Monthly Archives: March 2010

SOW Chapter5: Shaden and Maxyzne Captured

Shaden and Maxyzne Captured

The half-orcs are drunk

Shad and Maxyzne are captured
For gnolls easy prize

Wherein Shaden and Maxyzne are captured

Maxyzne stumbled from The Red Door and Shaden stumbled out moments after.

"Maxyzne, wait…it wasn’t what you think…"

His voice trailed off as she meandered across the bridge at one point almost falling off and into the river. Maxyzne had given Shaden enough second chances; she was through with him.

There were two guards on duty that evening and both were new to their tasks and were quite young.

Blain, the older of the two called out to the drunken half-orc maiden, "Hold woman. It is after curfew. You’d best be heading back to your lodgings or we will have to take you to the joal."

Maxyzne did her best to saunter up to the young man (which wasn’t very good in her current state and looked more like a ramble) and when she was close enough to breath in his face she snarled an odiously, drunkenly foul breath upon him, "If you ever want to have youn’uns. You’ll hold your tongue and let me though that gate and then go about your business forgetting you ever saw me," and then she reached down and with surprising ease given her inebriated state grabbed his family jewels and gave them just enough of a squeeze to show him that she meant what she said.

The other guard started to draw his club thinking to defend his companion, but Blain motioned for him to but the weapon away realizing that he was in a very delicate position, "Certainly. We are protecting the city and don’t need to keep you here if you don’t want to be. Karl, open the gate, but be quick about it and discrete."

Maxyzne smiled and as she let go of the guard whispered, "Maybe I’ll come back some day and help you relax that polearm I found hiding between those rocks down there." At which point Blain turned to assist his fellow guardsman.

Within a few minutes of closing the gates, Shaden came up on the guardsmen and after a similar encounter got them to let him venture forth into the evening wilderness following after his ex-girlfriend.

 

They crashed through the wooded underbrush for nearly an hour trying to avoid or catch the other as the case may be. Eventually, Shaden was able to catch up to Maxyzne when she stopped to pee and finish the bottle of ale that she had taken from the inn.

Shaden tried to start, "Maxyzne…"

She cut him off, "Don’t speak."

He waited for her to say something more. He was about to say something when she held up her hand to shush him. This happened two more time before she finally continued, "You and me, we used to be together everyday. I really feel that I’m losing my best friend and I can’t believe that this could be the end. It looks as though you’re letting go and if its real…well, I don’t want to know…"

Shaden started to interrupt, "Maxyzne…"

She growled and her eyes flared in anger, "Don’t speak! I know what you’re saying so please stop explaining. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t need your reasons."

Again Shaden was about to speak, but before he could, Maxyzne held up her hand and whispered, "Hush…"

Suddenly, the two of them were surrounded by a tribe of gnolls. Had the two of them been sober and not surprised the gnolls would have been dead within minutes. As it was the battle was still quick but the outcome was decidedly in the opposite outcome. The two half-orcs hardly damaged the gnolls before they were rendered unconscious, for truthfully, they were nearly unconscious when the gnolls found them.

Bound and gagged, the two were dragged off to the gnolls’ base camp to await whatever fate should find them there.

 


SOW Chapter5: Never Split the Party

Den of the Destroyer

Bingus leads the way

Ramok goes astray as well

Chen suffers their choice

Fortress Graystone reflects the aesthetic of the githzerai who built it, demonstrating balance between the chaos of their birthplace and the order they sought to impose upon their own lives. The fortress takes its name from the distinctive gray stone found in this area of the Giant’s Shield Mountains, colored this way by prevalent veins of platinum ore. The stone walls of the fortress are decorated with bas relief’s and carvings that have withstood the passage of years with little deterioration if not for the recent arrival of the pack of Wicked Fang gnolls who seem intent to tear down their works reducing the githzeria craft to ruin.

As Ramok boots the 20′ tall stone door of the fortress it swings inward assailing the senses of the Brigade with the musty odors of death, rot and unwashed carrion-covered fur. Dark bloody looking stains cover the floor of the revealed large octagonal chamber. On six of the walls, portals glow and pulse with arcane energy. The far side of the room appears to be made of extremely thick glass, revealing a second slightly smaller octagonal chamber beyond with four portals on four of the walls of the second chamber. Massive circles of carved runes dominate the floors of both chambers. Five heavily armed gnolls wait in a frenzy within the second chamber. Towering taller than humans, most of these stand over 7 feet tall, lean, unkempt and aggressive in appearance, they dance and leap at the glass wall with remarkable speed. Their eyes glowing green or yellow, and gleaming like torches as they catch the light filtering in behind Ramok, but among their number one of the waiting gnolls, the most fearsome, appears even larger than the goliath; it grins behind over-sized tusks that take the place of its lower canines, her massive body rippling with power and mayhem.

Outside the stone door on the fortress steps Bingus encourages Bairdyn to hold tight as the gnome and halfling take to air upon the ebony fly, rising fast on a short flight to the balcony set twenty feet to the right of the main stair. As they land on the balcony Bingus looks back calling to Chen as suddenly a pair of very large birds, carved wooded raptors, each easily larger than either the gnome or the halfling race out of the darkness raking the wizard as the pass with razor sharp talons almost ripping him from the fly, dragging him off the balcony. Bairdyn retreats, leaping off the fly and responds firing a sling bullet. Bingus also responds with a swarm of his own magically summoned daggers which dart in the direction of the birds splintering wood as they strike. Chen utilizes cat-like reflexes, leaping over the gap easily, landing next to the halfling as the gnome recovering his bearings swinging back by the main entrance in a looping pattern before returning to the balcony as the first of the animated birds breaks apart under the strain of the gnome’s spell.

Beyond the balcony heading into the cliff wall, a straight narrow passage drives deep northward into the cliff’s side fading into the darkness. Presenting his orb, Bingus waves his hand with a flourish sparking a light in the heart of the sphere which illuminates the first 20′ of the passage revealing an opening set on the right wall. Without comment, Chen darts down the hall moving towards the opening seeing immediately that the right turning passage had been caved in blocking passage beyond a dozen feet and with that realization he spies a figure hidden in the shadows of that alcove. Immediately the sheltered figure hurls a globe against the wall in the passages setting off a powerful explosion blinding the monk who ducks and rolls forward as the passage caves in behind him trapping him with the assailant. The explosion is answered by howls from the hidden darkness of the northern passage as the attacker levels a crossbow in the direction of Chen. Chen sweeps his guan dao knocking the attacker’s arm away but the man stands and spins re-aiming winging the monk with a crossbow bolt while drawing a second hand-held crossbow and firing off a double shot from his off-hand–his dexterity and skill amazing, and intimidating to behold. With a whistle from the attacker, a pair of large dogs race forward from the darkness, lips peeled back revealing formidable jaws lined with a razor row of sharp canines; bounding from the shadows they seem both real and unnatural in their fearless viciousness. Trapped between the assailant, the dogs backed in against the cave-in Chen defends himself spinning and blocking with the polearm.



