Campaign of the Month: March 2009

Denizens of the Nentir Vale

Near Death in a Tomb

I. Into the Flames

As gray mists settle across the floor, the six companions, armed with blade, bow, and staff, advance upon the Colossus. The trap is sprung, and tongues of flame shoot forth. Tira runs forward, braving the fire trap, to reach the evil altar. Erik and Barrick follow. The Colossus watches them all – each one prey to his malevolence.

Words are whispered in the gloom
Do not disturb the Emperor’s tomb
Six companions descend the stairs
And raise their weapons in defiance
The path is filled with terror
As the Colossus strides ever near
Tendrils of flame shoot forth
To wreath the great one’s brow.

II. Atop the Altar

The altar to Asmodeus radiates evil. The Colossus is strong, and the fighter falls first. The pillars are the key. Cold and water quench the flames, but Torrock and Rift are defeated. Erik the Ranger falls last, his magic arrow having done its work, he can rest in peace.

Towering over the altar
Guarding the empty tomb
Crushing every creature
Bravely do they stand
Gaze into his eyes
A weakness do they spy
Bow and axe spring forth
Too late to save them all
Barrick slays his foe.

III. Return of the Champions

Enter the Paladin – long gone, he returns as the shaman and spirit depart to other lands. The Colossus is defeated. The brave travelers venture down into the tomb below. A strange scene is found – the dead Emperor and his Empress – goblet and food still fresh.

Steathily approaching
The paladin he appears
The ring upon Numea’s finger
Her summoned spirit bows
Lorvas must not know
The ring must be destroyed
The shield remade to fight again
And free the dragon outside.

The Colossus

Scene 8: The Colossus Stirs
Fighting into the Tomb

OK everyone, get in your places. Would someone put a little more blood on We’s left wing? Great. You, re-light the flaming sphere.

Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 1 [clack]

And, ... Action!

We: Fear is what We shall have to slake our appetites tonight!

Erik: Not if we have anything to say about it!

Erik looks expectantly at the flaming sphere. We transfers the damage of the sphere to Myself. Erik looks at Rift and sighs, Tira shakes her head.

Barrick leaps into battle, axe held high.

We: I hate Myself!

Cut! We, what are you doing? Do not attack Myself, absorb him! Can’t you read you pathetic fool! And I want to see some anguish, like that of a tiger eating her young. [Sigh] Let’s try it again, from where we left off. Where is my assistant? Torgog!

[Panting] Sorry sir, I was trying to get that drink you wanted.

Torgog, don’t make me hurt you again; or at least not more than usual.

Yes sir! Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 2 [clack]

And, ... Action!

We grabs Myself pulling him into his body.

We: Now I shall become stronger as you become weaker! [Laughs]

Myself explodes, dazing most of the party.

Me flies in and begins close combat.

Tira kills I.

We: You can never defeat me! I can restore me at the expense of Me!

We absorbs Me and heals noticeably.

Barrick uses Dizzying Blow very effectively.

Cut! Torgog! This is dragging on, not one of them is bloodied yet. Barrick was supposed to miss with that blow; what in the 6th plane is going on here?!

Sir, they seem to be improvising.

No deviating from the script! I swear I’ll eat the lot and start over if I have to.

But, Sir!

Bring the roof down, maybe being crushed will snap them back into shape!

Yes sir. Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 3 [clack]

And, ... Action!

Tira: Everyone look out, the cave is collapsing!

Rocks fall on Tira and kill her.

Cut! Torgog, what happened? The script calls for Tira to die in the cave-in, not Sid! Why is Sid dead? Find the prop guy and fire him! I want the flesh burning off his bones for at least a week! Listen, I still need We. Torgog, if We dies you die. Update the script as needed to ensure this happens.

And, ... Action!

We is surrounded.

We: [Sneering] Don’t you know that We are immortal?

We tries to flee by flying into the air.

Rocks fall: Many are hurt, Erik sustains a critical hit.

Prescott: I have a plan, Rift, I’ll need your support. This is crazy enough that it just might work.

Prescott teleports into the air to flank We with the spider. Prescott deep cuts We, then falls. Rift casts Feather Fall; Prescott wafts gently to the ground.

As the party congratulates each other, We flies away into the dark.


Cut! Very nice Torgog, give them a little boost of confidence, that will make the pain that much better at the end. Change sets! Let them find the treasure, but make one of them stupid enough to hurt themselves in the process.

And, ... Action!

Tira enters small room.

Tira: Hey, I found something. And there is silver coating the wall, but I would not touch it.

Rift: Oh come on, take some silver, what’s the worst that could happen?

Erik follows Rifts suggestion and scrapes some silver off a carving on the wall. Erik is blasted by energy, taking necrotic damage.

The party rests and finds loot; 2 bracelets and one set of bracers

Cut! I like that blast Torgog; although I would have had the ranger lose an arm.

But sir, if he loses an arm he cannot do the attacks that he will need to do a few scenes from now to get the group past that one nasty.

Ah yes, I got wrapped up in the moment; very good. Change sets! Torgog, I liked the necrotic energy blast, can you write in a couple more?

Of course, sir.


Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 4 [clack]

And, ... Action!

The party moves to the entrance of the larger building.

Rift: This door is sealed by many wards. I cannot get through them myself, I must have help.

The party fumbles and necrotic energy bursts forth, sapping healing energy from everyone.

Torrock: Let me have the key, I know I can use it to get us past this door.

Torrock fails, another explosion of necrotic energy strips vitality from almost everyone.

The party finally opens the door and enters, the room appears barren.

Tira: This smells familiar. Everyone in, then let’s close the door.

Everyone in. Door closes.

Cut! Well done with the blasts Torgog. But, you fool, Tira was not there the last time the door needed to be closed. If I catch one more blunder like this you will lose your wings, again.

My mistake sir! [cowering] Should we reset the memories and do it again?

No, but do not fail this way again! Set change, enhance the room!

Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 5 [clack]

And, ... Action!

Tira: Ooh, look at those gems inset in the floor, I want the rubies.

Barrick: Hold a minute there, I think I saw movement in those dwarf statues.

Erik: The wall, the wall! I saw the wall move!


The dwarf statues attack the party. Half the party works on the magical locks covering the door and the gems, the others easily dispatch the statues.

Statues: [Dying gasps] You are in the Tomb of Laarn. He has created a colossus made of 100 tieflings. Separate the colossus from the source. Make the colossus fight against itself. It is the only way.

Two wraiths appear.

Rift unlocks door. Tira unlocks floor plate. Torrock opens floor plate. Erik presses gems in the proper order. The stairway to Laarn appears.

A wraith weakens Tira

Tira fights back and causes one wraith to lose its half damage resistance.

Rift kills a wraith. Tira kills the other wraith.

Cut! Bloodied it says, bloodied! And how many of you are bloodied? None! Next time try to follow your parts as written or I will flay you alive! Do we need to start over and shoot the scene again?!

Sir, I hate to interrupt, but if you keep erasing their memories how can they follow their parts?

Look Torgog, I care not what they think they know. I spent a lot of time setting all of this up and there is no way the proper final act will be reached if they do not follow my plan.

But sir, they are not even aware they are playing parts for you; they think they are living the roles.

As it should be. Scripted fear is much less enjoyable than the real thing, I want the terror at the end to be as nourishing as possible. [Sigh] I am tiring, let’s see if we can finish this scene without more mistakes from these idiots. Or you.

Denizens; Act 3; Scene 8; Take 6 [clack]

And, ... Action!

The party descends the stairs, the wall passes overhead.

Erik and Barrick try to open the massive door. They fail. Tira and Rift try to open the door. They succeed.

The party enters the Tomb.

The party sees the colossus.

Colossus: [Chuckles inaudibly]

Cut! Acceptable, for the moment. But now I tire, I must feed; bring me Surina.

Right away my Lord!


Conversations with a Pretty Girl

Aldrial shifts in her seat for the third time in two minutes. She is very proud of her calm elven demeanor yet the girl of just sixteen across from her is somehow unnerving. Through her travels and experiences, she has met princess and princesses, warlords and warriors, but never one quite like Elena Goodright. She continues…

Aldrial: “So, Elena, where were we?”

Elena: You were prattling on about how you thought these people are figments of my imagination.

Aldrial: Well, Elena, you have gone through a lot of terrible things recently. Being held for ransom by those thugs who then attacked your father must have been just awful. Awful. And now you must take care of your ailing father during his convalescence. This is a lot for a young girl to handle, don’t you think?

Elena: Yes, it was so terrible. I hate her. I hate them.

Aldrial: You speak of the sorceress again?

Elena: I don’t even know her name, but she was the one who blasted me with her wicked sorcery, throwing me down into the pit. I was so scared!

At this point Elena begins to sob and Aldrial, an experienced counselor for those in the town of Fallcrest and surrounding villages, hands Elena a fine silk handkerchief with which to dry her big, doe eyes. The girl is exceptionally beautiful and Aldrial cannot help but be drawn to her plight. Yet there is a maturity and cleverness about the girl which is alarming and sometimes even frightening. Elena continues to sob and as she does, Aldrial updates her notes:

Elena’s obsession with this sorceress is most concerning. Although she claims that this person is real, it is hard to verify. There are numerous stories about the murderous thugs, with some claiming that two beautiful spell casters were part of the gang, but this does not make sense. It is known that a cleric attacked her father, who still struggles to overcome his injuries and fears. Elena tirelessly takes care of him. Such a burden. Luckily her uncle has come to assist Elena and her father. I will continue to explore Elena’s fantasies, for I believe that the characters in them are manifestations of her personality and hence reflections of herself. Only through understanding of these dimensions of Elena can true healing come.

If Aldrial had been paying more attention, she would have noticed frequent glances from behind that silk handkerchief, checking to see the reaction of the audience. Now, it had been too long and Elena let Aldrial know it:

Elena: Hey, stupid, stop writing! Aren’t you supposed to give your attention to me rather than that dumb notebook? I’m paying you the hard earned money of my dear father, may he recover soon.

Aldrial: I’m sorry Elena. Let’s continue where we left off last session. Where were we?

Elena: The elf joined them.

Aldrial: Who is this elf? I have not heard of him before.

