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The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial


As Shanni’s wounds were seen to and she was revived, Darrow began looting their fallen enemies, observing that they had the same type of equipment as the Astorians encountered in Westgate. Shanni and Dermot told the others that they had been poisoned during the fight, apparently by their enemies’ arrows, but there was little help for it. Darrow counted bodies as Shanni looted some weapons for herself, the dwarf coming up with nine as the total. The adventurers continued to patch themselves up as they examined their foes’ equipment. Aerikoth told Rahnee, who had recognized the weapons as having also been used by Night Masks, that the Masks and Astorians appeared to have an alliance of sorts.

As soon as they were as healthy as possible, they decided to move on, recognizing they had lost any element of surprise. Dermot located another snare in front of them and Shanni had a much tougher time disarming it than the others, finally just breaking its activating wire rather than disassembling it as she had previously. The group carefully advanced into a more open area, searching for anything out of the ordinary. Dermot, after a few minutes of careful examination, was able to spot a hidden trap door in the forest floor.

With the entrance to the lair now exposed, the company debated the best way to proceed. It was decided that Rahnee would go first, using her invisibility ring, to scout out the dangers. Aerikoth cast a stoneskin spell on her first, as added protection. She then carefully lifted the trap door and descended, returning after five long minutes.

Rahnee informed the others that there was a short tunnel immediately below the trap door, which ended in a large oblong room with a huge gas trap; she had been unable to figure out how to disarm it. She thought that they might be able to avoid it by hugging the room’s walls, but was not sure. A single exit led out of the room, from what she could see.

Aerikoth finished casting his protection spells and the group descended into the entrance tunnel. Rahnee motioned to Shanni to indicate where the trap was placed and the petite woman, using her small fingers, was able after some experimentation to render it harmless. She then moved stealthily toward the room exit, holding up three fingers as she peered around the corner, then adding a gesture indicating that there might be more enemies. Aerikoth summoned his dire bear, preparing for the worst. As the adventurers carefully moved toward the exit, where they could hear the faint sounds of breathing, a number of Astorians showed themselves and joined in battle, with several enforcers up front and bowmen in their back ranks.

The fight was chaotic in the flickering underground light, but despite the savagery of the close-in battle, the adventurers were too much for their opponents. Darrow ended up with a large gash from one of the enforcer’s axes, which was tended to by Rahnee while Shanni dragged a healing potion from her pack and drank it. Aerikoth then passed Darrow his healing ring, which he said would be on loan until Darrow had recovered. The dwarf grimly declared his respect for the fighting prowess of their foes and advised that they use the tunnel bottlenecks to better advantage in the future.

The party formed up and moved carefully down the corridor. Shanni encountered and disarmed another trap, then they came upon a chamber to their left that contained a small barracks and living quarters. Darrow counted the beds as six and noted that they had just faced the same number of opponents.

Their senses heightened by the expectation of further danger, the party moved down the long, turning corridor. Traps occurred regularly, alternating between projectile triggers that Shanni disarmed and venomous snakes falling into their midst. The adventurers expertly disposed of all obstacles, however, until finally reaching a door at the end of the corridor. Shanni was able to render the trap on it harmless and the five moved into the large room past it.

Dermot spotted two more traps inside, including one on a large iron cage in the corner. In the gloom they could see that a girl lay inside, motionless. Shanni carefully disarmed the trap, but could not open the cage, as there was no door. Darrow was puzzled as to how they had got the girl inside, but moved forward to see what he could do. The bars were placed too closely together for bending to be of benefit, so the dwarf decided to simply heave the cage over. After an exploratory push to get a sense of its weight, Darrow coiled his rocklike muscles and then in a single effort upended the cage.

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Rahnee held up a torch so they all could see better, as the girl staggered to her feet. Her rags were soiled and the smell of excrement and vomit was strong in the corner by her cage. Rahnee recognized Janatha and the others greeted her with pleasure, which turned to concern as the girl immediately collapsed back to the ground. Rahnee dipped a rag into the nearby pool of water and washed the girl’s face as the others quickly looked through the chamber for anything useful.

In addition to a large desk, there were a number of crates and chests along the far wall, which Shanni and Dermot checked through. Among other things, Shanni discovered a note which revealed that the leader of the Astorians in the lair had been called away, apparently because of something going wrong with a “Westgate shipment” belonging to the group. It also commended the leader for disposing of a “demon bitch”. (This appears to be a reference to the killing of former party member Khalen, the tiefling, who had chosen to pursue her vendetta against the Astorians on her own. --R)

Aerikoth volunteered to magically transport himself and Janatha back to Teziir, in order to save time and obtain aid as soon as possible for her, while the others went back to the hut in the forest to take care of Pincer. The others agreed that time was of the essence and Rahnee suggested that the wizard take Janatha directly back to her father, Queron Ulanthar. She also suggested that if they found any better clothes for Janatha, those should also be taken along. Rahnee jokingly mentioned that if they had found a black velvet dress, however, it was hers. Somewhat perplexed, Dermot said that there was in fact one and expressed his curiosity over how it had ended up down there. He handed over the other ladies clothing found, which appeared to be Janatha’s size, to Aerikoth.

After cursing some, Rahnee carefully packed her black velvet dress away. To a still dumbfounded Dermot, Shanni said that Rahnee could tell them about it later, once they were out of danger. Aerikoth, after dismissing his summoned bear, walked over to where Janatha lay. Taking her hand, he focused for a moment and then spoke a word of power, after which the two of them vanished. The four companions remaining in the chamber took one last look around, then headed out of the lair.

It was well past midnight when Rahnee, Darrow, Shanni and Dermot arrived back at the hut, which was just as they had left it by the pool in the forest. Darrow rapped on the door loudly and yelled for Pincer to stay away from it, as he would be bashing it down. The first mighty blow from Darrow’s axe nearly split the door in two and it only took a second to separate it entirely from the hut. A rather impressed Pincer cautiously emerged and was greeted by the adventurers. Even Shanni was cheery for once with him.

Darrow pulled a battle axe out of his pack and held it out for Pincer to take, saying that he should not be left weaponless in the middle of nowhere. Darrow looked to the others and said that he thought Pincer and they were square, recommending that the former slaver seek out Baron Pahar in Turnton, if he wanted to be put to good work. Pincer commented that he would not be welcome in Westgate or Teziir for a while, if ever, so thought that sounded like a plan. He accompanied the others as far as Traders Road, then said his farewells and headed east, while the others turned west towards Teziir. (In contrast with the fate of their vampire spawn ally Tuli, the company here shows mercy to Pincer. It seems they - or at least Darrow - believed redemption was possible for the former slaver. This is a welcome sign of positivity, in a chronicle that otherwise highlights the nastiness of life on the Dragon Coast. --C)


Assault on Astorians Headquarters

Seeking to beat any news of their raid on the Astorians’ forest lair, the four adventurers – Rahnee, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni – double-timed their road march and arrived at Teziir’s outskirts at dawn. Rahnee was concerned about whether they would be turned away, given the circumstances of their last visit, but no one bothered them as they set foot on the city streets. Tired from their efforts, they first thought of going to the temple of Helm, to see if Aerikoth and Janatha had been there, but the priest on duty indicated no one had come in that night matching their description.

After some further wandering around the city, the group finally found Queron Ulanthar’s house and knocked at the door. As soon as Rahnee had identified herself, the door opened and Queron’s servant Bustable greeted them excitedly, welcoming them in. Dermot and Shanni were quickly introduced and Bustable informed them that Aerikoth and Janatha had arrived in the early hours of the morn. He asked the four to wait in the entrance room while he informed the Councilman of their arrival. Returning quickly and somewhat breathless, he asked them to come upstairs with him.

Upstairs, they found Queron in a richly-furnished bedroom with Aerikoth, standing over a sleeping Janatha who was being attended to by a priest of Helm. The Councilman embraced Rahnee upon seeing her and pumped Darrow’s hand, thanking them for saving Janatha. He was also very welcoming to Dermot and Shanni, whom Rahnee introduced as having figured prominently in his daughter’s rescue.

The priest reported to Queron that Janatha was as well as could be expected, having suffered no permanent harm but requiring further attention and care. He said he would return with more aid, if given leave to depart. Queron did so, thanking him for his services. Queron then asked Bustable to prepare breakfast for their guests, sending him off to his duties.

After Bustable had left, Queron’s head drooped and he asked Rahnee’s forgiveness for his previous treatment of them and the harsh words he had spoken. Rahnee graciously accepted the apology as Darrow cracked a dwarven joke, lightening the mood. Queron reported that Janatha was weak from sickness and lack of adequate food, but he had been told by the priest that she would recover in time. He then invited the five adventurers to make themselves comfortable in the foyer until breakfast had been prepared, leaving further discussion until then.

