Lancefinder

Prelude
Eight years earlier...

The story began eight years ago, when the tinkerer gnome Tictoklington attempted to teleport from one side of his laboratory in Mount Nevermind to the other side of the lab. And instead ended-up 400 miles away in Abanasinia. His first time outside, the gnome was taken back, and wandered aimlessly, coming across the captured form of Wilder Spirit, a Kagonesti elf bound by goblins.

Thankfully, at that moment, the mounted figure of Elsebeth Blackblade crashed through the under-brush. The human, an aspiring knight of Solamnian, was followed by the angry minotaur Gauraux, wielding an axe larger than the gnome. They quickly dispatch the goblins and introduce themselves to Tictoklington. They return to the nearby hamlet of Solace, first entering the famous Inn of the Last Home, where they meet a young Otik and his young ward, the precocious ten-year old Tika and first taste the famous spiced potatoes.

The group falls into the role of adventurers, while researching Tictok’s report on the area, and preparing Else for her trials as she attempts to become a knight.
They face off against a hydra, successfully defeating it and learning teamwork. They face a band of ogres with less success and are reminded of the absence of healing magic in the world.

Then the Seekers come to Solace, and the wonder about the gods. Each has private business to attend to. Else and Wilder Spirit lock-up their homes, and so the group splits.
But vows to reunite and share what they have discovered after five years.

Opening Cinematic

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Session One
Friends old and new. Escape from Solace. Unusual Enemies.

It is early fall when the gnome Tictoklington returned to Solace. Outside of town he is surprised by Wilder Spirit who was hiding in the bushes with her pet lion “Foo”. Startled, the gnome remembered why he never felt at ease around the wilder elf. Just after they finished their introductions, they are interrupted by a group of hobgoblins with their leader mounted on a pony, who introduces himself as Fewmaster Toede. A very brief fight erupts, as the Tictok takes to the air while Wilder Spirit dashes through the woods. A gnomish impact grenade takes out most of the hobgoblins while the claws of Wilder and Foo finish off the rest.

Meanwhile, Elsebeth and Gauraux meet on a boat crossing newsea and are nearing Solace when they hear a voice from the bushes. It’s a stunned human, middle-aged, with a head wound. He’s gripping a gnarled wooden walking stick in his hand. He tells them he was mugged and gives his name as “ Arthur ”. They do not go far before they reach a checkpoint being run by Seeker guards, who are inspecting a wagon. Gauraux sneaks around the checkpoint, being deceptively agile and stealthy for his large frame. Else just rides up and glowers at the guards, letting them firmly know she will not submit to an inspection of her or her companion (Arthur). The older man plays up his age and infirmity, limping over leaning heavily on his stick. The Seeker captain demands to inspect Arthur (“You would not deprive an old man of his walking stick?”) but it talked down by Else and Arthur.
They enter Solace.

The group reunites at the Inn of the Last Home, having a quick meal and reuniting with Otik and Tika. They listen to the storyteller and talk very briefly about what occurred to each other, and a “blue staff”, being more interested in how the Seekers gained power.
This continues until High Theocrat Hendricks enters the bar and berates the storyteller for blaspheme. Elsebeth confronts Hendricks while Arthur tries to hide his staff. It rolls across the floor and taps Wilder spirit, still injured from the hobgoblin battle. Blue light fills the inn and all eyes turn to the corner. Hendrick gasps and tries to get the staff, but is intercepted by Gauraux. Hendrick then screams for guards and the party makes a quick escape out the kitchen exit.

The party is now directionless. They know they have the staff everyone is looking for but have no real idea where to go with it. They opt to go to Haven, heading south towards the river and then following that to the Lordcity, where they might be able to gain more information. They hastily depart, making it to the small town of Gateway as night is falling. Elsebeth and Tictoklington rest in the inn that night while the rest camp in the woods, to avoid the Seeker guards standing watch around Gateway.
Arthur tells the group he remembers a swamp and lizard folk of some kind, and a beautiful woman handing him the staff.