Elena: I don’t know his name. I can only see them, but he is a devilishly handsome rogue, sent on a mission of great importance, to be sure. I hope the thugs do not kill him off.

Aldrial: Interesting, and you have a fondness for this rogue? I though it was another “devilishly handsome rogue”, the one with the fedora and whip, who was part of the gang who held you for ransom. I should think that you despise rogues.

Elena: Oh. Yes. I despise rogues. Terrible. Taking people’s valuables. But this elf is so handsome!

Elena’s cheeks glow. Her cute little smile and teenage innocence soften Aldrial’s suspicions and concern for Elena’s emotional state. She is but a young girl who’s mind is still forming as she grows into adulthood.

Elena: Well, the elven rogue caught up to the thugs after they tricked their way past the ogre. How clever they are. (Elena’s eyebrows grow closer together for emphasis.) So now the there were six thugs in all: the elven rogue, a big ugly dragonborn, a short ugly dwarf, a dashing ranger – oh, the muscles on him! – a wizard, and lustful, gorgeous sorceress. Sigh!

Aldrial: Do you think the sorceress represents you?

Elena: What? Stop with that you worn-out whore! Just because you lost your looks so many moons ago doesn’t mean I’m like you, imagining I’m pretty. I know I’m beautiful. I don’t need to imagine it. Maybe it’s you who wants to be like me! You give yourself to any man with power. Men with power give themselves to me!

With this outburst Aldrial is quite taken aback. The stunning criticism is actually all too accurate as there have many dalliances and schemes. Aldrial’s mind spins with the realization that Elena may know more than teenage gossip. Many things had been done to gain wealth and importance and Aldrial had done her best to keep them secret, but all secrets are shared, somehow. Her husband, home and clothes speak of nobility but her deeds are much less. Eyes cast down, Aldrial throws her best professional voice and tells Elena to continue.

Elena: (Returning to a sweet voice.) The thieves crept into the barracks of the noxious troglodytes. The odor was so horrible that getting near them would cause the thugs’ eyes to sting and their lungs to burn. The mighty ranger’s arrow slew the first one. Went straight through the trot’s eye and out the back! (Elena’s face shows her excitement with the gory detail.) Then the handsome rogue stabbed a sleeping troglodyte right through the heart! (Elena’s voice reveals her thrill in this.) The obnoxious wizard burned one. You know, that wizard could be really hot if she just got some manners and sense. So, like, totally a spa! Now, the sorceress, she’s got it all together. Hot body. Long, thin legs. Gorgeous face and flaming red hair. Oh, to die for, not to mention an absolutely killer attack on her enemy’s mind. Took one of those nasty trogs out too.

Aldrial: You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. You are a charming young lady…

Elena: Okay, if this continues maybe I’ll talk to your husband about some of your indiscretions. Is the mayor up for reelection?

Elena: So, the battle seemed to be going well for the thieving thugs, but the little troglodyte with the bodacious skull mask was a mean little bastard curse chanter. His staff would release this poison and one time it hit the wizard. So wicked, but not like the stuff you slip into someone’s drink. It weakened her. The dragonborn had this cool trick, some kind of spirit companion that he’d unleash on the troglodytes. Sometimes they took on the form of panthers. I need a pair of those. Let’s see those thugs come after daddy again when those are around!

Aldrial: Speaking of your father, what ever happened to the man who attacked him? Why is he not in these visions you have?

Elena: Oh, him. I don’t know. I’ll bet he got greedy and wasn’t smart enough to steal from his buddies without getting caught. The sorceress probably killed him as he slept. You know, no honor among thieves.

Elena: (Rolling her eyes.) Anyway… The wizard shook off that necrotic poison. The long black veins that ran from her nose and mouth down her neck to her chest slowly receded and vanished. She was really ticked off, let me tell you, but not like that pugnacious little dwarf. So awesome – his axe sliced the little enchanter’s head clean off. Clean off! Blood was spurting everywhere. Walls. Floors. Oh, you should have seen it! My sorceress helped finish off the battle with a thunderous blast. I could only see it, but it was like this powerful little blast that blew chunks of flesh off of the troglodyte.

All the while Elena was describing the battle, complete with disturbing visions of blood and gore, Aldrial takes notes:

Elena persists in the reality of her visions. Does she posses the gift of arcane vision? Is she inhabited by spirits? Despite my elven powers of observation, her mask is too hard to penetrate. Perhaps she is but a simple human girl who has learned the skills of negotiation and leverage from her crafty, merchant father. I have tried to befriend her as a mother figure, for her influence is growing, yet I have gained little ground.

Elena: After the troglodytes, the thugs broke into this room when the cute elven rogue broke this arcane lock on the door. Very impressive. There were books and stuff and body parts laid out on a long table. Dried blood everywhere. They didn’t care much for the dismembered arms and heads, but went straight for the stuff they could fence. The hunky ranger pocketed a bunch of gold while the others broke into the owner’s chest, boxes and personal stuff. They couldn’t have been all that good at thieving since they took for-ever, ya know? Snagged some vials and components for making magic. They grabbed some cloak that was super interesting – made the wearer hard to see. Good for when you have to make a quick getaway. I guess. Guess that’s what you’d use it for if you were a thief. At least they were smart enough to toss the stupid robes with some kind of symbol to some kind of stupid god on them.

Aldrial: Very interesting. Tell me more.

Elena: (Looking disgustedly at Aldrial.) The thieves then snuck on down this long corridor, descending deeper and deeper into the earth. Past some catacombs of what looked to be tiefling burial beds.

Realizing that her patronizing comment had been noticed by Elena, Aldrial tries to recover but only makes it worse.

Aldrial: This story is fascinating. You tell it very well. Just how do these visions come to you?

Elena: Yes, I tell it very well and just why do you want to know how I get these visions? Maybe you’re jealous? Maybe I know a lot about you. Maybe I know about you, the Duke and his wife. Maybe I know that their son really isn’t the true heir. For an elf, you are quite plain. Plain, yet of some importance to this little town. Wealthy too. Just how did you acquire this wealth? Why would a prominent, wealthy elf take an interest in me, a mere human of no nobility, daughter of a man who worked his way up from the streets?

Elena stops as she realized that her little tirade may show too much of herself.

Elena: I’m not done with my story. Perhaps you have seen the great arched gateways of Baelmirth? Well I have. His greatest chambers lie hidden far beneath the surface in realms that the brave little elves seldom venture. This is where the story that I tell so well continues.

After a long pause and stare, Elena continues in her sweet voice as if nothing had happened.

Elena: So, after descending deep into the earth the thugs came to the most amazing arch that framed the entrance to a huge cavern. Within the chamber, immense arches bowed high up and across the ceiling. What riches had once been expended to construct this? What greater riches must it have held? My thieves could only guess. Tombs lay before them with most plundered and desecrated. The greatest of these tombs lay beyond the swift currents of a river that flowed through the chamber, filling it with echoing sound and heavy air. On this greatest of the tombs were carvings of dwarves in chains, sneering at their tiefling overlords. This tomb also bore the markings of Asmodeous and commemorations of the tiefling victory over the dwarves. I asked my uncle about the tiefling and dwarf battle and he mentioned Laarn, greatest emperor of the tiefling empires. The tomb was for Laarn. This was chamber the Hold of Hammerfell. Oh, the riches that it must have held!

With this, Elena’s voice grows giddy with excitement. She continues to recollect her vision.

Elena: The party of thieves and thugs moved through the chamber, pausing briefly near the bridge that lead to Laarn’s tomb. It’s almost as if my sorceress was being called to it, but the dwarf threw a little fit and insisted that they continue on past a mound of dirt. Sounds so boring, but it wasn’t. They passed torn-up zombie corpses to a place where the dirt had been excavated. After entering this dug-out tunnel, they came to a door and the dwarf actually had something very interesting. A magical key. When placed upon the door the key transformed into a golden handle and the door opened! Inside was a shimmering figure of a stupid dwarf woman, hammering away her anvil, making some kind of dagger. She must not have been very good because she threw it back into her pool of lava, or whatever it was, and started all over. Anyway, the thieves took refuge there, which was good because they had no idea what was coming next!

Aldrial finally regains her courage to speak and the temptation is too strong.

Aldrial: This chamber, do you know where it is?

Elena: (With a wry grin.) And why would you wish to know? Isn’t it but a figment of my imagination?

Aldrial: Elena, we are exploring your trauma. I know you don’t respect me, but I have experience with these things and you have serious issues since your captivity. You came to me seeking my help. I am here for you.

Elena: (Almost mocking.) Yes, you are indeed here to help me. Oh, and to my upcoming masquerade ball, I wish you to invite the Duke and is lovely wife. I’m sure you know of a way to persuade him to come. You will be there too, with your husband. The nobility. The high society. It will be a night to remember.

Aldrial: Thank you. I will personally relay your invitation to the Duke.

Elena: Good. Back to the Hold of Hammerfell. It is said that this anvil was one of the greatest treasures of the dwarves, used to make the shield and axe of Bonderstrong. The shield was stolen by Laarn and then shattered during the battle between the dwarves and the tieflings. Split in two, it was, by a great fire from Laarn. I was most surprised when my sorceress pulled the smaller half out of her magic bag. Oh, she is a clever one! I wish I knew how she acquired it. Such skill. As told by my uncle, the shield’s larger half was entombed with Laarn. So, on the verge of possibly reuniting the two halves, the thieves took sanctuary in this chamber, sleeping long and restfully.

Elena turns her head away, nose a bit in the air, stopping to savor the scent of Aldrial’s fine elven wine. After a long sip, she turns her eyes to look upon her now emotionally battered elder. The elf’s expression is of submission and the ends of Elena’s lips curl up slighting into something of a grin. Taking her time, Elena sips some more, slowly puts the crystal glass down and continues with her story which she absolutely relishes telling.

