The adventure began for our fellowship with two destroyed villages. In the northern reaches of the Shilmista, the Wood Elf village of Haeostar was destroyed by an onslaught of Orcs and Ogres from the Snowflake Mountains in the East. The only survivors of this massacre were a Sun Elf from the south of Shilmista, Althaea Galanodel, and three villagers who had been out hunting on the Giant’s Plain.
The three villagers were two Wood Elves, Fëonor Liadon and Willow Arkensau, and a Moon Elf called Morwen Faernaa. Morwen had been found by Fëonor’s parents while they themselves were ending in the great Plains to the north of Shilmista ninety years ago. Morwen had been adopted by a wolf pack, but her adopted mother had died protecting her. Thus her name, ‘Gift of Wolves’.
These four elves decided to flee the danger north to the relative safety of the Sword Coast. Thus they met two other wanderers from disaster, the Gold Dwarves, Morlek Scrivener and Berig Ironbeard. Morley and Berig were the only survivors of another fierce battle, this time with a force from the Giant’s Run Mountains.
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
After a long track across the Giant’s Plain, the fellowship eventually found themselves on the Uldoon Trail, which ran from the eastern cities of the Dragon Coast, Cormyr and Serbia with the Coast Way south to the great cities of Amn, Tethyr and far Calimshan. Following this winding road through Easting and Iriabor across the Greenfields, they finally arrived at Greenest. Here they sought to stay overnight, in the dry and under a good roof.
An Unwelcoming Fire
They did find fire as they crested the hill to the east of Greenest, but it was not of the welcoming kind; it sprung from the houses of Greenest. Columns of black smoke were rising from burning buildings. Running figures were black dots at this distance, and there was a dark, winged shape wheeling low over the keep that rose above the centre of the town.
There followed an animated debate between the members of the fellowship. Views ranged from taking a wide berth around the town and making for the next town and safety, through to sneaking in and saving the frightened townsfolk.
The debate was settled when Berig and Morlek set off at a trot towards the wooded stream that ran through the town. The others followed, making their way across fields and from one spinney of trees to the other, to avoid the gaze of the dragon that now wheeled higher over the town.
The group of would-be rescuers made their way along the stream, under the cover of the bushes and trees on its banks. Eventually they found themselves in the village itself, where they could hear the crackle of flames and the screams of frightened townsfolk.
From the thick bushes that grew in a bend in the stream, the group could see a large building surrounded by a fence, from which a cacophony of sound could be heard.
Escape from Sanctuary
The adventurers sneaked through the bush towards the palisade. The rogue, Fëonor, used her stealth skills to sneak closer still and peer over the fence. Behind the fence stood a large stone building with a slate roof. The building was larger than most of the other buildings in the town, and it had the look of a temple. From her vantage point Fëonor could see a group of small reptilian folk and two humans in black clustered around the back door of the temple. The small demi-human kobolds were heaping burning straw against the door. Their meagre fire was producing little flame, but was instead producing prodigious clouds of thick smoke that was engulfing the back of the temple and the surrounding area. From within the temple, the watching wood elf could hear the fearful cries of frightened townsfolk. At the other end of the temple she could also see another couple of kobolds with their back to her.
Soon they were joined by a cavalcade of leaping and whirling kobolds, strung out in a mob with three humans in sinister black robes and two doglike lizards, stalking like hunting wolves: Ambush Drakes.
The mob wailed and taunted their way around the temple, intent it seemed on frightening the inhabitants, (but not, Fëonor noted, particularly focussed on what else was going on or looking for potential victims or foes).
Fëornor slipped down the fence and updated the team on what she saw. From this they debated their next move and eventually formulated a plan. The plan revolved around the timing of the angry mob circling the temple and the principal that the fellowship did not want to be fighting all of the attackers at once. In quick and then out again. The ultimate aim of the plan was for Fëonor to pick the lock to the back door and allow the inhabitants to escape over the back fence to the bushes, and relative safety.
The team split up, with Morwen, Berig and Morlek sneaking around to the front entrance of the temple compound, Fëonor scaling a tree near the fence at the side, and Althaea and Willow preparing to scale the fence at the back door.
