A Return to the Madness

A New Adventure

The group of explorers completed their quest to find out the meaning of the cards and to their dismay was surprised to walk away with no cards that will help in the next leg of the journey. Although, Tekel does remember that back at their home in Fallcrest the skulls that have been obtained are stored in a secret place within the tower.

The group decided to head towards Winterhaven to look for some horses for their journey back home to Fallcrest. As they entered the town, a caravan that was headed to Fallcrest was beginning to leave Winterhaven. As the group was looking around to purchase a few good horses to get them back to Fallcrest, the leader of the caravan asked if the battled hardened warriors of Fallcrest would accompany his caravan as guards. The leader explained that he would pay for a good escort. When the sound of money hit Eron’s ears he was definitely interested in the escort service to be provided back to Fallcrest.

Most of the group was walking along side the wagons to guard from any threat, while Tekel rested on some feed sacks in the back of a wagon. The leader of the group began to yell for help as they entered the forest ahead. Eron and the rest of the group ran to the front and easily killed the seven bandits that were trying to rob the caravan.

As the group entered Fallcrest the leader of the caravan paid the group their pay. The explorers went to the tower for some much needed rest before they headed out on their next journey.

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Paradigm Shift

Along with the captain of the town guard, the heroes raced to the Septarch’s Tower. There, they discovered the dead body of Nimozaran’s apprentice, apparently poisoned by a small incision on his neck. The Green Wizard himself was found in the steps leading to his sleeping quarters, his body charred to a blackened skeleton from the waist up. Very few other clues could be found. Upon questioning the guard who had been on patrol, the only lead was a young boy in a checkered cap, who was seen retrieving a ball from the steps leading to the Tower’s entrance.

Understandably, a crowd had gathered nearby, surrounding the Lord Warden. As Markelhay attempted to calm the crowd, the party sought him out and gave an update. From the corner of Brandis’ eye, the checkered cap boy was glimpsed, and the paladin and his comrades chased after the lad after he fled. Though the boy was nimble and well acquainted with the streets of Fallcrest, Brue managed to stay with him, ending up on the waterfront near a small ship.

When the heroes hailed the lad, they were answered with a volley of arrows. Moving in quickly, the group engaged two bowmen and a pair of nimble duelists. Though Eron fell from the whirling blades’ fury, he used his magical armor to heal his wounds. The boy, hiding behind a crate, shot at the party with a small crossbow. After dispatching the second swordfighter, Brue assumed his demonic form, hoping to intimidate the archers into revealing information. The plan backfired, however; one archer jumped into the river and fled, and the other refused to talk. Once the archer was killed, the group surrounded the boy.

Upon closer inspection, the “boy” turned out to be an adult halfling is disguise. As Brue attempted to question the small, sly thief, the halfling was consumed by a bright burst of flames, leaving a corpse behind that looked very similar to Nimozaran’s remains. The onlooking crowd roared in anger; from all appearances, the demon in the group had just immolated an innocent young lad, in cold blood.

Shocked, the heroes were led to the Keep, where the town council met once again. Armos Kamroth made a strong case against them, and revealed more information about each hero’s past than he should have known. Should the town trust an orphan, a murderer, a kid, and a demon worshipper? Though the Lord Warden made a passionate defense, the council voted to award ownership of the Tower of Waiting to Armos. The Lord Warden surprised everyone when he chose Tekel as his new Septarch, which awarded him and his wards (the rest of the party) the Septarch’s Tower. He then asked the party to remain in the Tower for a week, until things calmed down.

Shocked and exhausted from the ordeal, the group headed back to their new home. As they passed the East Gate, though, they were ambushed by two riders. One was familiar: Nynga Murdergrave, the dark warrior who had captured Brue when the party first met him. She taunted Brue, telling him he was finally ready to meet his master, then attacked. She summoned several skeletons, and she and her comrade on horseback slew the town guards who were accompanying them.