Outside Bairdyn parries with the second bird, destroying it with another bullet while at the main entrance, Ramok charges in the chamber, weapons drawn while in the second chamber two of the gnolls, those armed with evil looking barbed whips step within the light of two of the four portals located within the second room vanishing as they do only to reappear within the first chamber on either side of the goliath. The gnolls immediately lash out snaring Ramok, one from either side. Trapped, the goliath spins, using his weight and strength as leverage and ignoring the biting pain of the lashes, tightening, pulling the gnolls in close enough to score hits on both attackers with a sweeping blow from his sword. The blow bloodies one of the gnolls and sets the other up to be knocked to the ground by Bhenedict as he charges into the room. Injured, the gnolls release Ramok fleeing and crawling back through portals in the first chamber returning again to the second room they emerged from.

At the base of the stairs, unseen hidden by shrubbery, Notaku Wapi, a shifter warden watches as a thick cloud of dust and debris explodes from the balcony ripping through the air coating the gnome and the halfling in choking gray powered dirt.

As James and Jeroen filter into the chamber behind the dwarf, Ramok charges after the gnolls vanishing as they had and appearing in the 2nd chamber surrounded by gnolls. Immediately the waiting gnolls are on the goliath attacking him in a pack. The brigade watches in horror as the gnolls break the goliath in seconds…the largest gnoll bringing him to knees, setting Ramok up for the frenzied rush the other gnolls leaving him lying bloody and unconscious on the floor of the chamber. Scrambling the remaining friends rush, each of them to one of the six portals in the 1st chamber hoping to rescue their goliath bodyguard. Both Bhenedict and James step through into the 2nd chamber but Jeroen is bathed in electricity and collapses to the ground shaking, shocked and stunned still within the 1st chamber. Seeing Jeroen fall, the two injured, lash armed gnolls race back through portals into the 1st chamber. In the 2nd chamber, yelling a challenge, Bhenedict draw the aggressive gnolls toward him reigning them in with blows of his own. Above the fray in the 2nd chamber, high upon his metallic steed James casts curing magic upon the broken goliath, enough for Ramok to regain consciousness. From within this new chamber, James sees that there is a third chamber seen through yet another glassy wall on the east side of the 2nd room. Within the 3rd chamber two more salivating, battle-crazed gnolls wait with one more magic portal and a door which apparently exits their room. In the 1st chamber, barbed whips slice through the air, cruelly striping Jeroen and dragging him about the hard stone floor amid fresh streaks of blood as the gnolls toy with the defenseless warrior.

Gathering themselves, Bairdyn and Bingus search for a way through the cave-in but finding no ingress wide enough for them to pass can only watch as Chen fights for his life beyond the fallen, crushed stone.

The young monk, Chen slices one the dogs as it pulls in close seeing that the dogs, like the falcons earlier, seem to be carved of hard wood and magically animated. Clearly their teeth, fearsomely sharpened two inch long canines make for a real enough threat. Sparring with the hidden assailant Chen scores hit after hit, each mostly deflected or dodged and answered by the attacker. Suddenly the passage fills with rush of cold as Bingus freezes the melee with a spell attempting to aid the trapped monk, unbalancing the dogs and icing all the combatants. Striking the injured dog again the hound shatters at the impact just ahead of an eruption of acid as Bingus casts a second spell. Gasping for breath Chen fights for his life still trapped between the second dog and his wiry aggressor; stabbing outward with a thrust the monk destroys the second dog and follows by swinging the bladed end of his weapon around in a wide arc toward his attacker’s face. Again the nemesis dodges, turning his head to avoid a beheading, this time too slow to escape a deep cut upon his left cheek. Bloodied, he fires back at the fleeing monk catching him with a bolt before he gets more than twelve paces dropping the monk and at the same time withdrawing a golden figurine of a tiger that takes life as it enlarges filling the passage and springing after the downed monk.

Back in the 2nd chamber the battle rages, the dwarf pounding the gnolls with his hammer, Ogrecrusher, backed by James while Ramok, invigorated by James’ healing magics crawls to the nearest portal transporting back into the 1st chamber. Within the 2nd chamber, Bhenedict and James fight on killing one gnoll after another until finally Bhenedict challenges the one remaining gnoll which grins evilly backhanding the dwarf knocking him to the ground. The gnoll’s victory is brief as before he can even get out a victory cackle he is killed by the Clevenger. Victorious they enter the portal returning to the 1st chamber where Jeroen has recovered his wits and quickly finished the injured gnolls. 

Bhenedict leaps through one of the portals and finds himself somehow in the small 3rd chamber flanked by the two gnolls, one large and forming at the mouth and another slightly smaller gnoll with mad-crazed, glassy, unblinking eyes. The gnolls attack but their blows deflecting by Bhenedict armor. The dwarf’s counter-attack is also ineffectual. Then Ramok exits same the portal in the 3rd, still crawling, almost on top of Bhenedict filling the chamber with a crush of bodies as the two of them engage the two gnolls in the last and smallest chamber. James, tries to follow the dwarf, is surprised to find himself stunned in the same manor a portal had originally impacted Jeroen.

Back at the balcony, Bingus and Bairdyn struggle to find a way through the broken passage helplessly watching as the tiger drags the fallen monk down the long hall into darkness. Then an idea comes to the gnome…summoning his familiar, the small dragon, in the passage beyond the blockage he uses his magic to transport himself to the dragon’s side. Turning back, Bingus whispers, “Bairdyn, go back, find another way through. Tell the others what happened. I am going to try and save Chen.”

Back in the main chamber, Jeroen hesitates for a moment with James ultimately deciding to follow the others and struggles with the magic portals passing to and from the 2nd chamber several times before finally finding his way through to the 3rd from one of the portals in the 1st chamber just as Bhenedict and Ramok had done before him.

Climbing across the sheer cliff, Bairdyn rushes as quickly as he is able. Suddenly entering the chamber at the top of the stairs he looks down at the floor of the 1st chamber seeing James rolling at the feet of his adamantine horse.

“James, you must hurry! Chen has fallen. You must get up,” says Bairdyn.

Realizing that James is incapacitated the halfling hurries through a portal appearing in the 2nd chamber. Then surprisingly Bingus pokes his head through a secret door and says “The bad man has taken Chen; we must save him.”

