Caster's Cradle

Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

First Adventure

We begin our adventure in the tavern of the Stag & Doe Inn, Hindvale’s most popular venue for travelers and locals alike to lay aside their cloaks and enjoy a fine brew after the travails of the day. The innkeeper, Alan, is a gruff man but tonight he is consoling one of his most loyal patrons, famer Jacob, who is drowning his sorrows in the aftermath of witnessing his boy get attacked by a beast from the Hart’s Wood.

Jacob recounts the tale, “It came out of nowhere, and stole him away! I could hear him screaming as it took off with him!”

Suddenly, two of the town guards burst through the tavern door, carrying the limp body of a wizard from the Academy of Arkanum. The bright green cloth of his robes was torn and blood soaked, the wounds on his arms and chest oozed black as if he’d been wounded days ago and left the wounds to putrefy.

Thud intervened and was able to stabilize the wizard with a spell. After regaining consciousness, the wizard was able to indicate that he too had been attacked in the area around Jacob’s farm. Perhaps even by the same creature that had taken the man’s son.

Without any able-bodied or trained villagers to help, Thud and Strom undertook the mission to investigate and do away with the cursed beast that was roaming around the farm. Farmer Jacob took them to the field where his boy had disappeared and they quickly found what they were looking for.

The giant bat flew at them, swooping, biting and clawing as Thud and Strom tried to evade. Off balance because of the light spell Thud had cast, the beast careened into the ground, offering the party a chance to counterattack. The party was victorious in killing the beast, but there was still no trace of the boy. Strom made the rational decision to check the innards of the creature for any trace that it might have eaten up the poor kid. He cut the belly with his sword, and while there was no human remains, a blue egg-shaped gem tumbled to the ground with a cascade of viscera. Thud deftly snatched it up and as he held it in his hand the gem faded. At that moment, the bat’s flesh melted away leaving behind only the creature’s skeleton.

Thud and Strom searched the area for any other sign of Jacob’s son. Arriving in a clearing, Thud spotted a human body, no doubt what they had hoped they wouldn’t find. However, in the midst of investigating it, another beast charged at them from the wood. This time a Giant Goat, cursed with black eyes and black roiling foam spewing from its mouth, just like the bat.

Thud and Strom made quick work of the goat, gaining confidence in their skills. At the end of the battle, Strom once again slashed at the belly of the thing, and once again revealed a glowing blue gem. As Thud collected it, the flesh of the goat melted away down to its skeletal remains.

First Adventure Part II

After defeating the cursed creatures at the farm and returning the body of Jacob’s son to the farmer, our adventurers Stromm and Thud made their way to the Academy of Arkanum to discover the fate of the wizard who they had encountered the night before. Perhaps he could give some insight into the gems they had found inside the beasts.

By the time they reached the Academy, the sun was rising and the castle was beginning to awaken. Thud and Stromm diverged in the hall to seek blessings from their respective gods but Stromm found himself in the midst of a funeral. After some investigation, the adventurers discovered that young Master Higgins, the wizard they had stabilized the night before, had ultimately perished from his wounds.

Thud sought the help of the Mystrian Priestess, head cleric at the Academy. However, the encounter went awry when she reacted aggressively to the sight of the gems. “You are not who say you are!” she cried, “Get out of this place.” Thud and Stromm were forced to flee the Academy as the castle’s guardian golems pursued them. All was not lost though, as the young apprentice who had informed them of the wizard’s death appeared with the suggestion that they find the Dragon, a mage said to live deep in the Hart’s Wood. If anyone would know about such evil arkana, it would be him.

Stromm and Thud thought it best to prepare for the journey ahead at the Stag & Doe and headed back towards town. On the road they were suddenly attacked by a pack of wolves. While one of the wolves fell quickly at the hand of Stromm, the other targeted Thud. With a bite the wolf threw Thud to the ground and began to claw at his pack. It took the purse with the gems in its jaws and broke for the woods. By the grace of the gods, Stromm and Thud were able to halt the beast and recover their things.

