The Threat of Tharizdun

Chapter 7

-The party came over the mountains without meeting anybody. It’s very cold in Ikervia. Snow covers the ground. They make their way through the snow to a town named Herisha. This is the town that they were sent to for Umperan.

-Inside the city the party notices that the people are living in poverty. By asking around the town they find out that the town from which Herisha gets most of its food from has not been delivering. They further learn that the mayor, Monger, from that town is in Herisha. After being denied talking to him the party awaits for him outside.

-Near the end of the day they see a man in a purple robe and turban bolt from the building and down the street. Dante chases him down and catches him. They ask him questions about his town, Nodiram. He tells them that wererats have been coming everynight, taking their food. He says that there might be other things as well.

-The next day the party meets with Umperan. Umperan tells them that another party has already gone into the mountains to find the missing group and that he has a special job for them. Kill Duke Cargen. Duke Cargen is a young elf who is the right hand man of the King of Ikervia. Cargen worships Tharizdun. Umperan knows thins because he has a reliable contact in the castle. If the group has any desire to get the public and the officals to take this threat seriously the Duke needs to die, Umperan says. Umperan told them that a contact would meet them at Suicide Bridge in Ikerniam with more information.

-Instead of going directly to Ikernaim, the party decides to help out in Nodiram. When they arrive they are greeted by a crazy old man who mentions “dark things” that come at night. No one in the town talks much, but the party does hear about a ranger who is new to town. He showed up just before things began to get bad.

-The party decide to meet the ranger, Arfus, at the tavern. He seems very calm about the whole situation, casually mentioning that the “dark things” are wraiths. Most people, he tells the party, lock and board their windows at night. The party decides to wait until nightfall to see what happens.

-Each of them chose a hiding place. Budda and Dante hid behind a house, Berrian hid on top of a house, Firra hid under some steps, and Stanislav hid in the attic of some house before he realized there weren’t any windows in it. Wererats, led and kept in line by werewolfs came through the town, ransacking anything they could find to eat. After they left wraiths came out of the mist and began to scratch eerily on the windows of houses.

-When those left the party meet outside near the tavern. Stanislav sneaked down the stairs and was about to walk out of the door of the house he was currently trespassing in when he saw that there were nailed boards around the door. Thinking quickly he made a sound in the other room of a wraith scratching on the windows and during each sound he pulled the boards a little bit. Finally free, he stepped outside and absentmindedly carried the boards with him.

-They all decided to go and check on the ranger, because they didn’t trust him. When they got to the man’s house and looked inside they could see that his feet were propped up on a table near the fire. Dante sneaked around the side of the house and climbed through a window. Finding himself in the next room, Dante peered into the room lit by the fire and saw that the man’s feet were very skinny. Dante silently opened the door and sneaked around the chair. No one was sitting in the chair, it was just a cloak and two broomsticks with boots one the end of them.

-This confirmed the party’s suspicions that the man was somehow involved with the wraiths. Dante went to the attic and brought down a book of gods. One of the gods mentioned was Tharizdun, this was just more firewood for the the fire for them. Excited at exposing the ranger as a fraud, Stanislav hurriedly ran to a house, which happened to be the house he was hiding in earlier. When the woman answered the door and Stanislav excitedly told her what he and his friends had discovered she was momentarily distracted by the boards he was holding. She mentioned that those boards looked a lot like the boards that they had had on their doors only an hour ago before they mysteriously disappeared. Flustered, Stanislav apologized as he told her everything that had happened earlier. She was about to slam the door when, in a last ditch effort, was finally able to get her to come with him to the rangers house to see that he was gone. All of them waited for the ranger’s return.

-When the ranger did return they surprised and made a ruckus that lured the townspeople to see what was happening. The ranger finally broke down and told them that he was not involved with the wraiths but that he had gone to preform a ritual to his god, which was not Tharizdun but a different god, a goddess to be exact. He is embarrassed because she is the goddess of flowers and other pretty things. She also requires sacrifices. The towns people walk away muttering about the rude awakening for nothing.

-Feeling slightly put out, the party went into the woods following the tracks of the wererats and werewolves to an entrance to a cave. The cave led straight down, but Dante noticed some other footprints heading past this one. They followed them and found themselves at a normal entrance to a cave. Going inside they found a few guards in an inside chamber, they had small black beady eyes. Budda sent his pet baby mammoth, which he acquired earlier in their travels, further into cave. The guards chased it and the party followed. They passed through a small tunnel leading into a large chamber. A crowd of nearly 200 people were in this huge chamber. All of them had the same kind of eyes. They watched, interested, as this strange scene took place, a baby mammoth and people chasing after it.

-Suddenly a loud howling voice echoed throughout the cave. Everybody stopped, even the baby mammoth. The voice belonged to a large man at the end of the cave. He called to the Wolverines! to come with him. They obeyed and followed him. The man told them that everyone there were wererats or werewolves, that they were the ones who would go to Nodiram every night, however he knew nothing about wraiths. He asked the party to try to get them a place to stay in Nodiram, since they are rejects by society. He also told them that they were working on a way to control the younger of them. The party suggested that they defeat the wraiths and that the people may see them in a different light if they did so.

-The next night the werewolves and wererats went out to the town and destroyed the wraiths and the whole town watched. The mayor then offered them a place to stay in town. Satisfied that they brought the people together and that the town would produce food again, the party ventured onward towards Ikerniam. They used a path through the woods they had learned about to travel.

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Chapter 6

-The party comes to a town at the foot of the mountains. This is the last town in Freink before Ikervia. It is noticeably cooler here. The mountains reach into the clouds above them.

-Stopping at a tavern, the party hears about a bandit problem in the mountains.

-Before they can go to the mountains, fire spirits suddenly come from a small forest near the town. The fire slams into buildings, setting them ablaze. Thinking quickly, Firra organizes some citizens in a bucket line, trying to put the fire out that has started on a warehouse. As Berrian is walking through past some shops, trying to find his friends, he sees some ruffians beating a shopkeeper. Berrian, in one stylish move, cuts all of them through. Meanwhile, Dante and Budda help some people out of a burning building. Those acts of bravery have the crowed cheering for them. While all of this happens the unfortunate Stanislav, somewhat reluctantly, follows where the fire spirits are coming from. He comes to a dilapidated tower. In an act of hitherto unseen bravery from Stanislav he heads down into the base of the tower. In a chamber beneath the tower he finds the the charred body of a wizard lying next to a fiery portal. Using all of his knowledge Stanislav expertly closes the portal. He then runs like hell back to the town, just in case something were following.

-When he party is reunited they head into the mountains to see how they might help. In the mountain pass they find themselves locked in combat with some of the bandits during a rock slide.

-Once the bandits have been defeated the party sees where they came from. A hidden passage in the mountains leads them to the bandit hideout. Attempting to appear as bandits the party heads into the hideout. The bandits don’t fall for the trick and attack.

-After the party destroys the bandits they head back to the town at the foot of the mountains. They spend a night of just having fun before traveling back into the mountains.

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Chapter 5

-As the party heads north one evening, just as the light is disappearing they see something very strange. In the distance, behind the woods, a blue light is emitting from somewhere. Curious, the party ventures forth through the woods in the direction of the light. In the woods they encounter some creatures which they quickly dispatch of. Eventually they come to a small clearing.

- Around the clearing were some small gravestones. Lying amongst the stones was a woman, next to the woman stood a large blue portal. As the party approached they could see inside the portal. Inside of it was a strange world, it looked almost watery- like a dream. The woman was bleeding and when the party tried to talk to her she babbled incoherently and was scared, attempting to crawl away.

-After a few minutes the party was able to calm her down. She then told them her story.

-Her name was Redra. When she was younger her mother would have strange dreams. It was always the same dream, a shadowy figure came at her with a flaming sword and always killed her. The night after Redra’s mother had told her all of this, the dream became worse. It was so bad that the mother was driven mad and she ran into the forest near their small village. Redra followed her mother into the woods. While Redra was following her, her mother fell down into a gully. As she fell she hit her head on a rock and it split open. Redra watched in horror as creatures burrowed out of the ground and took her mother’s body away. The next day Redra had the same dream her mother had been having. This all happened 12 years ago, when Redra was eight.