As Bingus peers out the secret door, a door he had found while wandering through the passage in pursuit of Chen, Bingus notices the glassy wall and sees Bhenedict, Jeroen and Ramok fighting within the 3rd chamber. Stepping through the door, Bingus waves his arms about fanatically but fails to get their attention. Within the 3rd chamber the goliath still crawls about the floor struggling and swinging at the gnolls while the dwarf and the farmer busily defend him. Frustrated Bingus says, “I guess it is up to us, come on Bairdyn.” The two small heroes disappear through the secret door.

Recovering finally, James makes his way through a portal to the 2nd chamber and like the gnome before him offers some hand signals attempting to contact his allies in the 3rd chamber, but unable to tell whether any of them had seen or understood him and seeing the open secret door, the Clevenger opts to follow after the two small fellows. Dismounting he tries to lead his mount into the tight passage where he finds his progress slowed by the massive horse.

In the 3rd chamber as Jeroen enters he finds himself cramped in the small room with Bhenedict and Ramok together fighting two badly injured gnolls. Somehow with the addition of one more body Ramok is finaly able to stand and he does so as he tears down one of the gnolls and Jeroen strikes the other with an offhand blow and it falls where Ramok recently lay.

Quickly cleaning their wounds and weapons, Jeroen and Benedict briefly consider trying to go back through the portal but while they do Ramok opens the door exiting the smaller chamber and starts out down a hallway; immediately, Bhenedict and Jeroen follow.

Moving as quickly as caution allows, Bingus and Bairdyn move quietly down the hidden passages. Seeing light ahead they douse their own light and move on through the darkness trying to avoid detection. After moving about 50′ northward the passage breaks to the right and then to the right again southward. They pause at the apex as they spy a pair of gnolls armed with longbows. The gnolls are busy peering through arrow slits on the east wall of the passage. With the gnolls’ backs towards the adventures, Bingus and Bairdyn hold their position as suddenly they hear a horribly loud, fearful scraping sound behind them. Fearful of discovery, Bairdyn retraces their steps, looking back down the passage towards the noise witnessing the Clevenger’s approach, the girth of the metal horse scraping the sides of the passage trailing sparks as they approach.

On the other side of the fortress, Ramok, Bhenedict and Jeroen set out from the small 3rd chamber moving east through an intersection of halls…to the south the hall moves down a series of steps…to the north the 10′ wide hall extends 20′ before turning to the west…and straight ahead 10′ past the intersection, there is an east facing door set at the end of the hall. Without comment Ramok moves to the door shoving it open with a firm thrust.

The door opens into a comparably huge chamber. The ceiling of the chamber rises some 60′ overhead. The room fills the hall with the sound of rushing water, a meager reflection of its source – a waterfall descending from an opening in the ceiling to a pool set within a raised platform. Two stone gutters carry water down from the pool into channels in the floor of the large chamber, creating fast moving streams that flow through circuitous paths in the ground with great speed.

Of greater concern, within the chamber Ramok spies two gnolls mounted upon large cruel beasts, like wolves or panthers but foul of form, with a gluttonous, gnarl-toothed appearance that speaks to their habitual feasting upon the dead–pony-sized, slaughter-fanged hyenas. Atop the hyenas the gnolls raise a whooping alarm that is immediately answered on the north-end of the intersecting hall by other gnolls, one appearing at the waterfall end of the hall mounted upon a giant dire boar with a huge head and massive, spike-ended tusks, the boar as large and surely heavier than either of the hyenas.

 


SOW Chapter5: A Sword’s Quest

A Sword’s Quest

A sword calls to us
Gnolls have taken the Fortress
demonspawn corrupt


A Sword’s Quest 


Amyria the sword

On the following morning the Brigade rises early, determined to undertake the sword’s quest; their first goal, to start their journey to the inscrutable Fortress Graystone. Hoping for further guidance, Jeroen calls out to the sword without response. Intrigued by the weapon Ramok points out that the sword might be useful as a weapon which does spark a weak acknowledgement from the blade.


“My attachment to the mortal realm is nebulous and fleeting … the thought of blood upon me is repugnant and I am not eager to be bathed in it … I fear it may cause me to lose what grasp I have.” 


Jeroen calls out to the sword again but with its voice fades beyond hearing and the Swordmage suggests, “Perhaps it would be most wise not to attempt to use the sword. I will carry it for safe keeping … mayhap it will be useful to us in other ways.”


After gathering supplies the party follows Chen’s lead, the monk takes the Brigade north towards Witchcross but stops short of that large village instead heading east down the Red Rock trail in the direction of the Giant’s Shield Mountains following the same route that first took the Brigade to the ruins of Rivenroar Castle. They overnight within the rough-and-tumble mining town of Red Rock. Now with the copper mines being mostly exhausted, Red Rock serves as a trading post for trappers, hunters, and prospectors who wander all over the southern flank of the mountains, among their number dwarves and half-orcs live within the small town, with no small amount of bad blood between them.


Elsir Vale

The following day the Brigade leaves ‘civilization’ behind as they head off path into the hills passing the ruins of Rivenroar traveling deeper into the Giant’s Shield beyond even than The Vents, the route the Brigade had taken to the Dwarven Nexus. Of the party, only Ramok and Chen had ever been so deep within the mountains. Based on Chen’s best estimation the trip was expected to take at least another 3-5 days consistently moving further into the mountains. Chief among their concerns–giants–true giants were always a danger in these parts, especially going as deep into the mountains as they meant to travel, and also recent rumors suggested that they might encounter gnoll raiding parties at any point. The only advantage that they had was that they planned to keep traveling far off any established trails or paths during their search for Fortress Graystone.


Tensions mounted when soon they found evidence of raiders dotting their way, leftovers from recent encampments … gnolls from the look of it. This encouraged the Brigade to redouble their security efforts, taking extra time to hide their own passing. And Bingus took to air scouting the way before them upon his ebony fly. More than once on the first day he thought he had glimpsed a giant owl on the horizon only to quickly vanish in the distance. Then Bingus spotted something peculiar on the path and notified the party marching below him. Bingus described a strange collection of large stones that appeared uneasily balanced on a steep incline located on the pass in front of the party. It seemed as if it was piled is such a way that they might tumble down on anyone unfortunate enough to be traveling on the pass below. Collecting Bairdyn the two smallest members of the Brigade hitch a ride on the magic fly to the pile of stones above. Soon Bairdyn confirms that the pile of rock was a deliberate trap, and he spots fresh tracks of the trap-setter left in the old snow piled near the stones. Inexplicably the tracks appear and disappear with no clear entry or exit.


