Campaign of the Month: February 2012

Legacy of the Realms

"Quest for Fire" Part 2
A Legacy of the Realms Side Arc

Eleint 28, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


The sun’s oppressive heat beat down on the four travelers as they made their way across the hot Netherese desert. For nearly a day, the group had been traveling east. According to Lo-ghath, the goliath they were traveling with, it would be another day before they reached the desert fort where Oathem was holding Kelek, Quan’s son.

Vaarduun
Sudenly, from the east, the group heard an elemental roar, like that of a powerful blast of air. They saw a huge twenty-foot high, fifteen-foot-wide funnel of swirling air and sand cut a swath across the top of large dune less than a hundred feet from where they stood. Like a thing driven by an unseen force, the funnel turned north, then suddenly switched direction.

Everyone watched as the cyclone bellowed an elemental roar, then bore down towards them.

“By the gods,” Lo-ghath the goliath thug yelled above the cyclone’s deafening roar. “It’s Vaarduun!”

“Who or what is Vaarduun?” Caldreas asked out loud as he gripped his magical staff tighter in his hands.

“It’s an elder dust devil,” Lo-ghath yelled with fear in his voice. “It’s said that a powerful wizard from Rasilith summoned that elemental years ago. In a rage, it broke free of its magical bonds, slew its summoner, and fled into the desert. The stories told say that the thing has gone mad and has left a path of destruction in its wake.”

Lo-kag, the goliath barbarian raised his weapon and turned to face the oncoming dust devil. “And so have we.”

To be continued…


Adventurers:

Lo-kag, Caldreas, and Deb

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"Enter Valin and Talaer"
Dungeon Games Side Arc

Day 3


Valin looked at the elf seated across the room from him. Armored and armed with scimitars, the elf was beginning to wake up. Like him, the elf was seated upon the stone floor and leaned with his back to the wall.

Only fifteen feet separated the two dungeoneers.

Valin’s instincts were warning him, but his limbs were not responding fast enough.

The elf wrapped his hands around the hilt of his scimitars and slowly began to stand. Valin, his muscles fighting his will to stand, managed to do so using his warhammer as a make-shift cane.

“I have no quarrel with you,” the elf said as he brushed back his long hair to reveal a face with aquiline features. Even Valin, a dwarf who knew no love for the race of elves, noticed an air of confidence about the elf.

“And I have none with you,” Valin said.

“I’m glad we resolved that potential misunderstanding,” the elf said with a touch of sarcasm. “My name is Talaer Greydawn, a tracker in Her Majesty’s service. Do you know what or where this place is? How I got here is not clear to me. As a recall, I and another ranger were investigating a secret underground passage we found in the woods along the kingdom’s northeast border. I do not remember much more beyond that.”

“And I am Valin.” The dwarf looked around the room. Four torches in sconces lit the room brightly. Against one wall stood a statue of a white-robed bearded human man with arms outstretched in greeting. He also noted three passages leading out of the room—perhaps to the south. For some strange reason, he was finding it difficult to judge the cardinal directions and depth while in the room. He wondered if some ritual had been placed in the room that prevented him from using his natural dwarven instincts. “I’m not sure, but this place looks different from the last place I—.”

Talaer quickly put his finger to his lips to signal the dwarf to be quiet. From somewhere nearby, the elven ranger heard what sounded like someone dropping a pebble or small rock on the stone floor. He turned his head in the direction where he heard the sound come from. For several seconds, he kept still and signaled for the dwarf to do the same.

Talaer cautiously moved towards one of the passages and peered around the corner. A room, cloaked in dim light, lay beyond. He suspected someone—or something may be nearby—so he was ready for anything. Immediately, he noticed a short figure hiding in the shadows a short distance away. What appeared to be a sling was being spun in the figure’s hand.

The ranger charged into the room.

He was met by a halfling dressed in leather armor. An adventurer’s pack hung from his back while a sling was clearly visible in his hand. A dagger was also sheathed at the slinger’s waist. The halfling quickly spun his sling and let loose a bullet that zipped past Talaer striking the wall somewhere behind him.

Suddenly, two more halflings equally dressed and armed rushed into the room from a nearby exit. One of them quickly climbed down a short four-foot wall that offered a view of a large hallway beyond. The hallway was lit by a large square “well”, its water glowing a bright teal.

Two more bullets shot past Talaer.

Talaer prevented the halflings from using their slings by moving into their midst, purposely surrounding himself. As he moved past two of them, they tried to hit him with their slings using them as makeshift saps. He easily dodged the attacks while striking one just under his arm.

Halflings
Their slings useless in close quarters, the halflings dropped their slings and drew out their daggers. One stabbed at the ranger who easily sidestepped the feeble attack. Another quickly followed barely missing Talaer’s leg.

Talaer, still surprised that halflings whose kind were not commonly known to be so violent, swung his scimitar in a wide arc that sliced through leather and flesh. The halfling screamed in pain but survived the attack. Talaer then turned on his heel, spinning to strike at another halfling.

Valin meanwhile had heard the sounds of battle and rushed in after Talaer. He moved up to the nearest halfling whose chest was covered in blood and brought his warhammer down with a sickening crunch to the halfling’s head. The halfling dropped to the floor lifeless.

Another dagger thrust forced the ranger to step back. Talaer turned his own blade sideways, slapping the halfling’s arm away. He followed up with an upward slice that all but took the halfling’s arm off. The halfling fell to the floor screaming in agony. He writhed for a few seconds then died.

The ranger turned to the remaining halfling. “Put down your weapon!” he commanded.