That morning the group debates if they should head directly south or go east following the road and pass by the Que-Teh barbarian village. After much discussion they opt to stick to the road. After a couple hours of travel they encounter a band of robed monks pulling a wagon, with wrapped hands and feet. The group divides and hides, while Else talks with the leader. He tells of their order’s blue crystal staff, which has been stolen from their monastery in Xak Tsaroth.
Else’s easily spots their lies, but does not call them on their falsehoods. She tells them she knows nothing and lets them pass. Seeing only three travellers (a knight, a gnome, and an old man with a walking stick) the head monk calls for the attack, revealing themselves to be draconians.
The battle is relatively quick, with only minor injuries to the heroes, their heavy armour making them difficult to hit. It turns dramatic near the end, when Else is disarmed as a draconian turning to stone, but her mailed gauntlet proves an effective back-up weapon.

One of the draconian is only stunned, knocked unconscious by Tictok. The group sets to work interrogating the draconian who identifies itself as such, and says that it and its company were ordered to find the blue crystal staff and return it to Xak Tsaroth and someone named “Onyx”. It mentions Onyx is his mistress and servant of his Queen. It refuses to say any more and, after debating what to do with the prisoner, they leave it tied to a tree. But Wilder Sprit sneaks back and kills it as an abomination.

Now armed with the knowledge the staff came from Xak Tsaroth and that the reptile men there want it back, the group decides to investigate the destroyed city. They reach Que-Teh and find it a graveyard, then cut across overland to Que-Shu which is equally filled with the dead. Camping outside of the ruined village they decide to cut through the mountains and ancient pass to Xak Tsaroth. They reach the swamp, resting just in the foothills of the mountains and venturing off come morning. Their journey across the weaving rope bridges proves short lived as more draconian emerge from behind trees, only these reptile men look different.

This battle is longer, as the powerful spellcasters trap the heroes in a thick web, then paralyse the warriors before unleashing bolts of lightning. Two fall as Gauraux shrugs off being held while Food and Else’s horse attack another. Tictoklington is almost knocked unconscious by repeated blasts of lightning, but is unfortunately invisible, and slumps off unconscious at the side of the battle. The remaining draconian unleash their deep slumber spells, rendering Gauraux and Else’s horse deeply asleep. The remaining heroes escape while they can.

Later that day, Else and Gauraux awake in a cage. Tents surround them and in the distance they can see a towering figure unlike any they have seen before. A creature out of legend they thought to be myth. It is a dragon!

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Session Two
Dragon of straw and flesh, burning death, and a sunken city

Gauraux awakened in a bamboo cage, and quickly remembered what happened: he and Elsebeth were ambushed and captured by a group of the reptile-men apparently called “draconians”. Else’s wound’s had been bandaged, but the knight was still badly injured, and the minotaur sailor was also far from healthy. But what terrifed him is the dragon: a beast of legend standing over a blazing bonfire.

One of the dragon-men approached, a priest judging from his robes, flanked by two armoured guards. He snarled and demanded to know the location of the “blue crystal staff”. Elsebeth defiantly said she knows nothing. The draconian spewed vitriol and threats, then returns to its kin sitting around the bonfire.

Meanwhile, the elven ranger Wilder Spirit, the gnome tinkerer Tictok, and the “human” magic-user who calls himself “ Arthur ” assessed their injuries. Tictok was badly hurt, having been repeatedly struck by lightning, while Wilder Spirit’s lion had also been injured. Arthur quickly used the Blue Crystal Staff to heal their injuries as best as he could, but is now aware that the staff has limited power. It seems to be diminishing with every use.

Needing reconnaissance, Arthur uses his magical statue, which transforms into a silvery bird, to scout the area. The wondrous familiar spots the bonfire and dragon then warns its master. The trio decided to head to the fire and rescue their companions. Slowly, they made their way over the slippery bridges to scout the draconian encampment. The three soon notice that the massive dragon is actually a wicker statue, sculpted in the image of a dragon. Having rested for a time and composed themselves, they watch as Guarax picks the lock to the bamboo cage and slips off into the shadows.

Tictok, seeing Gauraux needs a distraction, produced a couple small gnomish devices and uses them to create the image of the dragon breathing fire and moving about. The startled draconians immediately look confused but their obedient instincts take over and they begin prostrating themselves before ‘god’. Gauraux began searching tents for his gear and is joined by Wilder Spirit and Elsebeth. Suddenly, one of the draconians noticed Else and moved to attack the gravely injured and unarmourerd knight. Wilder Spirit quickly intercepted the draconian priest while Gauraux continued to search tents, discovering their pilfered gear. Re-armed, the heroes quickly defeat the priest, with Arthur healing Else attracting the attention of the other draconians. Their cover blow, Tictok and Arthur blasted them with magic, toppling the wicker dragon into the bonfire and burning down the camp.

