Cheap Whiskey

Invidia

Theren led the others through the mountains. They fought four legged vulture-like demons in the misty peaks. On the eastern side of the mountains they found the land of Invidia.

While the others made camp, Nim decended from the hills to scout. Below the hills was a road that led to a stupendous palace to the north. A two horse drawn cart rode along the road toward the palace. The cart was open on top with a driver in the front and a boy in the back among many barrells. The cart appeared to be the first spark of wakening to this strange realm. After it passed the fields and orchards and ascended the hill to the palace’s splendorous fortified gardens, the rest of the village south of the palace sprung to life. Some youths came to the orchards and began playing soldier in the road using sticks. Nearby the orchards, where the boys played, was a roadside rest stop where some benches sat in a roofed stall. From the village came walking a group of six, four adults a small girl and slightly smaller boy. The children were beautiful looking in their simple linen garments and sandled feet. Each child carried a small wrapped bundle tied with string. The adults were two men and two women in their late middle years. Barry Cabbages was a heavy-set farmer and his younger wife and he were the parents of the boy. Dusty was a quarryman, he was tall and his wife was plump, they were the parents of the brave faced girl. The adults led the children to the rest stop and took seats on the benches while the children stood aside the road.

Nim joined the group at the rest stop. The boys playing in the road were yelled at by a man in the orchard. He wanted them to stop goofing off and start working in the orchard. As they began walking into the orchard they commented to the children waiting by the road.
“How would I like to get called to the palace?” said one boy.
“How would I like to pick apples and play soldier?” said the small boy by the road.
“How would I like to learn to read or become a proper soldier?” said another of the working boys.
“How would I like to kiss my ma goodnight, every night?” burst out the pretty girl who could no longer compose her brave face.
“That’s enough talk!” said the heavy-set farmer.
After a moment the farmer spoke again.
“How would I like to be done plowing my fields, Dusty?” he said, “Is Longbean’s fields been plowed?”
“How would I like to run my hands through the soil instead of blistering them on stone?” said Dusty, “Yep, his fields are all plowed.”

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The Bandit Lord

The adventurers find Carthain and get a rough idea about how to get to Invidia. They check out a silver comet that fell from the sky and rescue a mithral dragon wyrmling from some hill giants. They find magic items, are given greatwing tattoos from the dragon and level up to 14th.

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The Battle at Cheap Whiskey (ChapterThree)

The dragonborn mercenaries held firm when they initially engaged the Black Petal’s army. The front ranks were filled with zombie fodder, many of whom were created from dead Provincial soldiers. Hobgoblins and goblin archers and spellcasters lashed out with no regard for the undead allies. Body parts scattered from the blasts and bursts of the spells. Then the warrior wraiths and wights slipped into the melee and the weaker of the dragonborn fell quickly.

The Frontier Gate was open when they arrived and although they were wary of a trap, too many of them had waited too long to engage the enemy. Valkarn’s younglings and Jilko Vren’s rabble pummelled the animated dead while veterans like Gerwynn’s dozen and Abilon Azaer looked for the real threats among the shadows of the fort.

Less than ten soldiers fled when the wraiths and wights joined the fight. They went for the bloodied soldiers and those soldiers that died rose as wights or wraiths soon after.

The one called The Black Petal was there but rarely exposed to attacks. A few of the veterans escaped into the woods south of the fort. Those who stayed on the road were run down by the Black Army.

Valkarn and two of his younglings Patroika and Yemeqai were among the survivors who joined Abilon Azaer and the remainder of Gerwyn’s dozen in the woods. They discovered Coarses Durgin lying wounded and revived him. They all pursued the Black Army to Cheap Whiskey.

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Hammerfast

Brother Benny knew a half-orc who had come from Archertown to sell hippogriffs to the Provincial Army. She had just arrived in Spearpoint and was afraid she had missed the opportunity with the attack on Cheap Whiskey already taken place. She was willing to give the adventurers a good price on four well-trained mounts. Uthrid had learned to ride while a member of the Provincial Army and he quickly earned his mounts respect. Theren was a natural with animals and earned his hippogriffs trust although it would take sometime before he would be able to shoot his bow effectively in flight. Karkarai, the half-orc gave them tips and they were all soon able to ride capably as long as they didn’t try anything tricky. They were advised to keep low so an accidental fall might not kill them.

