DM Brainiac's Prison of the Firebringer (Updated 12/21/05)

Poll: Who is your favorite character in "The Firebringer?"

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  1. #1

    DM Brainiac's Prison of the Firebringer (Updated 12/21/05)

    Beneath the ruins of an ancient citadel, a great evil force has begun gathering allies to its cause. Imprisoned there for generations, the Firebringer longs to be free and rain vengeance upon the Realms. Brigands along the Surbrin Way have been ambushing caravans, capturing prisoners for some unknown purpose. The call has gone out for powerful adventurers to combat this new threat.

    Hello, ENWorlders, and welcome to my story hour! I am a long-time lurker, first-time poster who has decided to turn his play-by-post campaign into an exciting, action-packed story hour for your reading enjoyment. The adventures that the story hour is based on is "Prison of the Firebringer" from Dungeon #101, followed by "Glacier Season" from Dungeon #87 and "Strike on the Rabid Dawn" in another issue of Dungeon. The actual game is being played here if you are interested in checking it out.

    Dramatis Personae:
    Allanon Harpell, male human sorcerer/wild mage
    Aspar Tenerect, female fire genasi ranger/dragonstalker
    Berek, male dwarf barbarian/frenzied berserker
    Galiana Silvermane, female half-elf fighter
    Gillian Lightfoot, female halfling monk/spiked chain master
    Grundar, male elf rogue/fighter/duelist
    Jelani Sandulf, male human cleric/wizard/mystic theurge
    Rumar Destare, male aasimar paladin/anointed one
    Rhys Thurn, male aasimar cleric/contemplative
    Serrila Destare, female aasimar sorcerer
    Taigiel, male half-dragon human ranger
    Terenon, male human evoker
    Last edited by ltclnlbrain; Wednesday, 21st December, 2005 at 08:54 PM. Reason: Updated Date

  2. #2

    Chapter 1

    Chapter 1

    Silverymoon, the Gem of the North, is a legendary city skirting the Savage Frontier; a beacon of culture and civilization shining forth from some of Faerun's most dangerous and uncivilized lands. Its beautiful architecture, ranging from the vaulted steeples of the city's many temples to the gilded domes of the palace itself, draws comparisons to some of the greatest living cities of Faerun, and even to cities long since passed into dust and ruin. But Allanon Harpell was not interested in the fancy construction work this day. He was late.

    Allanon hurried through the city toward the offices of the Three Shields Coster merchant company, holding the hem of his robe up so as not to trip on it. The call had gone out for adventurers to investigate the disappearance of one of the company’s caravans, and the promised excitement and reward had appealed to the mage’s wanderlust and desire for adventure. Unfortunately, he had slept in late today, head still buzzing from the previous night’s drink and his dalliance with his lover, Deirdriel Elethneril. Now he hoped to Mystra that he hadn’t missed the meeting.

    After a few more minutes, the mage breathed a sigh of relief as he finally came upon the offices of the merchant company. Pausing momentarily to catch his breath, he stepped inside and asked the clerk to direct him to the office of Merik Thornridge, the owner of the Three Shields Coster. Knocking softly on the door, a tall man in fancy clothes and with a modestly large paunch of a gut greeted him.

    “You made it just in time,” said the man, Thornridge. “I was just about to explain the situation. Come in.”

    Smiling sheepishly, Allanon entered the office and looked around at the other occupants. They were all adventurers by the look of them, quietly sipping on water or reclining on couches. The first was a human man in brown robes, also a mage of some sort judging by the pouches of spell components on his belt and the intelligent gleam in his eyes. The second was a tall elf, dressed in fine clothes and sporting a single rapier by his side and a large bow on his back. The third was a man in fine clothing with a green hooded cloak, though there seemed to be something otherworldly about him. His eyes were steel gray touched with gold, and his black hair shoulder length, with a streak of gold in it. He carried a strange staff shaped in the likeness of a gold dragon, and a holy symbol of Torm rested on his neck. The final person was a small Halfling woman clad in normal clothing with a wicked-looking spiked chain coiled at her belt and a fierce purpose and determination in her eyes.

    Taking a seat on one of the couches, Allanon listened as Thornridge began his tale of woe.

    “The latest caravan from Nesme is three days late now, and I fear the worst. It was carrying bolts of Tethyrian brocade and casks of Tashalan wine and was bound to Silverymoon along the Surbrin Way. There have been numerous reports of bandit activity in the vicinity; why, not more then a tenday ago, a pair of wagons belonging to the Silver Blade Coster disappeared as well! We had hired some adventurers as added protection for our shipment, but apparently they weren't enough.”

    "I will pay you each 5,000 gold pieces if you find out what happened to the caravan and eliminate these dangerous bandits from the area. If you follow the Surbrin Way west from town, hopefully you will come across some evidence of the fate of the caravan.”

    Frowning in thought, the brown-robed mage spoke. “That seems an extravagant reward for some errant wine. Before sending out some of the best people in their field to investigate, I would have guessed that other information gathering parties had been sent. Has this been done? Why kill a fly with a catapult?"

    It was now Merik’s turn to frown. "Yes, well, that is the problem, you see. We have hired wizards to cast scrying spells on the caravan, but all of them have met with failure. This has lead us to believe that some sort of greater power is blocking their attempts. We fear that the one powerful enough to do this may be behind the bandit menace, which is why the danger level on this mission is higher then normal. Indeed, the wine is not of much value compared to the payment we are offering. But if these attacks continue unhindered, the revenue we will be losing will be much more than the reward. Thus, the increased pay.”

    "But I'm sure it will not be too dangerous for such august personages as yourselves," Thornridge added, smiling.

    The mage nodded with a knowing smile. “Fine, fine. I will need a map of the trade route used and where the attacks occurred. Were any of the bodies recovered from the attacks?"