The halfling took a careful step back.

“I’d listen to the elf,” Valin said. For added emphasis, the dwarf pointed his warhammer at the halfling whose eyes grew wide at the sight of his former companion’s blood, skull fragments, and brain matter still stuck to the dwarf’s weapon.

“You two must have the key,” the halfling half-whispered through clenched teeth. “The voice said you two would get me the key.”

“You should put that dagger away,” Talaer said. “Maybe we can help each other escape this place. What else did the voice tell you?”

“I don’t need your help!” the halfling yelled back. “I’ll find my own way out of here.”

“Suit yourself,” Talaer said with finality. He lowered his blade and waved the halfling to leave.

The halfling then turned around and quickly disappeared from view around a few corners and passageways.

“I’m sure we’ll be running into that one soon enough,” Valin pointed out.

“So where exactly are we?” Talaer asked as he began rummaging through the halfling’s accoutrements.

“I don’t know,” Valin said as he searched the other dead halfling for anything useful. He held up a sun rod he found. He then placed it in his own backpack. “I woke up in this cursed dungeon with very little memory of where I hail from. I know my name, my profession and skills, but not much else.”

“So, we’re in some dungeon—Larethian knows where—brought here against our will. For what reason?”

Valin dropped the halfling’s backpack on the floor. “That’s what we need to find out.”

“May as well search this place then.” Talaer said. He fixed his backpack and with scimitars in his hands, left the room for the hallway he saw earlier.

The hallway they stood in was fairly wide. Two wells with glowing water sat in the middle of the hallway. At the far end of the hallway, they saw the small body of the halfling encountered earlier. The halfling was lying facedown on the floor. “Told you we’d run into that halfling soon enough,” Valin remarked.

They also spotted a shimmering curtain of blue blocking the entryway into a small room. Inside the room, they saw a large golden key sitting on a pile of wooden debris. When Talaer touched the shimmering curtain with his scimitar, he felt a wave of force vibrate uncomfortably through his arm. Valin, meanwhile, tossed the body of a halfling he had dragged from the other room straight at the wall of force. The body bounced off like a rag doll.

To test the well and its glowing water, Talaer then dunked the halfling’s body in it. Nothing happened so they deemed the water safe…for the moment.

As one they both suddenly turned in the direction of a sound that was familiar to the dwarven battlemind. They heard a buzzing sound grow louder with each passing second.

“I know that sound,” Valin said as he gripped his warhammer tighter. “Ready yourself!”

Stirge   lars grant west
From the end of the hallway, the two spotted three small creatures fly into view. About the size of housecats, each had two sets of bat-like wings and four wicked claws ending in pincers. Each also had a nightmarishly long proboscis protruding out of their heads.

With a loud buzz each one flew straight for the two dungeoneers. Valin easily batted one that threatened to stab him right in the neck. Another one however clawed into his leg. He felt a sharp pain as it drove its dagger-like proboscis into his leg. “Damn these wretched mosquitoes!” the dwarf bellowed in half rage and half pain.

“They’re not mosquitoes,” Talaer corrected. "They’re commonly known as stirges, bloodthirsty beasts that can clamp onto their victims and drain their blood. We’re lucky there’s only three of them. Usually they travel in “storms” of fourteen or more."

One flew at the elf. Talaer tried to swat it with his scimitar but managed to only anger it. It’s buzzing grew louder as it weaved to the right then drove its proboscis into the elf’s arm. He let loose a cry of pain that caused the dwarf to laugh despite his injury.

“Feeling lucky now?” Valin asked sarcastically.

The dwarven Battlemind then took a deep breath and began focusing his thoughts. He cleared his mind of everything and looked at the stirge attached to his leg. As a Battlemind, he was a warrior of thought and action, able to fight any foe with the combat skill of a fighter. But it was his mind that served as his ultimate weapon and armor. With his psionic abilities, Valin could tear through an opponent’s mind channeling his pain into counterstrikes that could leave even the strongest enemy reeling.

The stirge suddenly felt a mental command that had to be followed. It pulled its proboscis out of Valin’s leg which caused the dwarf to let out a grunt of pain. It then let go of the dwarf’s leg and flew at the other stirge buzzing around him and attacked it. The other stirge however was quick and darted out of range buzzing angrily at its mate.

Talaer meanwhile felt a new surge of pain as he felt the stirge attached to his arm suck out what felt like all the blood that his body had. Grunting in pain, he wedged his scimitar between the stirge and his arm tearing the thing off of him. It nearly fell to the floor but flapped its leathery wings and came at him again.

Nearby, Valin took advantage of the two stirge fighting each other. He swung his warhammer and connected with the stirge he just mentally commanded to attack the other stirge. It crumpled to the floor, dead. The other tried to attack the dwarf and missed, unable to find an opening in the dwarf’s scaled armor. The dwarf quickly followed with his warhammer sending it hurtling against a nearby wall where it exploded on impact.

The elven ranger dodged the stirge’s attack. He quickly sliced at the creature hovering in front of his face, cleaving it in half. Blood—some of it his own—sprayed outward from the stirge and covered Talaer.

The two dungeoneers were tired but considered themselves fortunate to have survived the stirges’ attacks.

“Three was enough,” Talaer said. "I hope I never encounter a “storm” of those things."

“I’ll agree to that.” Valin said.

For the next several minutes, Talaer bandaged his wounds while Valin searched for a possible secret entrance to the room with the key. He examined the halfling’s body. As he suspected, the halfling had been attacked by the stirges judging by the number of stab wounds he saw. He took a dagger and what provisions he could from the halfling’s backpack.

