pon returning to Hidroth Lea the Horns receive the tragic news that the attempted prison break of Orend failed, leaving most of the participants dead. Moreover the town is in a near state of panic over the recent disappearances of dozens of villagers in the surrounding downlands. Unable to discover the cause of these disappearances, the party once more returns to the ruins of Etimar, this time in search of an ancient rune axe believed to lie somewhere within the Halls of Amath Grall. In the course of their explorations, the Horns suffer a death in their ranks. Though the grief of loss is yet fresh, the party is nevertheless joined by a new face and, after collecting their strength, once more set out to accomplish their quest.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Romen over a mug of Silverwheat, “It’s so strange to think that they are actually gone.” By “they” Romen was referring to Starling and Orend. Not long ago Orend had been sentenced to death as punishment for attempting to elope with Count Atherlend’s daughter. Illendra, Elien and Starling had sought the aid of the Horns in a prison break mission to free their friend. When the Horns declined, the three proceeded with the mission on their own. That was two weeks ago. On arriving at Hidroth Lea the day before Phadran learned that the mission had been a failure and that while Starling was killed during the break out attempt, Illendra was captured and she and Orend had been publicly executed.
“Yes, strange,” said Mara impassively. She had never much cared for Illendra.
“How were they caught?” asked Thelend.
“Apparently Atherlend’s royal spy Arnodoul cornered them in the dungeon and he and his men dispatched them,” said Phadran. “As a result, Arnodoul has been promoted to Court Inquisitor.”
“So then whatever became of Elien?” asked Thelend.
“It seems that she managed to escape capture,” replied Phadran, “no one knows where she is, nor where Aribell went off to for that matter. Arnodoul’s organized a man hunt for the two. Othowin and Belindial have left town though. Master Divrend overheard Othowin swearing an oath to Belindiel that he would never again set foot inside this town.”
“I just can’t help wondering if we made the right decision,” said Romen, “you know?”
“Orend made his own bed,” said Phadran, “and then his friends helped him lie in it. That’s none of our concern. Anyway we’ve got other things to worry about, such as, just what is going on with these disappearances?”
“Maybe your right,” said Romen. “Well, I’ve been meaning to do some research on Chuul. After our last encounter I want to make sure that we know what we’re up against before we return to Etimar. I suggest we stick around town for a few weeks. While I look into the matter of Chuul, perhaps you guys can investigate these disappearances.”
“Sounds brilliant,” said Phadran, I think the Horns are due for a little R&R.”
The days that followed were hot and restless. Romen spent his time in between the libraries of the SLR and those of the Cathedral of Ilandriol. Mara set about finding and then training a new animal companion while Phadran spent his days sleuthing. Sweltering though the days were, uneventful they certainly were not. Each day brought forth new developments.
While visiting the Steal Ox one day to have their armaments mended, the party overheard one of the store’s patrons complaining that with Madame Illendra gone, the Falcon’s Nest had gone to seed. Apparently a rather ambitious, if somewhat belligerent, merchant named Ub Mulund bought the rights to the property in a public auction after Illendra’s death. Since then, Ub recruited several more girls, of various species, and renamed his joint The Dancing Fey to indicate the sordid variety shows available within. Ub tripled the House prices and the food has never been worse. However, what with the influx of militia passing through it seems that Ub is making a killing, and the joint has become a den of drunkenness and debauchery.
A few days later some of Captain Teradith scouts captured a man heading west with several local town’s children tied up in the back of the wagon. The man turned out to be a local Tanner named Glen. Unfortunately, before Glen could be interrogated, he managed to fall on his own sword, leaving his intentions unknown. For reasons unknown to most, following this event Atherlend called off the manhunt for Elien (though not for his daughter). Instead, the Count issued an order that for the protection of the town’s population, any and all persons and their property would be subject to random searches. The searches would be carried out by a team of spies assembled by Arnodoul, and any suspicious activity witnessed by town’s folk was to be immediately reported either to Arnodoul’s men or to the guard.
This of course incited all sorts of speculative rumors. Most folk believe that the tanner had something to do with the recent disappearances, yet this is where the agreement ends. Some think that he was a werewolf and that Atherlend believed the town to be affected by an outbreak of Lycanthropy. Others asserted that he was a Thyrn cultist and that there may be more cultists about. Still others reason that he could have been heading to the Marshes of Edalberith to sell the children as morsels to a coven of Hags. Some just think that he had gone insane, and for that matter, so had Atherlend! The same night upon returning to the Cloven Hoof, Master Devrend protested that some of Arnodoul’s men had torn apart his Inn while the Horns were out. Afterwards several of the Inn’s patrons had complained of missing items from their rooms. Yet no one seemed keen to report the incident. Despite Phadran’s best efforts, the half-elf could not seem to come across any reliable information regarding this matter, nor that of the tanner’s possible connection to the disappearances.
Several days later news reached town that several a squadron of soldiers from Caldoranth had been slain by Turglez, the Ancient White Wyrm of the North, while en route to the South to join the war effort. Turglez had long carried a grudge against the men of Caldoranth, but never dared to venture too near the fortified city. Yet away from the protection of the city’s gates, the squadron was defenseless before the great Wyrm. The news from the front lines was even worse. No one was prepared for the furry unleashed by Escalatharn’s dragon riders. Karn had driven back the armies of the East and has advanced upon Vindovier itself! Many believe that should Vindovier fall, the lands of the North would come crumbling after.