    Merik handed Terenon a map of the Surbrin Way, a farily direct road that followed the River Surbrin and connects Nesme in the west to Silverymoon at its eastern end. Towards the center of the route, another road branched northward, passing between the Lurkwood and the Frost Hills.

    "We have not sent any parties out to search for the caravans yet, for we fear to risk our own people against the bandits. You should find evidence of their passage somewhere along the Surbrin Way. The northern road leads to an abandoned vale where the Dungeon of the Ruins sits. It is an old wizard's college that was destroyed centuries ago. Many adventurers have met their fate in those ruins, but none have ventured there for nearly twenty years now.”

    The mage examined the map, with the others looking on. “This will do fine sir,” he said. “I shall go investigate.” With that, he stood up and left the office. The other assembled adventurers looked on in surprise as he walked out. There will still some questions they wished to ask, and they had assumed they would be working together, and were quite startled by the man’s seeming disregard for them.

    “Poor guy,” the elf remarked. “He's probably going to get himself killed when he walks right into the bandit camp.”

    The cleric merely shrugged and turned his attention to Thornridge. “Why are you asking for our help and not the local officials?” he asked. “I understand your desire to replace your losses but it does tend to make it look a bit unofficial, does it not? Also, what do you know about that wizard’s college?”

    "Well, this is only the first caravan that we have lost contact with,” replied Thornridge. “And the Silver Blade Coster hasn't lost any of their shipments since the first one a tenday ago, so the officials don't believe it is much of a threat as of yet. But I fear that the attacks will only escalate if we do nothing, which is why I have come to you.”

    "I'm afraid I don't know too much about the old college. Most of the adventurers didn't find too much of interest in the ruins, besides the usual monsters and squatters that inhabit such places. Nobody has been there recently, though, so I don't know the current state of affairs.”

    The halfling lass, who had been sitting quietly up until this point, suddenly spoke up. “And what protection have you offered the halfling communities in the area”, she demanded crossly. “I’ve heard tell of at least three incidents of bandits harassing my people within the last week, and what has been done about it, I ask you? I don’t care about your money, but something has to be done or many innocents will suffer”, she concluded, settling back in a huff.

    Thornridge held out his hands to appease her. "I am sorry, lass, but we have enough problems looking after and running our own company to be worried about the halflings. No offense meant, of course. I will say, though, that the Rivermoot and the other halfling settlements in the area are along the Surbrin Way, so it seems that our problem and your problem is the same. You do not have to accept the reward, if you wish; it is merely an offer."

    The blonde elf had been sitting casually, listening to the caravan master's problem, but now he sat up.

    "5,000 is not really up to my usual fees, but I’ll make an exception this time--as long as we get to keep whatever we find on this mission as well,” he said with a smile. Seeing the caravan master’s answering nod, he then turned to the others in the room.

    “Since we are going to be paid the same, might as well band together and try to solve this problem without draining too much of our own resources. My name is Grundar, and you can count on me in a fight as well as my trusty rapier, Wynona."

    Grundar gently stroked the handle of his rapier, a finely crafted weapon with small crystals lining the handle, an intricate gold cage and quillons design topped off with a large ruby pommel.

    The halfling just shrugged at Grundar’s suggestion. “It makes more sense than striking out on your own, you can’t collect the reward if you’re dead”, she said to him with a grin.

    “Well met, Grundar,” replied the cleric, rising from his seat. “I'm Rhys Thurn, priest of Torm. No offense to Wynona, but I'd rather trust in you,” he said, pointing at Grundar's chest.

    Grundar smiled. “Don’t you worry, priest. Nothing separates Wynona and me.”

    “You misunderstand, Grundar,” replied Rhys. “It's not your passion for Wynona that I doubt, but your heart. That is the most important element of a man when it's wielded.” Turning toward the halfling, Rhys continued, "Greetings to you as well, madame halfling. I will help eliminate the bandits and help your community, but I urge you not to ignore the money. It can be used to help those who have suffered from the raids.”

    The halfling frowned thoughtfully. “Well, I suppose you’re right at that; I shouldn’t turn down anything that could help them”, she admitted, nodding in agreement.

    Gauging the value of joining this expedition, Allanon finally spoke up. "You can't expect merchants to help anybody for free, dear,” he said, smiling at the halfling. “If it is this important to you, I'm sure we can sidetrack a bit and check up on the villages on the way to defeat the bandits."

    "As for joining forces, it's the only way to travel. New friends are the finest reward of any adventure. Anyhow, I'm Allanon Harpell, a member of Longsaddle's famous Harpell family. Nice to meet all of you."

    The halfling smiled at Allanon’s suggestion, moving up to shake hands with him. “I’m Gillian Lightfoot, though my friends call me Gil,” she introduced herself. “I’m not sure if we’re friends yet, but at least you boys show some sense,” she added with a laugh.

    “I’m in,” she told Merik, turning back to face him. “Do you have another map, or should we just follow the carrion birds that will be circling about yon madman’s head?” she asked, gesturing towards the door the brown-robed mage just walked out of.

    Thornridge handed Gillian another copy of the map. Allanon shook Thornridge’s hand to close the deal, and then glanced around the room. “Well, I guess we’re off then?”

  3. #3

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 2

    The sun was high in the sky as the brown-robed mage reached the top of a small rise in the road, but something was out of the ordinary. The smell of smoke lingered in the air.

    At the bottom of the forested hillside lay four charred, black hulks--the remains of large, burned wagons. The burnt corpses of oxen still lay in their harnesses. Lying amid the goods and gear littering the scene were several bodies, some blackened and charred.

    Looks like a fireball might have done this, he thought. Or perhaps a fiery breath weapon of some sort. The weather had preserved most of the evidence. It was a solid find, and the mage hoped that it would garner a prize.