Exhausted, they finally arrived at the Stag & Doe. Alan the innkeeper was pleased with their heroism the night before, unaware of the events at the Academy that morning. Their efforts were rewarded and they proceeded to rest and heal their wounds. The journey ahead would no doubt prove perilous, they would need their strength.

Stag, Doe & Kraown

Some time later, our adventurers quietly arrived back at the Stag & Doe. It was there that they encountered a rare sight, a young barbarian with a great thirst for ale. Not that the thirst was particularly out of the ordinary for a young barbarian, no. The shock was more that a barbarian would have wandered this far south in the first place.

“Ho, brave warriors!” he said approaching Stromm and Thud. The two sat wearily at the table nearest to the tavern door. Cleric and Fighter alike drooping into their chairs.

“Well met,” answered Stromm, intrigued by the appearance of another warrior in the sea of farm hands and basket weavers. He made a brief effort to hide his anxiety but failed when the two others noticed he wasn’t throwing back Alan’s fine brews.

“Never met a dwarf who doesn’t drink.” Stromm prodded, visibly discomforting Thud. Thud did his best to appear stoic as the barbarian drew Stromm’s attention once again.

“I’m Kraown from the north lands. Pleasure to see other folk wearing armor in these parts.” Stromm nodded and offered Kron another tankard, “Have an ale on the house.”Kraown nodded back in kind and happily drained the draught in one swig.

“Has your business in these parts required such armor?” asked Kraown.

“We been out killing things for the past few nights, actually.” Stromm answered. He went on to explain the events of the week including their upcoming plans to find the legendary Dragon in the depths of the Hart’s Wood.

“Maybe he can tell us about these dark magics.” Thud finished, breaking his silence for a brief moment.

“If you’ve got nothing to do,” Stromm interjected, “why don’t you come with us? We could use another able body in case things go bad.”

“Which is likely.” Thud muttered grumpily.

“I shall indeed join you!” Kraown answered, demanding yet another brew from Alan the Innkeeper.

“Another, boy?!” cried Alan, amused.

“Can’t feel a thing!” Kraown replied, welcoming the fresh ale.

Not long after, the band retired to their respective rooms to rest and prepare for the day ahead. Stromm’s curiosity in Thud’s true motivations continued to nag at him, nothing made sense with this fellow. Before turning in, he was overcome by the urge to conduct a bit of reconnaissance on the dwarf. Peeping through the keyhole and feeling a bit foolish, Stromm discovered Thud moving aggressively around his quarters at such an alarming speed that his shape could hardly be discerned. Just at that moment, a bleary-eyed Kron stumbled down the hallway with a crash and Stromm quickly made a run for his own bed.

In the morning, despite some furious knocking on his chamber door, Stromm and Thud proved unable to rouse the sleeping Kraown and without much choice, they decided to set out for the Dragon’s tower sans the barbarian youth. Perhaps Alan’s ale was a might stronger than Kraown had reckoned.

Into the Woods

Thud and Stromm set out early towards the Dragon’s tower. They headed north at first, deep into the Hart’s Wood. The air was thick and felt stagnant as if it hadn’t been disturbed by neither man nor beast in too long a while. After a time, the trees began to thin, giving way to bog and swamp.

Thud and Stromm’s first encounter was not with great evil, but a mundane nuisance – swarms of swamp insects. Thud cursed as the tiny creatures crawled under his armor unleashing bite after sting.

Stromm chopped with his great sword to no great effect as the swarm encircled Thud. Invoking holy power, Thud cast a bolt of fire from his palm decimating the tiny horde. Stromm changed tactics and used the flat side of his blade to smash at the insects, their bodies squishing and crunching against steel. In a moment the swarm seemed revitalized, Thud looked as though he would be overwhelmed. Stromm flung his sword aside and went in for the rescue. He grabbed Thud by the armpits and pulled him away from the swarm. The euphoria of such a swift and graceful move filled the fighter’s heart of Stromm with a righteous zeal and Stromm forgot he was holding his dwarven friend and not his sharp and pointy one. Still grasping Thud by the arms, Stromm windmilled, ending the lives of a thousand winged beast upon the scaled armour of his companion.

