Haradon was awoken by a maelstrom of sounds in the middle of the night. He opened his eyes, first to see the moonlit sky, next; a cloud giant crouching over him. The giant reached down. Haradon first covered his eyes with his arms, then looked to his side just to see his wife and son being plucked from the ground on which they were sleeping. Before Haradon had time to grab his blade or even reach for his wife’s outstretched hand, the giant was up and away. Haradon rose and ran after the giant.
The Stalkingwolf’s encampment was an arrow’s flight away from the northern shore of Valerius. The giant crossed this distance in a few bounds, Haradon ran after him. The giant leapt into the ocean and then jumped one final time and was lost into deep black of the sky-sea.
Haradon ran into the icy water. He fought against the onslaught of the northern waves. His cries were lost to the crashing of the crests thundering against the obsidian sea rocks. The waves beat him back and down until he was pushed to his knees, where he wept. He sat there for a time and alone under the bright beacon of the moon he stood unseen by anyone and dove into the dark waters.
“If you find this Heartstone and give it to me whence I return in 7 years I will see to it that your foe is dead.” The black hag who was called Malefustal said.
“I will find this stone. Do you promise me the death of this beast and the return of my wife and son?” Haradon said.
“I promise.” Said the grey witch with a grin.
“I will go to any end to find this for you then, even if it destroys my very essence in the process.” Haradon said and turned and walked away.
After receiving lost memories, the adventurers left the guard post. They walked down the steps and heard a sound from the lowered lever of the mining encampment. They rushed to the edge and looked down upon the leader of the Yakfolk reaching into a broken boulder from which a bright red light was emanating. The yak’s legs were battered and broken beyond use but he pulled his body along, as if by strength of will alone, all the while laughing maniacally to himself and oblivious to all else.
Let no one touch the cursed artifact.
Delgen saw the piercing crimson light shining out of the ground. Hoping to produce a cry of warning, he found his tongue uncharacteristically useless. He ground his teeth, knowing the only course of action he had left. Taking a few steps back from the edge, he drew his hammer. The others looked at him in disbelief, wondering what sort of self-aggrandizing nonsense the dwarf was engaging in now. Taking a deep breath he smiled and, with a wink at the elf, ran full speed towards the edge. The ancient dwarf leaped into the air, raising his hammer high above his head. From his belly erupted a guttural and bellowing cry to his god. He came crashing down upon the ground and there was the sound of splintering bone as Delgen’s legs buckled uselessly beneath him. Nevertheless, the hammer found its mark upon the rocky ground. A great fissure extended from the point of impact towards the yak. Just inches shy of his quarry, the ground gave way beneath the bovine nuisance and it fell into the darkness below, never to be seen by mortal eyes again.
With the dwarf laying in an useless but triumphant heap upon the ground, the rest of the party unable to see what was going on in the old dwarf’s face. The light grew in intensity and, with a sudden explosive pop, winked out of existence.
At once the dwarf grabbed at his chest as he lay upon the ground. His companions rushed down the ladder and towards the now writhing dwarf. Not knowing what to do now that the only one of them with any healing abilities or knowledge of injuries they watched in sheer panic and growing fear. Before their eyes underneath his armour, it seemed as if the dwarf was transforming. It spread from his chest up like a rash or disease, he was slowly turning into stone. They watched helplessly as the dwarf stopped his writhing and was totally petrified.
“Wha?…” Leomourn started, and then Delgen awoke and stood up and walked away.
“What are you looking at?” The now stone dwarf said.
They climbed the ladder out of the quarry. Amalyn being the last. Just as the elf straightened from the ladder they all looked up to see what had made the horrible noise at the guard post. To the whole party’s astonishment the broken statue they had beaten down and destroyed was crawling out of the door. Its claws grasping the doorway and ripping at the building. The statue flailed onto the stairs, it seemed enraged and was acting as a marionette that had had gotten it’s strings tangled. It stared off blankly and its eyes had a dark fire in them and then it let out a horrible scream. A light shown from its chest as it seemed a chip had fallen from its hull. Then more and more chips fell as if being pushed out from inside the statue, more light shown through with each. A demonic red hand slowly emerged and grabbed at the stone statue and seemed to pull the rest of its body through the hole in the thing’s chest. A foul demonic face pertruded from the statue, looked around and then locked eyes with the elf. Before anyone could even register what was even happening before them the thing burst from its prison of unknown millenia and flew with a trail of flame and smoke straight towards Amalyn. No one could see what happened but both the demon and elf fell off the edge and were lost to sight. The party looked upon the fallen comrade and saw an unconscious Amalyn with a fiery monstrosity spinning in a maelstrom of fire and hatred. It’s body fading into a thin smoky line that was rooted in the elf’s now open mouth. Amalyn’s eyes were emitting small flames as well.