    Before he could start his investigation, however, a small group of people started down the hill behind him. He recognized them as the other adventurers from the merchant’s office. He stood patiently as they came closer. Allanon gasped slightly as he saw the carnage before him, guarding himself with an invisible force field in case things turned dangerous. “I knew there had to be more to this than what we had been told,” Gillian commented to nobody in particular. A few moments of tense silence followed. Finally, Grundar spoke up.

    “Need any help?” the elf asked the mage. “You were in such a hurry back at Merik's office I didn't even get your name. My name is Grundar, and I hope we can work together on this."

    The mage squinted his eyes as he looked up at Grundar. "Yes, of course, I'm all about solving this problem." The mage shot out his hand and offered it to Grundar. "Terenon."

    Terenon looked around the wreckage a bit more. "I've noticed two things that pokes holes in a common bandit theory,” he said. “Goods left to rot. The overkill used in destroying it. Very interesting."

    The adventurers began their investigation, and, after a few minutes, the results seemed to agree with Terenon's assumptions. It seemed that the wagons had not been emptied of their contents before being set ablaze, and most of the cargo had been destroyed. The destruction of the wagons, as well as a large circular burn mark along the cart track, seemed to confirm Terenon's suspicions of a fireball being used.

    The bodies' loot and equipment had been thoroughly picked through, though Grundar was able to find a strange looking staff amid the burned goods and gear. The staff was made of oak and bound with iron, and it bore a crossed-loop mage's sigil emblazoned near the staff's head, along with several splatters of blood.

    The corpses of four humans in hauberks of melted mail lay near two of the wagons. They were apparently burnt to death. A female human wearing the sky-blue robes of a cleric of Mystra lay near the third wagon. The trauma to her body, as well as her crumpled shield, indicated she was killed by a crushing blow. A male dwarf lay half-crumpled over the side of the fourth wagon, several arrows protruding from his body. The last corpse was that of a halfling with a broken crossbow nearby, apparently killed by a swordcut to the belly.

    Gillian immediately hurried over to the side of the fallen halfling, tears welling in her eyes. Kneeling down beside him, she began to pray that his departed spirit might find peace in Yondalla’s arms.

    Terenon plucked the staff from its resting place and began to examine it. It would seem odd that anyone would leave such a find, but it might not be magical. The mage began a small incantation, and his eyes flickered with a blue light. His eyes washed over the staff and the rest of the caravan. Though the mage could not detect any magical emanations besides those of his companions’ equipment, he recognized the staff as a staff of fire. Its charges utterly expended, it was little more than a hunk of wood now. Coming up beside Terenon, Allanon agreed with his assessment.

    Grundar turned from the scene of devastation and started looking around the road for tracks. He found the tracks of the caravan coming from the west, as well as those of another group coming from the northern embankment. The attackers probably charged down the hill from that direction. Their trail then led to the northwest, along a game trail through the woods.

    Rhys had been rather quiet since the group had arrived. Now, he softly spoke up. “If you'd like and it wouldn't offend anyone, I could see if I can still reach the spirits of these departed people and see what they have to say about what happened. If you consent, that staff the priestess’ holy symbol would be a great help with the spell.”

    "I don't find such magic offensive,” said Terenon. “I 'm sure the spirits of the departed would be happy to bring their slayers to justice. Do what you can to glean information for the investigation.”

    Grundar merely shrugged at Rhys statement and said, "Hopefully, we can finish this up soon and return to enjoy our reward."

    From her place beside the halfling, Gil looked up solemnly. “This one’s soul is at peace,” she said. “Please do not disturb him from his rest. If you wish to question one of the other departed spirits, I suggest you do so now. The cleric of Mystra might be a good choice”, she advised Rhys.
    “Otherwise I suggest we had best take up following their trail before it gets too cold”,

    Rhys laid the body of the cleric out reverentially, whispering a soft prayer to Torm before beginning the spellcasting. Allanon’s ears perked up at Rhy’s spellcasting. "I don't believe I've seen that done before, but we don't get many clerics out at Longsaddle. I hear most religions consider us deranged, and a danger to society, though that is nonsense of course. I'd really love to see some divine magic at work.” He watched closely as Rhys performed the spell, interest lighting his face.

    After a few minutes, Rhys completed his spell. "Spirit of Mystra's servant,” the aasimar intoned. “Pardon the interruption of your journey. There are some questions as to the circumstances of your death I seek answers to. First, who attacked the caravan you were with?”

    Though the cleric's corpse lay still, a ghostly female voice on the wind answered Rhys' question.

    "The attacking party consisted of a half-dozen humans in chainmail and red hoods, a malformed giant, and a red-robed cleric with numerous fire spells."

    “How was the caravan attacked?”

    "The caravan was proceeding along the road when a fireball shot out of the forest, followed by a hail of arrows and boulders. Then the humans and giant engaged us in melee."

    “When was that caravan attacked?

    "The caravan was attacked about four days ago."

    “Why was the caravan attacked?”

    "I don't know why the caravan was attacked. They did subdue our party's wizard, though."

    “What direction did they attack from?”

    "They attacked from the northwest." With that, the voice fell silent.

    Rhys opened his eyes and inhaled deeply, slowly letting it out. He shook his head a bit to clear the disorientation of communicating with the spirit, then said, "It appears that the bandits knew a caravan was coming, and the fire spells does fit in with the red-hooded cleric. A cleric of Kossuth, perhaps? Since the cargo is untouched, they were looking for something else. Perhaps they were after people?”

    "The attack occurred four days ago,” mused Grundar. “It would seem we have a lot of catching up to do. The tracks are consistent with the cleric's account. We should follow the trail northwest as soon as possible."

    "We probably won't meet up with them for a few days,” said Allanon. “That should give us some time to prepare. Let's try to follow their tracks, or we might lose it."

    Saying a prayer for the dead and leaving those that had passed at rest, the adventurers started to follow the game trail that the killers took when they left.

