It all began in Mancea. A group of four young humans, having met and bonded over weeks of training in their respective talents, decided to pool their resources and set out on the road to riches and adventure.
Brooke Windhammer, a tough young lady warrior, trained by her father, Trevor. Leonidas Metagame, a ranger specialized in the art of archery. Cypress Hawthorne, a cleric following in the footsteps of his priestly father, Damien. Imar Natafxi, an artificer combining the skills of a mage, cleric, and rogue.
Following a map given to them by Damien Hawthorne, the group left Mancea headed for Drellin’s Ferry to investigate Vraath keep. Before leaving the city they ran afoul of an imp and animated items in the house of Imar’s mentor, Andolyn, where they saved her husband Gendrew from a horrible calzone golem, the greasy constuct having run amok in the house.
Hiring themselves out to Mojon, a traveling tradesman, the group set out to escort his two wagon caravan from Mancea to Drellin’s Ferry. Stopping for lunch between Dajon and Jonpar, a raven flew out of no where and snatched away Mojon’s keyring, flying off and leading the four adventurers to a cave filled with goblins. Dispatching the evil humanoids, the group followed a hobgoblin into a buried laboratory, where he died giving life to a skeletal dragon named Galethugah. Battle raged and the group emerged victorious, discovering a letter from someone called Wyrmlord Koth and referring to the People of the Dragon.
Investigating the ruined laboratory, the heroes found several magical items. Brooke laid claim to a magic sword, and Cypress took a strange magic ring.
Arriving in Jonpar the group met Leonidas’ mother, Martia. She told the heroes how she had become cursed years ago, and that her health was deteriorating. Agreeing to vanquish the source of the curse, an undead monstrosity in a ruined temple to the Nameless One, Leonidas then took up his father’s magic bow, said to have helped generations of Metagames.
Gathering supplies, the party sets out to free Mother Metagame from her curse. Following the directions given to them by Mother Metagame, the group headed south, arriving at a large boulder as instructed. After a brief suprise attack by an ankheg, which mauled Brooke’s horse, the party headed east. Rough hills, combined with a lack of trails, forced the party to make camp in the wilds without siting the Nameless One ruins. Late in the night a trio of hippogriffs attacked, drawn by the scent of the horses. Again, Brooke’s horse took the brunt of the attack, but stood strong. After corralling the runaway horses, the party moved their camp away from the blood of the battle, and resumed their sleep, hoping for as much rest as possible before entering the ruins.
As the sun rose, the party looked down into a small depression containing the burned remains of a small temple, a stables, and a woodshed. The woodshed, full of rusted and useless tools, collapsed from Cypress’ blow, with a loud crash and rattle. Expecting danger, the party braced for anything drawn by the noise, but nothing appeared. Scouting out the stables – the building left most intact by the assault on the temple years ago – the party was attacked by a carrion crawler bursting from the rubble. Shortly after paralyzing Leonidas, the beast was slain.
The stables would hold the parties horses safe as they explored the burned remains of the temple. A brief search and the stone plug Mother Metagame spoke of was located. It appeared to have been open for years – possibly left open from Mother’s attempt fifteen years prior. The stairs down from the portal led into a room with a water filled pit, the lair of a giant spiderlike creature that quickly poisoned Cypress. After a vicious fight, the monster was down, but Cypress was poisoned to the point of being immobile. Magic aided him to his feet, but the party decided to head back to town so he could be refreshed.
After a few days in town spent healing and resupplying, the party ventured to the ruins. Exploring what appeared to be several living quarters, the party was accosted by a metal eating, earthy creature, demanding the party, “Give metal, la la la.” The party defended themselves, forcing the creature to flee into the ground. Looting the quarters found a magic cloak and a journal page leading to a cave and treasure therein. Deciding to explore the region of the complex Mother Metagame had spoken of, the party returned to the entrance of the large room, it’s floor covered with humanoid bones and skulls. A light spell cast onto an arrow soon illuminated the chamber, showing skeletal statues arranged on shelves running around the room. When the head of one of the skeletons detached and shrieked, it became obvious that they were not all stone. The flying head, soon joined by another, swooped down to bite and shriek at the party, rendering several people immobile with fear. Magical effects pounded the heroes from the skeletons, who then leapt down to engage in battle. The combat was short lived and the party reigned supreme.
