To Jestril
In which our heroes make their way to the glorious capital city

With the abomination defeated, the party heads back to the surface. True to his word, Jonn summons a thunderous wave of magic, and collapses the stone cave entrance. Laeryth carves a quick elven word of warning into the stone.

After a half days ride, the fellows see the walls of Cartha. Guards keeping watch race down the tower stairs, and by the time the gates are reached, the Curator Orson stands waiting. Lenk nods at the elderly man, who turns and heads towards the museum.

Once inside, he asks to see the Artifact, and Laeryth presents it to him.

“Most excellent. You have my thanks, and the thanks of Lord Bryce.” From a chest on the floor, he tosses each adventurer a bag filled with gold coins. “I trust you’ll find that a generous reward for your efforts. But here’s the true prize.” From a fold in his robes he produces a stack of letters, sealed with blue wax, and hands one to each of them. “Present these at the gates of Jestril. You’ve earned the right to claim the Grey; make your living in the realm as adventurers.”

“We need to leave now. Fresh horses.”

“Ah yes … Bann. I suppose that could be arranged.”

“First, I have questions, if you don’t mind.” Lenk glances around the room, asking the others to clear out. Firrian lingers anyway, so Lenk takes Orson down a hallway. When they return, Lenk has a concerned look but says nothing.

Khalsig steps inside to ask another question. “Curator, is there a name you could give us? Someone in Jestril to speak to once we’ve arrived. An ally.”

“I’m afraid I left Jestril with very few friends intact. I’m the Curator of a Museum of Dead Artifacts, if that answers your question.”

The party heads to the temple of Avandra. Laeryth takes the remains of the young priest from his horse and walks them inside.

The high priest kneels at an altar on the far side of the church, deep in prayer, but he hears the adventurers approach and rises to greet them.

“Ah yes, this is young Clement. He had become foolhardy, spening his time with a young mage from Jestril. Thank you for returning him to us.”

The priest turns to the dwarf cleric. “It does my heart good to see a follower of the Raven Queen serve his Goddess well. You may have noticed that your kind receives a cold welcome among the men of Tarsis? Seek Saltmarsh, along the eastern coast of the Lake of Moons, if you’d seek answers.” Reaching into a pouch at his belt, he pulls forth a small silver disk. “I’d hoped to give this to Clement upon his return. Perhaps you should have it.” He hands the disk to the Dwarf, takes the cloak-wrapped remains, and turns from the party. “If you’ll excuse me?”

The party readies their new horses and rides from Cartha. After riding through the night and most of the next day, they find a road side tavern to stay for the night. No one there has seen anyone matching Bann’s description, not to mention his Tiefling ally, but the ale is cold and the beds plentiful.

Halfway through a day’s ride to Jestril, the party comes upon the signs of a struggle in the dusty road. Horse tracks have trampled around a patch of ground, and several humanoid footprints surround it. Recent drops of blood are scattered on the road, and the trail leads off to the north.

Following the trail leads to a clearing in the forest. In the center, a horse and its rider lay in the tall grass. Laeryth spies a goblin on the far side of the clearing, leaning around a wide oak tree with a crossbow at the ready. He and Firrian quietly circle around, but halfway to the hiding goblin, the creature hears them. Crossbow bolts whiz through the trees, and the party charges the shooters, now two goblins behind the tree.

Once Jonn is in the clearing, however, a handful of goblins charge, slicing at him with short swords and whooping in goblin tongue. Lenk charges the goblin crossbowmen, skewering one with his sword. Khalsig falls in behind the big half-orc, and soon the party is in a heated battle with the goblins. Which, of course, is when the Hobgoblin slinking in the far woods decided to charge at the parties flank.

The hobgoblin lands a blow to Lenk’s shoulder with his mace, but Khalsig is quick with a Healing Word. Jonn finds himself surrounded, but Firrian and Laeryth weave through the clearing, slashing at goblins until the party can turn their attention to the Hobgoblin, who doesn’t last long. Lenk clips the beast at the temple with the broad side of his longsword.

As luck would have it, Bann was responsible for the death of the messenger after all. Coming upon the hungry band of goblins, Bann offered to spare their lives if they’d watch the road and assault any riders moving at speed. They tied up the hobgoblin and got back on the road.

In Jestril, the party makes their way through the Free Quarter, the outer circle of the city, built by commoners who pay taxes to the Council for the right to live and work in the city. At the gates, the guards eye the party with a fair amount of skepticism, but the sight of the letters from Cartha is enough to get them an escort into the Merchant Quarter, the outermost ring of Jestril within the cities’ walls. The guards take the hobgoblin off their hands, assuring the party that the creature will be dealt with.