    * post roll count doesn't match database

  4. #4
    I have the third chapter of the tale typed up and ready go, but my network connection is acting all wonky so I'm not sure when I'll be able to post it. In this installment, the party gets into its first combat encounter, and Terenon makes a new friend. Rest assured that it will be up some time tonight.
    Last edited by ltclnlbrain; Monday, 19th April, 2004 at 12:00 AM.

  5. #5
    Chapter 3

    The trail wound through the forested hills toward the northwest for about an hour's walk before joining an old stone road that had obviously fallen into disuse. The old road led north between the dark borders of the Lurkwood and the grim, snowy heights of the Frost Hills a few miles to the north.

    This was to be the road that led to the vale wherein laid the fabled Dungeon of the Ruins. The adventurers followed the road to the north for another two hours as the sun began to sink below the large forest to the west. There had not been much of interest to disturb the journey.

    Grundar walked along with the others, wondering what they might come across when they caught up with the bandits. The other adventurers had proven intelligent and resourceful so far, and he had a feeling that this mission would be successful. However, the group had yet to be tested in combat, and he wondered how well the others would handle themselves under duress. He hoped they could get to their camp before they did away with their prisoner. He hoped the brigands were not too difficult and that he would be able to take them down fairly easily. But, most of all, he hoped they had a lot of treasure to be taken.

    In the fading light of the late afternoon, Grundar was distracted from his reverie as his sharp eyes caught a hint of movement up ahead. The road continued straight on a level surface; to the right, it slopes upward, becoming the base of the foothills; to the left, it sloped down into a small valley. Grundar spotted it again; about 100 feet ahead on the uphill slope, a man's upper body looked out from behind a large rock. He wore a red hooded cloak over a breastplate emblazoned with a twin-flame emblem. There seemed to be other people near him, but it was hard to tell from this distance.

    “Heads up, guys,” the elf whispered. “Looks like trouble up ahead.” He pointed out the sentry on the hill ahead.

    “Get out of sight,” Gillian whispered quickly to the others. “I bet these are some of the folks we’re after, but I’m going to make double sure. Stay here out of sight while I check things out. I’ll be quiet as a mouse and quick as a rabbit,” she assured her companions.

    As the rest of the party tried to obscure themselves from view, Gillian silently made her way closer to the group of people nearby. She slinked along the downhill edge of the hill, being careful to keep it between her and her quarry.

    She moved up to within 40 feet of the group and took a better look at them. In addition to the sentry that Grundar spotted, there were three other men dressed in similar robes and breastplates. Seated near one of them was an incredibly ugly woman: she had wild, unkempt white hair, blocky facial features, and a stocky torso and limbs. Her skin was a dull gray color and she wore a chain shirt. None of these people seemed to hear or see Gil.

    Unfortunately, something else did. From behind a large rock about 60 feet away from her on the downhill side of a slope, a monstrosity appeared. The creature was tall and skeletally thin with white vestigial wings. Its entire body was wreathed in blue flame, and it clutched a sword of flaming bone in its taloned fists.

    "Osterel!" it growled, "I heard something approaching!" The ugly woman leapt to her feet and looked around uneasily. The flaming monstrosity looked past Gil (who managed to conceal herself in a bush before it laid eyes on her) and focused on the rest of the group attempting to hide further ahead. "There!" the creature shouted, pointing at the adventurers.

    “A chaond and a demon!” cried Terenon, cloaking himself with a greater invisibility spell. “Spread out!” The mage sent five magic missiles streaking at the woman's location: they slammed into her, eliciting a shout of pain. Her eyes widened and she yelled, in a croaking voice, "They've got wizards! Remember to spare them!" She then mumbled an arcane phrase and disappeared from sight.

    “We need to get up there quickly!” shouted Grundar, pointing to the hill where the red-robed men were beginning to nock arrows in their longbows. Drawing his rapier, Grundar began to hustle up the hill. “I’ll draw their fire!”

    The demon began striding purposefully toward Rhys, leering menacingly at him as it brandished its flaming sword. Seeing his adversary coming nearer, the priest called out, “By the power of Torm, feel the burning light from the Everburning Chalice of Y'Garn!" With that, a blast of searing green-white light shot out from his outstretched hands and caught the demon in the chest. The demon hissed in pain, then let out a shriek of surprise as Gillian's holy spiked chain passed through the flames on its body and left a deep gouge in its back. It wheeled around and focused its attention on her.

    The archers finished readying their bows and prepared to fire on Grundar, but before they had a chance, Allanon blasted them with chain lightning. The sentry's chest exploded from the immense power of the magical energies, and another archer was fried to death. The two remaining archers were badly hurt, but they still fired on the elf charging up the hill. Grundar gracefully dodged the arrows and continued up.

    The demon slashed his flaming sword at Gillian, but the halfling knocked one blow aside with her chain and expertly dodged the next one. She then whipped her chain across the demon's chest, leaving a vicious wound behind; its blood boiled as it passed through the flames and it shrieked in rage. “Welcome to your own personal hell, demon,” she snarled savagely. Terenon sent a small ball flying at the demon that quickly blossomed into a sonic explosion. It tore at the demon's flesh, but the creature managed to avoid the brunt of the blast.

    Grundar smiled as he saw the demon was being handily dealt with, and he turned his attention back to the archers. Suddenly, from further up the hill, a large glowing red ball streaked toward the elf, detonating into a large, fiery blast. Performing an instinctively amazing somersault, Grundar deftly avoided the blast of fire, landing back on the burnt ground with ease. Unfortunately, Allanon had been caught in the blast too and was burnt and hurt from the attack. Angered by the fireball, Allanon responded in kind and lobbed one of his own at the archers. One was almost completely incinerated in the blast; the other fell to the ground, badly burnt and dying.