“Aha! HO HO!” cried Stromm, practically bursting into a maritime song as he made quick work of the remaining foes.

After the battle, Thud channeled his anger into the task of picking gnat carcasses from his braids. The two continued on their journey towards the tower at a slogging pace.

Eventually they reached a clearing. Here they met what was clearly a dire wolf, a strange creature that neither of them had ever seen with their own eyes. The wolf proved no match for the two adventurers, but the battle indicated once more than druidic magic was at work in the Hart’s Wood.

As night fell, Stromm used his sense of navigation born from long years at sea to discern the way. As they travelled East, the woods became thick and tall again. Dusk fell and the the two pushed on. Finally, they came to a river that intersected with a roadway. They were very near to the Dragon’s tower. Stromm and Thud thought better of meeting the Dragon just yet and began to search for a place to make camp. Before they could, they noticed two harpies in the midst of what seemed like an intense debate.

The harpies looked formidable, with the bodies and heads of women, but the wings and talons of vultures they were not a battle to be taken lightly. Equipping ranged weapons, Stromm and Thud shot simultaneous crossbow bolts into the harpies’ chests. While startled, the harpies still managed to entrance Stromm with their song, urging him to drown himself in the raging river rapids. Before he could, Stromm broke the enchantment and made the nearest harpy pay dearly for her decision to violate his mind. The two adventures were worn down, but still strong and eventually cut the evil wretches out of the air. Thinking fast, they threw the bodies into the river and watched as they were quickly carried away by the current.

Exhausted once again, Thud and Stromm posted up for the night hoping nothing else still lurked in dark woods. Their mood was grim, all this just to get to the Dragon. What awaited them in that tower?

Encounters with Strange Bags

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.

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.

Tower of Riddles

The adventurers couldn’t quite understand what they had just witnessed but they knew they wanted to get back into that tower. The bugbears stood motionless and silent in the rain. Looking around, Stromm noticed a second floor balcony that could offer some way into the tower besides the front door. Recalling his time at sea once again, he climbed a nearby tree quick and easy as if he were making his way to the crow’s nest of his old ship.

He proceeded then to leap with relative ease onto the stone balcony. He knelt where he landed tied a rope to the stone railing. Tossing the rope down to the others, he crept towards the glass doors into the tower. Behind them everything looked dark, quiet and undisturbed. Meanwhile, Kraown and Alhazred had made it up to the second story, only Thud remained below. He gripped the rope with all his strength and jumped, only to come crashing down in his plate mail. The ear of the nearest bugbear swung in his direction, followed by a turned head. The creature couldn’t see what had made the noise through such a thick layer of mist and rain so he moved from his post to investigate. Stromm cursed under his breath and motioned for Thud to the rope to his body. Thud hastily complied and began backing as far away from the bugbear as possible. Luckily, Kraown and Stromm were able to use their combined strength to heave Thud easily to balcony with seconds to spare. The bugbear walked on toward the forest and disappeared from view.

Inside the tower, the party found itself in the corridor where they had previously encountered the dire bear. All was quiet now though as they entered. In the bedchamber they found the remains of an old wizard. His simply robes were torn and tattered, and he lay face up in a pool of blood that originated somewhere in his mid-section. The party suspected this was indeed the Dragon, as his garments and armaments belied his skills with the arcane. When finished with their examination, the group proceeded to the third floor to see what else the Dragon had been up to.