The time before the meal was spent in relaxed talk, with both Shanni and Dermot indicating a desire to continue with the company. Shanni was unsure whether she would be a hindrance to the rest, however. This prompted a rare commendation from Aerikoth regarding her utility to the party. At this point, Bustable appeared and announced that breakfast was served.

The five adventurers filed into the richly provisioned table, as Bustable pointed out the poached eggs and salmon being served in their honor. Darrow took out a slightly grimy bottle and put it on the table, regarding it lovingly. Queron, at the head of the table, indicated they could start and asked Darrow about the bottle. The dwarf replied that it was his last bottle of Ironhelm Ale, which he had been saving for a special occasion. Queron in response led a toast to Clan Ironhelm.

After all had enough time to dig into their meal, Queron, apparently full of nervous energy, got up and began to pace back and forth. He said that he had been thinking of what must be done next, in order to set things right. However, he desired to hear the full tale of Janatha’s rescue, before speaking further. He noted that it was a shame the bard was no longer with them, given that it must be quite a tale for the telling.

Darrow somewhat hesitantly said he thought he had it down, although would look to the others for assistance. Rahnee encouraged him on and Aerikoth said he would add any details necessary, while Shanni and Dermot paid close attention to their plates of food. Darrow, with occasional interjections from Aerikoth, ran through the full story, from encountering Dermot on their way to Westgate after being kicked out of Teziir, to Shanni’s rescue in Westgate, and their adventures in Starmantle and on Slaver Isle before finding the Astorians’ underground forest lair and Janatha.

Queron asked to see the information they had found in the lair, namely the note to the lair’s leader and the map of Teziir. Aerikoth, not having seen the note himself yet, asked for it after the Councilman had finished. The wizard surmised that the “demon bitch” mentioned was their former companion Khalen, who had what he termed was an impractical desire for revenge against the Astorian leader Nemar, probably the “N” referred to in the note. Queron more closely examined the map and exclaimed that the building marked on it was only an arrowshot from his own home in Traders District. Excited, the Councilman recalled that the adventurers still needed their rest, but later on would be rewarded. They would also discuss what was uppermost in his mind: the final destruction of the Astorians.


Later on the afternoon of Ches 4, after a long and well-deserved rest, the companions rose from their comfortable guest quarters beds in Queron Ulanthar’s house. Darrow, Dermot and Aerikoth were the first to make their way down to the main floor, while Rahnee and Shanni took their time enjoying a hot bath that Rahnee had requested. Queron informed Darrow that Bustable had been sent on an urgent errand, but the party was welcome to sample the contents of the Councilman’s liquor cabinet while he went upstairs to check on Janatha. Darrow needed no further urging and immediately found an imported ale to his liking.

By the time the women arrived, looking refreshed, there was an array of looted equipment from the lair arranged on the ground floor. Aerikoth was slowly inspecting the lot, to determine what dweomers and properties they might have, using his knowledge of magic and wizardly powers. Rahnee and Shanni thought this was an excellent idea and contributed some of their own unidentified items to the pile.

Aerikoth spent some time looking at one of the rings in particular, finally identifying it as having belonged to a temporary companion of theirs named Khalen. The wizard explained that the tiefling had used the power of the ring to pass herself off as human. Shanni was fascinated by this and asked to try the ring, gingerly slipping it onto one of her small fingers. Her appearance was instantly transformed into that of a taller blond woman. (It is understandable why the tiefling chose to hide her true appearance in this manner, for there are many who would judge her by her looks alone. In the hands of someone like Shanni, the ring's powers could prove tempting to use for other purposes. --C)

As Shanni looked around for a mirror, Rahnee mentioned that a crystal in the next room would show her reflection. However, as Shanni started to head that way, Aerikoth interjected with a reminder that the house guards would not recognize Shanni’s illusory appearance. Shanni therefore decided to pocket the ring and explore its effects later.

The wizard finished sorting through the rest of the items, with only a cloak remaining unidentified; he asked if he could claim it for further study, to which the others had no objection. He also took possession of three small charms which apparently had originally been in the possession of Kain Graves and could only be activated by a practitioner of the Art. The remaining armor and weapons were taken by Darrow, Dermot and Shanni, who headed out to see if they could sell them, leaving Aerikoth and Rahnee to converse in the foyer.

After about an hour, the three returned, staggering a little under the burden of the gold they had received from selling their wares. Darrow reported, however, that their collection of looted arms had the Night Mask emblem and would not be touched by the local dwarven smith. It took a fair amount of time for the gold to be sorted in piles and for each of the companions to take their share. Meanwhile, an excited-looking Bustable had been coming and going, finally taking up station at the door in anticipation of someone’s arrival.

Since nothing of urgency had yet presented itself, Rahnee decided to depart for the local temple of Tymora, in order to make some much-needed prayers to her patron goddess. Darrow further availed himself of Queron’s generosity and took a drink from the liquor cabinet, followed a little more hesitantly by Shanni. Bustable, apparently unable to contain his excitement, exclaimed that he was expecting visitors from the temple of Helm, including the Grand Cleric himself. Aerikoth explained to the others that this would be Thyxlys Jon, the head of the Teziir temple. The wizard noted that his authority extended outside of the city as well, for example to the priest Carlin, one of Baron Pahar’s advisors in Turnton.

Only a short while after, three heavy blows were heard at the door and Bustable opened it to allow three Helm temple guards and Thyxlys Jon into the house, all fully armored and equipped for battle. After inquiring with Bustable about Queron’s whereabouts, the Grand Cleric formally greeted the adventurers, commenting that he had heard of their rescue of Janatha and stating to Aerikoth that once again the wizard’s deeds were impressive. Jon then excused himself to go upstairs with his escorts and confer with Queron. Aerikoth poured himself some water to quench his thirst, while Darrow returned to the liquor cabinet. Shanni rather wickedly observed that they could get very drunk before the priests came back, but just then Bustable returned with a summons for the group.
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Upstairs in Queron’s chambers, the Teziir Council Member introduced Shanni and Dermot to Thyxlys Jon and mentioned that the Grand Cleric had been kind enough to come himself to look after Janatha - the only reason that would be known by any outsider for his presence at the house. Thyxlys Jon stated that his curative spell had purged Janatha of disease and that her recovery should now be quicker. Queron then turned to the other reason for the Grand Cleric’s presence.

Queron explained that the Grand Cleric had been one of those in the city, like himself, who had looked with concern upon the rise of the Astorians, especially after they had bought themselves powerful friends among the Council and the City Watch. He believed their taking of Janatha was meant to be the final blow in their plan to control Teziir, as an example to all who would oppose them. However, thanks to the adventurers’ actions, Queron was now free to act against the Astorians.

Queron mentioned that he had a proposition for the group, but first wished to present them with a reward. He went and opened a drawer, removing several large pouches full of gold and handing them to the four adventurers; Darrow took possession of an additional one for Rahnee, who was still at the temple of Tymora. With the reward granted, Queron returned to the business at hand, dramatically pounding a fist into his palm as he spoke of the need to strike swiftly and decisively against the Astorians in Teziir.

Darrow raised the fact that they seemed to be allied with the Night Masks, displaying some captured weaponry of Night Mask origin. Shanni expressed her puzzlement as to how the Astorians had managed to strike a deal with the Masks in order to operate in Westgate. Queron speculated that the Astorians might be performing a service for the Masks, one the Masks were happy to let them take the fall for if it failed. However, he could offer no evidence of this, as his network of informants did not extend into Westgate.

Returning to the idea of assaulting the Astorians’ headquarters in Teziir, Queron explained that he could not rely on the City Watch, and there would be unwelcome political ramifications for using Helm Temple forces to invade a privately-held property. Dermot was the first to mention the evident utility of using hired swords from out of town in this scenario, and his companions rapidly indicated their assent to the idea. They would receive aid in the form of healing items from the temple, to be delivered to Queron’s before the planned assault at dawn. By that time, it was expected that all the Astorians would have returned to their headquarters. Queron would ask trusted members of the City Watch to put up a cordon around the building, so any Astorians attempting to flee would be caught.

On a final note of preparation, Thyxlys Jon before departing informed the adventurers that he had been granted the power to reverse death by the Vigilant One. However, it was to be used only on those who performed a great service for the temple; he noted that their act would be considered such a service. (It seems that adventurers oftentimes treat temples simply as merchants, while obtaining healing in between their expeditions. Perhaps there is some logic in this mercenary approach for things like potion-buying, but it is rare - or should be - for a temple head to share their most powerful restorative magics with anyone who simply walks through the door with coin. When one saves a life, one becomes responsible for it. --C) Following the departure of the Helm temple contingent, Queron then informed the group of an opportunity to obtain more information on the Astorians.