The hippogriffs would be the quickest way to get to Hammerfast. Nim messaged Oddlin via SENDING and told him to inform Marsinda Goldspinner, the Merchant Guildmaster of Hammerfast, that the party would be arriving soon. Marsinda had sent a message to Rudy in Fallcrest asking for a meeting. William Invidia had also left a dated message for Rudy to contact Lord Carthain in Hammerfast so a meeting to discuss old business could be arranged. The adventurers hoped Marsinda could point them toward this Carthain without anyone hearing about it so Nim only told Oddlin that they were coming and no more.

Despite the hippogriffs swift flight the adventurers had to camp for one night on the way to Hammerfast. Before they landed in the mountains they passed across the Nentir Vale where they could see Thunderspire Mountain many miles to the west. Although the others did not notice, Uthrid believed he saw a purple energy rising out of the top of the mountain. For a moment he saw the flash of a pyramid hovering above the mountain and the purple energy appeared to be enveloping it.

When they met with Marsinda Goldspinner the next day they asked her directly about the names Invidia and Carthain. She was not familiar with either name. She assured them Carthain was not a Lord in Hammerfast. She agreed to discretely look into the names. She needed some help from the adventurers. The long story short was that a group of adventurers who had already provided some heroic services for Hammerfast had uncovered a plot in which a dragonborn cleric of Gruumsh named Thar was trying to awaken a century-long vanquished red dragon. The wizard Starris had defeated the dragon, Calastryx, one hundred years ago; wounding it so badly that it had slept deep in it’s lair in Forgepeak with it’s wounds never healing. The adventurers led by Lukylyl the Invoker had connected a bandit raid on a merchant train, in which vials of hydra blood had been stolen, to have been funded by Thar. Fire had erupted from Forgepeak the previous night and Lukylyl had led his adventurers along with dwarven hammerers and orc priests of Gruumsh up Forgepeak in order to stop Thar. Marsinda hoped Theren, Nim, Uthrid and Rudy would go to Forgepeak and assist. They agreed to go.

They flew their hippogriffs up to the lair’s opening where they met up with Ris a female human trying to drag the unconscious invoker Lukylyl and an unconscious male goliath in hide armor out of the cave. She told the party that Thar and his ogre henchmen had killed all the hammerers and priests. The adventurers fought Thar and his ogres further inside the cave and killed them. There were orc, dwarf and ogre bodies lying about from the previous battle. As the adventurers looked around they heard screeching growls from within the mountain. Soon they heard someone approaching. Orcs called out to Thar. The adenturers hid and sprung an ambush on the orcs who were carrying a couple sacks. They dropped the sacks when melee broke out. They were having trouble defending themselves when a three-headed adult red dragon came squeezing down the hallway behind them. One orc was quickly engulfed in flaming breath and then eaten. The orcs and adventurers fled. The adventurers made it to their hippogriffs and flew back to Hammerfast while the dragon finished off the orcs. Ris, Lukylyl and the goliath were nowhere to be seen as the party left.

Back at Hammerfast the party told Marsinda about the dragon and warned that it was too much for them to deal with. This disturbed her greatly since they were the most famous and powerful adventurers she had heard of in years. Nim offered to do a reading for her from his Deck and they went to a private room. When they returned Uerthen Stonefist the dwarf fighter accompanied them. Marsinda was delighted with Nim for “summoning” the former member of the adventuring company Band Of Valor. Uerthen gave Marsinda a vow to call upon friends to help defend the town.

Marsinda gave the adventurers an old map she found which appeared to be the ruined kingdoms east of the mountains. There were seven areas labelled on the map. One was Aelia Invidia. It was the only mention of Invidia she could find. She had found more luck with the name Carthain. He was the leader of a group of bandits that lived around Hammerfast. He was known to have had dealings with Serlek Undertow who was a halfling bandit boss. Nim knew his agent Oddlin had fallen in with a group led by Serlek Undertow and he arranged to meet the crime lord at the crossroads outside Hammerfast. For 3000 gold pieces Serlek gave Nim the location of Carthain’s camp to the northeast.