After evading the trap the Brigade makes camp setting three watches and even so they find their rest to be uneasy. On the following morning they set out under bright sunlight and a biting chill in the frozen mountain air. Icy dew dresses the landscape but soon the high sun melts the dew while warming the air nicely. The party rises ever higher into the mountains spending much of their day climbing and descending as the terrain required while Bingus continues his surveillance from the sky above doing his best to spot for traps, a skill he’d admitted never developed. Then still in the early afternoon, Bhenedict’s footing slips as he works his way cautiously down an steep decline. The usually sure-footed dwarf struggles to recover his balance as his problem is magnified by loose shale which begins to slide like broken ice beneath his feet as Bhenedict suddenly begins to tumble. Shuffling his feet the situation become dire when Bhenedict finds that the ground beneath him is also pock-marked, his foot sinking deep within one of the holes. His foot trapped Bhenedict falls hard, hearing a snap and slides an additional 25 feet before he finally stops. At first, the dwarf feels no pain but then looking at his leg he finds a sharp metal climbing spike protruding from his hard leather boot and sunk deep within in ankle. Studying the scene it is quickly obviously that they had discovered a second trap only this time not so successfully as with the first.


Examining Bhenedict’s injured leg James quickly determines that the injury is too complicated and severe for the party’s simpler magical cures but determined to keep moving the disgruntled dwarf agrees to rides with James upon the adamantine horse. The Brigade moves on with the horse carrying Bhenedict until nightfall before they make a hasty camp. To aid the dwarf’s recovery Ramok offers to cover Bhenedict’s turn at watch pulling a double shift  himself. James does his part by administering healing magics and prayers, leaving what he can not heal to the gods and the dwarf’s natural toughness. During the night, while alone with his thoughts, Ramok notices an unusual stillness to the air … not a complete absence of game, but it was as if the natural things of these mountains had taken shelter. Already on edge, Ramok’s tension rises with the goliath’s feeling of unease … a feeling totally alien to the goliath within these mountains he calls home.


As day arrives Bhenedict rises early, feeling himself to be a new dwarf, his leg once again sound and he celebrates by setting out to make the party a more than passable breakfast. Waking to the sight of the dwarf moving about James chastises Bennie to no avail. 


“Stop yer nitpicking, I’m no beardless, dandy. Sit down and stop whining … I’m making breakfast. There’s no way we’ll make to this fortress on an empty stomach or worse if you poison us. Make yourself useful and scrub out Bairdyn’s pits, that little guy is working up a giant-sized stench.”


After breakfast they start traveling again. Bingus mounting the fly and taking to air. From his high vantage point he suddenly glimpses what appears to be three large birds taking wing in the distance. While all seem large, the center-most bird seems doubly so, yet as they fly low the birds are hidden within the shadows of the mountains and trees such that Bingus finds it impossible to identify them. What’s more with no clear reference for size or distance the gnome’s untrained eye cannot even confirm the size of the birds, and still whether it be true seeing or the gnome’s wild imagination, he thinks the largest bird was mounted. He descends slightly and yells a warning to the others, but seeing nothing more, as a group they question the clarity of his viewing. Not that they doubt Bingus’s sincerity, but rather more in the hope he might be wrong and in acknowledgement of the gnome’s vivid imagination. 


“Well, if you saw something, than stop talking and get back up there and keep watch … and take Bairdyn with you this time,” orders Bhenedict.


Later that day crunched together upon the fly, the two shortest members of the party catch a glimpse of the Fortress Graystone in the distance. As they get closer the pair spy out one final hurdle for the party, a wide suspension bridge, something left by the githzerai who built the fortress. As they wait for the others catch up, the two friends get about the business of discerning whether or not the bridge has been trapped.


The bridge crosses over a deep mountain gap extending over 100 feet and dropping further over a mountain stream which had over untold centuries cut its way through the mountain creating this gorge. Bairdyn ties himself off on the end of a long rope and Bingus ties the opposite end about his fly … together, comically they head across the bridge with Bingus flying tight circles around the halfling who walks across below him; the circling made necessary because Bingus’s magical fly had proven to be incapable of hovering. Watching the pair work together proves to be too amusing to pass without comment. 


“Watch out Bairdyn, the vultures are circling,” yells Jeroen.


Bhenedict quickly adds, “Wait that’s not a vulture Jeroen … it’s a giant fly, nothing to worry about Bairdyn flies only circle shit … Ah no offense”


Then whispering adds, “James, didn’t I tell you to scrub that halfling?”


After their moment of mirth ends, the Brigade refocuses on the task at hand and it isn’t long before Bairdyn’s search proves worthwhile when he finds evidence of tampering. The halfling calls out a warning to the party and directs Bingus to pull the rope tight. When the rope is taunt the halfling begin jumping up and down until the bridge gives way beneath him breaking apart and falling straight away into the deep gap below. The bridge’s passing leaves only a single rope-line hanging to mark where the bridge had previously hung. As Bairdyn falls the fly dips momentarily as it takes on Bairdyn’s additional weight but it quickly recovers and together Bairdyn and Bingus rise again flying back to the rest of the Brigade. 


Adamantine HorseQuickly they formulate a plan. Testing the fly’s lift capacity Bingus determines that while it isn’t always comfortable the fly was capable of lifting Bingus and any other member of the Brigade with the exception of both Ramok and the Clevenger’s horse. Like Bingus and the fly, James too was able to pulls from his own personal energy reserves and focus them into his magical steed, converting the 3500 lbs horse back into a figurine of more manageable size; after the transformation is complete the figurine stands just a foot high, weighing just over 25 pounds … still bulky and difficult to carry … made more so by its sharp protruding sword and decorative horn, but in its alternate form the horse was at least manageable.


One-by-one, Bingus flies the party over the gap. Leaving only Ramok to his own means, after the Barbarian is quick to assure the others that he is could easily make the crossing without help.


First, Ramok opts to test the remaining rope, thinking that he might be able to use it to cross hand-over-hand across the gap. Typically reckless, Trapspringer runs and leaps, high and far, over the gorge, and coming down hard, with his full weight and momentum upon the suspended rope as the shocked party watches the spectacle–the rope immediately snaps beneath Ramok. The rope break occurs very near the close side of the gap,  swinging the goliath dangerously, further out into the gulf. Realizing his plight Ramok releases the rope and falls swinging his body towards the near cliff face, hitting hard, but clinging to the face of the cliff, pinioned by his powerful grip. Without comment, Ramok stoically begins his climb down into the gap.