After the unfortunate affair with Reggius, in which Aerikoth had turned the Astorians informant into a toad - or perhaps a newt, as Darrow liked to joke - Queron’s agents had staked out Reggius’ home in the hopes of identifying some of his confederates. One such man had been captured earlier that day and was being held there. Queron urged them to go and interrogate him at once, as time was of the essence. In response to a question from Aerikoth, Queron said that he would be willing to pay up to 500 gold for a “relocation fund” for the individual, should he provide useful information to them. When the group was ready, they were to go to the Docks district and loiter in the far northern portion, past the canal. Queron’s agent Barakus, who knew Aerikoth and Darrow by sight, would then make contact with them.


The four adventurers – Aerikoth, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni – quickly made themselves ready and headed for the Docks district. Per Queron’s instructions, they found the canal and followed it to the northern end of the district. After spending some time eyeing their surroundings, they were approached by Barakus, who emerged from a nearby doorway. Queron’s agent motioned for them to accompany him and they all entered the house, which turned out to be the former dwelling of Reggius, the deceased Astorians informant.

After Dermot and Shanni had been introduced to Barakus, he queried whether they had been told what had happened with Reggius. He then let Darrow explain in more detail to the others how the adventurers’ meeting with Reggius, who had been a promising source of information on Janatha’s kidnapping, had turned into a confrontation. Aerikoth’s sole contribution to the tale was correcting Darrow when the dwarf incorrectly related how the wizard had turned Reggius into a newt; in reality, it had been a toad.

Barakus then related how he had managed to capture Valz, an Astorian who had some sort of connection with Reggius, by occupying the house and waiting to see who showed up. Barakus said that between himself and the two guards with him, they had spent several hours just getting Valz to admit that he was an Astorian and had known Reggius. He was hoping the adventurers could do more to get Valz to talk. Cracking his knuckles, Dermot confidently said that he thought they could handle it.

At Barakus’ suggestion, they took some time to search the ground floor of the house, while Queron’s agent went down to the basement to check on Valz. Little of interest was found, except for a smudged scrap of paper located by Shanni behind a desk drawer. Unable to decipher what was on it, the group then came up with their game plan for interrogating Valz. Darrow and Dermot would make the situation look bleak for him, then see if Shanni could get something out of him by giving him some hope for the future.

The two “heavies” descended the staircase into the basement and were escorted to the room where Valz was being held. Barakus and the two guards then cleared out, although Barakus lingered down the hall within earshot. Dermot took an intimidating tack from the beginning with Valz, backed up by the menacing, helmed form of Darrow. Dermot took out a knife and sharpened it on a whetstone as Darrow explained that they were the “cleaners” and Valz was the “mess” they had come for. Just as Dermot was beginning to get physical with the Astorian, Shanni and Aerikoth arrived and the petite rogue intervened, while the wizard looked on silently from the doorway. (Even though the Order is not pacifist, I would draw back at the prospect of employing violence in such situations, which do not involve battle against our enemies. I understand the point of staging such a scene with the informant, yet what would occur in this scenario if the party's bluff were to be called? I must meditate more on the threat and use of force. --C)

At Shanni’s urging, the others departed the room, although not without some further threats from Dermot and Darrow, so that she could speak with Valz like a “reasonable person”. Shanni’s sympathetic act and surreptitious display of a looted Astorians token quickly brought Valz around to being cooperative, although the 300 gold she gave him was probably the deciding factor, with the understanding that he would use it to go far away from Teziir.

After the others had been recalled, he told them what he knew about the layout of the Astorians headquarters building and the password for that night, which was “entrails”. He also disclosed the rumored existence of an escape tunnel that led outside from somewhere in the building’s underground level. After some further intimidation and threats assured the adventurers that Valz was telling them all he knew, they left him in the care of Barakus, who promised to release him, but not until noon on the following day.

A search of the house's lower level revealed nothing else of use, so the four adventurers and Barakus went back upstairs to discuss their findings. After Shanni passed him the scrap of paper she had discovered, Barakus held it up to a firelight and was able to make out some word fragments: "....vin, 250, Hammer 10" and "...................................................................... vz, 100, Hammer 23". The group thought that this might be part of a ledger, perhaps of gambling debts. Barakus said he would ask Valz if the information meant anything to him and send Queron a note later, if the inquiry bore fruit. He then wished the four adventurers well and went back downstairs, leaving them to begin discussing their plans to assault Astorians headquarters.
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Darrow decided that the best preparation for him for the assault would be to troll the local drinking establishments, leaving Aerikoth, Dermot and Shanni to scout their objective. They soon located the building believed to belong to the Astorians, standing alone in the southeastern part of Traders District, and warily observed it. Aerikoth remained standing within view, to the north near the Silver Falcon inn, while Shanni and Dermot circled in slowly, appearing to be out for a nighttime stroll.

Eager to complete their task, they worked over the plan of attack while the innkeeper, the only other person in the room, stayed at the far end of the bar and studiously ignored them. Once their plans were set and Aerikoth had cast some defensive spells on his comrades, Dermot went over to the innkeeper and slipped him a number of coins, to ensure his subsequent silence about their presence.

The five adventurers exited the door and circled the Astorians headquarters, keeping a good distance as they passed it to the south and east. Per their plan, Rahnee and Darrow then advanced towards the southern entrance to the headquarters - although somewhat comically, they at first mistook an opposite building for it, and had to be pointed in the right direction by Dermot. Once at the correct door, Rahnee gave the password “entrails” – learned from their interrogation of Valz – and she and Darrow entered the building.

The array of Astorians guards in the chamber they found themselves in were not fooled for long, however. Darrow then shouted out his Ironhelm battle cry and charged one of the big enforcers. As the Astorians quickly engaged him and Rahnee, with lightly-armored crossbowmen moving to flank them, Aerikoth suddenly appeared at the far end of the room, flanked by Shanni and Dermot; the wizard had waited until hearing the battle cry before casting his spell to transport them inside. He immediately summoned a giant bear to aid in the fighting, which was swirling around them chaotically, then started targeting individual enemies with his spells.

The surprise arrival of the three provided a much-needed respite for Darrow and Rahnee, who had full need of the protective stoneskin spells cast upon them. More Astorians arrived from the east and west wings to join the fight, although their ranks were being continually thinned. One crossbowman placed a bolt expertly into the bear, killing it after it had rampaged among his comrades. However, by this point the momentum had swung in favor of the adventurers, who defeated the remnants of the Astorians’ forces relatively easily.

Searching the main floor of the headquarters, they found one room with its door open and its inhabitant obviously gone; it faced another room with a trapped and locked door. Mindful of the escape tunnel on the lower level and the possibility that some enemies were attempting to flee, the group moved quickly to the west and Shanni detected and disarmed several traps on the stairs down. She then stealthily but rapidly scouted the basement. She reported seeing guards by the end of one hallway, which likely held the tunnel entrance.

The party then followed her downstairs in order to find out what more they had to contend with. In the underground level, they searched through the corridors, trying every door. One of them in a central corridor opened onto a small barracks where a group of Astorians trainees dressed in black begged for mercy. However, once the party had turned their backs on them, the group whipped out their daggers and fought. This proved to be a bad decision, as Darrow and the others killed them to a man. The next time a similar group of trainees were found, this time dressed in brown, Darrow cut one down as a warning to the others and then wedged their door shut with a dagger.

Finally, at the end of one of the corridors, two enforcers guarding a stone trap door were killed and the party then lowered themselves down a ladder into a dark tunnel. The first two traps they encountered in the long hall were detected and disarmed, but the third one by the exit ladder was not spotted in time; luckily, no harm was done. The five adventurers climbed the ladder and emerged onto a grassy area from which they could see Traders Road to the north. Whatever tracks may have been in the area - Dermot saw some indications of someone heading towards the road to the east - were soon erased by a rainstorm that blew in. Aerikoth summoned his raven familiar and sent him winging down the road, in the hope of finding any fugitives that had escaped their assault.

After returning to the headquarters via the tunnel, the group found a central prison area, encountering and defeating two enforcers who had been guarding an insane prisoner shackled to the wall. The party then conducted a more thorough search of the ground floor and was able to enter the trapped and locked room. The man inside attempted to fight his way past them, but was quickly defeated. In his room, they found a chest whose complex trap defeated Shanni and Rahnee’s efforts to disarm it, but not Darrow’s axe. The gas it released into the room soon dissipated and the chest was theirs for the taking. They found inside what appeared to be a seal with a swirly “N” along with a ledger in code, along with gems and gold. Comparing the seal to the letter which Aerikoth had in his possession, the wizard confirmed the seal was the same and most likely belonged to the Astorians leader, Nemar.

After Dermot finished searching the Astorians training area, the weary band decided they had done all they could and departed for Queron’s house. They were received eagerly by Bustable and Queron, who had been anxiously awaiting their return. After reporting what had occurred during their victory and passing the ledger to Queron, the adventurers headed upstairs for much-needed baths and a short rest.