Valine looked around. Despite the light from the glowing water nearby, most of the hallway was cloaked in shadowy darkness. Not wanting to waste a sun rod, Valin walked back to the room he appeared in and examined one of the torches. He found that it gave ample light but emitted no heat. Valin took it off the sconce and held on to it.

In the other room where they fought the halfling, Talaer had just finished lighting a small fire on the floor using some pieces of wood he found nearby, when he heard something scrape the floor behind him. Turning to look over his shoulder, he spotted three small scaly humanoids with hairless hides, reptilian heads, and tails. Not more than three feet in height each wore leather armor and held small wooden shields. All were armed with short swords, which at the moment were all pointing at the elf.

Kobold knight by c21 d36h58k
One of the humanoids yelled what sounded like a command and they quickly charged at the elf who recognized them as Kobolds.

The first kobold took a swing at the elf, cutting him. Talaer winced in pain, angry that he had just finished binding his wounds from the stirge encounter only to be injured by these wretched creatures. He parried an attack by a second kobold and followed it up with a deep cut to the kobold’s arm. It howled in pain but kept on fighting. It yelled something that sounded like an obscenity at the elf; spoken in Draconic Talaer didn’t doubt. He knew some basic facts about the strange humanoids, but he didn’t speak their language.

Hearing the battle from the other room, Valin entered the room to find himself facing a small creature that tried to stab him with a short sword. The blade glanced harmlessly off his scale armor. He noted two others who were deftly circling the elven ranger in the middle of the room, trying to flank Talaer on either side.

“If I should fall in battle, there are healing potions in my backpack,” Talaer said to the dwarf. “I found them in a secret compartment in the statue back in the room where we woke up.”

“Good to know!” The kobold flanking Talaer said excitedly in the Common tongue. “You hear that fellas? We have potions in case we need it.”

Both Valin and Talaer exchange surprised glances as the kobolds all squealed with delight.

“Did you know they spoke Common?” Valin asked.

“I did not,” Talaer replied.

A sharp pain tore through the elf as the kobold behind him stabbed him from behind. Ignoring it for a brief moment, Talaer stepped up to the kobold he had injured earlier and swung his scimitar straight at the humanoid’s neck.

The kobold’s body slumped to the ground just as it head rolled to a stop several feet away.

Meanwhile, Valin parried another attack. In response, he swung his warhammer in a wide arc that crushed the kobold’s head on impact.

Looking towards where the elf was fighting, Valin noted how the remaining kobold was carefully weaving in and out of the elf’s sword range. Just as it ducked under Talaer’s scimitar, it stabbed upward. Its short sword cutting into Talaer’s ribs, puncturing his lungs.

Coughing up blood, the elf crumbled to the floor.

With a yell Valin charged at the remaining kobold. It tried in vain to block the dwarf’s warhammer with its shield, but the dwarf easily knocked it to the side. Turning the warhammer back, he brought it down on the kobold’s shoulder, crushing bones as he knocked the kobold down to the ground.

Remembering what the elf had told him, Valin quickly searched the elf’s backpack.


“I thought I was dead there for a while,” Talaer said a short while later. The two had just finished searching the remains of the kobolds. Save for a few personal items, they didn’t find anything of value.

“You almost were,” Valin said. “If you didn’t tell me about the potions, my healing skills probably couldn’t have saved you. By the way, I noticed that the wall of force leading to the room with the key is gone.”

“How did you manage to disable it?”

“I didn’t. It disappeared soon after the last of those small humanoids was slain.”

“They’re known as Kobolds.”

“Well, whatever they are, it seems their death caused the wall to drop.”

“Good enough then,” Talaer said. Gathering his equipment, he and Valin walked back to the hallways where they encountered the stirges. After making sure the area was safe, they proceeded to enter the room with the key.

Inside the small room, they found two bronze statues at opposite ends of the room. Both had broken off their bases and were leaning against the wall. Strangely, one statue was that of a dwarf holding a warhammer in its hand. The other statue was that of an elf. It held a scimitar in its hand.

Valin, wary of traps, carefully removed the warhammer from the statue’s hand. After inspecting it for a several minutes, he determined that it was enchanted with the ability to siphon life from whomever it struck and heal its wielder. Talaer, after examining the scimitar he found, also found it to be similarly enchanted.

With enchanted weapons in their hands, both dungeoneers looked at the key lying on top of a pile of wooden debris.

“What do you think this key opens?” Valin asked as he picked it up.

“There’s only one way to—,” Talaer started to say.

In a blinding, brilliant flash of light both dungeoneers vanished—along with the key.


To be continued in future Dungeon Games writeups.


Dungeoneers:

Valin, Talaer

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"Garden of Graves" Part 3
A Tomb of Horrors Story Arc

Eleint 3, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


Everyone heard the sound of a door opening somewhere nearby, but no one was certain where.


To be continued…


Adventurers:

Fredara, Jobek, Monro, Patch, Vyn, and Kallin Rourke

Companions:

Luthan Graythicket (male half-elf ranger companion, from Elturgard), Orva (female gnome arcanist companion, from the Feywild)

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"Got Silk" Part 1
Planeswalkers' Chronicles (Planescape Adventures)

The second Void of Mortis



To be continued…

Adventurers:
View
"Sea of Swords" Part 2
Damager's Guild Story Arc

19 Eleint, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
The Sea of Swords


Captain Blackheart’s watery form rose from his captain’s chair.

The other ghosts, sailors who served their captain faithfully in life, continued to do so even in death.