A man in livery exists the gate tower, and leads the group to The Horn of Valir, the tavern in the Merchant Quarter where members of the Grey take up residence while in the city. The cupboards are bare, but the place has the looks of a fine base of operations.

Work in Progress - Into the Kobold Cave, Part II
In which our heroes continue their investigation of the seemingly-corrupted kobold caverns

This was not a sight for the faint of heart. At the center of the large room, a pit opened into darkness. Streams of fresh blood ran from several kobold corpses on either side of the cavern into the hole, and on the far side several of the strange creatures looked up from their carnage at the elven intruder.

Several of the small fleshy kobold-like creatures they fought in Cartha charged, stabbing and clawing at Laeryth, bloodying the elf and forcing him back into the passageway. Jonn, wielding his new Staff of Winds, cast a Thunderwave at their feet, hurling them backwards as they vanished in a burst of sound.

Firrian runs into the cavern, but is quickly engulfed in wiry tentacles of shadow that spring from the floor. A quick shuriken at the mage draws dark blood. Jonn is grabbed as well, and the horrible creature with the kobold mask lets out a guttural scream. Lenk charged the beast, stabbing it with his longsword. Khalsig patches up the elf, enters the room, and readies a Divine Strike.

The clash is a perilous one. The human-sized brute swings his axe in wide arcs, cutting up every creature careless enough to get close to it. Lenk and Laeryth spar with it while the others take care of the mages – Firrian’s Positioning Strike runs through a mage and hurls it into the hole in the cavern floor as he turns to face the brute. Even with the full attention of the party, the creature stood its ground, but in the end the bloodied and battered adventurers won out. Lenk had a kill shot, but instead clubbed the creature over the head with the hilt of his blade.

Needing rest, the party tied up their foe and drug him to the woods outside the cave.

Jonn took the first watch, and it did not take long for trouble to present itself – Frank, Jim, and a few other kobolds returned to the cave. Jonn quickly awoke the party, and Lenk was able to act quickly to stop the kobolds from wake the creature with thrown rocks.

The poor creatures sought to reclaim their home, but the party was quick to dissuade them. Searching for the tracks of the kobold leader, Lenk discovers none. They must have been taken by the shadow creatures while they fought the cube. Wishing the kobolds to leave, he tells them that the chieftain’s tracks head northwest, and the kobolds scurry off in that direction, but not before a kobold runt picked up a stone and hurled it into the creatures head.

Lenk put a blade to the creatures throat. “What is your name?”

It began to stir. “Agnoth will kill you all!”

“Who is Agnoth?”

“Agnoth will feast on your bones and make skin from your flesh!”

Again. “Who is Agnoth?”

“I am Agnoth!”

The party was doubtful, and the conversation was going nowhere, but they had information at least. A name. Lenk cut the creatures throat, and the party took their rest.

Somewhere amidst the fireworks display the monstrosity awoke from its slumber. Rolls of purple flesh lifted upwards, revealing a ring of gaping mouths, twisted open to reveal dull rows of fanged teeth. Tentacles of morbid hue lined the creatures base and began to uncoil from underneath it, seeming to disappear into the shadow of the rocks around it.

Wasting no time, Lenk charged. The party quickly surrounded the creature, hacking at the mound of flesh while Jonn stayed on the ledge and summoned a Flaming Sphere next to the horror. The creature let forth a scream from its many mouths, dazing the party and giving it a temporary advantage. Tentacles lashed out, grabbing Lenk and Firrian, mouths piercing their backs and burrowing in. Khalsig called down the wrath of the Raven Queen and Laeryth swore enmity upon his foe, and before long the tentacles lost their grasp before any true damage could be dealt.

In the end, the mound of flesh calling itself Agnoth proved no match for the party. The mass began to wilt, sagging towards the ground, the remaining fluid and skin pouring through cracks in the earth. Along with the remains of an arm, fist clenched around a dagger, was a rod of dark stone, veined with glowing silver. It would appear they had found the missing artifact, and could return to Cartha victorious. Lenk felt certain that this was a mere piece of Agnoth, bubbled to the surface. What horrors must lie below the earth? Armed with the knowledge of a name, perhaps they could find more information in Jestril.

Into the Kobold Cave, Part I
In which our heroes begin their investigation of the seemigly-corrupted kobold caverns

Following the path left in the brush by the fleeing kobolds, the five quickly find the cave entrance carved into the hillside of high country at the base of Aberril Peak.