Elena: The thieves’ troubles were really just about to begin. After their long rest, they crossed the bridge, apparently tugged on by the sorceress’ amulet which lay upon her chest. This amulet is most interesting to me and I wish one day to know its powers. Anyway, sneaking around behind one of the tombs the ranger ran into this ghastly, purple creature that had been sucking on a bone. It seem to delight in this and it’s eyes grew larger with the sight of fresh bones. I could tell that it liked my sorceress and wizard the most just the way it looked at them. Horrible creature. After some kind of discussion, it conjured many more of itself and their leathery wings carried them up high and then down amongst the thieves. The battle started, but with every attack by the thugs on the original creature, the blows would do it no harm. The nasty, purple creature would transfer the blows upon itself to its copies. Using his powerful magic, the dragonborn created some kind of earthquake and stones began to fall from the ceiling. And then…

At this point, Elena is interrupted by the menacing presence of a man who had entered the room without Elena nor Aldrial’s notice. Aldrial sat rigid and utterly startled in her chair. The man stands somewhat shorter than normal, a bit stooped, wiry and weathered. His clothes are of the richest materials yet fit poorly and are well worn. The man’s hair is unkempt and white. His teeth are long. Aldrial’s gaze is transfixed upon his face which bares a most interesting mark. From the inside corner of his left eye runs a scar down upon his cheek, tracing the path that a tear might fall.

Elena: Uncle!

Uncle: It is time to go.

With this command, Elena immediately stands. Placing his strong hand on the nape of her neck the man guides her out of Aldrial’s counseling chamber, down the two flights of stairs and out into the street below. It is with some pity for Elena that Aldrial spies from her window and with her tall elven ears hears the man admonishing the pretty girl.

Uncle: If you use the orb again, I will snap your neck.

What Elena saw in the orb:


Sad Snorbaugh
The Gold Dragon

As one enemy dies another arrives. It be better here than the spirit world though. As he sent me back to my home his thoughts were on the battles of late. It seemed as though he could almost piece it together but just couldn’t grasp the answer. Many hours later I’m returned from the spirit world to an annoying sound of, “Alarm alarm alarm.” And that one creature by the name of Tira kept yelling at the other one Rift, Turn that darn thing off.” Well back I was to the spirit world. Then after more endless waiting I was called back to see before me a creature of spirits too but a very evil one, a shadow lizard! My companion threw a ball of elemental ice. I almost felt sorry for that shadow lizard, but no, it was trying to kill my companion so I had to kill it. Agh, 4 more shadow lizards appeared in the room. Then, the wizard tried that flamey thing of hers, but unfortunately the lizards didn’t seem hurt at all. Nooooo, that lizard bite me returning me to the world of spirits. After I was returned to the real world that ole’ tough dwarf named Barrick went right up into the middle of the room and with courage that amazed me, yelled. “I don’t know what makes you lizards so stupid but it’s sure workin’.” As that dwarf’s axe bites into a lizard we all see the claw of a gold dragon. Immediately my companion thinks: Arumandor, the missing gold dragon who is an ally of the Kengi. Then my companion and I float up and smash our fists into the ground, Sending out a miniature earthquake that nocks the enemies down and soon eliminated and sent back to the land of dark spirits by the master of the bow Erik and the master of the axe Barrick. As the lizards die a single golden claw drops out of all of them. Erik makes a decision for us to follow the tracks of that pesky dracoman Lacertail. He ran a very long way into a swamp. My companion’s endurance is becoming amazing as he waded right across the stinking swamp. The other except clumsy Tira swung across. Tira fell and had to wade the rest of the way. We came across a large clearing that stunk of death. In the center there was a statue of a crocodile that was many feet wide and across. In the eyes of the statue there are giant rubies. A good number of feet away from the statue there was a circle with the symbol of zehir in the center in it. It seems as though if one kneeled in the center of it and held something up something would happen. Tira and Rift tried to take one of the ruby eyeballs and their reward was getting scorched with a gigantic blast of fire. Tira decides to try and kneel in the circle holding up the pendant of the old hag. A black portal appears in the mouth of the statue. We all go into the portal. We come out in a valley somewhere, it seems as though there are snakes everywhere but we couldn’t see anything. We continued to walk across the large path we were on until we reached the edge of a lake that made you dreamy when you looked at it. Behind the lake there was a huge stone block maybe sixty feet or so high. Coming out of the stone block there were large chains tied to a gold dragon with a full body cage on it. Slowly, ever so slowly, the dragon raises his head and says weakly. “I am the dragon Arumandor, ally of the Kengi, you must release me in the name of the Kengi, they need me.” His head dropped down and the water of the lake splashed my partner sending me to the spirit and making him unconscious for a few minutes. We walked to the right of the lake carefully avoiding the shore of the lake. We came upon a large temple. As we approached the enterance to the tempal we heard a troll say. “You come here to be Snorbog’s friend hmm?” We reply that yes we do want to be Snorbog’s friend. Then Snorbog shouts. “Do you like games?” we say that we do. “let’s play smash dwarf!” is his reply. Barrick replies. “No, let’s play smash troll!” so Snorbog flings trolls from his body for barrick and my companion to smash and as Snorbog gets bored of that he says that Tira, Erik, and him should swim in the water that makes us fall asleep but doesn’t effect him. Tira fakes needing privacy and goes down the stairs the yells for Rift to come and help her. But before Rift goes down Rift lures Snorbog away with the sounds of a sheep so we can all go down the stairs. Tira picks the lock on the door we come across and that leaves at our present place.

Beyond the Great Tree
Vine, Scale, and Snake

Light … yes, light, and heat too, I am moving, slow, always seems so slow, now speeding up, speeding up, can’t wait, maybe the fire witch will be there, she alone visited me, maybe she alone can, and now I am out!!! and I see … nobody close, all far behind, as so often, none as brave as I, none as sleek as I, none as fast, no, not that old dwarf, like a dog he fights, barking and scrabbling with head down, blood everywhere, but he always stays alive, – Wait! wait, stare, something not right here, claws out, something under that tree, coil up, something dnagerous, coil yet more, a vine, rising up to grab… to grab Him … now pounce! All my speed! Slash, slash and slash again, AARGH! hard blow I took, gather strength, fire burst, from my visitor maybe, but it missed, lightning bolt, the lightning witch maybe, strength back, bite down now, hard, and twist and twist until, yes, He is free! I am the proudest! AAAARRGH! Never saw that, broken back, only two legs working, cannot hold on, He grimaces, and I know I am going, going back again, into the cold and the half-light, alone again or …

ARGH! my back, the cursed vine broke Hers, now it will know my rage! Twin panthers to avenge Her, now! Nooo! Too hasty, both missed, I am failing Her, I breathe help to Erik, must regain control, oversight, deadly vine, Kruthiks flow like lava below, might overrun Barrick and Tira, Rift torched some babies, now a Hive Lord is down there, and … what? ... Erik down, all the way down, in the vine’s clutches, thrashing to escape, and the Kruthiks have overrun Tira! No rest today, come back, there, now!

Light … and heat, wait for it, I am out again, and whole again, among bugs, He needs me, they all need me, He is safe above, I feel Him strike this bug, my claws steal its strength, channel to lightning witch, she is always nice to me, not like old dwarf, tells Him to send me high into air just to watch me fall, not that He ever would, now fire witch summons mini-sun, my favorite, hurts biggest bug, it shoots acid, but hurts me not, I am the toughest! Lightning witch sends a blast, old dwarf hunkers down, scared for once of the fight, but I am not scared, coil, coil more, pounce on fleeing bug, my jaws latch, I break its neck, I am the strongest!

A bug dead at Her jaws, feel the thrill, Erik freed himself, Rift fighting a bug climbing up, best protect this high spot, come up here, now!

Coil, leap, none can leap so high, reach big bug fighting fire witch, claws sink in, fire witch blasts, bug is strong, it does not fall, I see Him, safe, now fire witch is pulled off, same Vine that broke my back I think, so long ago, if she can visit me she can escape, yes, she is beside me again, I sink my claws again into bug, it claws back, but does not hurt me, I am the toughest!

Stay in control, rage or calm, oversight, Barrick surrounded, good for him, bad for them, Rift free, Tira healthy and blasting thunder, Erik taken a second time, nothing he cannot handle, all safe for now, so it’s rage, the Hive Lord feels my wintry wrath, now! Rift and She have killed their Kruthik, on to help Barrick, now!

That bug dead, I leap down, protect the dwarf, I am the most dutiful! Biggest bug is here, shooting acid, lightning witch hurt again, healing herself, arrows hit bug, from fast hands I think, everything chaos now, I miss a pounce, lightning witch kills biggest bug! Triumph, one bug remains, but no anger, no energy, I stand and watch now, as so often, but cannot see Him.

AARGH! Caught by the vine, dropped hard! Must stay in control. A bad bite, restrained, nothing broken, no spear in hand, only my totem, Erik coming to assist, just stay alive, they’ll have me out in no time, ah, drink the Kruthik potion, strength flowing through me, try a punch! No good, need a spear, what’s that, a lightning bolt, the hold is loosening, now Barrick is charging, head down, AARGH! Felt that, but the vine falls dead, I am free.

Trilleste’s Hut

Don’t like this shack, nor this howling hag. Hallway feels like a trap – Barrick knows, his axe twitching – there! Archers! Punch one, ha! He missed! Punch another, AARGH, my side, got me, there’s Barrick swinging, and a fire blast from Rift, and … ohhh, an ogre! Must duck, too late, AAARGH! Rift and I down and hurt, the hag shows her true self – a Dracoman, breathing lightning, arrows in from Erik, ogre misses Rift, might have been death, no time, where is potion, got it, down it, use it, scrabble out like a Kruthik, safe now I think, blast from Tira, Rift gets clear, Barrick kills the Dracohag, but now the ogre is on him, help him, now!

Light again, and heat, it has been so long, next to old dwarf, facing an ogre, I am the best protector! Ready claws, coil and – BOOM! thunder from lightning witch I think, lost footing, glancing blow, down, not hurt though, arrows fly over me, He sends Twins but they miss, must have been the thunder, now ogre down, old dwarf misses anyway, fast hands runs in close, He calls to Mother, and the ogre is hurt! Everyone hitting now, but ogre is up again, fire witch brings ice, coil and … I miss my pounce, He misses too, must have been the ice, lightning witch ferocious today, old dwarf and fast hands, He misses again, old dwarf and fast hands and lightning witch, He misses yet again, He must be hurt, finally! fire witch puts ogre down, he was tough, and I relax, unhurt, He is standing, tired, I stand beside Him, I am the proudest!


