Trouble in Hawksbridge
The group was grim and somber as they collected the body of their fallen companion, Luak. Even the weather seemed to mimic their mood, for the skies grew cloudy and grey, with the threat of rain. They took only a few brief moments to rest before they set off, with the powerful minotaur Malroc carrying the goliath’s body. There was a shared understanding that the longer their friend was dead, the more difficult it would be to enact a raise dead ritual.
Being only a short distance from the dwarf gravesite, the party decided to stop by there and see if Thoradin Ironstar and his companions were around to possibly provide some aid. When they arrived at the site, they found evidence that Thoradin and his allies had just recently left.
Undeterred, the group left and headed south, to the village of Hawksbridge. They traveled through the night and the next day, through the rough terrain and the Redstone Hills, exhausted, but unwilling to waste time. Around mid-day, the party heard what may have been the faint, far-off sound of combat.
“A battle?” Eth stopped and wondered aloud. His companions slowed their march and stopped, straining to hear.
“The sound of metal clashing against metal,” Shivra agreed. “Likely the sound of combat.” The drow rogue turned to her allies. “Sit and rest a moment. I will not be gone long.” In a blur, Shivra rushed off, toward the general direction of the sounds. She had not travelled too far, however, before the sound of fighting vanished. Unable to determine the direction of a battle, however, Shivra could only climb to the next hilltop. However, she could see nothing and no signs of a struggle. She could only shrug and report back to her friends.
Throughout that day, rain started to fall, eventually increasing into a downpour. The party’s mood could not be any worse, and they were relieved when, just before evening, they finally came to the Hawksbridge. As they moved across the old stone bridge, the thunder of hooves alerted them to a group of cloaked horseriders from the west, heading toward them and the village. As the party moved aside to make way for the horsemen, Stravo caught a glimpse of the the symbol of the Stone Hawks on the riders’ gear and he waved and shouted a greeting as the soldiers sped past.
Much of the village was asleep or indoors as the party made their way through the empty, rain-soaked streets. As they neared the market square and the Sleeping Wizard Inn, they saw the horsemen who had passed them, in front of the Stone Hawks garrison. The horse rider’s leader was talking intently to a bedraggled Donnell Waynwood, who glanced over at the heroes.
“I’ll take Luak to the Threecoins. If anyone can help us, the priestess Serida Bonhart is the most likely.” Malroc reasoned. He turned to Crono. “Go to the inn and bring back some mead. It’ll be a rough night, and we’re gonna need it.” The eladrin agreed and trudged through the muddy streets to the Sleeping Wizard Inn.
“Do what you have to do. We’ll see you when you get back.” The drow rogue nodded and ducked down a shadowed street, quickly disappearing from view.
As Stravo approached the commander of the Stone Hawks garrison, Donnell finished his conversation with the cloaked rider. The horseman and his followers led their horses around to the stables. Donnell raised a hand in greeting to the bard and gestured for him to enter the garrison and get out of the rain. The half-elf entered, and the old soldier followed, closing the door after him.
“Orcs.” Stravo spoke up as the tired commander eased into his chair. “Orcs and a minotaur, stronger than any enemy we have faced before. Most likely raiders, we killed them all, but at a great price. Our comrade, Luak has fallen in battle, and we seek to restore him to life.” The old soldier sighed deeply as he listened and nodded.
“My deepest sympathies. I am sorry for your loss, I truly am. I hope your efforts to revive him are successful.” Donnell took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his damp hair. “And we know of the orc raiders. Those riders you saw just now were some of my best men, led by the sheriff, Brannock Foss. He’s a good man, and a veteran warrior with a talent for tracking. They found the broken and battered remains of a merchant caravan that had been absolutely destroyed by raiders, with a few bodies of the slain scattered around the wreckage. The caravan guards have been all killed, with a few of the orc and minotaur raiders as well.”
Donnell Waynwood looked thoughtful as he spoke. “The merchants killed were foreigners, travelers passing through the vale, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s enough to make the common folk uneasy.” The commander looked directly at the half-elf bard. “The last time you were in town, there was that incident with the drunken mob. But once the attacks start hitting people that they know, that they grew up with . . . I fear that the tolerance for your minotaur friend will be harder to find.”
