The adventurers arrived back to the Academy and were shepherded by initiates to the chambers of Head Mistress Ilona. Stromm laid the body of the wizard on the dais and stepped back as Ilona investigated the remains wearing a pained expression.
“We have another,” murmured Alhazred. “One of our own was taken and converted into a fowl creature. We have also returned his bones to the grounds.”
“Thank you,” Ilona said with a nod.
“Actually, there is something else.” Stromm stepped forward, “We encountered a man on the road who claimed Hindvale was under attack, his carriage was attacked by dire wolves.”
“Did you go to Hindvale?” Ilona asked, shocked.
“No.” Alhazred answered, “We felt our duties lied with you and returning the Dragon’s remains.”
Ilona breathed in sharply, her body language indicating the adventurers’ decision may have been the wrong one.
“The Three, they are everywhere. They’ve hardly given us a moment of rest…” she paused, in thought.“Get to Hindvale, stop whatever evil you find there. I will rally our defenses here. Return as soon as you can. We must prepare for the possibility that we are facing their opening salvo.”
The adventurers headed to the stables to borrow the swiftness of the Academy’s finest horses. Before departing, Stromm, Thud and Alhazred looked for the other two but couldn’t find either the rogue nor the barbarian. The hour grew late and they were forced to set out without their full party.
It was night by the time the group arrived at Hindvale’s gates. Smoke billowed from healthy flames that still torn through the village. The adventurers made their way around the sides of the town and snuck stealthily into the residential section. The houses were disheveled and empty, signifying the flight of their residents- or, perhaps, worse. Stromm crept forward first and peered around a large building that faced the village square. There, he saw the familiar silhouettes of two harpies, busily feeding the hungry fire with debris. Stromm immediately set about scaling the building, beckoning the others to follow.
Stromm found himself alone on the roof as the others vigorously shook their heads in refusal of his plan. Stromm shrugged and turned back toward the oblivious harpies. When the time was right, Stromm dove at one of them, dragging her down to the roof. Alhazred and Thud made their way through the building’s first floor and fired upon the other harpy from below.
Two harpies hardly stood a chance against the adventurers but they had not come alone. Out of the smokey northern quadrant of the village, a sickening beast bobbed into view. Its skin was green and covered with a thick black fungus. It had no arms nor legs, only a round body fitted with a huge black eye and gaping toothy maw. A black, oil-like substance dripped from its jaws as it drew near. Four eye stalks grew from the top of its head, each eye a different color. Where its main eye focused squarely on the adventurers, the four others swiveled in all directions, searching for hidden foes.
The deadly adversary focused first on Thud, sending a paralyzing ray into the body of the dwarf. Alhazred immediately feared the creature, sensing its malevolence in the back of his mind. As he turned to face the beast, he began to hear it speak to him.
It cackled cruelly as it shot harmful rays into the adventurers, seeming amused by the violence. Alhazred tried to reason with it by using his telepathic deep speech, “Why are you doing this? Stop!”
The creature seemed unphased by Alhazred’s telepathic outreach and simply replied, “Can not stop. Must destroy.”
Alhazred continued, “Why?!”
“My master has sent me. I must obey him.”
“Who is your master?” Alhazred pried. The creature turned toward him with an air of annoyance and shot a disintegrating ray towards the elf.
“Enough,” its voice echoed in Al’s mind, sending a wave of nausea over him, “Die!”
Stromm and Al nimbly avoided the creature’s eye ray blasts while trying to finish off the harpies. Eventually Thud was freed from his paralysis and aided in the fight briefly before losing consciousness from wounds and blood loss.After a long fight, Stromm was able to end the beast’s life with a sword thrust through its soft underbelly. Alhazred revived Thud with a potion but found his head spinning every time he looked at the dwarf. He sat down too and tried to catch his breath.
After making sure the thing was thoroughly dead, Stromm wiped his brow and made his way toward the Stag & Doe which stood smoldering on the other side of the courtyard. Thud and Alhazred stayed put, still trying to process the battle. After a few moments, they heard a cry as Stromm returned to the doorway of the inn.
“They killed Alan!” Stromm said glumly, “Who will run the bar now?”
Just as Stromm hung his head, the sound of hoof-beats rang out in the village. At single horse rounded the corner carrying both Rutty and Kraown. Their expressions of anxiety quelled the others’ urge to laugh at the sight of the two.
“The Academy is under attack!” they cried in unison whirling back the way they had come, “Let’s go!”