    Grundar ran further up the hill and looked around for the invisible spellcaster, his keen senses allowing him to notice her further away. “She somewhere near there!” he shouted, pointing. “Allanon! Don't worry about dropping a fireball on me! I can handle it!"

    Down below, Gillian was a whirling frenzy of destruction, dodging and parrying the demon’s attacks. She lashed out twice with her blessed spike chain. The first attack struck sparks off the chain shirt the demon wore, but the second scored another vicious strike on its impure flesh. The demon wobbled unsteadily on its feet, blood pouring from numerous puncture wounds, before plunging face first into the dirt. The fires on its body extinguished themselves, sending thick smoke into the air, and the demon’s body crumbled to ash.

    Grundar noticed some movement from up ahead as the spellcaster attempted to flee, and he called once more for Allanon to launch a fireball. The mage complied, and another brilliant burst of fire lit up the hill. The chaond became visible as she tumbled down the hill, her clothing still smoking and smoldering, and came to a stop on the dirt road.
    Terenon raced toward the fallen woman, hoping that she still lived. In the background, he could hear Grundar congratulating the others on dealing so handily with the brigands, and he could see Allanon dusting soot off of his scorched robes, but his attention was focused on the chaond that lay before him. Upon reaching her, the mage was relieved to see that her chest still rose and fell, albeit sporadically.

    "She still lives,” he called out. “I need a healer. She is invaluable to our cause." The mage dismissed his invisibility and quickly started another spell. The air around the hag shimmered as the spell went to work. Though she was disabled, he had cast his most powerful charm spell to be sure it would work.

    Rhys hustled over to the woman and cast a minor healing spell on her. The woman groaned and blinked her eyes open. It was then that Terenon noticed that her eyes slowly swirled and changed colors seemingly at random. She looked around, groggily, her gaze falling on Terenon. A smile came to her lips.

    "Terenon, my friend," she croaked in a strained voice, "it's so good to see you. Though I'm afraid I'm not quite the healthy specimen I used to be. What happened, by the way? I must have blacked out."

    Terenon smiled at the ugly woman and kneeled beside her. He put his hand on hers, momentarily repulsed by its slimy consistency, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "You're not the only one to have blacked out. There are holes in my memory. I do remember that you're my dearest friend, but I cannot remember your name. The last thing I remember is attacking a caravan for some reason. I don't remember why though, just that the mages were to be captured instead of killed."

    The mage gave a caring look to the woman. "Perhaps together we can fill in the blanks. What do you remember?"

    The woman blinked up at Terenon, thinking for a bit before responding.

    "My name is Osterel,” she began. “I'm really not supposed to talk about all of this, though, but since you are my closest friend, I guess it won't hurt to confide in you. I'm a member of a secret society called the Hidden Flame. We serve a powerful chaos lord who is imprisoned somewhere beneath the old wizards' keep in Selskar Vale, a few miles north of here. The leaders of the flame are working to free the chaos lord.

    "In order to accomplish this goal, however, some kind of rite must be performed that requires the presence of several wizards. I was stationed here with some other soldiers and a palrethee demon to waylay travelers along the Surbrin Way and try to capture anybody with magical talent. Though by the looks of things, it seems my patrol has been wiped out, save for me.

    "The chaos lord has promised great rewards for our aid in freeing him. There is a fabled horde somewhere within his prison that he will allow us to take if we can free him."

    Terenon looks at Osterel and smiles. This is going to be almost too easy, he thought. "Yes, that helps. I am starting to remember a little. The leaders of the flame sent me. They said the ritual was ready to begin and wanted me to retrieve you. It's lucky for you that I came along when I did. I was able to drive the attackers off and save you. I am so pleased you're still with us."

    The mage paused for a moment, pretending to be thinking hard. "My memory still has holes. For the life of me, I can't remember how to get back to old wizards' keep. Do you still possess the knowledge?"

    "Indeed, I do know the way," replied Osterel. "If you will allow me to go by the camp we have set up close to here to retrieve my spellbooks, I can take you to the ruins. We will stop by the old barracks house on the way so that I can make my report to Flame Lord Moskogg, first. He'll instruct us as to how we should proceed."

    The mage thought fast upon hearing the news of another threat close by. "Flame Lord Moskogg! That bastard betrayer! He hired the assassins that attacked you. I only know of his treachery because I was able to torture the information out of one of the ones who attacked you." The mage spat on the ground with contempt.

    "Some one must have bribed him, turned him against us, Terenon continued. “He must be destroyed before all of our secrets are revealed and our work destroyed." The mage turned and began to pace in what seemed like anger. "We will go to your camp site and retrieve what we need. Then we will get you healed and kill that pile of turncoat dung."

    "Flame Lord Moskogg betrayed me?” asked Osterel incredulously. “It doesn't seem like him to take a bribe, though...perhaps he thinks he'll be able to gain more power within the Hidden Flame by replacing me with one of his patsies," she growled in anger. "Probably that stuck-up bitch Varra. I'll get to the bottom of this, one way or another. If we’re all done here, let’s get moving before more of those assassins show up.”

    Terenon flashed a mildly amused smile at the rest of the group. "You heard the lady; let's go."

    * post roll count doesn't match database

  6. #6
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    Game point

    At this point in the game I knew it was a good one. Osterel had spoken Terenon's name, and no one in the game was sure whether it was planned or a mistake. Well I took it and ran with it, and a whole new world of plots and subplots formed. It is so hard to find a PBEM that has complex plot points, and soon all the players became addicted to the game. We couldn't wait to see what was next.
    Last edited by Terenon; Monday, 19th April, 2004 at 07:28 AM.

  7. #7
    Heh, yeah, the funny part is that it actually was a mistake. It wasn't until Terenon picked up on it that I realized that there was no way that Osterel would have known his name unless Thornridge had been in on the plot. I had originally intended for the adventure to be a straight-forward, dungeon-crawling, killing the monsters and taking their stuff kind of thing, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up. After all, I figured that if I was able to take a slip of the tongue and make it seem like I had planned out a whole conspiracy beforehand, I would look like a genius.