The five adventurers had made their way to Fort Dolor on the eastern side of the Dawnforge Mountains. Their mission was to investigate suspicions of a goblin army forming in the Kingdom of Nerrakis. Fears were that the Brotherhood of the Crescent Moon would soon threaten the borders of the dragonborn clan Kengi. So it was with bewilderment that the five’s arrival at the fort was met with nary a guard’s suspicious eye nor even an inhabitant’s glance from a window across an empty street. Open were the gates to Fort Dolor, defender of the Kingdom of Nerrakis.

Still, the five met with some luck as the dwarven fighter and the ranger were able to procure some magic to aid them in combat. Bits of information did come forth too. There was Captain Revince, proud and honorable commander of the fort, yet he had been gone a long time on patrol – whereabouts unknown. Then there were the mysteriously full warehouses whose contents were a secret but clearly not for common trade. Finally, a dire prophecy loomed over the fort. A prophecy told by a dwarven hag. Strangers coming as friends would lead to the death of everyone in the fort. Thoughts to give the adventurers pause. Leads to be followed.

So it was on the morning of their second day at the fort that the adventurers did strive to end their puzzlement. Torrock the dragonborn shaman and the mighty dwarven fighter Barrick left early to crack open the secret of the warehouses. Rift and Tira would use their best magic and feminine charms to track down Captain Revince. The ranger Erik set out to uncover the truth behind the dark prophecy of doom that was keeping the forts inhabitants so fearful and unfriendly.

At the warehouses…

A surly, miserable miser of a dwarf met Barrick and Torrock as they approached his warehouses. “What is it why you are here? You are not welcome. Leave!”, he barked. His axe flashed, yet the two warriors had seen much, much worse and so Barrick upped the ante with an intimidating bluff of his own. Perhaps it was not a bluff. A powerful presence can be a weapon. The might of the two became all too real for the storage keeper and so with his mind for business, he corrected his attitude toward something more in his favor. Surely these two brutes could be used to guard the warehouses, especially with so many of the fort’s good men having gone off on patrol only to never return.

With that, Barrick and Torrok were hired straight away at 1 silver piece per day. As the storage keep instructed them on their rounds, they made quick note of the piles of ore, the foodstuffs, the wood stock and some large crates, piled high to the ceilings and covered in tarps. Strangely, the crate’s markings had been seared off.

At the barracks…

The wizard and the sorceress snickered at each other as they theatrically preened for the visit to the barracks. Today they would wield their feminine wiles, something often more effective than a bolt from the finger tips. Charm can be a weapon. How could the soldiers resist and not immediately reveal the whereabouts of Captain Revince and that farmer’s daughter that he rescued just a few weeks prior? Sounds suspicious. Surely she’s a tramp. Jealousy is a powerful force. Rift and Tira had seen how the Trujy the shop keeper had grown rosy and nearly swooned at the mere mention of the captain. Tira and Rift would find their man.

It was not to be. Although their flattery and seduction got them past a private, he sheepishly returned with his superior, a pompous and overly proud Lieutenant named Steiners. His demeanor was repellant as were his words that rebuffed the two ladies. No. No to seeing the Captain. No to meeting with the farmer’s daughter – sole survivor of a heinous attack from the forest where the goblins and things likely much darker gathered their strength. Quite chagrined, Tira and Rift left with even stronger suspicions that the military in this fort were not to be trusted in any way.

At the stables…

Thistlesticks – a simple gnome or so Erik the ranger concluded. The dwarven hag left some time ago after spreading her gloomy soothsaying like a pack of mangy rats spread disease throughout a town. Her words were such powerful weapons. They had defeated the good nature of the citizenry, spreading fear and suspicion not only for strangers but for those who once were friends.

Having no luck with tracking down the hag, the ranger turned to follow a different trail. Seeing that the girls had been sent away by the soldier, Erik made his bid to join the military as a common soldier. Initially meeting the same resistance Tira and Rift had met, the young ranger was finally able to discern that the proud lieutenant was indeed short of men. Using this fact, and the need for “proof of employment” to secure a warm bed at the inn, Erik cajoled the gruff lieutenant into a soldiering job – a lookout on the guard tower, but not only did it pay 5 silver per day, it gained Erik temporary access to the entry room of the barracks. This was enough time to count ten battle hardened soldiers, six armed with long swords and four with crossbows. With that, Erik left for his post in the guard tower, on his way passing by a pair of dire boars whom he could not fully calm with his animal kinship.

Back at the warehouses…

From the tower, Erik could see much of the fort, including the bemusing shenanigans of one particularly mischievous and risk taking wizard. Never one to think twice, Rift noticed that her friends Torrock and Barrick had the warehouse keeper distracted and so without a moment’s notice, she disappeared from Erik’s keen sight to reappear behind one of the warehouse’s walls. Climbing up to the top of a stack of crates, she wedge her dagger below the lid of the top crate and levered hard. Would the mystery of the warehouses be revealed? Only a clue. The crate held scores and scores of swords and shields, all branded with the symbol of the kingdom of Nerrakis. Carefully covering her tracks, Rift quietly restored the crate’s lid and climbed down from her precarious perch, only to be face to face with a bill of sale, written in common: 150 swords and 150 shields, Lt. Steiners to B.I. Noticing that earlier would have made things so much easier! But this information was helping to form a picture. The prices of the weapons and armor was just one-tenth of what one would normally expect. Why would Lt. Steiners be collecting these weapons? And who is “B.I.”? Perhaps this information could be used as a weapon against Lt. Steiners. With that, Rift slipped through the warehouse door, just narrowly escaping the notice of the storage keep who could no longer be delayed by the antics of Torrock and Barrick.

An encounter with a tailed man with a tale…

Rift quickly met with her compatriots to share her discovery that now surely indicated trouble in the fort. Trouble centering around the military as lead by Lt. Steiners. Their huddle was interrupted by a young but serious and professional soldier, who at first glance gave them a startle. Could he be trusted? After he introduced himself as Private Zanfus, his tiefling red eyes grew more intense like piercing weapons of fury with the fire of his strong convictions. “I have word from my friend Trujy that you are good and honorable travelers and with you I must share my grave concerns that Captain Revince is not to be trusted”, he spoke with obvious nervousness. “I must be brief, for it is not safe, but I have myself seen the captain with the farmer’s daughter that he rescued but a fortnight ago. A romance has developed between them and he is no longer himself, I fear. He is not on patrol as Lt. Steiners would have us believe and with his dereliction of duty the lieutenant has assumed a shameful command without discipline nor direction. I am worried about Steiners.” With that, the adventurers could confirm their growing suspicions, revealing to Zanfus the contents of the scroll that Rift had discovered. “That is very bad”, said the increasingly alarmed private, “I must leave now so as not to be seen talking to you.”

At the herbalist’s…

Erik watched from afar, perched high up on the guard tower. What could have been going on? Sometimes a high vantage point is not what the situation calls for. His fellow adventurers continued their huddle only momentarily and Erik could soon see them walking his way, only to turn down another street. As they passed by, Tira looked up at Erik and gestured two fingers to her eyes and a pointed finger to the herbalist’s shop. Erik understood. His bow would be at the ready to provide cover from the sky.

With Barrick and Torrock waiting outside and out of view, Rift and Tira entered the herbalist’s shop to be greeted by a man of just 18, still visibly awkward with the opposing presences of Tira’s timeless beauty and Rift’s dangerous edge. Finally he would get the courage to introduce himself as Flenn, inheritor of his aunt’s botanical garden of both the mundane and arcane. Both Rift and Tira could tell that his nervousness was not just due to his lack of comfort around beautiful women, but something more, and so the two began their ruse. “Show me your mandrake root, would you dear”, implored Tira, “I would very much like to brew a healing potion.” Flenn resisted, “You must come back later, I have things to attend to.” For a moment his eyes just barely turned down the hall, giving away his thoughts. Rift and Tira could almost read each other’s minds as to the plan. So as Tira drew Flenn to the green house Rift faded into invisibility.

“What is this most marvelous plant?”, inquired Tira, taking Flenn by the arm to draw him over. “It’s, it’s, wizard’s rose”, blurted Flenn, visibly concerned that he could not follow his other customer’s whereabouts. “Why that’s a fascinating name for a plant that looks more for a maiden than a crusty old wizard”, laughed Tira, doing her best to calm the young man and regain his attention. “Yes, true, I mean it’s, umm, I sell it to Barum Voltar the wizard. He selects only the finest leaves and now I must attend to my duties and you must leave. Immediately.” With that he pulled away from Tira and with eyes darting around searched for Rift, but she was not to be seen.

During Tira’s distraction, Rift had enough time to venture a bit further into the herbalist’s shop. Upon opening a door, she spied a strong looking man cuddling with a gorgeous young lady. But something was wrong – his plate armor was out of place and so was his obsequious demeanor as she harshly demanded that he investigate the open door. “I sense that someone is there!”, she commanded, “Now go and protect me!” Dutifully following her instructions he replied, “Yes my lovely Xeniope, I always will.” Rift stifled her chuckle at his seemingly pathetic behavior but then thought how nice it would be to experience such love. Shaking that off, she quickly exited the scene and as she invisibly crept further down the hall even deeper into the herbalist’s, she could hear the whiny cry of Xeniope, “No one was supposed to bother me while I recover! My wounds are so bad, doesn’t anyone care? Ohh!”

In the entry room Flenn was growing more and more agitated and finally broke down to Tira. “Yes, I am anxious and you really must leave. I have the strictest of instructions to keep the young farmer’s daughter safe and secluded as she heals from her most terrible wounds. It’s by the grace of Pelor that she even lives.” In the back room, Rift scanned Flenn’s diary, learning the same and more than Tira hears: “Lacerations healing slowly. Scratches and claw marks beginning to fade but it is taking longer than expected. Something is not right with her body. Is she human? I cannot believe it.” Continuing his mini-breakdown, Flenn admited to Tira that the good Captain Revince has assumed the role of Xeriope’s constant protector and companion has she recovered from her grave injuries. Flenn expressed his concern, knowing the captain’s reputation as a revered leader of the Nerrakis military. His behavior was indeed out of character, ruled by Xeriope’s enchanting charms that could penetrate armor more easily than any sharp weapon.