Rusty tools for excavation, pick axes, hammers, and what not, litter the ground around the outside of the cave entrance and well into the first room. There does not appear to be any light or trace of sound. Upon entering the cave, the five can see straight away the dark burn marks on the stone floor and walls that indicate that at least a few of the small shadowy creatures were slain here. This first room appears to be nothing more than a staging area for the continuing excavation of the cave. To the east, a hallway, and to the south, a passageway slopes downward deeper into the earth.

Laeryth takes the point and heads east. Sneaking around the corner, he is able to see a room in which a sliver of light appears from the eastern wall. Surrounding this are a group of twisted forms, clawing and hissing at the light. Occasionally, a spear emerges and the creatures jump back.

Wasting no time, Laeryth signals the group. The creatures gasp in surprise as Lenk hurls himself into their midst. Firrian flanks and stabs at a large creatures organs as it lunges at Lenk with a rusty mace.

Jonn hurls invectives at what appears to be a caster of some sort in the back of the room, but the creatures gets the first laugh, summoning tendrils of shadow from the ground that trap the wizard and pull him to the ground.

Lenk suffers a few blows as he commands the attention of the small horde of creatures, but Khalsig is quick to offer aid with the help of his Goddess. Laeryth and Firrian chip away at the creatures, making short work of them. Jonn brushes himself off and gathers what remains of his dignity.

Their attention turns to the light-filled crevice. They had noticed during the battle that the attempted spear attacks continued, although by the end the spear appeared to be in weakened hands. Inside a small nook in the cave wall three kobolds hide, torches in hand, appearing gaunt and pale. Encouraged by the outcome of the battle, the kobolds crawl out of the hole and lower their weapons.

“Deep we dug” says what appears to be an elder. “Wide open room, we found it, and in it the round eye. Truly, we had found our home, yes, the home we had been seeking. But soon, this would change. We dug more, we dug faster.” Pointing to the south, he lowers his gaze. “That way, we uncovered something old. Not the darkness, not the shadow, something old and foul.” He beckons another kobold forward, who reaches into his belt and produces a two small patches of cloak, attached with a silver brooch. On the brooch is the symbol of Avandra. “Humans came. Last week, this way. This was left.”

“Clement” says Firrian.

“Huh?” says Jonn.

“Clement. The young priest of Avandra gone missing from Cartha.”

The kobold hands the brooch to Lenk, who stashes it. “Did you see others? More humans, earlier today. A one-armed man?”

“See? No. Hear? Yes, perhaps. Been hiding here for days now. Sounds from down below.”

Laeryth heads south. “See what happens when you go digging into the old places of the world? A lesson perhaps, if anyone cared to listen. Let’s see about this creature then.”

To the south, a room half finished. The signs of a hasty retreat are visible, as large clusters of rock hang from crude pulleys and picks stick from the walls.

In the far south of the room, water has started to trickle in from cracks in the walls. Looking further, the group notices a staff floating in midair, and realize that a gelatinous cube has surfaced from the cracks along with the water.

Craving the staff, Jonn insists on attacking the creature, and so the party engages it. Truly, they are a force to be reckoned with, as even a creature so formidable in tales begins to fall to pieces after fierce sword blows and a thrown dagger tear off chunk after chunk. Magic missile after magic missile shoot off into the walls. Khalsig acts quickly, loosening the ropes from one of the pulleys and dropping a sheet of rock onto the cube.

The cube makes a fierce attack, knocking Lenk prone and in a single lunge encompasses the half-orc and Laeryth as well. The two start to burn with acid as the others frantically try to kill the creature. They are able to force their way out before being eaten alive, just as Jonn finds a way to land a magic missle to deal the finishing blow, and claim his prize.

After a short rest, the group heads back to the southern downward passage. Screams from below can now be heard, as well as horrible cutting sounds, a knife through flesh. Perhaps moving with too much haste, Laeryth kicks a few stones loose as a slides down a curve in the passage way, and when he looks up, the eyes of a room of horrible creatures are on him.

Blood runs on the stone floor towards a hole in the center of the room, and on the far side of the room a large shadow creature howls behind a mask made from the face of a kobold…

First Night
In which our heroes begin their journey

Late Summer, 4785, Evening

The Tarsin Port City of Cartha

At the end of a long summer, many would-be adventurers, heroes, and scoundrels have flocked to Cartha over the rumored discovery of one of the ancient fabled Artifacts. To the finder goes entrance into Jestril society as an Adventurer, and with it the rights to wield steel and spell inside Tarsin borders.

