep!” announced the Goblin. “Splug likes being with Master, but Master is going away. Splug stay, do good work.”

You are leaving my service?” asked Fau in Goblin. “So be it. You have served me well, and your deeds shall not be forgotten when the Plaguestar comes. One day I shall return for you, and we will walk once more in darkness. But on that day, perhaps I may be following you.

Master, learning at your feet has been a most illuminating experience,” replied the Goblin. “I shall miss the palpable sense of power that emanates from you, your mastery of death and the hideous torments you inflict. It has been a great pleasure, but I feel know my road lies elsewhere. I shall always remember what you taught me and keep it safe.

Lord Parrag spoke again. “Splug, I accept your offer of assistance, and thank you for it. Elwanen, your funds will be most valuable. We shall do our part to make this small part of the world safe, and you shall go on and do yours. Go safely, and in peace.”

From Tiny Acorns, Part 4

Aran, always quick off the mark, got his reply in first.

“My name is Aran Thule, Halfling, ranger, wanderer, adventurer and tale-teller! Let me introduce you to my friends!” As he named each person he gestured towards them enthusiastically. “That there is Elwanen. He’s a Paladin of Pelor, like you said, well spotted, and he’s got a great way with teleporting into combat and laying the smackdown, I like him. Next to him is Valthrun, he’s a Sage, very clever.” Valthrun continued to peer at the Drow quizzically, as if trying to work out a particularly difficult jigsaw puzzle. Elwanen’s hand had strayed to his sword hilt since the newcomer was revealed.

“Now then,” added Aran expansively. “That’s Theron with the blue skin, he’s a Wizard and he makes things go bang. Or occasionally makes people go to sleep. Sabbat Fau is the one with all the hair, if he ever points at you and says ‘Youuuuuuuuu…’ then you’ve done something to upset him, that’s Des, he talks a lot, that’s Cass, she’s very handy with an axe and is looking for her brother and that’s Riam who is another Halfling and very good at helping us to get better organized when we’re fighting bad guys.” The various members of the party nodded as they were pointed out, apart from Sabbat Fau who stood, apparently lost in some sort of reverie.

“So,” continued the irrepressible Halfling. “Who are you and what are you doing inside the trunk of our friend Fangorn?”

“My name is Waylander,” replied the Drow, weakly. “But beyond that, I remember little. There was a Wizard, I think, and I was trying to take something from him? Then he cast some sort of spell and everything went dark and I felt very sleepy for a very long time, and then there was light and all of you. But I can’t remember much more than my name. Waylander. Have any of you heard of me? Might I be famous?” He looked around hopefully but no-one showed any recognition.

“I think I know, or knew, the Wizard that you refer to,” said Valthrun. “Myself and some companions fought him several years ago. He was using this artifact, the Heartstone, to create a magical garden inside a mountain. Some of the plants he grew were…interesting, to say the least. We rescued Fangorn, your, ah, predecessor from that garden. Perhaps I might venture a theory?”

Waylander nodded, still gathering his thoughts and his strength. A small part of his mind was suggesting to him that getting up, grabbing this valuable Heartstone and escaping out the window was a good source of income and an excellent idea, but wiser thoughts said that currently no-one was threatening him and that seemed somehow pleasant and a good thing.

Valthrun continued. “I surmise that when we rescued Fangorn from the garden, we were actually rescuing you. Perhaps that Wizard had used his magic to imprison you within the tree, and over time and with the influence of the Heartstone, the tree attained sentience and became Fangorn, all the while unaware of the living creature within him. And now, with Fangorn’s spirit gone, you have emerged once more to take up your place in the world.”

Waylander sat up slowly. “You said that this Fangorn was dead, is that right?” he asked, holding up one closed hand. “I ask, because I’ve just realized I am carrying this in my hand.” Opening his fist, he revealed a small dark brown seed. Valthrun smiled.

