The evening grew overly long as Rift finished the tale of the battle with the Duergar and so we all headed back to our chambers to sleep off the buzzing in our heads and the heaviness in our bellies. The next day the tale of the destruction of the Bloodreaver Gang continued.
Originally there had been five: a cleric, paladin, fighter, wizard and warlock. They had done great deeds for the Nentir Vale, including the destruction of a terrible portal that threatened to link this world with the greatest depths of evil. Upon their successful return to Winterhaven there was nary time to rest. The warlock Tira and the wizard Skamos hastily departed on a personal quest – a tale which is best suited to another chapter. Meanwhile, her high excellency Marla of Pelor arrived with news of the Bloodreavers and their abductions of innocent townsfolk of the Harkenwold. The adventuring group had been split but it was quickly reformed by the impetuous Rift and the brash young ranger Erik Stormgrund who had done the initial tracking of the Bloodreaver gang to Thunderspire Mountain.
At Marla’s bequest, and with the promise of a handsome reward from the Baron of Harkenwold, the group traveled southeast along the King’s Road to Fallcrest and then further east along the Trade Road to Thunderspire Mountain. The mission was to rescue the captives from the mysterious Bloodreaver Gang.
The story resumes with the adventurers having travelled into the very heart of Thunderspire Moutain, through the Seven Pillard Hall and mazes of the Minotaurs. My patrons have told tales that are incredible and I still cannot believe even half of it. Yet they have drawn me in, and not just with the new coins in my pocket nor the fantastic tales of alleged deeds, but with the full story that continues to unfold now, as I turn my quill back to the parchment…
9) Into the Chamber of Eyes
“Where were we? ”, asked Rift, still bleary eyed as though she had just gotten out of bed just in time for dinner. My effort to answer by scanning the prior day’s notes was interrupted – “Oh, the duergar battle, um, the flaming little creature I turned to ash as he ran from the battle for help. Yes, we then took a rest in that chamber so that we’d all be stronger for the next battle. You know, we had heard this nasty guttural breathing of a terrible beast which lay beyond those double doors.”
Listening to her out of one ear, I peered up from my notes as Z’alden and the dwarf, Barrick, joined us at the table. “Where are Felsmon and Erik?”, I inquired.
“Felsmon is out out looking for Erik. We think Erik is out in that glade of aspens meditating”, answered Z’alden.
“Erik likes to talk about, uh, what’s the word… finesse. Ha!”, rejoined Barrick, “Ain’t noth’n better than standing toe-to-toe with the enemy in full-on combat. Bash. Bash. Never had any use for dancing.”
Despite the ribbing, it was clear to me that by this point Erik and Rift had been fully accepted by the original three. All five were very different in their personalities and fighting styes, but it was these differences which made them stronger.
“So, there we were, mending out wounds from the battle with the duegar”, continued Z’alden, “We spent some time deciding what to do next. We knew that our immediate destiny lay in that double-doored room, but to try to go around the back or make a frontal assault? What say Bahamut?”
“Frontal assault!”, grinned Barrick. “Got me this scar from that one”, he said, showing it off proudly.
Z’alden continued, “We lined up in the corridor, Barrick leading the way, followed by Felsmon and then the rest of us; Erik with a bow. The plan was to have Barrick and Felsmon enter left and then right, with me in the middle and Rift and Erik laying down long range attacks. Instead, when Barrick peered around the corner, it was ‘thwap, thwap, thwap’. A hail of arrows rained down. Praise be to Bahamut that Barrick survived.”
Z’alden then described the room as long and rectangular. At one end were the double doors and at the far end was a statue and carving that formed a shrine to the evil toad god Torog. On each of the long sides were stairs that ascended to a high ledge that hugged the perimeter, giving access to the shrine to Torog. In the center of the floor were heavy chains which the adventurers surmised were used to hold the captives. Positioned in the middle of one side was a door – access which the adventurers would make use of. This was the “chamber of eyes”. More interesting were the current inhabitants of the room…
“Despite the storm of arrows, Barrick counted three hobgoblin archers, their chief and an enormous wolf-like creature”, explained Z’alden.
At this point Felsmon returned with Erik who had been fetched from his day of training. Z’alden and Barrick excused themselves to go get a pint of ale, with Barrick’s eagerness being quite noticeable. Rift sat in the corner rubbing her head, muttering about a new potion to combat intoxication as though it was some physical foe. Erik continued the story of the battle that unfolded…
“The archers had anticipated our arrival. Barrick slammed the door shut just in time, with the hot breath of dire wolf just on the other side. At first we didn’t realize it, but upon looking at Barrick, he was quite injured. So using divine healing words, Z’alden restored Barrick to good health as best he could.”