The truth laid bare…

Despite the fog of the situation, the adventurer’s had realized that action was urgently needed for though they had convinced Flenn to offer the shaman Torrock’s healing powers to Xeriope, there was no having it. Xeriope was outraged at the disruption of her convalescence and her tantrum turned Flenn back to pleading for the adventurer’s to leave post haste. With this, Barrick would have no more. “Stand back!”, thundered the dwarf from a deep place in his barrel chest. Tears burst from the young man’s eyes as he scampered to his chamber. Xeriope’s response was different. By her command, her room’s closet door opened to reveal two spiny devils. Barrick muttered, “Looks like we’ll have to heal you the hard way.”

All the traded stares, glowering and built-up tension exploded into a frenzy of flying devil spines, swinging axes, blades and blood. Four of the adventurers were crammed into the tiny bed chamber of Xeriope, along with the two devils and Captain Revince, who upon standing had a physical presence fully fitting his reputation. Erik had seen Torrock and Barrick enter the herbalist’s with weapons at the ready and so he too was on the way, sliding down the tower’s banisters, running with heart pounding with concern and anticipation of the worst. Bow switched to twin blades while in full stride.

The good Captain Revince’s longsword swung down on Barrick with such accuracy and force that Barrick stood immobalized by the blow. Barrack just chuckled inside with his dry dwarven black humor, “This room is so crowded, where am I to go anyway?” With dragonborn breath of acid and shaman spirit companion’s bite, Torrock slew the first devil. And so it was that the true nature of the fair Xeriope was laid bare with her rage. The soft curled lips of a young lady changed to the harsh sneer of a contemptful vixen. Eyes of blue to yellow. Endearing innocence that inspires sympathetic kindness to sinful naughtiness that instills the very worst kind of lust. No longer the wholesome, natural beauty, Xeriope had transformed to the the leathery winged succubus, impure ruler of both men and women though the ability to infect with the deepest and darkest of jealous fantasies. Greedy lust, jealousy and envy were her weapons. Wrath and despair for those that would try to resist.

Barrick was the first to risk staring too long into Xeriope’s eyes. Too many years spent lonely in deep dark caverns toiling with the cold stone let him open up for the one second Xeriope needed to draw him over. His sadness that had been deeply suppressed within his subconscious welled up in him and coaxed by her beguiling, turned to biterness, anger and even hatred for his fellow companions. Surely he had been a fool for following them. Who were they to deny him his new love? With that, she held his heart and dominated him. Not noticing Barrick’s altered demeanor, Rift cast her own magic, oddly of the more normal sort for her kind – a shroud of fire and a spectral ram that hit Xeriope but did not make her flinch from enchanting poor Barrick. Enraged that Rift would do any harm to his Xeriope, Barrick took his swing at the unsuspecting Rift. Clouded of mind, Barrick was fortunately unable to successfully guide his axe and Rift turned to him, unscathed but none-the-less shocked. “This is nuts,” she thought, “Too many in too small a place!” and so she exited the room.

Xeriope’s wings powered her up into the air with magical force. She hoped to find new hearts to dominate on the other side of the room. Amid all this emotional warfare, so too flew devilish spines, magics and metal. “What’s all the fuss?”, wondered Erik as he arrived and immediately chopped down one of the devils with four deadly strikes from his twin blades, not realizing that it had been softened up by Tira and Torrock. No sooner than Erik withdrew his blade from the devil’s gut did another one appear. “Oh. I see,” though Erik, “Yeah, and there’s a succubus too. Wow! She’s…” With that Erik made the mistake of looking into her eyes just as Barrick had. A ranger’s journeys alone. The little boy still inside looking for the safety of the strong hand. A young man’s desires for advenure and danger. Erik’s will was lost to Xeriope. All the control and discipline of the ranger’s art was for what? What of expressing uncontrolled passion? Erik’s uncorked anger and emotion evoked uncontrolled feelings of great power. The berserk blow that he unleashed upon poor Barrick surprised even himself and though he knew it was wrong, it felt so so good. The power of anger was intoxicating. So was Xeriope. Unlike the older and wiser Barrick, Erik could not shake off this insanity and continued to be dominated. Extreme vanity and pride now controlled Erik as he struck the fair Tira as well.

Barrick and Erik were not the only ones who had been dominated by the devilish Xeriope. Captain Revince had fully succumbed long ago when he rescued what he thought was a farmer’s daughter, alluring and innocent. All this time, the good captain would throw himself in front of his Xeriope to protect her from the attacks that the adventurers would deliver. She delighted in this for although her protector would not last much longer against the powerful onslaught, she could palpably feel the power that total control over another person gave. She craved this. It was her talent and her obsession which she could not long live without. Finally the stout dwarven fighter Barrick was able to push Captain Revince from his dutiful post beside his master. This was what the adventurers needed to bring the fight directly to the succubus and that is what they did. Abandoning her most loyal defender, Xeriope flew out of the room and into the hallway in a bid to escape.

Now all the adventurers were still in Xeriope’s convalescence room, except for Rift. The succubus was clever indeed and turned her gaze to Rift, who opened herself up to Xeriope’s charms. Rift had been adrift amongst men, dwarves, halflings and all other sorts of inhabitants of earth and sea, but never her elven kin. Xeriope could sense this and with her gaze drew upon that which Rift had repressed all these years. Though a beautiful woman, Rift hid behind a tough exterior and bravado that pushed most away from her, alienating herself from anyone who could get too close and see her need for belonging and love. The allure was overpowering and with but a glance into the room, Xeriope indicated what she wanted. Rift obeyed. A pulse of fire leapt from Rift’s fingers and exploded, searing her friends. Alas, a friend of Xeriope was no friend of the the spiny devils, and the last remaining one rewarded Rift’s allegiance with a hail of poison spines.

It was time for the adventurers to get out of the room, for Xeriope’s hold on Rift continued and with another glance into the room still more fire engulfed the adventurers. With Tira and Rift badly injured, Torrock turned from the fray and in a brief moment of silence emanated his healing strength. Erik escaped the room and quickly switched from twin blades to bow just in time to get two arrows into the devil. It would not last long and Xeriope knew this. Down the hall she flew, leaving her devil companion and the good Captain to perish. More merciful were the adventurers. With a measured blow, Torrock rendered the good captain unconscious – not dying. Erik’s aim at the spiny devil was also measured – to kill – and that it did. Xeriope continued her escape, but now all the adventurers could focus just on her. Torrock’s spirit companion joined in the battle. Through a secret door Xeriope thought she could escape, but surrounded, she made her final stand. Rift dealt the final blow. Before her lay the succubus and the wickedness. Before her lay the Xeriope and the warmth. No one knows what emotions Rift really felt.

The adventurers rested for a moment, but only so. They quickly recovered several interesting items from the succubus’ secret chamber. Two maps showed the way to “F. Lair” and “Hag”.

In a satchel, Tira discovered red ruby, a platinum statue of a man in chains and a small sphere with dark red and black. Upon examining the sphere, Tira knew this to be a communication sphere that required human blood to release the message. Erik, the best available human, let his wounds drip onto the sphere and in his mind he could see an image of a man speaking in a language that could not be understood. The face was warm, caring and loving, but the feeling was of diabolical evil.

Further search of the room revealed a second secret door which lead to a long passageway through the rock that Fort Dolor was built up against. Moving through corridor, Barrick could tell that early dwarves had carved the walls. However, today these tunnels were used by the soldiers of Fort Dolor. Pausing to examine the ground, Erik estimated that eight to twelve men and two dire bores routinely made there way here. Finally, an exit to the outside was found along with a back entrance to the fort.

Returning to Xeriope’s chambers, Torrock revived Captain Revince. With time and the healing powers of Torrock, the Captain began to remember and realize just what had happened. The mixed emotions he had for Xeriope were overwhelming and he wept. He also wept from the shame of letting the fort fall into disrepair and worse. The adventures told the tale of Lieutenant Steiners, the contents of the warehouse and the good Private Zanfus’ story. Finally, the captain stood and regained his composure. The adventurers could see the goodness and honor returning to his presence. Captain Revince knew what action was required. He told of his distrust of the lieutenant and the two score or so hardened solidiers that remained in the fort. A plan was to be immediately formed.

The Horses Spook
Or, a Good Place for an Ambush

You stand in the Hammerhold Inn with your companions, Erik the Ranger, Rift the Wizard, Tira the Sorceress, and Torrock the Shaman. You were sent to Fort Dolor in the kingdom of Nerrakis, to seek information on the Brotherhood of the Crescent Moon, and the fate of the dragon Aurumendor. You are a dwarf, and your name is Barrick.

You and your friends have found a magic key, and a golden orb which appears to fit within the key. You debate whether to place the orb into the key.

If you wish to place the orb within the key, turn to p. 59.
If you wish to continue on to Fort Dolor without trying the key, turn to p. 80.
If you wish to leave the Inn and return home to your village, turn to p. 321.

You slip the orb through the triangle at the end of the key. The orb falls to the ground and shatters. Warm colors of red, orange, and yellow rise up in a mist and take the wispy shape of a dragonborn form dressed in red and yellow robes with gold and red dragons inlaid. The spirit form speaks directly into your mind.

I am Landegar, a wizard of Arkhosia, and now a spirit guide for the Valiant Dwarven Warrior who has claimed the Key of Bonderstrong. Son of stone, you and your companions are the eighth to claim the Key. The great warrior and my great friend, Ferrol Ironfell, grandson of Bonderstrong…

You awake with a snort.

...twelve strong magical Wards that are bound to this tableau will be restored, and the Key will wait until is needed again. Time is short. I can answer three questions from you or your companions to help guide you before I return to join the Guardian. Know that the spell that binds my spirit here is limited. Ask now, even as I fade.

To ask how to find the nearest huge pile of treasure, turn to p. 99.
To ask how the key has been used in the past and future, turn to p. 40.

The spirit answers your question:
The dwarves used the key to open doors in their mines. The other end of the key is a great source of radiant power. To answer your second question, in the future, the key may find treasures that Ironfell did not find, and to fight a terrible shadow.

If you wish to ask where the dwarven mines are located, turn to p. 42.
To ask for another mug of ale, turn to p. 44.