The party confused and in fear approached the demon. After getting burnt a few times, they realized there was no approaching it. Despite seeing Delgen and the sisters being attacked by the fire demon Leomourn approached one last time. To everyone’s surprise the demon shied away. Looking back at his friends Leomourn said:
“Yes, fear me.”
“Stupid human I could burn your soul…I do not fear your weak body. It is that substance that so harms me.” The demon hissed.
“Wha…What? This?” Leomourn produced the horn of the statue which he had picked up once they fell the animated sentinel, waving it towards the demon.
“Argh! Impudent wort! I shall not be rid of! I will live within her! She will loose herself one day! SHE WILL BE MINE!” Screamed the demon as if was exorcised back into the elf’s frail body. The fire dying in her eyes.
“What happened?” She asked.
After all had been settled…as much as they knew the party gathered up their selves and all their gear. They walked to the bottom of the guard house to find all their other missing gear. On a chemistry table on the brink of death was a small dragon. It seemed as if the drow were extracting all the poison from this small dragon’s stinger, no doubt to use on the slaves. The elf approached it, picked it up and cradled it. Now realizing for the first time since awakening from the drunken stupor that she felt no connection to her familiar she once had. Sadness welled inside the elf, only to be clouded over with the emotion she felt with this small dragon. They were smitten.
They looked off towards the other end of the room to see Delgen approaching a large wheel build into the wall attached to a large machine that was lost to the wall and darkness. Within the wheel was a gigantic brown beast that was also on the brink of death with fresh wounds some still bleeding and weeping. Delgen slowly advanced as if in disbelief. He grabbed at the chains that held the beast and with a strength unknown to the rest of the party broke the bonds. The others stepped back, wondering why Delgen would loose such a beast. The Beast fell out of the wheel and collapsed into a heap. Delgen fell atop it and some thought they heard the old dwarf whimper, but did not dare mention it or ask what had just happened.
Upstairs they found a note that read:
“The time draws near. Find the Heartstone no matter what it takes. Failure will result in harrowing punishment. Do what you will with the slaves. (signed: H.S.)”
Leomourn nervously wiggled, and when asked what spooked him about the note he replied that it was nothing.
They also found an agenda stating that a new shipment of slaves were to be delivered the following day. They gathered all their supplies and planned the following day.
Amarella had felt a connection to some of the slaves. The myconids, a race of intelligent humaniod fungus creatures. They also found Lakshin Badrinath a loxo who was actually the owner of Six Moon’s Tavern. The myconids agreed to work for Amarella at the group’s headquarters in Raven’s Pointe. Lakshin agreed to take the mushrooms back with him.
The next day a horse drawn cart lead by another yakfolk and two drow crossbowmen brought a number of slaves. The party overtook the slave-drivers and noticed that the horses that were drawing the cart were in fact their own. They must have been taken during the party’s kidnapping and had been used to transport slaves.
Before they had left the encampment they heard a voice inside their heads. I asked them to retrieve the Godeye.
“I see you five are truly a worthy lot, able to live in enslavement for over a year and still overtake your captors. I may enjoy your company yet. I ask a favour of you now.” The now visible visage of Eldranoth said from the orb.
“Why should we help you?” Delgen asked.
“If you do not agree to help me, you may not ever learn the location of his father.” The mindflayer said and nodded to Leomourn.
“What do you know of my father?” Asked Leomourn.
“I know that to find a meager stone he enslaved innocents…even making his own son a slave.” Eldranoth said with finality and matter of fact.
The others looked at each other in disbelief and confusion.
“Yes. Now, if you agree to find me this item of mine I will tell you were to find Leomourn’s father. There is a vile creature in those woods around you and it took something of mine. I would ask you to retake it for me. It is a small locket. Go to Mellorian and you will find perhaps more than you would think.” Eldranoth said the orb went blank once again.
They went onwards into the forest and had to make camp at the end of the night. Everyone was awoken by the sound of screaming. They all came out of their tents with iron brandished only to be surprised to find Leomourn writhing on the ground a few yards away from the tents in a grove. He was writhing and screaming in the moonlight, but his eyes were closed. He seemed to be mumbling, and in front of their eyes lashes appeared on his bear back and a blue patina started to glow from his wounds.