One ghost, a semblance of its former self, came straight at Damascus and struck the cleric in the arm with its insubstantial short sword. Excruciating pain swept over the cleric.

Drowned ghost
Another watery ghost faced Wraith and shrieked. Wraith suddenly felt a nauseating wave of despair slam into him. He looked at his hands and gasped in horror. His skin seemed to be melting, or rather aging quickly before his eyes.

Abyss blocked an incoming sword thrust from the ghost which tried to flank him. He then turned and broke his blade down on the spirit’s arm. It was like cutting through smoke, but the sailor screamed as his arm withered away to nothing.

Wraith suddenly screamed and clutched at his head. He turned to see Captain Blackheart staring at him. Fighting off the intense pain surging through his head, Wraith took out a vial from his pack then gulped down its content. He immediately felt the potion’s healing effects wash over him.

Lyrica moved to face two ghosts. She cleared her throat and sang in a falsetto, a short piece from an elven aria she learned from a traveling minstrel.

Their watery form wavered in painful reaction to the bard’s song, their movement slowed by Lyrica’s aria.

Meanwhile, Salil loaded a bolt into his crossbow and fired at the nearest ghost. The bolt passed through the spirit and thunked into the ship’s hull.

The spirit turned to move towards Salil when Ronak swung his enchanted greataxe at the ghost. His weapon passed through the phantom sailor’s midsection. The ghost dissipated into a puddle of water.

Within a few more breaths, the adventurers defeated the phantom sailors leaving only Captain Blackheart to contend with.


_To be continued…


Adventurers:

Salil Bok, Ronak Tripp, Abyss, Brogan

NPCs:

Lyrica Osbourne, Damascus of Candlekeep

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"Quest for Fire"
A Legacy of the Realms Side Arc

Eleint 28, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


Lendeth
The tangled maze of streets in the Netherese city of Lundeth was an easy place to get lost in.

All around the three travelers from the Western Sunset Vale people went about their business with seeming disinterest to the three visitors walking among them.

“I would think the locals would at least look at you Lo-kag with curiosity,” Caldreas Arannis said to the goliath barbarian. The great eladrin pyromancer walked with his magical staff in hand. He choked back a cough as a cloud of dust settled down on his companions and him from above.

Looking up, Caldreas spotted an elderly woman shaking a dusty rug outside of a second-story window. She gave the pyromancer an apologetic shrug then disappeared back inside her home.

“I thought of that too,” Lo-kag said shaking dust off of him. “Maybe they’ve seen my kind before.”

“Or they’ve seen enough strange folks that you’re no different to them,” Deb Merryfoot the halfling ranger said as he brushed off sand and dust from his cloak. “We are, after all, in Netheril. Strange to us is what’s ordinary to them.”

“Speaking of strange,” Caldreas added. “Are you sure we’re going the right way? The directions we were given by the stable master sounded confusing to me.”

“Wasn’t it?” Deb said. “Fortunately, you have my expertise to call upon. To be honest, I ignored the man’s direction soon after we left him. I can trust him with our flying mounts, but his sense of direction left a lot to be desired.”

“You did what?” Lo-kag asked. “You mean we’re lost then? Maybe we should have asked another ranger to join us. Was Rowan busy? Maybe we should have asked him.”

“Lost?” Deb said. “I don’t even know what that word means. Besides, who guided us all through Elturgard without so much as a map to rely on? And who navigated us through the streets of Berdusk while fighting off crazy Gauntlars? If I recall correctly, a certain goliath once got himself lost in Berdusk when—”

“Enough you two,” Caldreas interrupted. “We’re here.”

The three stopped in their tracks and gazed at the magnificent structure before them. Made from polished stone, the great Colosseum of Lundeth loomed majestically in the center of the city, it’s presence towering above nearby shops and homes.

“If Cain Justice saw this…” Lo-kag said.

“…He’d have one built in Bear’s Head.” Deb finished. Both looked at each other and chuckled.

“Except it would be floating a mile above the town.” Caldreas added. “Well, let’s get on with this and find Quan One-Eye.”

Once inside the colosseum, the three were guided to where Quan One-Eye was busy instructing other gladiators in a small but well-equipped training room.

“Well met,” Caldreas said as they walked up to the gladiatorial instructor.

As Rolando had described, Quan One-Eye was a powerfully built human. He stood just a few inches taller than Caldreas. He wore a simple crimson robe that opened in the front and exposed his scarred muscular chest. His face, too, bore a scar that ran from his forehead, over his missing right eye, and down to his chiseled jaw. His thick arms were covered in tattoos and scars.

Rolando mentioned that Quan was an old friend of his who fought his way up through the gladiatorial ranks, until an unlucky swipe of a sword took out his right eye. Since the unfortunate accident occurred, Quan all but gave up his career. Instead of fighting in the colosseum, he now trains Lundeth’s finest fighters. Rolando also mentioned that Quan was a highly respected man in Lundeth with many powerful friends and equally powerful enemies.

“Well met,” Quan said. “You three are obviously not from around here.” He turned to look at both Deb and Lo-kag who stood to either side of Caldreas. “I’m afraid I don’t train halflings, but perhaps I can train the goliath or even work miracles with you, although you’re going to need some muscles if you expect to survive in the arena.”

“I’m afraid you misunderstand the reason for our being here,” Caldreas said as he brought his staff down on Lo-kag’s foot which stopped the goliath in mid-chuckle. He gave Deb a stern look as well. “We were sent here by Rolando of Bear’s Head. You are a friend of his. He said you would have information regarding a magical item known as the Cloak of Flames.”