The group retreated to an abandoned and partially ruined tower, spotted earlier by the bird. There, they rest and recover from their injures as best they can with the nearly powerless staff. From atop the tower they spied the ruins on an ancient city that could only be Xak Tsaroth. Circling around the marsh to avoid more draconian encounters, they reached a wide overgrown plaza. Arthur spoted a large well in the middle with steam and smoke coming from within. He looked down and sent dancing lights down the hole. Then there is the sound of flapping wings, as a dragon, a true dragon emerges from the well. Immedietly struck with sheer panic and unnatural fear, the party scattered. Tictok and Elsebeth fled to one of the standing buildings, a temple to a forgotten goddess. The black dragon, Onyx as named earlier by an interrogated draconian, let loose a blast of its breath weapon: a spray of acid that struck Wilder Spirit, Tictoklington, and Elsebeth. The knight dropped, as she liquefied in her armour! Triumphant in scaring off the intruders, the dragon returned to the well.

As Tictok mourned the fallen Else, Arthur felt drawn to the temple. Inside he sees a polished marble statue of a beautiful woman, the same woman he saw in his vision, who originally gave him the crystal staff. Returning the staff to the awaiting hands, it glowed brilliantly, fully recharged. The newly restored staff quickly restored Elsebeth to life and healed the remaining injures of the party. Arthur told them of his vision, where the statue spoke and told him he was chosen, and must search the ruins below the city for the Discs of Mishakal, which will return the gods to the world. The vision says that the gods never abandoned their followers, but that mortals turned their backs on the gods after the Cataclysm. Lastly, the vision of the goddess advised Arthur to “present the staff boldly and never wavering”.

Investigating the rest of the temple, the group discovers a group of scavengers tearing apart a mosaic looking for “pretties”. It is five gully dwarves , or Aghar, looking for presents for their king the Highbulp. They give the party directions to their home under the city (“stay left” while pointing right and “get in the pot”). Following the directions takes the companions down a spiral staircase into a ruined crypt beneath the temple. In many places the floor has collapsed, opening into a vast chasm beneath the building. Moving forward, the group sees even more gully dwarves, two draconian armed with whips, and an ogre. There are also two large holes in the floor with a large chain that goes between the holes and is connected to a massive set of gears and counterweights. The chains connect to pots that raise and lower depending on the weight inside. The draconians, seeing the heroes, flee into the pot making their escape while reinforcements are raised upward. Tictok blinds the fleeing draconians with a glitterdust grenade while the party advances on the equally blind ogre. Quickly slain, the ogre is tossed in the far hole atop the reinforcements, raising the fleeing draconians back up where they are quickly dispatched.

Befriending a gully dwarf, Bupu, the party makes their way further underground, passing through an upside down inn and a buried street before sliding down a natural waterslide into a flooded building. There, using as much stealth as they can muster, the group ventures through the streets of the buried city. Reaching a central plaza they see the dragon again, and overhear it telling a draconian that a missing prisoner must be found! The group separates from their guide, Bupu, and searches the streets, managing to quickly discover the hiding place of the escaped prisoner. The captive, Sunstar, is a barbarian of the Que-Shu tribe, who was captured along with her brother. She tells what she knows of the layout of the underground complex.

Judging from what Sunstar and Bupu said and what they’ve seen, the party decides they know the location of the dragon’s lair. Arthur protests at the idea of speaking with the gully dwarves, so the group finds a secluded corner of the ruins and rests overnight. They next morning they set-out to the dragon’s lair. They come to a set of closed double doors or a side passage and opt for the latter. However, they quickly encounter a pair of draconian guards. The fight attracts a third, who is a much more potent spellcaster, and several of the group are injured. Arthur does what he can with the staff, but it is again growing weak in power. Thankfully, the group finds Raven-eye, the brother of Sunstar as they passed through the side passage.