Leomourn was awakened by the sound of howling. He left his tent to go examine the source. He walked into a grove near the encampment. He heard the howling again, this time it sounded beautiful and almost like music. He felt a great sense of euphoria here under the moonlight with the cool breeze and the wolfmother singing music off in the distance. He opened his eyes again and a few yards away he saw the most beautiful she-wolf in his life, she was glowing with the radiance of the moon. She approached and did not snarl but spoke to him.
“Hello my child. I have a tale for you. Many years ago Summanus, god of the night Duke of Nocturnal thunder struck against his own daughter Al’handra. Al’handra was the goddess of the moon. Summanus, despite her being his daughter thought her moon was interloping upon his domain and sought to destroy it. They took mortal forms to battle out this disagreement. They gathered followers, as they could not kill each other for they were daughter and father, they would let their devotees settle this. Those who loved and followed Summanus wanted eternal night and darkness while those how loved Al’handra enjoyed the beauty of the world in the rapture of her moon. Al’handra’s army proved supreme and Summanus retreated to his domain and thought of a final plan to defeat his daughter. From his dark throne he imparted some of his power to his fallen followers. They rose from their bloody battlefields and graves with a new puissance and hunger. Summanus had given the dark gift of unlife. Thus the first vampires walked the land, these were the first pure vampires, later they created lesser and more wild spawn. They slowly grew stronger with the blood of their foes and attacked Al’handra’s people. Before she lost too many children she had to retaliate with her own deific powers. She sent down her blessing on a special plant on the highest hill under the moon. She visited her followers in their dreams and instructed them to eat this holy Wolfsbane to show their allegiance to her. When they did this they were turned into white hounds strong with the power of the moon. The moral battle continued between the blood-drinkers of Summanus and the Hounds of Al’handra, until too many died and the few survivors ran separate ways. Noone knows of what happened to the two gods but their legend still lives on and their followers are very much alive. No I ask of you to accept this gift.” The wolf said to Leomourn, overwhelmed by the rapture of this beautiful wolf he knelt. Holding the plant in her muzzle this white wolf traced intricate sigils across Leomourns back shoulders and chest. He writhed in pain though the plant brought a sense of power and enlightenment along with the pain.
“Now eat this.” The she-wolf said and dropped the plant infront of Leomourn. He ardently consumed the Monkshood. He felt a surge of empowerment and slowly felt his body changing.
Amarella, Darella, Amalyn and Delgen stood in the cool night breeze and watched as their comrade transmogrified into a large white wolf with glowing blue sigils in his fur.
“I’m a wolf…” Leomourn whispered.
The party of adventurers continued towards Mellorian an elven settlement in Dreadwood. On the way they crossed paths with a lone traveler. He was an elderly balding human man. He was clothed in lush purple cloth and smelled of lavender and of other scents.
“Oh how fortunate. I am Therav. I am traveling to The Festival of Life, in Mellorian. It will be getting dark soon and I would love some companions to join me in my travels. You never know what dangers lurk in the dark of these woods at night.” The man said.
“Festival of Life?” Amarella said.
“The Festival of Life is the most wondrous of fairs, I assure you. The food and drink are delicious and free for the taking and the Mellorn don’t charge taxes so the merchants can charge the customer less. The deals are immensely satisfying for both the buyer and the seller. Food and drink are free of charge, you can try many different cuisines from all corners of this land.”
“What are you selling?” Asked Delgen.
“I am a glass merchant. I have many wares. Vials, vases, bottles, pipes and many other…glass pieces. I will give you each 50 gold pieces if you attend me to the festival and I will offer my services to you at a discounted rate.” Therav said.
“What are you so afraid of?” Leomourn asked.
“Have you never heard of Dreadwood? There are many dangerous things that crawl in these forests. I have come to this festival for the last three years and I will honestly tell you my first companions ran away and just last year some were even attacked by giant spiders.” The old man said.
“Spiders don’t scare me.” Leomourn said.
As they rode on the path it was not very long until Leomourn screamed.
“What?” Amarella asked.
“There was something in the woods that just ran by in the trees.” Leomourn said out of breath and clutching his bow.
“I thought you weren’t afraid of spiders.” Delgen said with a chuckle.
“That was no spider. It was..nevermind I guess I am just getting tired.” Leomourn said, and nocked an arrow.
“What did you see?” Amarella said.
“I could have sworn it was a…” Leomourn said and then shook his head.
“A child?” Therav said.
“Yes. How did you know?” Leomourn asked.