“It seems as though perhaps Fangorn is not entirely lost to us. I shall plant this seed and we shall find out what grows.”

“Well, since that matter seems to be resolved, I would ask the rest of you what you think we should do with this Drow, now he has appeared,” announced Elwanen. “I for one have no particular interest in him, unless,” and he paused for a second. “My friend, how are you with a blade?” Elwanen drew a well-made Eladrin dagger from his belt and tossed it to the Drow, who caught it neatly in one hand.

“That feels…familiar, somehow,” responded Waylander, holding it. He twisted and lunged suddenly, dropping into an attack stance, before relaxing and throwing the blade back to the Eladrin. “I believe I have some skill. I’m wondering, though, if anyone has a crossbow, preferably a small one, that I might borrow?”

Glances were exchanged around the room. It seemed that even though they had lost one friend, they might have gained a new companion just as useful to an adventuring party.

From Tiny Acorns, Part 3

“What do you mean, some sort of person?” gasped Theron, pushing forwards. Inside the ruined form of Fangorn there appeared to be some sort of cavity or space, occupied by a near-lifeless figure. The slight rise and fall of it’s chest was the only sign of life. Dark-skinned, it appeared almost skeletal in it’s appearance, but the long, pointed ears on it’s head gave it’s heritage away instantly.

“A Drow!” said Elwanen. “We shall have to be careful. Although I can’t say I’m too fussed as to whether a Drow lives or dies, we might as well wake him up and see if he knows anything useful.”

“Elwanen!” responded Cass. “Honestly, you can be so hard-hearted. Of course we’ve got to wake him up – there is obviously something weird going on here and we should try and find out what it is.”

Aran’s voice was added to the chours, as the Halfling added his enthusiasm to getting this figure healed and sorted out. Riam and Theron glanced at each other and agreed.

In short order, the body of Fangorn was lifted by Cass and Elwanen, and the long journey back through the various areas of the Keep began. Passing through the rooms that they had battled through the first time, holding the body of their old friend in their arms, the party moved as quickly as they could back to the surface. Each of them could feel that the aura of the Keep had changed and lightened with the departure of the Orcus worshippers, and Aran resolved that once this urgent situation had passed he would return and speak to Sir Cregan about all that had happened. The young Rogue had an excellent idea for the use of the some of the crystal shards he had collected from the glowing pillars in the deep of the Keep.

An hour or so later, Valthrun the Prescient was awoken from his afternoon nap by a thunderous banging on the door of his tower. Opening the fifth floor window to cuss at the person causing such a commotion, he was astonished to see the group, who had met up with Fau and Des on the way, carrying the body of Fangorn and standing staring up at him.

“Open the bloody door!” shouted Elwanen. “Now!”

Hurrying down the stairs, Valthrun unlocked the door and ushered everyone in. Although moving Fangorn’s body up the winding staircase was difficult, within a few minutes he had been laid down in the soft earth of the indoor garden on the third floor, the Heartstone held overhead in it’s jeweled setting. With some effort, the inert Drow was gently removed from the cavity in which he had lain, and placed on the ground.

“He already looks healthier,” noticed Riam. “He almost seems to be filling out as I watch.”

“How long has he been inside Fangorn?” wondered Theron. Turning to Valthrun, he said “When did you first encounter him? You said it was many years ago.”

“This is true. Fangorn was someone I met a long while ago, but I had no idea he was hiding such a secret. I am as astonished as you are!” replied the Sage. “He seems to be holding up well – shall we see if we can wake him?”

With his usual speed, Aran knelt down and carefully shook the figure that lay on the floor. “Hello? Can you hear me? Wake up!”

Slowly opening his eyes, the Drow saw several faces looking down at him. His voice croaky, he stared at each in turn and said “An old human male. An Eladrin male, a Paladin maybe, but of Pelor? Curious. Two Halflings, one with an eyepatch, both male. A human female. Another male, I think, although with all that hair it’s hard to tell. And, finally, a last human male but with blue skin and the air of a Wizard about him. Very, very strange. Where am I?”