-Redra had recently been studying with a local wizard who had told her about a possible entry into the dreamworld. Redra was hopeful that this could be the way that she could end the dreams. So she had stolen the ritual papers and had fled to the graveyard. But when she had preformed the ritual and opened the portal her nightmare came out with his flaming sword and attempted to kill her. Luckily for her, he had not quite killed her. She suspects that the nightmare had gone to her village.

-Concerned, the party went to the town. When they got there they saw a few building on fire. People were fleeing from the town. In the middle of the town were two demons. each demon had four arms, each hand carried a sharp dagger. One of them had cornered a defenseless villager.

-Our fearless party ran into the town, weapons drawn. The demon killed the man before entering into combat. Suddenly, out of thin air, Redra’s nightmare appeared with it’s flaming sword.

-Just when all seemed hopeless for our party and it looked like this would be the end of their adventures, a bright light burst forth in the middle of the fray. Standing in the light was a woman. She assisted the party in defeating the demons.

-When the battle was over she introduced herself as Firra. She volunteered to accompany them to Ikervia, and they accepted, ever since the disappearance of Hokima traveling had become very difficult.

-Redra and others came back into the town and Redra thanked them for all their help. The party left, continuing northward.

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Chapter 4

-The paper that Eryc hand handed them depicted his last correspondence with another one of the groups he had sent into Ikervia. He lost contact with them after they had gone into a mountain through a secret entrance. He wants the Wolverines! to find out happened to them by going to one Ikervia’s towns, Herisha, and meeting another one of this groups leaders, Umperan.

-The party sets of towards Ikervia, Hokima leaves them, muttering something about needing to do business. On their way through the woods north of Crou, towards the mountains which lead to Ikervia, they stop at an inn, aptly named “Wooded Inn”. There they meet two elves who only speak elvish which is curious. Berrian converses with them to find out that they have had some trouble.

-The elves were sent by their employer to find a certain flower which is very rare, but when they got to the place they found a strange house there. They are at a loss of what to do. The Wolverines! decided to go there with them in the morning to see what the house is all about. That night Stanislav seduced the woman who worked at the inn.

-In the morning the group head to the strange house. It is multicolored on the outside, but on the inside it looks to be a strange milky white. The group, along with one of the elves named Rolen, head into the house. Once inside the door slams behind them.

-Inside the house, the room is circular. There are eight doors, each one pointing a different way on a compass (North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, Northwest). They had come in through the East door. They opened each door only to find that each room looked identical. In the middle of this large room gold letters appeared and spelled out a poem.

-They went into one of the rooms and found four paintings hanging on the wall. Dante, frustrated, fired a crossbow bolt at one of them. The crossbow bolt went straight through the painting.

-The party went through each painting, each time encountering some kind of ordeal. At the end of the ordeal they were rewarded with a gold statuette of a mythical creature. Each time they came out of a painting, that painting would disappear and a faint outline of a door would appear on a far wall.

-After having gone through each painting the door became fully physical. Words appeared on the door, telling the party, through a riddle, the correct order to put the statuettes in four slots on the door. The party fails and four beasts appear from nowhere. They attack. Once the party defeats them, they try again, this time succeeding.

-Wailing sounds from the door when they open it. Huddled and crouched and shuddering is the figure of an old woman. She tells the party that she has been expelled from the town of Hartforth, not far from where they are now, and that if they are able to get her to live there then she will not kill them.

-The Wolverines! agree quickly and head to Hartforth. They go to the mayor of the town, a fat pompous man, and ask about the woman. He tells them that the woman is a witch and killed one of the children of the town. This news is shocking to them and they head back to the witch. She tells them that, yes, she did kill the child, but that it was an accident.

-The party is still determined to get her to live in Hartforth, even after hearing this news. So they head back to the town and offer the mayor money to let her stay. He licks his lips with greed and grants them permission. The party, as well as Hartforth guards head back to the witch and bring her to the town.

-Once at the town the mayor makes her apologize for killing his child, for it was his that died that night. She does and he allows her to stay and that he will get the towns people to stop spreading rumors about her, which they were.

-The witch thanks the party again for reuniting her with her son, whom she reveals to be the mayor. Rolen and his elven friend take their leave, paying the Wolverines for their troubles. The Wolverines stay another night at this town before heading out in the morning.

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Chapter 3

-One rainy day the captain of the guard of Shouren, Captain Nikel Featherware, appeared in The Serpent’s Snare. After a few drinks he related to the Wolverines! a problem that he is having. A friend had asked for his assistance in Crou, the capital city of Freink. The Wolverines! decide to help Featherware and his friend,Jacklaria Lyner.

-Once in Crou, the party meets this woman in her house. She tells them that she has been hearing strange noises coming from her basement on rainy nights, but when she goes to check what is making the noise she finds nothing. That night it rains and the Wolverines! go down to check the basement and find a secret passage leading to underground tunnels beneath the city. Stanislav remebers hearing of these tunnels to originally be used as a safe place in case the city was under attack.

-The party, along with Jacklaria’s warforged companion Relic, head into the tunnels only to find themselves trapped. They fight their way through some skeletons to another room where they find a door. The door has four small holes in it.

-Continuing into the tunnels the party finds a small band of Kenkus. after deafting them, the party finds a small pendant on the leader. The pendant is roughly the same size as one of the holes on the door, and it has a strange symbol on it.

-The party fights their way through the tunnels in a few harrowing battles, each time finding another pendant on the leader of the band of people they fight. Having collected four pendants the party returns to the door and inserts them in what they perceive to be the correct placement of the pendants. They can hear some strange noises on the other side, like chanting.

-When the pendants are placed correctly the head of an Eladrin manifests on the door. After some light conversation, the Eladrin asks them a riddle. Relic answers it quickly and the door opens. A blast of cold air hits them and the chanting grows louder. As they head down the steps, the chanting stops and a roar reverberates through the chamber. Wearily, the party continues down the steps.

-At the bottom of the steps they see a large room. In the middle of the room, standing next to an alter, is a young white dragon. Around it are some bodies, torn and eaten. The dragon attacks them.

-Once they fell the dragon, the party sees a pair of boots with the Mark of Tharizdun branded on them. They take it and head through an alternate exist on the far side of the room. The exist leads them back to the streets of Crou.

-They return to Jacklaria and show her the boots. She is puzzled and excited by them. She tells them that her father, Eryc Lyner, is a scholar in this city and knows something about Tharizdun. she suggests that they go and see him. The party agrees and heads to the university, leaving relic with Jacklaria.

-Eryc is waiting for them, having already contacted with his daughter. He leads them into the university to his study, all the while telling them more of the sinister nature of Tharizdun. Tharizdun is, he says, an evil god bent on destroying the world; he uses his followers to achieve this goal. Eryc is in league with a group that is trying to stop them and he requests that the Wolverines join the cause. They agree and he looks relieved. HE then hands them a piece of paper.

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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The Horse and the Stone

Meet the Meat

A few months had passed as we find the Wolverines! sitting in The Serpent’s Snare in Shouren. The town had grown considerably over the past few months and has become quite the trading town. Many people travel to this town, some of them just to benefit from this town’s opportunities, and others to utilize the quickness of the trade route running through it to get to Crou, the nation’s capital city.

Over the past few months the Wolverines! had picked up a few adventuring jobs, but nothing too noteworthy. As they sat in the tavern one day searching for new clients, a band of merchants walked into the smoky building. This is not too unusual but one of the merchants caught Dante’s eye. Being trained in the art of reading people he was able to see something was wrong with this Halfling.

The Halfling stayed away from the rest of the ranks and his eyes shifted into dark corners, as if he were expecting to see something there. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and he tried to quickly wipe them away. Eventually his quick glance fell on the party and he gave a violent start. He calmed himself down, and recognized that they were adventures.

Clumsily, he made his way to their table. Taking a deep, steadying breath he spoke to them in a small quivering voice,

“H-h-hello. A-a-are you adventures?”

The party answered all at once that they were, indeed, adventurers.

“Oh g-good,” the Halfling said, relived. “Perhaps you m-m-might be a-a-able to help m-me with a problem. I a-a-assure you that if you help m-me I will p-p-pay you well.”

“Tell us your problem, good sir,” Hokima said in his gruff dwarven voice.

