Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Escape from the Horned Hold - Out of the Frying Pan...

Erik shoots arrow (evasive strike) into the red duergar.

Rift icy terrain’s, kills duergar and 1 orc, other orc falls prone.

Two prospectors with hammers, run up, both miss hitting the orc.

Two prisoners run up, try to kick the orc. Both miss.

Duergar attacks Heath, knocks him unconscious.

Barrick runs!

Z’alden fires crossbow at the duergar and hits!

Erik tries twin strike and misses!

The orc surrenders.

The duergar runs off.

We all run off back to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

A nervous kobold hands Felsmon a note.

We make it back to the inn. Rest at last!

Z’alden sets up his potion factory, and starts cranking them out.

We buy arcana components. All of them.

Time to go down the Deep Stairs to meet whomever wrote the mysterious note. Is this a good idea?

There’s a giant bronze magma guy, behind a suspiciously round boulder.

Two tieflings – “Now you die!” Oops.

Barrick and Felsmon both have snakes on the brain.

Z’alden delivers up some crushing damage with his daunting light.

Erik delivers up some serious arrow action. The female tiefling is dead.

The bronze guy tries to block the door – Barrick blocks him instead.

Felsmon is on fire again?

The male tiefling is down for the count.

Bronzy knocks Felsmon down. Then he knocks Barrick and Erik down.

Erik uses his super-secret “Hit-and-Crawl”(TM) power to both attack and flee at the same time.

Rift (useless in this battle), cheers Barrick on. “Go, dwarf!”

What are the two weird clear daggers?

Erik is still crawling.

We all attack! Bronzy falls with a huge crash. Splig stands on top of his body.

Why does the Ordinator try to kick us out of the Seven-Pillared Hall?

Boy, are they surprised when they find out that Paldemar the Ordinator is in league with the gnolls. Oopsy.

We take the two tiefling bodies to the Well of Demons. Sounds like a pleasant enough place.

“Mask, bell, blade, & tome.” What does it mean?

We fight two spidery things, a ghoul, and a long tentacle creature.

Erik, stunned, grabs ahold of himself and fires arrow after arrow.

Z’alden (did we mention he’s saved the party like 10 times?) blasts apart the ghoul!

Felsmon, Z’alden, Barrick, and Erik gang up on the remaining critters. More daunting light!

All dead.

Endurance in the Horned Hold

“What a piece of junk”, I thought to myself. Having spent so much time with my heavily weaponed patrons, my impulse had been to purchase a fine dagger, yet this shiny new toy seemed to have no utility. I gave it another toss at the tree, but the dully jeweled hilt just bounced off the trunk with a thud. At least this time I hit the tree. I cursed myself for giving in to the lust for this thing and spending what now seemed far too much. Still, the fantasy was there and I picked up the dagger and resumed my duel with the tree. Cut to the left, cut to the right, I feigned a stagger backwards for a throw to finish off my foe, but when my arm came forward nothing flew from my hand. Where had it gone?

Erik tapped me on my shoulder, balancing the dagger upon a finger of his left hand. Then with a motion too fast for my eyes, that hand moved to snatch the dagger from the air and flung it at the tree. A bull’s-eye, no less, had there been a mark. He had nearly startled me out of my boots, arriving at our meeting in such fashion, but Erik could also see my amazement and I could almost see a smile in his eyes. He then sat upon the bare earth, leaving a flat rock for me. He had come to tell me more of the tale of the Horned Hold, a fortress deep within the bowels of Thunderspire Mountain. It seems that this place was more of a mystery than just a stronghold for the Grimmerzul.

The five adventurers had traveled far through the minotaur’s labyrinth, passing mindless horrors within its tunnels. Upon reaching the great chasm, they found the Horned Hold and had battled to get within its walls. Having felled several mighty duegar in the first bastion, they moved to the second, crossing the bottomless chasm upon a narrow bridge. Within the second bastion a series of battles took place. Alas, there was no rest for the weary warriors. Upon defeating the ettin, a two-headed giant, they paused only to be interrupted by an alarm from Rift, the wizard. Luckily she had thought to look out across the second bridge to spy four duergar sneaking up…

“Duergar!”, shouted Rift, “One large, two with red cloaks and a standard!”

She then carefully moved the double doors’ bars into place. Would the doors hold against stout dwarven battering? The others moved into position. Erik drew his bow. The paladin and fighter moved up closer, just in case the doors could not hold and the worst would happen. Z’alden stayed back, guarding the rear for possible attack.

Bash! Bash! The creaking doors shook violently upon the frightening duergar blows, yet they held. The five’s spirits lifted. They had endured that long series of battles without a rest and were desperate for recovery. But there was no time to recover. Rift and Erik fired back at the duergar through the arrow slits, each attack dealing crucial damage. If they were going to come through the door, they would first have to pay a toll.

Bash! Bash! Again the duergar slammed upon the now nearly splintering doors. But they held. The five thought that they might actually get a chance to rejoice. More magic and arrows from Rift and Erik stung the duergar. Defeated, the foes ran back across the bridge to safer ground. If only the chasm had been able to claim them to depths unknown.

Perchance to rest? Felsmon and Barrick now joined Erik and Rift. So too Z’alden, ever watchful for the well being of his comrades. After helping Barrick as best as he could Z’alden then moved out to watch the narrow bridge. Erik remained to watch the wide bridge while the others fanned out. Searching then resting.

Half-way through the rest, Rift spied a creature from the rear – bad news since it lay between the five and their best escape. She tried to blast it, but it ducked away. Finally, though, a rest. A time to regain powers lost. A time to renew hope.

The pressure to keep moving was still ever present. Surely the duergar were forming hunting parties. They would never give up so easily. So the five moved on through the hold past a balcony which gave a view out across the chasm to the first bastion. Out of the corner of his eye, Erik thought he could see something up high, either on or over the roof top. No matter, time to move forward, past a door, into the blackness.

Now off the balcony and into the inky black chamber, Rift’s sunrod illuminated what appeared to be a chapel to the demon-god minotaur Baphalmat. The once ornate sanctuary for the minotaur now lay broken, with rubble and oppressive dankness. The adventurers ventured further in.

Out of the blackness stumbled a hideous wraith – a disgusting sight whose boney form loosely held together rotten flesh. As un-sturdy looking as it was, it could still deal out serious damage, with Z’alden feeling it first. Sharp claws bit into him, giving him shivers to the core and weakening his ability to heal.

“Awe, but just one!”, thought Barrick only to reconsider as another wraith teetered forth across the rubble. The ensuing battle quickly saw Barrick surrounded. Draining blows of necrotic damage eliminated his ability to heal. Felsmon, the proud dragonborn paladin, strode into the fray, his mighty sword cleaving into the foul flesh of the wraith. Just as the battle reached a plateau, Z’alden turned the tide. With silver and purple light emanating from him, the cleric disintegrated two of the wraith outright. The others noticeably shriveled in the light. Quick blows from Barrick and Felsmon finished the rest. The battle had been won, but at a cost that was only to be revealed later.

The best way out of the cursed chapel was forward, deeper into the now more mysterious Horned Hold. Rift’s deft lock picking abilities were laid upon the exit, only to not budge the rusted door. With violent yank, Felsmon rectified the situation, nearly tearing the door from its hinges. Beyond was a minotaur burial chamber. Grizzly corpses lay resting within shallow niches in the wall. From nearby, Erik could hear sounds… sadistic taunting… of prisoners? Could the team’s quest be just behind a single iron door?

Now Rift’s thievery skills ever so softly charmed the iron door. Peeking through, a large chamber could be seen, with pits, a pool, prisoners and unholy creatures. Two red spiny devils and three duergar. Five on five – a fair fight! With that, the adventurers burst in, taking evil by surprise. Flank left. Flank right. Erik down the middle engages the first of three duergar with spiny red devils much farther away.

Oh to have the first blow and not to be the recipient! Erik was struck by the duergar war hammer. Rift silenced the far side of the room to prevent the fight to become unfair. Rays of frost. Flaming spines shooting from the red devils. Burrowing. Poisoning. The chaos. The confusion. The battle was not turning to the favor of the adventurers! The duergar spell caster stood tall for someone so diminutive, dealing blindness, slowness and still more poison.

Soon the adventurers began to feel as the the five-on-five fight was not so fair. As if by some curse from above, after holding on for so long on the brink, Barrick was felled. His ability to heal had been robbed by the wraith. He lay unconscious. Meanwhile, the paladin raged on, giving something back to the wicked. One red devil would surely not forget one particularly fierce blow of Felsmon! And so the battle continued – the adventurers reeling from the blindness and poison, unable to shake the spellcaster’s evil magic. Every bit of healing was immediately taken away. There was not much left, yet inspired by healing from Felsmon, Barrick stood once again!

Back and forth the battle drew on. The adventurers walked on the very edge of defeat yet endured, trading blow for blow. Was the end near? Powerful waves of despair from that spell casting duegar seemed to continually shout, “Yes!” With poison coursing through their veins and blindness filling their eyes, the adventurers refused to hear that answer. Now and never.