Two hours later, the Brigade stands together on the far side of the rift ready to complete the journey to the fortress. As they move through the day, thick forest gradually gives way to rocky peaks that rise high above the trees and eventually they find a rough gravel path winding its way along the base of the mountain. Chen announces that they are now very near Fortress Graystone, the trail being a sure sign that they were close to their goal. Following the trail, halfway through the afternoon, the fortress finally comes in full view. Against the cliff face ahead, a massive stone staircase rises, narrowing as it reaches a set of double stone doors set into the rock wall. Four stone statues, each depicting a githzerai warrior in full combat regalia, stand on pedestals watching over the entrance to Fortress Graystone. A small waterfall flows down the side of the mountain, pouring out from an eroded stone balcony set up on a cliff face in line with the stone doors and opposite an intact sister balcony on the other side of the stone doors. The waterfall leaves the stone steps slick and treacherous. As the Brigade examines the stairway, announced by yelps, four gnolls slip out of hiding places behind the statues and begin moving forward to attack. 


Fortress Greystone Entrance   

Ramok is the first to charge the gnolls but as he approaches a large fiery spirit rises from the stonework of the stairs. The inhuman thing appears to be paying little heed to the activity on the stairs, instead moving towards the nearest statue; as the thing arrives its motion continues, merging it with a stone githzerai warrior which immediately quadruples in size. With no delay, the monstrous statue comes to life and races down the stairs in the direction of the goliath, shaking the ground with its approach, making Ramok look small in comparison. Excited the barbarian roars, “This one is mine!”

 Elemental

As the titanic foes collide the goliath gives way tumbling under the force of the statue’s charge at the same time Ramok takes an arm from the statue with the heavy swing of his weapon, causing fissures in the stone and breaking the arm off the statue.


The two gnolls at the top the stairs start their attack by firing crossbows at Bairdyn who stands at the base of the stairway, one of their bolts hitting the halfling at shoulder level, a near crippling shot. Bairdyn’s replies with a sling bullet of his own injuring one of the two gnolls. James moves to aid Ramok, calling to Bahamut a celestial fist crashes into the statue immobilizing it and then he follows up with a prayer that causes the stone to become brittle and weak preventing a second crushing blow upon the Barbarian. Chen takes in a deep breath and centers himself so that the attacks around him seem to move in slow motion enabling him to more easily evade them; he then
leaps the streaming water and races up the stair keeping the water between himself and the animated statue while whirring his spear in a fast, deadly arc that transforms into pure lightning blasting one of the gnolls in passing knocking him flying into his companions and cutting off any escape or additional crossbow attacks of the second bow wielding gnoll. The two other gnolls move down the stairway passing Chen as he climbs–the one which he sliced and another from the far side of the stairs–both the 7′ tall gnolls rushing to finish off the small injured halfling. As they pass Chen, one takes a swing at Chen and lands a lucky blow before he is able to activate his amulet to ward off the attack. Bairdyn crouches preparing himself but then sighs with relief as Bhenedict blocks off the gnolls with a defensive maneuver screening the halfling from additional attacks.

Bingus flies to the top of the stairs on his ebony mount and looses a fireball killing the gnoll Bairdyn had injured and severely injuring the other. He quickly follows up with a grasp of the grave suffing the life of the second gnoll archer.

The fiery spirit leaves the frozen statue, which shrinks and crumbles, moving to and within a second statue, renewing his attack upon Ramok within its new host. Witnessing the spirits movements, Jeroen comes to the goliath’s aid and together they two members of the Brigade more than hold their own against the statue.


At the base of the stairway James mounts his adamantine steed and charges the two gnolls knocking them about, taking the gnolls at speed. Together James and Bhenedict slay the two gnolls. Mid-stair, Ramok and Jeroen crush the second living statue. Freed from the stone, the burning spirit begins moving towards a third statue. Blocked by Ramok its reaches out to the Barbarian who begins to petrify at the thing’s touch, muscle locking into place as a numbing spreads throughout his body but then the Clevenger and Swordmage combine their efforts against the spirit destroying it utterly. The creature destroyed, Ramok’s muscles begin to unlock and the numbness is replaced by healthy warmth. And high on the stairway Chen ends the battle slicing the final gnoll’s neck and sending its head tumbling down the stairs.


Fortress Greystone steps map

Taking some time to heal themselves the Brigade gathers together at the top of the stairs and discusses three possible egresses to the fortress.



  • The double stone doors

  • A 50′ high balcony

  • The ruined balcony which is the source of the stream

It is immediately evident that the ruined balcony can’t be used due to the condition of the passage and the strong flow of the stream. Ramok determined remarks, “We should use the main door, I will go first.”


Bingus offers, “I could fly some of us to the balcony, but clearly not Ramok.”


And Ramok answers, “Then we can travel  together or I will meet you inside.”  And so saying he pushes open the double doors not waiting for the others.



SOW Chapter5: Tales from the Crypt part 1

Tales from the Crypt part 1

Orion is fey
Lama Amya Seff is full
Chen Li Phoon is Phast


Meetings in Brindol


Arriving back in Brindol amid fast calls of fanfare. Bhenedict insists on a ‘quick’ visit to the Antler and Thistle before the Brigade sees to any other priorities. Eoffram excuses himself from the celebration explaining that he must return to his estate with all haste to see to matters involving Zefram’s recent return.


“I will return when I am able. Go ahead and visit Sertanian without me; you can catch me up tonight. How many of you should I expected tonight?”


While he was speaking Iroon became deathly silent and while never taking his eyes off of one of the more elderly barmaids and began to take his accoutrements and place them in his bag. Upon finishing he took out his servicable farmer’s leathers and a plain looking sword and then relaxed appearing just as he had when he, as Jeroen, had initially started adventuring with the Brigade.


In answering, Bairdyn advised he planned on camping out at Bhenedict’s hovel, James with Jeroen at the farm, leaving Ramok, Bingus, the boy, Kenth and a smattering of gnomes looking to bed down at the Troyas estate. Finding it difficult to suppress a frown Eoffram departs.


At the Antler and Thistle the Brigade is greeted by Old Tsago’s meaty grin . “Which of our fine ales will it be today boys, the Hobgoblin, the Black Wych, the Goliath or some fine Fiddler’s Elbow?”


ales


Having made their choices the weary friends wash the road dust from their parched throats and settle in for a well deserved rest. Well wishers filter into the small tavern to the delight of Tsago until an impromptu welcome home celebration breaks out, full of warm-hearted revelry and tales of the Brigade’s adventures. For the first time Bhenedict misses Quill the Lion as he listens to Bairdyn try and tell the story as Bingus keeps interrupting him.


Then a strange group pushes their way through the gathered well-wishers up to the front of the crowd, each strange in their own way. As they do so, Jeroen excuses himself to use the water closet.


Orion

Orion, their apparent leader, is a young man … possibly of elven decent but also somehow different too. The ears shaped more in the way an animal’s ear is shaped and bearing a strange countanance both unearthly and firmly grounded yet unmistakeably there is something about this boy-man that expects and perhaps even deserves reverence; although what it might be certainly escapes the majority of the Brigade.   