    Some of the best story elements come from players wondering aloud as to the possibilities, and they usually come up with things that I would have never thought of. I highly recommend stealing story ideas from your players. They'll thank you later when they feel like they discovered the answers for themselves, when really they merely provided you with a creative spark.

    So, thanks, Terenon.

  8. #8
    Chapter 4 will be up later tonight. For all you impatient types out there (like myself), here's a little preview:

    Terenon has a lightbulb appear over his head as he realizes the group has been set up. Much confusion ensues because lightbulbs have not been invented yet.

    The party, through reconnaissance and good planning, creates and executes an attack plan on the barracks house that actually works!

    * post roll count doesn't match database
    Last edited by ltclnlbrain; Monday, 19th April, 2004 at 06:38 PM.

  9. #9
    Whew, a long one tonight...hope you enjoy!

    Chapter 4

    Osterel led the adventurers a short way up the road before turning off onto a barely visible footpath that led downhill. Carefully picking their way down the slope towards the bottom of the valley, they saw a small camp nestled in a hollow on the hillside. A crude lean-to covered a sleeping platform made of rough planks that was large enough to accommodate three or four bedrolls. Butchered game hung from a wooden rack between two trees, and a carefully banked campfire smoldered at one end of the shelter.

    Osterel ducked into the lean-to and rustled around near one of the bedrolls. She retrieved a leather satchel that with her spellbooks, then rolled up her bedroll before hoisting it over her shoulders.

    Gillian looked up to Rhys as the chaond rooted around the campsite. “How do we know that we can trust her?” she asked gruffly. “She definitely has an evil aura about her, no matter how friendly she might seem to be now. Never before have I worked alongside a vile creature such as her.”

    Rhys smiled down at the halfling woman. “Have faith, madame halfling, faith in our headstrong friend over there,” he said, gesturing toward Terenon. He has assured us that she will be kept under control, and though evil she may be, we will work much good with her.”

    As the adventurers waited for their new “friend” to get her things together, Grundar pulled Terenon aside. "Can you find out what kind of resistance we can expect to face in Moskogg's camp?” he asked. “Also, we should try to get directions to the ruins ahead of time, in case anything happens to our 'friend' here. This time, we should have the element of surprise on our side. We should strike hard and fast."

    The mage nodded to Grundar and moved to help Osterel with her equipment. "Moskogg's camp will be fortified,” he said. “We should discuss his defenses before making an assault on it. Do you know what resistance we will encounter?”

    "There will probably be a dozen soldiers spread throughout the barracks area," said Osterel in response to Terenon's questions. "They've built two new buildings from some of the rubble there; one a kitchen and dining area, the other a holding cell for the rank-and-file prisoners and slaves. In addition to the soldiers, we'll probably have to deal with Slaver and Varra. Slaver's a big worg that Moskogg keeps as a pet, and Varra is Moskogg's lieutenant. She's a cleric of the Stormlord, Talos, who specializes in fire.

    "Those are the only combatants I can think of. The barracks are about ten miles north of here. If we're all ready, we can head there now, though it will probably be past sunset by the time we get there."

    "You are not healthy enough to take them on yet,” replied Terenon. “Besides, there are some other matters of import to take care of. If for some reason we should become separated, we need to know how to get to the ruins. A map would alleviate that problem, if you could supply us with one.”

    Nodding, Osterel reached into her satchel and retrieved a pen and some parchment and began sketching a map of the area. The road the adventurers were on currently headed north for 10 miles before opening up into a small vale. A little ways therein, a path led off from it heading east. Further north, past a bridge over a stream, another road led east for a ways before passing by the barracks house. The road then continued out of the forest for a mile before finally ending at the Dungeon of the Ruins.

    "The first eastward road in the Selskar Vale leads somewhere I have never been," said Osterel. "Flame Lord Moskogg always instructed us to stay away from the place, but I don't know why." She then indicated the Dungeon of the Ruins at the end of the trail. "That's where the Prison of the Firebringer is. I've never been inside, so I can't really tell you much about it."

    Terenon accepted the map and handed it to Grundar with a wink. The elf smiled and put it within a fold in his robes. Moving over to join them, Allanon gave them a questioning look. “What’s the plan of action, chiefs? We should probably devise some tactics before we reach the barracks house.”

    “Well, if we can arrive by night time, we should be able to cover our approach to the barracks,” said Grundar. “I suggest that we take out Varra first, then I can draw the soldiers to me while you all rain fireballs on them."

    Terenon nodded at Grundar. "Yes taking care of Varra and the worg would be the first order of business. We would need to do it quietly. A silence spell, followed by a barrage of hold spells and charm spells from all sides, at once. One is certain to succeed. I have many a trick left up my..."

    The mage’s jaw dropped open, and he seemed stunned for a moment before resuming. He shook his head. "That son of a bitch. I can't believe I didn't see it before." He moved off away from Osterel, bringing Grundar and Allanon with him. He whispered in low tones so the chaond could not hear him.

    "They knew we were coming. She knew my name, before anyone mentioned it. We were set up."

    Allanon nodded with dawning comprehension as all the loose ends began to fall into place. He hadn't trusted the merchant since he first laid eyes on them, and it seemed he was correct not to do so.

    “Bandits indeed. We have to take care of this Firebringer first, before the cult releases him and he regains his strength. Then we can go back and have a little ‘chat’ with Thornridge. As for our battle plan, it sounds good. The only thing you're forgetting is the Flame Lord himself. What powers does he have? You'd better ask Osterel so we can be prepared."