Here ends Part II of the Chronicles


Interlude from "R"

While the conflict with the ancient lich Ashnakzeroth dominated Part I of the Chronicles, which described occurrences beyond my ken, the events of Part II are in many ways all too familiar. My life prior to entering the Order and taking up the robes of a monk of Kelemvor was riddled with such happenings, which may be described as the tragedies of everyday life in Faerun, with the activities of slavers and oppressive petty lords being prominent among them. These chronicles are not simply a fairy story of right and wrong, however, but describe how the adventurers confronted the choices before them and coped with the consequences. Perhaps I did not need more evidence of how gray the world really is, but behind the monastery's walls it is a useful reminder of the fact that sometimes there are no ideal choices.

That said, some choices turn out better than others, and it is good to remember that not choosing is itself a choice. The Ritual of the Hand and its aftermath, including the destruction of Ashnakzeroth's soul gem and the sudden coma inflicted upon his former (?) servant Melissa, was a momentous occasion that it seems faded in the party's memory, with Melissa's fate still unknown. Brok-Tul and Veran's deaths in the conflict with the self-styled "Duke" Hallton also distracted the others in the party from the reason both had become part of the adventuring company, namely to uncover a possible vampire menace to Westgate. I cannot bring myself to condemn those left behind, especially the half-orc's lover Rahnee, for focusing on their own personal tragedies and other pressing situations. At least a measure of good was accomplished by the company in their rescue of Janatha, as new companions joined and old ones departed.

More will be seen of the loose threads in the tapestry, however, as the chronicles unfold.


Interlude from "C"

As I read the words of my senior initiate predecessor "R", I am struck by how involved I have personally become in these adventurers' stories; "R" seems to have kept more detachment from them. No doubt this is in part because I have decided to read and record my thoughts simultaneously, while he first completed the chronicles before making his own commentaries. As a result he is better able to understand the big picture and what was ignored or missed by the party during its conflicts and confrontations.

Yet I do not believe that his perspective is necessarily a better one, as life does not work this way while one is living it. Understanding it backwards can be of some help to those who must live it forwards, yet aside from a few great prophets - all of whom I understand have been mad or otherwise led difficult lives - no one can truly predict all the future consequences of one's actions. Living in the moment while remembering one's eventual Judgment is a central tenet of our Order and I see how these chronicles illuminate the wisdom of this practice. Brother Veran made the choice to accompany his two companions into peril and no doubt now rests content in the City of Judgment.

I am thus reminded of Kelemvor's charge:

"Death is but part of life: fear it not, evade it not, and view it not as evil. To fear death delivers you into the hands of those who can bring death down upon you. Die with dignity, neither raging nor seeking to embrace undeath. Do honor to the dead, for their strivings in life brought Faerûn to where it is now, and to forget them is to forget also where we are now—and why."


Here begins Part III of the Chronicles

To all those who read these chronicles: much is known, but still more is not known about the adventures and private dealings of those worthy people hereafter mentioned. One suspects that not everything that has occurred has been recorded for posterity.

For what has gone before, see Parts I and II of the Chronicles.

* * *​

Chapter VII: Old Wounds and New Enemies

A Hero's Return

After returning to the home of Teziir Council Member Queron Ulanthar, the five adventurers – Aerikoth, Rahnee, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni – spent the rest of the morning of Ches 5 soundly asleep in his finely-appointed upstairs guest rooms. At noon, Queron’s servant Bustable made the rounds and informed everyone that they would be expected downstairs in fifteen minutes. Darrow protested that this would not be nearly enough time to make himself pretty, but despite the dwarf’s jest the group mobilized relatively quickly and headed down. There they found Queron still in deep conversation with Thyxlys Jon, the head of the Temple of Helm, so were invited to partake of Queron’s lunch spread in the formal dining room.

After letting the others gather some food and drink, as well as express their relief at the outcome of the fight with the Astorians, the mage Aerikoth quietly informed them that his raven familiar Zeluth had made his way back. According to the wizard, the bird had not seen anyone on Traders Road who looked like they were running in fear, but he did see a caravan heading east. Shanni pointed out that whoever fled the Astorians headquarters could have asked for a ride; Darrow noted that it would be a good way to blend in. Dermot observed that given the caravan’s heading, it was likely bound for either Reddansyr or Westgate. Over the remainder of lunch, Shanni took the lead in distributing the items seized from Nemar, the Astorians’ leader, including a valuable ring of regeneration identified by Aerikoth and given to Darrow.

As Darrow and Dermot were finishing the last swigs of their ales, Bustable arrived and informed the group that Queron was ready to receive them. The Council Member was solicitous of their health, to which Rahnee responded by saying they had bounced back quickly. She also complimented Queron on setting an excellent table, as always. Pleasantries out of the way, Queron moved directly on to business, as Thyxlys Jon indicated he needed to be going soon. To help provide a cover for the party’s recent actions, Queron said he had instructed his agents to spread a rumor that the Astorians had suffered a violent falling-out amongst themselves. He also mentioned that he had already heard other rumors circulating about what had occurred, including that a wizard with a glowing staff conjured a horde of demons that ate the Astorians, with fearful howls.

Queron told them that the rumored explanation of an internecine battle should help divert any unwanted attention from their adventuring company. Nevertheless, he thought that a departure from Teziir for at least a tenday would be warranted, just to be safe. He then asked where they would go, recalling the previous mention of a barony in the hinterlands, which prompted puzzled looks from Dermot and Shanni.

Rahnee indicated that was a possibility, but said they also had been asked to assist one of the families in Westgate upon their return. She asked Thyxlys Jon if there had been any news of Carlin, the High Cleric of Turnton. Jon’s face hardened at the mention of Carlin’s name and he commented that he was concerned about Carlin and “that woman”, stating that “the abomination” should not be allowed to return in any form. This got more blank looks from Shanni, and Rahnee decided that would be a good point to move on, asking the others if they felt like leaving that afternoon.

As the group began discussing their traveling plans, a weak-looking Janatha stumbled into the room, with an apologetic house guard hurrying in her wake. She had insisted on rising from her sickbed and apparently had no idea what had just happened to her, asking her father Queron to explain. He told her that she had been in bed for over a day now and had been rescued thanks to the brave adventurers in front of her.

Janatha curtsied slowly to the group and then wobbled over to Rahnee, having recognized her and Aerikoth from their stay at the Gatereach Inn in Westgate. Rahnee introduced her to their other three companions, with Shanni asking Janatha if she remembered anything of their shared captivity on the ship. The girl, still evidently woozy, said she did not remember a ship and that it was all very hazy to her. Queron, moving to support his daughter, commented that it was perhaps for the best, while Shanni said that she was not surprised, given the effects of the drugs used in their kidnappings. Janatha was convinced to go back upstairs to rest, escorted by the guard.

Rahnee suggested to her companions that they get moving and, in response to a question from Queron, indicated that he could send a message for them to Jandrico Swift at the Gatereach. It still took some time to gather their belongings and for Aerikoth to study a key spell, but by early afternoon the group had said its goodbyes to Queron and were heading east along Traders Road. They arrived after nightfall at the Reddansyr Crossroads, where Aerikoth indicated that he could continue no longer, due to his fatigue from the day’s exertions. The wizard then moved off to the north side of the road and conjured a large hut to serve as secure shelter for the party, who was in any case glad to get out of the thunderstorm that had just burst.


Early the next morning on Ches 6, Rahnee departed alone for Reddansyr, saying that she wanted to check up on their former companion Belle. The others took their time in striking camp at the crossroads, with Darrow pulling out an ale flask first thing, then joining Dermot and Shanni in scouting the immediate area. The three then impatiently waited in the rain for Aerikoth to finish his morning routine and join them on the road to Westgate, which they reached after nightfall.

The four adventurers were glad to see the friendly roof of the Gatereach Inn. Once inside, Darrow, with a big smile, informed Jandrico that Janatha now was safe. The innkeeper praised the gods and then went to bring food and drink, saying they looked tired from the road. Goruna the serving woman looked nearly as glad to see Dermot, ensuring that she got in a good swing of her hips in his direction while he was in sight. Jandrico sent her off to prepare the next meal and then brought out a bottle of Westgate Ruby in celebration; the innkeeper was somewhat disappointed to hear that Darrow and Dermot preferred ale.

After thinking a moment and going back to his stockroom, Jandrico emerged with a rare, effervescent ale from far Calimshan. A little teary-eyed, he listened to the four adventurers describe how Janatha was doing and how none of her captors had escaped, except for one who apparently had fled. Jandrico made a grim smile after they confirmed that the Astorians had received a death blow at their hands. After asking how many rooms they would need for the night - Aerikoth indicated he did not require one - Jandrico went upstairs to prepare them. Returning after a few minutes, he answered questions from Darrow and Dermot about recent events in Westgate, most notably the impending change of Croamarkh from Durgar the Just, who planned to construct an abbey to Tyr after stepping down, to Lord Scirkas Urdo.