“I see,” Quan said looking around. “If you’ll follow me, it’s best we speak of such things in a more private place.”

Later, the three found themselves with Quan in a comfortable room. Rich carpets covered the floor. Bronze goblets filled with rich wine sat at a nearby wooden table along with bronze platters full of sumptuous fruits. Lit scented sticks cloaked the room in an ambrosia of exotic scents. Paintings hang on walls while marble statuettes occupied recessed niches.

After they had served themselves, Quan asked everyone to sit upon huge padded pillows scattered about the floor.

“Are you familiar with the Cloak of Flames?” Caldreas asked.

“I am,” Quan said. “It was once worn by Margretor, a mage Rolando and I adventured with in our youth.”

“I didn’t know Rolando was that skilled as a wizard,” Deb said as he took a bite out of a plump pear-like fruit. “I thought Caldreas here surpassed his skills as a wizard.”

“His skills as a wizard was not why our adventuring company hired him,” Quan continued. “We had heard that he had a knack for the arcane. Since our company was interested in finding lost magic items, we hired him to travel with us. He didn’t go into the dungeons with us but stayed with the horses and equipment. Once we returned ladened with treasure, we had him examine them for their value and magical properties.”

“So, Magretor has the cloak,” Lo-kag said. “Where can we find him?”

“You can’t,” Quan said. “He’s dead.”

“This trip was for nothing then,” Deb conceded.

“Not quite,” Quan said. “I do know where the cloak is kept safely hidden.”

Caldreas looked at the gladiator. “I know where this conversation is leading,” Caldreas said. “We can pay you what the cloak is worth.”

Quan raised his goblet to take a drink. “I have no need for more wealth,” Quan said pointing to the various art pieces that decorated the room. “However, I am need of help at the moment. Perhaps we can strike a bargain. You offer to help me, and in return I will reveal to you the location of the legendary Cloak of Flames.”

“Ah, sounds familiar,” Deb said with sarcasm. “We offer our services as skilled and famous adventurers. In return we get rewarded for our efforts. Someday, it would be nice if people simply accepted money for what we wanted.”

Caldreas ignored the halfling’s quip despite its honesty.

“What can we do to help a respected gladiator trainer such as yourself?” Caldreas asked taking a sip from his goblet.

“I need your help in getting my son back.” Quan said.

“What happened?” Deb asked.

“Three weeks ago, agents working for Oathem, a rival trainer from the House of Salax kidnapped my teenage son Kelek. Yesterday, I was visited by five goliath thugs working for Oathem. They told me that if I ever wanted to see my son alive again, I would need to poison the drinking water of several of my finest gladiators to ensure specific outcomes in the upcoming gladiatorial games.”

“Of course you can’t do that,” Lo-kag said.

“Naturally,” Quan said. “I cannot betray my warrior brothers—even to save my son.”

“Do you know where your son is being held?” Caldreas asked.

“My sources tell me he may be in a fort somewhere between Lundeth and Rasilith but that much area would be impossible to search.”

“What of the goliaths?” Deb inquired. “Did you have them followed?”

“I considered it, but feared for my son’s safety if Oathem found out I was trailing his pets. I did find out today that the goliaths are still in the city.”

“Perhaps we can help there,” Caldreas offered. “As you said earlier, we are obviously not from around here. No one would suspect that we were helping you look for your son. We will help you get your son back. In return, you’ll get us the Cloak of Flames.”

Grateful for the help offered, Quan One-Eye agreed to the terms.

Back outside, the group busied themselves by asking around for any sign of five goliaths who may be traveling together in the city. It took a few hours but eventually, they learned that the goliaths were entertaining themselves in one of the city’s numerous brothels. However, one of the goliaths was seen leaving the city to the north.

Following a lead, the three made their way to the Nut Cracker, the city’s most popular house of ill-repute.

“Really?” Caldreas asked as he stood before the brothel. “The Nut Cracker? Couldn’t they have thought of a better name for a brothel?”

“I suppose they could have called it The Bears Head In!” Deb said bursting into laughter.

“Or simply, The Bear’s Head,” Lo-kag offered also bursting into laughter.

Caldreas couldn’t help but laugh along with Lo-kag and Deb. “Alright, alright. Enough. Let’s go and get this over with.”

“That’s what she said,” Deb said with a final chuckle.

Lo-kag slapped the halfling in the back.

“What was that for?” Deb asked.

“You’re funnier than I thought possible,” Lo-kag said with a grin. “For a small one, you’re big where it counts.”

Deb couldn’t resist. “That’s what she said.”

Inside, the brothel was a gaudy mixture of mismatching furniture and colors. Peanut shells littered the floor. In the main room, several people were mingling about with drinks in hand or snacking on small nuts with the shells being casually thrown on the floor. Working women were busy entertaining their guest with offers of pleasures beyond their imagination or price range.

In one corner, the the group spotted three goliaths surrounded by six scantily-clad women. By the looks of it, the goliaths were rough-handling the women who were desperately trying to fend the brutes off. Even the other guests were starting to notice the trouble brewing in the corner.

Lo-kag turned to the others. “Let’s go ask them a few questions.”

“I can only imagine what their answers will sound like through broken teeth,” Caldreas said.


Coughing up blood, the remaining goliath found himself staring up at Lo-kag’s rage-filled face, his weapon inches from the beaten goliath’s head. The two other goliaths lay dead on the floor nearby.

“Where are the others?” Lo-kag asked in fury. “Or I swear my weapon crushing your face in will be the last thing you’ll ever see!”