Upstairs, the party was able to find a host of magical items, potions and trinkets that were apparently not booby-trapped like those in the dungeon. They also came upon a large white marble room. It had no furniture and little adornment on the walls. Against one wall was a large fireplace and standing in the center of the room was a pedestal. Atop it a single crystal ball rested accompanied by an inscription.

As the river to the sea,
So at night, soft wings to me

“It’s a riddle.” Stromm said, eyeing the writing etched into the pedestal. The party immediately began to search the room for clues, as they looked they came across several useful items: The Collected History of Hart’s Wood Volumes 1-7 and a Multilingual Guide to Cyphers. Just as they came upon these items, the suit of armor which stood in the marble chamber sprung to life and proceeded to attack Kraown. The party soon came to realize that with each passing minute that they left the riddle unsolved, the chance of being attacked by the agents of the tower increased. Kraown, trying to contribute lit a fire in the fireplace. When nothing happened, he began to throw nearly everything he could find into the flames. Magical tomes, trinkets, and even the now lifeless suits of armour went in. As their power was released yellow and pink smoke began to billow into the chimney.

Thud realized that perhaps fire was the key to this first riddle and slung a fire bolt directly at the crystal ball. The instant the flames touched the crystal, the walls began to hum and move revealing a staircase up to the fourth floor.

On the fourth floor, the party encountered another riddle, harder this time.

Though my lands grow less and less
Where I rule, I can oppress

_I can’t be heard and have no beholder
But I am found near shivered shoulder

One more clue I grant you now,
of precious metals I am made
Not hard to find me, but I can’t tell you how
In dormant kettles, I have stayed_

As the party struggled to find the right spell to cast, they suddenly began to hear commotion from the outside. The smoke from the fire on the floor below had been seen by the party of bugbears who were now making their way upstairs to investigate. Stromm thought fast and pulled out his sack of a thousand ball bearings he never dreamed would come to use. Stromm dropped them all into a bucket and set a trap for the first bugbear to approach, God willing.

As the first bugbear came loping up the stairs, Stromm released the rope holding the bucket aloft and one thousand ball bearings came clattering down into the stairwell, staunching the bugbears’ approach. Two of them fell outright down the stairs as the other tried to avoid falling prone. The party now had the upperhand. Thud used his newly discovered Bag of Tricks to summon a lion to the group’s aid. Kraown, his superior strength to chop downward at the beasts, as Stromm’s trap continued to make the stairwell difficult terrain. In the end, one bugbear was left alive. Stromm used his manacles to bind him and the party prepared for their first interrogation, not quite remembering that the bugbears had been four in number, not three.

Peter and Barry

The interrogation started off as expected, with the party taking turns shouting intimidating words at the chained bugbear. He looked like a juvenile, his fur still looked scruffy in patches and his tusks were a bit smaller than some of the others’ had been. At first he didn’t say much, either from lack of caring or lack of knowing.

“Who do you work for!” cried Kraown slamming a fist into the wall just behind the bugbear’s head. The bugbear glared up at the barbarian and snidely said, “Bale. I work for Bale.” The party recognized this as the name of the bugbear leader they had previously seen downstairs.

“Who does he work for?” Stromm asked, arms crossed with irritation.

“The Three.” The bug bear said, flexing against the manacles.

“And who are they then?” Thud asked from across the room.

“Elves,” the bugbear spoke again. These were likely the elves the party had just encountered. One of them said he was coming back.

Stromm rounded on the bugbear for another line of questioning when suddenly a group of 5 bugbears burst into the room. The party hadn’t thought to send someone as a lookout and the bugbears, used to sneaking through the forest, had got the drop on them. Bale was among the group. Entering with morningstar held high he growled, “Surrender or die!”

Just as he began to move toward the group, another voice rang out. It sounded human, male and quite jolly in fact, “I don’t think so!” Everyone in room froze as the bugbear nearest to the doorway screamed and fell to his knees. Protruding from his solar plexus was a long dirk, glistening and wet with his blood. A hooded figure stood behind him, face obscured by the thick ashen cloak he wore. “Hmm,” he clucked, pushing his hood back to his shoulders to reveal the visage of human with a rye smile. Bale turned to face the newcomer, eyes wide with fury.