Imagine their dismay as one Bann Forrester, known would-be-brigand and all-around low-life, claims the prize with his discovery of what appears to be an ancient Sphere of dark stone. He and his crew take their sealed scrolls from the Curator of the Cartha Museum and ride towards Jestril before dusk.

Among those watching dejectedly are five whose tale begins this very evening. In the forest surrounding the Temple of Avandra, the eladrin rogue Firrian contemplates what appears to be a lost crossing into the Feywild. The Elders traveling to meet the humans in Jestril would be interested in this discovery, most certainly. Nearby, the elven avenger Laeryth practices clumsily with a sword that appears too large for his frame. Pity any creatures that seeks to claim Elven artifacts for their own in his presence. Lenk, the half-orc warden, ventures into the park as well, seeking commune with nature amongst the cold stone of the city.

Finding no love for the Raven Queen among the humans, the dwarf Khalsig seeks answers among the dwarves working as merchants, and the answers remain sparse. Furtive glances to the east, perhaps along the coast of the Lake of Moons, are the best he can glean from his attempts to locate fellow worshipers.

And last but not least, tales have been heard by many in Cartha of a filthy hermit from the wilds, calling himself Jonn, making quite a nuisance of himself at the Hogshead Tavern.

It is well after dark fall that the bells of the Museum tower ring in alarm. All who remain awake in Cartha look to the center of the city to see the stained glass windows that surround the building burst outward.

With no time to think, creatures begin to appear from the very shadows, vaguely Kobold-like in appearance but with purple flesh and swollen faces. Quick to action, Lenk charges the nearest creature, easily piercing it with his long sword. Before death the creatures face contorts into a rictus grin, and Lenk barely manages to hurl the creature aside before it bursts into a shadowy mist. The mist seems to smoke when it hits stone and grass.

Jonn stumbles from a tavern a mere step ahead from an angry serving wench, just in time to set fire to a shadow creature in the alley ahead. Behind him, the sound of a struggle, as Khalsig battles one of the creatures.

Lenk looks to the Museum just in time to notice a new creature, like the smallish ones but with crooked appendages. It crawls along the walls of the building west of the Museum, seemingly feeling from something. Lenk charges across the square in pursuit, followed closely by Laeryth and Firrian.

The battle continues in an alleyway, as Lenk catches the creature only to have a one-armed thief emerge from a house and grab something from the prone monster. More creature pour out of the house, and during the battle the one-armed man stays in the house. Only when the end is near the thief attempt to make his attempt, but Laeryth is at the window and runs him through.

The thief has nothing on his body but a bag of clearsense powder and 34 gold pieces. While looking for whatever it was he absconded with, Laeryth notices a dark circle on the thief’s back, a wound perhaps, that appears to have seared through his clothes and into his flesh. In the house, no sign of anything stolen can be found; however, a strange dark hole is found under some floorboards, a hole and no bottom and seemingly dug from the ground up.

A guard named Smith, seen battling the shadow creatures at the Museum, approaches the five. The thief, Delman, was one of Bann’s crew, and according to Bann had died while retrieving the artifact; his body lost in a fissure in the cave to the northwest of Cartha. Smith directs the five to the Curator, an elderly man in fine robes who stands at the top the stairs at the museum entrance. Beckoning the newcomers to follow him, he takes them inside. In the center of the main display room stands a darkened pillar. The sphere Artifact, found today by Bann and his men, had been placed on the pillar. By the looks of things, the sphere must have detonated, sending shards of basalt into the walls of the room and shattering the thick glass used to house the other artifacts on display.

Only one artifact was taken. A foot-long cylindrical rod, an inch thick, made of the same basalt stone and polished smooth, is missing. Could this have been the piece the one-armed thief made away with?

A messenger is sent to Jestril on Bann’s heels – the Council must be alerted to the circumstances in which Bann has earned the Grey.

Laeryth wishes to pursue Bann immediately; however The Curator pleads with the five to investigate the Kobold cave to the Northwest where Bann allegedly found the Sphere, and only after securing mounts do they relent. Before leaving town, the high priest of Avandra approaches the group, and asks them to keep an eye out for any sign of Clement, a young priest of the church who has been getting ideas of becoming an adventurer, and who disappeared days before.

Charging into the forest, it is not long before they come upon a small group of kobolds, desperately fleeing from something terrifying. Jonn raises a hand to ignite the poor creatures, but is interrupted as Laeryth steps forward and offers food instead.

The cave nearby is a new one; the kobolds had hoped to create a new home for themselves, but a fortnight ago, something happened that changed everything. Perhaps a dozen kobolds remained in the cave, but these three had managed to flee. “Darkness. Darkness and shadow has taken them. All destroyed. RUN!”


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