Nearby, Caldreas was busy comforting the women who moments before were being accosted by the goliath thugs. Deb, his bow drawn back with an arrow ready, kept guard.

“Lo-kag,” Caldreas called. “One of the girls said the fourth one is upstairs. He’s in a room with two elven women.”

Moments later, with the goliath upstairs killed and the women and other customers safe, the three adventurers gathered around the beaten goliath seated on the main room’s floor.

“What do you want from me?” the beaten goliath asked as blood flowed from his mouth. “Do you want money? I’ve got some gold coins—”

“We dont’ want your money,” Lo-kag said. “We didn’t like the way you were treating those women. Damaged goods is no good to the rest of us.”

“You know if Oathem gets wind of you killing the others,” the goliath said. “He’ll have you hunted down and slain. Lo-tor left today to talk to Oathem. They’ll wonder why we haven’t returned.”

“Who’s this Oathem guy?” Deb asked as he stood looking eye-to-eye at the seated goliath. “And if he does send others, he’ll just end up losing more thugs. Eventually, he’ll run out of people for us to kill.”

“You saw how quickly we took care of your friends,” Caldreas added. He tapped one of the dead goliaths with the tip of his staff to emphasize his point. “I can’t imagine the others being much more of a challenge.”

“What if we came and worked for Oathem?” Deb offered. The goliath’s surprised look made the halfling ranger smile. “We can offer our services to replace the skilled thugs he lost.”

“You three are pretty good in battle,” the goliath said. “I can vouch for that.”

“I’m sure you can,” Lo-kag said.

“Oathem is always looking for more people to hire,” the goliath said. “I’m sure he’d like to have you three join us at the fort.”

“The fort?” Caldreas asked as he looked at the others in mock surprise.

“Yeah, the fort.” the goliath said. “It’s where Oathem and the others are. It’s in the desert, about two days journey from here. I can take you there if you like.”

Deb looked to his fellow adventurers with a wolfish grin. “We would like that very much.”


The story continues in “Quest for Fire” Part 2


Adventurers:

Lo-kag, Caldreas, and Deb

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"U'Cla"
A Legacy of the Realms Side Arc

20 Eleint, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


The forest erupted in chaos.

Lo-kag, the mighty barbarian goliath, let out a roar of pain as U’Cla’s massive claw tore through armor and flesh.

Seconds before the surprised attack, the three skilled adventurers from Bear’s Head were carefully making their way through a dense part of the Reaching Wood. Deb, the halfling ranger, had earlier scouted the area and found a cave which they suspected was large enough for a dire bear to use as a den. Caldreas, the eladrin wizard, kept to the sky just above the canopy upon his winged mount.

But as Lo-kag walked past a dense overgrowth of bushes, U’Cla suddenly emerged catching the goliath by surprise.

Deb quickly launched an arrow at U’Cla. The deadly shaft buried itself deep into the dire bear’s flank but it didn’t even seem to phase the beast.

Lo-kag quickly recovered and lunged at the bear delivering a savage blow with his weapon that would have ended the life of any other creature right then.

From atop his flying mount, Caldreas too launched his own deadly spells upon U’Cla careful not to use any fire-based spells lest he accidentally start a forest fire.

U’cla took a swipe at Lo-kag and struck again. Ignoring the pain, the barbarian attacked back in kind tearing through thick fur and sinews which hardly seemed to slow the dire bear down, while at a safe distance Deb kept hitting it with his arrows. Caldreas kept up his spell-attacks, doing what he could to help end a battle the eladrin already suspected was going to take some time.

And so the battle with U’Cla did rage on for quite some time.

U cla
While the ranger and the wizard kept their distance, the goliath relentlessly pressed the attack against U’Cla. The greatest of dire bears delivered her own deadly onslaught against the goliath who like her refused to surrender to the welcoming embrace of Kelemvor, the god of death.

Soon enough, the battle was taking its toll on both sides. But just as it seemed U’Cla was about to be slain, the greatest of dire bears broke free from the battle and tore through the forest to escape.

Caldreas quickly gave chase, urging his mount to keep up with the bear. However, the thick canopy at times hid the forest floor below. At one point the eladrin spotted U’Cla run through a small clearing only to disappear back into a thick copse of trees and equally thick brambles at the clearing’s edge.

Knowing the others may have lost sight of U’Cla, Caldreas flew back to tell the others where the U’Cla went.

The group carefully made their way across the clearing with Caldreas keeping to the air.

But as they searched the area where Caldreas last saw the dire bear, they could not find U’Cla. It seemed as though she had simply melted into the forest. Signs of her passing were evident to the skilled ranger, but they still couldn’t find her.

“How can something that big just disappear?” Lo-kag asked Deb who was also searching nearby.

“This is her home,” the halfling said. “She knows these woods well.”

“Do you see her Caldreas?” Lo-kag yelled up to the eladrin. He didn’t care about being heard by U’Cla. He wanted her to come out from hiding and end the fight.

“No,” the eladrin yelled back. “But she couldn’t have gone far or we would have seen her.”

The three kept scouring the area but after a while it was obvious that they had indeed lost U’Cla. Despite her size, Deb was right in that the Reaching Wood was her home and she knew well enough how to hide her great bulk amidst the thick growths and trees that grew in abundance in the forest.

Disappointed in that they could not slay U’Cla, the group made their way back to the dire bear’s den and searched it. There, they took whatever they found and traveled back to Bear’s Head to heal wounds and rest.

Perhaps someday they thought, someone would eventually find and slay U’Cla.