From the depths of his remaining powers, the pillar of the team’s hope, Z’alden spent his final healing force. Aiding his friends in both body and spirit, Z’alden laid the first of the duergar to a watery grave. Its slow-motion soft splash into the pool was noticed only momentarily for the battle was still being fiercely waged even as it gently sank, muscles now relaxed.


Barrick was still gravely wounded and at the limits of his endurance. Surely he would soon succumb, but there was more to come from the humble priest, who then laid a second duergar to a final, restful repose. Cleared of surrounding duegar, Erik was now able to draw his bow and he employed it upon the spell caster. Still no luck as the spellcaster blinded Erik and the hapless Barrick. Felsmon now turned his javelin’s attention upon the spell caster – the devils floating out of reach over a pit and the pool.

Flaming rocks of brimstone hail rained down on Z’alden and Erik. It would be one of his last successes, for Felsmon, Erik and even Barrick laid into him with javelin, bow and axe. Felsmon’s throw killed the spellcasting duergar. Erik’s arrow killed a red devil but the other devil had no mercy, attacking Barrick from behind to take him beyond his endurance. In truth, a last gasp from the evil as Erik’s final shot ended the battle once and for all. Alas, too late for poor Barrick.

With the battle over, the adventurers stood silently within the prison chamber. Cries of help from the captives rose up from the pits but the adventurers might have well still been blind to the caterwauling. They knew that this was a defining moment. They knew that even with all their energies depleted, their endurance must somehow continue.

Barrick was soon stabilized and returned to something of akin to the walking dead. In all, ten inhabitants of the Harkenwold were pulled from the pits along with four adventurers and, curiously, one goblin.

Storming the Horned Hold

Torben Eastlander woke with a start. The scrivener had been up late with the Dragonborn Paladin trying to get the last bits of the adventurers’ exploits as they entered the Horned Hold. He was tired. Was he dreaming? No, for certain, there in front of him, occupying most of the tiny inn bedroom, was the definite head, yes there were the eyes and most assuredly the teeth, of a platinum dragon. Smoke wafted from its nostrils. The smoke was silver and purple and seemed to dance in the air. It had a scent of lilacs. Huge wings extended beyond the edge of Torben’s sight. A bass voice rumbled, almost so deep that he felt it more than heard it, “The five serve me with their compassion, with their fierce pursuit of justice for the wronged. My paladin and my cleric, the dwarf, the ranger, and the wizard, they all bring honor to me with their courage. Their story will honor me throughout the ages. Listen to them and write it well.”

Torben closed his eyes. He meekly nodded his head in ascent. He heard nothing. When he opened his eyes, the room contained his small cot and washbasin. His pack and his writing instruments were still on the small table. He was soaked in sweat.

He dressed quickly and hurried to the tavern room. Few were up so early, but he almost leapt for joy when he saw the form of the Half-Elven Cleric finishing some eggs and bacon.

“Z’alden, you must tell me what happened after your party slew the five orc guards. Was there some harrowing adventure? Some near miss at death? Some valiant struggle? What?”

Z’alden shook his head in wonder at the scrivener. He had never showed such passion for their adventures before. And, Torben was ashen white. He looked as if he had seen a ghost. “Master Eastlander, are you feeling alright?”

“Fine, fine, never better. Now, what happened?”

Z’alden took a sip of ale, and started to tell of their next encounter.

“A hallway led past the orc sentry post to a large forge room. We found two more of the Dung-gar and their loathsome orc companions. One of the vile un-dwarfs was a wizard who could reach into the fire and shoot a fireball at several of us. Still, we did not falter, Felsmon and Erik quickly dispatched this nasty Urwol wizard, with Erik’s sword piercing the heart. Then, the mighty dwarven warrior’s axe slew his dung-gar henchman. It would not be the last time that day that the blades of our comrades felled these heinous imposters of true dwarves. An invisible duergar attacked us and then fled as his comrades were slain. The orcs, showing their cowardice, ran down a wide hallway to the next pod. By the Teeth, we tried but we were not able to catch those hideous creatures before they had made good their escape.”

Torben grew visibly nervous at Z’alden’s oath. He regained his composure and said, “Please, please, continue.”

“We tried to find the invisible Dung-gar but to no avail. We did find a curious scepter with the skull of a minotaur. What evil this might be or purpose it would serve, we knew not, but took it with us, lest it be used against us. We were happy to relieve the duergar of a few small coins, too, that will help to care for the needy (196 gp, 206 sp). Then, we found a smaller bridge, just one staff wide. This we crossed and entered another part of the Hold after Rift kindly opened the locked door with some handy tool she carries. It is a wonder that she has these marvelous keylike-instruments, as though she knew that our noble pursuit of the prisoners would be barred by locked doors. Very useful.

In this next pod, we found a room with two more of the nasty un-dwarfs. Barrick tried to engage them in a kind bluff, so that we might simply find the prisoners and put an end to these battles. Instead, in anger at seeing us “Topsiders” behind the door, the nasty beard quills from a fighter slashed into Rift. Another wizarding one sent waves of despair flooding over us and the nasty fighter tried to slay me with his flaming warhammer. But he was in for a surprise, as the healing in my true Dwarven armor restored the wounds he had inflicted, and the Light of the Dragon burned his eyes even as it empowered Felsmon. And when this “Gorderoy” tried to run away from me, by the Claw, I swung my crossbow like a club and felled the vile Dungheap, as Erik’s flashing blades laid low the undwarven wizard.

Unfortunately, this little ruckus had brought into an adjacent room two more of the nasty warhammer boys and with them, magic wooden constructs that fired dual crossbow bolts. These inflicted heavy damage on Barrick, Erik, and Rift until Felsmon was able to get his sword into the fray. And more than that, his lightning breath made them rue the moment they had responded to their vile comrades’ call for help. I , too, finally shaking off the despair that had dazed me, was able to call upon Bahamut and let these duergar feel the Flame of the Great Dragon, even as the power of Bahamut healed Rift. Most amazing, the wizard teleported right next to the constructs, slamming them with her staff.

Felsmon’s sword ripped into one of the Duergar, but the other coward ran away. We gave chase. Erik’s blades chopped one construct into pieces and seriously damaged the other but not before I felt the sting of one of their bolts.

The cowardly Dung-heap ran down a long hallway, through a pair of double doors, to another long chamber, and through another pair of doors. After the final construct was fallen, Erik, seriously injured, switched to his bow to extract a great toll on whatever enemy might sally forth from these doors, even as Barrick and Felsmon led the way down the long hall.

Suddenly, the double doors exploded. There, before the warriors was that hideous nightmare of a two-headed giant, the Ettin. With a club in one hand and an axe in the other. Behind him were orc axe-throwers. Rift shouted with glea and placed her powerful flaming sphere between the Ettin and his little axe friends. They knew the power of our wizard and regretted it that day. Despite the size and ferocity of the giant, Felsmon and Barrick did not falter. Instead, Felsmon gave a guttural laugh despite what was surely a great pain as some huge reservoir of energy was ripped from him, channeled into his sword, and the Ettin knew the pain of confronting a Paladin of Bahamut. Embolden by my comrade and enraged by this trap of the coward, I stepped forth and an image of the Great Dragon’s head formed in front of me sending silver bright flames of sacred fire at the giant’s head. These flames brightened more and the Ettin screamed, as the battle called forth the hidden power of my holy symbol, and I exacted an even greater price, thanks be to Bahamut. Then, the valiant dwarf ripped his axe across the belly of the creature. All the while, the orcs threw their axes barely able to even target us with this monstrosity in the way. But, the victory seemed not to be ours as the axe of the Ettin dropped the mighty dwarf to the ground. The Dragonborn roared, his sword finding the spark of life in the giant and snuffing it out, even as lightning passed from his sword to his fallen comrade Barrick. Instantly, thanks be to Bahamut, the dwarf was revived!

Erik’s arrows flew past us, as the orcs lasted but a few more seconds before only one remained standing. Rift’s flames had taken a heavy toll on the orcs. The surviving coward fled before we could give chase. And, that dunghill of an undwarf who had led us into this ambush jumped on Rift’s flaming sphere before we could capture him and question him as to the location of the prisoners.

Barrick was hurt more than I realized, and by the Wings, I said my most fervent prayer that he might recover further. Indeed ,my prayer was granted as he was restored some.”

Z’alden paused and his eye gleamed as recalled the valor of his companions. Z’alden was called out of hid reverie by Torben, “Is there more? What happened next? Did you capture the orc? Did you find the prisoners?”

Z’alden looked at the scribe. “Yes, there is more to this tale, Scrivener, but your hands are trembling. Rest some. Here, have some meat and cheese. A pint of ale. You really must try to relax. It is not as though you have a dragon breathing down your neck.” And the cleric of Bahamut smiled.

Into the Horned Hold
The adventurers enter the duergar stronghold

That evening I finally cornered the enigmatic young Felsmon. He was unable to make his usual departing excuses because of a promise to Z’alden to carry Barrick from the public house back to the inn after the latter had inevitably fallen asleep under the table, his beard matted with grease and spilled mead and, maybe, blood. Seems the group was to make a foray to a graveyard early the next morning, and this was the only way to ensure that Barrick could actually be located at sunup, prone as he was to late-night drunkards’ walks if the barkeep turned him out.