Stealth was the order of the day, with Althaea and Morlek intending to use their Sleep spells to quieten as many as possible of each group. Althaea would also save her Thunder Wave spell until things got close.
Also, timing was everything. As the whirling horde of kobolds, cultists and Ambush Drakes rounded the corner at the rear of the temple, the first team sprung into action. Morwen notched an arrow and Berig’s grip tightened around his warhammer as Morlek sneaked closer to the group pummelling on the front door of the temple. Fortunately, their focus was on battering an entrance to the building and their backs were to Morlek as the dwarf wizard crept closer.
“Kharakruum!” The simple invocation of the spell immediately caused four of the kobolds to slump to the ground. ""Kazak!" cried Berig as he hurtled into the remaining attackers, swinging his warhammer two-handed about his head as an arrow from Morwen’s bow whistled past his head, into the back of a kobold. The cultists whirled around and cried draconic curses. As arrows flew, they quickly closed on the two dwarves. However, though fewer in number, they had the element of surprise. Soon the party had the upper hand. With arrow, war-hammer and quarterstaff, the three tore into the assailants. The cultists and another of the kobolds quickly fell and the final kobold turned its tail with a shriek and ran off toward the back of the temple, only to collapse to the ground, one of Morwen’s arrows protruding from its back.
Around the back
Meanwhile, around the back of the temple, the roving mob was passing the other group attempting to burn their way into the temple and heading back along the other side of the temple. As the last member of the mob turned the corner, Althaea quietly lowered herself into the shadows at the foot of the fence.
“Kaima!” came the elvish word for sleep. Again, four of the kobolds quickly fell into slumber. Confusion reigned in the twilight and smoke. Arrows flew from Willow and Fëonor’s bows and Althaea drew her longsword. Time was of the essence and she was outnumbered. She was now in the open, however blinded her foes were by the smoke and darkness. To the east, things looked desperate for Fëonor as one of the kobolds made it to the foot of the tree in which she perched. However, that merely brought it closer to her arrows.
By the time the three elves had dispatched the last kobolds and cultists, the puzzled mob had reached the front of the temple. Morwen and the two dwarves were crouched by the entrance to the compound. Kobold and cultist bodies were piled by their side, where they were dragged.
Confusion spread across the pack. “Where are they?” shouted one of the cultists. The kobolds responded in confused yelps. “Perhaps they’ve gone around the back” replied another as the Ambush Drakes sniffed around at the tracks on the floor. Before they found their quarries, the first cultist shouted for them to split up and go around the back.
Now was the most dangerous part of their plan. Morwen, Morlek and Berig sneaked to the corners of the temple as the two parts of the final group of attackers split up and jogged to the back of the building, not suspecting what they would find.
What they did find was smoke and bodies. Althaea was crouched by a small lean-to at the back of the temple. As the drakes sniffed the ground and fallen comrades at either side, the smoke got too much for Althaea and she choked. The drakes’ heads instantly snapped up and they tensed for action. Althaea raised her longsword and prepared to defend herself and cast her spell. If her timing was wrong, she would quickly be beyond the help of her friends.
The Ambush Drakes were too fast for her. Before she could swing her sword, they were on to her. She ducked away from one as it sprang at her, but the other sunk its teeth into her leg. Seeing the assault, Fëonor and Willow unleashed a barrage of arrows into the foes.
Things were looking grim for Althaea; her foes closed in, but she had an ace up her sleeve. At the very last moment she dared – as the ambush drakes tore into her and the kobolds and cultists moved in for the kill – she pulled out her trump card.
“Lamya-naur!” she cried as she threw up her arms and called on a song of storms. A huge crack of thunder rent the night air. The force of the spell hurled the ambush drakes ten feet backwards, along with many of the kobolds. The remaining kobolds and cultists were throw to the ground as the force rippled through the smoky night air.
