The Shaded Vale
The Nentir Vale is a wild landscape, plagued by evil monsters, brutish beasts, and carefree adventurers seeking fame and fortune. Our story begins with a group of five of those young adventurers beginning their own quest for glory.
The initial party was made up of Axel the Tiefling Warlord, Taunty the Dwarf Fighter, Dagmar the Human Wizard, Teeny the Halfling Rogue and Elfman the Half-Elf Cleric. These inexperienced companions were hired by Aldred Beechgold, the Lord Warden of Fallcrest, to investigate claims of Kobold bands raiding merchants on The King’s Road.
The investigation led the party to the abandoned Beechwood Manor, now called Kobold Hall by wary locals. The party soon found a concealed entrance to the old Beechwood family crypts beneath the ruins and discovered a nest of Kobolds. While slaughtering the little humanoids, Axel was caught in a pit trap and fell into darkness. Soon the remaining party found Axel at the mercy of Szartharrax, a young White Dragon. Szartharrax had trapped Axel in a prison of ice. Though the party was victorious in their battle against the dragon, Axel could not be saved. With his dying breath, Szartharrax warned the adventurers about the wrath of Grandfather, though they did not know who that might be.
Dagmar, tempted by greed and knowing the magical value of a white dragon’s eyes, carved the lenses out of the dragon’s skull. Though he scratched one, the second was cut free in pristine condition.
The party then returned to Fallcrest to claim payment for the job well done. The Lord Warden didn’t have any new work for them, as he was focused on the annual harvest festival taking place in the city. The party found acommodations at The Filthy Ogre Tavern and set out into the markets, trying to sell the spoils of their battle, including the priceless Dragon Lenses. But the merchants Dagmar approached were either too poor to purchase the lenses, or too afraid of the power they represented. Still, word spread quickly of the young Human Wizard through the darker alleys of Fallcrest.
That night, back at the Filthy Ogre, the party reassembled to talk about their next job. Teeny and Taunty drank heavily at the bar. Dagmar and Elfman were called aside by an old beggar named Oleg who told them about his time in the dungeons of Fallcrest, where he met a dying man from Shadewynne, a village far to the north. That man spoke of two sorceress sisters fighting a losing battle against an evil force. If the party were to bring the sisters the dragon lenses, they could use them in a ritual to focus their arcane power and destroy the evil force forever, freeing the village. Oleg also spoke of the dying man’s claims that the sisters were sitting atop a horde of riches which they would gladly exchange for the lenses. Oleg asked only for a small finder’s fee in return for directions to Shadewynne.
With Taunty and Teeny consumed by drink, and Dagmar and Elfman focused on Oleg’s story, a Drow Assassin called Salizar Marquis quietly tried to steal the dragon lenses from Dagmar’s robes. At the same time a group of hired thugs confronted the party and attacked them from within the tavern. The group was lead by a man named Fisk, along with his dim-witted Half-Ogre follower, Durt.
The party was victorious in the fight, despite Dagmar leaving to chase Marquis through the crowded streets. He tackled the Drow and reclaimed the dragon lenses, but couldn’t stop the assassin from escaping after referring to Grandfather once more. Back at the tavern, Durt surrendered to Elfman when he realized that his fellow hired thugs, including Fisk, were dead. Elfman seized the opportunity and took Durt on as a servant and follower rather than killing the idiot brute.
After the altercation at the Filthy Ogre, Elfman realized the value of the dragon lenses, and the power they must possess. He chose to embrace his true nature and, with Durt’s help, slaughtered the remaining members of the party. One by one, Taunty, Teeny and Dagmar fell to Elfman’s sword and Durt’s fists.
Weeks passed. Elfman revelled in the luxury afforded to him by stealing the money of his former friends and selling their possessions. He soon found his way to an upper-class establishment in Fallcrest owned and operated by Jarib Arra, a wealthy businessman. Elfman took rooms for himself and Durt and frequented the natural hot spring baths constructed in the basement of the resort.
Meanwhile three new arrivals to Fallcrest were making their way to The Oasis of Jarib Arra at the suggestion of the Lord Warden. First were a pair of performers who traveled the lands presenting feats of strength and displays of dark energy: Grundy, a Warforged Swordmage and Melechla Torment, a Tiefling Warlock. The third was a Wilden Monk called Haiyakipoo who had come to Fallcrest to learn more about martial arts and seek her destiny.
These five, Elfman, Durt, Grundy, Melechla and Haiyakipoo found themselves in the baths at the same time when danger finally found Elfman and the dragon lenses once more. A Chuul, flanked by a swarm of other deadly insects, burst from the sewer drain in the floor of the baths. Though it directed itself toward Elfman, the Chuul attacked everyone indiscriminately. Working as a team, as well as calling upon the favor of the goddess Geshtai, the five companions destroyed the beasts. Elfman then sent Durt down into the Fallcrest Sewers to check for more dangers. His only report came as screams of pain and fear that were quickly silenced.
