Stromm and Thud tromped through the woods on their way to the Dragon’s tower. They were close and ready to get out of sight of spying eyes. Hopefully the Dragon would be friendly and not, well, a dragon.
Turning into a clearing, the party practically ran headlong into a tall, furred creature. It stood around seven feet tall and carried a morningstar in one hand. In the other, it pushed a rather large sled pulled along the underbrush by two docile wolves. The creature had tawny coloring and the facial features of a bear but was otherwise humanoid.
“Bugbear!” shouted Stromm dashing towards it. It swung back at Stromm and encouraged its canine companions to enter the fray. Try as they might to bite Thud, they remained tethered to the sled and couldn’t gain much ground.
On the sled were two burlap sacks. One laid motionless like so many potatoes while the other, our adventures noticed, began to writhe and emit muffled cries. Suddenly, the bag turned a deep shade of crimson.
The bugbear continued to trade blows with Stromm while Thud tried out his newly acquired skills in wizardry on the wolves. The crimson sack, or perhaps the caster within, found its voice and began to chant causing a dense fog to descend on the scene from the foliage above. The bugbear stepped away from Stromm and disappeared from sight. Stromm, often called upon to fight blind, slashed away in his usual fashion and managed to discern the location of his foe by following the creature’s screams of pain. The bugbear had lost a lot of blood by this point and soon succumbed to his wounds.
Stromm beelined to the sled using his navigators sense of direction and began to untie the crimson sack. Inside he found a frightened but seemingly unharmed high elf. His mage robes were tattered and caked with mud and he lay prone in the sack, bound by his hands and feet. He had managed to get his chin over a strip of cloth that had been used to gag him, however. Instead of pursuing a line of questioning, Stromm instead went to inspect the other sack. Inside, Stromm encountered the welcome sight of one Kraown, the barbarian youth from the [[Stag, Doe & Kraown | Stag & Doe]]. He was tied in a similar fashion to the high elf, though his consciousness was only now returning to him.
Though the high elf remained bound, he used his fog spell to his advantage and scooted away from the others. Unsure of his assailant’s identity, he was keen to flee the scene entirely without another thought. The others ignored his wishes and made chase. The wizard soon found himself up a tree surrounded by foes.
“We’re not your enemies!” cried Thud.
“Stand down,” Stromm called up to him, “We’re on your side, are you from the Academy?”
Kraown, freed of his bounds, joined the others at the foot of the tree, “What happened? Why were we…in bags?!” The young barbarian looked warily back toward the sled, still enveloped in a cloud of dense fog.
“I don’t remember.” The wizard said with confusion. “Who put me in there?”
“The bugbear,” Stromm called. “He dead.”
“Oh…well then,” the wizard answered. Almost at once the fog began to lift.
The wizard, feet on the ground once more, bowed with his arms outstretched. “I am Alhazred the mad.”
“I’m Thud E. Thump,” Thud answered cheerfully.
Alhazred looked up with a sneer, surveying the others. The high elf pulled himself to his full height once more and brushed as much mud and dirt from his robes as he could manage.
“You’re from the academy, right?” Stromm asked, leaning on his sword. “We’re on our way to see the Dragon about some evil magics.”
“We’re in the Hart’s Wood?” Alhazred asked, looking around.
“The Dragon’s tower is just over there,” Thud said, gesturing to the North East. “By the way,” Thud pulled the blue gems from his pouch, “Do you know anything about these?”
Alhazred approached the dwarf, intrigued by the appearance of such a mystical object. Thud recoiled as he reached out toward the stones, clutching them close. Alhazred, nodded and kept his distance. He looked back at Thud with a sneer, “How has one cavern dweller such as you come to possess these?”
Thud balked, visibly offended by the comment. Stromm answered in his stead, “We’ve been finding them in beasts we’ve slain. Cursed and frothing at the mouth, these giant monstrosities have been coming out of the woods to attack townsfolk near Hindvale. Don’t know about the bugbear though.”
“And you think the Dragon knows something about this? I should accompany you, he used to be a scholar at the Academy, I will be of use here as my knowledge of Arcana is undoubtedly far superior to your own.”
Ignoring the insult, Kraown nodded, “Yes, I’ll come too. I want to know who dared trap me in that bag!”
Some time later, the party arrived at the base of the tower and found the gates open. As they entered, they heard sounds of a battle above them. First a roar of a massive beast, then a crash. They ran to the next floor, drawing their weapons hastily. The flight of stairs opened into another large hall. From their vantage point they spotted a dire bear striding headlong into a room in the middle of the level. Just as the bear jumped out of view, a small winged creature buzzed into the hall and made right for the group. Its flesh looked bruised and saggy, its face a flat plate leading into a truncated pig-like nose. Alhazred recognized the creature as a wizard’s homunculus, a servant constructed through Arcane power. It beckoned to the adventures frantically and sped toward the other end of the hall. Another crash reverberated through the walls as the creature passed the room that contained the bear and flew instead to a stairway at the other end of the hall.
It flapped its hand again as one by one the adventures followed. Stromm, excited by the sounds of battle, forgot himself and began to absent-mindedly sing a sailing tune. The huge beast took immediate notice and galloped out of the chamber back into the hall. With the rest of the party passing the doorway to the stairway, Stromm was still several strides away. The presence of the hulking enraged monster behind him brought him out of his reverie, and Stromm made haste to rejoin the rest. Before he could pass through the door, the bear lunged for him raking him with one huge set of claws. Stromm grabbed the gash it left in his shoulder and stumbled downward.
The party found themselves in a dungeon, with veritable mountains of treasure from gold pieces to chests to jewels. They had no time to spare examining the bounty. The homunculus flitted frantically around a heavy stone wheel attached by a chain to stone slab serving as a dungeon door. Kraown used his strength to lower the wall, just as the bear managed to squeeze itself into the stairway on the floor above. As the stone came to a rest on the dungeon floor the party realized they had survived the bear, but had locked themselves in.