This was the cue for Morlek, Berig and Morwen attack the foes from behind. The drakes scrambled to their feet and shook the pain from their bruised heads. With a snarl they leapt back into the fray to join their peers. It was touch-and-go for a while. For a moment it looked as if Althaea would succumb to the drakes. In the end, with whirling sword, quarterstaff and warhammer to their front, and elvish arrows peppering their backs from out of the shadows, the servants of the dragons were finally defeated.
As their last enemy fell, Berig quickly ran to Althaea’s side and was soon intoning the solemn dwarvish words of a healing spell. Fëonor also rushed from her hiding place to examine the lock on the scorched wooden door. In a flash of her picks, the lock was open.
As they opened the door, the tumult from within flowed out into the cold night air. The temple was packed with panicked women and children, as well as the elderly of the town. The only point of calm was the figure of a half-elf in the robes of a priest of Chauntea, the Great Mother and Grain Goddes.
The priest, Eadyan Falconmoon, made his way through the crowd as Althaea called for calm from the people cowering in sanctuary. However, the sight of a bloodstained stranger – daubed with soot and grime entering through what they thought was a locked door – only increased the state of panic and confusion in the temple.
The others quickly entered in and calmed the people with soothing words and promises of rescue. Seeing so many fair folk and a couple of sturdy dwarves, armed and armoured, eventually gave the townsfolk confidence that they might escape this night with their lives.
Out the Back Door
The priest, Eadyan, introduced himself. Plans for escape were quickly made, as a new source of fear arrived. There was a huge thud as a returning band of kobolds and cultists arrived with a tree trunk to ram the door. Tensions rose once more in the temple as the adventurers and Eadyan ushered the people out of the back door. Townsfolk grabbed what little possessions they had managed to bring with them and fled the dangerous sanctuary as the hammer bows of the battering ram boomed against the front doors. Weapons in hand, the adventurers nervously looked to the front doors as the timbers cracked and groaned. As the last person scrambled through the rear entrance, there was an almighty crash, and the head of the ram smashed through the timbers of the front door.
Fëonor pulled the rear door as the rest of the group and the townsfolk fled towards the rear fence. The dwarves squatted down with their hands interlinked to provide footing for the escaping townsfolk and heaved them up the fence, as the elves posted themselves at either corner of the temple with their bows at the ready. Fëonor fumbled with her lock picks as she tried to re-lock the door, to the sound of kobolds and cultists streaming into the temple.
In the end, Fëonor admitted defeat by the lock and turned towards the fence, as the last of the villagers scaled palisade and hurled themselves to the ground. In a few bounds she was at the foot of the wall and leaping up to the outstretched hand of Althaea. In a moment, the two friends were running into the darkness, towards the bushes and stream beyond.
The ground lowered as they entered the wood. Eadyan and the adventurers were organising the rescued townsfolk and debating their next move. They decided to follow the wooded stream as this afforded them the best cover. The elves turned their piercing eyes to the sky and saw that the dragon was now circling high above Greenest. It did not appear to be making any move to attack the town or its keep.
As they made their way through the dark wood, patches of light from the half-moon pierced the canopy and all was washed with a dull orange. Fëonor’s sharp elven eyes caught movement ahead in the shadows. As the party readied themselves, and quieted the frightened villagers with quick whispers, a dwarf and three men creeped into view.
The dwarf was a grim Shield Dwarf, with knotted, bright red hear and beard. He was armoured in dwarvish mail, and held an axe in one hand and a shield in the other, baring a foaming mug emblem. He was accompanied by three tired-looking town guards, in mail and carrying spears. Although, they were clearly trying to move stealthily, the four were almost upon the elves before Berig hailed the dwarf.
Seek the Keep
The dwarf introduced himself as Escobert the Red. Escobert is the Castellan and, as master of the keep, is in charge of its defence. It was his idea to check the Temple of Chauntea to see if there was hope of rescuing any townsfolk trapped there. His plan was to return with anyone they could find to the keep and slip them in through the Old Tunnel.
It was a risk for him to leave the castle, but the attackers do not appear to have found the tunnel entrance, as it is disguised as a storm drain. Escobert felt that time was running out and there was an opportunity as the dragon appeared to have lost interest in attacking the keep. The rest of his troops were exhausted and so he went himself, with three of his most trusted fighters, both experienced hunters.