The spirit answers your third and final question:
The key is the answer. The three points of the triangle are a map of the location of the three strongholds of the dwarves – Hammerfast, Hammerhold, and Hammerfell. The Tiefling empire took them over. Only Hammerfast retains a semblance of its former glory.

As the spirit answers the final question, you see its form begin to fade and then disappear. You and your companions are alone in the Inn.

To examine the Key of Bonderstrong for magic, turn to p. 65.
To ask for another mug of ale, turn to p. 44.
To depart immediately for Fort Dolor, turn to p. 102.

You carefully examine the Key. The wizard Rift and the sorceress Tira help you with their vast arcane knowledge. You realize that this is not an ordinary key – it is a weapon. In your gnarled and scarred dwarven hands, you can use this key as an axe, to send a shower of flaming radiant war axes raining down upon your foes. You can also use the Key to aid in opening locks, and to create magic unbreakable locks.

The Key also contains a sentient creature, who whispers to you even now. This is a potent weapon, and your mind is troubled.

To throw away the Key and rely on your trusty old axe, turn to p. 66.
To keep the Key, and trust to dwarven luck, turn to p. 68.

You tie the Key around your neck. If it was good enough for the likes of Ferrol Ironfell, it is certainly good enough for you.

The day grows late. The snow has stopped, and your companions are eager to quit the Inn and head onwards.

If you want to spend another night at the Inn, turn to p. 82.
To set off in the deep snow to Fort Dolor, turn to p. 105.

The snow is deep, but your horses are strong. Your wagon is piled high with trade goods, to cover your spying activities in Fort Dolor.

For a while, you progress smoothly through the snow. Soon, however, it grows colder. Your horses begin to whiney and complain. The frost is beginning to bother your companions. You, as a dwarf (and filled with ale), feel no pain.

Up ahead, you see a bridge crossing an icy creek. Standing before the bridge are several strange looking creatures. The ugliest one, a goblin by his looks, shouts for you and your companions to “Halt!”.

“I am Splirge!” he shouts in a commanding voice. “Of the Hand of the Brotherhood of the Crescent Moon. It is 5 gold per foot or hoof to cross the bridge. Pay or die!”

To meekly pay the toll, turn to p. 110.
To laugh in his face, turn to p. 116.
To try to find a way around the bridge, turn to the next page.

You and your companions decide to go around the bridge. Your friend Tira guides her horse towards the river. As soon as the horse’s hoof touches the icy stream, the horse rears up, throwing its rider.

The goblins scream “Kill them!” “They have not paid the toll!” “Arrrgggg!”

Erik the Ranger is in the wagon with you. He turns to you. “Show them the Key,” he says. “That may frighten them into submission.”

If you wish to bring out the Key, turn to p. 121.
To ignore Erik’s advice and throw an axe at the biggest goblin, turn to p. 96.
To hide under some blankets in the wagon, turn to p. 320.

You hide underneath the blan <flip>

You bring forth the Key from beneath your chain mail shirt. “Behold, I bear the Key of Bonderstrong!” you shout in your most raspy dwarven voice.

“Arrrrrrr! He has the Key of Bonderstrong!” “Thief, kill him!” “The key belongs to the Brotherhood. He has stolen it!”

To say “Oops,” and return the Key to the rightful goblin owners, turn to p. 220.
To attack with the power of the Key, turn to p. 153.
To attack with your bare hands, turn to p, 160.

You raise the key above your head. Calling forth the spirit of your dwarven ancestors, you shout to your companions, “Attack!”

A blinding hail of glowing axes descends upon the hapless goblin bridge wardens. They scream in terror as the glowing blades slice into them. Even after the initial shower passes, the area remains unsafe to all enemies who enter.

Your friends attack. Torrock summons a spirit of primal power to do his bidding. Tira lets loose with a dazzling blast of chaotic energy at Splirge. Rift suddenly disappears off of her horse, appears in the middle of the goblins, and releases a shroud of fire from her fingers. Erik, in a feat worthy of the heroes of old, runs across the back of two horses, drawing his two long swords in the process, pounces down like a wolf in front of Splirge.

Unfortunately, with Erik gone from the wagon, the horses bolt.

To stay within the wagon and try to calm them down, turn to the next page.
To grab your axe and leap out of the wagon, turn to p. 161.

You grab your axe, and leap over the side. As you leap, your mailed boot catches the side. You tumble out, right onto your head. Shaking you head, you rise to your feet, only to find yourself facing two foes.

To taunt your opponents and attack them both, turn to p. 180.
To attack the nearest goblin first, turn to p. 179.

Your taunts enrage the goblins. They rush towards you in a frenzy. “Give us the Key!” they shout. Swinging your great axe, you laugh as you slice them both down, dead.

Erik the Ranger has been blinded.

If you want to run to Erik’s aid, turn to p. 182.
If you want to attack the nearest goblin, turn to p. 179.

Three new goblins appear from a hidden cave.

You spot the nearest goblin and charge towards him, wildly swinging your magic axe.

Erik is now blinded and hexed. He cannot move from where he stands, lest he be destroyed.

If you want to run to Erik’s aid, turn to p. 182.
If you want to attack another goblin, turn to p. 190.

You continue to fight goblins.

Erik, hexed and blinded, swings wildly and kills a goblin. Rift’s icy terrain knocks over some goblins. Tira’s wild burst of Chaos destroys two goblin minions. In the meantime, Torrock calms his horse down, and charges after the cart and other horses, who have disappeared down the mountain pass.

Finally, Erik, with a massive swing of his sword, manages to cut down his foe and shake off the hex.

The rest of the goblins flee in terror.

To chase after the goblins, turn to the next page.
To ignore the goblins and search the dead for treasure, turn to p. 242.

You chase after the goblins. One of the little fiends runs around a bend and up a hidden trail. Puffing after him, you quickly lose sight of the pest. Behind, you can hear Torrock shouting “Wait for me!”.

You also hear shouting from the mouth of the hidden cave. It sounds like Rift has discovered a poison dart trap, the hard way.

If you want to wait for Torrock, turn to p. 239.
If you want to continue chasing the goblin, turn to p. 261.
If you want to run to Rift’s aid, turn to p. 262.

You come to a halt, your breath steaming in the icy air. Torrock huffs up beside you. “I tied the horses to a tree. Or a rock, I can’t remember. Ah well, no matter.”

Listening, you hear muffled shouts coming from within the mountain beside you. It sounds like Tira and Rift have both discovered the poison darts. Suddenly, a crack opens up in the mountain, and a hand appears.

To cut off the hand with your axe, turn to the next page.
To wait and see who appears, turn to p. 243.
To ignore the hand and break out a pint of ale, turn to p. 321.

Just as your raise your axe to strike off the hand, Erik’s face appears from the hidden doorway. “Hold on there big feller,” he calls. “It’s only me, Erik.”

You shake the sweat from your eyes. “Sorry about that,” you mutter. “Got a little axe crazed…”

You suddenly stop. Was that a crunching noise you heard? “Tira, are you eating those lizards-on-a-stick again?” Tira’s eyes flash with a sudden chaotic gleam. “Watch it, dwarf. My powers are unpredictable, and might just decide to strike you where it hurts the most!”

There it is again, that crunching noise.

If you want to rest for a few minutes, turn to p. 281.
If you want to rush to investigate the crunching noises, turn to p. 283.

After a brief rest, you feel relaxed and happy. The world isn’t such a bad place, even if there are goblins who want to brain you, dragons that would snap you up in a heartbeat, and demons that would blast your very soul. It’s adventure time!

To investigate the crunching noises, turn to p. 283.
To give it all up and return home to your village, turn to p. 321.

As you enter your ancestral village, Ardis Gundrun bounds towards you, her beard glistening and her big <flip>

You slowly make your way up the trail, following the horrible crunching and chittering. You see a mass of giant spider webs covering the trail. Something is eating up here, and it sounds hungry.

To charge around the corner and attack, turn to p. 301.
To send the ranger up ahead to scout, turn to the next page.

A nod, a brief smile, and Erik the Ranger melts into the forest. Moments pass, no sound is heard, save the chittering and chomping. Suddenly, Erik is again beside you. His eyes gleam. He raises his hands and begins to communicate what he saw in the rapid silent gestures known to all rangers. You and your companions stare at him open-mouthed. “Sorry,” he mutters. “There were five creatures, feeding on a giant spider. They looked like giant bugs, covered in scales and with sharp spikes for feet.”

You raise a questioning eye at your friends. “Kruthik?” asks Rift. “Definitely,” exclaims Tira. “Let’s kill them!” cries Torrock. The shaman appears eager to face off against these primal enemies.

To charge around the corner and attack, turn to p. 301.
To sneak quietly through the woods and achieve total surprise, turn to p. 296.

Moving with all the stealth and grace of the dwarven race, you stomp through the trees. Snap! Crunch. Oooof! “By Moradin’s bones these woods are full of sticks!” You peer through the leaves. The giant bugs have stopped feeding and are staring straight at you.

If you want to return home to your village, turn to p. 321.
To charge ahead and attack the nearest bug, turn to p. 301.

“For the dwarven women!” you cry, as you raise the Key of Bonderstrong. You unleash a hail of radiant axes down on the hapless bugs. Two of the smallest wither under the blows. Chittering madly, the others race towards you, their jaws snapping.

Tira steps out from the trees. Her bolts of chaos bounce from one kruthik to another, leaving long gashes, and killing one outright. Suddenly, a great blast of fire erupts in the middle of the clearing, killing the two adult kruthiks. “Woo woo!” shouts Rift. Only the kruthik hive lord remains.

The shaman Torrock summons his ghostly companion, who attacks the hive lord. Weakened and dismayed, the hive lord burrows beneath the earth.

To throw an axe into the hole, turn to p. 304.
To jump into the hole and attack, turn to p. 305.

Erik jumps into the hole after the fleeing hive lord. Summoning your dwarven resolve, you leap into after him. “Ahh, this is more like it,” you think to yourself. “A fight in the good solid earth.” You strike with your axe, a dizzying blow. The hive lord stops, stunned. Tira drops a wintry blast down the tunnel, followed quickly by a scorching burst of fire from the wizard. The hive lord, stunned, stabbed, frozen, and fried, is dead.

To search the nearby woods for more kruthik, turn to p. 310.
To search the clearing, turn to the next page.