After Jandrico headed back to the common room, who should appear but Barzog, the half-orc thug from Starmantle. He greeted his “old pals” enthusiastically, receiving in turn a warm welcome from Darrow, but more cautious salutations from the others. Once the half-orc had returned to his work at the inn, which apparently he was happy with, the others decided to turn in for the evening. Aerikoth departed the inn, while the others went up to their designated rooms.

In the morning, the four gathered again at the Gatereach bar for breakfast. Aerikoth inquired if there had been any word from Lady Roaringhorn yet and received a negative answer. Once the meal had been served, Jandrico mentioned that he had been pondering what they had told him the previous day about the escaped Astorian, asking if there was anything they knew of that could identify him. Aerikoth and Darrow then described the Astorians’ tattoo swirl symbol and Shanni showed Jandrico one of the Astorians’ tokens, so he could recognize it. The innkeeper said that he would inform them if he or his staff saw anything related. After a pause, while he appeared to be thinking to himself, Jandrico said that he needed to go away for a short while and asked Goruna to cover the common room while he was out.

As the others were finishing breakfast, Rahnee appeared, cheerful despite just having come from the road. Ruffling Dermot’s hair in passing as she sat at the bar, she was surprised by the sudden appearance of a panting Barzog, who asked where Jandrico was. The others briefly indicated that he had gone out. This relieved the half-orc, who evidently had thought he was late for work. Barzog then went upstairs to see to the room cleaning, prompting a crude comment from Darrow.

Rahnee caught up with the others and Dermot observed that Jandrico had seemed deadly earnest after hearing the news about the Astorians and the possible escapee. Rahnee observed that having previously adventured with Queron Ulanthar, Jandrico had hidden depths. The group decided to go see Losifan Urdo at the Mercenaries Guild, as he owed them for turning in the slaver ship and apparently had other business to discuss as well. On the way there, Dermot observed the “fight night” sign at the Quivering Thumb and wondered aloud how the fights were seen in Westgate. Shanni wryly commented that they were seen as frequent and bloody and Darrow explained that it was a place for the “high and mighty” to come watch the arena fights. (Blood sports, while not being universally popular, seem to be omnipresent in Faerun, although they often take place in underground venues rather than being openly advertised as in Westgate. Something in our natures seems to be drawn to the excitement, and perhaps a certain feeling of superiority, that comes from watching others fight deadly battles while we drink and bet on the outcome. Even the knowledge that some must be staged for show does not seem to lessen the appetite for such spectacles. --R)


At the Mercenaries Guild, Rahnee had the clerk Tara pull the records of “Helm’s Shadows” so that Dermot and Shanni could be officially added to the roster, paying their fee as she did so. When Tara asked about members to be removed from the roster, Rahnee’s voice caught repeatedly before she could name both Brok-Tul and Veran. Dermot winced at Rahnee’s evident trial, while Shanni had a half-puzzled, half-sympathetic look. (It is during such moments of otherwise mundane business that old wounds can be reopened, as it forces one to acknowledge the absences inside one's heart. --C) The clerk completed the roster update and said there was a note in their file indicating that Losifan Urdo, the senior guild commander, wanted to see them. She went upstairs to confirm that he was in and then directed the party to his office. Before heading up, Rahnee confirmed with the clerk that there were no new contracts available on general offer.

Losifan greeted them with a friendly wave and first attended to the business of the ex-slaver ship, offering 1,600 gold for it on behalf of House Urdo. The party was pleased to accept this and Rahnee said that they would take it in gold and jewels, rather than put it on their guild account, since they needed to upgrade their weapons and equipment. Losifan then raised his other business: House Urdo’s concern over House Cormaeril and the Fire Knives assassination threat. He stated that his people were still gathering information, but he anticipated that they might have some required tasks that would not be appropriate for the City Watch to carry out. Although Rahnee made it clear that she and her group were not assassins, both she and Darrow said they would be happy to possibly employ some “creative justice” as needed. Losifan seemed pleased by this and observed that they would win the favor of the new Croamarkh by succeeding in such tasks. He expected to need around a tenday before having anything concrete and indicated that he could be found at the Guild most mornings.

As they were departing the guild hall, Dermot commented that they picked dangerous foes, to which Rahnee replied that one’s success could be judged by the quality of one’s enemies. She then recommended that they return to the Gatrereach to divide the money. This prompted the observation from Shanni, who evidently was not interested in walking all the way back in the rain, that they had chosen to take on a dangerous assassin’s guild, but were worried about counting coin in public. (I would be very careful about showing a large amount of coin in public in a place like Westgate, regardless of who my enemies were at that particular time. --R)

A compromise was reached and the group headed for Shalush’s establishment in the Market district, where they were able to use an antechamber for the coin count prior to shopping. Shanni stated that the amount received for the ship was sort of paltry compared to what she had picked up at the Astorians headquarters, which did not surprise Darrow. The dwarf picked up a bag of holding after thoughtfully asking Aerikoth if the mage could teleport them all, if they stored their armor in such a bag. Once their purchases were done, Rahnee and Darrow expressed a strong desire to go to Veranbrok, the former Baron Hallton’s domain. Shanni and Aerikoth were indifferent, while Dermot confessed he was curious to see the place.


The Beast

On Ches 8, after Shanni and Dermot had visited some additional stores and Darrow had conversed with Jandrico Swift regarding plans for a brewery business, the company gathered at the Gatereach Inn to begin their journey to “Veranbrok”. Rahnee had some business to finish up in town, so the others headed for the South Gate, which Aerikoth informed them led to the road to Glees village, the first stop on the way to their destination.

Hiking into the afternoon, the four adventurers were set upon by a pack of worgs near the Turnton/Glees crossroads. Dermot, Shanni and Darrow made quick work of them before Aerikoth could even get off a spell, impressing the wizard. Walking up the smaller track to Glees, Dermot observed a large collection of tents on the outskirts of the village. One of the villagers greeted them and asked if they were with Baron Pahar, Darrow replying that they were associates of his. The villager mentioned that there had been a number of “dangerous critters” such as large wolves in the woods over the past several months. Some giant bugs in the village fields had been previously cleared out by adventurers, he said, although a few had returned recently and were dealt with by the Baron’s troops. The villager also mentioned that the troops had been lodged in their tents for a while, waiting for something.

As it was already dinnertime, Darrow suggested they stay in the village rather than tramp around further in the dark. Aerikoth noted that the village innkeeper, Undt, would not mind the trade, although he was unsure if there would be enough rooms. The villager, clearly relishing his unusual audience, told them about the manticores in the forest between Glees and the old Hallton lands (Veranbrok). At this point Rahnee stepped up softly behind Aerikoth, having caught up with the others, and mentioned that the manticores had “b-i-g” spikes, recounting to the group how a previous encounter with them had gone badly. Aerikoth stated that he would prepare appropriate spells overnight, in order to protect them.

At the Glees village inn, Rahnee and Aerikoth were greeted warmly by the innkeeper Undt, who was then introduced to their other three companions. A group of baronial soldiers in the common room paid obvious attention to the company, especially Aerikoth’s glowing staff. Undt was delighted to hear that they were there to retake Hallton’s old lands and drive the monsters from the forest, although Shanni seemingly had some doubts about the proposition.

While Undt was off arranging their dinner, Rahnee told her three newer companions about the last time she and Aerikoth had been in Hallton lands, about a month beforehand. Hallton, who had styled himself a Duke, had ruled his lands with an iron fist. Among other things, he made a point of claiming “first night” rights with all the women that caught his fancy. Two of Rahnee’s previous companions, her husband Brok-Tul and the monk Veran, had been killed in an assault on Hallton’s manor; Rahnee had barely managed to crawl away from the battle. Vengeance was then taken, however, with Hallton and his men all killed and their lands claimed for the adventuring company. Baron Pahar of neighboring Turnton supported them and had promised to provide some troops to help maintain the territory.

After Undt returned with food and drink, he discussed the situation with the adventurers, who were interested to know what had been happening. The unusually harsh winter was now over, but strange creatures still remained, apparently having been driven from their original homes. Because of the manticores in the forest, no one had been able to travel to Tallwell in the former Hallton lands, so there was no news from there. Undt then brought the Baronial commander over, who introduced himself as Guard Captain Calen.

In a guarded tone, Calen welcomed them to Glees, mentioning that he had been waiting there for over two tendays for their arrival. Rahnee briefly explained that they had been waylaid somewhat in the interim. The baronial captain related that the priest of Helm who accompanied them from Turnton had departed after the first tenday, but that the remainder of his forces remained to guard the village, including taking action against some giant bugs in the fields.