“L-let m-me start from the beginning. M-my name is Brinker, I am a m-m-merchant from the city of Crou. Lately I have b-b-been under a b-black cloud. Y-you see, a group of ruffians w-want m-me dead. They have sent m-me death threats repeatedly, asking for m-money that I do n-not owe. T-these m-men will stop-p at n-nothing to have my head. I have hear a few n-notes that they have sent m-me. All I know a-about them is that they c-call themselves the Darkriders. I-is there an-nything you can-n do for me, A-Adventurers?”

The group huddled around the table and conversed in whispers about what they could do to help. After a few moments, they pulled away and Budda turned his big, scaly, dragon like head towards Brinker.

“There is a room upstairs that you can make a safe haven in, Brinker,” said he. “We can hire a guard to keep watch to make sure no one tries anything to harm you.”

Brinker’s eyes lit up and he stuttered his thanks before handing his notes to the group and making his way to his room.

The notes all had a basic theme to them, they all said something about money and death if the first theme never appeared. At the end of every note instead of a signature there was a stamp, an insignia all most, of a black horse rearing on its back legs, the horse always had one red eye. Dante slipped outside to ask around town about these mysterious Darkriders.

When he returned, he had much information to give to his comrades.

“From what I gather,” he told them, “the Darkriders come through town every once in a while, sometimes stirring up some trouble as they rumble through. They go up and down this kingdom periodically. Word on the street is, is that the Darkriders are in town now or have just recently left. What do you all want to do?”

“The market place is always a good place to go looking for people,” Berrian said. The Wolverines! gathered themselves and walked to the market. The market was bustling with people. All races mingled and called out their wares to the passing shoppers. Various vendors sold weapons and potions, others sold strange smelling articles of clothing. Fruit vendors were not uncommon among the ranks of stalls. Behind one particular fruit vender stood a bald Half-elf.

The Half-elf wore a dark red bandana around his head, on the bandana was the same insignia as was on the letters from Brinker. Dante sauntered up to the stall, his green cloak flowing in the wind that began to pick up.

“Hello,” said the Half-elf good naturedly. “What can I help you with?”

“I’m purchasing information,” Dante answered. The Half-elf looked down the crowded street, to see if anyone was listening to their conversation.

“What would you like to know?” he asked when satisfied that no one was listening.

“What do you know about the Darkriders?”

The Half-elf’s hand started to go to his forehead but he stopped it and brought it back across his chest.

“Not much, why do you want to know.”

“We meet a person who might be in some trouble with them. Anyway 15 gold could jog your memory?”

“Maybe.”

“How about 20?” Dante offered, holding a small bag in front of the Half-elf. After a moments hesitation the Half-elf took the gold and pocketed it.

“They’re in the Courier’s Stop. Tell the landlady Mane sent you.” He leaned back from the stall and called to a passing stranger to see if he wanted to buy some fruit. Dante took his leave and melted easily back in with the crowd.

The party left the market place and made their way to the Courier’s Stop, which was an inn that was adjacent to the Serpent’s Snare. When they arrived they talked to the landlady, who led them to a closed off, back room. Gathering themselves together, the party walked into the room.

The room was fairly large, with a crackling fire in a fire place along the left wall of the room. Around the fireplace were several chairs and sofas, in these sat eight figures, all of whom seemed to be a different race.

The figure closest to them jumped out of her chair and pressed a knife against Budda’s throat.

“What are you doing here,” asked the figure, in a sinister female voice. Berrian, who was behind Budda, noticed that she was an elf. Before the group could answer a gruff voice from further within the room said,

“Put it down, Serthra. These men haven’t come to harm us.” Serthra looked disappointed as she lowered the knife and sat back into a chair. The voice, the party concluded, came from a Dwarf who was sitting on a sofa, flanked by a Dragonborn and a Tiefling. The dwarf had a think, unkept, black beard. Over one of his eyes was a red eye patch with a similar insignia to the letters and the Half-elf in the market. Stanislav noticed that all of them had this insignia somewhere visible on their bodies.

The dwarf noticed Hokima.

“Ah,” he said, with a tone of jocularity in his voice, “a fellow Dwarf. ‘ow tastes the ale?”

“The ale tastes good,” answered Hokima. “Hail Moridan!” The other Dwarf nodded in response.

“We’re ‘ere,” Hokima said, taking the initiative in the conversation, “because we met a friend of yours a while back. ‘is name is Brinker, says you’ve been giving ‘im trouble.”

“Brinker? That sniveling worm? The thief owes me money. Normally I wouldn’t trouble meself over something so trivial, but it was a large sum o’ money he stole.”

“He stole it?”

“Might as well of. He borrowed a loan from us, 100,000 gold, and the filthy bastard cut town and ran without paying. No one crosses us and gets away with it.”

“That does sound bad,” agreed Hokima. “But still, is there anything I may be able to do to stop ye from chasing this guy down? Any odd jobs ye need done ‘round ‘ere?”

“Now that ye mention it there is something that I need fetching. If ye bring it to me might forget this little…misunderstanding.”

“Great, what is it?”

“Now before I tell ye anything ‘bout it, I’m gonna need your word that ye’ll do it.”

“Well, I’m not really sure what we’re dealing with ‘ere. I need to know this thing is attainable.”

“I see ye’re point. ‘Tis a small stone. Black, with a glowing red center. If ye bring it to me, I’ll pay ye what its worth is to me.”

“Where might we find this?”

The dwarf put a finger to his nose, “Can’t tell ye, till I ‘ave your word.”

The Wolverines! stepped out of the room and put their heads together to talk about what they would do next. After several minutes of discussion, the party entered into the Darkrider’s room.

“We’ll do it,” Hokima told them.

“Great! Ye can find me stone in a cave in the Elkrich forest, just west of ‘ere. Serthra, would you be so kind to led these gentlemen to Elkrich.”

The elf nodded and walked to the door. As the Wolverines! turned to follow her, the dwarf spoke up again, “When ye come back with me stone, ask for Red Eye ‘ere. ‘ave fun, and good luck.

Into the Cave

Serthra led the party to the edge of the vast forest known as the Elkrich. She turned around with out saying a word and she disappeared into the woods, and never reappeared. The party started forward through the forest, pushing their way through the emerald leaves. They eventually came to a small field. Suddenly they heard a little chattering and four giant rats jumped out of the forest, along with a swarm of rats and two dire rats.

Berrian, who was standing in front, unsheathed his sword and brought it down on one of the giant rats, impaling it through the back, his blue, orb-like eyes glinting with the hunger of battle. Jumping next to his friend, Budda brought his warhammer on top of rat’s head, smashing it to bits. The swarm of rats surrounded Berrian and begin to bite him all over, he slashed somewhat ineffectively at them.

Hokima brought his warhammer along in a sweep knocking a dire rat in the chest. The dire rat jumped out at him and tried to bite him, but Hokima dodged out of the way. Stanislav brought his hands back in concentration, then sent a ray of sparkling frost at the dire rat which had hitherto only been standing there. The blast hit it full on and Stanislav could see, with satisfaction, that the dire rat had been badly hurt. Out of the a nearby tree, Dante jumped, his blade shimmering as the light caught it, he stabbed the dire rat which had been attacked by Stanislav in the back. The blade cut deep into the rat and it fell over, dead.

Meanwhile, Budda and Berrian were still fighting the giant rats. The two heroes had worked out a goods system and soon had cut down moat of the rats from the swarm and only one giant rat was left. The giant rat began to retreat, Budda followed it. Hokima was busy fighting with the remaining dire rat, he hopped back a few feet and heaved a white lance at it. In a brilliant radiant burst of light the rat was destroyed.

Berrian took another sweep at the swarm, knocking a few more dead. He kept swinging and swinging, until finally all the rats had been killed. When the remaining rat tried to run, it ran right over a piece of grass colored canvass and into a dark pit. Budda and Dante looked over the edge and saw the rat clawing and squeaking at the sides of the pit. Dante pulled out a torch, lit it, and dropped it into the pit.

“Shall we continue?” asked Dante in an even voice, as the high pitched screams of the trapped rat resounded throughout the field. Dante got up and continued through the trees, the other party members following him.

After a few hours of traveling through the wilderness, the party came to the entrance of a large dark cave. They peered inside the cave, listening carefully.

“Who wants to go first?” asked Budda.

The party headed cautiously into the wide cavern mouth. They passed under some low hanging vines and began to ravel further into the darkness. Along the stony, uneven walls grew a variety of fungus that was largely unfamiliar to the party, this fungus emitted light from under its round top.