Felsmon glowered down at me, though I stood while he sat. No, he wouldn’t accept a drink from me. No, he hadn’t seen Rift, or Erik, or even Z’alden that evening. No, he hadn’t been waiting a long time to tell me his story, in fact I could visit Asmodeus for all he cared, and take my pen, ink, and scroll with me. His was a threatening presence in the tavern, never touching a drop but glaring at any who walked past. His companion, Barrick, tried to hold his head up for one more pint, or maybe three, humming a tune that I had oft heard of late.

I had researched dragonborn culture in preparation for this long-delayed interview, and I knew that their warriors were especially desirous of the fame that accompanies their feats of battle prowess. “Felsmon”, I said, “I seek only to make you famous. What could be better than people singing your praises because I wrote that you killed hordes of orcs in dire circumstances?”

The intense youngster narrowed his eyes. “People singing my praises because I killed hordes of orcs in dire circumstances.”

It took me a moment to sort out his answer. Did he see me as a mere popularizer, not the professional, dependable scrivener I strove to be?

“I assure you, my good … fellow, I would never invent embellishments. To the contrary, I have always questioned the accounts I have received from your party in the most doubting terms! Only consider your supposed death and resurrection!”

“I still bear scars.”

“Yes, but scars could be from any battle injury.”

“No. I do not mean physical scars.”

I was no longer sure he was even talking about his own, temporary, death. On a hunch, I tried a new tack. “Felsmon”, I asked, “how came you to be with this motley collection of adventurers, rather than fighting alongside your own kind?”

He did not answer for a full two minutes, yet never lowered his gaze from mine. I thought I saw his life pass through his face then, but it might as well have been the history of his clan. Distant wonderful memories, a homeland, then a long period of training and perseverance, challenges both physical and mental, a triumphant entry into adulthood, followed too soon by carnage and devastation, his world in tatters at his feet. In the end, he only said one word, which was worth a thousand pictures: “Orcs”.

But after this incident, his face softened, becoming to me more human than dragon. I sensed the connection between the tune Barrick was humming and our conversation about embellishments. I knew that the song finished with the floors awash in orc blood, and hoped this would loosen Felsmon’s scaly tongue.

“Felsmon, would you be so good as to fill me in on the details of the day you met up with the famous five orcs?”

He hesitated, but finally nodded in assent.

“I take it you five were in the labyrinth together. What happened?”

“It started on day before. We heard sounds behind door, deathly sounds. Barrick and I went at door together. He smashed his side into room, full of skeletons. I bounced off my side and fell on my tail.”

I recognized this as an irony. He was testing me – how gullible was I? Did I know anything at all about his kind? I laughed, then ad-libbed, “Ah, I wondered how you had lost your tail!”. This gained his respect, and he continued:

“Creepy hands kept Barrick immobilized in doorway. Bad news for them. If you want someone to stand in doorway, it’s Barrick. Might as well be boulder there in his traction boots and shield. Rift, Erik, and Z’alden shot over his head, cutting ungodly creatures to pieces from hallway, may Bahamut have mercy on them.”

This was already more words than I had ever heard from the silentest of the band. I knew that Dragonborn have no articles in their language, so I was not surprised that Felsmon would not bother with them in Common, either. I did notice that he brought a very different attitude to spirit-cursing than Barrick did, probably because of his Paladin background.

“Did you not factor into the fight personally?”

“I finally got into room, took swing or two, but it only lasted seconds. Barrick shrugged and walked away before it was even over. Erik did find fine piece of tricked-out leather armor among remains, though.”

“What were you thinking during the battle?”

This seemed to annoy him. “I was thinking that my clan had not yet contacted me with news of our annual meeting, and that it had been long time since I heard news of my brother. What do you care?”

Not certain why he was annoyed, I moved the questioning on to the next battle. “So then you found the famous five orcs, from the song?”

“No, we wandered long after that, finally coming to path along chasm. Erik and Rift spotted trap, but sprung it like fools, not that I would have done better, with my bulk. Two javelin turrets dropped from ceiling to protect far end of path, and struck Z’alden before we could clear out. Twice they struck him.”

“I suppose you next all charged the devices together, shouting oaths?”

“You might think so. I would think so. But these older guys are not so predictable. Barrick, no stranger to charging, sat against wall to sharpen axe. Rift played with mage hand. Z’alden, after healing himself, said there was time for charging, and time for planning, time to hold your ground, and time to run away. I think he was joking.

“So, you and Erik took out the turrets from a distance?”

“I hit them twice with javelins. They were far, and needed momentum, and each time I was barely able to leap aside without being struck. Erik is more nimble and needed no momentum for his bow. He could loose two arrows, then slip out of way easily. Finally I learned. I sat with Barrick and sharpened my weapons while Erik finished his fun.”

The other patrons had already left the tavern. Barrick’s head was on the table, but he had not started snoring yet. Felsmon had a few minutes to finish his story.

“Soon we smelled orcs. They were around corner, guarding entrance to Horned Hold. I was ready, but last lesson was fresh in my mind, and when others voted to sleep, I did not argue. Neither did I sleep.”

I paid my bill, and Barrick’s.

“We had elaborate plan. Rift prepared ritual to unlock gate of guard tower, while Erik tried to lie his way in. Barrick even role-played Duergar. Finally, though, they asked for password. As Rift’s spell took hold, Barrick came out with our group’s internal password – “Death To Orcs!” He and Erik grabbed unlocked door, but it did not budge. As usual, I was hidden so I would not scare our prey, and could not reach the door at first.”

“You know I have to ask – did the battle really happen like in the song?”

Felsmon answered slowly, but honestly. “It … it started like in song. Rift teleported into that room, alone with 5 armed orcs, and us on outside, struggling with door. That part is truth, which rides with her until end of her days.”

“Soon enough, though, we had door open, and charged in, murderous rage in our faces. Erik sliced and diced as always, but this time left some for others to kill. Barrick took many blows, but gave as good as he got, and ended fight at Rift’s side, great defender that he is. Rift and Z’alden worked together: first she turned ground to ice, whereupon several orcs fell, then he cast his own spell upon that ground, shouting ‘By the claw, they shall not stand again!.’ I had never seen that spell from him, but it produced tremendous pain.” Here Felsmon smiled with great glee.

“You say nothing of your own fighting.”

“That is for others to judge. I did put one or two out of their misery, may Bahamut grant them peace. But, Rift could probably have survived alone, she was so sharp. She too brought forth new spell – torture in form of vicious icy hand. New favorite of mine.”

“What did you do after the battle?”

“I desecrated bodies of slain orcs according to customs of my clan. May Bahamut clean and salve their wounds.”

With that, he picked up Barrick as if the 200-pound lump were a bag of grain, and left without another word, his face once again a mask of scales.

I know from my research in what fashion dragonborn are accustomed to desecrating the bodies of enemies, and I will not go into detail on that topic here. The reader will no doubt have trouble reconciling that disgusting practice with the civility of Felsmon’s spirit-cursing. I have trouble reconciling them myself. This huge, brooding warrior turned out to be as deep and as mysterious as he seemed at first meeting. I felt for once out of my league, and retreated to the comforts of my warm den.

Addendum: Although the lyrics of that song are never the same twice, I did manage to write them down as they were sung once by Barrick when reasonably sober. The tune, if there can be said to be one, is the usual rise-and-fall that accompanies sloshing beer glasses:

I know a wizard, her name is Rift

Magic’s her calling, but trouble’s her gift!

Down in the dungeons some orcs we sniffed

Guarding the Hold they were taking their shift

We cooked a plan up, the gate to lift

But Rift couldn’t wait, so she ‘ported in, Pfft!

Five orcs there were and they gave her short shrift

As she stood among them alone and adrift

Oh, I know a wizard, her name is Rift

Magic’s her calling, but trouble’s her gift!

First orc swung at her but he just whiffed

Rift swung right back and he got a facelift

Second orc charged her, but she was too swift

Into his skull she cleaved out a deep rift

Third orc connected and she was miffed

He died a eunorc, if you catch my drift

Oh, I know a wizard, her name is Rift

Magic’s her calling, but trouble’s her gift!

Fourth orc came at her and might have lived if t’

Other orc hadn’t knocked him adrift

Rift swung a club and his noggin she biffed

Then turned from his corpse, and looked at the fift’

Last orc was wary, and he didn’t shift

So Rift cast an ice spell till his body stiffed

Oh, I know a wizard, her name is Rift

Magic’s her calling, but trouble’s her gift!

Stand by her side and she’ll give you a lift

But get in her face and she’ll cut you down swift.