Calen indicated that his forces were ready to accompany the adventurers to Tallwell, but confessed that they were not equipped to deal with the manticores in the forest. In response to a question from Rahnee, who had been hoping for assistance from Clan Ironhelm, both Calen and Undt said that they had seen no dwarves come through the village. Darrow said that the clan was likely occupied with its own problems. Calen then departed to see to his men, with Rahnee asking that he be ready to move out an hour past dawn. The company, after some further discussion, then went upstairs to their rooms for the evening.


After as good of a night’s sleep as possible under the roof of the sole inn in the small, out-of-the-way village, the company awoke early in the morning to the patter of rain. Darrow and Dermot had a bit of a struggle getting out of their room, due to the wet door wood warping overnight, but they eventually joined their companions in the common room. Undt’s breakfast of porridge and farm butter was simple, but hot and filling; Darrow, as usual, washed it down with a morning ale.

Rahnee reviewed their tasks for the morning, asking Darrow and Dermot to be the ones to deal with the guard captain, since she thought from their previous day’s conversation that he might not like talking to a woman about military matters. She also cautioned Dermot to scout carefully, given the dangers the manticores posed, and advised Shanni to stay close to Aerikoth. Dermot noted that he possessed some lore about manticores, but had never actually encountered one; the ranger seemed to be looking forward to the experience.

At this point the guard captain came into the inn out of the rain, looking somewhat uncomfortable, to query their orders for the day. Darrow related how they planned to have Dermot in front of the marching order, with the other four adventurers behind him ready to hit any manticores that were encountered. The baronial guard’s role would be to follow on and help pin the beasts down if they were too much for the adventurers. The guard captain acknowledged this and departed to order his men to strike camp.

After finishing what was left of breakfast, the companions took their gear and headed out, Rahnee leaving several gold coins with Undt for his troubles. Aerikoth cast two protective spells on each of the others, as well as himself, before they started down the faint path leading from Glees into the forest. An hour or so of walking brought them into thick woods, where the path was no longer visible. Dermot carefully advanced while leading them further east, but could not avoid a sudden attack by giant spiders. Darrow felt somewhat repulsed by their ickyness, but they were defeated without any harm to the companions.

Some additional terrain was covered before Dermot signaled the presence of two manticores ahead, as well as another large spider that he had spotted. As the manticores were being engaged by the party, including Aerikoth’s summoned dire bear, another group of spiders approached them from the rear but were driven back thanks to Shanni’s arrows. Her bow also made the killing shot on the remaining manticore.

Dermot resumed scouting but was taking so long that Rahnee was about to go looking for him, despite Shanni’s worries about splitting up. The ranger eventually returned, having located a cave with two manticores outside it, perhaps the beasts’ lair. The five companions first carefully approached, then rushed the monsters with Darrow in the lead. In a short but violent fight, the dwarf was wounded by the fierce beasts; Shanni again maneuvered to use her bow to good effect from behind to defeat their monstrous opponents.

After silently exploring the cave entrance, Dermot emerged and reported another manticore a short distance inside. Aerikoth said that he could cast a fireball spell if needed. However, the party was able to enter the cave and quickly dispatch the remaining beast and another one found further in. Moving into a narrow, dark tunnel, the group discovered a chamber at the end with the skeletal remains of two unfortunate campers. Both had axes and one had a leather pouch with a gold ring inside. Darrow collected the axes and the ring, after Dermot observed that it might be able to be identified by the locals, assuming gold rings were not common in the area. The companions agreed that they had likely killed all of the manticores in the forest and decided to head back to meet up with the baronial guard.


The five adventurers ran into the dozen or so guard members in the western part of the forest and reported their encounters to the captain, who was relieved to hear that all the manticores had been taken care of. Marching east out of the forest, the group came upon a small farm, which Rahnee explained was owned by the father of one of their former companions. As she tapped on the farmhouse door, Aerikoth dismissed his summoned bear, so as not to frighten the cows (or townspeople). Garens Winnfall, looking rather haggard, opened the door and welcomed Rahnee into his home, while the others remained outside. (Garens has had a hard life, including previously losing his son Aratae to the ministrations of the torturers in the dungeon of the former local lord, Hallton. Rahnee similarly lost her companions Brok-Tul and Veran to Hallton's guards and barely escaped herself, before returning to take her revenge. No doubt the shared loss has formed something of a bond between the two. --C)

After a time, Rahnee emerged and informed her companions that the town was in bad shape due to the lack of caravans and trade getting through. She also relayed that the farmer expected some in Tallwell would welcome Pahar’s soldiers, while others would not, due to past enmity. Following some debate, it was decided to march openly into town, rather than trying to sneak around it and barrack the soldiers at the old Hallton manor. The guard captain agreed, although he wondered if the manor were occupied, which was unknown. (Now we shall see the results of the company's neglect of this poor village over the past month, following their victory over Hallton and subsequent pledge to support "Veranbrok" as Rahnee now called the territory. Perhaps they had their reasons, and adventurers are certainly not known for their reliability, yet the suffering of the villagers belies the promises made. --R)

Marching into Tallwell, the companions and the squad of baronial soldiers found the town quiet. Rahnee suggested that Darrow knock on the door of the mayor, Haman Amphrael, to see if he was in. Amphrael courteously greeted the dwarf in a neutral tone and then similarly welcomed Rahnee, remembering her from the last visit, after the self-styled “Duke” Hallton had been defeated. As the remaining companions entered his home, the mayor introduced his wife Grani, who somewhat haltingly returned their salutations. Not trusting the situation, Dermot and Shanni stood by the entrance door to watch the outside while Aerikoth observed the mayor and his wife with unblinking eyes.

Rahnee apologized for the intrusion on short notice, which Grani politely discounted, only regretting that they had little in the way of hospitality to offer. As he invited them to move closer to the fireplace, her husband observed that the winter had been harsh and that Rahnee had been delayed in coming. She acknowledged this, also mentioning that they had dealt with the manticores in the forest, which should help the situation. The mayor then asked if they had found any human remains, explaining that several townsfolk had attempted to make it through the forest in the past tenday, but had not returned. Darrow responded by bringing out the axes and the gold ring in the pouch they had found in the manticore cave. Amphrael said they must have belonged to some of the town’s woodcutters, suggesting they visit the logging camp outside of town.

After Rahnee and Darrow had explained in summary fashion their recent adventures in recovering the daughter of a Teziir city official from slavers, Amphrael explained what had been happening in Tallwell since Hallton was defeated. According to the mayor, the first tenday afterwards had been relatively calm, as there was no one left to threaten the town. During the second tenday, however, people began to worry that no one had come to aid them, fearing that brigands or beasts might return without the presence of any soldiers. That was when several had headed into the forest, despite warnings of the manticores who inhabited it. Finally, in the last tenday things had become much worse, as a former forest patrol of Hallton’s had returned to the manor and set themselves up as bandit lords. The mayor said that their leader – called “The Beast” - had become a wild man, out of control.

Darrow mentioned that they had brought some of Pahar’s soldiers with them, to help maintain order, and said he would take special pleasure in personally dealing with those currently occupying the manor. Obviously concerned, Amphrael queried if the adventurers could leave a security force to protect the town while they went after the bandits. Rahnee promised him that they would both deal with the bandits on the morrow and be able to leave Pahar’s troops for protection.

Apparently satisfied with the mayor’s comportment, she ended the meeting by formally introducing Darrow, Dermot and Shanni and asked Darrow to accompany the mayor to his introduction to the Baronial guard captain. Amphrael thanked them and mentioned that he and his wife would see who was around in town and make sure they were introduced. Unfortunately, they had nothing to offer for hospitality other than shelter, as their provisions were nearly exhausted.


After the mayor had been introduced to the Baronial soldiers, he departed to round up what townsfolk he could find. Darrow and Dermot meanwhile sorted out things at the soldiers’ camp, advising them that they could now move into the abandoned barracks across from the mayor’s house. Just as the companions were starting to debate their strategy for taking on the Beast, with Guard Captain Calen present, Mayor Amphrael returned with several prominent Tallwell residents.

First to be introduced was Larent Geigne, the local blacksmith, whose muscled arm Rahnee gripped like a warrior in welcome, drawing a smile from the man. Next was Kente Bross, the owner of the general store, who managed a decent bow while greeting Rahnee as “milady”. Last was Kablin Menson, who ran the town’s inn along with his wife Yasia. Amphrael explained that Mother Myrna, the village herbalist, was unwell and could not join them. All of the townspeople seemed to welcome the presence of the adventurers, despite some fearful and curious looks at Aerikoth and his glowing staff.

When Rahnee began explaining their plans to the villagers, the smith Larent expressed concern about his brother Horvath, who reportedly was among the bandits at the old manor house. The smith explained that his brother had been a good soldier, but perhaps had become embittered after seeing all the blood and death during his service; Horvath was at the battle of Turnton in Baron Pahar’s lands, then volunteered for the forest patrol. Larent had not in fact seen him recently, only hearing mention of Horvath’s name during the last bandit raid into town. The smith begged the adventurers to try and reason with his brother and bring him out, if they encountered him.

