Caster's Cradle

Elves in the Wood

Safe from the bear for the time being, the adventurers now had to determine if there was a way out of the wizard’s treasure room. The homunculus, in the same hurried and frantic manner, began to buzz towards the other side of the dungeon. It flew with its pointer finger outstretched, pointing into the darkness of the hall. Halfway across, its flight grew erratic. Its buzzing wings began to sputter and it veered off course crash landing into a pile of gold pieces. It lay for a second, grimacing in pain before it dissolved into a pool of green ichor.

Alhazred, knowing the most about these creatures stalked over to investigate the homunculus’ remains. “The wizard is dead. Homunculus can’t survive without their master’s life force.”

Kraown returned to the stone gate that sealed them in and began to listen for sounds of the dire bear above, he heard nothing.

“He was pointing this way, there is probably a way out over here.” Stromm said, making his way through the heaps of treasure. At the far side of the open dungeon were three rooms, all overflowing with trinkets, magical items and wizarding tomes. Thud, on his quest to collect important and rare magical items for his master, began to grab whatever he could find off the overflowing shelves. Just as his fingers clasped an object, Thud was plunged into darkness as a mysterious creature covered his head.

It began to smother Thud with its thick leathery skin that stretched between its appendages a full 360 degrees. In the center of the creature’s body, now directly on top of Thud’s head, was its mouth, full of hundreds of razor sharp teeth.Thud grabbed at the thing, trying to free himself from its embrace. Stromm and Kraown, who were nearby examining other treasures, rushed to Thud’s aid. As the seconds slipped away, Thud began to feel a sting in his lungs as he realized he was going to run out of air.

Stromm and Kraown launched attacks at the beast, hacking away at its large red eye. As Stromm’s great sword sliced through its hide it reared back with a horrid wail, releasing Thud. The rest of the battle was fought in pitch-darkness as the creature deployed its magical defenses, but the adventurers worked together to corner and defeat it. Alhazred had apparently become lost in a book and hadn’t heard Thud’s muffled cries, nor the clanging of steel on stone. Still absorbed in the literature, he didn’t seem to notice Thud’s entrance into the room post-battle either, nor the dwarf’s breaking of wind in his general direction. It wasn’t until after the other three discovered the secret passage to the outside that Alhazred pulled himself away from the Dragon’s tomes. Revolted and confused by the sudden stench, Alhazred rejoined the others.

The party followed the passage to a door. Behind it, they could hear the roar of a heavy rain. They opened the door to find themselves on the outside of the tower. Just as the last of them exited the passageway, they spotted a group of four armed bugbears leaving the woods and heading towards the entrance of the tower. Of the four, the one in front was the most formidable. He stood nearly a head above the others and wore thick leather armour adorned with metal spikes. Laying around his thick neck was a string of teeth and fangs of various sizes. The party froze in place, hidden by the heavy rain and fog, and watched the bugbears come to a halt before the small flight of stairs that lead to the tower gates.

Emerging in the blink of an eye and seemingly from nowhere, three elves appeared hastily following after the bugbears. While two of the elves wore mail and carried halberds, the other was dressed in the finest of emerald robes. Gold embroidery covered nearly every inch of the rich cloth and even though the robes fell all the way to the ground, not a bit of mud nor drop of rain seemed to find purchase on them. The elf in front strode with purpose toward to largest bugbear, black silky hair streaming unnaturally behind him as if it were a sunny spring day. “Bale” he cried angrily.“Bale! Where is Elodin? Where’s my brother?”

The party crept closer to get a better view of the exchange. The four bugbears and three elves now stood at the foot of the tower stairs. The bugbear leader, Bale turned to face the elf, “Just arrived. Don’t know.”

“Into the tower! Find him!” The elf cried hopping up the stairs and disappearing through the gate. The bugbear nodded to the others and followed. Those outside the tower stood in silence, rain pouring off their faces. Night had begun to fall, further obscuring the scene. In mere minutes, the elf and Bale returned into the night. The elf held a bright wand out above him as Bale trailed behind. Just as Bale stepped through the tower’s threshold, the party could see he carried the naked body of yet another elf. This one was pale, with short tawny hair. In the arms of the huge bugbear, he looked almost like a sleeping child.

The robed elf looked visibly annoyed, “Why did he have to confront the Dragon alone, that reckless bastard!”

He descended the stairs and immediately began to cast some sort of spell in mid air. A faint glimmering of arcana hovered just before him as he said, “Shad, the Dragon’s dead. Saggoth will not be happy. Elodin went after him, he needs your help.” With a flick of his hand, the arcane energy faded. He turned back to Bale, “I’ll take Elodin to Shad, then I’ll return. Wait for me here, it shouldn’t be long.”

Bale nodded and handed the elf he carried off to the two elven guards. The robed elf summoned another burst of arcane energy. Pulling his hands apart, there was a loud crack as the energy tore through space to create a portal. On the other side of the tear, the party could see torches burning against a stone wall.

The four elves stepped at once through the portal and the tear snapped closed with a crackle. The rain was starting to ease as night fell in full. Bale motioned to the others to spread out and keep watch as the party huddled against the tower trying to make sense of what they just seen.



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