    "Flame Lord Moskogg is a half-breed, the offspring of a demon and a minotaur,” Osterel replied to Terenon’s question. He is a powerful cleric of the fire god Kossuth who oversees all of the Hidden Flame's operations in the Selskar Vale. It was he who tasked me with raiding caravans in order to capture wizards. Now it seems it is he who has betrayed me. We shall rain death upon him."

    Terenon called the group together. Ten miles separated them from another battle, and he needed to establish what he could contribute to the fight. "I have a great deal of spells left,” he said. ”I can change most of my worst damaging spells from fire to sonic, which should penetrate the half-breed demon's natural resistance. I could isolate Varra and the worg with hold spells or a well place dome of force. In any event, we should prepare with protective spells just outside their camp. I can cast Arcane Eye to investigate the camp unmolested, just before we attack. I would be able to pinpoint exactly where everyone is so that we can set about our attack with accuracy. I will have Fly cast on myself and be able to take advantage of things from the air. The front line fighters should be bolstered with fire protection spells and be hasted. Try to keep from burning the barracks if possible. I am sure valuable papers or books could be kept there by the fire lord."

    For the benefit of Osterel, he added, "The papers should help us in establishing the bastard's treachery. Let’s try not to kill any of the slaves. They still have value as property. Kill only Flame Lord Moskogg and those who serve him."

    “Sounds like a good plan,” said Gill. “I will engage the minotaur and combat and see that he too is brought down swiftly and efficiently.” The other adventurers agreed with the plan, and set off toward the vale.
    The old stone road had led the party more than 15 miles from the Surbrin Way, winding along the steep foothills of the Frost Hills. To the west lay the impenetrable green Lurkwood, the sun just barely visible past the thick trees; to the east the Frost Hills--the southernmost sentinels of the Spine of the World--reared their snowy heads.

    The road crested a pine-covered ridge, and before them spread a broad, forested vale. Filling the northern part of the valley was a cold blue tarn fed by a swift, rushing stream that spilled down from the snowy slopes. Dominating the center of the vale was a bare, steep hill crowned by a ruined fortress, and among the woods at its base laid a number of small, ruined buildings. Apparently a town of some size stood here long ago, but now the place seemed abandoned. The road descended into the forested valley.

    The waning sunlight of early evening fell upon a disturbing sight. In a small clearing of recently cut timber alongside the road laid the charred remnants of what must have been a great bonfire. The whole place reeked of smoke and a more nauseating smell--burned flesh. A single black tree trunk rose from the center of the cold ash, with a blackened, skeletal figure still chained to it. Someone had been burned at the stake here, probably within the last couple of days. The skeleton faced down toward the valley below, clearly visible over the trees to the north.

    Rhys’ eyes widened at the horrid sight. “What happened here?” he asked Osterel. “What did this poor soul do to deserve such a fate?”

    Osterel regarded the burnt corpse with cool detachment. "This is the body of a woman who escaped from the barracks house a few days ago. She was caught by a patrol of Acolytes, and they brought her here and started building a bonfire. Flame Lord Moskogg marched the other slaves here and burned her at the stake as a lesson to them. He made us watch as well, in case we got any ideas about betraying the cult."

    “I vow by Yondalla’s strength that the foul minotaur will not live through this day,” Gillian said, eyes burning with determination.

    Osterel merely shrugged. “The road just up ahead leads to the ruined building Moskogg forbade us from going near. A little ways past that, the road will take us to the barracks house. We are about half a mile away."

    "I wonder why Moskogg doesn't want people near that building,” mused Grundar. “He could be hiding something. I think we should at least have a brief look before heading to the barracks."

    Terenon nodded to Grundar. "He's definitely hiding something, but let’s take care of him first; then we can investigate to our hearts’ content. Lead on Osterel,” he said to the chaond. “Bring us in close, but hidden.”
    The day passed completely to night as Osterel led the party over the stream and east through the woods. The stone road began to ascend toward a saddle between the barren knoll on which the old keep stood and the forested mountainside across from it. On the east side of the road stood the ruins of an old outwork or barracks house, the upper floors of which had long since collapsed. Close to this old stone fortification stood two newer structures, their crudely assembled walls made of stone from the ruins. .

    The group stopped far enough away from the buildings to remain unseen. Terenon called for halt and cast a spell that created a floating invisible sensor that he could see through. The sensor flew through the camp and provided Terenon with visual data.

    The cooktent was the closest building. Walls made of neatly stacked rubble and fieldstone formed three sides of the open-air kitchen and refectory. Kegs of ale, sacks of flour, and long racks for hanging game sat under rough lean-tos built against the walls, and several trestle tables were arranged in the sheltered area. A few bedraggled humans scurried about preparing food, while a female ogre draped in ill-fitting chainmail stomped about, bellowing at and cuffing those who moved too slowly. A pair of raiders in flame-blazoned hauberks sat at one of the trestle tables, drinking ale and gnawing on smoked meat.

    More crude fieldstone walls enclosed the second building, a prison area. It was segregated into open-air cells by thick timber posts. More than a dozen wretched captives--humans, half-orcs, and dwarves--shivered inside these cages. Several wore tattered surcoats bearing the insignia of various merchant costers, while others seemed to be common woodcutters or hunters.

    Beneath a ramshackle tent next to the cages, two humans wearing brown cloaks over breastplates with the twin flame insgina stood guard over the captives. An immense, vicious-looking wolf lied curled up nearby.

    Most of the barracks house itself had collapsed, leaving 20-foot tall empty walls open to the sky. Much of the rubble from the upper floors had apparently been cleared out. The magical sensor flew over the roof and saw that the remnants of interior walls divided the structure into several partial rooms. In and around the ruins laid more than a dozen pallets in groups of four and five, each surrounding a carefully tended campfire. Five soldiers were awake and on guard, while three others and a woman with stark red hair were asleep.