Puzzled by the lack of any humanoid creature, as Mother Metagame had said appeared to her and her friends, the group of heroes pressed on, and found the living space of a single priest. A hall from his chambers led past suits of armor beneath scripture of the Nameless One. Predictably, the armor animated when a trap in the hallway exploded. A hard fought battle found the party wounded but victorious. Rather than press on, they retreated to a safe spot an hour from the ruins and made camp.
Returning the next morning, they finished the hall, which terminated suddenly in an obvious secret door set with a small view panel. Rather than peer through the slot, Brooke threw open the door and found herself staring into a large temple chamber, dedicated to the worship of the Nameless One. A solitary figure in faded, dusty, red robes rose from before the black and red altar to regard Brooke from beneath a darkened hood. “The river will flow with the blood of the slain!” It shouted in a hoarse voice, “And the people will fall before the Red Hand of Doom!”
Brooke shouted and charged, closing the distance and swiping at the figure. Unfortunately, the blow had little effect, and Brooke was then close enough to see beneath the hood, to witness the shriveled, dessicated face of the undead priest. As Brooke froze in abject horror, the priest cast a spell while her companions moved into the room. “I call up the screams of the damned, and the blood of the sacrificed!” called the priest, and two swirling vortexes appeared and solidified into a living scream and a giant serpent of coagulated blood.
The combat then began in earnest, with Leonidas beset by the scream and Imar dodging the bloody serpent. Brooke and Cypress concentrated on the undead priest, which was able to shrug off their mightiest blows, while slamming into Brooke with a mighty bony fist. The fight continued up the dais of the altar, and the priest raised high a chalice of black, putrid water, pouring it onto himself. As the heroes watched, the wounds they had inflicted were erased by dark magic.
Brooke found herself pressed up against the altar, the sneering priest informed her that she would be his sacrifice.
Brooke and the undead priest traded vicious blows while Leonidas, Imar, and Cypress destroyed the summoned fiends.
The evil priest and Brooke separated a moment, both reeling from the massive damage they had inflicted upon each other. Leonidas took the opportunity and downed the unliving foe with a flurry of arrows.
Before Cypress could administer treatment, both Brooke and Imar succumbed to the rot inflicted upon them by the evil priest, and slumped to the floor. Gathering up their unconscious friends, Cypress and Leonidas made their way back to Jonpar and headed straight for the shrine to Koromos.
With healing provided by the shrine and Cypress, the heroes were back on their feet by the next afternoon, and were able to celebrate the lifting of the curse that had afflicted Mother Metagame for so long.
The group immediately returned to the ruined Nameless One fortress to loot the riches supposedly held within. A search of secret passages finally led to a small chamber of trapped magical archways protecting several treasure filled chests and a magic shield. Returning to the main temple, the heroes desecrated the shrine to the Nameless One and pried out the large rubies from the idol�s eyes, releasing a horrible gaseous guard that they quickly defeated. The items looted from the ruins were worth more than anyone in Jonpar could dare to offer, so the heroes bid Mother Metagame a fond farewell and set out for Delverton and then Drellin�s Ferry. Devlerton, a surprisingly wealthy mining town, was able to convert some of the treasure into gold coin for the party, but provided not much else, and the group continued on.
A few miles outside of Drellin�s Ferry, as the party passed another abandoned farmhouse, they were set upon by hobgoblin raiders, including a pair of demonic hounds! Brooke worked furiously to clear out the archers on one side while Imar concentrated on the other. Cypress and Leonidas battled the leader, a two blade bearing hobgoblin who openly challeneged the group. Another hobgoblin, a priest, appeared and set a conjured demon hound at Leonidas, and pitted his mace against Cypress� axe. The hobgoblin priest found himself devastated, and fell, and the rest of the heroes beat down their opponents. Hobgoblin reinforcements, unable to defeat Brooke even with four to one odds, made a hasty retreat into the forest.
The heroes chose not to follow, instead examining their fallen foes and the farmhouse. Around the neck of the evil priest was found an obscure religious symbol, that of the five head dragon queen Tiamat, a servant of the Nameless One. Within the farmhouse the party found the bodies of several men, including one of noble dress. They rigged a stretcher for the noble�s corpse and then buried the other fallen humans.
