Peter was a rogue that worked for the Academy of Arkanum in the Department for the Procurement of Lost Magical Items. He informed the group that he often handled the Academy’s shadier business but was happy to be called upon to fulfill any sort of duty the Academy demanded of him. From the Dragon’s tower back to the Academy was a few days on foot and the group took the time to fill Peter in on the details of the past few days. Peter’s normally cheerful air had grown gloomy by the time they finally made it back through the Academy’s doors. As they arrived, he took a moment to introduce the group to his apprentice Rutty McGreedy, another employee of the Department for the Procurement of Lost Magical Items, before he whisked away to arrange a meeting with the headmistress of the Academy, Ilona Ravenwing.
After a night’s rest, the group was summoned by Peter to join him in an audience with Headmistress. She greeted them in her meeting chambers. She sat facing the door. Behind her, the floor to ceiling windows displayed the gorgeous scenery of the Academy grounds. Peter trotted in ahead of the group and bowed low, “Headmistress.”
“Peter, what news do you have?” She asked, rising to her feet. She came to meet him, taking his hands in hers briefly.
“It’s grim. Nothing good. The Dragon… I arrived too late.” Peter looked back at Ilona with a creased brow. The woman looked back dumbstruck as her hands dropped to her sides.
“Oh,” she said turning away toward the window. The room was silent for a moment before she said, “Please tell me you know the circumstances of his death. Is it as we’ve feared?”
Peter looked back at the group, “I’ve brought some folks that got to the Dragon first, apparently they’ve already made your acquaintance? At least one of them is a student here, he and a companion were rescued by the others deep in the Hart’s Wood.”
Ilona turned to look at them. As her eyes met Thud’s, her face contorted with fury, “You again! How dare you enter these halls!”
Peter, seeing her reaction stepped into her line of sight hinging forward out of habit into a shallow bow, “It’s alright. I believe there’s been a misunderstanding. They’re not bad folk.”
Ilona strode towards the group, “This one is not what he seems. This one is not honest. Tell me, why are you here. Why were you in the Hart’s Wood?!”
Stromm cleared his throat for a moment and chimed in, “Well, we’re on business from Hindvale. We’re investigating these strange beasts that have been showing up and attacking villagers. You wouldn’t help us, but one of your students told us that perhaps someone named the Dragon could tell us what the hell was going on. We went to his place and found him there. Then this guy showed up.” Stromm flung a thumb toward Peter.
Kraown stepped forward, “Yeah, and he accused us of murder. Even if we did it, it wasn’t very nice for him to come right out and say it like that. Rude.”
Ilona’s eyes narrowed on the barbarian, “Peter, explain to me why they are here?”
“Well, Headmistress, I thought you should know first hand what they found and what they saw.”
“What they saw?” Ilona looked back at Stromm.
“Yeah…” Stromm scratched the back of his head with his hand, “We don’t really know. We saw a bear. A big-ass bear. Huge. Almost got me in the end. We think it was summoned there to kill the Dragon or something.”
Peter nodded and gestured for Stromm to carry on. Stromm nodded, “And then we saw some bugbears and some elves. They went in the tower and took a body out. Then the elves left. One of them had really long glossy hair. Mentioned a guy named Eloh-deen or something.”
Ilona shot a look at Peter who stared back at her knowingly. “It is as we feared then?” she asked.
Peter sighed, “I believe so, they have encountered one of the Three. They were the ones who killed the Dragon.”
Kraown spoke up again, “Why did they put us in bags! By Dol Dorn! This is an outrage and someone must pay for this!”
Ilona gave Kraown a withering look, “Quiet, I need to think.”
Stromm hardly waited for her to finish her sentence before immediately ignoring her request, “The bugbear we interrogated also said something about the Three. Who are they?”
Peter turned to face Stromm, “In fact, I think all of these incidents are connected. The bugbears must be working for the Three. Why are they carrying out these kidnappings?”
Ilona looked at them wearily, “I’ll tell you what I know for sure: The Dragon was not just a crazy old wizard living in the woods inspiring folktales. He was working for us, trying to protect the Academy from an old enemy he was convinced would rise again. It seems he was right.”
She went on, "Long ago, there was an evil organization known to us as the Order of Bhaal. Members of the order called themselves Deathstalkers and worked to fulfill a singular mission, to restore the fallen god Bhaal to his former glory in the pantheon of deities. They were convinced that knowledge of the ritual that would restore Bhaal was contained within one of the most sought-after magical relics on this plane of existence, the Book of Vile Darkness.
Certain members of the Order were very powerful wizards, necromancers and sorcerers and in the end, somehow, they were able to obtain the Book. Those of us who walk to the path of Goodness at the Academy were made highly aware of their acquisition of the Book as it threatened to alter the balance between good and evil forever. Luckily, we had a plan.
The Dragon had long since infiltrated their order, he acted as a Deathstalker for many long years before he finally had an opportunity to escape with the Book of Vile Darkness. Before he was able to flee the temple where they had hidden it, the Dragon came face to face with a very powerful cleric of the Order, Malella. The Dragon defeated her, ruining the Order’s hopes of restoring Bhaal. However, the Order had not been vanquished by this act alone. When the Dragon killed Malella, he orphaned her triplet sons. All of them were preternaturally gifted in the dark arts and already posed a significant threat even at such a young age.
After he left, the Dragon feared that the Three would be taken under the wing of another sorcerer, Malella’s partner, Saggoth. For one hundred long years the Dragon has waited in that tower, listening for signs of the Order’s return and the rise of the Three now entering elven adulthood."
“They found him. That would be my guess. They found him and they wanted revenge. The Three all have different areas of expertise. If I had to bet, I would put my money on that dire bear being the Druid, Elodin. Fenris is a wizard, and the last of them is Shadrack, a necromancer,” Peter said.
Ilona nodded, “Listen, did you find anything in the tower that might explain how they found him or what he knew about them?”
Thud stepped forward and revealed the journals and books they had collected from the tower, “Here, we have these. They’re in Draconic.”
Ilona took them and began to leaf through them. “No,” she said, “These aren’t his encrypted journals, just his secondary ones. Did you find anything that looked like it was written in code?” Thud shook his head.
“Well then,” Ilona sniffed, “I have a mission for you. I can pay for your services, although I am still unsure of whether or not you are up to the task and if you are prepared to take this seriously.” Kraown grumbled, attracting another withering look from Ilona.
“Return to the tower and retrieve the body of my dear friend along with his journal. Perhaps it is hidden in a place you didn’t visit.”
Alhazred cleared his throat and said, “Headmistress, the area is full of wizard’s puzzles and traps.”
Ilona raised an eyebrow, “And aren’t you a wizard? If you’re not up to the task…”
“We’ll get it done,” Stromm interjected.
“Good,” Ilona said, “For your trouble, you will receive 2000 gold pieces upon your return to the Academy. Make haste. I do not want the Dragon’s journal to fall into the wrong hands. The fate of the Hart’s Wood could be at stake.”
Everyone in the party left with quick bows, Thud however remained behind. Thinking of the task ahead, the party joined Peter in the hall. “Look, I have to go away on some other business. We need to know more about Saggoth. I’m going to do some reconnaissance. In my stead, I’m sending my apprentice Rutty McGreedy. He’s a clever lad, I believe he will be asset. I’ve given him some of my belongings to aid in your quest. Go with the gods.” Peter flourished his cloak and strode away, leaving the party to gather their things and retrace their steps to the tower.