“Rift and Felsmon then quickly headed for the side door that Barrick had spotted. The plan was to try to make a less, uhh, bold entrance, and perhaps grab one of the enemies. We were all concerned about the side rooms that they had to pass along the way – those rooms had not been cleared. Luckily everything was okay, at least until they got up to the side door.”
“When Rift burst open that side door the hobgoblin chief and one of his archers were ready for her and attacked. It’s amazing, but that little Rift is quite the hard one to hit! She responded with a wicked scorching burst of fire – and then another. They paid the price. Trust me, don’t mess with this wizard!”
The mentioning of Rift’s name was enough to distract her, but instead of commenting she uncharacteristically just smiled.
“At that point, another hobgoblin archer turned to fire on Rift, but missed, as did his comrade by the door who was armed with a sword. Room had been made for our heavy armor, Felsmon, who then rushed past Rift and charged out onto the ledge. With a mighty heave, the hobgoblin guard was knocked off the ledge to the chamber’s floor.”
“Meanwhile, back at the double doors, Z’alden swung them open and immediately cast his divine powers against the dire wolf. I joined the fray along with Barrick who was still suffering from his wounds and failing to connect with the giant wolf. Only one of my two arrows found its mark.”
“Across the room we could see the hobgoblin chief raise his guard back up to the ledge. This was a disheartening sight to see! Sword and arrows Barrick and I know, but magic? Our strength here is in Rift who immediately attacked the guard, shoving it once again off the ledge. The first kill. Seeing our plight with the dire wolf, she moved along the ledge to flank it, but the hobgoblin chief got in a strike. Our wizard – in melee combat!”
“From across the room, the remaining two archers shot at Felsmon, one missing completely and the other reflecting off his mighty armor. Not even flinching at the arrows, the dragonborn concentrated a mighty blow against the hobgoblin chief, sending him reeling backwards. A turn in our favor.”
Erik’s increased hand gestures belied the calm the young ranger sought to present…
“Z’alden’s powers are amazing… from across the room he attacked the wolf while giving strength to Felsmon, who now stood alone on his side of the room. Aye, brave paladin. The hobgoblin chief leapt off the ledge rather than further face our Felsmon.”
“At this point I attempted to set a flurry of arrows upon the beast. Alas, only one struck, but it mattered little for Barrick had regained his composure from that first hail of arrows. His axe swung with brute force, striking and sinking deeply into the mangy flesh of the dire wolf. It now lay dead before us. A thrilling sense of impending victory washed over us.”
“Rift now turned her focus to the remaining two archers, who still threatened us from the floor and the far ledge. She let loose her arcane fire, burning both and making them think twice about their current motivations. Yet they still did not yield. In a flurry of chaos they moved to attack the un-armored wizard, dealing two serious blows but not before she could get in a strike of her own.”
“All the while, Felsmon was running along the ledge to get to the archer on the far side, stopping momentarily to let out a mighty roar… the fearsome attack of the dragonborn… lightening shooting forth to strike the hobgoblin chief and an archer.”
“Seeing Rift in a bad way, Z’alden said a prayer of Bahamut that sent out healing energies to Rift while striking at a hobgoblin archer. With the battle going our way, but Rift still in peril, I then moved into the chamber to attack the enemy chief. Two arrows just grazed him. I must work on my skill with the bow, for he then turned his anger toward me, dealing a fair bit of damage. Fresh off slaying the dire wolf, Barrick also joined the battle in the center of the room, which now had a second hobgoblin attacking me.”
“The thick of the battle was on. Z’alden flanked the guard and with his mace struck hard, branding the foe with glowing runes and empowering Felsmon. I dodged back from the hobgoblin chief and finally, at long last, let fly my best arrow. I could sense the arrow’s feathers guiding it to a gap in the chief’s armor. It sunk deep. A lethal blow. Krand, the hobgoblin chief, was dead!”
At this point Erik sat back in his chair with contentment. The battle was not over as Z’alden took maximum damage from one of the remaining hobgoblins. But it was a loosing battle for the two. As one tried to escape up to the ledge, it was knocked unconscious and the other was out-right captured. This hobgoblin, Argrink, was interrogated but revealed nothing of use.