A short trip took them to the outskirts of Drellin�s Ferry, where they were met by a ragtag guardpost. The guard�s seargent recognized the corpse as that of a bread merchant who regularly made trips up and down the Trade Way. The ambush, so close to town, reinforced the seargent�s fears that something sinister was afoot, and he bade the heroes to rest in town and to expect to meet his superior.
A few hours later, after the group had relaxed at the Old Bridge Inn, a guard escorted them to Captain Soranna and Speaker Wiston, the leader of Drellin�s Ferry. The speaker explained that the hobgoblins had always been a problem in the area, but that they had become bolder of late, and just two days prior had led a raid against the West Bank of town, burning a building. Only the timely intervention of a traveling spellcaster kept the damage from being worse.
The party also learned the location of the ruins they were headed for, and the name: Vraath Keep. They agreed to try and disrupt the attacks, possibly by eliminating hobgoblin leaders or just presenting a strong force in the region.
Captain Soranna advised them to seek out Jorr, a ranger living in the Witchwood, as he would have information on the hobgoblins.
The party took a few days to see to having new armor constructed and enchanted with the help of Sertieren the Wise, a strange old halfling obsessed with genitalia. At daybreak, the party set out into the dark Witchwood, following the Trade Way.
A short hike brought them to Jorr�s cabin, which quickly became the site of another hobgoblin ambush. Furious fighting from all present erupted, with the hobgoblins being forced back into the cabin and slaughtered in those close quarters. The bodies of Jorr and his three large dogs, one of which was being cooked, were found inside the cabin, recently slain.
The weapons and armor of the hobgoblins were all very fine quality, and showed a symbol of a stylized bloody hand, or the symbol of the Dragon Queen, Tiamat. The hobgoblins also carried magical equipment and potions unusual for lowly warriors, and showed skill above the norm for their race.
The party decided to press on, planning on informing Drellin�s Ferry of Jorr�s death when they returned victorious from Vraath Keep.
The party reached the low hill upon which sat Vraath Keep and carefully scouted the keep walls, noting the large cracks and holes made from boulders thrown long ago. Three yellowed skeletons of giants lay in the keep, a reminder of the akttack that destroyed it.
Drawn by the sound of hobgoblin voices, the party entered through a hole in the wall. Battle began almost immediately when they were spotted by hobgoblins sporting the symbol of Tiamat on their fine armor. In command of them was a large minotaur.
As combat raged, a manticore leapt from a nearby ruined building and took to the sky, raining spikes down upon the party as a pair of worg riding goblins burst from the stables.
Combat was fierce as the party faced off against well trained foes. Imar was pinned to the ground by one worg while Leonidas was forced to retreat into a building by the manticore. The tide turned as, one by one, the foes fell. Leonidas was able to bring down the manticore with a well placed shot while Brooke handled the worg riders.
Facing off against Karkilar the minotaur, Cypress� axe ripped open a tremendous wound on the man-beast, but was knocked unconscious with one mighty blow, leaving Leonidas alone against the raging minotaur.
Luck was with the archer, and he downed the beast. As the rage of battle cleared, a voice from up above called down to the heroes: �Fools! You cannot stand against the People of the Dragon! Perish now, for the glory of the Red Hand of Doom! Perish at the hands of Wyrmlord Koth!� And the bugbear sorcerer launched a barrage of magic missiles at Brooke, who was barely standing.
Rushing into the tower and out of the Wyrmlord�s view, the heroes began to make their way upstairs, when Koth appeared out of no where and unleashed a pair of lightning bolts, laying out Brooke and Leonidas. Cypress leapt at the bugbear, but a blinding spell dazed him back on his heels. Imar quickly ran to Brooke and healed her, but Koth viciously struck her down again.
Amzingly, the blind Cypress struck Koth once, and then again, his axe magically empowered by Imar�s infusions, and Koth fell dead. The wyrmlord�s head was severed for good measure and as a grisly trophy to show the folk of Drellin�s Ferry.
A hidden treasure trove, along with a map. Among the treasures were the deed to the keep and a massive, primitive gauntlet constructed by the forest giants long ago. The map, along with Koth’s notes, detailed an impending attack upon the vale by a massing horde of the Red Hand. The party examined it closely, and had a choice: return to Drellin�s Ferry or scope out the Horde massing at Cinder Hill.