Lama Amya Seff

Lama Amya Seff, a heavily armed friar by dress. A man known far and wide for his deep penetrating stare … the type of stare that spares no secrets. The Lama, known throughout the Vale as a fair but hard bargainer, a wanderer, a friend and someone who is always happy to be fed a your table; a man equally known for his good-natured, home-spun wisdom and his stubborn, hard-headiness, always willing to lend a hand to the down trodden … a man who has himself made a living on the kindness of strangers. 



Chen Li Phoon

Chen Li Phoon, an olive-skinned, monk, his chest branded with a large tiger tattoo … one fighting schisms of the shadow people, a mysterious sect of warriors issuing from their hidden temples within the Lands of Shadow and Dragon Isles, the land motes suspended magically above them. Until recently these people were believed to be more legend than fact, that was until their homeland was nearly destroyed when the Black Moon, The Fane of Scales, crashed to earth giving rise to what is now being called the Age of Dragons.


Their fair-haired leader speaks first, “Pudh, what a weary group of hooligans you are . waxing to be heroes no doubt. I beseech thee, might you be those known these parts as the Brigade?”


“We are, but what’s it to you? asks Bhenedict.


“I have come for a boy, Kenth, do you know him? … Tell me he is with you and you haven’t left him in Overlook.”


“The boy is with us but we are not giving him to you.” answers Bairdyn.


Ramok moves to block off the strangers but James places is hand on his arm gently retraining the goliath but not before the action grabs the notice of Lama Amya’s morning star, Death-Rattle … its chain vibrating like a rattlesnake’s tail in response to Ramok’s rising ire as the Lama fixes on Ramok with a stern stare.  


“You mistake our intent … I am here for the boy, to his benefit. I am fetching him for the college and I come bearing gifts. Lama Amya is my guide in this strangely, quaint backwater (barely masking his disdain) … and I have brought Chen (pointing out the monk) to act as ‘your’ guide at the request of Sertanian of the Hall of Valor for reasons he can better explain. We have been waiting for you here now for several days and we must simply be about our business as I am sure you have yourselves.”


Without another word the stranger pulls a bag from his belt. A bag that resembles the strange bag carried by Jeroen. Reaching in with one hand he withdraws an impossibly long metal rod from the bag. Then looking across the tavern at Kenth he says.


“This is a gift from my aunt; it is for you boy. May its flames fire your imagination as it lights your path…none but you shall ever quench its brilliance. Would you like this Kenth?”


Somewhat annoyed by the visitor’s haughty arrogance Bairdyn says, “Jalissa is the boy’s guardian. She will decide whether or not he will go with you. We don’t even know you.”


The visitor glances about spotting Jalissa asking plainly, “Is this true? Are you his guardian? As she nods affirming this the stranger fixes her in his gaze and Jalissa slumps slightly, her focus going blank, staring at no fixed point. He says, “Its okay love, you understand don’t you? It’s in the boys best interest right?” 


Again she nods. 


“It’s decided then. Kenth will come with us.”


“Wait,” says Adoven the Skillful (one of the gnomes who have been teaching young Kenth the fine trade of cobbling), “What about us? We are the boy’s caretakers now …we are already teaching him a trade.”


“Oh,” says the visitor looking toward the half-dozen gnome entourage, “Well, I suppose I could pay you for your trouble,” he answers pouring a small stack of gems from another pouch.


The gnomes’ eyes grow huge as the resistance melts from their faces … their eyes a-twinkle at the sight of the gems.


Appalled Bairdyn says, “I’ve seen just about enough!” 


Showing uncommon restraint James suggests hearing the strangers out. “I know Lama Amya Seff, and his words carry great weight and I am sure he wouldn’t be traveling with these men if they meant ill.”


Unsatisfied Bairdyn quips, “Clearly, this impetuous pompus ass just charmed Jalissa and I don’t mean used his natural friendliness on her. She is enspelled and what should make me think that your Lama friend isn’t also? One might assume if the Lama’s friend wasn’t acting like an ass it wouldn’t even be an issue.”


With a sneer, the young traveler answers, “You assume that I am acting … mayhap I should introduce myself, I am Orion, over-many a tale of woe has been inked due to both hasty judgment and impertinence. I am overly sure that naught what I might say would steer you from your malediction. While surest cure t’would be the quick kick in your backside I will resist the temptation and allow the Lama speak on our behalf. Yet I prithee that you learn in time . as tragically young you all be and I fear too short the lives that contain thee. For now I bid thee a farewell as I bid my ado . a’fore long you’ll be glad the boy be with me if only half Ishtar’s mutterings be true . Oh he thinks I don’t hear him . but I hear well enough as I am not nearly so old as he.” 


With that Orion moves out of the Tavern leaving the other to speak on his behalf.


The friar, Lama Amya Seff speaks next.


“Friends, I bring the gifts of EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE.” (pausing for impact) He casts sand into the air towards the crowd, blowing at it with deliberate puffs of air until the sand burst into harmless flames above the startled crowd.


“What our souls believe, we will always be


Like elements we are all brothers that time cannot divide .


Surely as life comes, you will be called to battle as one gainst the serpentine plots


Fix your vision on the light that is clear, in our sky so very dear .


You’re all shining stars whoever you are, shining bright so we can see


How truly bright that you can be.”


Having the captured the attention of the assembled crowd, the Lama pauses amid a rain a coppers from the crowd and having collected the coins he continues.


“Truthfully, friends we mean the boy no harm. It is in fact an honor to be taken in by the College of Majere and have no fear, Kenth will be safer with Orion than you might imagine. You should have more concern for yourselves. Those things afoot in the mountains are dangerous beyond imagining. It is for that reason I have brought you Chen Li Phoon, that he might guide you to your destination. Sertanian requested I might find you such a guide and it seems that luck is on your side and its name is Chen Li. As for me, my calling is in Overlook. Travel well and make your way to Sertanian with all haste.”


Respectfully Chen Li bows saying nothing.


The celebration ends having been rudely interrupted and so after a quick meal the Brigade moves on to the Hall of Great Valor finding Sertanian busy lecturing a smattering of visitors regarding the history of the battle. As the group approachs the Hall, Jeroen walks up to the party and asks, “Did I miss anything?” The party pauses to speak and then they all shake their heads as if to indicate that nothing was missed.


“…awed by the teachings of Tiamat he read on the walls therein. He abandoned Maglubiyet, the traditional deity of his people, and dedicated himself to leading the rest of his nation to Tiamat’s worship.”


Sertanian pauses as the brigade enters, “Oh, excuse me … look here, real heroes … This is the Brigade. Bhenedict might I ask you to return in one hour’s time while I finish here. It is most crucial we have words as soon as possible.”