Moving forward, the group encounters another large door and realizes the dragon must be on the far side. Decided to be sneaky. Tictok uses a conjured clockwork device to distract the dragon. Onyx the black dragon chases the annoyance down the far corridor away from the party while Wilder Spirit sneaks up looking for the platinum discs of Mishakal. Tictok blocks the corridor behind the dragon with webbing. Enraged, the dragon flys off, trying to circle around and avoid the web. The group looks for another escape route, and spots a sewer grate. Wilder Spirit, Sunstar, and Raven-eye begin their escape and the dragon circles all the way around the corridor and blasts Elsebeth and Gauraux with its acid breath. Everyone prepares to escape when Arthur is reminded of his vision. He strides forward and cracks his staff across the snout of the dragon. The staff explodes in a burst of blue light sending shards of crystal in all directions! The explosions scars and mains the dragon and instantly slays Arthur.

Yet the dragon lives! Horribly maimed and injured, it staggers about barely able to act. Elsebeth and Tictok leap into action striking at the injured dragon. Hurt but not disabled, the dragon lashes out and badly hurts Else with a bite. Unafraid of the dragon, Gauraux rushes forward, ignoring the biting maw, and finishes off the dragon with a swift axe blow to the head.

Suddenly aware of the collapsing building, the party hastily collects the dragon’s treasure and flees to the surface via the draconian pot elevator. Escaping through the temple they are surprised to find Arthur, seemingly unhurt, lying at the base of the statue which now clutches its staff again. Arthur is now a follower of the gods, the first of the new clerical order.

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Session Three
A ravaged town, flight to the forest, and mission from the elves

The companions rest in the forgotten temple of Mishakal, recovering after their journey into the subterranean ruins of Xak Tasroth. Arthur uses his newly discovered divine powers of healing to tend to the party’s wounds. The next morning they venture back through the swamps and mountains, returning to the plains where they witness the sight of smoke rising in the distance.

Arthur also remembers the vision he experience and the words spoken to him by the goddess Mishakal. That he must find the leader of the people, the one who will return the word of the gods to all the people of Ansalon.

Deciding to return to Solace and find the source of the ominous black smoke, the group sends Arthur’s magical bird ahead to scout. Partway home they spot a crimson shape on the horizon, flying quickly through the air. Ducking for cover in a dried river bed they watch as a huge red dragon flies overhead, scanning the countryside with its keen eyes. The fully grown wyrm almost spots Gauraux in his hiding place before returning to its search. Realizing the dragon they faced in Xak Tasorth was not an anomaly, that dragons have indeed returned to Ansalon, they grimly resume their journey.

The companions reach Solace as the sun is setting, having been warned by Arthur’s bird that the city has been occupied by the “dragon men”. They discover the village has been razed, with the great vallenwood trees burned or uprooted. Few people remain in the city, with most working as slaves to fortify the town. The Inn of the Last Home has been lifted from its place in the trees and poorly placed on the ground, but still seems to be open.
Gauraux, Wilder Spirit, and Tictoklington investigate the town, scouting for survivors and the location of someone in charge. Tictok finds the barmaid Tika is still working at the Inn and tells her their plans to rescue as many people as possible. Gauraux, looking for information, finds a hobgoblin that has separated from his squar and knocks him unconscious. Dragging the stunned mercenary through the town, Gauraux is spotted by a draconian patrol but manages to convince them that the goblinoid is simply drunk. Elsebeth and Gauraux quickly set to work interrogating the hobgoblin merc, and discover he know little about the source of the Dragonarmies, beyond their origins somewhere “to the North”. He tells that they have taken several towns and are busy amassing troops at Solace, Haven, and the fortress of Pax Tharkas. He mentions that the army is being lead by someone known as " Highlord Verminaard ".

The companions set themselves on rescuing the slaves and remaining townsfolk of Solace. Tictok, Elsebeth, and Arthur decide to create a distraction allowing Wilder Spirit and Gauraux to free the penned slaves. Tictok unleashes a mechanical monstrosity of grasping tentacles, which captures a patrol of draconian, while Arthur creates an illusion of an entire company of mounted Solamnic Knights modeled after Else who busies herself with the first wave of reinforcements. Elsebeth soon discovers she is facing a different breed of draconian, one that dissolves into a pool of acid when slain. As more troops arrive, Tictok, Arthur, and Else flee from the almost endless wave of dragon men. Tictok stumbles and is almost captured, but Elsebeth heroically rides over and hauls him into her saddle.