Stanislav stopped the party at one point and asked to light their armor with a magic light. All except Dante conceded and the party continued down through the cavern, glowing. The ceiling was low through the passages, Budda’s head just clearing the top. Hokima breathed deeply, this was where he belonged, with the stones. He could almost feel Moridan’s spirit in the earth.

The cave, which had hitherto been liner with its passages, came to a fork. The right passage went straight while the one to the left curved around a corner. The Wolverines! talked amongst themselves, their voices seeming loud in the silent cave, and finally decided to take the left route. When they went around the corner, the passage opened up into a large cavern.

The cavern’s ceiling was higher than the passages had been, about twenty feet, various stalactites hung from the ceiling. The glowing fungi littered the uneven walls and floor. Next to some of these fungi loitered a small group of goblins and kobolds.

The nearest goblin let out a cry of surprise as it reached for its short sword and tried to thrust it into Berrian’s chest. Berrian caught the sword with an upward block of his armored arm as he brought his other arm around to his belt and withdrew his katana. Budda ran past Berrian and brought his warhammer on top of a goblin’s head, shattering it. Hokima gave a dwarven cry as he ran into the cavern, a lance at the ready in his hand; the lance flew through the air and exploded onto a kobold in the back of the cavern. The kobold stumbled and aimed a quick shot at the dwarf with its crossbow, but the bolt hit the wall instead.

Dante cautiously entered the cavern, sword scarping against his scabbard as it was being pulled out. A moment after that the blade found a spot in the back of a goblin that Berrian was in combat with. Berrian was surprised when he saw the goblin slump over with Dante behind it, but he whipped around just in time to dodge an incoming crossbow bolt.

Stanislav crept into the cave and aimed a ray of frost at a kobold, the blast hit the wall behind it and the wall began to freeze over. The kobold jerked its little head Stanislav’s way and launched a javelin at him; it caught Stanislav in the arm, but didn’t go in very deep. Stanislav pulled it out and threw it aside. Budda was surrounded by three goblins; his warhammer wasn’t quite fast enough, so he stepped back from them and opened his big mouth showing his large, sharp teeth. What started out as a roar quickly turned into vast amounts of lightning enveloping the goblins.

The lightening shocked its way through its surprised victims. Three of them fell to the ground, convulsing uncontrollably. Hokima brought his warhammer in an upward cut across the stomach of one kobold. The kobold flew into the air like a rag doll and fell back to the ground. The last kobold looked around fearfully before it tried to run, but Dante was too quick for it and slashed its throat as it tried running past.

With the room cleared, the party took a moment to apply bandages where necessary. As they sat there they heard a strange chanting in goblin. It sounded like many voices at once so Stanislav could not hear exactly what they were saying, but he heard Orcus mentioned. But slowly Orcus’s name changed to Tharizdun instead. Dante carefully slipped around the corner to see what was going on.

Around the corner, Dante found himself on the upper part of this new cavern. The cavern floor was ten feet down and filled with goblins, 16 of them, and then one in the middle. The one in the middle was holding a large staff and seemed to be leading the group. In his left hand he was holding a black stone, the center was red. Dante crept back to his friends. “They have our stone in there,” Dante said, pointing to the cavern entrance.

“How many are there?” asked Budda.

“About 17.”

“We should go in there and try to get the stone back,” spoke Berrian, his blue eyes shining surreally in the dark. “Budda, are you up for another blast of electricity at these guys?” Budda nodded his scaley head. The party gathered their things and snuck into the next room.

Budda jumped down from the ledge and smashed into the ground, breathing lightning onto three of the goblins. Stanislav waved his hands around and near the middle of the room a great icy mist was created, freezing another five goblins solid. Another one was blasted away by lance thrown by Hokima. Dante and Berrian jumped down and ran towards the goblin with the staff. They then entered into a strange battle where the goblin began to look worse for the wear.

After the last small goblin had been disposed of Dante ran his sword through the main goblin, catching the stone it was holding as it fell. Dante peered at the stone. Something strange happened to him as the swirling red center drew him in. Small, whispering voices filtered through his head. The presence of other voices wasn’t unusual too Dante as a general rule so he wasn’t too concerned with it. He put the stone is his backpack and began to look for anything interesting on the bodies of the fallen.

Something Strange

Night fell upon the forest as the party made their way back to camp so they decided to stop for the night and rest. In the morning they packed up and continued on the road. When they were not more than fifteen minutes outside of Shouren, a great red light came from behind Stanislav. He looked behind himself and saw the stone they had picked up in the cave rolling on the ground and Dante was gone.

“Comrades, “ Stanislav called before him, “Dante has disappeared.” The party spun on their heels to look. They stared at the stone, unsure of what to do.

“Someone should go touch it,” offered Budda.

“I’m not touching it,” replied Berrian. “I don’t know what it’ll do.” Budda turned to Stanislav who was busy inspecting a nearby tree. Hokima sighed.

“All right,” he huffed, “I’ll go see what it’s all about. Bunch o’ coward.” He stood over the stone and bent his face over it. Inside of the stone he saw Dante looking out, knocking sullenly on the inside of the stone.

“What’re you doing in there, Dante?” he hollered at the stone. Dante tried to answer, but Hokima couldn’t hear anything. “It’s no use,” he said. “What should we do?”

“We should find out if anyone knows how to get him out,” Budda said. “We should check the bar first.” They nodded in agreement and Hokima bent down to pick up the stone. As he bent down he muttered a quick prayer to Moridan, and wrapped the stone up in his bedroll.

The Wolverines! wandered around the city, asking people if they knew anything about the stone. Finally, they found a wizard. The wizard took the stone and said some words into it which brought Dante’s spirit out of the stone. He looked around a few seconds before saying,

“I’m not picking anything we find, ever again.”

“I see you have quite the problem,” said the wizard. “However, I know of a man who might be able to get your friend out for a price. But I do now a ritual and all I need are a few ingredients for it. Bring these to me, and I will get your friend out for free.”

“What ingredients?” asked Stanislav.

“The tooth of a drake, the skull of a goblin, the paw of a wolf, the needle of a stirge, the eye of a bullywug.

“Bullywug?”

“A large swamp frog, about the size of you,” the wizard said, pointing at Berrian.

“This should be fun,” muttered Dante. “How do I help?”

“Your friend takes this stone,” the wizard said, handing the stone to Stanislav, “and you cannot be more than five feet from him. Watch the stone carefully, if it breaks, I’m not sure what will happen to you. You can still deal damage to any enemies you may encounter, through powers I do not understand. I wish you well in your journey, if you need me, I shall be in the Serpent’s Snare.”

With that the wizard turned away and went back with the crowd to the tavern. The party went to the market place to stock up on supplies before heading out of Shourn, to the north. They went this way because earlier they had heard that some spiretop drakes had taken refuge at the top of a guard tower a little ways down the road.

When they got there, they heard a roar of a drake from the top of the forty foot high, stony, tower. They climbed cautiously up the stairs to come face to face with three large drakes. The party fought tooth and nail, literally, against these drakes until the last one finally fell.

Budda pulled a tooth out of one of the bloody mouths of a dead drake. As he pocketed it he found a small goblins head already in his bag.

That’s strange, he thought to himself, but he said to his friends “Check to off the list, I found a goblin’s head.”

“Nice,” Berrian complemented. They climbed back down the stairs and made their way to a smelly smelling swamp. The muck pulled at their boots as they walked through it and eventually they came to a small tribe of bullywugs.

One of the bullywugs croaked, and threw a spear at the group, it missed but the rest of the frogs came bearing down anyway. After dispatching of the bullywugs and taking one of their eyes, the group looked around for some stirges.

Dante recalled that he had heard of a sap in a tree that could summon stirges. Finding a tree, the group but the sap in the middle of the swamp and waited for the fluttering of angry wings. Four bug like things flew out of the marsh and swarmed around the party.

One of the stirges lodged itself in Stanislav. Stansialv reeled back and Dante floated around and tried to break the stirge off of his friend, the stirge was also hurting the stone. Another stirge stuck itself in Berrian. He teleported out of the hold and wound up behind it, bringing his sword down as he reappeared. Hokima swatted the nearest one with his warhammer, knocking it back through the air.