It was midnight when the adventurers got back to Hammerfast. A scribe working for Marsinda greeted them at the Gate Ward and took them to the tavern to plan their departure. They did not want hirelings but did re-equip their adventuring kits. They would be leaving by hippogriffs so the scribe went out to the stables to alert the hands to prepare the mounts. The dwarf barkeeper was going to shut down the stove but the adventurers were all hungry so he went to the kitchen to prepare meals. A dwarf in plate mail entered the tavern and another dwarf was coming down the sttairs from the upstairs loft when a ruckus was heard in the kitchen. The barkeep staggered out with quills in his back and fell to the floor. Theren rushed to his aid and Rudy turned to get a better look at the two dwarfs. It was then the adventurers noticed the coal black faces and spiny red beards that marked the dwarves as duergar.

“Theren Brightwood and Rudolph Harmony, the Grimmerzhul Clan sends it’s regards.” sneered the duergar comingdown the stairs. He was dressed in robes and carried a large club. The plate mailed duergar had a heavy shield and warhammer. Two spine devils joined from the kitchen once the melee began. The duergar got the upper hand at first but the tide quickly changed after a few rounds of combat when Theren landed three arrows into the robed blasphemer and killed him. During the combat the blackguard duergar hit Uthrid several times but a combination of attacks from the party killed him. Rudy took out one spine devil and wounded the other before Nim decorated the bar with the devils insides by using a well placed force orb. The only attacker from the assassin group to escape was an imp who stung Theren several times and was a quite frustrating opponent. It attacked from an invisible state and teleported away as soon as it hit. In the chaos of the battle, the adventurers never could locate it because it hid behind tables and chairs after teleporting and then became invisble the next round and moved into attack position.

After the combat the adventurers decided to delay their departure for one day. The dwarf barkeeper lived but closed up the tavern for the night. The local guard came by and accepted the adventurers explaination of duergar assassins. The dark dwarves were hated by the dwarves of Moradin and most of them had heard about the Beheaders heroic acts of rescuing the Baroness of Harkenwold, Farrah Goldleaf Stockmer, from duergar at the Horned Hold in Thunderspire Mountain.

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The Battle at Cheap Whiskey (ChapterTwo)

Enubrius watched with grim thoughts as the army he collected under the Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia left Cheap Whiskey. They were mercenaries who had served Tiamat’s priest in Fallcrest but Enubrius had given them a noble purpose. The standard was a beacon they could come together under. Without it they would not be as strongly united. The Bronze Cleric had fifty of his faithful on the crenalated wall at Cheap Whiskey. Durgin had allowed him that courtasy. The number leaving was near two hundered.

It is believed, The Black Petal slipped out of the Steward Estate long before Rudolph Harmony and his companions warned Coarsus Durgin or sent a message to Makkas Day. She entered the Frontier Gate before warnings had been sent out that she was a threat. It was not heavily guarded. She quickly murdered a number of soldiers and used her powers of necromancy to raise them as undead and attack the other soldiers. By the time Coarsus arrived The Black Petal had the place set for an ambush. Coarsus detected the ambush too late to save his fellow soldiers but after a fierce battle he was able to ride his wounded horse out of the fort. The horse perished outside just as the Black Army was arriving but Coarsus made it to the cover of the surrounding forest on foot before he finally collapsed from exhaustion.

The two hundred mercenaries:
Gerwynn’s dozen was a company of dragonborn who had ventured into the Cairgorn Hills. They had travelled from Arkvana to Archertown and followed the river up into the Witchlight Fens. They went through Winterhaven after the business with the Keep On The Shadowfell. In the Cairgorn Hills they had adventurers and fought Rugas Doombringer’s orc tribe. They returned from their adventures in the hills with little to show for it and signed on with Fallcrest.

Valkarn Goldtooth had fought the Hand of Naaresh when some of his childhood friends were abducted by hobgoblin agents of the demon. He had found himself alone in the world when he finally caught up with his old friends and they had each received a red shard of the heart of Naaresh. They then served the demon and Valkarn found himself hunted by them. They were all dead now – fallen when the heart of Naaresh was destroyed by the Beheaders. He had returned to Arkvana and led a group of younger dragonborn up to Fallcrest.

Jilko Vren was the cousin of the famous bandit leader who had disappeared in the Winterbole Forest. Jilko and the nine dragonborn he travelled with were part of Garesh Vren’s outlaws when the dragonborn leader and the rest of the band disappeared. Jilko and the nine were securing the forest area so they could set up camp and when they returned to camp there was no sign of Garesh or the others. They had come to Fallcrest after wandering the forest without a leader.