The clearing appears to contain only the remains of an ancient altar to Moradin, the patron god of dwarves. Two glowing pods of red and blue are filled with a restorative mist, helpful to those in battle. Too late for you now.

Returning to the cave, you find treasure! 150 gold pieces from the goblins, and a glowing ruby. You also find some armor bearing the crest of Nerrakis.

Turn to the next page.

You continue on your journey. Arriving late that day in Fort Dolor, you find the guard towers unguarded and the gates open. No one is about, but smoke rises from the chimney of a building just to the northwest of the gates.

To be continued…

Played by a Girl
The party rescues someone that needed no rescuing

Not so long ago, a tale was regaled, not once, but twice, in two different towns, and in two very different ways.

In a crowded bar in Hammerfest:

Jardil the Bard waited for the crowd to quiet. He had played the town enough to know that his presence was wanted. Strumming his lute he surveyed the room as eyes were turned to focus on him. Pausing for effect, he returned the expectant gazes, and then began the song of the evening; a new song just completed yestermorn.

At the same time, in a lavish lacy bedroom, miles away in the small town of Fallcrest:

She smiled, an evil smile, while looking at her friends. “C’mon, tell us how you did it!” “Yeah, we heard of them, they are heroes, not some local grunts you can have tossed out with the trash.”

She leaned forward and spoke in a soft voice, despite knowing no one could overhear, “Heroes are too predictable. Well usually, as you know things did not work out as I had planned.” She shakes her head, and then continues, “As soon as I saw them I knew it was time to release him, to finally see him in the flesh.” At the mention of the word ‘flesh’, all three girls giggled.

“OK, so as you know he said he needed some people to feed on when I release him, and I really really wanted to release him.”


Jardil started singing:

Eight there was one beautiful morn
A dwarf, four more and three dragonborn
Good deeds the group had bravely done
Prisoners rescued, nine plus one


“I didn’t want to use locals, I might get caught too easily, so there I was, in the bar, when this group marches in spouting stories of how brave they are. I gave old Bollo 10 gold to tell my daddy I had been taken, then hid just outside the cave entrance. When they came near I scurried to his chamber and waited. Henry was still there in the passage, as dead as I left him, so I knew no one had been there in a couple days. I could hear them when they approached, talking all about that Balemirth dwarf guy; so I tied myself to the pillars.”

“Couldn’t they tell you tied the ropes yourself?”

Elena scoffed, “I’ve practiced self tying, it might have other uses as well; but with these idiots, it didn’t matter. It took them forever to see me; they were gawking at his energy sphere and lens prison, and the orc statues around the room. Oh yeah, those orcs were not so much just statues; that kind of scared me a little, but I’ll get to that. The really weird part is that after I called out, ‘Help me, please, I’m over here’ this girl appears out of nowhere, next to the sphere, and she already knows the party. But I can feel him calling to me, so I play dumb so they come cut the ropes. Then I jumped into one of the beams and throw the dust, blocking all vision, just as he told me. It worked, and there he was, larger than life.”


In rushes a gentleman, the rich Mr. Goodright
Kidnapped was his daughter, in the bright sunlight
Down into the cave, the party did go
Hunting for clues, both high and low
Over a dead man the wizard almost did trip
From him was taken his hat and his whip

Through closed doors, a huge room was found
Inside was sparkling energy, large and round
The girl could be heard, from the other side
Calling for help, trussed up and tied
The sorceress, by magic, becomes more than one
The girl cut loose, and the party ready to run

Just sixteen years old, she was under a spell
Trying to release a demon, she knew not well
Focused beams of light the girl did break
Blocked sight of the sphere, the thrown dust did make
The sphere did burst and thus no longer did bind
A monster, a flayer, of body and mind


“What did he look like?”

“He was beautiful, but not human, he had these long strong things on his face and he just radiated power. I needed him to feed so we could be together. His power filled the room, the orc statues actually started coming to life because of it. He sent a beam of energy toward one of their girls; I wanted to feel his power so I stepped forward to catch part of the beam. I cannot describe the feeling, so much mental energy surged into me that I was left dazed; I wonder if the feeling is anything like that other is supposed to be.”

“Wow, that sounds wonderful!’

“It was. I moved toward the pretty girl, to grab her for him, but then those horrid people started blasting and magic was flying everywhere. That little tramp that cut me loose created this ball of fire and before I knew it, he was gone; dead.”


The wizard was dazed as the flayer attacked
The paladin fought back, massive damage was stacked
Sorceress two set the monster ablaze
While the other cut him down with colourful rays
One ball of fire, set floating near his head
Was enough to ensure the creature was dead


“Oh Elena, that must have been horrible for you!”

“It was, but then the orcs all burst to life and I figured at least I could help them avenge him. I tried to jump the chasm to join them, but slipped and fell into the pit. Before I could regain my feet, I was blasted by that redhead and knocked unconscious. I woke to find literally piles of dead orcs in the pit with me, and the cleric standing over me. Since they were able to defeat him and all those orcs I figured they were more powerful than I first guessed. I went back with them until I could see daddy.”


The statues, all fifty, then started to move
But worthy in combat the party did prove
Divine Glow, Dragon Breath and Fireball
It was all too much, the orcs started to fall

Many did die, those with no wit
Throwing themselves into the deep pit
The girl was rescued and healed up fine
The orcs were dispatched and the party was nine


One of the other girls laughed, “Yeah, we know what happened then, that was brilliant Elena!”

“It was all going to be so easy, ‘Daddy, they attacked me’, bat my eyes and have them forced out of the pub empty handed. But then that evil cleric blasted my father, in broad daylight, in a public building. Sure he then healed him, but seriously, how evil can one person be to kill another like that over a few gold pieces. I cried a bit more and the next thing I know that group was run out of town and daddy was lavishing me with more jewelry to ‘help me forget the horror.’ Ha!” Elena fingered a ruby hanging on a slender silver chain around her neck.

The quiet girl spoke up, ‘Oh Elena, you are so wickedly delicious. I wish I had the courage to try what you do.” Elena smiled her evil smile again, then all the girls burst into another round of laughter.


Back to the pub to collect their fine gold
But a tale of bad deeds from the girl was told
No gold was given, the father had lied
A blast from the cleric, he fell down and died
No justice was done that fateful day
The party was banished and sent on their way

Good deeds are still done, and noble ones too
Despite danger to life the party fights true
Never think once that the group is not good
Against evil they stand, with metal and wood
With magic and bravery they have always won
My ode to these warriors now is finally done

When the song ended, Tira looked around the table, unsure if they were able to tell she was a girl in the ballad, twice. “So what happened next?” The question put to rest any doubt Tira had about her anonymity.

Tira recounted the story yet again, “From there we traveled to Kengistan, the massive military dragonborn city. I have never seen such a place, every being was proud and ready to fight, yet they all had nobility and compassion. Feldegar and Monara, the ruling couple of Kengistan welcomed us, yet not more than a few minutes after we arrived, our good friends Felsmon and Z’alden were sent away on a mission. We were not allowed to go with them and barely had time to say goodbye.” Tira sighed, “I really missed them, I barely had time to get to know them again after rejoining the party when they were sent away.”

Tira continued, “In Felsmon’s place, another dragonborn joined us, Torrock, a shaman with a spirit familiar. I had never seen a familiar in battle and was anxious for the experience. Feldegar charged us with a quest, which we all accepted. The gold dragon Aurumendor has been missing for half a year. His presence at the next hatching, in 3 weeks, is of the utmost importance. We were told of the Brotherhood of the Crescent Moon, a band of mountain goblins living to the south of Kengistan and of a darkness descending over the hated neighbouring region of Nerrakis. We were told to seek out Captain Revince in Fort Dolor for more information, and that is just what we did.”

The Party Reforms
New Adventures Await
But For a Single Door
Trapped between a warder and a wizard

When I, Torben Eastlander, started taking down the tale of these Nentir Vale adventurers, I knew enough to be skeptical. Now, I know enough to be intrigued. I wanted to know the ending. Maybe it would explain why Barrick the dwarf drank so much. Or why Rift the wizard had such a difficult time speaking correctly. Or why the dragonborn Paladin Felsmon spoke so little. Or why the Ranger was always ready to go. Or why the cleric of Bahamut was so fervent.

I knew that the party had already opened two doors in the top level of the Tower of Mysteries. One to the north into a huge room with Vecna’s face and hand populated by an Enigma and Norkers, and one to the east with a Warder. Rift the wizard was prone on the floor with the Warder. Felsmon the Paladin was facing him. On the western wall, the evil wizard Paldemar had opened a door, shot the adventurers with lightning, injuring several of the them, and then magically locked the door again.

I looked over at the cleric. “So, what happened next?”

The Half-Elf drained his glass of Nentir ’97. His intense green eyes seemed ready to burst. He spoke: “Looking over my shoulder, I could see Felsmon in front of the massive brutish bulk of the Warder. In front of me, I waited for that wizard’s door to open, so that I could run into the room and, then, teach him what the Dragon has in store for Evil Doers. But, at the moment, all I hoped for was access to his accursed abode. Erik planned to yell to Rift to teleport in, after he moved with his swift ranger precision and sliced that magician from end-to-end. It was not to be.”

“Yes, the door did open again. We could see Paldemar. As soon as Erik moved to attack, a magic blast tore into Erik’s mind and severed it of the very techniques he planned to use. Effectively, Erik was immobilized. But, he could still yell. So, Rift teleported away from the Warder and in with the wizard. I stepped into the room. Blam! The door slammed and locked behind us. Rift and I were trapped with Paldemar.”

The cleric paused. He looked me in the eye with such intensity that I shuddered. “Our cause was righteous. We had to stop Paldemar for bringing Vecna into this world. Already, the accursed demon Inooghu had made it in from our failure. Here we would not fail. We could not fail! I looked at Paldemar. Surrender now! I said to him, or be destroyed. He simply laughed and launched his magic at us. Rift had her own powers, though, setting him on fire with a flaming sphere and trying to grab him with the Icy Hand she learned of the great wizard Bigsby. Some of Rift’s most powerful magic – they did little to this evil spellcaster.”