Upon searching the Chamber of Eyes, the adventurers found a silver key on Krand, the hobgoblin chief, which lead to many riches when used on the chest in his personal chamber:
- 5 gems consisting of 3 amethysts and 2 peridots - a rather large quantity of gold and silver - a potion of healing (as identified by Rift) - battle forged plate armor (for use by Felsmon)
Finally, the group received a clue about the whereabouts of the captives. It came in the form of a two-day old letter from one Murkelmor Grimmerzhul:
This is my written agreement of the purchase and transfer of the prisoners taken from Riverdown. The sum of 1,000 gold pieces was given by me, and received by Chief Krand.
Barrick and Z’alden had returned to our table, not only with a second round of ale but plates of food. Rift also sat close, still quiet, but becoming more of her lively self. The story of the Bloodreavers was not done. The Chamber of Eyes had not been fully searched…
10) Bloodreaver’s End?
Well, the five brave adventurers seem to have a nice tidy tale. But, being an inquisitive and bright scholar, I like to explore all angles to a story. Especially a humdinger like this one. Imagine my surprise then, when a battle-scarred human bandit (as I presume he must be), showed up in the tavern one night, long after even Barrick had lulled himself to sleep. This bandit, if he can be believed, had an interesting tale.
“Th’ name’s Bawb. Yep, that’s right. Bawb. Short and sweet, not like me.”
“So ther we wuz, me an’ my comrades. Just sittin’, shootin’ the breeze, knocking back a few. Those hobbies and gobbies may stink, but they can sure hold their ale. And the tales they tell of their womenfolk. Whew!”
At this point, the bandit, who smelled none too good himself, nearly choked on a turkey leg, before getting a hold of himself.
“Wait, where wuz I?”
“Oh yeah, just minding our own business, we wuz. Slavery’s hard business after all. Humanoid’s gotta have a chance to relax once in a while… All of a sudden, bang! Some fool kicks the door in. Don’t know what we wuz expectin, maybe a troll or something. But, noooooo. It’s a group of high-falutin’ adventurers. Ha!”
Here, Bawb spit vehemently, narrowly missing my +1 mouseskin slippers. What an uncouth fellow. Still, one must deal with all sorts.
“So, the first thing we see is like this half-pint fighter type. Guess he was a dwarf, tho’ I don’t hang around much with them rich types. Probably had tons o’ magic too, seemed like he really liked that axe of his. Anyhoo, then this guy in the back starts shoutin’ about dragons or some such nonsense. Whatever. Finally, this chick waving a stick like thinks, oh she’s so cool. And what does she do? She freezes our butts off! Unbelievable. Crank, Billie, and Buggyboo are like down for the count, like frozen fish or somethin’.”
“Then, get this. From the kitchen, we hear a cry for help. Poor Stinky and Rottentoes, just tryin’ to cook up a decent spread (so we don’t eat them instead!) Har, har! Anyway, these burly type dudes have somehow forced their way into our kitchen. Well, me, I figure they must be after our stash of ale. Why else attack our innocent band?”
Here, Bawb gets quite worked up. Evidently, the remainder of the story must be quite painful to recall. But, after I buy him a few rounds, he manages to choke down his tears and forge ahead.
“Well, we wuz no match for these types. Must’a been 10 of them, all wailin’ on us with battleaxes, swords, big dragon heads breathin’ fire, crazy women with hands ‘o flame. You name it. Man, now I’m a good fighter mind you. But once I seen poor Rottentoes go down, guts hanging on the end ‘o the sword of that stealthy ranger-type, then I just had enough. That ranger, he’s nuts. Not to mention his big scaly friend. You think to yourself, I seen it all. But no, along comes something like that, lightnin’ shooting out of every orifice. I mean, geez. It ain’t worth it.”
I quietly ask him what he did next.
“What did I do? Hummph! I did what any self-respectin’ bandit would do. I ran for it! But no, they wouldn’t let me get away, would they? Probably wanted a bandit head for a trophy or somethin’. First that daft female wizo type is breathin’ down my butt, flames comin out of her hair and such. Then, the big dragon dude stomps over and starts shoutin’ at me. Couldn’t understand a word he wuz sayin, but he wuz scary. Threw down my sword, said I surrender, like twice and all. But no, clonk me on the head, they do, then drag me around after ‘em like a sack of rocks. Head still hurts.”
At this point Barrick, who had been sleeping under a nearby table, staggered up. As soon as Bawb caught sight of him, his eyes grew wide in alarm.
“Aaaaaaa! The bearded short one with the axe! Torog blast me!”
Grabbing his mug of ale, the bandit leaped up, knocking over his chair, before running for the door.
I put down my pen, sentence unfinished. I do not know quite what to think. Was the bandit indeed describing the same group of so-called adventurers? If so, then perhaps I underestimated them. I must ponder this further…