Abilon of the tiefling merchant Azaer family, had spent the last three years working with friends of Enubrius the Bronze. He was a fierce fighter and had guarded the eladrin embassador Lynn Sysvani during her time working in the Nentir Vale. She had recently returned to Mithrendain and Abilon had latched on to Enubrius’ army with his friend the dragonborn warlock, Ardellosia. The war of Bael Turoth and Arkhosia meant nothing to Abilon, it was more a myth to him but he was used to watching Ardellosia’s back so he had accompanied her to Cheap Whiskey.

Abilon was from Archertown but there had been run ins with the Redcloaks of Sosh in his past. The people of the City of Sosh were distrustful of spellcasters and tieflings. Not all Redcloaks were outright prejudiced against tieflings but if you got enough of them together who had been raised by fathers who still held the many generation-long grudge against “black magic” than trouble could bubble up. Many of these Grudge-bearing Redcloaks did not trust divine powers unless the blessings came from a Sosh priest of Kord. Thus many of the old soldiers wore battle scars. In Cheap Whiskey, Abilon got the cold shoulder from a number of Redcloaks. A devil army threatened their outpost – devils that shared a part of his lineage. When Julian Durgin ordered the mercenary dragonborn and assorted soldiers from Fallcrest and other parts of the Nentir Vale to support the Frontier Gate, Abilon joined their ranks and left Ardellosia on the crenalated wall with Enubrius and Bralvuna.

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The Battle at Cheap Whiskey (ChapterOne)

Captain Julian Durgin of Cheap Whiskey received Makkus Day’s message via a SENDING spell from Richilda the Blue. The Sherrif of Bridgeblock reported that an enemy army had materialized at the Fort Steward Estate. Rudolph Harmony’s band had braved the mist and taken the road onto the grounds. The Provincial Army was advised to look out for a necromancer called The Black Petal. This witch had apparently killed Jonathan Steward and raised an army of the dead on his estate. Harmony had reported this to Julian’s brother Coarsus as he and his band fled Fort Steward. Coarsus rode to the Frontier Gate in the path of this Black Petal Army and planned to organize a defense there until reinforcements arrived.

“Tyburn!” Julian called to his sergeant of scouting,“Any movement in the east?”
Three fires had been burning in the wilderness east of the gates at Cheap Whiskey for three days. Twelve scouts had been monitoring the fires. One scout had not returned. Soldiers milled around those fires. Many wore the red cloaks of Sosh. Scouts on foot and riders on hippogriffs could only guess at the armies make up and numbers. The only scout to get close enough never returned.

“No, Captain!” responded Tyburn, “No advancement since they appeared three days ago.”

“Where is Fazueul Farseer?” asked the Captain.
Fazeuel was the most capable wizard this side of Bridgeblock. Julian like most members of Sosh society did not trust the arcane arts. Fazueul and his wizards had tried to spy on the army in the wilderness with scrying spells. Julian was told that spells such as clairvoyance and far seeing were drawn away from the camps by a powerful preseance in the mountain lair by Fort Dolar where the blood portal to Dis was said to be. The preseance in the mountain called itself Hihizol. The wizards called it an Osyluth or Bone Devil. It tried to provoke with insults and threats. For the first day Fazueul had tried to communicate with the devil but he ordered all wizards to cease scrying when the devil proved to be a formidible manipulator. Fazueul was concerned that the creature could corrupt the minds of the weak willed.

“He speaks with Enubrius on the southern wall.” said Tyburn and directed Julian’s attention to the crenalted wall beyond the border gate.

“Very well,” said the captain, “I need to speak to the cleric as well. Alert the sergeants of the mercenaries to ready for action.”
The captaincy of Cheap Whiskey meant that Julian Durgin was responsible for the defense of the eleven mile crenallated wall that protected the twenty mile long natural bridge that separated the northern lake from the southern sea. The bridge was tha eaasiest passage from the eastern wilderness to the Southern Provinces. The Wall began on the coast of the northern lake and extended nearly three miles before reaching Cheap Whiskey which is where most soldiers were stationed and supplies were stored. From Cheap Whiskey the Wall ran five miles to the southeast where wooded hills provided a natural barrier to enemies. The Wall filled in gaps among those hills. South of those hills were the marshes. Wesy of the marshes were hills and the Estate of the late Jonathan Steward.
Julian thought about the old soldier, Steward, as he moved along the wall to where he would find the wizard and dragonborn cleric. If an army had materialized on his estate than it had penetrated their defenses through magic and trickery. Perhaps the impending attack on the Wall was a ruse and the real attack was coming from within. By the time Julian reached Enubrius he was certain his guess was correct. Enubrius stood with a dragonborn warrior, Bralvuna, the Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia flew in the cold wind above their heads as they conversed with Fazueul. The cleric seemed convinced that the reappearence of the artifact was a sign that his dragonborn of Arkvana were meant to relive the aged old war of Arkhosia and Bael Turoth.