Agreeing the Brigade steps out of the hall and waits … and waits … and waits until finally, near nightfall, Sertanian sees the visitors out and welcomes the present members of the Brindol Brigade: Bhenedict, Jeroen, Bairdyn, James, Bingus, Ramok and the visitor Chen Li Phoon.  Hall of Valor


As the others file in one after another eventually James heads toward the doors leading his powerful magical adamantine horse in the entry of the hall. Immediately Sertanian rushes forward blocking the horse’s entry.


“Please this is a hall filled with historical treasures and artifacts not a common barn!”


James replies, “This is no common horse … but very well.” Reaching out the Clevenger pats the horses head willing it to shrink down back down until it is once again a metal figurine standing about a foot tall.


After all have entered Sertanian bars the the door and invites the party within the inner sanctum of the museum. 


The Hall of Great Valor is as they last saw it. Its glass cases line the walls with relics of the Elsir Vale’s past. Three freestanding displays show off artifacts of the vanquished Red Hand of Doom, and a large map of the surrounding lands is updated with details of the Hand’s most recent forays against the Elsir Vale and its people.


 Sertainian


Sertanian dusts relics in a display case pausing to smooth out his stained smock and bows, “My friends,” he says, “welcome back to Brindol.”


Sertanian continues, “Good men like you is what we need right now … thank you for your patience and your haste.” James notes a certain unease in the castellan’s bearing. 


“You recall the platinum blade that was one of the treasures taken by Sinruth and his hobgoblin horde? Upon its return to the hall, it seemed none the worse for its ordeal. It is a relic of some worth and sentimental value having once been a gift of Lord Magnus during the war of the Red Hand. As such, it has great sentimental value, but wizards have studied time and again finding no great magic within it of note. But a just over a week ago, while I was working late at night, I heard a voice, calling me. From its case, the sword spoke to me, beseeching me to summon heroes to its aid. It asked for you, the Brigade, by name.”


Pausing he looks each assembled member deep in the eye before continuing.


“After it spoke I removed it from the display and I hid it within the backroom.” He says while leading the Brigade there, to a cluttered workspace, where the platinum longsword lies beneath a cloth on a table. When the cloth is removed without warning, the small workroom is filled with woman’s weak voice.


“You have come, my heroes, but my thanks must be brief. I am Amyria, and I have summoned you here from great need. I know it must seem strange to hear me speak, but I assure you that this form is only temporary. It is for that reason that I beseech you for your aid.”


“Decades ago, a race of monastics born of the Elemental Chaos established a fortress hidden within the Elsir Vale. These folk were peaceful, the githzerai, who lived secretly in their remote outpost but only recently they have vanished. Their Fortress of Graystone is well hidden, and it has remained a secret for long years.”


“Some months past, Fortress Graystone was invaded and claimed by a pack of gnoll mercenaries calling themselves the Wicked Fang. Their leader, a sadistic follower of the the demon lord Yeenoghu. He has begun to send his raiders out into the Elsir Vale and beyond. In recent weeks, this gnoll chieftain, Fangren, has managed to open a conduit of power to Yeenoghu’s realm in the Elemental Chaos. He plans to claim some small fragment of the demon lord’s power, transforming himself into an exarch of the Beast of Butchery. It was the creation of this conduit that awoke me from my age-long slumber.”


“If Fangren completes his ritual, demonic forces will gain a foothold in the mortal realm but this conduit to the Elemental Chaos can be manipulated through a ritual that will be provided to you. This is the boon that I pray you will grant me, bring me to Fortress Graystone and free me from this prison.”


Finally speaking up, Chen Li offers, “I am here at the bequest of Lama Amya Seff. He came to our mountain temple seeking guidance. He is known to us and he is a council of Shodan Orion but as the Shodan is otherwise occupied he has asked me to escort you to Fortress Graystone. In times past we conducted exchanges with githzerai monks that studied at the fortress. They were honorable people. It is wrong that the vile gnolls should be defiling their good works. If you would allow I will take you there and aid you in the gnolls’ expulsion.”    


Bingus asks, “What is this ritual the sword mentioned? … Where is it and what does it do?”


Speaking again Chen says, “Lama Amya has provided me with a ritual scroll.”


Interrupting the sword voice rises, “It will free me from my current form, restoring me to my rightful body. I can offer no more regarding that … my memories are fractured by long years of sleep.”


Bairdyn points out, “We left a functioning rift back at the mines, why not just go back there, wouldn’t that be easier?”


The sword answers, “The rift you speak of is polluted and corrupt. Fangren has unwittingly set the stage for my restoration. The ritual will alter its purpose from something corrupt and evil to one reflecting the purity upon which the fortress was founded, energy well-suited for my transformation.”


Unconvinced Bairdyn asks, “What about the gnolls?”


“The Wicked Fang is not to be underestimated. Their tribe is strong and steeped in demon worship. Facing them will be dangerous; but, if the gnolls are ignored the threat to the Elsir Vale and the wider world  beyond is far greater than any you might imagine.”


In Draconic Bingus asks, “What else can you tell us?”


Amyria replied in much better Draonic than Bingus had used, “Alas, I cannot … thoughts and plans come to me as if in a dream, a waking dream in my mind. Nightmares of Fangren, of horror, of death and rebirth … terror beyond imagining. My spirit grows weak within this vessel, weaker still with each hours passing. Before long, I fear that my voice will be lost” … As the voice trails off … “my thoughts adrift in the endless seas of time.”

Bingus conveyed this to the others that didn’t understand it and in his own mind started making connections between this platinium sword and the Old Man with the seven canaries and Bahamut. Clearly the gods, one in particular, were getting more involved in their affairs.

Speaking up again Chen says, “The fortress is built into the side of a hidden peak within the Giant’s Shield. There are no roads, no trails to travel. The journey will be arduous.”


Chen is interrupted by a sudden noise from the rear of the Hall of Great Valor. The sound of shutters being crushed, a sound punctuated by an explosion of fire as a bottle is lobbed through the now open window, the bottle shattering as it hits the ground spreading flaming liquid across the floor and map display. This crash is echoed in the front of the hall as the heavy timber moans and cracks under a heavy assault. 


Ramok charges to reinforce the door but even as he arrives the locking timber splinters revealing a squad of armed figures bursting through the door … powerfully build human thugs backed up by a quartet of heavily armed dwarves.


Outside the Hall of Great Valor, Jamlarim and Daven beat on the door with heavy mauls backed-up by representatives of the Hammerfist Clan’s: the Gemviper brothers, Kevgeon and Ricolos, Marendithas Battlebeard and Horros the Outcast … all orchestrated by two Rogue gang members, Belamros Graveltoes and Vicril Cupshigh who wait in the background guarded by their manservant Oloril.  