“Yes, our cause was righteous, but the two of us were trapped with an exceedingly powerful wizard who had nearly laughed at our wizard’s most powerful spells. At that moment, I nearly faltered.”

The agony of the moment of doubting still haunted the cleric. I refilled his glass. The others leaned in. Could it be that the cleric had not told them of his inner turmoil, his sense of uncertainty? What had happened that had hidden these feelings from Z’alden’s close comrades? I noticed that the entire room of patrons at the inn was quiet, too. They could not help but listen to the captivating tale.

The cleric drained the Nentir ’97.

The Dwarf spoke up. “When we realized that the doors was locked with Rift and Z’alden trapped inside with Paldemar, may he rot forever, what the Z-man didn’t know was that I was shoving Norkers left and right to try and find another door. I thought Erik was coming round, too, to help me open the door I found but he was busy hammering on the first door. Then, the blasted wizard Paldemar comes out the door and slams it behind him, locking Z’alden and Rift into his stinking chambers. The wizard was there, right in front of me. I swung my axe and ripped him a new one. I rang his bell so well that he couldn’t hardly move more than a foot or two from where he was standing he was so dizzy and wounded. Never knew I could make a blow like that.”

“But Paldemar had more planned, even if he couldn’t dance around us. His little Norker buddies were taking it to the Felsmon who could barely get one thing done. A Vecna statue had rung his bell, too, and dazed him. Then, the Paladin judges this Norker and rains down Bahamut’s justice in the form of a longsword on that Norker. Trial over!”

“Paldemar had his appeal, ready though, sucking stored energy out of pillar right next to Erik and raining lightning down on Erik and me. We was hurtin’, and then we hear Felsmon around the corner roar and the Norkers shout something in triumph, may the maggots infest their mouths forever, Felsmon had dropped unconscious. Erik and I were wounded badly, Paldemar’s black breath was stinking up the place with gloating. Z-man and Rift were stuck behind the magically locked door. It was looking grim.” Barrick took a swig of his ale and shuddered remembering just how black the situation had turned.

I glanced around. The crowd was enraptured. Concern radiated on every face.

The Ranger Erik stood up from the table, “And then, you wouldn’t believe it, but I believe it because I saw it – that door opened! Rift had defeated the lock!”

Smiles and nods erupted on the crowds faces. They had been nervous.

Rift pulled back at her sleeves, “I was pretty sure I had him ready, the lock I mean, when Z’alden says ’try your small tool.’ Well, I’m a pretty big tool, girl I mean, and I don’t like interference when I’m working, a door that is, but the cleric was good, right I mean, and the door swung open!”


Erik jumps on the table, “then Paldemar tried to get another spell off and it was punch time; I punched him right in the face, even as his frost tagged Barrick. Then, I put down the bow and it was sword time right into Paldemar.” Erik looked around sheepishly and sat back down. This gave me time to get out another quill.

The group in the inn tried to look as if they were minding their own business. But, it was clear they were waiting for more of the tale.

The dwarf took another tankard of ale down in one gulp. He looked over at Z’alden. “I don’t know what we would have done if that door hadn’t open. But for that single door, we were sunk. I had seen Z’alden’s next spell before. He walked through the newly open door and, well, he calls it a prayer to Bahamut, and now I do believe in something, but I think what I believe in is Z’alden’s belief. That Platinum Dragon worshipper was a real hope-giver to us. A dragon form filled the entire space 7 staff lengths from me to where Felsmon was lying on the ground and touched all the rest of us in between. My bruises healed up, Erik’s wounds closed, and Felsmon came back around I could hear. Several of the Norkers and the Enigma, may her face fall to pieces forever, looked weaker for having been touched by that Dragon. And we were stronger.”

The dragonborn Felsmon nodded, “I was down. I was out. Darkness all around me. Light from Bahamut brought me back. I was in. I was up. My blade and shield surround me. Norkers no longer to hound me.”

“More butterbeer for the Paladin”, I cried out to the barkeep. I had not heard poetry from the reticent Paladin. Ever he continued to amaze me. And, I amazed myself. I never bought drinks for anyone. These adventurers and their spirit were getting to me.

Erik jumped up, “Then Paldemar stuck me with a clear dagger. Probably one of the two Tiefling blades we sold to Gendar. I knew that was a bad deal. The blade broke off in the wound, and I couldn’t get it out. Did that thing smart.”

Barrick nodded at the pain his friend had felt. “What was smart was the Z-man’s next spell. Suddenly, an area 3 staffs by 3 staffs surrounding Z’alden had these little dragons all over it. Erik and Z’alden are getting healed while standing on this Ground and Paldemar, may rats dance on his eye sockets, was getting bitten and clawed by these glowing dragons.”

The cleric’s eyes gleamed, “By the Claw, I had looked Paldemar again in the eyes and told him, ‘My name is Zenithar al Denithar. You have killed too much. Prepare to die.’ He said he heard that one before. I told him ‘Not from us you haven’t.’ The Consecrated Ground that Bahamut granted was even stronger than ever. Erik’s and my own wounds stitched together as the healing powers of my new Mace strengthened the Ground. Dragon’s Breath! Paldemar knew that his evil was not welcome on that sacred space. Still, he couldn’t move. He could not shake Barrick’s mighty blow.”

“With Paldemar getting it, hit I mean,” the Eladrin shook her head, maybe too much Nentir ’97, “I moved the Flaming Sphere to the Enigmas, Norkers, and Warder so that they would get some, damage I mean. Then, Felsmon, conscious again but still prone on the ground and dazed from the statue, lashed out at the Enigma next to him with his sword shouting ‘For Kengi!!’ The Enigma got some from him, damage that is, and it was too much. On his knees, Felsmon had done the Enigma, killed it I mean.”

“I think it was when Barrick’s voice rang out, ‘In this life, you’re either a hammer or an anvil, Be a Hammer!’”, Z’alden smiled remembering the Inspiration they all had received from Barrick’s leadership. “with that, Barrick charged at the Warder who had started to come over to aid his master Paldemar. The horns on Barrick’s helmet ripped into the Warder. Erik’s arrows flew at a Norker, Rift’s magic flames from the Sphere and from a huge burst around her killed a slinging Norker even as she ducked sling bullets back at her. The tide was turning until a jet of flame shot out from a giant skull at the far end of the room, scorching Barrick as the Warder slammed into him and Paldemar could concentrate enough to send lightning careening into Rift and Erik. By the Wing, I dodged that shock in time.”

The cleric drained another glass, “The battle raged. Rift’s Flaming Sphere continued to devastate the enemy, killing another Norker. Erik’s arrows scored our foes, and Barrick’s axe exacted a toll on the Warder matching brute strength with a brute strike. Paldemar remained on the consecrated ground unable to move from Barrick’s dizzying blow, and, by the Claw, he felt Bahamut’s power even as Rift’s sphere moved next to him for even more fiery pain. I turned my head and Barrick’s damages from his fight with the Warder were more severe than I realized. By the Wing, my hands were infused with a silver and purple flame and the Great Dragon restored the injured fighter, curing his serious wounds. I turned and the Warder knocked me over, even as he pounded on Erik, Barrick, and me. It was a dark moment.”

Then the Ranger stood up, “But it was go time for the Light. Felsmon came across the room, swinging his sword, straight for Paldemar. Cuts and bruises erupted on his face as his own self, his own power, was put into the blows he landed on the magic user. Felsmon’s gloves glowed with the power of the Ogres even as his sword was alight with radiance as he smited Paldemar. It was no go for Paldemar. Felsmon had killed the evil wizard!”

The entire room had been hanging on every word. Cheers erupted! More ale and wine appeared at our table as the listeners wanted to hear the very end. The adventurers could not keep it quiet any more. The cleric stood on the table even as I continued to scribble my notes of their tale.

“Master dwarf looked at the fallen body of Paldemar and stared at the remaining foes. He shouted out, and what a voice he has!, ‘ Paldemar is dead, you scum of Vecna, come and get some more!’ The remaining Norker and the Warder could not resist his taunt and came to him as he taught them a sharp lesson with axe in hand! With the Warder close by, the Ranger dropped his bow, pulled out two swords at once and leapt onto the warder as though his swords were the Jaws of the Wolf. The Warder knew what a wolf’s bite meant that time, I tell you. The last Norker erupted in flames from our wizard’s magic sphere. Only the Warder was left. Rift’s fiery magic, Erik’s swords, Barrick’s axe, and Felsmon’s blade all extracted a price from the hulking brute. By the Wing, I moved the sacred ground so that the Warder would feel Bahamut’s power, too. I myself tried to hit him with mace and dagger to no avail. But he could not withstand Bahamut. The radiant dragons clawed and bit the brute, and he too was felled! The field was ours!”

Ale tankards clinked and cheers erupted more fervently. The priest’s little sermon had cast a spell over this group. Surely, there were several new converts to Bahamut on that day.

Later in the evening, once the crowd had dispersed, I gathered the group once more. “what would have happened if that locked door hadn’t opened to Rift’s pick?”

Rift smiled ruefully. “I would have gotten it, eventually I mean, but..” Barrick interrupted her, “but by then Erik, Felsmon, and me would have been dead. I don’t believe in much, but Bahamut, may his wings beat forever, smiled on us at that moment and throughout the rest of the battle.”

“Oh, one last question”, I asked them, “In the wizard’s stronghold, did you find anything?” Rift’s eyes shone, “Oh yes, we did. Paldemar had a staff of Fiery Might that I could put to much better use than he ever did. And, the hoarding wizard had a magic axe more powerful than what Barrick was already wielding. He also had a book with rituals he wouldn’t need, since he was dead. And a magic shroud to preserve the fallen. Too late him.” The Eladrin smiled contentedly. Their hard fought victory had given the group back its verve.

I still often reflect on how so much of their adventure rested on that locked door opening at just the right time, freeing the cleric and wizard to heal the combatants and join the battle. The Fighter, Ranger, and Paladin were freed up to use their powers to exact a tremendous price from Vecna’s minions before the same could be done to them. So much can hinge on so little. Maybe this explains their peculiar behaviors. Maybe it does not. I will take them either way.

Peculiar or not, I am proud of these adventurers, I must tell all those who read this, proud for all people that such courage and determination still dwell in the Vale to protect us all from the evils that would destroy us.

Torben Eastlander