“Enubrius, we have been duped. An enemy army marches from Fort Steward to the Frontier Gate if reports are reliable. If not they could be marching on any of the forts within our borders.” informed the captain. “I need your dragonborn to support the few troops we have at the Frontier Gate.”

“Arkvana stands here under the ancient banner. We will throw those devils back to Dis.” objected the Bronze cleric looking confused.

“Not if the fight doesn’t come to us. Richilda the Blue just sent word from Makkus Day. Your champion from Fallcrest, Rudolph Harmony, and his men uncovered a secret army on Steward’s Estate. My brother rides for the Frontier Gate to organize a resistance until your dragonborn arrive.” said the captain.

“Are you certain the devils are not planning a frontal asault?” asked Enubrius, “Perhaps they are trying to split our forces before attacking.”

“They have been sitting out there for three days without advancement. They are a decoy. If they do have a force among those camps I have enough of my own men to hold them until your dragonborn return.” said the captain, “You can mop up and chase them back to Dis when you come back. I promise you can bring the fight to them upon your return.”

The priest attempted to respond but the captain cut him off.
“I will not abandon my brother and countrymen because you want to relive the days of Arkhosia and Bael Turoth. You gave me authority over these mercenaries when you brought them into the jurisdiction of Bridgeblock. Stay here and wave your standard but those troops leave now.”

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Spearpoint

Nim received three SENDING messages. One, from Makkas Day, encouraged them to proceed to Spearpoint and meet with Herrman Specks at the Boar’s Head Brewery. They needed to get Perry or a ritual that could destroy the portal to Dis. The second message was from Finji who said he would do his best to stay safe but didn’t want to disrupt Nino’s and his relationship with Mistress Arden, their new employer. The third message was from Oddlin who was near Hammerfast. He had met interesting people at The Five League House and was currently with a band of adventurers or maybe bandits. Forgepeak, the largest mountain in the range had erupted fire last night. His new friends saw that as a bad omen and told tales of a red dragon called Calastryx who had long ago laired in that mountain.

Nim learned more about his magic deck of cards and before the party slept for the night at Fort Durgin he gave Madam Durgin a reading from the deck to enlighten her on her family’s fate – particularly her sons, Coarsus and Julian the Captain of Cheap Whiskey. The first card Nim drew was THE IDIOT which indicated that some poor choices were in their immediate future. The second card drawn was THE KEY which indicated a magic item would be found that was tied to their fates. Madam Durgin was worried.

The next morning the adventurers left for Bridgeblock where they would use a linked portal to quickly get to Spearpoint. They stopped briefly at the Sheriff’s Fort where Harten the dwarf paladin reiterated that Makkas Day wanted them to find Perry Harvest. Early reports on the battle at Cheap Whiskey did not sound good.

At The Boar’s Head Brewery, the adventurers met the halfling Herrman Specks. He was a glass maker and regularly drank with Perry. He had not heard from Perry in the last couple of months. The last time they had met Perry had given Mr. Specks three keys and told him if anything happened to contact Rudy, Nim, Theren or Uthrid. He gave the adventurers the keys to Perry’s tower and told them they would find a halfling cleric to Ioan named Benny sitting on the tower steps. Benny was trustworthy as far as Herrman knew. Perry had adopted Benny many years ago after the halfling, who was born the bastard son of a mob boss in Archertown, accidently saved the life of Corelia Flamet. Benny didn’t have a talent for arcane magic but became dedicated to Ioan. He had recently been working as a highwayman out of Fallcrest but returned to Spearpoint when he learned of trouble with Perry.

The adventurers found Benny where Specks said they would and they offered him the keys to the tower and let him lead the way. The first floor of the tower was a reception room where comfort was supplied to visitors waiting to meet with the wizard. A fireplace, chairs and a large banquet table normally took up the room with plush carpets and tapestries. When the party entered they found most of the room empty. There were bits of broken glass, stone pottery and pieces of metal hardware and silverware scattered about the room but mostly it was cleaned out. Even the wooden door to the tower stairs was gone although the metal hinges were still mounted to the stone doorframe.