The party returned quickly to Drellin�s Ferry, meeting privately with Speaker Wiston. Showing him the map, along with the description of the occupants of Vraath keep. The speaker was indecisive and concerned about disruptions of the trade, and seemed to dismiss the idea of a large army forming. He hoped the party would go to the blockade. The party, frustrated, went to speak with Sertieren, who cast a divination spell, receiving only a cryptic answer regarding the town�s survival.
Heading to Skull Gorge Bridge, the party sidetracked down a trail and met a forest giant named Warklegnaw. After a rough parley, the giant agreed to help the heroes against the Red Hand of Doom if they would bring him the head of the dragon guarding Skull Gorge Bridge. The party accepted and set out for the bridge.
A small group of hobgoblin soldiers, a pair of hell hounds, and a young green dragon guarded the bridge. The party attacked with surprise, quickly slaying the hobgoblins and hell hounds. More hobgoblins rushed onto the bridge, and the dragon took flight. Spewing poisonous gas, the dragon harried the party, and as the last hobgoblin fell, Brooke was knocked unconscious. As the dragon drew in a breath for the kill, Cypress struck home with a killing blow and felled the beast at last. After spending the night at the bridge, the heroes set out to view the encampment at Cinder Hill. Once within sight, the party was amazed to find a massive encampment sprawled before them, a hobgoblin army numbering in the thousands. Goblin worg riders patrolled the edge of the giant camp, while hobgoblin warriors practiced and prepared to move. Huge hill giants plodded about, and chimerae, manticores, and a large red dragon flew lazily overhead. Seeing enough, the heroes returned to the Bridge and set several magical traps before heading to Warklegnaw and giving him the dragon�s head. The giant promised the aid of his relatives, and the heroes set off for Drellin�s Ferry.
At the town, the party went directly to Speaker Wiston, with the dire news that they had seen the army massing. That night, a chimera, enchanted with offensive magic, attacked. The heroes responded quickly and defeated the beast.
The next morning, Soranna arrived, the sole survivor of the scouting party sent by Wiston to investigage the blockade. Soranna explained how the blockade forces had included ogres and an evil priest, and had overwhelmed their group. Soranna barely made it back to Drellin�s Ferry. The party heard her report as she gave it to the town council. They promised that they would investigate the blockade on the way to Urikal�s Folly, but first, they had to destroy Skull Gorge Bridge in a bid to slow the Horde.
After a brief fight against gargoyles and hobgoblins, the party collapsed the centuries old bridge using magic, and then set out north east for the blockade. The fight there was brief and bloody, but the heroes were victorious over the ogres and hobgoblins within. By the next night they had reached the edge of Urikal�s Folly. In the morning, the party lashed together a raft and set out poling through the marsh, heading toward the center and the Red Hand outpost. A few hours later brought them to a low hill rising out of the marsh, and laying atop the hill, the mutilated corpse of an owl the size of a horse. Immediately a large, draconic humanoid burst from the water, rushing at the party. Battle was joined, and the party tore the strange creature apart. A moment later and the heroes were surrounded by owl mounted elves.
The elves were searching for their fallen brother, and the heroes had just slain his killer. The elves invited the party back to Starsong Hill, their home in the marsh, as thanks and to aid the party in their search for the Red Hand.
At Starsong Hill, the heroes met Sellyria, the leader of the Tiri Kitor elves. She spoke of the evil that had come to the marsh, using the ruins of the druidic town as their base. The elves could not lend any of their forces to fight the Red Hand, but if the menace in the ruins was eliminated, the Tiri Kitor would send aid. Supplied with an elven boat, the party set out deeper into the heart of the marsh.
A few hours of poling through the marsh led the party to a large lake at the center of Urikel�s Folly. The ruined druidic town of Rhest lay almost completely submerged near the heart of the mile wide lake. Lizardmen populated the lakeshore, living in crude huts. The heavy rain allowed the party to evade detection by the lizardmen as they slowly paddled out to a bell tower, now serving as a watch post, thrust up above the water. A few hundred feet from the tower and the heroes slipped underwater, their breathing aided by magic. After quickly dispatching a ghoul hiding in the water filled lowest level of the tower, the party made plans to surge up from below.