“They are called Babanelli. They are the spirits of children that have died in the wood. They never come close, they never hurt anybody. They just run by and disappear.” Therav said.
“You screamed for a child?” Delgen jokingly asked.
“They are not normal children…they are twisted…horrible to behold.” Leomourn said.
They rode on.
“Hoooooo!” Delgen screamed a little way onto the path.
“What? Did you see one?!?!” Leomourn asked.
They continued onwards into the night until Darella spotted something on the side of the trail. It was an ashen bow, elven made. Upon further investigation they found a trail that soon became more and more random and then suddenly stopped. They all pondered how this could be and then they spotted off in the distance further into the forest a shadowy figure high in the trees. It was roughly the size of a man but was covered in a white substance and was suspended from a high bough of a tree.
“Spiders.” Amalyn said. The dwarf nodded and tightened his grip on his hammer.
“Is that a person?” Asked Leomourn.
Darella spun in place and instantly appeared high in the trees and climbed down the thin web from which the figure was hanging. She waited for her sister to get ready below and took out her blade and cut the filament. The coccoon fell to the ground and Amarella caught it just as a few wolf-sized spiders crawled down the tree trunks. They quickly dispatched the arachnids and squashed their ichor on the forest floor. They peeled the webbing away and underneath they found a wood elf. He was weakened but alive. After some coaxing and healing from the cleric they learned that his name was Gahrlef, under the webbing he wore intricately decoreated leather armour over simple green and brown shirt and leggings. The bottom half of his face was wrapped in a heavy cloth that covered both his mouth and nose.
“Thank you for helping me. I was on my rounds and was attacked by those cursed spiders. Thank you for finding my bow.” Gahrlef said and took his bow from Leomourn. Leomourn was slightly sad to see it go.
“I will accompany you back to Mellorian, I am sure the rest of the guard will be wondering where I am by now.” The elf said.
They continued on the path and soon saw something large and stone on the side of the path that was odd to all save Gahrlef and Therav. The party examined this gigantic stone obelisk.
“That looks like elven scribble to me! You read it.” Delgen said and pushed Amalyn towards the 8-foot stone thing.
“I don’t know that, it’s old!” Amalyn said.
“Did you not pay attention in your elven studies?” Delgen said.
“Fine, I’ll try. It says: ’May…those that born…no spawn below, forever stay…remain below. May those that spawn below, forever stay below.” The girl-elf said with smile.
“What does that mean?” Leomourn asked. The dwarf was now muttering and moving his hands.
“There is a lot of magic underneath this stone. I don’t understand what this could mean.” Delgen said.
As the party was talking they did not have time to prepare for what was to come. Before they heard the terrible bellow they all saw a large black creature charge through the trees casting stumps and vegetation aside and came at them. This gigantic black minotaur mauled the party. A large horn sliced through the small dwarf’s thigh and tossed him aside like a small animal. The others acted quickly and with the help of Gahrlef fell the beast. Upon ecamination of the creature Delgen realized that the minotaur had been poisoned by some creature, as the many bite marks indicated. They assumed this creature was attacked by the same spiders that had captured Gahrlef. The wood elf said that the spiders are always active in the woods but admitted that every few years they get really bad.
Tired of distractions and ready to finally find this said festival the adventurers continued and they finally came upon Mellorian. As they drew near they passed an increasing number of Mellorian guards, each waring leather armour, cloth over their nose and mouth and armed with a longbow much like Gahrlef, who left to go report to his superiors. Ornate wooden buildings on differing height platforms suspended high in the trees barely hidden in the canopy. The sounds of hundreds even thousands of voices were heard. All around the edges of the town of Mellorian but before the treeline were tents and campfires of merchants and buyers from all over Rienland. There was a large lake in the center of Mellorian two arrow’s flight wide. Hundreds of people of all forms and kind surrounded the lake. They talked excitedly, laughing and shouting to friends they apparently haven’t seen for several years. A large wooden gazebo off to the side of the lake was surrounded with chairs and tables. Moonlight poured in through a large break in the ancient canopy above, shining off of dozens of colourful canvas stalls and tents set up in concentic circles around the lake. Many shoppers were still making deals and everyone was drinking or eating something.
“Attention! Excuse me! There is an important announcement. Kayriz is going to be marrying Torah this festival, so wish them all the luck and give them many drinks.” Said an elf with a magically enhanced voice.
“Hey, look over there. Our friend…” Delgen said to Darella. She looked and it was a red figure with a canine face. He was at a food stall eyeballing the hunks of meat freshly roasted, no doubt trying to pick out the least roasted piece.