When the last stirge had fallen the party caught off its needle like mouth, which they used to suck blood. The party composed themselves and went off to the Elkrich forest.

In the forest they found a pack of sleeping wolves. Stanislav and Dante sneaked up on the wolves with the intention of cutting one of its paws off and running. When they loomed over the sleeping creature, Dante suddenly sneezed; the wolf jerked its head up, saw the adventures, and barked, waking the other wolves up.

Stanislav and Dante were quickly surrounded, but Budda, Hokima, and Berrian came to the rescue. Hokima brought his warhammer down twice on the back of one wolf, letting out a fearsome dwarven war cry as he did so, the wolf’s back broke under the pressure and it died with a whimper. Berrian and Budda each fought off one wolf. Budda brought his warhammer across in a sweep, knocking the wolf prone, then he spun around and brought his warhammer down onto its exposed chest. He heard the cracks of ribs with pleasure. Berrian, when the wolf attacked, thrust his blade up into its mouth, killing it.

Berrian cut the paw off of his kill. And the party went back to Shouren with some hope.

Dante Emerges

When they got back to the Serpent’s Snare they found the wizard there, thinking.

“Ah, you have the ingredients, quick give them here, and we mustn’t waste time.” He took the ingredients and the stone and he and Dante went up the stairs to a private room.

Sometime later, he emerged with a corporeal Dante following him. They cheered as he walked down the steps. After some celebration the party decided to go and give the stone to Red Eye at the Courier’s Stop.

When they got to the dimly lit entrance hall of the inn and told the landlady whom they were looking for, she glanced up and down the entrance before leading them upstairs. They stopped before a private room and the landlady knocked. A moment later they heard a gruff voice call them in.

The Wolverines! stepped in carefully. The room was bare besides a fireplace, bed, and single chair. In the chair sat the dwarf, staring out the window. His eye patch was off, but they couldn’t see what was underneath it because his right side was facing away from them.

“Ye got me stone,” he said as they entered, it was clearly not a question.

“Yes,” Hokima said, handing it to him. Red Eye moved his head to look up at Hokima, revealing his empty eye socket. A scar, in the same symbol as was on the staff of Kelandra’s and on the books they had gathered from the ruins, ran around his eye. The rest of his empty socket was bloodied over so they couldn’t see much further than his skull.

Red Eye took the stone reverently in his hands, before putting it on the window sill.

“There’s a bag o’ gold on the table over there,” he said indicating a small nightstand sitting unnoticed by the bed. “Has 1,000 in’t. Thanks for yer help.” Stanislav noticed a tattoo of the same shape as was around Red Eye’s eye, on his hand.

“What is with that tattoo?” he asked.

Red eye glared at him before answering, “I don’t see that it’s any business of yours,” he said hotly. “Now why don’t you take your prize and be leaving?” “Before I do,” Stanislav said, “why don’t you take a look at this.” He produced Kelandra’s staff, and showed the mark to him. Red Eye jumped out of his chair and snatched the staff out of his hands.

“Where’d you git this?!” he roared.

“I don’t see how that’s any business of yours,” replied Stanislav with coolly. Red Eye glared at him a moment before shoving the staff back at him.

“Take your prize and leave. And tell that cowardly bastard Brinker he don’t have to fret anymore. Darkriders ride tomorrow.” With that Red Eye turned and slumped in his chair, softly stroking his stone. The Wolverines! let themselves out, the bag of gold safely in hand.

When they arrived back at the Serpent’s Snare, they found Brinker sitting at the bar. He started when he saw them approach.

“Oh. Did you d-do something about it?”

“He won’t be bothering you anymore,” Hokima assured him. Brinker broke out into a happy smile.

“Oh thank you! Thank you so much! Here is some gold for your troubles. Oh thank you so much!” he said all of this happily, his stutter fading away. “Please come by my wagon whenever you have the chance, you’re sure to find something you might want.” He turned around and happily walked out of the tavern.

The party sat down at one of the tables, exhausted from the day’s work. It was good to be back in the job of strangeness. Stanislav excused himself from the group and headed to his room. He sat down at his desk. He opened one of the books, which now had dust on it, and started to decipher the words.

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Shouren's Wizard

Chapter 1

Shourn’s Wizard

The Serpent’s Snare

The world is dangerous. Sinister things lurk around the world, waiting for their next prey. Amongst all of this blackness are points of light, safe havens for the weary traveler. There are adventures who brave the dangers of this world. Sometimes for personal glory, other times for the protection of the innocents. Whatever their reasons, these people are strong willed and their stories deserved to be told.

As we draw closer to one of these points of light we see that it is a town, known by the name of Shouren. People go about their daily business, merchants travel through with their caravans of goods and amongst the throng of people move four figures.

While walking through the streets the one at the head of the party, an Eladrin, glanced with his orb-like blue eyes at one of the wooden building lining the streets. He saw that it is the tavern “_The Serpent’s Snare_.” The party followed him inside.

The tavern flies watched these newcomers wearily. A drunken man stumbled blindly into the second party member, a Dragonborn, and then, realizing his mistake, did his best to get away from them. The party took a seat in one of the corner tables. An observer would have noticed what an odd group of men they were. An Eladrin, Dragonborn, Elf, and a Human, all sitting at the same table was quite an odd sight. An even more careful observer would have noticed that they all had a patch in their armor that said “Wolverines!”

“So,” said the Dragonborn in his grumbling voice, “How much further past this town must we go?”

“Some fifty miles, Buddadudda,” replied the elf from under his hood.

“Why don’t you take that hood off, Dante,” suggested the Eladrin, whose name is Berrian Jacque.

“Because that would ruin his rouge like appearance,” spoke the Human. Dante nodded in agreement.

“Plus,” Dante added, “I can do stuff like this. Watch.” A barmaid walked past their table and

Dante taped her on the shoulder. She turned around only to find his eyes staring at her crazily; she screamed and fell to the ground in her terror while he roared with laughter. “See? Look how great that was!”The other adventures giggled to themselves before helping her up.

The group stayed in the tavern, having a few drinks and a good time, when suddenly they heard a scream. Something within their very blood began to rise to the surface, fighting the alcohol on its way. They rushed outside, Dante staggering a bit more than the others, to see a group of people surrounding someone in the middle of the street.

The party pushed themselves forward through the crowd, with Berrian leading, to get a better look at what was going on. In the center of the circle stood a woman. She was dressed in fiery red robes, which matched the color of her long, waist length hair almost perfectly. Above her head she wielded a large staff, which emitted fire from its ends. She pointed it at one of the houses across the street from the tavern and it erupted into flames. Screams of women and children could be heard coming from it.

Just as Berrian was drawing his weapon, ready to fight, Dante rushed past him, his hand cocked to the side. Dante got up close to her and swung the back of his hand in what looked like a nasty back hand, but missed and staggered past her instead.

“All right. That didn’t work,” hiccupped Dante. She turned angrily at Dante but was suddenly cut off by the swing of a sword which caught her in the side. Buddadudda came tearing down the sidewalk swinging his warhammer. She deftly dodged the assault, even though the pain still hindered her.

“Stanislav,” he calls to the Human, “Let’s do this!” Stanislav brings his hands in front of him and seems to concentrate before sending a blistering cold ray of white frost at her. The frost hit her and she screamed. Ice crystals started to form on her robes and fingers. She glowered with fury.

She turned to Berrian and aimed a scorching burst of fire at him. The fire swirled around him but it left him with only mild burns.

Dante’s alcohol seemed to drain from his blood as he turned around and tried to take a stab at her with his dagger. She brought her staff down and blocked the attack. Berrian lunged forward with his sword and caught her side again, but wasn’t able to penetrate the armor. Buddadudda brought his warhammer across, slamming it into her chest. She stumbled back, the wind knocked out of her. Stanislav brought his hands up again sending more frost to her while she was momentarily dazed.

Blood started to seep through her robes. She grunted and brought her staff up above her. She is consumed in a dazzling spectacle of fire, she is obscured amongst the flames. The fire was so hot that the adventure stepped back so as not to be singed by it. When the fire’s had subdued, the woman had vanished.

Dante stared glumly at the place where she had been. Stanislav turned to the burning building and cast a series of spells on the fire to put it out. As the crowd was starting to disperse, families gathered themselves and began heading home, merchants packed up their goods and the tavern put a closed sign up, a soldier came up to the party.