Calling upon the power of Koromos, Cypress doubled his size and strength, and heaved the trap door open, slamming it onto a waiting hobgoblin and knocking him back. The heroes quickly flooded up from the water and into the tower, except for Leonidas, who remained swimming, treading water and firing his bow at the sentries on the top floor. The hobgoblin archers returned fire on the ranger, and a pair of gargoyles swooped out to harass his with claw and fang.
Leaving Brooke and Imar to handle the ground floor, Cypress stormed upstairs and quickly beheaded the two archers. The warrior and artificer handled the hobgoblin crew handily. Leonidas ducked down underwater in an attempt to elude the gargoyles, but they simply followed, their large wings aiding in their swimming. The fight continued submerged, and the ranger was able to kill one and drive off the other with only a few scratches.
The heroes watched as the gargoyle disappeared into the rainy sky, heading towards the center of the lake where a large building squatted dismally in the dark water.
The group followed, swimming below the surface in an attempt to remain undetected. Reaching the building, they spied the gargoyle hiding in an alcove, and it fled when fired upon. Brooke raced up the makeshift stairs in pursuit, only to be confronted by a quartet of armed hobgoblin warriors, each protected by some magical effect. Her defensive stance was able to ward off the attacks as the rest of the party followed. As the hobgoblins fell, a large, two headed ettin came plodding up from downstairs. Its large weapons rang out but were dodged by the fierce warrior as the hobgoblin defenders were picked apart by Leonidas and Imar�s ranged attacks and spells.
The ettin�s cries of anger and pain drew another combatant, a wizard, into the fray. Appearing at the other stairwell, he cast glittering dust into the air in an attempt to blind the heroes. It was ineffective, and after the ettin was slain, the wizard soon followed suit, his spells failing to have much more than a minimal effect.
No sooner had the failed wizard�s corpse his the ground than a tremendous roar split the sky, and a dragon with scales black as night leapt up from the floor below, hovering above the party. A goblin archer, riding upon the dragon�s back, shouted at the party, thanking them for killing �Nurklenak�, but that they would now fall to the Red Hand. His tirade was cut short by Cypress� hold person spell, and only the buckles of his saddle kept him from falling to his demise. Cypress narrowly dodged the dragon�s gout of acid as a response.
Before the party could mount much of an offense, the dragon raced into the clouds, biding time for his rider to free himself from the magical paralysis. Determined to make the most of the lull, Brooke and Cypress dashed downstairs to search for more opponents. But the dragon was quick to return, bringing it�s rider within bowshot of the rooftop. Two magical arrows struck Leonidas, and the ranger quickly withdrew for healing. Imar followed suit as his spiritual weapon spell faded. The heroes regrouped to plan their attack as Regiarix and Saarvith, dragon and rider, shouted challenges from the dark and rainy sky.
As the heroes hastily plotted their next moves, Cypress was enveloped in a nimbus of light and vanished, teleported away by forces unknown. At the same time, a pair of adventurers entered the room, and after a tense moment, the two teams joined forces and stormed back onto the rooftop.
The wyrmlord and dragon happily met the heroes in battle. Spells and arrows, sword swings and claw swipes were traded, and grievous wounds were had by both sides. Leo and Saarvith traded bowshots while Brooke matched her sword against Regiarix�s jaws and talons. In a gamble, the new party member Quynlyn teleported onto the back of the dragon, in an attempt to deal a vicious blow to the rider. Instead, the mage was bucked off and fell into the cold swamp. In the end, Saarvith commanded a reluctant Regiarix to make their escape into the cloudy, rainy, gray sky.
After a rest, the group swept through the ruined city hall, and found a note to Saarvith from a fellow wyrmlord, Ulwai. In the note, she hinted that the Red Hand had captured an item that would coerce the legendary Ghostlord to assist in the hobgoblin army�s plan. The item had been given to Saarvith for safekeeping.
Scouring the sunken lair of the dragon, the heroes found a strange amulet among the treasures. Before they could investigate the amulet further, sounds from the nearby pen drew the party to it, and inside they found half a dozen human and elf prisoners, chained in the waist deep water, with massive egg like sacs attached to their abdomens.
As they moved to free the hapless prisoners, one of the eggs sank into the body of one of the humans, and in the blink of an eye, the poor soul was transformed into a gross mockery of a multiple headed, draconic beast. Battle was joined, and the foul beast lashed out at anything living, killing two of its fellow prisoners before being soundly defeated by the heroes. While removing the eggs from the prisoners proved fatal for one of them, the remaining two were thankful. The party then discovered that one of the prisoners was Captain Soranna, from Drellin�s Ferry!