From Tiny Acorns, Part 2

The rest of the group moved with speed born of desperation. Cass and Riam helped to brace Fangorn in place, slowly his advance towards the portal, whilst Aran leapt up and sliced through a couple of the tentacles. In response, yet more tendrils burst from the black surface of the arch, lashing out and fastening on to the Treeforged. With a lurch, he was pulled forwards another step.

Elwanen drew his sword and moved forwards to assist, calling back to Theron “Chant faster!” Nodding, Theron picked up the pace of his incantation, gesturing with small, precise movements.

Fangorn could feel the chill spreading through his limbs. As the noise of the others started to recede, he could feel the flow of sap through his veins start to slow. Distantly, he became aware of the Heartstone – the magical artifact that had first sparked him into life. He knew now that a permanent connection had been forged between this fount of life and himself – a connection that the tendrils were seeking to capture and convert for their own use, to feed and grow more powerful.

Forcing his head to turn, he saw Elwanen closing in, ready to swing at the tentacles holding him. With an effort of will, Fangorn spoke one final time.

“The Heartstone – linked – don’t let them –“ Another step towards the portal, another tick off the clock of his life.

Elwanen paused only for a second. Looking into the eyes of his friend, he gripped his sword, Aecris, in both hands and swung in a smooth arc. The magical blade cut cleanly through the neck of Fangorn, and as his head separated from his body the connection, too, was severed. Fangorn’s body collapsed to the ground as the tendrils retracted instantly into the portal, their purpose defeated. The Thunderhammer sparked as it struck rock, falling and lying inert on the floor.

With a cry of triumph, Theron completed his spell and pointed at the archway. A single bolt of lightning sprang from his finger and crashed into the keystone. In a crackling mass of energy, the blackness within the archway slowly faded away, leaving only bare stone behind it. Panting from the exertion, the Wizard put his hands on his knees and leant forwards.

Cass stared down at the body of the creature she had only come recently to know. “What happened?” she said disbelievingly. “We could have kept him out if you’d let us.” Accusingly, she looked up at the Paladin, who now seemed more Fey than ever before, and she was struck by how different his very nature was from hers.

“I had to do it,” replied Elwanen, looking at her but speaking to all of them. “He told me that he could feel, well, whatever that was, that it was trying to reach the Heartstone through the link that he and it shared. If it had succeeded, that creature would have had access to a magical power of life and it could have sucked it dry. Think about how much power that represents. I had to sever the connection, and this was the only way to do it. I am sorry, Cass, but I had no choice.”

The normally cheery Aran saluted the fallen warrior with a sword, his face now unsmiling. “You fought a good fight, Fangorn,” he said. “We’ll remember you – and when I tell my stories your name, and your sacrifice, will be known and heard all through the world.”

As if in answer, the body of Fangorn quivered slightly, and then appeared to split open slightly. Jumping back and moving his shield to defend himself, Riam said “By Bane’s mailed fist! What the hell is this?”

Elwanen leant forwards carefully, keeping his sword in place. Peering inside the cracked shell of his former companion, he let out a cry of surprise. “There’s some sort of person in here!”

From Tiny Acorns
This story hour post is designed to fill in some of the “missing” information, including the dramatic arrival of Waylander into the party.

Deep within the Winterhaven Keep, in the Cathedral of Blood dedicated to the Demon Prince of the Undead, Orcus, the Death Cultist leader Kalarel cried out in pain as Riam’s scourge drew blood from his leg. The others were closing in – Aran’s blades gleaming in the light, radiant energy gathering around Elwanen as he ran forwards as Theron shaped another bolt of arcane energy. The strange wooden creature hefted a massive Warhammer, inscribed with runes, over it’s head and stepped closer. The battle was clearly lost, and Kalarel knew his dark master would be most displeased. Looking around, he could see that his undead allies were destroyed or scattered, the profane items dedicated to Orcus were overturned and ruined.