“The mayor wishes to speak with you,” he said gruffly.

“On what accounts?” asked Buddadudda.

“Not sure. But it’s best if you just come along with me.” He turned to leave and they followed him. They walked through the streets until they finally reached the town hall. They entered almost immediately, to find the Mayor, an old man, his grey hair receding and wrinkles were beginning to grow more prominent, sitting behind a table.

He looked up as they entered and his dull brown eyes seemed to light up slightly when he saw them.

“Ah, good, “he said, getting to his feet. “You are the ones who fought off Kelandra?”

“I’m not sure who Kelandra is, but we did fight a wizard in your streets,” answered Dante.

“Yes, that was Kelandra. She has been coming by this town for years now, terrorizing the folks in it frequently. The only reason the town is so populated is the trade route running through it. Without it, this would be a ghost town.

“You all fought with a sort of finesse that I haven’t seen in a while. And best of all you were able to scare her away. No one has been able to do that. The guards just run from her anymore. If I’m not mistaken, you all are adventures.”

“Sir, you are talking to the Wolverines!, the best Adventuring Company on this trade route,” spoke Buddadudda proudly.

“Excellent, excellent,” nodded the Mayor. “Well then, I am willing to pay each of you two-hundred gold if you could rid this town of Kelandra. What do you Wolverines! say?”

“Excuse us a moment,” said Berrian drawing the party into a small huddle.

“This could be our big break,” Dante said excitedly.

Stanislav chimed in, “”I see no sign of deceit or trickery. In fact, he seems like a very honest, compassionate man, concerned for the safety of the town.”

“I say let’s do it,” said Buddadudda, his scaly blue head nodding vigorously.

“It’s settled then, let’s do it,” Berrian finalized breaking up the huddle. They turned to the Mayor.

“We’ll do it,” Buddadudda told him.

“Oh! Wonderful! Thank the gods that you were sent to us! Now we don’t know much, but our sources tell us that she resides somewhere north of the forest. Here’s a map. The best time to go get her would be tomorrow. Oh, thanks ever so much!”

The party smiled and walked out of the office, the map and their duty in hand. They made their way back to the tavern to reclaim their gear, and then stopped off at the local inn.

The Woods

The next day the party found themselves out in the woods. It was a normal day. The warm air drifted lazily through the trees. Sunbeams reached to the ground between the emerald leaves. Berrian was in the front of the party looking at a bug as it passed by him.

“So, we’re going north right?” he asked.

“Past some kind of river or something,” answered Buddadudda. Dante jumped into some nearby bushes.

“What’re you doing?” Stanislav asked trying to see through the bush at Dante.

“Shhh. I’m walking sneakily.”

From up ahead, they both heard a crack and a “GAHH” as two trees tumbled onto Berrian.

“Ah, dang it,” Buddadudda said under his breath. “Berry, you okay?”

“Ugghhhh.”

“What happened?” asked Stanislav running up next to Buddadudda.

“I don’t know.”

Much to their surprise, at that moment three humans covered in camouflage jumped from the trees. One rushed up to Buddadudda swinging his sword, but before he could hit him, Buddadudda brought his shield up to defend himself. Another one ran around to try to flank the Dragonborn, while the other stayed back a little and lunged his sword at Stanislav who was caught in the side, the sword piercing his side drew some blood.

Stanislav staggered away and balanced himself against a tree, breathing heavily. Buddadudda swung his warhammer at the head of the first bandit, but the bandit ducked from the blow. Dante sat watching from the safety of some bushes before he came running out with his sword and it caught the bandit flanking Buddadudda in the back. The bandit swung around with his sword in an upward sweep but Dante was quicker, bringing his catching the sword with his own. Meanwhile Berrian was struggling underneath the trees. He could hear the fight going on but he couldn’t see anything. Putting his hand against one of the trees that lied over top of him, he pushed with all the strength that days of training had given him. Muscles pushed and pulsed with blood as he pushed against the tree finally he had lifted it high enough for him to slide out from underneath him.

Dusting some dirt from his armor he took a quick survey of the battlefield. He saw a blast of ice jump from Stanislav’s hands and onto the bandit who had hit him. The ground and trees around the bandit crackled as they froze and became covered in ice, steam rose from the ice as it engulfed more of the small battle field. When the bandit tried to run from the ice he slipped and fell face first on the ice.

Stanislav noticed Berrian standing up and he shouted to him “Save the wizard!” Just as Berrian was moving to help the bandit fighting Buddadudda was able to bring his sword around and catch Buddadudda in the left arm. Buddadudda roared in fury, his blue head whipping around. Berrian called to him, “Budda, I’m going to help you out.” He ran forward taking his katana out of its scabbard. His blue pupil-less eyes found the right spot on the bandit and brought his sword to it, catching the bandit across his shoulder.

Dante was busy fighting the bandit toe-to-toe. It was like a very deadly dance that they were engaged in, one attacked and then the other. As the bandit scored a slash across Dante’s face, everyone in the forest heard something.

It sounded like the stomping of very heavy feet at first; it was then matched by the rattling of chainmail. From the trees burst forth a very angry dwarf. He swung his warhammer around wildly while screaming a war-cry that could strike fear in even the most battle hardened warrior that dwarves were known for. He crashed through the underbrush but hit a tree as he emerged throwing him off course a little. He stumbled backward, shaking his head and he launched a white lance which suddenly was in his hand. The lance arced through the air and hit the bandit in the back. Dante took the opportunity to stab attack the bandit, but the human was able to jump over the blade aimed at his legs.

“Who are you?” Dante called to the dwarf.

“Name’s Hokima. I’m a friend,” he called back gruffly. “Let’s not talk, just focus on killing this guy.”

The ice surrounding the bandit melted away and he got back up. He went towards the Dragonborn, attempting to stab him in the arm, but Buddadudda brought his warhammer against the attack. Buddadudda opened his mouth with a roar and then, past the his sharp dragon-like teeth sprung forth acid breath. The acid splashed everywhere around the clearing. The bandit were hit full in the face with it, besides the one fighting with Dante, but Berrian and Stanislav were able to hide behind trees. The backsplash of the acid hit Buddadudda but he shook it off.

Stanislav looked to see that the one of the bandits was closing in on Hokima, and he cast a cloud of daggers right in front of him. The bandit rushed through the daggers and a couple of them jumped out and stabbed him, but he kept running through to the dwarf and he brought his sword against Hokima’s warhammer. Hokima swung his warhammer around and hit the bandit in the chest.

Berrian blocked another attack from the bandit before he brought his sword down between the bandit’s neck and shoulder blade. The bandit’s legs crumpled beneath him as he fell to the ground dead. Buddadudda sung his warhammer around and caught the bandit next to him in the arm. The arm shattered but the bandit only stumbled slightly.

Dante dashed around the daggers nimbly as he ran for the bandit that was attacking his new found friend. His sword made a gash deep in the bandits back. Hokima backed up and launched another lance at the bandit. The lance bored a radiant hole in the bandit’s chest as he fell.

The final bandit looked around at the five adventures, figuring he would die if he ran away he tried to stab at Buddadudda with his sword. It was a desperate strike and it swung too far from Buddadudda. Then the Dragonborn decided to return the favor by bringing his warhammer crashing across the bandits chest. One last blast of pain was felt from the bandit before he slipped into death.

The party turned their attention to Hokima at this point. As they were putting various bandages and healing salves on themselves they talked to Hokima.

“What were you doing out in the woods?” Buddadudda asked, eyeing a holy symbol of the god Moridan which was hanging from the dwarf’s neck.

“I was going to the northern ruins with a band of scouts sent from the town of Shouren,” replied Hokima, through his beard. He didn’t say much more but instead prayed to his god. When he did so an inner holy light shone through his wounds as they closed. “But the wimps went back to town. They said they were scared of what might be in the ruins so the cowards fled. I stayed out here a few days longer, then I heard y’all makin’ a ruckus and I wanted in the fight.”

“So you just jumped in and helped some strangers?” Berrian asked, his eyes were closed but his white hair caught some sun rays and seemed to shimmer.

“Nay, not strangers. It’s obvious y’all are adventures such as me-self , and adventures help each other out.”

“You said you were going to the ruins, what ruins?” Stanislav asked.

“The ruins north of us, or supposedly north of us. We didn’t make it that far, like I said, them cowards turned tail and fled.”