Near Death in a Cube
Two tough encounters almost put an end to the adventurers

Highly charged Duergar

Torben Eastlander – what shall that name mean to the ages? For a pittance I write the tales of others be it the convenient history of a lord or now the tall tales of a motley crew out to seek their fame and fortune. Who am I to protest? Just who am I? My dream is to have my words survive me. So, with this in mind, I embark upon my passion – the epic poem…

Misdirection rather than to arms
The proud ranger disguised as common man
Did play the fool to gain the trust
Duegar so unwilling

From the rear the others did sneak
Perchance to find an open door and a map
Alas the door had upon it a lock
Knock knock

Who goes there? twas the call
Barrick being dwarven did best answer too
Only to arouse suspicion was the result
Alerted more in the interior

Alone the ranger stood with Duegar brave
Keen sense of the fray that was to be
To reveal the trick would be undoing
Depart in haste

Z’alden’s righteous plan now in action
Through the front door to fling the ash
Countless souls snared for unknown purpose
Right the wrongs twas Z’alden aim

Quills of beards of Duegar did fly
Missing their mark as Z’alden stood tall
To aid came Felsmon, Barrick, Erik and Rift
Metal to metal

Lightening and ice hit two but twas returned
The ranger took a mighty blow concerning the priest
Divine glow of goodness and terrible power against foe
Healing and hurting

Battle turned more Duegar revealed
Kedhira, master of the hammer and of villainy leads
Another through a second door from the side
Wizard in harms way

Though quills missed the willowy wizard
The leader’s brimstone fire did catch a few
Felsmon and Erik return the blow
One Duegar to fall

Flaming hammer hammered, to the surprise
Ranger not so quick to dodge the heavy blow
Rift the Wizard let the flames fly but no more
Grimmerzhul eat fire

To the rescue again the incomparable priest
Heal his friends and smite his foes
Yet Kedhira a wave of despair afflicts all
Worse to come

Dragonborn paladin battles though the middle
To the side stand the ranger and stout fighter
Blades flash but few to touch the hammer wielders
Dragonborn downs another

Afar Kedhira laughs releasing blinding poison
The priest and ranger stagger
Yet bad turn does not affect the dwarven fighter
Slay another does he

Daunted not Kedhira blasts down four including his own
Caring not for friend
Brimstone still from Kedhira flies
End it must

Yielding not the terrible Kedhira breaths once more
Poison clouding the brave but not in purpose
For the brave dwarf Barrick wields his rending axe
To split black dwarf

Dead is Kedhira and soon his wicked friend does flee
Stout Duegar caught by opposite, the willowy wizard Rift
Survives to reveal secrets
Though unwilling

Treasure not the wealthiest reward
Secrets of the Duegar tell of greater challenges awaiting
Battle to be fought and captives freed
To glory


Ghosts and some Ooze

Five wander the ancient Minotaur labyrinth
Horned Hold waits on the map beyond the chasm
Fortress of Grimmerzhul tricked and trapped
Fear no darkness

Wraith scream out the way ahead
Malevolent and soulless floating hate
Priest and paladin strike first, wizard joins
Fortune in the cards

Creeping doom of transparent goo slithers to
The five caught unawares until priestly divine glow illuminates
Wraith thrown back and transparent cube is hit
False is the gain

Ranger’s bow lets loose two shots to strike
Paladin’s breath born of dragon shoots lightening
Wizard’s spell of cold and icy hamper the foes
False is the battle’s direction

Dwarven axe to vapor wraith turns
So too turns battle as gelatinous cube gobbles two
Wizard and paladin engulfed in acidic goo
Twisty is fate

Ranger turns arrows on the cube perchance to save
Paladin escapes the corrosive cube of slow digestion
Priest and fighter remain to fight wraiths
Wizard floats

From within the wizard weaves a scorching spell
The cube shudders but does not belch its food
Wraiths no more on the run
Turn to attack

Ranger arrows sink deep into the hateful goo
Failing defenses hurt the fighter as wraith flank
Alas, too close the ranger is engulfed and joins the wizard
Battling from within

Healing from without the priest bolsters those within
Dire straights as wizards grows weaker and weaker
Valiant effort from fighter to rescue fails
Dwarf is now food

Acid eating dissolving flesh within the terrible cube
Brave and righteous paladin rushes to attack
Heals friends and smites the foe
Wizard’s burst finishes

Tide turning at the last none too soon
Fighter and wizard to turn the wraiths to ruin
Gasping gooey adventurers reflect with renewed respect
Lessons learned


The Chamber of Eyes
In which the adventurers defeat the Bloodreavers


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…

Inside the Bowels of Thunderspire
Boldly, the adventurers pursue the BloodReavers


When a mad-eyed dwarf and his filthy companions first bade me sit at their table in the public house, I pretended not to notice them. Dark traces of blood skulked on their weapons, and they shared a certain hardness in their faces, as of a small band of warriors facing a dark and endless horde.

But they knew me to be a scrivener’s son looking for work, and would not have me demur. Besides, they paid more handsomely than even my esteemed father, once scribe to royalty, could have expected. At least, they said they did. Many of the coins and artifacts with which they presented me were, and remain, unknown to me and everyone else in this town.

They wanted me, they said, to transpose their diaries, listen to their stories, and compile the lot for the sake of posterity. Fair enough, but what I got to work with were scribblings, drunken ramblings, and tales of such outlandishness that I feared for my reputation if I reported them as factual. The ragged band is gone now, supposedly off on another adventure, and I do not expect to see them again. I swore to bind their preposterous stories and publish them, and so I have. I did not swear to tell them in my own voice. Sometimes I have done so; other times I have written down their words, and sometimes I have simply included original written texts I received from them, transposed in my hand.

If even a small part of what is related here is true, our world is stranger, more troubled, and much more deadly than we think, who walk in daylight and nestle in the warm bosom of our homes.

-Torben Eastlander

1) The Road to Thunderspire

Based on interviews with the survivors.

According to what I heard during several sessions with my employers around an ale-drenched wooden table, the Thunderspire epic began with introductions. Two of the five adventurers were new to the others, who had been together for some time, having fought in the company of two other since-departed wariors to seal off a “Rift”, as they termed it, that would have allowed the most monstrous creatures imaginable to enter our world. As if those sitting across the table from me were not monstrous enough.

I immediately saw this claim to be stuff and nonsense, “Rift” being simply the name of one of the newcomers, a female Eladrin Wizard with more intelligence than the rest combined, but as little impulse control, according to the dwarf, as a “seasick goblin”. The other newcomer, Erik, was a stealthy Ranger type, maybe a little too proud of his ability to wield two weapons at once. Along with the Dwarf, who claimed to have been fighting for a hundred years, but seemed instead to have been drinking that long, there were also a half-elf Cleric with a strong grip and a gift for erudition, as well as a strapping Paladin Dragonborn who, the others insisted, had already died in battle. He didn’t look dead to me.

After a couple days’ journey east along the King’s Road, the fast-moving group turned up the cobbled path towards the mountain. Spirits were high. They had been training, studying, and equipping since their last battles, and all reported progress and a feeling of confidence, save the dwarf, who was troubled by his feeling that magic was beginning to encroach upon his hitherto all-natural fighting style.

They entered a long passage into the mountain, wide and lined with torches.

2) BloodReavers’ Blood

Based on an interview with the dwarf Barrick

“We passed many dark passages to the left and right, not much scent, and finally saw light coming from under a door. We listened, and it seemed like an innocent halfling was being held against his will. Truth be told, we had little enough reason to think so, but we smelled goblin or worse, and anyway we never pass up the chance for a fight.”

“Felsmon thought to scare the occupants out of defending themselves – if anyone could do it, he could. Smashing in the doors, our pal made a din – Hah! He’s a Pal-a-din, get it! Anyway, he shrieked at the 5 creatures inside to lay down their weapons upon pain of death, while we all grunted and clanged our steel, but they just laughed, and 4 of them came right at us.”

“Both our additions, Erik and Rift, were quick off their marks, wanting to prove their mettle to us, I make no doubt. Now, I don’t mean to make excuses, but I hadn’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since my battleaxe turned out to have a hex on it. The others said I should be glad to have it, since I used it to slay Kalarel (May Bahamut infest his remains with poisoned maggots). But I hate magic – except when it’s healing me, of course – and the cursed axe lay there by my side, every night, making me feel cursed, too. Come to think of it, almost like a dwarven wife. Anyway, now, in the first real fight since the fall of Kalarel (May Bahamut slay his descendants in their baths), I was slow to use the thing, and when I finally did, I missed, and missed again.”

“Luckily, the others were on their best feet. Erik often got in two blows for every one he received. Rift conjured a blast that burned all five of the baddies, and topped that by hitting their leader with some kind of ice spell – the old hot-and-cold routine. The steadfast Cleric Z’alden was up to his usual stunts, slamming the poor Weavers [sic] with magic jolts left and right while boosting the fortunes of the rest of us, as is his wont. And our pal Felsmon made a din– oh, used that already, did I? – anyway Felsmon moved in close, ducking a blow on the way, then softened up three of the beasts with his breath alone, though you mightn’t believe it if you hadn’t smelled it, and then gave a shocking thump to the breast of one of them. That must have boosted the youngster’s confidence.”

“Watching my comrades with my jaw hanging open, I got hit hard in the gut, which doubled me over. Good thing, because their leader just then sent some magic blast, which hit everyone but me. It knocked all 4 of my friends off their feet, and even killed one of our enemies for us! Still bent in half, I watched helplessly as another attacker swung a mighty stroke at Felsmon as the lad lay prone – but Dragonborn are agile for their size, you know, and the swing only bounced off the stone floor.