One day while searching through some ancient texts within the Cathedral of Ilendriol, Romen came across a work entitled On Creatures New and Old: A Beastiary written by Plotovas Narsuvial, whom the mage recognized as one of the earliest taxonomic scientists. Sure enough, there was an informative entry on Chuul which spoke of a massive Chuul Queen. Romen learned much about the ecology and defenses of these creatures from the Bestiary. Plotovas even provided the following anecdote of his witnessing an ancient Chuul Queen in action:
While their downtime had not yielded all the answers they had sought, with the information that Romen gained and Mara’s new animal companion, the Horns decided it was time to venture once more into the ruins of Etimar.
The trip back to the ancient Dwarven city was pleasant. The weather had cooled down somewhat and the Maple and Ash trees offered an impressive display of autumn hues. The Horns had re-commissioned Jeren and Thir to care for their mounts during their delve, and it was with light hearts that the party once more ascended the cliffs of the mountainside leading to Etimar.
The party spent nearly a week traversing the underside of the mountain. Under the advisement of Etilwin Vass the Horns had elected to seek out Etimar’s royal hall of Amath Grall and leave the Chuul Queen be for the time being. Eventually the Horns mission to find the missing key lost within the depths of the fount of Orna would lead them into the Queen’s Lair. But the party was not yet prepared to meet the mighty creature in her own turf. In the mean time, there was the task of retrieving Gulgaloth, the great rune axe of the Dwarven Kings of Etimar entombed now for nearly a millennium. According to the aging Gnome scholar, the axe would likely be located within the vault of Amath Grall, along with many other of the riches of Etimar.
However, after days of searching the party seemed no closer to finding the vault than the day they first entered the ruins. The problem was that the ruins were vastly expansive. In its day, Etimar had been one of the four greatest cities in the North. Its hallways stretched on for miles, and there seemed no end to its cavernous mines. To make matters worse, since the coming of the Minotaurs, the halls had fallen into disrepair. Cave ins barricaded rooms, blocked corridors and in general, turned the already confusing halls of Etimar into a veritable labyrinth.
Over those several days the Horns encountered and fought several roaming minotaur, a mated pair of huge monstrous spiders hunting for goblins, a couple of Chuul and a few aberrant creatures no one recognized. In the process they discovered a wealth of Dwarven arms and jewels left behind by the city’s former residents. Yet still no sign of the royal hall of Amath Grall. Hence, weary and in need of new supplies, the party eventually decided to return to Hidroth Lea to re-supply.
OK this is me, your ever-present narrator here, “key the voice-over music please.” I’m butting into the narrative here to explain a little continuity hiccup that happened in our campaign. I’ll be out of you hair in a second, promise. So another DM friend of some our players happened to be in the area one week and it was decided that it might be fun to let him run our campaign. Course he wasn’t really familiar with my world, and so we did sort of a cosmic warp wherein our players got transported to the world of Farun for a one shot adventure in the Silver Marches. The idea was to take a break from our long-standing dungeon delve and just kick back and relax. What could possibly go wrong? The death of a PC, that’s what! Yeah, eriondscribe’s character Leuca bit it at the claws of a huge fiendish white dragon just before the end of the adventure. Our stand in DM felt terrible about this, but hey, that’s the way the dice fall sometimes right? Anyway, eriondscribe decided not to bother resurrecting Leuca (who had always been sort of a one-dimensional character any way) and instead created Father Fethraden. I ran a solo adventure with Fethraden (see The Rise of Genocron thread) and then the good Father joined our campaign the very next session. OK, so before I return you to our regularly scheduled adventure, I think we should take a moment of silence in remembrance of Leuca, the silent Elf healer that steadfastly patched our party up after each encounter. Leuca, may your soul be at peace (see that wasn’t to painful now was it?). And now for the party’s memorial.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Romen over a mug of Silverwheat, “it’s so strange to think that he’s actually gone.” By “he” Romen was of course referring to Leuca.
“Who?” asked Phadran, “Oh, right, the Elf. Almost forgot that he had a name.”
“Hey come on now, we just lost a comrade,” complained Romen, “what kind of talk is that?”
“Well I’m sorry but seriously, can you blame me?” said Phadran. “Have you ever tried starting a conversation with him before? Well I have, and it’s allot like talking to a brick wall. The guy could hardly string two words together! You’d think he was mute or something.”
“Hey,” Romen pleaded, “let’s try to keep a little solemnity here, this is serious!”
Thelend suppressed a laugh, “Yeah, he sort of was that guy. You know, the one that always shows up at your party, or loafs around your best friend’s couch. And no one can figure out how he got there, cause they’re all like, ‘well I didn’t invite him.’ He’s just, well…there!”
“Scuse me but I’d like to join your party now,” said a voice from a nearby table at The Cloven Hoof. Everyone turned to look at the older cleric sitting by himself.
“Oh yeah, you’re the new guy aren’t you,” said Phadran, “you do have a personality right? Not like what’s his name.”
“Oh jeez, I give up,” said Romen.
Mara smiled and put her arm on Romen’s shoulder, “hey don’t let it get to you, I’m sure deep down they’re really torn up about the whole thing.”
“Yeah,” said Phadran with thinly veiled sarcasm, “who knows, I might even shed a tear. Now can we get out of here. We’ve got the new guy, now let’s go find ourselves a rune axe and hunt some Chuul!”