Walking Cinders

A Brief Interlude
A funny thing happened on the way to the Caravanery . . .

As the economic fever ran its course, the band of heroes once more turned their attention to the problems of the world. While the town of Firinwillow rejoiced to be free of unnatural illnesses for the moment, the world at large was still at risk. After spending most of a day within the library of the Wizard’s College, it was determined that the resources there were too focused on the arcane to be of much more use than they had already been.

Two alternative sources of information were proposed. First was the library at Aspenbrook, known throughout the land as the world’s largest library. The party was also told that some monastic orders collect knowledge of various topics, and it is possible that one or more monasteries may contain knowledge bearing on the divine imbalances threatening the denizens of the prime material plane.

It was determined by Milo and Alistair that a discussion with the caravan drivers and guards would be rewarding. If anyone would know the location of a monastery, it would stand to reason that it would be those who travel the length and breadth of the world. If no such information was forthcoming, protecting such a caravan would allow the party to gain transportation to Aspenbrook and provide a source of income at the same time. Thus to the south gates they went, to the places where such folk enter and exit the city.

Before any information could be obtained, whether about the location of learned monks or the needs of the caravan masters, a strange fog filled the air beyond the open gates of Firinwillow. The fog aged and decayed all that it touched, including the gates themselves. From within those billowing clouds of evil and death came forth undead creatures to slaughter the good merchants and citizens of Firinwillow.

Noble and brave, the Paladin and his companions readied themselves to give fight and return the offenses against life and nature to their rest. As fate would have it, the heroes were not alone in this fight. Seatlin Tigersoul, whose shop, the Hammer and Tome, was near the south gate of the city, came forth to do battle at their side. Tigersoul bearing neither arms nor armor began to destroy the skeletons, and instructed the companions to take refuge in his shop. The lady Arsinoe and Milo removed themselves from the monk’s way, but remained to offer such assistance as they were able. The rest of the party sought the protection of the shop’s walls.

Almost as soon as the majority of the heroes had made their way to Tigersoul’s shop, the sounds of breaking glass were heard in many buildings. Skeletons entered the shop and began to attack the people they found within. Eventually, the skeletons were defeated both at the shop and the gates. The brave adventurers left the confines of the shop and began to prepare mounts to ride further into the city. A horn was heard and the mists suddenly dispersed. In the newly cleared air, Ogres could be seen advancing towards the gate.

Knowing that an Ogre or even two would be no problem for him, but deadly indeed for the others, Tigersoul sent Milo and Arsinoe to join their comrades in making ready the horses. As the first ogre approached, Tigersoul did quickly overwhelm it and lay it low.

Before he could treat the second Ogre similarly, another horn sounded and the fell beast, along with others seemingly coming from other parts of the town did flee into the plains. Sharp eyed Etune saw a mounted figure in the distance. The figure was holding a curved horn and seemed to be heading in the same direction the ogres were fleeing.

With the town seemingly safe for the moment, the City Watch came forth from their hiding places. The brave adventurers turned towards each other as if to determine their next move. Alistair vocalized their need to go further into the town to see what other horrors had been inflicted on Firinwillow.

Zombies and Skulks and Ooze, Oh My!
Adventures under the ground.

At long last, the adventurers came to the opening of the Bloodanvil mines. Boldly did they plunge into the open maw of earth and stone, leaving the sun and sky behind them. Though the journey was long and most monotonous, ever vigilant Arsinoe did notice an irregularity in an otherwise unremarkable section of the tunnel. The party quickly investigated and surmised that the entrance to some ancient escape route must be concealed behind clever dwarven workmanship. Not wishing to attract undue attention to themselves, they marked the location and continued on their way.

After many hours of travel in the confined spaces of the mine shaft, the brave adventurers happened upon the wreckage of an ancient battle. Great holes were evident in all surfaces, leading to some trepidation about the structural integrity of the entire area. While our heroes did seek for signs of weakness in the walls, they were set upon on a swarm of gelatinous abominations left over from the magical energies of that long ago conflict.

The ooze was tenacious and immune to normal weapons. The noble paladin did attempt to contain the foul creatures and make of himself a target for his comrades to attack the globs of magical muck. The swarm attacked instead the lady Arsinoe, who had steadfastly remained by the Paladin’s side to provide succor and aid. Fearing not for her own safety, did Arsinoe call for the sorceress, Nymeria, to bathe her in acid and thus dispatch the foul beasts. So great was the trust Nymeria had in Arsinoe that she did straightaway cast a spell of magical acid upon the cleric and cleared the tunnel of the ooze.