Finally, when all hope seemed lost, she stretched forth her hand, and icy blue flames burst forth from her fingers. Throwing his companions aside, Brue assumed his demonic form, and leapt into the path of the flames. When these bolts hit his fiery skin, a shock wave stunned the entire group. Murdergrave approached Brue, who was dazed from the attack, and drew a blue flaming sword. The foul woman plunged the blade into the thief’s chest, extinguishing his flames, and turning his body to dust. The flamed blade changed to a hideous shade of red, then Nynga sheathed it carefully and made her escape.

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The Joy of Politics

After their fitful sleep, the heroes checked in with Lord Warden Markelhay. Distressed by the news of a temple of Tiamat below his beloved city, the Lord Warden vowed to protect his people at any cost. He informed them of an upcoming town council meeting, in which Armos Kamroth’s claim to be the owner of the Tower of Waiting would be voted upon. The Lord Wadren advised the group to secure the votes of the council members if possible.

The first stop was the easist: Grundelmar, cleric of Pelor, had long been an ally of the heroes. Brandis had known the fiery dwarf for his entire life, and thus Grundelmar was firmly on their side.

A second stop was also productive. Orest Naerumar, owner of a shop dealing in adventuring gear, was also a council member. Appealing to the tiefling’s sense of greed by selling him fantastic magical items at a low price, the tiefling assured the group that he would vote their way.

The third stop was unsucessful. Kelson, owner of the Lucky Halfling, a seedy inn in the Lower Quays, was not receptive to the group’s plight. The group suspected that he was in the Kamroth’s pocket all along.

Lastly, the group checked in at the Septarch’s Tower, home of Nimozaran the Green. The old, absent minded wizard was the head of the mage’s guild, and served as the Lord Warden’s advisor, though he did so only rarely as his age advanced. He was sympathetic to the heroes’ cause, but did ask them to retrieve a spellbook from his basement. The odd nature of the request became apparent when the dungeon turned out to be haunted by a ghostly knight. Once defeated, the spellbook was returned and Nimozaran, thrilled, promised his vote against Kamroth.

The group felt quite safe in securing the votes. With a count of 3 in favor to 1 opposed, it looked as if the matter would be settled quickly. In the event that one vote swung the other way, that would cause a tie, in which the Lord Warden could vote, in favor of the heroes.

The night of the meeting, however, it all came apart. Nimozaran the Green didn’t show up on time, and as the minutes grew, anticipation turned to dread. Finally, a captain of the guard burst into the council chamber, and proclaimed that Nimozaran the Green and his apprentice were dead, and the Septarch’s Tower was in flames.

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A Vision of The Future

Unfortunately for the heroes, their rest would be fitful. Soon after they fell asleep, Eron experienced a vision, this time, more intense and realistic than ever before. Somehow, the rest of the party was drawn in, sharing the dream, as if they all looked down through the stream of time together.

Each of the heroes was drastically changed. Eron and Brandis both rode atop enormous gold dragons. Eron wore shining golden armor, and wielded an axe that seemed to be made entirely of light. His left hand was gone, replaced by a glowing fist of energy, similar to his axe. Brandis spoke a word, and was immediately covered in platinum dragon scales. He wielded a sword and shield made of an inly black substance filled with stars. Brue flew on his own, in appearance like a powerful devil. Batwinged, he needed no mount. Tekel has a skeletal apperance, with dark purple robes and three green-flamed skulls floating in orbit over his brow. He rode atop a skeletal dragon.

A brief exchange with Brandis’ gold dragon mount revealed little, only that they were about to face one of Tiamat’s consorts, an ancient wyrm named Apzu. Apzu was a hybrid, blue in appearance but with the abilities of a red dragon in addition to the already considerable powers of a blue. The foil Tiamat’s plan, Apzu must be defeated.

Their foes lair was in the Elemental Chaos, a plane filled with pillars of flame, islands of rock, rivers of lightning, and more dangerous terrain. Apzu was surrounded by dozens of smaller dragons, and the group’s mounts faced off with these lesser minions. The party attacked Apzu at his lair, a floating ball of barely cooled lava.