The second floor of the tower was Perry’s private quarters. They found the room in the same condition as the first. Various items were scattered about the floor but the majority of the furnishings were gone. Among the items left were some metal urns, a gold bedframe and gold chair frame and a stone safe. The furnishings and padding were gone from both the bed and chair. They used a key on the safe and found a hand axe and dagger inside. The third floor would be the wizards study and the top floor would be an open rooftop garden according to Benny.

In the stairwell up to the study, Theren nearly walked into a huge gelatenous cube and a battle broke out. Rudy and Uthrid were engulfed by the cube and damaged by it’s corrosive acid but the escaped it’s grasp and the party eventually destroyed it. The party surmised that the cube had disintegrated all the organic material in the previous rooms of the tower. Only metal, stone and glass were to be found in those rooms.

They proceeded to the study. The door was missing but magical runes had been carved into the floor to encircle the entire room. These were evidently some sort of protection because the cube had not entered the study. In the room was a linked portal circle and many bookshelves. The was a table with bottles against one wall and in the center of the room was a chair and an overturned table. There was blood on the floor by the chair. The bookshelves had been ransacked. A search of the room found nothing useful until Uthrid picked up the overturned table and they found a ritual scroll. Nim examined it and was able to determine that it was a nearly completed SENDING ritual. Nim could not determine who the ritual was intended for but he could complete the ritual and send its message to its target with a few arcane words. He decided to take a chance and trigger the ritual. When he did Nim immediately received a SENDING message from Perry.

Perry appeared before Nim sitting in the study’s chair. He looked a little on edge. “The tower has been compromised,” he said, “trust no one.” Perry then cried out in pain as a black cowled creature in black chainmail appeared by his side. A short sword pierced Perry’s side. “Who dares?” asked Perry as the doors to the study burst open. “Alive! Rhuminor!” a voice called out, “His knowledge of the book is valuable.” “He’ll live.” replied the slithery growl of the black cowled creature stabbing the wizard. “He better,” said the other voice, “Invidia will need…” and the ritual message ended.

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Rescuing Uthrid from The Black Petal

Nim, Theren and Rudy made quick plans as they healed up from their initial fight with the Black Petal and her undead escort. When they teleported back into the room the marrowshriek skeleton they had destroyed still lay on the floor but Uthrid and the enemies remaining were not to be seen. The spectral tendrils immediately wafted from the floor and tried to attack. With some luck from Nim, Theren avoided the tendrils and moved away from the teleportation circle – to the right side of the room. The boneclaw was creeping around the curved wall in the center of the room. As it charged Theren, the elf fired his bow. He hit and the boneclaw attacked with his long arms and claws. After firing, Theren shifted and a marrowshriek skeleton appeared from where he had stood invisible. Theren shifted away from it but was dazed when the creature shrieked. Another marrowshriek skeleton appeared on the other side of the teleportation circle and dazed Nim when he shrieked and then grabbed him. Nim broke free and Rudy followed Theren. Theren and Rudy were clear of the spectral tendrils. Theren charged past the boneclaw and was clawed again. Beyond the boneclaw he saw the Black Petal standing by a large stone sarcophogus. Rudy and Nim battled the marrowshriek skeletons. The boneclaw and Black Petal harrassed Theren. A marrowshriek skeleton fell as the battle raged and all the party members had moved closer to the sarcophogus on which the Black Petal now stood. All party members had been wounded by the undead to varying degree. Nim hit the Black Petal with two spells and Theren added an arrow. She was bloodied. Suddenly the entire tower shook as if from a strong quake in the earth. The Black Petal had been thrown against the wall by Nim’s spell. She teleported across the room and ran for the teleportation circle and left the room. The adventurers took down the last two undead and Theren threw open the sarcophogus. Inside lay Uthrid nearly dead. He was stripped down to his small clothes, all his possessions were gone. The tower continued to shake and the party felt vertigo. Rudy healed Uthrid and the fighter awoke with serious distress. He babbled about a succubus and a black army but soon shouted, “The tower is sinking into the ground!” The party ran to the teleportation circle. They were assaulted by the spectral tendrils but managed to make it to the circle and escaped the room. They ran to the spiral stairs s the tower continued to shake. In the stairwell the could hear water rushing in below. They ran to the private chambers – the only room with a window in the tower. They burst through the door and saw that the window was at ground level. They only had a few seconds to escape. Theren and Rudy took damage getting out the window but they all got out alive. Outside there was no sight of their horses or The Black Petal. A large army was gathered on the other side of the tower, waiting for it to sink back into the ground so they could march. Hoping they hadn’t been seen, the adventurers ran into the woods and took cover. Uthrid then had a chance to tell them about a dreamlike vision he had while unconscious.