The new party ran to find Jarib Arra and confront him about the attack, only to find him in his office possessed by a strange energy. He appeared to have been used as a focal point for some kind of distant magic, now being channeled through the man to affect all of the property he held power over. This was no simple magic, and Elfman realized that by staying in one place for so long he had made it possible for this evil to reach him. The four quickly decided to leave the grounds of the resort.
But the party was trapped. The massive iron gates which separated the Oasis’s elegant statue garden from the city streets had been brought to life by this evil force. The four fought hard, but when the Animated Gate began to give life to the statues in the garden as well, their only choice was to climb the walls and flee.
Grundy, Melechla and Haiyakipoo all were sent to the Oasis by Aldred Beechgold, the Lord Warden. Elfman, hoping to keep secret his past offenses, claimed that he had been sent there by Beechgold as well. Their next step was to confront the Lord Warden about why he had sent them all to their deaths. But upon arrival at Moonstone Keep they were told that the beloved Beechgold had been murdered. The city guard accused the newcomers of this crime, as they were the last to meet with the Lord Warden, and tried to arrest them. Elfman fought for his freedom, but was overwhelmed by the sheer number of guards. He was soon dragged to the dungeons having been beaten nearly to death, followed by the Warforged, the Tiefling and the Wilden, still reeling from their poor luck.
Days passed and Elfman’s health worsened. The guards spoke of a Magistrate being dispatched from Hammerfast to decide their case swiftly, and that justice would be merciless. Then one night a tiny garden snake slipped through a chink in the stone wall and spoke to the prisoners. It would help them escape if they would meet its master outside and help him in return. The three who were still able-bodied agreed. Using lockpicks smuggled in by the snake the adventurers escaped, reclaimed their equipment (including the dragon lenses), and departed through a secret door, all without waking the guard. Elfman, unconsious and too fragile to be carried, was left behind.
Outside the three met Loughren, a scout from the town of Shadewynne. He had heard about the dragon lenses and sought to free the party. His town was home to two sorceress sisters, Sithuna and Eurla. In return for traveling with him to Shadewynne and giving his mistresses the lenses, he promised them riches beyond imagining. He also told them of Pontifex, an ancient Lich who had besieged their village for many years. Pontifex feared the power of the sisters and wanted them dead. They were strong enough to protect their home, but not break free of his grasp without the help of the lenses. According to Loughren, it was Pontifex who had killed Beechgold, possessed Jarib Arra and attacked them with unnatural creatures. By helping Shadewynne they would also be helping to destroy Pontifex (known to the barbarian tribes and intelligent beasts as Grandfather) and free the Vale of his influence. Enticed by the promise of adventure and wealth Grundy, Melechla and Haiyakipoo agreed.
The journey from Fallcrest to Shadewynne was a difficult one. In the town of Nenlast on the eastern shore of Lake Nen, Elfman caught up with the party. He claimed to have been healed and set free by the Magistrate due to a lack of evidence. Reunited as a team, the four heroes followed Loughren the final distance to Shadewynne.
They found Shadewynne built at the top of a mountain protected from everything by a bubble of magical energy, its border patrolled by a Frost Giant. According to Loughren, the Frost Giants were in league with Pontifex. Rather than attempt a battle with the giant, the party entered Shadewynne through a hidden teleportation circle which could only be activated by speaking aloud their deepest secrets. Elfman was the last to travel through the circle.
They all arrived in the ruins of an old watchtower, then made their way through the necropolis, past a temple to Zehir, and through the slums. In the slums Loughren split from the group to seek the home of his parents. Haiyakipoo followed him, but all they found was an abandoned shell of a home. Soon the party was welcomed into the opulent home of Sithuna and Eurla. There they had an audience with the sorceress sisters in order to come to an agreement of terms for the exchange of the dragon lenses. But that meeting went bad when members of the party began to question the motivation of the sisters.
Sithuna revealed that their secrets had been revealed to her, a part of the magic of the teleportation circle. Elfman was exposed as an agent working for Pontifex, sent to stop the sisters at all costs. Sithuna then used the rest of the party’s secrets against each other, trying to sew seeds of distrust. The party erupted in chaos. That prompted Eurla to release the sisters’ magic disguises. They were revealed as Medusas. Sithuna then paralyzed the entire party with her petrifying gaze and took the lenses.
Soon all were taken, hogtied, to the top of Shadewynne Keep, where an enchanted spring bubbled up from the mountain. Eurla began a ritual to channel the life-giving energy from the spring up through one of the dragon lenses. It was now clear that Pontifex had been keeping the Medusas and their Yuan-Ti followers sequestered in Shadewynne to prevent them from wreaking havoc across the lands. And now, thanks to the party, they might escape. Eurla dropped their magical barrier in order to focus on the ritual. Haiyakipoo appealed to Loughren’s compassion for his dead parents and convinced him to untie the party. A deadly battle ensued with the party calling upon the goddess Geshtai to help them kill the sisters. With the magical barrier down, Pontifex’s Frost Giants were able to break into the town. Finally Sithuna was slain, Eurla was taken prisoner, and their loyal followers were crushed to a pulp.