“I understand.” Stravo stood and moved toward the door. “Then it is clear that we must do deeds so great, so valorous, so legendary, that they will have no choice but to accept our heroism!” The bard smiled at the prospect, before opening the door and stepping back out into the rain. “Good night, Sergeant.”
Malroc unceremoniously threw the front doors to the Threecoins Chapel wide open. The doors swung back, slamming into the walls with a loud bang, startling the young priest who knelt in vigil before the altar of Avandra. The priest was barely eighteen years old, and his jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide when he turned to see the imposing figure of a powerful minotaur outlined in the open doorway, with the heavy body of the goliath slung over his shoulder.
The warden stepped forward, looming ominously over the young man, water dripping off of him and onto the floor. “Priestess Serida! Where is she?!”. The young priest could not help but stammer his reply.
“Um . . . uh . . . the . . . the High Priestess . . . L . . L . .Lady Serida . . . she . . . she has taken ill . . . she’s not available right now.” The young man stepped back, his hands raised defensively.
“Taken ill?” Eth stepped forward from behind his minotaur friend. The young priest seemed relieved to see a more normal-looking person and eagerly spoke with the elf.
“Yes,” he nodded, speaking to the druid. “She’s been ill for the last few days. But something is wrong. No spell or ritual we’ve tried has seemed to have any effect.” The young man’s face wrinkled with concern.
“That is a problem,” Eth sighed and scratched his head as he thought. “We encountered a group of orcs intent on raiding the village. We fought them off, but our friend the goliath was killed in the battle. We want to revive him before his spirit departs to the planes beyond.”
The young priest nodded as he reconsidered the situation. “I’m sorry I reacted poorly. My name is Daris Rivers, acolyte of Avandra. Please, follow me and you can place your friend’s body down.” The cleric led them to a small room near the back of the chapel, which contained a stone table that Malroc set the goliath’s inert body upon. “With your permission,” Daris said, “I can enact a simple ritual that will preserve your friend’s body and spirit, easing the ritual to raise him.”
The minotaur and elf agreed, and they watched in silence as the priest began his ritual. The minutes stretched on as Daris intoned the words to the ritual and the warden and druid stood in quiet vigil. After some time, they heard the front door open and Crono shuffled into view, staggering under the weight of a keg of mead cradled in his arms. “Think this will do?” The eladrin grinned as he set the keg down. Mud and rainwater dripped off the young swordmage as he produced a few mugs from somewhere. Malroc grimly appraised the barrel of mead.
“I guess it’ll do. Didn’t they have anything bigger?”
As the party passed the first round of mead around, Stravo rejoined them. Crono informed the half-elf that Dani from the Sleeping Wizard Inn had a message from the bard’s parents. Apparently, they left word with the innkeeper that they had evacuated Hawksbridge in anticipation of war, as had many of the common folk. They joined many of the refugees and were making their way to the city of Hawkstone further north.
After Daris had finished his ritual, Eth began talking to the young priest about Priestess Serida’s illness. Offering to help cure her, Stravo and Eth convinced Daris to let them examine her and see if they could speed her recovery. Leaving the rest of the group in the silent church to watch over Luak’s body, the bard and druid accompanied Daris to a residence only a short distance away. Nervously, the young man led them in to a candle-lit room, where another young priest of Avandra sat at the bedside of Lady Serida. The older priestess was pale and clammy, slipping in and out of consciousness as she lay in bed, her breathing shallow and labored.
Daris introduced the other underpriest as Marek Goodweather and informed him that the heroes wanted to help in the recovery of Lady Serida. Marek gladly accepted their aid, and told the druid and bard all he knew and could remember about the events leading up to her illness. As Eth examined the priestess, he found signs consistent with poisoning, although exactly what type of poison, he could not yet be sure of. As a precaution, Stravo questioned both of the junior priests, but felt like both were genuinely concerned for their high priestess’s health and were trustworthy.
Eth spent the next few hours perusing some books the priestess had in her home, trying to find a description of any poison that would match the one used on her. Stravo continued to talk to the underpriests and find out the events leading up to her illness. Marek had been with her the night before she became ill. They had met with a number of local folk and shared an evening meal at the Rest on the Run Inn here in town. Marek couldn’t remember much else, other than the inn was very crowded that night. Stravo listened as the acolyte priest explained that Lady Serida had not had any quarrel or fight with anyone, that she had always been helpful and eager to aid those in need. Stravo mused that perhaps if she had been poisoned, then she was deliberately targeted for some other, nefarious purpose. But who, and for what reason?