As the warrior-woman Cass moved in closer, swinging her axe, Kalarel whispered a last prayer in his mind and hoped for a swift end, swifter than those he’d granted his victims throughout his life. Abruptly the pain in his leg vanished, to be replaced by a searing agony throughout his limbs. Dark tentacles of energy had seized him, emanating from the ink-black portal behind the Cleric, and with a wrench Kalarel was pulled through the archway. His cries of shock and pain cut off the instant he passed through.

The companions that had battled down to this lowest level of the Winterhaven Keep looked at each other, hardly daring to believe that they had finally disposed of the foe that had plagued the area in the past months. There was a silence in the room, a glad noiselessness that spoke of hard work rewarded and goodness winning through.

“Now,” said Elwanen grimly. “Let’s see about getting this thing closed.”

Sabbat Fau, his long hair reaching to the floor in an unkempt mess, reached into the bloodstained robes he wore. Pulling out the Mirror recovered from the Dragon’s Tomb, he glanced down into it and went white in shock. Staggering back, he thrust the mirror towards Theron, the Wizard, and almost ran back to the chains that led back upwards and out of the complex. The Tiefling Des followed him, shouting back that he’d make sure he was all right. Theron examined the mirror to see what might have caused such a reaction, but could see nothing. However, when he looked at the portal’s reflection in the mirror, he suddenly realized he could see runes carved all around the edge of it.

“Wait a moment…” he said slowly. “I think I can do this. I can see runes on the archway. Give me a few minutes and I think I can reverse that ritual that he has been doing. It seems it’s much easier to close this portal than it is to open it.”

Elwanen, the only other person with experience in magical matters still in the room, concurred. “We were told the portal was locked closed a long while ago. Overcoming that closure would be like lifting a very heavy rock – if it’s not completed then it’s easy to slam it back down again and keep it there. Go ahead, Theron, I’ll assist if I can.” Theron nodded and began to chant arcane words of power, hesitantly at first but gaining in confidence.

With an eruption of necrotic energy and violent noise, a forest of tentacles emerged from the archway and stretched out towards the group. Yelling, Aran and Riam ducked underneath them, weapons back in hand. Cass swung hard with her axe, the magic that powered it bursting into flame. As they were stood further back, Theron and Elwanen avoided the attack, but Fangorn, stood right in front of the centre of the archway, was slow to react and instantly caught up. Pulsing, the tentacles began to drag him forwards, into the same oblivion that had earlier captured Kalarel.

Planting his feet and straining with all of his strength to hold off, Fangorn cried out in terror as a bitter cold began to spread through his body, draining his very essence from him.

The Road of Lanterns, Part 2

Outside Thunderspire Labyrinth

“Well, this looks like a fine one,” came a rude voice from beyond the partially open door through which a wedge of light divided the darkness of the tunnel, “We’ll get ten pieces of gold for you!”

“Funny that,” came the chirpy reply, “ Cos i’m worth twenty. I’ll buy myself if you let me go!”

Waylander and Aran crept through the shadows of the tunnel. With an exchange of signs they reached either side of the door and peeked through. Beyond lay several connecting rooms where a group of hobgoblin soldiers appeared to be taunting a Halfling, whose hands had been bound with rope.

Further down the tunnel the rest of the adventuring companions gathered to await the signal from the scouts. After three days on horseback, the party had reached Thunderspire Mountain. There they had ventured the length of the Road of Lanterns, several miles of subterraenean thoroughfare lined with hideous demonic statues bearing magically glowing lamps. It was said that there were seventy-seven statues, each a hundred feet apart. Ryam had attempted to count them to verify the story, but had lost count around halfway and decided it wasn’t really worth the trouble after all.