As Ramok appears, the two thugs Jamlarim and Daven switch their targeting from the door to the goliath. Ramok gives as well as he takes but outnumbered as he is it is evident that he will be quickly overwhelmed. Rushing to Ramok’s aid the Clevenger sets his eye targeting one of the attackers with an oath of enmity, that target Horros the Outcast; having fixed his target James teleports himself to the rear of the crowd of attackers adjacent to Horros piercing the dwarf deep with his spear. 


Elsewhere in the hall another shutter breaks and a second bottle is thrown starting another fire in the hall’s entry. Running past the flames Bhenedict’s hurls himself into the fray at the door amid shouts of “Murderer!” “Kin-Slayer!” “Poisoner” and “Traitor!” 


“So says who? Cantankerous slate-carving natterling Hammerfists! Know you not that your thieving kin t’were infested by fell spirits?” yells back Bhenedict, insulted by the vengeful Hammerfist dwarves accusations. 


Back inside Bingus and Jeroen use their magics to deal with the fires preventing their spread. Outside the the halflings hurl bolas entrapping both James and Ramok. The dwarves turnabout attacking the Clevenger who immediately falls broken at the dwarves heavily booted feet. Ramok shouts encouragement to James “No time to rest Clevenger rise, get your ass off the ground … Time to prove your worth!”    


Bhenedict loudly yells a challenge, “To me boys, let me show you how a real dwarf fights.”


In response the enemies move in unison toward the braggadocio dwarf, encouraging them further he yells, “I’m waiting you beardless, crying, snotling fondlers!” All the while drawing the crowd away from the bound goliath.


Within the hall Bingus watches as the attackers pool around Bhenedict unleashing a sleep spell when they have gathered staggering the group in mass. Encouraged James heals himself and both he and Ramok pull themselves free of the bolas.


Recovered the brigade falls upon the staggered attackers, aided by Chen they drop the injured thugs and rip into the stumbling dwarves, still impacted by Bingus’s spell. Rising James targets one of the stray halflings and his guard. The second halfling, Vicril, hurlers two bolas at the same time one at Bhenedict, and the other at Ramok again trapping both. Stepping forward, Marendithas swings his great axe in a killing arc at Bhenedict but at the last moment Jeroen the Swordmage warps space transporting Marendithas  and turns the attack against Horros who dies at the business end of Marendithas’s axe. Shocked Marendithas drops his axe … beginning the end of the battle. When it is done, of the attackers only the rogue, Vicril, still draws breath, a captive of the Brigade.


“Bairdyn Bar-lee-corn! Bairdyn Bar-lee-corn … just sitting this close to you makes me want to clear my bowels before I toss my cookies … yeah … filthy race-trader. Your own kind ain’t good enough huh? Need to take one for the man … right. Come over here little boy, ah’ve a prize for ya right here in ma pant … ah mean pocket. Oh, I am sure they like you Bare-din Bar-lee-corn.” says the foul-mouthed rogue.


“What? You call me a traitor? You’re lucky to be alive, if it wasn’t for me they’d ‘ave run you through already!” yells Bairdyn.


“Not quite yet.” says Bennie … “I still want to know how much is our bounty and who is putting it up?”


“Oh, so its information your buying,” answers Vicril.


“Well if you want to live?” asks the dwarf.


“Information is not free … besides you’ll just kill me anyhow,” asserts the rogue.


“No, I’ll pay you,” offers Bingus.


“You don’t have any gold,” says Bhenedict.


“I do too … I have my share. I’ll pay you 20 pieces of gold,” says Bingus.


“And I get to go free … with a good head start?” asks Vicril.


“No!” says Bhenedict.


“Yes!” responds Ramok much louder. “If you answer this question for me. Is there a bounty on me too?”


“No … no mention of a giant, nor an ogre,” answers the halfling.


“I am a goliath and I will allow you to go free and pay you an extra two gold pieces from my own gold if you tell them about me.” 


“Okay … its a deal … the bounty is a thousand gold a head, paid by some merchant in Overlook, an arms-dealer. Pay me and I’ll be on my way.”


Bingus moves to collect the twenty gold while Ramok reaches into a pouch and hands two pieces of gold to the halfling thief. 


“Oh, no you don’t,” asserts Bennie making a beeline towards Vicril with Ogrecrusher drawn. Quickly Ramok grabs the halfling by his hair with one meaty mitt and lifting him in the air too high for the dwarf to easily reach.


Frustrated Bhenedict hollers, “I am not letting that steaming hunk of troll dung prance away from here with 20 pieces of my gold! So here’s my deal, I am charging you 10 gold piece per knee cap. You can walk out of here with nothing or try to crawl out with my gold … your choice.”


Stymied the rogue mutters, “rock-brained, gully-born, knotty-kneed whoreson dwarf … keep your gold and die a miser’s death. You lying, two-faced goblin-spawn.”  


Ramok drops the halfling and he runs off with two gold pieces worth of dignity … and having gained some distance he yells back … “They are only offering a thousand for the lot of you … good thing dwarves come cheap!”


“Hmm, well it sounds like Sarshan is still out to get us,” says Jeroen thinking aloud.


“Didn’t we kill him?” asks Bairdyn.


“No,” explains the Swordmage, “He was the one giving the orders in Umbraforge … he went towards the foundry. The one we killed was a Captain, the one with the panthers.”


Answering Jeroen, Bairdyn says, “Oh, maybe that explains the cat prints at the murder scene you investigated in Overlook.”


Jeroen stares blankly confused … and Bhenedict points out, “That wasn’t you Jeroen, right?” asks the dwarf while turning his head and winking at Bairdyn.


“Besides we killed those panthers too,” the dwarf adds. And then looking suddenly serious he looks Bingus square in the eye and says, “If you ever try and give our gold away again it will be you I’m knee-capping.”


Interrupting the dwarf, Sertanian emerges from the hall carrying something wrapped in a fancy silk. He nods his head gratefully acknowledging the assembled brigade.


“You are true heroes. You have saved the hall yet again. Brindol owes you all a debt I believe we shall never be able to pay. Master dwarf maybe this small token can be of some use to you. It is an heirloom, it belonged to Arryk, one of the heroes of War with the Red Hand. He was the heart of the Diamond League … those heroes from another land that saved Brindol from the hobgoblin horde. Like you he was a warrior and in his time, heroic beyond compare. He gifted this to the Hall of Great Valor upon his retirement. It is a magic amulet, an Amulet of Vigor … I am sure it will be of greater service to you than to this hall. I am sure Arryk would have wanted you to have it. I wish I could offer more … you have my thanks each and everyone of you.”