The battle was hard fought, and nearly cost two heroes their lives, but Apzu finally fell before the united assault of the party’s abilities. As the last blow was struck, the group awakened, drenched in sweat, and wondering what the vision could possibly mean.

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The Fist of Tiamat

Wearied after their fight against the devotees of Tiamat, the party had barely managed to defeat the green-clad warrior. When their foe did not fall, but rather turned into a green dragon, they knew the battle would be incredibly difficult.

Indeed, the group was hard pressed to defeat the dragon. A green dragon is tricky enough to fight on its own, but this dragon was unusual. Instead of breathing poisonous gas, the wyrm spat corrosive acid that burned the eyes and melted anything it touched. It also summoned a dark cloud around itself, making the fight even harder in the shadows. With Farallax’s assistance, the dragon was overcome. The kobold dragonmaster bid the party farewell and returned to his tribe, decreeing that their tenuous alliance was at an end.

In an adjacent, hidden room, the party found a map of the Nentir Vale. Partly destroyed, the map marked a trio of locations, intriguing the group’s interest. Perhaps more exciting were the treasures found in the room, including a powerful axe and an obviously enchanted short sword. Eron claimed the axe, and Brue was given the sword.

As soon as the thief touched it, however, strange things began to happen. He writhed in pain, and glowing runes burst forth from his arms and chest. His eyes lit up with fire, and short horns grew from his brow, giving the mysterious man a demonic appearance. The rest of the party, particularly Brandis, were apprehensive, to say the least. Brue revealed part of his backstory, but claimed to know very little as to the nature of his affliction.

With thoughts of Brue’s secret heavy in their minds, the party found an exit from the temple, following the stream in the main temple room to an underground river. The river eventually led out to the Nentir Falls, and the exhausted group headed to the nearest inn for some well-deserved rest.

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Disrupting the Ritual

With Farallax and a few of his minions in tow, the adventurers ventured ever deeper into the caverns. After some time, the caverns took on a more finished, dungeon-like appearance. This indicated to the party that the worshippers of Tiamat were very close.

By following the heat generated by a mysterious ring inscribed with Tiamat’s symbol, the group eventually came upon a door. Cautious, they entered, and came upon a room lined with bookshelves. On the far wall was a giant oval mirror, ringed by a swirling wreath of colored lights. Tekel’s keen sense for enchantments revealed that it was a one-way portal to another plane of existence. The group surmised that this was how the abishai arrived on the scene. By combining their strength and arcane prowess, the party was able to destroy the mirror in order to prevent further intrusion.

Further into the dungeon complex, the party came upon a dread sight indeed: a large room, decorated with various symbols of Tiamat, including a large statue of the five-headed goddess. In the center of the room, five figures, wearing colored robes, were performing a ritual. In the midst, a dark-armored figure holding a shimmering egg. Magical energies flowed back and forth between the casters and the central figure, who was obviously a high priest of Tiamat. A large group of minions, including orcs and humans as well as a horde of kobolds, attacked the party, defending their masters as the ritual continued.

With Farallax’s help, the heroes quickly took out all but a few of the minions, and then moved on the the casters. These robed wizards were not defenseless, and cast all manner of elemental spells, causing much blood to be spilled. One particular minion, a dark knight clad in a forest-green cloak, was a true challenge. The adventurers managed to slay all the wizards, causing the ritual to fail. However, the high priest managed to escape, following a nearby stream even further down the cavern.

The green knight proved a difficult foe, dispatching all of Farallax’s minions and bringing the group almost to its knees. Finally, it fell under an onslaught of spells and steel. But no sooner had the group caught its breath from the fight than the body shifted into a different form entirely: a young adult green dragon!

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An Old Ally Returns

After taking an uneasy rest, the adventurers set off farther down in the cavern. Taking a tunnel that led sharply down, they heard noises ahead. Cautious, they came upon a group of three kobolds. The two larger were bullying a smaller one, whose face was covered in white war paint. The party quickly attacked and slew the two, leaving the smaller kobold alive. It seemed familiar to the group, and they recalled that kobolds similar in appearance were in the dungeon they first met in.