“It looked bad for us just then, but Rift, still on the floor, had an idea to cause chaos to our attackers by spilling ale from a set of casks lining one wall, using a creepy floating hand spell. Sounds crazy, and maybe it was – that Rift can be a loose hammerhead sometimes.”

“Funny thing though, as soon as the smell of that ale hit the air, our luck started to turn. Erik had been badly hurt, but healed by Z’alden, and with the scent of brew in the air, he strode up and killed their leader with a double blow, as calm as a halfling weeding a garden! Then I perked up, the pungent goblin ale stench flowing in through my nostrils and pushing the bad magic out of my head. I leapt up on top of the nearest casket, feeling the strength flowing up to me on the odor, and gave a huge strike down on the head of the nearest Weaver [sic] (May Bahamut rain fire on his village). Even that didn’‘t kill him, though.”

“Rift came out with another ice shock – don’t remember Skamos, who was a Wizard too, using that one very often – and both our remaining targets fell, one breaking his neck on the way. Erik dispatched the last one soon enough, after Felsmon had slipped on the ice. And so it was over.”

“Afterwards I sat on an emptying barrel of ale, holding my axe, which was a stranger to me now, as the battlejoy flowed slowly out of me to join the ale in a puddle on the floor. I wondered how much the cursed axe was to blame for my poor showing, only one good hit in an even 5-on-5 fight. Was I becoming useless, as the others threw more and more magic around? Erik flashes two weapons around like lightning, and here I could barely control one? Felsmon, at twice my size, moves around the room on his young legs faster than I?”

“So, I did what I always do when I think too much – I started to drink.”

3) A Halfling’s Tale

The half-elf cleric Z’alden spoke with such earnestness that I thought, at first, he was trying to convert me to Bahamut. Then, I realized, the breathlessness arose from his mental struggles, as he tried to recall what had occurred after the fight Barrick had described. Here is what he relayed to me. Believe what you will.

“Barrick’s morose feelings are betrayed by his excellence in battle. His bravery and skill are legendary. Even still, his strong arm was weak compared to the strong mouth plastered on the face of the most ungrateful rescued halfling you have ever met. Indeed, we had just saved the little Rendil Halfmoon from becoming Rendil Half-a-head, and he lips off here and there to us. I was astonished. It was preposterous! Still, he knew much about the BloodReavers, their comings and goings through secret tunnels in this mountain.”

“Even more incredibly, he told us the directions to find their lair. And, finally showing some gratitude, offered to lead us to a wonderous underground city and host us in the finest rooms at his family’s inn.”

Z’alden described an incredible city, the Seven-Pillared Hall, carved deep within Thunderspire Mountain. I nearly spit out my ale when the half-elf exclaimed, “Minotaurs! It was built by Minotaurs, who destroyed each other in a civil war over what god they should worship. Religious wars can be difficult if one is too fervent. Never get too fervent. Have faith and act to destroy evil. Uphold justice and help the weak. Smash undead whenever possible. That makes for a good day. Simple.”

Finishing his little homily, the cleric completed his story. The halfling led the group to the city’s watchman, “Brug”, supposedly a Ogre over 12 feet tall. Likely not. The group had to pledge to tell no outsiders of the city. And, yet, here I am writing down their very notes and tales. Some pledge. Still, the wonders of three mage rulers cloaked in black hoods who could teleport in and out of an underground tower and stop any and all conflict among the disparate races who lived in the city deserves mention if only for the level of fantasy that the half-elf clearly believed from the halfing’s story of the city.

The Bahamut cleric described the Halfmoon Inn of Rendil’s as a fair place, far more comely and pleasant than the one we find ourselves in now. In gratitude, Rendil’s mother, Effra, did give 3 rooms to the group to house them and offered the rooms for as long as they were not taken.

Incredibly, Z’alden seemed to recall little else of this halfing, other than still smiling when he thought of the map that Rendil had provided, directing them to the hiding place of the BloodReavers. Something about a goblin who had been unable to make a map and wanting to track down the greasy beast and teach him map-making in his own blood.

4) Hall of the Seven Pillars

I tried to divine from the group the description of the so called Seven-Pillared hall. As not one of the party reported counting seven pillars I wonder as to the accuracy of their ramblings. They gave me a map of the hall although the lines appear to be too straight to be sketched in the dark of a cave. If one can believe the tales of a fully functional city, hidden underneath the cold, drenched Thunderspire peak, then here it is.

The city is controlled either by a self-inflated ogre named Brug or Brugg, or was it Grub, or controlled by invisible mages each of which can single-handedly quell all drunken brawls.

This city apparently is inhabited not only by humans, elves and halflings, but also by drow, orcs and duergar, and possibly worse. A dwarf selling gemstones, now that I can believe, but a half-orc running the local taproom? Now I ask you friend, have you ever seen orcs and drow working side by side? Neither have I. Ah well, maybe I can sell this rabble as a story for the little ones; no one else could possibly believe such pap.

Not only did they tell me of a bar and a inn deep inside the mountain, but a wainwright, a fully stocked merchant and even a happy little curio shop run by a grumpy drow named Gendar. The waterfall and bubbling brook flowing under quaint stone bridges sounds like something from a fairytale, not a hardened trading location for the Underdark. It almost brings images of a goblin and her secret bugbear romancer skipping hand in hand over the stones.

The temple in this fabled city worships Erathis, the god of great invention and civilization. Hardly the proper choice for a cramped hidden group of ruffians living in old crumbling damp stone buildings.

The inn is run by a pair of halflings, Rendil, desribed elsewhere in my writings, and his mother Erra. I wonder if the ale there is any good, now I could see good ale being the cause of unfriendly creatures sharing a table. Peradventure my old legs might carry me to this place some year for such a mug.

Oh, and one cannot forget the mage’s tower, accesible only by dancing in front of a statue of a minotaur. What a party this dark place must be.

No, not one piece of this tale makes any sense. But if I do not honour my word to put this down on parchment then I am nothing.

5) The Chamber of Eyes

As the scrivener turns to Felsmon, the paladin grunts and lightning flashes between his teeth. The scrivener then turns to the rest of the party “Does anyone else want to describe this part of the adventure?” he says shakely.

6) Battle of the BugBear

The conversation then turned to the encounter with the bugbear. For this I became better acquainted with Erik, the young human ranger who had just recently joined the adventuring troop. He and Rift shared some kind of bond but it was tough to discern the exact nature of their connection. So I asked Erik, “Tell me about Rift”, and his response was quick, “She’s an elf.” With that illuminating answer, I knew that many a glass of ale would be finished before this tale was told. Erik then let out a loud “Ow!” as his head bopped forward as if someone had slapped his head from behind. Rift shouted from another table, “High-elf!”.

I then began to tease the tale of the bugbear out of Erik. Fortunately his tongue flowed faster and looser as additional quantities of ale were applied.

“From the entry room of the Chamber of Eyes, we crept along the balcony toward a door to the east. We’d soon set ourselves upon the enemy into glorious battle. I was in the lead as I have the most quiet manner. Around a corner I could see a room with a couple of goblins – easy pickings. I then signaled for the group to advance. When we did, we were shocked to see a giant, goblinoid creature in a part of the room that I hadn’t been able to see. More for the glory of my twin blades!”

“All hell broke lose in that small room. Beds and tables obstructed our movement and I found myself on the far side of the room, going toe-to-toe with the terrible beast. [Later determined to be a bugbear.] It stood somewheres over seven feet tall, wild with matted hair. My companions remained on the other side of the room hampered by the obstructions, none the least of which were the two goblins.”

“While I battled the bugbear, two more goblins appear from another entrance to the room. Curses. Luckily there was a fire pit between me and them, but unfortunately one of them kept pelting me with a crossbow. I had to stand and take the bolts, being too busy getting licks in on the bugbear. Brave Felsmon did what he could to help me, leaving his back undefended to face the goblins. With mighty strength the Dragonborn pushed the bugbear into the fire pit. A foul stench of burnt bugbear hair filled the room. Arcane magic sprung from Rift, freezing the just recently singed monster. At least I wouldn’t die with foul burnt bugbear fresh in my nostrils. Seeing me seriously injured, Z’adlen channeled the power of Bahumut whereupon a divine glow enveloped me, giving me enhanced vigor to fight on. I then let loose a furious twin-blade attack on the bugbear. It staggered back only to fall dead on the cold, stony floor.”

“Eager to escape the goblin’s crossbow, I leapt across the table and deftly struck at the two remaining goblins in the room. Each sword simultaneously plunged deeply into its target, slaying them both.”

With this little part of the tale, Erik squirmed as if his trousers were in a bunch. “I was the one who instructed you to simultaneously attack the two goblins because their backs were to you as they fought us!”, shouted Rift, still sitting at the other table but now observing with a contemptuous look on her face. She then joined Erik and I at the table, choosing to sit quite close to me that made me feel both awkward and gladdened. With the insouciance that only Rift could so masterfully deliver, the story was finished for Erik…

“The remaining two goblins fled. They were later easily dispatched by my fiery sphere.”