At long last, the footsore travelers came to what were once the great gates of Bloodanvil Hall. Those gates lay upon the stone floor, as they have these many years, stricken in the final assault that saw the end of Bloodanvil as a ruling Clan. Searching through the kitchen and into the dining hall, the mighty adventurers were faced with the unholy spectacle of three dwarven skeletons rising from the ground and bursting into flames. Once again, the brave paladin put himself between his companions and danger. Underestimated did he, however, the strength of the undead and soon would have perished, if not for the quick action of Miro and Tbur. Aggrieved at the paladin’s harm, Arsinoe did call upon the primal force of goodness itself to banish the evil that animated the remains of the valiant dwarves who had died in this place. Once the dead were at rest once more, the band of heroes delved ever further into the Hall.

In the course of their investigation of the ruins, the adventurers encountered vermin of gigantic proportions, and sadly more dwarves denies their proper rest. Though they came across the Hall of Kings where have lain the nobility and royalty of the Bloodanvil Clan since time immemorial, the heroes did not even allow themselves more than a cursory investigation to ensure that all who were laid there rested still. As the rigors of the day began to wear upon them, the stout warriors were faced with yet another challenge. Upon discovering the true entrance to the Bloodanvil mines, they were set upon by rogues most foul. Skulking in the darkness and striking from the shadows, the fiends attempted to lay Miro low. Like the very walls of the mine in which they stood, however, Miro stood fast and deprived of their accustomed surprise the brigands were soon dispatched.

Finally, all but overcome with weariness, did our heroes take their rest in the very den of the thieves who had attacked them. Though they vigilantly kept watch through the night, nothing disturbed their rest and after a time the went once more into the Hall. As they were traversing the corridors, a scream echoed from far away, but not so far that help might not arrive in time to aid or avenge the one from whom it had been elicited. Stopping only to ensure that they left no enemies behind them, these brothers and sisters in arms came to the one-time throne room.

The throne room of Bloodanvil Hall, once a glory of the dwarven realm lay in ruin. And to further insult the memories of those who had sat in court there, in place of the thrones a dark altar had been erected. Upon that altar lay the body of a woman, dead and mutilated by the man standing over her. Seeing his death writ upon the faces what must have seemed avenging angels, this villain did summon to his aid a great skeleton. His powers availed him naught, and soon was his creature destroyed, his altar tumbled and himself captured and rendered powerless. Bound and gagged though he was, the evil minion of a dark goddess had one last trick to strike at his foes.

As the heroes set about attempting to cleanse the evil from the room, their prisoner fell dead of the plague. Acting with swift decisiveness, they did purify his body with fire and exited through a hidden door into the royal bedchamber. Knowing no shame, he who had usurped the throne room had also laid claim to the residence of the Kings of Bloodanvil. Careful though he was, Tbur was unable to stop a magical trap from depriving the heroes of the ability to search the contents of one of the man’s chests. The heroes were able to salvage letters written in the tongue of demons laying out the time and manner of certain ritual slayings, including the one which they had recently interrupted.

With their surmise regarding an organized effort of evil beings thus confirmed, the party was determined to return to Firinwillow. They found a secret passage leading back to the mine shaft, which terminated at the place they had marked upon entering. Though they had certainly earned a peaceful journey, it was not to be. In the darkness of night did a giant Mantis come upon them. Though they quickly dispatched the verminous beast, the Paladin had taken great hurt and once again was tended by the cleric.

Upon their return to Firinwillow, the mighty adventurers were greeted with the joyous news that the disease which had been effecting the city’s traveler’s district had miraculously disappeared. As a result, many of the merchants had reopened their doors, and the prices at the Stoned Gnome had decreased dramatically. Seeking to give thanks to dashing Brand, the party asked after him only to be informed that he, his companion and indeed the entire dwelling in which they lived had disappeared, leaving only bare ground behind.

In an effort to assist with the stimulating the renewed commerce of the city, Alistair and Arsinoe traveled into the traveler’s district and brought goods for sale to the Hammer and Tome. Perhaps swayed by the beauty and allure of Arsinoe, the proprietor cut his profit margin to nearly nothing in his purchase of their wares. The party divided the spoils of their encounters and began to equip themselves for their next journey.

The Story Begins
Wherein a Paladin, a Sorcerer, a Goblin and a Cleric walk into a bar.