The liberation of Shadewynne at first seemed a noble victory, but that was not to last. Within hours the captain of the Frost Giant soldiers claimed the territory as his own. The villagers had barely a few minutes to taste freedom before the captain began to issue orders and laws. Anger began to grow. The adventurers were caught between the Giants and the people. Unable to fight off either side, and unwilling to ally themselves with either, the party looted what they could from the Sisters’ quarters and fled down the mountain, leaving Shadewynne to decide it’s own fate.
The party soon booked passage on a freighter called the Kestrel out of Nenlast to sail across Lake Nen, trying to get as far away from Shadewynne as possible. Finally given the chance to rest and talk, they began to argue about what they’d gotten themselves into and what the true motivations of Pontifex might be. Their conversation was overheard by an Eladrin called Lacplesis who claimed to be a shipwrecked diplomat from across the ocean to the east. Just as the conversation began to grow heated, aggravated by the eavesdropping stranger, a new enemy appeared.
A man calling himself Grimald Thoregarde of the Shining Light riding on the back of a Hippogriff landed on the deck of the Kestrel, accompanied by a Harpy named Lice and two Cockatrice. Thoregarde, a Paladin of Pelor, accused the party of being Pontifex’s evil agents and attacked. Lacplesis was given no choice but to fight alongside the adventurers for his own survival. The battle was hard-fought, but Thoregarde eventually surrendered after being thrown overboard and nearly drowning from the weight of his armor.
In return for their mercy Thoregarde extended an invitation to the adventurers: They would find themselves welcome to visit his master, The Exalted Afa Atutahi Bosatsu of the Shining Light, at The Aphotus Clove, his sanctuary. There they could accept the light of Pelor into their lives and achieve a greater peace, as well as be trained to fight for Pelor’s light by The Exalted Afa himself, a powerful Monk. Thoregarde also told the party of the thousand-year-old rivalry between Afa and Pontifex, which was why he had been sent to kill them. Thoregarde and Lice then flew away, leaving the party again to discuss their past and their futures.
The party argued long and hard about what to do next. Should they accept Thoregarde’s offer and travel to the Aphotus Clove, or go see Pontifex and learn more about what they’ve gotten wrapped up in? Or perhaps do something else entirely? After many hours of heated debate, a consensus was reached. They would continue sailing down the Nentir River to confront Pontifex. But unfortunately Bartol, Captain of the Kestrel, was not pleased with his passengers’ scuffle on the deck of his boat.
They docked temporarily at the Fastormel Ruins. Elfman began negotiations with Bartol for the journey ahead while the rest of then party went ashore. They made friends with some of the fishermen camping amongst the ruins, and eventually made their way to the tumbled-down walls of an old tower at the top of a hill. This tower was once the home of Lord Mage Fastor, who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances, though his tower still glowed with a strange mist that told of the power that once dwealt within.
The four adventurers, Lacplesis, Melechla, Haiyakipoo and Grundy stumbled upon an old trap-door in the floor, which opened to reveal a long-abandoned chamber built below. Their investigation stirred up angry skeletal soldiers who attacked, but were easily dispatched. Next the four encountered the enchanted stone face of Fastor himself who asked three riddles in return for passage to his inner sanctum. Grundy surprised them all by solving two of the three puzzles handily, with Haiyakipoo pouncing on the last. Their final challenge was to destroy the animated skeleton of Fastor and his most trusted minions. Their reward was the Scepter of Fastor, a powerful yet conflicted artifact whose value had yet to be ascertained.
Upon their return to the campsite, Elfman greeted them with good news: Bartol had relented. He would take them down the river.
The Kestrel bore the adventurers down the Nentir River swiftly and without incident, though tension was in the air when passing through the Fallcrest Locks. The boat was boarded by Captain Warrik of the Fallcrest port authority, four of his soldiers, and Varlin, the Lockmaster. In an effort to pass through without a battle, Grundy and Haiyakipoo hid among the ship’s cargo. Melechla used her disguise kit to pose as an unruly prisoner, with Lacplesis and Elfman as her captors. Captain Warrik was unaware of the deception and allowed the party to move on without a second glance.
The group arrived at Kalton Manor on the edge of the Witchlight Fens, home to Pontifex. Salizar Marquis, with the help of a Zombie Hulk, persuaded Lacplesis to join the party and meet with the Lich as a group. Pontifex thanked the party for their help in destroying Sithuna and capturing Eurla, and promised to reward them for their assistance. He took some time to tell them about the Astrology of the Planes, including the Astral Sea, the Elemental Chaos, the Shadowfell and the Feywild. But the conversation soon turned to Afa Atutahi Bosatsu, and the party’s invitation to his sanctuary. Pontifex asked the adventurers to capture Bosatsu’s soul in a Soul Prism. In return he would grant them each whatever favors they wished.
The adventurers agreed to the deal, but not before consulting with the Scepter of Fastor. Fastor warned the party to tread lightly, because the Aphotus Clove is likely protected by a dragon, which is why Pontifex was unaware of Bosatsu’s location. Still, they set off toward the Dawnforge Mountains and the Clove.
After a short layover in Harkenwold, the party continued onward.
The story will continue…
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