Mayor Amphrael said that the bandit leader, a man only known as “The Beast”, was clearly not reasonable and was rumored to dress in animal skins and impale his victims for pleasure. Kablin admitted that none of the townsfolk had actually seen the bandit leader; none of them really wanted to, either. In response to a question from Rahnee, Kente Bross said that the bandits had come to town twice and had taken most of what was in the general store. Kablin complained they had also emptied his ale kegs at the inn.

Rahnee and Darrow provided encouragement to the townsfolk, talking of defeating the bandits and improving their lives afterwards. Darrow passed around the two ale bottles he had left in his pack for toasts, saying it was the best he could do. This prompted Rahnee to break out two bottles of her own and join the general toasting to a better future for Tallwell. The mayor then escorted the other villagers out and gratefully thanked the adventurers, who were left to discuss possible ways to attack the bandits.

By mid-afternoon, Mayor Amphrael and his wife had gone to check on the village herbalist, Mother Myrna, leaving the adventurers in the hospitality of his home. As this did not extend to much food in the pantry, the party prepared a quick meal from their travel rations, with Darrow nearly chipping a tooth on his hardtack. At Rahnee’s suggestion, the dwarf went to the barracks to see Guard Captain Calen and ask him to set up his men around the village for its defense, while the others prepared for a scouting expedition to the manor house. Calen mentioned the foul weather and said that would at least make the job of any attackers more difficult.

Shanni expressed her desire to move quickly, so as not to give any spies in town the chance to report their presence. Rahnee counseled a more prudent approach, waiting the time necessary for Aerikoth to regain his spells. She also showed some personal agitation at the prospect of not fully preparing first to attack the manor – similar to how she had come to lose her spouse, Brok-Tul, in their first assault on Hallton’s forces. Shanni said she had been unaware of Rahnee’s personal grief, but that did not stop the young noblewoman from Waterdeep from taking offense at Shanni’s words and storming out of the house, Darrow following behind her to offer comfort as best he could.


Shanni and Dermot, as the two stealthiest of the party, headed to the manor to reconnoiter it, while Aerikoth went to Kablin’s Inn to rest. Rahnee and Darrow finished their conversation, then made their way to the old Hallton manor house grounds. The two met up with Shanni and Dermot at the foot of the manor hill and compared notes on what they had seen. Shanni offered a half-apology for offending Rahnee, saying that she had not known the full details of what had happened there. Rahnee in response furnished the gory details of how her husband Brok-Tul and their companion, the monk Veran, had been killed and their bodies mutilated during a previous assault on the manor, when it was occupied by the self-styled “Duke” Hallton. Rahnee made clear her determination not to have the same thing happen again, due to being overconfident and unprepared. The four then completed their survey of the manor grounds, noting the locations of the main building, other outbuildings scattered around the area, and a barricade in front of the manor.

Returning to Talwell, the scouting party fetched up in Kablin’s Inn to join Aerikoth. The wizard was the only one dry and comfortable, having spent the intervening time reading a book in front of the fireplace. Darrow pointed out the value of underground living – no rain – while Shanni and Dermot swapped references to the bitter cold common along the Sword Coast. The inn’s serving girl brought out some hot broth and hard-looking bread and cheese for them, which was all that was available. As they filled their stomachs as best they could, the adventurers discussed possible ways into the manor house. Among other options, Aerikoth offered up the possibility of teleporting the group, in two waves, into one of the manor’s bedrooms.

Rahnee and Shanni took turns describing the manor house exterior. All of the (now-uninhabited) outbuildings in the fields had been burned, and there was a “big and nasty” roadblock, as Shanni put it, leading up to the manor’s fortified gates. Rahnee brought up the idea of fireballing the barricades, but Shanni thought that would just expose the casting mage to arrow fire. Dermot observed that around the back of the manor the rockface might be climbable, but in the current wet weather conditions, someone like Darrow might have a tough time. Shanni expressed her impatience at all of the objections to action, saying they might as well just wait in the village for an attack or head back to Westgate. She nevertheless forcefully objected to the idea, mentioned by both Aerikoth and Darrow during the discussion, of teleporting into the manor bedroom for a sneak attack.

All agreed, at least, that the manor would be difficult to attack. Rahnee had observed that the guards were disciplined and responded to the call of a horn to close the main gate at nighttime. Dermot offered a compromise plan, with he and Shanni scouting the main path up at night, Rahnee close at hand for martial backup, and then calling for Aerikoth to magic himself and Darrow to the top of the hill behind the manor. They would then link up and hopefully being able to enter the building quickly as a group. After some discussion about signals and such, the party agreed to the plan, Aerikoth stating he had no objection to it.

As they were talking about preparations to head for the manor at once, in order to be there and attack before dawn, it became apparent that they would be lacking in protective spells, as the mage had used them all up earlier in the day. This gave Rahnee and Darrow pause, as Aerikoth explained it would take a full eight hours for him to be able to rest and re-memorize his spells. After some further arguing, however, the group voted to strike as early as possible, to avoid having their presence in the area come to the attention of the bandits.

It took two hours in the dark, wet and cold for them to travel to the old Hallton manor grounds. Shanni and Dermot sneaked forward and spotted four guards, laying some traps of their own on the path upwards in preparation for battle. Meanwhile, Aerikoth cast invisibility spells on himself and Darrow.

After careful scouting by Shanni, Dermot and Rahnee – who grimly noted a body impaled on a spike outside the manor – the company gathered at the base of the hill to go over the situation; Dermot separately kept watch on the path from the shadows, to avoid them being surprised. Of the guards who were visible, two had bows and held the high ground, with barricades and traps in between. Shanni disliked the idea of going straight up the slope and Rahnee agreed that was not the way to go. It was decided that they would attempt instead to scale the cliffside behind the manor. Darrow would remove his armor for the ascent, with the plan being for Shanni and Dermot to go up first and secure a rope for the others.

Just as they had reached the back side of the manor, which they were glad to see did not have a fence or barrier other than the cliffside, Dermot called a halt, sniffing the air. Shortly afterwards a large, collared brown bear appeared at the top of the cliff, growling softly. While the others froze, Dermot attempted to calm the bear with his animal empathy skill, but this only seemed to make the bear angrier, as it let out a roar. It was quickly decided to abandon the attempt to climb, and Darrow hurriedly put his armor back on as they retreated, as Dermot distracted the bear away from the others. (Had the ranger succeeded in calming the guard bear, thereby allowing the company to ascend the back way, this would have avoided much future angst regarding the company's assault on the manor. --R)


Once in a safer place out of earshot, the group again fell to arguing about how to proceed. Dermot recommended creating a distraction in the back, while others penetrated the manor defenses via the front path. Darrow said he was leaning toward the scenario of teleporting into the manor bedroom – which Shanni opposed – as the dwarf liked the chances there better, rather than having to fight the guards and the patrolling bear. Aerikoth said that he would be capable of this, but only had the one teleport spell, which meant the others would have to fight their way into the building. The wizard queried if there was a reason the attempt could not be made on the morrow, when he would be better prepared with protection spells. Rahnee said there was not, especially since the bear had already alerted the guards, and the group somewhat reluctantly departed the manor grounds.

The wet and bedraggled adventurers arrived back at Kablin’s Inn in the wee hours of the morning. Rahnee, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni collapsed into the available rooms, while Aerikoth teleported out. Late the next morning, the four at the inn had just gathered for some watery soup – the only food available – when the wizard suddenly appeared in the common room. Kablin and his wife Yasia excused themselves to let their guests enjoy (?) the meal, apologizing for its quality and expressing their hopes that better times were ahead for their village.

Rahnee, evidently having thought about it overnight, laid out her plan for the assault on the Beast. She wanted Aerikoth to teleport her and Darrow into the manor bedroom, leaving the two warriors to hold it as necessary, while the mage fetched Dermot and Shanni as reinforcements. Darrow signaled his agreement, calling it the best plan. Dermot more reluctantly agreed, noting that at least he was not going in first. Shanni just shrugged, looking entirely unhappy. Rahnee said that there was no perfect solution, but this did nothing to mollify Shanni, who said she thought it was beyond stupid to jump into an unknown situation. Aerikoth for his part considered it a tactic similar to what had worked with the assault on the Astorians’ headquarters and did not believe it likely that the bedroom would be heavily guarded at that time of day.

After finishing his thin meal, Darrow headed to the barracks to inform Guard Captain Calen of their intent to attack the Beast. Calen promised to have his soldiers protect the village while the adventurers were away. On the dwarf’s return to the inn, he found his companions still arguing about the plan. Dermot was reluctantly supportive, while Shanni was turning livid with anger. Darrow headed upstairs to put on his armor, with Rahnee’s assistance, while Dermot divested himself of various items, to avoid having too much weight during the teleport. After the three returned downstairs, Aerikoth gathered himself quietly for a moment and began to concentrate on his spells.