Uthrid was sitting at a table in the grand hall of a Keep. He was discussing books with two men and a woman. One man he recognized as Jonathan Steward. He looked very old. He was wearing only his underclothes as were the other two people who were middle aged but not familiar to Uthrid. Uthrid felt confused and uncomfortable. He was not sure what had been going on for the last few minutes. He was frustrated because he was not familiar with the books the other three were speaking of and he had nothing to offer to the conversation. As Uthrid’s attention was drawn to a window in the room that overlooked the grounds he heard the woman addressed as “Crysilla” and the man as “Jobeck”.

A dark figure stood by the window with its back to Uthrid. Shadows moved outside the window and Uthrid saw dark figures moving around campsites picking up and readying to move. Uthrid felt a dark figure stading by him and it seemed he had moved to stand by the window. He saw undead soldiers (wraiths) shouting orders at humans, goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears as the campsites converged into an army getting ready to march. In the distance, Uthrid saw the Bloodstone Tower jutting from the ground between the two hills. He saw mist drifting up from the cracks in the earth. He could not remember how he got past the tower but he must have been inside the Steward Keep. He didn’t remember what had happened to Rudy, Theren and Nim. Uthrid wanted to act but his arms and legs would not cooperate. He felt like he was in a confined space.

“The Book of Ao?” he heard asked behind him and he turned to look at the three people at the table. He did not actually feel his neck move or his body turn but his eyes turned in the direction of the table. The three people no longer sat at the table. Jonathan, Crysilla and Jobeck lied in plain wooden coffins in front of the table with a copper piece placed over each of their eyes. A woman stood behind the table. She was the one who spoke.

“Yes, that is what some call it,” a cold steely voice came from the dark preseance beside Uthrid, “just ask him about the book he took from Nevern. Where did he put it?”

Uthrid was confronted by two creatures. They took up his complete vision yet he could only look at one of them at a time – like they were at opposite ends of a corridor and Uthrid stood in the middle. They seemed so close to him yet so far from one another. One was Driedel. The lich stared with a glowing yellow light from the otherwise empty sockets that peered from below a great helmet carved to look like a basilisk. An amulet hung around its neck. The other was a naked, voluptuous, black-haired woman. Bat wings sprouted from her back and her face was adorned with horns and fangs. Uthrid had seen her before. She was the succubus from Fort Dolor. As he looked at her he imagined that Driedel’s icy fingers were about to drop onto the center of his back and when he glanced quickly at Driedel the world swayed giving him a nauseous feeling and as he gazed into Driedel’s skull he imagined the devils fangs about to sink into his neck.

Driedel began to question Uthrid about the whereabouts of THE BOOK while the succubus tried to dominate him and make him answer truthfully.

Uthrid became dominated and told Driedel that the book was given to Lord Perrobin Harvest of Spearpoint.

Much to Uthrid’s dismay, the events about THE BOOK, Perry Barefoot, and Uthrid’s father and brothers streamed from his lips in great detail.

Uthrid was not sure what he had revealed but knew it was far too much. Driedel was satisfied and conversed with the succubus as if Uthrid was not there.

DRIEDEL: Well done. That was almost too easy.
SUCCUBUS: The brawny ones usually are. They have their uses though. I wouldn’t mind getting this one in the flesh – along with his friends.
DRIEDEL: Once you break through you are welcome to come back here and dig up what’s left of them. I’m done with this place.
SUCCUBUS:(laughs)
DRIEDEL: You’ve been more than compensated for your trouble, however. The black army will march to the eastern gate. That will catch them by surprise and as soon as their attention is distracted, the Iron General will crash through their gate. Your Red Army will find little resistance before they get their chance to raise hell with the dragonborn.