Now the main tunnel had splintered into many smaller passages, and some way along one of these the adventurers realised that they had made contact with some of the infamous Bloodreaver Clan.

Waylander readied to give the signal to attack. He had plenty of experience in combat, but this was a new crew. While you always had your scouts, and you always had your front and back lines, every crew operates differently. It was time to find out just what kind of operators he had fallen in with.

“Ready,” he whispered, raising his hand, poised to give the signal.

“His hands up. That’ll be the signal,” commented Elwanen from back down the passage. With that the paladin led the entire party surging forward, and piling in through the doorway.

Aran just made it in through the door in time to avoid being crushed under the melee avalanche that descended upon the unsuspecting Hobgoblins. The Drow scout however was not quite so accustomed to the headlong rush, and found himself barged out of the way repeatedly.

First Aran dived in. There was the sound of two swords being drawn, a rapid slicing, followed by a scream in goblinoid. Next charged Elwanen, sword and shield at the ready. From the room beyond there emerged a burst of radiant light, some shouting, and a series of blows, some with the resounding ring of sword upon shield, resulting in cries and screams. Next came Cass, hefting her greataxe. Charging through the door there could be heard a battle cry followed by hacks and cleaves, the sound of armour and shield being split. Next went Sabbat Fau, who strode through the doorway, raising his hand and muttering his curse.

“Youuu…” There was a flash of light and the crash of eldritch energy striking home. Ryam dived through next. With his broadsword readied he charged in, barking commands to his companions. Lastly, Marianna stepped up, giving Waylander a nonchalent shrug.

“Come on then,” she said, again without a trace of irony, “You’ll miss all the fun.”

The Drow grimaced slightly, and entered swiftly on her heels.

The Road of Lanterns, Part 1

When supper was over the guests, Lord and Lady Markelhay, and their niece Marianna, repaired to the lounge. The patriach stood before the gathering and addressed them with an air of gravity.

“When you are sufficiently rested, I would propose an assignment, if you are willing. I would have you venture to Thunderspire Mountain, where lairs the Bloodreaver Clan, a group of hobgoblin slavers and mercenaries who have made their foul presence known to the good folk of these parts. They have taken many of my people as slaves, to sell them in the markets of the undercity. It is possible that your brother is among those they have seized.” He ended the statement looking at Cass, who had stationed herself near one of the windows that looked out on the hill above the town of Fallcrest. Cass looked up from the view and stared the Lord right in the eye.

“If this is true then I for one will undertake this assignment,” she spoke steadily.

“I would of course reward you financially for your labours,” said the Lord, looking around at the others.

Elwanen stirred in his armchair, “Would you require proof of our having completed the task, heads on spikes along the roadside, that sort of thing?”

“It’s better than him bringing them back in a bag,” added Aran, cheerfully.

“Lord Paraig did mention something about that in his letter.” answered the Lord warily. “Let me be clear that I require [i]no proof whatsoever[/i] that the slavers are dead, simply that the slaves themselves have been freed. I would also be delighted if you would accept amongst your worthy company the assistance of my niece.”

Marianna looked up from her wine glass. “My uncle has been trying to get me out of the house for so long now, he rather thinks it apt that should embark upon an ‘adventure’. If you will have me I should be glad to honour his wishes, and give him the peace he so deserves.” Mariana spoke without irony but with a reserve that suggested she may not entirely concur with her uncle.

“You will be most welcome to accompany us, but I suggest you leave the dress here,” said the Drow known as Waylander. “Have you skill with that blade you carry?”

“I have picked up a few tricks here and there,” began Marianna, “and don’t worry, I will dress suitably for the task ahead.”

“Tell me about this place, Thunderspire Mountain,” ventured Cass.

“Home to the Mages of Saruun, Thunderspire Mountain is named for the storms that beset its peak,” said the Lord. “It sits over an ancient minotaur city, Saruun Khel, but it is in the Seven Pillared Hall that those who live above and below meet, and trade…”


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