    The sensor passed into a large room to the east. The room had been cleared of all debris and appointed with tapestries of red, orange, and gold. An altar-block of gleaming obsidian stood near the eastern end of the room. Slitlike windows pierced the southern wall, letting in slanting rays of moonlight. A writing desk stood next to one of the windows.

    A slender human woman wearing a noble's garb of gray and pearl arranged papers on the desk. Beside the altar stood a hulking minotaur with rust-red fur and eyes like balls of flame: Flame Lord Moskogg. Sinister runes scored his horns, and he wore a breastplate emblazoned with the symbol of a twining red flame. He carried a massive greataxe easily in one hand.

    Terenon relayed what he had seen to the others. He looked to both Osterel and Allanon. "Both of you take up a position in the air. Allanon, if she needs a spell of fly from you ,please supply it. Both of you should start with Varra. She seems to be asleep around the campfire I mentioned. I can teleport Gillian, Grundar, Rhys and myself into the Flame Lord’s barracks and take him and the bitch there by surprise. I will teleport as soon as you two are in position."

    Allanon turned to Osterel to set down their attack plan. "Okay, after we fly above the barracks, we should hover a few hundred feet up, but where we can see Varra. Then wait for my signal and when I give it, use your most powerful attack spell, a fireball or some such, directed at Varra. I will cast mine at the same instant, and unless she is very lucky, we will have taken one of their only two spellcasters out of the fight. After that, just fire at will.”

    The spellcasters in the party began layering themselves in protective magic, ending with Osterel and Allanon turning invisible. "Let's go," Allanon said, and he and Osterel pushed off into the night.

    Once they were out of sight, Terenon cast another spell, changing his body into an exact duplicate of Osterel’s. “If either Moskogg or the woman with him should escape, they will believe that it was her who turned on them,” he explained to the others. “Now, let us join hands and take the fight to these brigands.”

    “Today is a good day for glorious battle,” said Rhys. “May Torm watch over us.”
    Allanon and Osterel glided through the air until they reached their positions above the barracks house. The wild mage cast a spell, and suddenly his viewpoint shifted to inside the building around the campfire, as if he were standing there himself. He pinpointed Varra’s location and smiled to himself.

    “Osterel, prepare to attack," he said. He began to slowly chant under his breath, muttering a stormy incantation that seethed with the anger of a lightning bolt. Slowly, he used his mastery of energy to shift the incantation until it was as cold as the night air they were hovering in.

    A bolt of snow and ice formed in front of him, then raced towards the ground far below. It impacted the prone Varra and a small storm of ice and freezing air spun around her. With a mind of its own, the storm jumped from her to the nearest soldier, eventually engulfing them all in its icy grip. Numerous cries of surprise and pain filled the air.

    "Aw, they look rather cold. Perhaps I can warm them up a bit," said Osterel. She flashed Allanon a wicked grin before calling forth a small bead of fire at her fingertips. She hurled it straight down at Varra and watched it engulf her and the other soldiers, cackling evilly.

    Between the cold bolts and the fireball, the soldiers never had any chance. The soldiers' screams were cut off as they did; Varra didn't even wake up, passing peacefully in her sleep as her body was ravaged by magical energies. The other soldiers in the barracks looked into the air in surprise as they scrambled to draw their bows.

    Allanon felt the drain of the magic pull at him, but ignored it as they were not quite finished yet. He turned to Osterel, yelling, "Focus your attacks now on the soldiers near the barracks. I'm going to take out Moskogg's pet and his two slavers."

    He grabbed some guano and sulfur out of his pouch and crushed them together in his palm while chanting the spidery words of magic. He altered this spell as well, building it up to its maximum potential. Instead of a bead of flame appearing on his finger, though, a tiny, wriggling fire ant appeared. Shrugging, he tossed the ant at his enemies and watched as a huge swarm of flaming ants exploded onto them. One of the soldiers died instantly; the other soldier and the worg were burnt and covered with ants. They screamed and howled in pain as they scratched at the numerous bites on their body before fleeing off into the woods.

    The four remaining soldiers in the barracks fired at the flying Allanon, but their panicked shots went wide of their target. Osterel fired another fireball in response, knocking them all down with the force and energy of the blast. They didn't get back up.
    As Allanon and Osterel dealt with the foes outside, the rest of the group teleported directly into Moskogg's chambers. He snorted in surprise, smoke that smelled like fire and brimstone blasting out of his nostrils. The woman stumbled backward and fell out of her chair in shock.

    Focusing his mind, Grundar charged right at the half-demon, performing a somersault to close in the distance between them and tumbling past the creature's reach. Getting up, he quickly stabbed the demon in the gut, piercing its thick hide and penetrating all the way to its stomach. The beast bellowed in pain as his entrails began to spill on the floor. Gillian rushed forward beside him and struck the monstrosity with her spiked chain, further opening the gash. Terenon summoned a glowing sword of force that ripped open a large hole in the minotaur’s back, and before he could even react, Grundar and Gill let loose a flurry of blows on his ravaged body. With a final bleat of protest, Moskogg collapsed to the floor in a pool of his own blood and viscera.

    Meanwhile, Rhys had moved up to the woman and attacked her with his staff, but the weapon was deflected by the leather armor she wore beneath her robes. Seeing her master get slaughtered within the space of a few seconds, the woman decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Without a word or a gesture, the woman disappeared from view. Rhys swung at the empty air where she used to stand but did not find any purchase. Terenon merely looked at the dead minotaur in amazement. Less than twelve seconds had passed, and the battle had already been won.

  10. #10
    And with this, our journey had begun. In the OOC boards we were passing around virtual pats on the back and congratulations, but as you'll see soon enough, not every battle went as smoothly as this one. Stay tuned.

    P.S. The fire ant-ball was triggered by a random wild surge, one of the consequences of being a wild mage . This one worked out pretty well, but the next few take a turn for the worse.

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