“Barry,” the rogue called in a raised voice, “You can come in now!” A deep booming from the floor below ended with the appearance of a lumbering stone golem. Upon entering the room, he immediately made for the nearest bugbear. The rogue fell back to the wall as the others prepared for the fight ahead. Whoever these folk were, they seemed to be on the party’s side.

The bugbears launched their attacks, one succeeding in knocking Alhazred to the floor with one vicious blow. The chained bugbear began to pull and wrench at the chains hoping to break free and join the fight. Bale went for the fighter while Thud ducked out of harm’s way to try to save Alhazred from the grip of death. Witnessing the wizard crumple under a bugbear’s morningstar, the stone golem walked calmly over and flung the offending bugbear into the wall with such force that he didn’t get up again. In a moment, Alhazred was restored and set his sights on Bale who was in the midst of trading blows with Stromm. The rogue and the stone golem worked in unison to defeat several other bugbears.

On his third try, the chained juvenile bugbear broke free of his chains, and crashed towards Thud who was concentrating on the bugbear leader. His advance was stalled in an instant by Kraown’s axe. “By Dol Dorn’s hairless scrotum I shall slice you asunder!” he boomed, chopping at the beast.

Across the room, Thud and Alhazred used their arcane skills to distract Bale long enough for Stromm to land a gruesome blow against him, severing his paw at the wrist. Despite Bale’s continued retaliatory blows, his strength had left him with his blood. After a final morningstar swing sent him off balance, he fell heavily to the ground and bled out in a matter of moments.

“Well, I guess it’s time for introductions then?” The rogue said as he pulled an errant dagger from the body of a felled bugbear.

He flourished his hands in front of him before bowing low to the group, “My name’s Peter and I’m here to rescue you.” Popping up again he nodded cheerfully before adding, “You’re welcome.”

He continued, “Now then, which one of you is the Dragon anyway? You don’t look like old wizards.” He gasped, “Unless, of course, you killed the Dragon!”

He flourished his cloak again and drew a dagger from his belt, “Then I’ve just gone and killed the wrong folk, haven’t I?”

Kraown looked indignant at this accusation, “They put us bags.”

Stromm sheathed his sword and put out a hand, “We didn’t kill him. He was already dead when we got here, pretty much.”

Peter froze, dagger still raised, “The Academy will not be happy about this.” He sighed and cast a glance toward the stone golem.

“The Academy?” Alhazred asked. “I’m from the Academy, is that one of our stone golems?”

Peter nodded, “Why yes, this is Barry the golem. He lives outside the gates and serves the Academy of Arkanum. They sent me here after they received a distress call from the Dragon. Strange things have been happening in the Hart’s Wood of late.” The knowledge that one of the group was a member of the Academy seemed to put Peter at ease, and he flicked the dagger back into its place on his belt.

“But wait,” he hesitated, “Why are you out here then? Did the Academy send you too?”

“Not exactly,” Thud answered a bit sheepishly, remembering the incident there days before.

“We’re investigating the happenings in the Hart’s Wood for the town of Hindvale,” Stromm added.

“Someone put us in bags!” cried Kraown shaking his fist in outrage.

Peter looked quizzically at Kraown, “There have been disappearances. Do you know who took you?”

“It was a bugbear, I know…but I have no memory of being taken,” Kraown answered. Alhazred concurred.

“Well then,” Peter said with another sweep of his cloak, “Let’s return to the Academy. I’m sure they will be able to shed some light on the subject. They will want to know that the Dragon is dead. They will want to know everything you’ve told me.”

The party agreed to go with Peter and Barry back to the Academy, perhaps with the help of the rogue and Alhazred they would be able to learn more about what was happening here.

The Three

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.


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