But for now they recalled the poacher’s warning that no one alive could ever slay the mightiest of dire bears.


Adventurers:

Lo-kag, Caldreas, and Deb

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"Bubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble" Part 2
Shadow of the Spider Queen (Rise of the Underdark™ Adventures)

Eleint 18, 1479, Year of the Ageless One (three days before the Autumn Equinox)



To be continued…


Adventurers:

Kursk, Skamus, and Quinn

NPC:

Tink

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"Roadside Assistance"
A Legacy of the Realms Side Arc

Eleint 19, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


Both rangers saw the man in polished plate mail armor standing in the middle of the road.

He was tall, had a weathered face, and was armed with sword and shield. They saw that his shield bore a yellow skull wearing a horned helm on a black field. He resembled a knight.

1
Behind the knight, a large wagon sat in the middle of the road. One of its wheels had been removed from the axle and was propped up against a nearby tree. A second figure in fine clothing stood next to the wagon, hands on hips, frustration clearly displayed by his body language. A cowl obscured the person’s face.

Nearby, two green-scaled drakes lounged in the sun. Beyond them, two horses, free from the wagon, grazed lazily at the eaves of the woods.

The knight smiled when he saw the two rangers.

“Greetings and well met, good travelers,” the knight said. “My name is Sir Tyros Halfhelm, a knight by trade. This gem cutter, Lerix, hired me to escort him on these dangerous roads. But our wagon’s wheel is damaged. We could use some help getting it back on the wagon, but I am hesitant to take my eyes off the road. I’ve heard tell that travelers have disappeared out this way in recent times. Brigands, no doubt.”

“Well met to you as well,” Therand said while looking around at the surrounding area. “How can we help?”

“I wonder if you would be good enough to offer us some assistance?” Sir Tyros said. “Perhaps one of you can help us with the wagon.”

“We would love to help,” Rowan said while still keeping his distance. “But we are Wardens of the Vale. Our job is to patrol and watch for danger and cannot directly help.”

The knight regarded Rowan with curiosity and a hint of frustration. "I have never heard of people whose task it is to “watch” but not help."

Therand moved closer to Rowan.

“I will climb up upon the ridge to the south and cover the high ground,” Therand said.

“Good. I will speak with this knight and see what he is about,” Rowan said. “But let us not forget our mission. We are to find the gnoll chief, Toryk. Any delay will cost us precious time.”

Therand nodded in agreement and made his way up to the high ground that ran parallel to the road. When he reached the area where the ground sloped upward towards a thick copse of trees, he found the ground soft and difficult to climb. Try as he might, he slipped and slid down. Covered in mud, Therand made his way back to Rowan who had walked back to a safe distance after speaking to the knight.

“The slope is soft and hard to climb,” Therand explained.

“Remain here then and watch the road,” Rowan advised. “I’ll try to find an easier way up there where we can have a vantage view of the road and these two travelers.”

“What did you learn from the knight?” Therand asked.

“He repeated what he’s already told us,” Rowan said. “He did add that they lost another in their party further down the road from where they came from. He described an ambush by brigands.”

“Yet those two managed to have escaped a deadly ambush?” Therand added with a hint of disbelief.

“Aye,” Rowan said. “My thoughts exactly.” The ranger then turned and quickly made his way towards the slope. From where Therand stood, he could see Rowan making good progress up the slippery ground. In a short time, the ranger had disappeared from sight.

I’ll be just as skilled someday,” Therand whispered to himself.

Keeping the knight in his view, Therand walked over to a large oak tree at the edge of the road.

Above the road, Rowan quietly pushed his way through thick briers.

He suddenly stopped. The scent of smoke caught his attention.

Turning away from the direction of the road, he made his way towards the source of the smell.

He emerged from between two maple trees. A camp was spread out before him. Three weathered tents were pitched around a campfire that looked like it was recently put out. He quietly moved into the camp, keeping vigilant for any signs of the camp’s inhabitants.

A man suddenly stepped out of a tent a few feet from where Rowan stood. The man was dressed in leather and held a longsword. The man’s eye grew wide in surprise when he spotted Rowan. He opened his mouth to yell—

Rowan silenced the man with a well-placed arrow shot into the man’s throat. The man fell back into the tent. Rowan spotted another man emerge from behind a tree at the other side of the camp. The man, too, wore leather but held a short bow in his hand. The man turned to flee into the woods. Rowan stopped him with arrow through his back.

Roadside 1

Rowan quickly ran through the camp searching for any more of the armed men. When he was certain no one was left in the camp, he quickly made his back to the road to warn Therand.

Therand meanwhile scanned the area nearby. The knight and the other man working on the wagon’s wheel suspiciously kept looking at his direction. Therand also noticed that the knight kept looking towards the treeline where Therand was. He looked around and swore he saw what appeared to be someone hiding behind a small maple tree a short distance away.

Therand had an uncanny feeling that something bad was about to happen.

Above the road, Rowan moved fast. He came out of a thicket and spotted two more men trying to hide behind a large outcropping of rocks. They were both armored like the men back in camp. Each also had shortbows drawn back and trained at the road below.

The ranger moved in quick, firing arrow after arrow into each one. Both lay dead by the time Rowan reached the edge where the ground sloped downward.

Down below, Therand fired at the figure crouched behind the maple tree. His arrow struck the tree but scared the hidden figure into revealing himself. A short human man armed with a crossbow stood up and fired in Therand’s direction. The bolt zipped past his head.