“Would you like to join us, it looks like you’re god shows favor on you with healing,” Buddadudda said.

“If I won’t be a burden, I would like to come along.”

“Well then Hokima, welcome to the Wolverines!” Buddadudda extended a hand to the dwarf, who clasped it.

“Hey guys, look what I found on one of the bandits,” said Dante as he came back from rifling through the dead bodies. “It’s a note.”

The party looked over it curiously.

“They seem to be directions,” examined Hokima.

“Maybe we have to follow these directions and everything else will be trapped,” offered Stanislav.

“I think that we should find out,” said the Eladrin getting to his feet. He took the note and followed the directions printed on it. He came to a spot that it mentioned and he looked around with his blue orbs. Directly in front of him the ground seemed to change, he picked up a large stone next to him, and tossed it onto the ground. The ground gave away and the stone crashed into a ten foot deep pit.

“This is probably a bad idea,” he observed. “It seems it had led me to a trap.

“Let me see this again,” Hokima said.

“Look ‘ere at this star, wonder what’s next to that one.” The he started off, following the directions. He came to the edge of a river and looked around him. At his feet there was a slight bulge in the ground, he jumped back, but nothing happened. Upon a more carful inspection he saw that something was buried there. Excited at the thought of treasure he began to dig and dig before producing a chest. He dragged it up from the ground and looked inside. A ball of gray rags were kept inside of it and before he was about to close it something glittered and caught his eye. He removed the rag and underneath it he found gold, and lots of it.

“Treasure!” Hokima shouted to his companions. He dragged the chest back through the woods to the place where they had rested before. The party split the gold up amongst themselves.

“All right, we found some treasure,” said Buddadudda. “Now I think we should go to the other side of this ravine and get to these ruins.”

The part murmured in agreement. They walked through the woods until they came to a ridge. They climbed up it and at the top they heard water rushing. They looked down the other side of the ridge and below them, about thirty feet, was water rushing very fast.

“This looks bad,” Dante said. “How’re we going to get across?” Berrian looked across to the other side of the ravine and teleported himself there.

“What if we tie some rope to your crossbow, Dante, and shoot it across so Berry can grab hold of it and tie it to a tree,” suggested Buddadudda.

They tied some rope to the end of a an arrow and shot it across. The arrow hit a tree but bounced off and looked as if it was going to fall into the river, but Berrian dived to the ground and caught hold of it. He tied it to a tree as Dante tied his end to a tree as well. Dante jumped onto the rope as tightrope and began to carefully walk across. As he was halfway to the other end his foot slipped. He felt himself falling through the air before he reached a hand out and was able to grab the rope. His feet dangled in the air and the rope held fast. Breathing a sigh of relief he pulled himself back on top of the rope and continued. A fter he jumped off, Hokima grabbed on the rope and shimmied over the water, he looked down once and mumbled something about rather being in the mountains before going onward. He landed safely. Buddadudda grabbed the rope next but before he started, Stanislav spoke up,

“Wait, I don’t think I should be the last one to go across. If goblins come then I shan’t be able to defend myself.” Buddadudda looked at him with his golden eyes.

“You’ll be fine,” he said before starting across. Soon after, Stanislav followed him.

“I’m thinkin’ that I don’t want nothing to be following us. Mind cutting the rope, Dante?” Dante nodded in agreement and cut it.

The party looked over the land stretching before them. It was barren, unlike the other side, rocks jutted up from the ground and there were only a few trees in one little place.

Not far from them were ruins of what looked like a fort.

“Anyone know anything about that?” asked Dante.

“It was once a fort inhabited by humans,” Stanislav remembered out loud. “But a while ago it fell during a goblin attack. The attack left only one survivor. He said that the attack as much better organized then what normal goblins could do. He also mentioned a mysterious figure among the ranks.”

“Kelandra,” whispered Dante and Buddadudda together. Hokima checked the note from the bandits again.

“More directions are on here starting at that grove of trees yonder,” he pointed out. “Anyone want to check it out?” Berrian took the note and followed the directions. As he got to a particularly high mound of stones his foot sunk into the ground. From the stones burst fire pointed directly at Berrian, it engulfed him in flames as he tumbled backward, shielding his face.

“I don’t like this!” he shouted.

“Maybe there’s more treasure round ‘ere,” Hokima said. He followed some of the directions. When he got to the place that it said he glanced around himself, he looked up to see a very large stone positioned above his head. He took a few steps backward.

“No treasure,” he said. “It ain’t worth it. Let’s head to them ruins.” The party gathered themselves and entered the ruins.

Through the Ruins

There was a large courtyard inside the ruins. There was an elevated platform in the middle of the courtyard with statues lining it. The whole place had a gloomy feel to it. They saw a small passage heading off to the east.

Dante held up his hand for silence. The party stopped and listened. Voices drifted through the otherwise noiseless courtyard. They were speaking in Elfish.

The party tried to move up silently to the courtyard but Berrian tripped on a stone and yelped with pain, as well knocking a stone across the ground. The voices stopped. Scurrying feet were heard as giant rats ran from the passage to the left followed by three elves.

Berrian ran up to meet the rats and brought his sword to attack them, but he missed as it dodged under his sword and bit him in the leg. The other rats followed and surrounded him.

One of the elves hopped up onto the elevated platform and aimed his longbow at Stanislav hitting the wizard full in the chest. Stanislav staggered back and aimed a bolt of ice at him but the elf ducked and jumped off the platform. The second elf started to run around the platform making sure to keep low as he did so, and the third elf stood behind the rats waiting for a chance to get to the party. The rats continued to bit Berrian as Hokima ran up and tried to kill one. But the little thing ran from underneath the warhammer.

Dante darted up to the platform and aimed at the third elf’s head as she leaned against it. He got her with a barrage of daggers, his hands moving like a blur. The second elf jumped onto the platform and shot an arrow into Dante’s back. Dante lurched forward a little. Before the elf could jump down Buddadudda ran up the stairs and hit him in the chest with his hammer.

The first elf darted around the corner and aimed at Stanislav, he sent an arrow whistling through the still air at Stanislav. The arrow embedded itself in his arm. Stanislav grunted and turned another ray of frost on the elf. It got him full in the stomach and ice started to form around him.

As Hokima missed another rat he looked back at Stanislav and said a prayer to Moridan. Light shined from Stanislav as his wounds closed. Berrian was busily fighting off the rats that were closing around him and caught one with his sword.

Dante used another barrage of daggers against the unfortunate elf near his feet. The daggers kept coming and she couldn’t see a thing, but Dante noticed he was getting increasingly tired. Meanwhile, Buddadudda and the elf were locked in tight combat, Buddadudda getting the worst of the fight. His eyes began to half close, and his wounds started to pile up. Hokima looked up to the platform and saw his reptilian friend’s plight.

“I’m coming, Budda,” he called to him, as he rushed to the stone steps. But as he was running an arrow found its way in between the chinks in his armor. He turned himself and through shimmering white lance at the elf. It flew through the air with all the power of a dwarf and blasted through the elf’s head.

Berrian’s sword glimmered with rat’s blood as it swept down again at the last rat. The rat tried to escape but was too late as its head came off. Berrian then turned to see Dante looking fatigued from all his barrages and he leaned up against the statue. Berrian ran around the corner bring his katana down across the elf’s back.

Buddadudda didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up. The elf found another hole in his defenses and Buddadudda roared in pain again. He brought his hammer up and was about to swing when the hilt of the elf’s blade found its place under his chin, then everything went black. Hokima watched as the Dragonborn fell, his blue scales full of blood. Hokima stomped up the stairs and ran next to his fallen friend and brought his hammer across in a wide arc. The hammer caught the elf in the right arm. He backed up a little bit.

Dante’s barrages had taken a toll on him and he sunk to the ground his back resting against one of the statues. The elf turned around to face Berrian only to find that a katana slipped through her rib cage and found her heart. She fell to the ground.

Stanislav watched all of this with fascination before he decided to go to the platform to help Hokima. But Hokima, it turned out, didn’t need any help. He brought his warhammer around one last time and hit the elf full in the chest, killing him.

“Come on, Budda. Wake up!” muttered Hokima. He made another prayer to Moridan. Buddadudda’s eyes fluttered open. “Thank Moridan. You shouldn’t scare a dwarf like that.”