After a great deal of research, the elf discovered a poison consistent with Lady Serida’s near-death condition, a poison called Ground Thassil Root. Having discovered the poison used, Eth could now go about trying to brew an antidote for the injured priestess. It was now well into the next morning, so Eth traveled to the Crimson Hawk General Store to gather some missing components needed to create a remedy. The elf druid was able to talk the owner, Ahren Mallister, into giving him a seemingly discounted price on the necessary herbs. With the ingredients in place, Eth immediately returned to Threecoins Chapel to work on brewing the antidote.
After a great deal of time and effort, an exhausted Eth finally finished creating the remedy for the ill priestess. He delivered the healing draft directly to her, trickling the antidote into her mouth so she could drink it easier. Within minutes, there was a visible change in her. Color returned to her skin and she began to breath much easier. With the poison banished from her, there was nothing else to do but let her rest and recover. The bard and druid took their leave, and rejoined their comrades at the Threecoins.
The tired group rested for much of the next day, until Marek came to inform them that the priestess had recovered and would be able to help them later that afternoon. The party talked amongst themselves, and finished their mundane tasks while they awaited Lady Serida’s arrival. Stravo went to the Sleeping Wizard Inn to talk to Dani, to see if there was any more to the message his parents had left. Crono went to talk to Kettrick Varise, the innkeeper at the Rest on the Run, about the night that the priestess was poisoned. Kettrick could remember nothing about that night, other than it was very busy and he noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The innkeeper turned down the clumsy bribe that Crono offered, and even the barmaids didn’t remember anything unusual happening that evening. Malroc stayed at the Threecoins and kept a vigil over his fallen friend, but he spent his time thinking. If the minotaurs and orcs were planning a war, wouldn’t it make sense for them to remove or incapacity the enemy healers?
After some time had passed, the bard and swordmage rejoined their companions at Threecoins Chapel, where they were warmly greeted by a grateful and smiling Serida Bonhart. She thanked Eth and the others profusely. She was willing to perform the ritual, but she would require more components to be gathered. Sparing no expense for their ally’s recovery, the group agreed and found the costly components in short order.
The priestess was ready to begin the ritual and the group kept a quiet, respectful vigil as Serida started her incantations. It was a few hours before the ritual came to its conclusion, but there was a flare of blinding radiance and a peal of thunder. As everyone rubbed their eyes, they were gratified to see Luak open his eyes and take a deep breath, then sit up. They warmly welcomed their friend back to the world of the living.
The goliath would need a solid night’s rest before he would feel “normal” again, so the group deeply thanked Lady Serida and made their way back to the Sleeping Wizard Inn. Upon their arrival, Luak’s recovery was greated with a chorus of cheers, and a few bold patrons stood to greet the barbarian. After some time spent eating and drinking in the common room, the party made their way upstairs for some well-deserved rest.
The next morning, the party gathered together and made ready to set out. The reports from the west of orcs and minotaurs attacking bothered them greatly, and so it was decided that they would go west, to eliminate the raiders and save any other travelers on the Old Trade Road.
Within a half day’s travel from Hawksbridge, they encountered a band of orc marauders. The orcs tried an ambush, but the keen senses of the drow elf Shivra detected the clumsy attempt and it was a ready and determined group that sprung the trap. It was a hard-fought battle, but the outcome was never really in doubt. A quick examination of the enemies’ gear showed that the orcs had carried supplies for a few days travel, and there may be another camp within a few days march. The elf druid found a faint path to the north, deeper into the Redstone Hills, a path that the orcs had travelled recently.
The party continued further north, before coming upon another group of enemies lying in ambush. This time, however, the enemies were kobolds, bolder and more aggressive than was normal for their kin. Led by a kobold wyrmpriest, and aided by a vermin master, the kobolds put up a surprisingly difficult fight. The vermin master unleashed a swarm of flesh-eating beetles upon the battlefield, and the party found it difficult to avoid the vicious insects altogether. The group of heroes were flexible with their battle tactics, however, and adjusted their tactics. In the end, the kobolds were vanquished and the beetles dispersed.
Upon the body of the kobold wyrmpriest, the party found a book written in a strange language. Unable to read it, the group decided it might hold necessary information. They agreed to return to Hawksbridge and decipher the writing.