Given Erik’s wounds from the bugbear and goblin crossbow, surely Z’alden’s immense healing powers had been used, aided by a powerful item they had found. Some kind of “Belt of Sacrifice.” And so the tail of the Chamber of Eyes continued, with a drunken Rift still sitting at my side…

7) Mystery Room

Scrivener’s note: I was unable to make enough sense of a scrap of parchment handed to me by the barely-literate dwarf, as usual in a drunken stupor. It seemed to be an attempt at recording part of their adventure. What part, he never told me. Some sort of contest of strength perhaps? I have transcribed it here.

Room: Walls
Middle: Wall
Smell: Rocks
<illegible>: Gold?
Half-wall: shape of “L”
Mermaid carving: serpent from waist down
- doodle of stocky mermaid with very large bust -
Plan: Push
Erik: Pushd.
Zalden: Pushd hard
Smell: Mold
Barrick: Pushd very hard
Felsmon: Pushd very very hard.
Lookd at walls
Lookd down
Lookd up
All: Pushd very very very hard.
Rift: Magickd
Z’alden: Magickd
Smell: Fishes
I Hate Fishes
All: Pushd very very very very hard.
Go kill Bloody Weavers.

8) Duergar Battle

Based on an interview with the beautiful, but troubled, eladrin wizard, calling herself Rift.

When asked what her last name was, she started shouting oaths in a strange primordial tongue. After being restrained by her less-hasty comrade Erik, she started her tale, amid much muttering and cursing… Note to self – Give this one a wide berth in the future…

“As I was saying, my name is Rift. I have no last name. I am an eladrin, although I prefer the term ‘high-elf’. As a wizard, I try to control the battlefield through my arcane mastery of fire and ice. This gives my brave companions the opportunity to sink their swords and axes into the weak hearts of our cowardly enemies, or into meddlesome scribes who ask impertinent questions!”

“Anyhow, our brave companions and I had decided that a frontal assault on the double doors was not a wise plan. It seemed wise to me, but I have been accused of having the brains of a mindflayer and the wisdom of a scurvy-plagued goblin. Fine. No frontal assault.”

Here, the wizard broke off again with much muttering, and could only be brought back to her tale with my promise of fine wine.

“Well, as I was saying, we snuck down a narrow, disused passage until we came to a door. Now, being brave, we decided to burst open the door and charge. Unfortunately, the room turned out to be quite small, with a huge fireplace, roaring like a thousand dwarves who are out of ale. The room was also, unfortunately, occupied by two of those vile duergar. Unlike their more peaceful and happy-go-lucky brethren (like our good friend Barrick), these duergar had the audacity to attack us with their toy warhammers.”

“Then, to make matters worse, these foul creatures began pulling out quills from their smelly beards and throwing them. Our poor friend Erik, nimble as he is, was not quick enough to dodge one of these poisonous missiles. Well, we decided it was time to give these wretches a good close shave.”

“I played what modest part I could, conjuring up a sheet of frigid ice to cool their tempers, and knocking them senseless to the floor. Felsmon, Barrick, and Erik quickly took advantage of this, surrounding the hapless imitation dwarves, and furiously raining blows down upon them. Z’alden, good soul that he is, channeled the power of Bahamut to aid us and to blast these cursed freaks of dwarven nature.”

“Summoning up my reserves, I conjured a living ball of fire, a sphere of doom, a radiant burst of flickering dea…”

Here the wizard choked on her wine, spraying it across the table and extinguishing the candle. After the undead dragonborn had thumped her on the back, and she had re-lit the candle with a wave of her shapely hand, she continued.

“Like I was saying, the sphere of flame appeared across the room, striking out at one of the terrified duergar, scorching his ugly backside. With the smell of burning duergar in their nostrils, my comrades became emboldened, striking even more fiercely. The pesky goblins were the first to fall, the heat of the flames and the mighty sword and axe strokes were too much to bear.”

“It was at this moment that a dreaded hobgoblin warcaster appeared. But, it was to no avail. Hemmed in by my brave comrades, with their backs to the flames, our foolish enemies could do little. Alas, a little was enough. The warcaster, seeing his mongrel friends being ground into dust, became enraged and weaved a spell. The waves of pure energy surged across the room, picked up our poor comrade Z’alden, and sent him skittering into the fireplace like a burnt offering to his mighty god.”

“But Z’alden is made of sterner stuff. Shaking off the glowing embers, he emerged from the flames completely unscathed, except for the stinging smoke in his eyes. A miracle? No, we wizards do not believe in such. It was simply luck.”

“Z’alden, insisting that his scaly god had saved him, became ever more wrathful, urging our companions to strike down our foes. Dutifully, we complied. Down went the warcaster, still muttering an unfinished spell in an unholy tongue. The last to fall was one of the duergar. He stumbled out the door and down the stairs like a drunken dwarf, the ball of fire trailing behind him. Just as he reached the handle of the double doors and freedom, a tongue of flame leaped out and incinerated him. Unfortunately, his charred corpse had enough momentum to swing open the door, making his pathetic demise visible to all those in the chamber beyond.”

Her black eyes flashing, elven ears pointed jauntily, Rift thumped me on my back, causing my quill to splatter ink across the page.

“Well, that is enough for now, eh, scribe? How about more of that fine wine that you promised?”

‘Tis passing strange, but when I checked my purse to order more wine, my gold had mysteriously disappeared. I do not understand what happened to it… Ah well, no matter. The eladrin, Rift, has generously agreed to pay for all our expenses. She is really quite fetching in that green robe.

Discovering Thunderspire

As the three old comrades, the brave and noble Paladin of Bahamut Felsmon of Dragest Igetnem, the mighty dwarven warrior Barrick, and the heartfelt warrior priest of Bahamut,Z’alden Silverflame journeyed from Winterhaven to Fallcrest with their new companions, the able Ranger Erik Stormgrund and the impetuous but brilliant Eladrin wizard Rift, they were not quite sure what to make of their new companions and their new mission. Enlisted by Marla of Pelor, the 5 gathered needed equipment at Winterhaven, rode to Fallcrest, and discovered more information about the Bloodreavers and their lair of Thunderspire Mountain.

Sealing the Rift or... The Thing in the Portal
Will Kalarel fall?

On the left side of the doors, the half-elves Z’alden Silverflame and Tira Duskmeadow waited. On the other side, Skamos Redmoon, Felsmon, and Barrick also waited for the acolytes of Kalarel to pass through the doors and spring the trap. Skamos’ Tielfing tailed twitched in anticipation. The wizard had placed magical coins a few feet in front of the doors to distract the acolytes. Z’alden had thrown a sunrod into the middle of the room to make sure that they were distracted. Unfortunately, Azural and Mingot were indeed distracted and stopped, too soon, before Skamos and the dragonborn Felsmon could use their attacks without harming their comrades. Then, Z’alden spied the hands of these servants of Orcus and realized from his cleric trainging that they were not of the living, but rather, they were undead Wights. His eyes glistened, another chance to destroy evil incarnate! Bright radiance flared from his holy symbol of Bahamut and burned the two. The power was so great, Azural was pushed away towards the sword-wielding statue in the room. Immediately it began to swing at the Wight even as he was rendered immobile from the holy light.

The other wight, Mingot, was less powerful, and the combined forces of Skamos, Felsmon, and Barrick had him quickly restored to the dead. Tira’s warlock energy flew into Azural, wounding him. Then Azural did something remarkable. He pointed at Mingot and up Mingot rose, restored to his undead state. The group quickly determined that they must concentrate on Azural, who seemed able to avoid the swings of the statue without any problem. Realizing that the necrotic attacks of Azural and his resurrecting abilities had to be put to a stop, the mighty dwarf fighter charged towards the statue and Azural, biting into him with his axe even as leapt over the statue’s sword. Moments later the adventurers had triumphed, both acolytes were down, never to rise again.

The group paused to catch their breath and to discuss a plan for how to enter the room with Ninaran, knowing now that she was not the cult leader Kalarel. The Tielfing wizard and the half-elf cleric put on the robes of the Wights, and loosely tied the other three as prisoners. With a few minutes of chanting, Skamos materialized a floating disk to hold their weapons out of view. Leading the prisoners, Skamos and Z’alden advanced into the massive chamber of blood towards Ninaran. Reaching almost 60 feet into the chamber unimpeded, Skamos began to wonder if the ruse might just work. But, then, a zombie shouted, “Intruders!”

Seeing the zombie and the three more that appeared at the shout, Z’alden’s eyes almost glowed. “A chance to destroy more undead. This is good,” he thought. Searing light burst forth from the symbol of Bahamut, wounding all three, and sending one zombie to the north of the chamber and another to the south end, both immobilized.

The dwarf and the dragonborn charged up to Ninaran while Z’alden, Skamos, and Tira dispatched the zombies. Tira’s eldritch energy ripped into a zombie sending muck everywhere. From the wizard’s staff, a ray of light seared a zombie, exploding it. Soon, the zombies were dispatched, and Ninaran was on her knees. “Don’t kill me,” she pleaded. “Why should we let your evil live?” the dragonborn Paladin growled. “My brother Numien is a captive of Kalarel’s. Kalarel forced me to serve him or else my brother would be killed.” Z’alden asked,“Will you fight with us?” “I cannot, Kalarel would kill my brother.”