The kobold led them to a dank room, where a familiar figure awaited them. Farallax, the kobold dragonmaster, was chained to a wall. After freeing the white scaled, hulking kobold, Farallax told of his capture by a large group of kobolds and orcs led by a priest of Tiamat. Though he had been hexed by some evil enchantment, he knew his blood, tinged with white and black dragon lines, had been spilled for use in some vile ritual, the purpose of which was crossbreeding dragons.

Freeing Farallax from his bonds, the party decided to investigate further in the hopes of learning more. Farallax joined them, in an uneasy alliance, as he was looking for revenge on those who had captured him and slain many of his people.

Upon entering a large cavern, with several pillars scattered throughout, the group was attacked. Three devil-like abishai, known to be servants of Tiamat, as well as a host of kobolds in blue, gree, and red armor attacked them. With the help of Farallax and his minions, the enemies were quickly overcome.

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I Do Not Like Broken Eggs and Runes

The party of adventurers bravely entered the cavern. After a few dozen yards, they came upon their first obstacle: a huge wall of fire. The flames changed colors regularly, and were obviously magical. After a few attempts, Brue managed to leap over the wall, and felt the heat licking at his body painfully. However, there were no burn marks or injury; the flames were illusionary. Harnessing the power of their will, the group made it through the obstacle.

Treading ever deeper into the cavern complex, the heroes came upon a large open area, with a narrow bridge over a seemingly bottomless fissure. As they entered the room, and discussed a plan of action to cross safely, a small group of orcs rushed in from the other side. Grey skinned, with hideously disfiguring scars on their faces and bodies, the foul creatures began their attack. As Brandis and Eron moved carefully across the bridge, the orcs attacked them with strange globes that burst into puddles of acid.

As the two melee fighters moved into range, Tekel and Brue offered deadly ranged support. The battle looked to be tilting in the heroes’ favor when a kobold wearing red robes burst in from another side exit, the red gem circling around its head. This creature was a pyromancer of no little skill, and laid down a zone of fire and smoke on the bridge, making things difficult for Brandis and Eron. Brue and Tekel focused on the robed fiend, and when he fell, Brandis and Eron made short work of the remaining orcs. The paladin knocked the final orc off the bridge, where it fell to its doom in spectacular fashion. The gem flew off down the same corridor the orcs entered from.

Investigating the other room, the adventurers found an odd and disturbing sight. The floor was scattered with the remains of what appeared to be dozens of dragon eggs. These were unusual, in that they were double-hued. The ceiling was covered with strange writing that pulsed with rainbow colored light. Tekel determined that these runes were to assist in the growth of the eggs, a dire portent indeed. The party took the time to briefly rest before setting off once again.

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Whose Tower Is It, Anyway?

Lord Markelhay, ruler of Fallcrest, and Armos Kamroth, a rather snotty rich landowner, were arguing over who truly owned the Tower of Waiting. Armos produced a document, quite old in appearance, that seemed to be a deed to the Tower and the island it was built on. Lord Markelhay was clearly at the limits of his patience with the slum lord, and defended the right to have given the Tower to the heroes as fairly his. Armos pointed out that this was really a civil matter, and thus would have to be handled by the Town Council. Begrudgingly, the Lord Warden declared that the matter would be decided at the next Town Council meeting.

The party, frustrated at Armos and eager to keep their hard-earned dwelling, visited several Town Council members. Grundelmar, Dwarven cleric, and a longtime friend of Brandis, was on their side, having no love for Armos. Nimozaran the Green Wizard was mentioned as one who would also likely side with the adventurers, but the remainder of the council’s feelings were unknown.

A more pressing matter presented itself when Ravide told the heroes that he had discovered a secret tunnel to a basement of sorts beneath the Tower of Waiting. Anxiously, the group made their way down a steep narrow staircase, and discovered what appeared to be a barracks and prison. Likely, this dated back many hundreds of years to the twilight of the empire of Nerath. However, recent footprints in the dust were discovered.