The captain related how she had been captured when her party had moved to investigate the road block along the Trade Way. The party then deduced that the Soranna who had returned from that ordeal was in fact an imposter. Divinations also revealed the amulet to be the phylactery of the Ghostlord, the legendary druid, now a lich lairing in the Thornwaste.
Returning to the elves, who quickly agreed to send forces to aid Mancea, the party then set out down the Kehie river, en route to Drellin�s Ferry to expose the doppelganger. Their trek was interrupted by the song of a harpy, which almost proved fatal for the group, as well as a large group of Red Hand troops, who were easily defeated, although Leo�s wolf companion, Nisa, was killed by a fireball, and the caster escaped.
A few hours from Drellin�s Ferry the party came across the unmoving form of a goblin. From their boat, it appeared to be Saarvith, so Leo shot three arrows into him. Examining the body, they could not tell if Saarvith had been dead already, but he had been badly burned by acid. Taking his magic gear, they left the body to sink into the swamp.
Around this time, Brooke received a mystical message from Damian Hawthorne, Cypress� father and leader of the church of Gethaena in Mancea, explaining that Cypress was with him, and that they were investigating developments with the Red Hand.
The party finally arrived at Drellin�s Ferry as the sun set, to find Speaker Wiston and the town council members, as well as the false Soranna, meeting at the Speaker�s house. The excitement at the return of the party quickly turned sour as the two Soranna�s confronted each other. The false Soranna used magic gems to summon huge fire and earth elementals, but in the end was captured by the party.
Interrogation of the doppelganger led the party to believe that there were other impersonators in town, possibly among the council. Several members of the party indicated torture as a possibility of learning more, but that was rejected by the council. When Marsaydes cast detect thoughts against the wishs of the council, the discussion exploded. Iormel, a council member, covered his head and ran out. Despite the assurances of Speaker Wiston, the party wanted to scan everyone, including Iormel. Brooke angrily derided the Speaker, and stormed out, proclaiming she would leave Drellin�s Ferry to its fate.
The doppelganger was imprisoned in the guard�s barracks, and with Soranna�s approval, the party kept watch over it. In the morning, in a public event that surprised the party, Speaker Wiston sentenced the doppelganger to death by hanging. After the execution, Brooke apologized for her words, but Speaker Wiston explained that everyone is under pressure at the moment.
The council, with the party�s guidance, decided to abandon Drellin�s Ferry and make way to Mancea. The heroes stayed behind until the evacuation was completed, then set out for Mancea as well, travelling down the Javmar to make time.
Upon their arrival, the heroes were taken to Lord Jaarmath, ruler of Mancea. He had convened a council on how to deal with the approaching Red Hand army, having been alerted by riders from Drellin�s Ferry sent along with a copy of the map the party had found in Vraath keep.
Speaker Wiston and Captain Soranna were also in attendance, and a brief worry about additional doppelgangers was put to rest as Soranna explained their quick travel due to magic horseshoes, as well as using the secret word the heroes had given her back in the swamp. Also in attendance was Sellyria, the leader of the Kiri Tikor elves, the captain of the Mancea guard, and Lady Kaal, the most powerful merchant in town.
The council has been debating the best course of action for holding against the Red Hand troops. With the input of the heroes and their first hand information, it is decided to stay behind the walls rather than meet the hobgoblins in the fields outside the city. It is also decided that the bulk of the priests be stationed throughout the city to aid the fighting, while some are kept in reserve at the temple of Gethaena.
The group also commissions the creation of two wands of Glyph of Warding, and begins seeding the grounds before the city with explosive glyphs. The militia is assembled, and Lady Kaals personal guard begins training with the exclusive city guard. The heroes are granted access to the Forge of Creation, a magical device that speeds the creation of magic items, as well as the assistance of Immerstal the Red and a few of his associates to create some magical objects.
Divinations by Marsayde indicates that the payment sent to hire the dwarven mercenary company from Hammerfist Holds is in jeopardy. The heroes strike out immediately, being flown by owl to join the slow wagon and act as guards.