The succubus collected the coins from the eyes of the three dead people. As Driedel moved to the door to the Keep the ground trembled. The black army stood ready to leave and the Bloodstone Tower began sinking back into the ground. Uthrid’s world faded to black. The next thing he knew Rudy was waking him and they needed to get out of the tower.

The fear inspiring mist cleared as the tower slipped into the ground and the ground closed back up. The black army began to march. The wraith soldiers directed the others. The adventurers moved as quickly as they could back toward the road where Coarsus Durgin waited with ten Bridgeblock soldiers. They arrived a few moments before the black army and alerted the soldiers. Coarsus ordered two of his men to give Rudy and Theren their horses. Nim rode with one of them while Theren ran ahead scouting the road back toward Bridgeblock. Coarsus Durgin and his soldiers rode to warn Cheap Whiskey of the black army. Coarsus would reach the fort called the Frontier Gate before he reached Cheap Whiskey. He hoped he could gather some men there and at the least slow up the black army while other rode on to Cheap Whiskey to alert Courses brother- the Captain of Cheap Whiskey.

Nim prepared some Sending rituals while he rode. He sent word to the elders in the Harken Forest, to Makkus Day and to Finji and Nino Zookwicket who were spies working for him in Bridgeblock. Coarsus gave the adventurers a letter and told them to give it to his family. Fort Durgin would be the first place they came to along the road. The letter told his family that they could trust the adventurers.

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The Mist and Bloodstone Tower

The road toward Steward’s Estate would pass between two steep hills and the keep would be just beyond them. As the party made their way through the mist they saw a tower between the two hills blocking the road. Before they could get a good look at it, they heard clicking noises and a huge bulk being dragged alond the ground behind them. They spurred their horses forward but not far ahead a large crack in the ground ran across the road. Theren was unable to stop his horse but managed an acrobatic dismount as the horse plunged into the chasm and broke it’s neck. The others quickly stopped and the party faced a four headed fen hydra. Nim twice delivered critical damage and Theren did as well and the hydra was quickly bloodied and fled.

The party approached the tower. It appeared that the tower had sprung up from the ground to block the path. It was 75 feet high and the cracks spread from where it penetrated the ground. There was a large whole in the side of it at ground level.

Inside the hole in the tower the party fought a ghoul, zombies and a skull lord. The central spiral staircase in the tower went up and down. The adventurers went up and found a chapel to a weird alien or demonic entity which served some ancient deity of death. The entity was called Omerth. In other rooms they found old barracks and a library. Three floors up they found a chamber that was being used as a bed chamber. It had a bed and wardrobe at one end and a bath at the far end. This room also contained the only window in the tower. One floor above this one the party found a vault. Most of the items had been removed but they did find a staff. There was also a secret door in the room that led to another room with three linked portal circles on the floor.

Theren stepped on one of the circles and said “Omerth” and the party was teleported to the room at the top of the tower. They stood on a teleportion circle crowded together. From the floor spectral tendrils rose and attacked them. Three marrowshriek skeletons attacked with screams and a boneclaw skeleton crept near. The spectral tendrils dazed the adventurers as did the shrieks from the skeletons. One skeleton grabbed Nim. A pale woman made attacks with black magic and Uthrid was bloodied and not able to use healing surges. Nim spoke “Omerth” again as one of the marrowshriek skeletons fell to blows from the party and he was delivered back to the secret room by the vault. Uthrid fell and Theren and Rudy each spoke “Omerth” while standing on the magic circle and returned to the room Nim had retreated.

As the three shook their dazed heads they had no idea what was happening to their unconscious friend in the room above. They gathered second winds and prepared to go back up for Uthrid.

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The Battle at Cheap Whiskey (prelude)

As smoke rose from campfires in the wilderness beyond Cheap Whiskey, Enubrius The Bronze stood on the crenalated walls of the Southern Province’s most eastern outpost. The Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia flew above him daring the devil army to mount their attack. The provincial army, led by Captain Durgin, manned their posts. The dragonborn army waited impatiently, eager to proudly relive the days when Arkhosia met the devils of Bael Turoth, for the glory of battle.

Meanwhile, at the Steward Estate to the south, the civilized people’s greatest hope – a band of four: Rudolph Harmony, Theren Brightwood, Uthrid Ragnarson and Nim of Harken Forest, entered the mist that had enveloped the land and set the defenders’ of Bridgeblock nerves on edge.

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