Another interesting development was the fact that the barracks and jail were trapped. One room set off a poisonous cloud of greenish gas. Another had an electrified floor that Brue managed to disarm. A third room contained a trap that shot forth jets of flame. Thankfully, none were hurt too badly.

In the final area of the basement, the group encountered a strange group of kobolds. These creatures were somewhat larger than normal, and dressed in armors and clothing of bright red, green, and blue. The biggest of these foul enemies had dragon scales embedded in their chests, and had the ability to wield the elemental powers of fire, lightning, and poison, respectively. Angry at being attacked by the traps, the group unleashed fury on the kobolds, who fell quickly.

A fresh tunnel leading to a cave complex was revealed; this must have been how the kobolds got in. Following the tunnel, the heroes came upon a wide, relatively open area, with two large pools of water. A gigantic stone door, carved with the symbol of Tiamat, was across their way. As they investigated, a truly horrific creature emerged from a pool and attacked them.

The beast appeared as a dark hydra, with a full complement of five heads, each snapping and hissing, ready to attack. Strange metal harnesses were attached to each head, in the colors of the ruler of all evil dragons. Carefully, the group used flaming weapons and other fiery attacks to prevent the hydra’s heads from regrowing when cut off. Though some fell before the hydra’s mighty jaws, eventually the beast was put down, and the group managed to heal and rest briefly.

Investigating the metal harnesses, the heroes found five gems, which, when placed within recesses on the door, opened it. The gems then began to levitate, spinning in a circular pattern, and floated slowly into the darkness beyond the door. The brave adventurers, of course, followed.

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Investigating the Mine

Now that the group was back in Fallcrest, they could devote some more time to their new home, the Tower of Waiting that Lord Markelhay had bestowed them for their services. Unfortunately, the tower was a ruin, and much needed to be done before it would be able to be used as a home base of sorts.

One particular problem was a shortage of marble. Due to a lack of demand, the marble mines had been closed for several years. Lord Markelhay ordered them opened, planning to purchase much stone to assist in the rebuilding of the tower, as well as boosting the local economy. However, there was a problem: several miners had gone missing for almost a week. Fearing foul play, and desirous of their shiny new tower, the party decided to investigate the mine.

First, however, they were attacked by a blazing tiefling named Lividius. Attacking the adventurers while they were dining with Grundelmar, dwarven cleric of Pelor, the assassin burt into the Blue Moon Alehouse and nearly slew the group and burned the place down. Thankfully, after a hard fight, the Iron Circle mercenary fell, reminding the group that they had powerful enemies who would surely return in the future.

After a rest to recover, the group headed for the largest mine, just outside town. The head miner, Walber, told them what he knew, and gave them an orange goo made from a cave fungus that glowed for many days when spread. They could use this to keep from getting lost in the caves, and could hopefully track the missing miners the same way.

After a few hours, the group was attacked by a strange creature, a bulette. This land shark was quite dangerous, burrowing about at will, but finally fell in battle. Inside, Brue found a ruby ring marked with the symbol of Tiamat, a forebidding omen indeed.

Due to the bulette’s tunneling, the party had to overcome a dangerous cave-in. Nimbly, they emerged relatively unscathed, and soon found the petrified bodies of the miners. Though the prospect of fighting a foe who could turn them to stone was daunting, the party pressed on.

Finally, the group encountered the culprits. Two mated pairs of cockatrices had laid eggs in a cavern lair. The beasts were not particularly dangerous at first, and fell rather quickly. But the last cockatrice, a furious mother, managed to petrify several members of the party! Tormund, using his nature skills and the shells of the cockatrice eggs, was able to brew a poltice to free them from their stony condition.

Weary, the group returned to Fallcrest, where a strange sight awaited them. Lord Markelhay and Armos Kamroth, a local slum lord, were arguing outside the tower. Armos claimed to have a deed granting him the Tower of Waiting…

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