Barrick scowled,“Lies and more lies. Let’s kill her now.” But no one could detect any lies. Z’alden said,“Let’s find out of her story is true, first. We would have your dagger and anything else of yours that could help us in the fight with Kalarel.” Reluctantly, Ninaran pulled out an ornate dagger and handed it to Tira. Tira could sense the Warlock nature of the dagger – it would allow her to teleport an enemy. It felt good in her hands. She flung it across the room. It immediately returned to her. The dwarf scowled,“Teleportation. I hate teleportation.”

When asked about whether any other magical items were in the room, Ninaran pointed to a ragged pile in the corner containing the goods taken from the sacrifices. The adventurers looked at the pile of the victim’s goods. In the pile were two sets of magical boots – one of fine leather that Skamos believed would enhance stealth, and another solid and sturdy to empower a bull rush. Skamos put on the leather boots while Barrick shod himself with the sturdy boots. Additionally, a small metal shield brooch appeared to be magical and afford the wearer protection. Despite his reservations about magic, Barrick accepted this, too.

Then, Barrick bound and gagged Ninaran, all the while, Tira muttered, “We should just kill her. She’s probably lying.”

Felsmon, Z’alden, Tira, and Skamos stepped onto the platform that they had seen Kalarel and the acolytes use earlier, and Barrick lowered them. He then quickly descended on a chain. On the way down, Z’alden was bitten by an unseen foe, hearing only a swooshing sound that was gone too fast for him to fire his loaded crossbow. They descended into a massive chamber, the same size as that above. The platform stopped in a pool of blood. In front of them, 25 feet across, the Rift shimmered darkly. Far to their left, the cultist leader himself, Kalarel, chanted, his ram horn headdress moving up and down rhythmically with each diabolical syllable. An evil metallic dog at his side growled at the group. Neither moved. Behind them, a huge statue of Orcus towered. Between these three points, beams of living blackness pulsed stronger and stronger with each chant of Kalarel.

“You are too late!” the acolyte of Orcus roared triumphantly. The beams darkened and the tentacles of some horrible Thing in the Portal advanced out of the Rift. A massive bat flew down at the group, its wings swooshing. Two undead creatures moved forward from near the Rift towards the group. These vampire spawn immediately attacked. The battle had begun.

Z’alden gleamed as he saw the undead advance. This is what he lived for! Divine radiance bathed the creatures in pain, sending one back towards the Rift. Barrick and Felsmon engaged the other. The bat tore into Skamos, wounding him severely. Tira waved her wand, and the bat felt the power of the Warlock’s curse. Kalarel advanced, pointed his rod at Z’alden, and necrotic energy poured into the cleric, weakening him. Z’alden smiled, though, as his hands glowed, and he restored Skamos. Though weakened, his healing abilities were unimpeded.

Blades flashed, the bat attacked, and energy flew, as the battle raged. Skamos pointed his staff at Kalarel and a magical arrow, dripping acid, tore into the cultist. The acid flew towards the evil hound, wounding him as well. Kalarel’s rod continued its damage, weakening Barrick. Both the dwarf and Z’alden shook off the effects and engaged the Spawn. Felsmon waved his hand and divine runes scattered on the floor, creating a ward that protected the group. An orb of force appeared at the tip of Skamos’ staff and flew towards Kalarel. Its shards caused the cult leader to shriek in pain, and more shards pierced the dog making it howl.

Tira glared at Kalarel, cursed him, and threw her new dagger into him, striking true. Instantly, Tira could sense that she could teleport Kalarel. He shimmered, and she moved him closer to the Rift, from which only seconds earlier, the tentacles of the Thing had tried to attack one of the vampire spawn. Perhaps the Thing did not discriminate friend from foe!

Even as the adventurers were starting to gain the upper end, it became clear that the Thing was not attacking Kalarel. In fact, he smiled evilly and moved further over, towards a glowing blue disk on the floor. The acid arrow in his chest dissolved, and he breathed deeply, restored. Then evil energy radiated from Kalarel, restoring the bat and the Spawn. And the tentacles of the Thing advanced further as the Rift opened more. Z’alden extended his arms and a form of Bahamut appeared. The dragonform weakened the vampires even as it breathed on the wounded members of the group, restoring them. Z’alden continued to have a faint purple glow of enhanced healing powers, even as the dragonform dissipated. Despite this hope, the adventurers were not sure how this battle would turn out.

Kalarel continued to send necrotic energy at the group, wounding Felsmon and causing some of his scales to begin to peel off. The crossbow bolts of Z’alden could not hit the cultist in his circle of protection. The spells of Skamos and Tira seemed weaker as their energy went towards the slave of Orcus. The tentacles extended far beyond him now. No one in the group could reach him or seem to hurt, and he continued his attacks with impunity. The metal dog, teeth bared, bit into Barrick’s shield with no effect. “Nice doggy,” the brawny dwarf mocked. Then, seeing the ineffectual range attacks, Barrick did the unthinkable: he rushed towards the tentacles and toward Kalarel! Felsmon did the same, and slammed his magic sword Aecris into Kalarel, pulling him out of the circle. Wounded but unphased, Kalarel made it back into the protective glow.

Then, Barrick drove the toes of his new magic boots into the ground, ripping into the protective energy and shoved Kalarel out of the circle even as he dodged a tentacle.

Tira and Skamos turned their attentions to the vampire spawn, the dog, and the bats. Soon, the Warlock was gloating – dog down! bat down! The tide was turning.

As Kalarel tried to return again to the protective circle, the mighty dwarf swung his axe, cutting deeply in Kalarel. All of his companions marveled at the excellence of the swing. And then, they all marveled at something else. As Barrick, pulled the axe back, the dull, bloody blades fell off, as though made of paper, to reveal a shining, gleaming axehead. Barrick swung at Kalarel again and again with the enchanted weapon. “I love magic!” the dwarf exclaimed, as Kalarel staggered. As the tentacles of the Thing flailed at his armor, Felsmon’s grasped Aecris and ripped into the wounded Kalarel, sending healing energy to Barrick even as the sword crushed his foe. Kalarel was teetering from the onslaught of the warriors. Finally, Barrick tore the magic axe into the evil cultist, sending to him to his dark lord.

Soon, the last spawn was defeated. But, the black beams still grew strong, and the Thing began to push hard at the Rift. Four of the group worked together to topple the altar of bones. The Wizard put on ruby glasses that allowed him to read the evil ritual book and recite the ritual backwards. The beams weakened, and the Thing pulled back. Still, black energy still coursed from the stature of Orcus to the Rift. Guided by divine intuition, Z’alden attempted to heal the evil statue. Pieces of it fell off, wounding Z’alden. The beam weakened further but still it pulsed. Then, the adventurers found four eye hooks. The statue could be toppled with the loose chains hanging down the shaft. Quickly attaching them, Barrick pulled hard and soon the statue of Orcus was collapsed and destroyed. The beam shattered, and the tentacles of the Thing retreated back inside the rift.

At the north end of the chamber, the adventurers found a previously unnoticed pit. In the pit was chest of treasure and jewels, some strange magic items, and an elf , Ninaran’s brother Numien, imprisoned just as Ninaran had claimed. The group untied Ninaran and reunited her with her brother. The seven left the chamber into the outdoors through the lighted entrance.

The item was a box with colored sticks of several colors. Skamos could detect their magic qualities, chalk that would allow the artist’s picture to remain for many days. A wonderous item, indeed.

Treasure and magic items in hand, with Ninaran and Numien in tow, the five returned to their horses and rode slowly towards Winterhaven.

Close to the Rift
After treachery, the adventurers boldly pursue a path to the Rift


At the bottom of a long, dark spiral staircase, the group had paused at a door. After a reflective discussion on the Art of War led by the intriguing Tiefling wizard Skamos Redmoon, and Splug’s insistence on the superiority of Tzugrot Moonclaw’s original Goblin text, the adventurers had readied themselves for whatever lay beyond. Splug had been of little help, telling only half-descriptions of slithering sounds and a mysterious “pet” that the dwellers of this level kept. Splug did warn the five of the need for the passphrase to move beyond the guards but swore he did not know this key, even under the intimidating glare and threatening moves of the massive dragonborn Paladin Felsmon. Even Skamos’ offer of more pleasant discussion of the work of Moonclaw could not pry the passphrase from Splug.

At the door, Z’alden Silverflame the cleric used his new training to listen carefully. He could hear guttural shouts and laughs. “Splug, could the hobgoblins be playing some sort of game?” Z’alden asked. Splug had only quivered. “They could be tossing chickens to the pet!”

Skamos, unwavering despite Splug’s nervousness, stealthily opened the door. “Creeakk” Skamos and Splug entered not-so-quietly. Inside the room, two Hobgoblin brutes were tossing a skeleton head into a dump pit. As muck splashed from a successful basket, the nearby gong was sounded in triumph by a third. They leapt to their feat as the Tiefling and the Goblin entered the room. A fourth, the leader, accosted Skamos and Splug, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” One of the brutes said, “Is that Splug? I thought he was being tortured to death.”