“That is…” Darella said. She lead the way as they approached.
Delgen forcefully grabbed the hound archon’s arm, just as it was taking a hearty quaff of a fine elven mead from a long drinking horn that almost touched the ground even as he tilted his head back.
“You’re not going anywhere this time friend.” The dwarf said to the hound who spilled a portion of his drink on the ground. Onlookers watching carefully.
The archon looked at the group surrounding him now and his eyes caught those of Darella and he dropped his horn, spilling the rest of his libation.
“Yeah, it’s me.” Darella said scratching at the scar on her neck.
“I killed you…” The red hound said, looking down upon his upset horn.
“Luckily we have a man of the cloth with us.” Amarella said.
“Listen I can never make reparations for what I did that day, and trust me I have been harder on myself than you could have ever be…first I lost her and then I kill innocent people and then I lost myself. Your face has haunted my dreams. I assure you this one thing though I was not myself that day, I was under a spell. I remember not by whom and for what reason but I do remember some things, they come back sometimes. I remember he carried a mithril encrusted horn and had a mechanical man who said nothing but did his bidding.” The hound spoke softly and true.
“Mithril encrusted horn?” Delgen asked.
“Yes, but that is all I can remember. I must have been under a spell.” The archon said.
“Slow down…let’s start with your name.” Leomourn said, as he walked to the near stall and drank from a stein.
“Yes. I am called Salvatore. Salvatore Sentinel of the 37th battalion of the Interplanar Guard…well ex-Sentinel. I quit…before they could discharge me. I would not like to know what they think of what I have become. I hail from the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia.” Salvatore said, with an excited air about him that soon deflated.
“Well met.” Delgen said. They moved the conversation to a table near the lake after they had laid down their stuff properly let the horses find a good patch of grass and had all gotten food and drink themselves.
“Don’t go too close to the water, she’ll get you!” A small elven girl said to a small elven boy as they were playing.
The party quickly heard Salvatore’s story. When he was old enough, he joined the Interplanar Guard, a group of warriors who protect all and uphold universal laws. One day he was given a new charge of guarding Zar’ah, the princess of the Air elementals. She had come to the prime plane in hopes of living a simple life devoid of politics and celebrity. Zar’ah had a vision one day, revealing that there were a group of murderers that had plans to murder her. She breathed her essence into Salvatore and they were attacked. Salvatore woke up and Zar’ah was gone. Salvatore followed her scent until she was not on the wind anymore. Until he was given a lead by an anonymous source and put under a spell.
“I was a great Sentinel…well until Zar’ah. I hereby pledge my servitude to you in hopes of repayment of the horrible crime I have commited against you. Call my name and I will come.” Salvatore said and knelt infront of Darella, who knew not what to do but slowly put her had on his head. Salvatore smiled.
“My father was a Sentinel! I carry his sword.” Salvatore said and brandished his broken blade and showed Leomourn who feigned interest. Salvatore quickly put the blade away when its light reflected in Darella’s eye.
“Oh, I almost forgot! Before Zar’ah breathed her essence into me she gave me this scroll. She said it was a prophesy, she said she came to this plane for peace but only found out that there was nothing but war for this realm. She said this was an ancient prophesy and that she thought she would be involved but that she then knew it was not her but me. I have been trying to decipher it everyday since, it still smells like her.” Salvatore said, putting it to his snout.
“Here, you should be able to read it you are a mage, right.” Salvatore said and handed it to Amalyn, Delgen snickered.
“Well firstly…you have it upside-down.” The elf said after looking at the erratic shapes and symbols on the old torn parchment.
As a time of peace dies,
A time of conflict will arise.
Through the battle and death,
Heralds of the elements shall forward step.
With their dying breath,
The world shall be saved from
A Darkness untethered.
When warriors two and four come together.”
“What does that mean?!” Leomourn asked.
“I don’t know.” Amalyn said.
“Me either.” Salvatore said.
The rest of the night went on with much wine and merriment, until a band of guards came and told the party that their company was requested. They met the leader of the city and were told they would be given a reward if they rid the land of the evil that tainted the ground beneath their settlement.
They ventured into the night and found an entry into the ground on top of a hill, they ventured forth and deep underground and fought their way past vargouilles and grimlocks. One grimlock kept a basilisk as a pet, they found this out by sending Amalyn’s tiny dragon around a corner, who then was petrified. They carried the small familiar with them and continued, until they came upon two doors and two statues.