The grey dawn greeted a weary and soot covered Stone’s Throw. Though the night the town worked without rest, digging survivors out of the fallen tower, shifting stones to shore up the defensive walls, and patching the longhouse with crude walls against the falling snow.
“This snow, it’s foul. It's like someone first used it to put out a forge before dropping it from the sky.”
“Do you think it related to the earthquake?“ the youth asked.
Carreg wiped at his brow, his sweat soaked forehead getting his tattered robe a little grimier. “Could be, but what do I know? This is the first I’ve ever spent a year above ground. Still, it would be an odd coincidence for them to have happened at about the same time.” The dwarf patted his pockets to reassure himself that his pipe was still there, but did not draw it out. “How are the two who were on watch? Will they survive?”
“Yes, although the arm is lost.”
“Well, he’ll still be able to hold a hammer with the other, and the most powerful weapon a night watchman has is his eyes and lungs.”
“Lungs won’t stop the orcs.”
Carreg pulled a drink from his water skin and then offered it to the young pilgrim, “No, but companions will bring arms, and the sheer will to call this place home will give us the strength to wield those arms.”
“I wish that we still had those brave warriors that had wintered with us. And their magic. The orcs would certainly think twice before attacking a town so richly defended.”
Carreg spits and cleared his throat. “Riches, eh? And gold? And magic?” The young pilgrim looked at the dwarf sideways, realizing that the bald sorcerer was working himself up to a rant. And sure enough, in a moment he began. “There is often talk of adventurer’s gold, but it is also necessary to talk of gilded adventurers.” The youth lowered his head, but rolled his eyes. ”Why should some people slog through mud, so that others can travel on the backs of eagles?” The dwarf continued, “why should some live for thirty-five years, so that others can live for seven hundred? Why should some go without arms and armor, where others glow with weight of a half dozen magic items? I speak on behalf of the citizens of Stone’s Throw who do not have peace of mind. I speak on the behalf of the citizens who have no defenses, of those whose right to endure against the coming threat have been denied…”
“Your pardon, master Dwarf, I see Parovar, and he looks to have need of me. I shall be back.” And with a quick scurry across the frozen ground the youth was free of the dwarf’s rant.
Carreg spat into the snow as he watched the youth’s form vanish into the falling snow. “Yeah. I’ll shut up now.”
Through the next day the town rested, and the following dawn showed a clearer sky, except for a single dirty plume of soot that still rose into the sky far to the East. A hasty meeting agreed that although there was still months of labor needed to restore Stone’s Throw it was more important to be aware of any immediate threats. The town had to know just how extensive the earthquake was, and if the settlement was under threat of any other force. It was soon decided that a small scouting party should investigate, and if possible find out the status of any close by friendly cities. Imsh would lead a party through the woods to the Lizardfolk encampment. Soskodmorah and Carreg would act as diplomats, having had dealings with the Lizardfolk before. Shaguay and Jade would also accompany to ensure the safety of the party. After promising to hurry back once information was gained, the party headed out.
Within a day’s travel over the cold hardened earth the party reached the remains of Mump’s outpost. The outpost had already suffered the indignity of raiders, but the earthquake was the final blow and nothing remained standing, not even anything large enough to provide any shelter from the continuing snowfall. As the party vainly endeavored to find anything to eat, or burn, a trio of mysterious lights floated out of the woods and then flew directly into the middle of camp. Soskodmorah called down the winds to smite the fell spirits, as the rest of the party attacked with arrows and arms. But whatever was thrown at the entities, nothing much seemed to damage them. And worse, they vanished at will to appear where the party least expected them, only to channel savage bolts of lightning. After chasing the elusive balls of energy all over the camp, they vanished and seemed to have disengaged.
Carreg, still in his stone form, muttered “I read one of their minds in the fight, they were commanded by a dragon to slay us. They were most insistent on attacking any magic user first.”