The next day, the divination proves fruitful, as the wagon encounters a fallen tree blocking the road. The ambush is sprung, and an ettin and his dire wolf spring from hiding, while goblin snipers open fire as their worgs charge into the fray.
The battle is fierce. Quynlyn is able to �time hop� the ettin away, pushing him out of sync with normal time. The time mage then translocates to the midst of the goblins, intending on killing the goblin mage. The attack is not strong enough to kill the evil sorcerer, and the time mage is rendered unconscious by spells and attacks. Brooke rushes to his resuce, just as the ettin reappears, right next to Imar, who is slain by the vicious hammering blows of the giant. A moment later, the ettin is dead, but it is too late to save Imar.
Collecting their fallen, the heroes enter the Hammerfist Hold, and are able to persuade the healers to pray to Maaht and raise Imar. The artificer is revived, and Marsayde�s next divination tells of a great weapon against dragons that lies in the abandoned gnome village of Glitterhome.
The dwarves explain that Glitterhome was destroyed by a vicious plague, and that all who have gone there have died of the same plague. The heroes are not dissuaded, and convince a dwarven guide to show them the village.
The silent ruins hold danger, as poisonous, ethereal snakes accost the party, but are driven off. The party investigates an old well, and sees movement. Brooke, Leo, and Quyn decide to descend, while Imar and Marsaydes remain above with Momo, Leo�s cougar companion, working the rope to lower their fighters into the well.
The horrific undead was the obvious source of the plague, as it quickly infected the warriors. As combat raged below, those above were set upon by returning snakes. After separate battles, the heroes emerged victorius, recovering some magical weapons, including a dragon-bane spear.
In curing their companions, both Marsaydes and Imar contracted the virilient, debilitating plague, and it was soon obvious how the entire gnome community had been destroyed. Carfeul use of magic left the party disease free, and after a brief stopover in Hammerfist, they set off into the Thornwaste to confront the Ghostlord, phylactery in hand.
The Thornwaste was the most inhospitable place the heroes had ever seen. Constant thundering clouds darkened the sky over the expanse of massive thorny vines as thick as a man is tall. A veritable maze stretched out before them, as lightning crashed from the sky and terrible winds howled, making aerial travel hazardous at best.
Led by Leo�s uncanny wilderness skills, the party made steady, if slow, progress through the living maze, forced to double back and take alternate routes by the presence of patches of dangerous molds or massive thickets. Very quickly the heroes ran afoul of a pack of undead wolves. In an instant, Marsaydes and Imar had fallen to their paralytic bite. In an attempt to remain safe in order to effect a rescue, Quyn time hopped himself, taking himself out of the timeline for nearly a minute. Leo and Brooke, however, fought back, and resisted the attacks, until both Imar and Marsaydes had recovered and destroyed the wolves. Quyn�s return was met with a discussion of tactics, and the group moved further into the maze.
Beset by zombies, a massive plant creature, and a harpooning spider, the heroes earned every mile of progress with sweat and blood.
The group�s path descended with the natural slope of the land, and soon the dim sunlight was blocked altogether by the thick vines. They entered darkness, and after hours of travel, spied a flickering light ahead. It turned out to be an old, rusted lantern with a magical light. When Brooke advanced to investigate, she stumbled into a thick morass of quicksand. Her strength kept her afloat, and she was able to pull herself out, but just as quickly, was pulled back into the slime by a horrific bog mummy intent on her joining him in death. Simultaneously, a pair of will o wisps, one of which had masqueraded as the lantern light, began their attack, flitting from person to person and unleashing a powerful electrical blast. Imar responded by creating an icy bridge across the quicksand, and Brooke was able to use it to stay afloat. Together the group defeated the wisps and freed their warrior friend.
The trek continued, with the party fighting off an angry gorgon and a pair of hungry landsharks. Respite from a dust storm led them to battle the spirits of those who had died in previous storms, while an unfortunate path led them directly into the domain of a hive of stirges.
Passing these challenges, the group continued their slog, the hours having become days. They had many more miles to travel to reach the heart of the Thornwaste and the supposed lair of the Ghostlord, when suddently the very roots and vines attacked them, while three massive centipedes broke the earth from below. Battle was joined, with the heroes trying desperately to stay free of the vines while avoiding the massive, dripping mandibles of the huge vermin. Brooke leapt onto the back of one of the beasts, as lightning bolts fell from the sky to target the individual heroes.