As they walked, the adventurers and the castellan and his guardsmen exchanged news of the fighting. The raiders haven’t set up an yet effective cordon around the keep, so some survivors are making it to the front gate. “But that won’t last forever. I am certain they will tighten the noose presently” the gruff dwarf muttered.
Escobert led the group through the woods and down to the riverbank. There, after a few yards they came to a hidden storm drain. The old dwarf unhitched and enormous ring of iron and brass keys and selected one. He inserted and twisted it and the grate opened into the darkness beyond.
The dwarves castellan led the ragged townsfolk single-file along a dark narrow tunnel, at the end of which he produced another set of keys. Rustling noises could be heard in the dark, above the heavy breathing and occasional whimpering of children. At last a heavy oak door opened and light flooded into the tunnel. There was a scramble of small feet retreating into the darkness as the people were momentarily blinded by the torchlight emanating from the cellar beyond. Behind the last of the guards, Fëonor and Willow whispered to each other.
“I am not sure I want to get locked into that cellar” whispered Willow to her friend.
“How do we know we can trust this guy?” replied Fëonor.
“Perhaps it would be safer in this tunnel?” suggested Willow. “I can’t see the dragon finding us down here. What if it starts to attack the castle again?”
“Come on you two” grunted the gruff dwarf. “I want to get this door locked.”
“We’ll wait in the tunnel” replied Willow.
“Really? Suit yourselves” muttered the dwarf and shut the door with a thud.
The elves were plunged into darkness. They could hear the muffled rattle of keys followed by the sound of one being placed into the lock, blocking out the tiny shaft of light from the keyhole, and locking the door shut.
As the grateful townsfolk milled around in the cellar, three men appeared at the top of the stairs. The middlemost was human male of sixty years. The right side of his face and head were bandaged, his right arm hung in a sling, and his light blue tunic is stained with what appeared to be his own blood. He was flanked by two craggy-faced men; veterans of many campaigns.
“Thank Chauntea, you made it! Well done, Escobert. It was a risk, but a well-calculated one. The winged terror still rides high above the town and troubles us not.” The old man’s roving eye alighted upon the two dwarves. “So. You found some of your kin! Who are these travellers?” He also spotted the Morwen and Althaea. “And elves too! This has been an adventure.”
“We found these with the villagers, making their way through the woods. These are not my kin, but Gold dwarves. Can’t you tell the difference? We are like chalk and cheese!”
“You are much the same to me, but even with a crack on my skull, I can tell a dwarf from an elf!” laughed the first man. It looked like the first laugh he had enjoyed in a long while.
“Well met, and welcome to my keep, friends. I am Tarbaw Nightfall, Governor of the town of Greenest and, for my sins, in charge of this defence.”
In the Darkness
The sound of voices was faint behind the thick oaken door. Willow and Fëonor shivered in the darkness. The rustling in the walls and at their feet returned. As their eyes became accustomed to the dark, their dark vision allowed them to discover the source of the noise – hundreds upon hundreds of rats. The rats swarmed out of holes in the wall and across the stone and in the water at their feet. Soon the rats were swarming over their feet and up their legs. Furry bodies dropped from the ceiling onto the elves.
“Eeeurch!” cried Fëonor. “They’re everywhere!”
“Arrrrgh!” shouted Willow, as teeth bit into her flesh as the rats swarmed over her. “Get to the door!”
Fëonor staggered to the door, tearing the creatures from herself and swinging her sword, as the claws hooked onto her clothes. Willow also tore at the furry mass as Fëonor hammered at the door with the pommel of her sword. “Get us out of here!” she screamed.
Everything went completely black once more as the key entered the lock and then light flowed out as the door was heaved open. The two elves fell into the room, covered with swarming masses of rats. Guards stabbed at the inrushing rats with spears and pulled torches form their sconces and drove the furry mass back into the tunnel, while others helped Willow and Fëonor with the rats attacking them.
“My god! As if a dragon and those villainous brigands were not enough!” grunted Escobert.