Suddenly another figure—a male half elf—emerged from behind a clump of thick bushes some distance away. The figure raised his crossbow and fired at Therand. The bolt struck the ranger, nearly causing him to double over in pain.

From the direction of the wagon, Therand heard the angry chirping staccato of the scaled-drakes get louder. He looked towards the wagon. The knight, Tyros, was moving in his direction while Lerix, the cowled figure working on the wagon wheel ran towards the tree line.

Therand knew he was being flanked.

He fired again at the nearest crossbowman but his aim was too high.

Fearing he would be surrounded, Therand ran towards the wagon hoping to find better cover. All the while, he wondered where Rowan had gone. Was he dead? Did he flee back to Bear’s Head to warn the others? All these crossed his mind as another bolt buried itself into his lower back.

He managed to make it to a short tree when he suddenly spotted Lerix step out into the open from behind a bush. The man’s cowl fell back to reveal a cat-like face with reddish eyes and oily brown hair. Small black horns grew out of his forehead. Therand recognized Lerix as a tiefling, beings who can trace their ancestry back to the Nine Hells.

With a wicked grin, the tiefling raised his hand and pointed it at Therand. His hand began to glow. Suddenly, a fiery bolt materialized and hurled itself at the ranger. When the magical bolt struck him, intense white fire quickly spread throughout his body burning him painfully wherever it touched his exposed skin.

Giving up his position, Therand bolted towards the wagon. He saw the two horses tethered near the wagon. If he could reach one of them, he could try to escape on horseback. He knew Rowan was capable of taking care of himself.

A crossbow bolt zipped past him, while a second one struck his calf.

To his right, he saw armored knight run behind the wagon for cover. Behind him, the tiefling wizard sought cover behind a large boulder. He was looking up where Rowan went earlier and was shouting orders to the crossbowmen to be alert.

He looked at the nearest horse and saw something that nearly caused him to stop dead in his tracks. Unbelievably, the horse started to split in two! The entire top portion of the horse was separating itself from the lower half. Inside the fake horse, two men armored in leather were trying to take off the lower half of the horse which was held up by suspenders worn by the two.

Moments later, they were both free and had unsheathed longswords. Both looked at Therand and started to move towards him.

Therand took aim and fired at the two men. He struck one who dropped dead. The other kept moving towards him.

Just then, another magical bolt struck Therand from behind. Searing heat engulfed him sending waves of fiery pain throughout his entire body. As darkness engulfed him, Therand felt the ground rise up to greet him. Then everything went dark.

Above the road, Rowan watched as Therand was struck by the tiefling’s fiery bolt. He quickly loosed an arrow that struck the tiefling. He also saw a man armed with a longsword run up to the fallen ranger. Seconds later, the man raised his blade above the ranger’s body then drove the blade downward to make certain Therand was dead.


To be continued…


Adventurers:

Therand & Rowan

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"The Hunt for U'Cla"
A Legacy of the Realms Side Arc

Eleint 18 – 19, 1479, Year of the Ageless One


“It’s too bad I can’t turn U’Cla into my own mount,” Lo-kag said with disappointment. “Since everyone has mounts these days, it’s time I got one too!”

Caldreas and Deb both smiled. True, since Huntrah had first arrived at Bear’s Head mounted on a terrifying wyvern he named Sting, it seemed many were seeing the value of owning a mount. Caldreas had recently purchased a hippogriff from Iriaebor, while Deb had acquired a dire wolf as a mount.

Around the three, the sounds of merrymaking; of singing and drinking grew louder. With three days remaining until the Autumn Equinox, it seemed people were busy celebrating before the onset of winter. There was much to celebrate about after all. With the Sunset Vale free of undead once again, life seemed to be returning to normal again.

Across the room, a satyr bard just finished playing an sad elven tune on his lyre. He stood up from his stool and got the crowd to join in a song of thanks to the person who invented beer. The crowd raised their mugs in salute at the song ended.

No sooner had one song ended when a table of goblins—rare goblins who chose to live among civilized people to abandon their evil ways—offered up a song of courage and foolhardiness to a particular goliath, halfling, and eladrin, whom the goblins heard where going after U’Cla, the mightiest of dire bears.

And so the night went on until the inn closed and adventurers and townsfolk alike left the Bear’s Head Inn or turned in for the night.

**

Early morning mist still clung to the ground when the three left the comfort of Bear’s Head and made their way to the Reaching Wood.

Several miles into the forest, the group encountered a band of poachers who surprised them with a volley of bolts fired from crossbows. The adventurers returned the ambush with attacks of their own which claimed the lives of every poacher save one, their leader. Unfortunately, the battle also cost Deb to lose his mount which was killed during the encounter.

When interrogated, the leader revealed himself to be a person with a bounty on his head. Kira, the innkeeper of Bear’s Head, had told the group about a man who was poaching in the Reaching Woods. The town of Bear’s Head had then placed a reward on his head.

Satisfied they had the right man, the three gathered what they could from the slain poachers and made their way back to Bear’s Head to turn the poacher over to the authorities. Along the way, they asked him what he knew of U’Cla and if he had seen signs of the dire bear which they were hunting.

“That devil of an animal killed some of my men several days ago,” the poacher said with spite in his tone. “I was lucky to escape with my life. Now you will try to kill it? Gods be with you, but you will not be able to kill it. There is no one alive who can kill that beast.”

After leaving the poacher with the guards at Bear’s Head, the three traveled back to the Reaching Wood with thoughts regarding what the poacher had said about U’Cla.


The story continues in U’Cla


Adventurers:

Lo-kag, Caldreas, and Deb

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