Realizing the floating threat might just be waiting to launch another ambush if the party camped where they were, or worse, were summoning allies, the party packed up and traveled a couple hours through the dark to finally fetch up at the Ashen Vale. But barely had anyone gone to sleep than sharp eyed Imsh spotted the three undead lights bobbing down the pass, heading ever onward to the camp. Quickly rousing everyone an ambush was decided upon, although, in actuality, only Imsh managed to hide to any advantage. Once more battle was joined, but this time the party fought knowing that there would be no escape from these disembodied undead. Under that threat, with some sweat & not a little blood, and with a little bit of baiting using the knowledge the wisps were ordered to go after magic users, eventually lead to a victory. Where the undead finally fell, only some strange smoothed onyx stones remained.
As the sun rose on the Ashen Vale, the damage from the earthquake was evident here as well. The river through the vale had shifted, and the structures that had stood within the bottom of the vale were now burried in a newly formed pond.
No longer wary of the threat of Red Teethed Regazi the five ventured mostly West through the woods until they met up with the North flowing river. Along the way a study of the onyx stones revealed that they weren’t actually stone, but blackened orc teeth. Given that the phantoms spoke in haunting orcish just before they attacked, this lead the party to believe these were the teeth of the orcs that were turned into the wisps themselves.
Eventually the party achieved the river and so they turned North, following the river’s course through the woods towards the fork with the Sibel river. After less than a day’s travel the remains of an Elven town was encountered next to a waterfall in the river. Searching the stone ruins Jade discovered a cache of magical dust hidden in a rusted tin a few inches below the frozen ground. A little experimentation and it was determined to be a large cache of magical powder that caused an infuriating frictionlessness to spread across wherever it was cast.
Further exploring North showed a road, mostly overgrown, that paralleled the river. Less than a minute on the road, though, and the booming of a large horn was heard echoing through the forest. As the party advanced along the road a large, mostly intact, bridge appeared that crossed the river. And upon the bridge, tied to stakes, several humanoids were bound. Jade bound forward to untie the sacrifices, as the rest of the party scanned the river and the forest to try to determine where the threat was coming from. Carreg watched the sky. Those that glanced to the river spotted several large caves at the waterline on the opposing shore, and then, with a subtle shifting of the flow of the river, a huge form was seen to be swimming just below the surface towards the bridge.
Jade, finding several dazed Lizardfolk tied to posts along the bridge started to free the captives with her dagger. Soskodmorah noted that the scales of the Lizardfolk indicated that they were of the less sane tribe, the ones that worshiped an bloodthirsty god.
As the shadow in the water closed with the bridge, a swell formed, and then a great draconic head broke through the surface of the water. It growled hungrily at the bridge. Jade heard the captives mutter in praise of “Korth Throdan” and she quickly cast a spell that started freeing the captives even faster. But even as she freed the captives, they mindlessly turned to the dragon head and chanted towards it.
As the rest of the party stood stunned watching the colossal head propel itself through the water, without warning a second head rose next to the first head. The second head was of a completely different design, but writhing intertwined with the first head. Moments after the second head joined the first, a third, even stranger joined the two, and then a fourth, and finally a fifth head rose from beneath the waters.
And then with a single twang an arrow buried itself in one of the dragon’s heads. And then another head was struck with an ice blast, and then the battle was joined. Initially just intending the draw the creature away from Jade and her errand of mercy, with the combatants falling back as they could… the contest was made a matter of life and death when brave Shaguay closed with it to further draw the leviathans attention away from the bridge. Veterans of past combats, the party focused their attacks on one head after other, attempting to minimize the threat of the beast. To give chance to Shaguay’s survival, magical walls of wood and fields of ice were summoned to hinder the creature. Still, it was touch and go, with the half-orc falling twice before the various serpentine heads.
But in the end the exhausted warriors felled the creature at the banks of the river.
It was then that the weary five glanced over, past the bridge, at the cadre of horn wielding Lizardfolk … who, as one, dropped and started making obeisance to the party.