“You okay there, Dante?” asked Berrian as he leaned over him concerned.

“Yeah,” he answered, while removing the red scarf from around his mouth to get better air. “I just used that barrage three times to many. I’m good though.”

The party took a short rest while looking around them. A little to the north of the courtyard were some steps heading down into the earth. Heat rose up from the opening.

“I say we go on down there,” said Hokima. “Could be treasure.”

“Or something lethal,” retorted Stanislav. “This place fell to goblins, there could be some of those down there.”

“I agree with, Hokima. Let’s go on down,” said Buddadudda. The party gather themselves, Berrian in the lead with Buddadudda next to him. They went down the steps into the darkness.

As they were going down the air around them got hotter. It wasn’t overbearing, but they could feel the difference. At the bottom of the steps was a large iron door. The party stopped to listen at it.

Beyond the door they could hear the chattering of goblins. The party looked at Buddadudda and he nodded to them. He brought his foot up and slammed it against the door. A loud bang filled the hallway and beyond the door the chattering stopped. Berrian grabbed the door and pushed it open, to reveal a large chamber. Goblins moved toward the open door.

Goblins and Lava

The chamber was lit with a reddish glow, but no torches could be seen. Five goblins and two fire beetles came towards the door.

The ensuing battle was tough but the party emerged victorious. Dante lowered the last goblin to the ground after cutting its throat. The party looked down a hallway branching off east from the chamber, at the end of it stood a wooden door.

Dante crept down the corridor and peered under the door. He saw some table legs and a couple of books. The rest of the party came over and they opened the door.

This room was a complete mess as the party walked in. Books were scattered over the floor and tables, some of them open. Stanislav picked one of them up off the floor and saw that the script was in a dialect that he didn’t understand.

“Hey, look at this ‘ere symbol,” Hokima pointed out. “It’s on most of these books. I’ve seen this symbol somewhere before. It’s got something to do with a dangerous god of some sort.”

“We should take a couple of these back with us,” Stanislav said, putting a couple of the books in his backpack. Berrian flipped one of the tables over.

“Dang. No potions,” he said before walking out of the room.

The party left the room and went back to the chamber where the bodies of the dead goblins and beetles lay. Another corridor heading north stretched into to a set of metal stairs, heading down further into the ruins. As the party walked down the corridor the heat grew stronger and Buddadudda noticed an ashy smell to the air.

The party peered as far as they could see down the stairs.

“Who wants to go first?” asked Dante.

“I will,” answered Buddadudda, his blue head was starting to sweat. The party went down the step for a long time. Step after step, around and around they went down. It seemed to take forever. Then, without warning, the steps stopped in a small hallway. At the end of the hallway was a large iron door, glowing red.

Hokima walked bravely up to it, grasped one of its massive handles and pulled it open. In this vast chamber the most notable thing that the heroes saw was a stream of lava running around the sides. Above them the ceiling was covered with stalactites. In the middle of the chamber was a small glowing platform that was connected by a small walkway to the door. On the platform stood a figure with red robes and red hair in front of an altar, which had a similar symbol as the symbols on the books that Stanislav had taken.

The figure turned around and the party, except Hokima, recognized her as Kelandra.

“What are you doing here?” she screeched at them.

“We’re her to stop you,” Berrian said, drawing his sword.

“Actually we were just here to inquire as to what you want, specifically from Shouren,” added Stanislav hastily.

“What I want is for you to be dead!” Kelandra then drew her staff and held it up above her.

Buddadudda rush forward swing his warhammer and caught Kelandra in the chest. Berrian, then, tried to run around and attack her with his katana but she was able to dodge his blade. Dante ran and tossed shuriken at her while running to the northern part of the platform. Hokima stood back a little and throws another lance at her but it misses her and splashes into the lava. Stanislav, meanwhile, focuses his power and aims a ray of frost at Kelandra, which hits her and starts to form some ice crystals on her robe.

Kelandra rears back and yells in fury and brings her hands above her as a blast of lightening bursts forth from her pushing Buddadudda, Berrian, and Dante backwards.

Budda rushes towards her again and brings his hammer in a downward arch but she deftly jumps out of the way of the blow. Berrian, too, jumps forward and slashes at her, and he makes a cut along her back. A second shuriken whizzed by Berrian’s head and it caught Kelandra in the arm. Hokima ran forward with his hammer and smashed her foot with it.

She ran through the gap between Budda and Berrian, and reached under the altar to hit a switch. Back at the door fire burst forth from its hinges hitting Stanislav and catching his robes on fire. He shrieks and staggers out of the flames as he aims more frost at his enemy, but in the confusion misses her. He then proceeded to try to put his robes out.

Budda swung his hammer for a swipe at Kelandra’s left arm, and crushed it. Berrian sliced at her with his sword but the blade was caught mid strike by Kelandra’s staff. Dante ran around the group and aimed another shuriken at her, it whistled through the air and embedded itself into her stomach. Hokima backed up a little bit, teetered over the bubbling lava, before launching another lance at her, this caught her in her right leg.

Kelandra, looking worse for the wear, brought her hands above her again and from it cast the whole platform on fire. The blast hit the party and in the confusion Stanislav fell to the ground.

Stanislav was sure he was dead. He could no longer fell the pain from his corporal form, but he remembered it as very real. Suddenly images flashed across his vision. Before him lay a battlefield, littered with many bodies. Then he was in a tower, with the rest of the Wolverines!. After that he found himself battling it out with an unknown foe and he heard his friends calling his name. A mysterious figure entered into his vision, clouded in shadow. The figure was holding a knife, and in the knife’s reflection Stanislav saw his parent’s faces. He heard his name being called, and behind the figure was fire.

Suddenly he was back on the platform with Hokima standing over him, lifting his coin to Moradin. Hokima’s dwarven face looked down at Stanislav, he reached out his hand and pulled him to his feet. Stanislav heard the sounds of his comrades fighting. “Come on, Stanislav! There’s a battle to be fighting!” Hokima yelled as he rushed back into the fray with Kelandra, his dwarven war cry resounding through the chambers.

Stanislav aimed another brust of frost at Kelandra and hits her full in the chest. This act gave Berrian just the opportunity he need to bring his katana through her defenses in a brilliant strike. The blade pierced through her rib cage and found her heart. She doubled over, blood coming to her mouth, and slipped off the blade and into a heap on the floor.

Budda reached down and picked up her staff. He saw a similar symbol as was on the altar and the books. Before he had time to contemplate, though, the ground shook and the lava began to rise on the platform.

The Wolverines! ran to the door, the fire had stopped at this point, and rushed up the steps. About halfway up they felt the base of the stairs melt away and the staircase swayed slightly. Rocks fell from the ceiling and clanged on the party’s helmets and heads. Once at the top of the stairs they came out into the first chamber, they had visited, they bolted across the chamber and up the first set of stairs. Out in open air they felt safer, but could still feel that the ground was weak beneath them.

They continued to run until they were a safe distance from the ruins. When they turned back around they saw that the ruins were falling into the earth and being eaten up by the lava, but luckily it didn’t advance any further.

The party looked at each other, shared a relieved laugh, and headed back to town. As they entered the town, bloody and beaten, people admired them from the safety of their doorsteps. Some people gave a small cheer or offered a pat on the back. The group reached the Mayor’s office. When they entered, he turned to face them and gave a huge grin.

“Oh! You are back safely and successfully! I’m so very glad! Is that her staff you have there?” he asked Budda.

“It is.”

“Fascinating!”

“Hey, Mayor,” Dante said, his hood ripped in a few places. “You said something about some money before we left.”

“Oh, yes! I have her what I promised you, 20 gold each.”

“I thought you had said 200 gold.”

“Did I? Oh dearest me. I cannot believe I should offer you so much, I haven’t the money to pay that much.”

Stanislav looked around the room and saw that the room was bare.

“Is there anything else you could offer us?” Stanislav asked.

“I can give you free lodgings and food, for as long as you need it.” The party nodded their heads in satisfaction.

“Before we go,” Hokima said, reaching into Stanislav’s pack, “might ye be able to tell us anything about this ‘ere symbol.” He passed the strange symbol that was on the books to the Mayor. The mayor took it in his hands and studied it for a bit.

“I have no knowledge of what this might be,” he said, handing it back.

After a few more words were shared the party took their leave to go and have a well deserved rest.

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