Smoothly, the wizard replied, “I have a message for Kalarel. Splug has led me here to deliver it.” “Well, hand it over,” the leader said. “No, the message is memorized. I only deliver it to Kalarel.”

The leader paused. “Are you alone?” The Tiefling lied, “Yes. I am just here with Splug.” The Hobgoblin sent one of the brutes up the steps where the rest of the group was waiting. “Five others up here.” The dwarven warrior Barrick almost smiled, “I must count twice.”

Descending the steps, the group gathered behind Skamos at the edge of the room, tense.

The leader exclaimed, “What’s the passphrase?”

Everyone turned to look at Splug… “Er, um… ‘Life fails in the dark’?”

“Hmmmph,” muttered the leader. “Wasn’t that last week’s passphrase?” whispered one of the guards to another one.

“Very well, come along,” the leader said. Surprised by this fortituous turn of events, all six followed as they were led to a corridor. Keys jangled as a metal door was opened. “Kalarel is down the hall. Turn right. He’ll take the message.” As the group went through, the door closed and locked behind. Noticeably, Splug was absent. Still unaware of the treachery, the adventurers came to a T in the corridor. Believing that Kalarel lay to the right, the group turned to the left. Z’alden went ahead to an alcove to look for hidden doors and traps.

Stepping into the alcove, the half-elf was attacked by a formerly transparent and unnoticed Gelatinous Cube. It quickly enveloped the cleric, rendering him immobile and unable to take action. The rest were almost frozen with astonishment. Z’alden was taken so quickly, how to rescue him without being sucked in themselves? The strong Paladin Felsmon and the mighty dwarven warrior Barrick bravely leapt to pull him out, but were unable. Skamos blasted away with magical energy, directing the power from his staff into the huge Cube. Clearly wounding it, the remaining adventurers were emboldened. The warlock Tira Duskmeadow moved to the far side of the Cube, wounding it further as Eldritch flames leapt from her fingertips. Bits of seared goo slopped off the Cube. In revenge, the Cube moved to her and quickly enveloped her. Felsmon slashed into the Cube with Aecris, the magical sword, sliding the Cube away from the group and back into its lair. Simultaneously, healing light poured from the sword penetrating the Cube, restoring the grievously wounded cleric who remained engulfed.


With the restored vitality, Z’alden said a prayer to Bahamut and was able to escape. Mystical light surrounded Tira as she shimmered and reappeared outside the Cube instantly. Soon after, the magic of the Tiefling and the Half-Elf Warlock, the sword of the Dragonborn, and the mighty battleaxe of the dwarf dispatched the muck.

After a brief respite, the group decided to try the right corridor. Walking into total darkness, scuttling sounds could be heard. With a sunrod and Skamos magic light to illuminate the corridor, a chest at the end could be seen. A trapdoor with a descending ladder was on the right and an ascending ladder on the left. Going up the ladder, Z’alden could see only a small corridor and could hear more scuttling sounds. Advancing to the chest, Felsmon and Z’alden looked inside after carefully checking for traps. Inside were old clothes, dolls, and, digging further, a rich silver bracelet with the name Ceinwein Keegan. Z’alden also found a golden medallion with the name Drystan Keegan on one side and a pair of wings on the other. Both Skamos and Z’alden could sense magical energy from the medallion. Skamos put on the medallion, stood on the chest and leapt into the air. He gently floated down. As the group began to discuss who should hold this treasure, Barrick was attacked by a Giant Centipede spewing fire at him!

The athletic dwarf was quick to react, leaping as only a surprised dwarf can leap, just evading the creature’s strike, and tucking into a somersault. Rolling to his feet filled with rage, he grimaced and turned his momentum into a mighty sidewinder spin of his axe, which cleaved back into the footed Worm, “I hate bugs.” Flames and magical energy from the others ripped into the Centipede. The Fire Centipede sprayed Felsmon with unearthly flames. Barrick’s battleaxe torn into it, ripping open a flaming interior. Immediately the entire Centipede was glowing, hot, and no longer moving. Felsmon grabbed it and tried to shove it down the trapdoor shaft, but a leg caught on the edge. It was getting hotter. Barrick gave it a massive shove, and it fell just as it burst into massive flames, singing the dwarf’s beard!

Safe, the group explored the trapdoor ladder, once the flames had been extinguished. A series of crawl-space tunnels in which Barrick felt perfectly comfortable, but which made Felsmon most stooped, led to a chimney opening with a roaring fire pit below. Searching another corridor, they found a small opening, several feet above the room with the Hobgoblins playing more pitball with skulls. They could hear the brutes, “Do you think they are dead, yet?” “Nah, let’s give the crawlies a little more time.” Hidden, and believed dead, the nearly exhausted adventurers rested, keeping careful watch.

Rejuvenated, the group went to explore the crawl spaces further. Finding the firepit down to glowing coals, Skamos, with a wave of his hand, created a small rainshower that doused the embers. Felsmon lowered Skamos head-first down the chimney. Skamos saw 5 sleeping Hobgoblin guards. The adventurers had found the barracks of the brutes at a most opportune time. Realizing that their powers combined might be able to destroy these monsters before they woke, Skamos, Felsmon, and Z’alden quietly descended the chimney, with Tira and Barrick close behind.

A powerful burst of magic flames erupted from Skamos’ staff, spreading out to scorch each of the sleeping Hobgoblins. Lightning burst forth from the mouth of the Dragonborn Paladin. 4 of the Hobgoblins were already vanquished! A dragonheaded light roared forth from Z’alden hands, ripping into the last one. The group entered the barracks and found some gold on the guards for their work.

At both ends of the barracks, curtains covered doorways. Skamos peered into the right curtain, only to see the face of the Hobgoblin leader just a few feet away and staring at him! “They are alive!” he shouted, “ Release the pet!” The leader’s words were met by crossbow bolts from Z’alden. Tossing the beds into a barricade, the group readied for battle.

A huge, black, furry spider leapt over the barricade, its nasty fangs glistening with blood. The leader and two other Hobgoblins were right behind. Magical energy erupted from Skamos’ staff, searing the leader, the spider, the Hobgoblins, and Barrick! “I hate magic” the dwarf roared. Z’alden stepped forward, opening his arms. Divine silver and purple flames erupted from the symbol of Bahamut in the center of his chest. The silver flames surrounded each of the foes, burning them severely. The purple flames enveloped Barrick, empowering him. As the divine flames struck, their intensity increased, as the symbol itself would tolerate this evil no longer. When the flames had ceased, only the spider and the leader remained. Barrick’s battleaxe tore into the spider. Felsmon’s sword cleaved the head off of the leader, who would lead no more adventurers into deadly traps.

The giant spider leapt across the room to Skamos, biting into him with a horrible poison. Mystical energy leapt from Tira’s eyes to the arachnid’s, causing it to squeal in pain. Felsmon readied a blow, but the spider leapt into the air. Barrick’s axe split the abdomen of the beast, blood and guts poured onto the dwarf, and the spider was no more. “I hate spiders,” the dwarf scowled.

With 8 Hobgoblins and 1 “pet” fallen, and the leader’s keys to the keep in hand, the group went through the west curtain of the barricks. Past a door, a large room with 2 huge opposing statues and 2 smaller statues past them awaited. Z’alden could sense no traps. Felsmon walked forward. The left statue came to life, swinging a 12 foot sword into the Dragonborn. The Paladin nearly dodged it, only having his elbow nicked. The statue continued to swing his sword in a wide circle, around and around. Skamos quickly noticed a pattern. All agreed that the sword swing could be timed and passed. Felsmon bravely went first, passed the sword-swinging statue, and moved to get to the doors at the far end of the room. Moving between the smaller statues, lightning blasts immediately filled the area between them, burning into the lightning-breather himself! Helpless, the group watched as Felsmon moved past the lightning to the doors. Saying a prayer, Felsmon was able to heal himself, but what was the rest of the group to do?

As soon as one passed the swinging statue, the lightning would roast the adventurer. Tira looked at the swinging pace, eyed the smaller statue and ran. Just past before the statue sliced the half-elf into two pieces, the warlock shimmered and was gone, only to reappear behind the lightning generating stature unharmed. With all of her strength, she pushed the small statue, sending it to the ground shattering. The lightning wall disappeared, and the rest of the group, also carefully timing the swings, could pass unharmed.

Listening at the door, a female voice chanting some unknown language could be heard. Skamos quietly opened the door. To the group’s surprise, the chanting female voice was coming from Ninaran! Across a massive hewn chamber, with rivers of blood running towards a central pit, Ninaran stood, some 140 feet away from the group, continuing to chant oblivious to their presence. Undead skeletons and zombies and other evil humanoids lined the walls. Unbelievably, could Ninaran be the big K – Kalarel? Had they found the Rift and the center of the Cult of Evil? The destruction of the Cult, the saving of Winterhaven, and Marla the Cleric of Pelor’s reward of 250 crowns each might not be far away. Quietly, the group backed into the statue room to pause and consider the next course of action.