The mage cautioned Shanni and Dermot to remain touching each other, so that when Aerikoth returned from his first trip, both would be taken along with him on the second teleport. After a slightly nervous reminder from Darrow, the mage began casting spells of protection on the dwarf and the rest of the group. Dermot asked what he and Shanni should do if Aerikoth did not return. Rahnee advised them not to be heroes, but to wait in the inn as long as it seemed reasonable. Words of encouragement and caution were spoken by Rahnee, Darrow and Dermot as Aerikoth finished up by casting protective spells on himself. With a short phrase, “Here we go,” the mage touched Rahnee and Darrow, speaking a word of power and vanishing with them, as Shanni and Dermot linked hands in preparation for their own travel.

After what seemed like a very long minute, the two saw Aerikoth appear again in front of them. He reached over to grab Shanni, then spoke a word of power. The three of them materialized inside a large bedroom, at which point Shanni and Rahnee visibly stopped holding their breath. The room was empty except for the adventurers and had a thin layer of dust over it.

Dermot controlled his breathing and readied a weapon as he and Shanni slipped out into the hallway. Shanni kept quietly to the wall, as the two heard a group of men talking and laughing in the distance, their voices reverberating down the stone corridor. After taking a quick look into the chamber at the end, Shanni remained in the shadows to keep watch while Dermot returned to the bedroom. The ranger informed the others there were around a dozen men and some kind of large animal in the chamber, by the sound of it. Darrow expressed a desire to just charge the room, as a “simple plan” that “couldn’t fail”. Dermot advised that he had a couple of “tricks” – grease and tangling plants – that could help break up the crowd. Rahnee firmly agreed with the ranger’s plan while chiding the dwarf for his rashness. Aerikoth noted that he had spells available for use against the group, including one for summoning a wolf to fight at their side.

Dermot asked Rahnee if she wanted to fight and show no mercy, or talk to their opponents first. The young warrior-woman confidently said she would like to talk, but would show no mercy if they were attacked. The ranger replied simply that this would be interesting, then without further comment followed the soft-stepping Rahnee down the corridor with the others. Shanni, from her post at the entrance to the back of the chamber, indicated that one of the men seemed to be giving orders, as the others had quieted down.

Rahnee strode forward and showed herself to the group of wild-looking men occupying the chamber in front of them. At the head of it, sitting in the former baronial throne, was a large man clad in an armor of animal skins, with a similarly large worg lounging beside him. Shanni meanwhile was lurking against the wall, her face giving the impression she was wondering what the hells the others were doing. As the leader challenged Rahnee, asking how she had gotten into the manor, the other three adventurers stayed behind her, taking up positions by the corridor entrance. The conversation quickly turned ugly, as Rahnee claimed the manor for her own, and the leader – presumably the Beast – in response gestured for his men to attack.


Carnage ensued as the adventurers used their swords, axes, bows and magics to slaughter their opponents. The fierce fight left the former baronial throne room slick with blood and full of corpses. Only one among the Beast’s men remained to surrender, an empty-eyed and professional-looking soldier. Rahnee confirmed that he was Captain Horvath, the brother of Tallwell smith Larent. Horvath said he was sick of the Beast’s atrocities and would accept their judgment of him. He explained that he had formerly been a soldier of the self-styled “Duke” Hallton and had fought at the siege of Turnton, where he saw half of his comrades burnt to death by a ring of fire. Afterwards, he joined the forest patrol, and fell in with the Beast’s men after Hallton was killed. (This is the first eyewitness account related of the use of magical fire against Hallton's forces at Turnton. From previous accounts in these chronicles, it appears to have been related somehow to the statue of the Hand outside the town and its magical powers. --C)

Shanni, who had been keeping an eye out for other enemies, returned to the chamber and started haranguing the others for talking while potential danger lurked. She said there was a door that led outside and she could see several people and a bear out there. Shanni then noticed the chest next to the Beast’s throne and disarmed a trap on it, then unlocked it, only to find nothing inside; upon discovering this, she declared that it didn’t make any sense.

As Rahnee formally accepted Horvath’s surrender, Shanni and Aerikoth fell to bickering over what had just occurred in the assault on the manor, each claiming that they were justified by events and the other was wrong. Darrow interjected, saying they should best finish off the others outside before arguing further. Instead, the mage and rogue ramped up their insults and justifications, getting ever-nastier and more personal, despite the others’ attempts to put a lid on the disagreement.

Eventually, the sound of a horn prompted Rahnee and Darrow to check outside and then gather the others, whose tempers were still flaring. The party exited the manor and Rahnee called on the Beast’s remaining men to surrender, while Dermot tried - again unsuccessfully - to win the trained bear’s allegiance. The fight was nonetheless one-sided and the Beast’s men fell quickly, along with the bear, whose corpse was observed by Dermot to have a collar of tanned flesh.

The ranger led Darrow and Aerikoth back inside, noting that there was a downstairs part of the manor to be explored, while Shanni and Rahnee spoke outside. In the basement, the three found some torture implements, which seemed to have been left over from Hallton’s days, though some evidently had seen fresh use. They then returned to the prisoner Horvath, telling him that the struggle seemed to be over. When they mentioned the empty throne room chest, the former soldier softly exclaimed a curse. He explained that the Beast had made a production out of placing all their loot in a “common chest” for everyone to see, but must have subsequently moved the treasure secretly, most likely burying it in the forest. (A cunning trick by the bandit leader, as no one in the Beast's company would likely dare to try opening the chest on their own, fearing bodily harm either from its trap or the Beast's wrath. --R)

Rahnee returned and quietly help the others loot the bodies. She told them that Shanni had been inconsolable and now wanted nothing to do with the group; she had already departed, Rahnee being unable to talk her out of it. Dermot was displeased at this, while Darrow was saddened but seemed resigned to the fact. Aerikoth could not resist getting in a few more verbal jabs as the group, with Horvath accompanying them, headed back for Tallwell.


Once they returned to the village, Horvath was reunited with his brother Larent. The smith promised to take care of him and have them work together to help rebuild Tallwell. Darrow then went to the barracks to inform Guard Captain Calen of what had transpired at the manor and advised him to join them at the Mayor’s house for the full report.

Rahnee decided to go speak further with Captain Calen and make sure that the town’s defenses were in order, in case any remnants of The Beast's forces were in the area and seeking revenge. Aerikoth, Darrow and Dermot entered Mayor Haman Amphrael’s house and found him and his wife, Grani, waiting expectantly and fearfully for news. The two were relieved to hear that none of the companions had perished in the battle, although they were sorry about Shanni’s decision to leave afterwards. The Mayor was pleased that Horvath had been returned physically unhurt to the village.

When asked by Aerikoth what he had planned for the future, the Mayor was somewhat surprised, saying that he expected the adventurers, having seized the manor, would be Tallwell’s new rulers. The wizard dryly replied that he had no desire to be such, although he observed that Pahar’s guards would likely remain as protection for the village. Rallying, after seeing he had support from Aerikoth and Darrow, the Mayor indicated the first order of business would be making sure the trail to Glees was clear. He was pleased to hear from Dermot and Darrow that they had eradicated the manticore presence, although Dermot cautioned that forest trails rarely stay clear forever.

The next item raised by Haman was the necessity of getting trade to the village. He asked them to spread the word in Pahar’s lands and Westgate that Tallwell was again open and had lumber supplies that needed to get to market. Darrow then brought up the idea of starting a brewery. The Mayor seemed somewhat hesitant at first, saying that there were not enough people to drink or appreciate dwarven ale in the area. However, he warmed to the idea once Darrow explained it further and said he would bring in supplies from Westgate. The dwarf also outlined the requirements for land that he would need, which the Mayor took note of: easy access to drinking water, casks, and space for a brewery building.

Turning back to the topic of town governance, Haman carefully confirmed that he would have the adventurers’ support in staying on as Mayor, while respecting the role of Guard Captain Calen. He excused himself to start working on the tasks that had been mentioned, intending to speak with Larent the blacksmith and some of the lumberjacks. They agreed to all meet up again when Rahnee was available and before the company departed Tallwell.

Aerikoth, Darrow and Dermot then returned to the inn and were greeted by an excited Kablin and Yasia. The villagers cheered the removal of the Beast, but lamented that they had nothing good left with which to prepare a celebratory meal. After the two departed to see what they could scrounge, the three adventurers discussed the village’s prospects and what they could do to improve them; Aerikoth admitted that he had few ideas in that respect. Darrow emphasized the need for trade, while Dermot thought that settlers and travelers coming through would help.

Halloween Horror For 5E