When first we met our heroes, they had all found themselves staying at the Stoned Gnome. With the Southeastern quarter of the city, the travelers’ district, under quarantine, there were only two Inns to choose from. Almost as if by fate, the crowds in the common room forced them all to sit near each other and the wonderful music played by the Bard Brand Amberson lulled them into a genial mood. Alistair and Tbur began discussing their mutual consternation regarding the strange animal attacks that seemed to be occurring everywhere. They determined to find the cause of these attacks, if possible.

Hearing these great and in Tbur’s case, somewhat fragrant, heroes dedicate themselves to setting the world to rights, Nymeria and Arsinoe offered to join in this most noble quest. Gallant Alistair quickly accepted the gracious offers of aid and companionship. The next morning this brave company set out to the Wizard School to see if any information may be found for why otherwise harmless animals would suddenly become so fierce.

After briefly conversing with a visiting professor, the Lady Eilhana Gladomain, these brave souls traveled even deeper into the school and approached the library. After hours of exhaustive research of many tomes in many tongues, the brave adventurers learned that disruptions of the natural world could reflect disruptions in the balance of power between the gods, that some actions aligned with a diety may strengthen that diety even in the absence of an increase in followers, and that certain demonic rituals could amplify and focus dark energies.

Using their combined knowledge, experience and native wit, our heroes determined that the most likely scenario was that some individual or group of individuals was strengthening dark powers, likely powers of undeath, and this was echoing throughout the natural world. They determined to seek council with Brand to see if his vast knowledge could shed light on some likely locations from which these fell fiends could be operating. Humble Brand generously granted their request for audience and shared freely of his knowledge, even granting them a map to the most likely location in the area.

On the way back to the Stoned Gnome, the brave adventurers were ambushed by Dire Rats. Though they fought bravely and ultimately overcame their foes, the Paladin was sore wounded and infected with a foul disease. With the realities of combat so fresh in their minds, the next morning the adventurers discussed the possibility of finding some strong and brave fighting man to swell their ranks. Miro, who had been a comrade of Tbur’s during his most recent travels pledged his sword to the cause, in exchange for consideration in the form of his share of the loot.

Thus strengthened, our heroes bravely set forth into the lands seeking an abandoned Dwarven mine. In the middle of a long day walking without shade or rest, our merry band came to the outskirts of a forest. Far from offering rest and surcease, the woods provided cover for a band of Drow intent on murdering the travelers. Tbur, striking fast, dealt fiery death to the first Drow to break cover. The commotion attracted the attention of Etune, a Druid travelling through the area. The fight was fierce, and Tbur’s incendiaries were dangerous to friend and foe alike, but in the end the Drow lay fallen upon the forest floor. Honorable Alistair used sweet reason to join the Druid in common cause, increasing both the strength and likelihood of survival of everyone involved. The Drow were stripped of their weapons and clothing, tied to a skid, and repeatedly beaten unconscious by Tbur as the noble adventurers drug them back to Firinwillow to answer for their crimes.

Though the heavens themselves opened up with all their fury, our heroes let nothing dissuade them from bringing their prisoners to justice. And when they did all arrive at the headquarters of the Firinwillow Watch, lo! there was a great celebration and much rejoicing. Unfortunately, through foul trickery and evil magics, the Drow did escape their cell and make off into the night. Alistair the vigilant roused the Watch and went forth into the darkness to seize the brigands once more, but it is a difficult task indeed to track a Drow at night.

The following morning, Alistair heard word of suffering in the quarantined Southeastern quarter of the city, a building burnt, the residents possibly dead. The tale tugged on the gentle heart strings of caring Alistair and he sought his companions’ leave to enter the disease ridden area to lend what assistance he could. His companions, though noble and understanding of his desires, convinced Alistair that their true duty lie in following the path they had set themselves and righting the balances of the world. With much regret was Alistair forced to agree. Before setting out once more, Alistair attended the morning ritual of Sarenrae and received him there a blessing from the wise cleric.

Once more these adventurers, these righters or wrongs set forth on the path to the mountains. Came they in the late afternoon to the place of their onetime ambush and without hesitation continued onward into the forest. While journeying in the forest, they chanced upon a web which could only have been spun by a spider of giant proportions. The vigilant Druid, being more comfortable among the rocks and stone of the mountains, cleared the path of the web that the party would not have to risk losing their way in the woods. As suspected, the beast that created the web was of a monstrous size and did fiercely punish the Druid for destroying its home. The companions soon gathered together and chased the spider into the woods, injured but alive.

As the day came to a close, these brave adventurers came once more out of the shadow of the wood and stood under the open sky. They made camp, knowing that the morrow would likely bring them to their destination.


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