The heroes flee with the slaves along the road south, skirting the edge of the Darken Wood. They flee to the only safe harbour they can think of: the elven forest of Qualinesti. Thankfully, several of the slaves are elven, and the group hopes this is enough to keep them from being killed on sight. While resting after a day of flight, one of the slaves introduces himself as Gilthanas, son of the Speaker of the Sun and an elven prince. He assures the group that they will have safe passage through the woods.

At the edge of the elven kingdom, the group encounters a strange old man, a wizard by appearance, who is arguing with a tree that is in his way. The befuddled old man introduces himself as Fizban the Fabulous. And he agrees to accompany the group through the woods.
The group has barely entered the wood when they are surrounded by elven warriors with raised bows. Gilthanas steps forward and speaks regarding the party’s heroism, and introduces the elven band’s leader, his brother Porthios. Porthios sends his men to escort the freed slaves safely through the woods. Meanwhile, he will escort the companions to Qualinost, the elven capitol.
Once the group reaches Qualinost, they find the city in a state of unrest, preparing for war or flight. The heroes are taken to the golden Tower of the Sun, and introduced to the elven ruler. He tells them of the plight of the elven people, how the Dragonarmies plan to strike hard into the nation of elves, and have three armies poised to strike. The elves have little chance against the force and the dragon, and must flee, escaping across the western sea into the unknown in the hopes of finding safety.

The Speaker tells the heroes of how the human folk of the land have been enslaved, and are being held in the mines of Pax Tharkas. Their wives and children are being held separately and used as hostages to keep the menfolk from revolt or unrest. The elves know a secret way into the fortress, via a long forgotten tomb, which might be used to sneak a small force into the fortress to free the slaves. With a large force at his flank, Highlord Verminaard might be unwilling to move against the elves, buying time for their retreat.

Arthur finds his stay in Qualinost distressing, as he is confronted by an angry Speaker of the Sun for wearing a medallion of faith and claiming to be a healer. Even after proving his power, he is met with distrust and scepticism from the elves, who view it as a great insult that a human would be chosen by the Gods of Light rather than an elf: the firstborn children of gods of light. The elves have not forgiven the gods for abandoning them and still blame the humans for driving them away. Arthur, however, knows that it was the mortals that turned from the gods and not the other way round and that all races bear the blame for the god’s actions. But the prideful elves are unwilling to accept this.
Still, as a small measure of respect for Arthur, the elves part with a suit of elven chain, giving it to him as a token gesture.

After two days of hard travel through the forest, the group arrives in Pax Tharkas. There they see the vast forces of the Dragonarmies as thousands of draconian march north upon Qualinesti. The heroes move to the foothills and find the hidden entrance to the fortress. Gilthanas opens the Sla-Mori, the secret way, and the group moves into the hidden tomb. Turning down the winding corridors they come to a long chamber filled with entombed servants. Moving to the far side the dead awaken, and the group rushes through the door sealing it behind them. Continuing forward, they find the great Chamber of the Chain, the end of a great mechanism that can be used in emergencies to seal the great gate to the fortress.

Searching the ancient room, Gauraux discovers a hidden door that leads to an empty treasury. There, on the floor, is a desiccated corpse. Suddenly, a ghostly phantom rises from the body and moves to attack. Elsebeth, Gauraux, and Wilder Spirit rush forward, striking at the banshee. The evil ghost begins its terrifying wail, that threatens to instantly slay all that hear it. The heroes rally, making a final attempt to kill the spirit before they are killed. After several devastating strikes to its vital non-anatomy, Wilder Spirit delivers the final blow.

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Session Four
Refugee rescue, a mountain escape

The heroes entered the lowest levels of the great fortress of Pax Tharkas. Finding a storage room they gathered some supplies, while Tictok poisoned all the alcohol, a rough plan to potentially delay the draconians from following them… if they managed to escape. Moving into the next room, they interrupted a small squad of draconians that was harassing a young maiden, a maiden who was invited to dine with Highlord Verminaard. After she was freed, the woman gave some loose directions of the keep’s level, directing the Companions to the other cells that held several hundred women.

Freeing the enslaved womenfolk, the heroes discovered than the children were being held separately and guarded by a dragon. The children were allowed out once a day to be exercised by the women, who were also allowed to take food to the men. The heroes decided to free the women first then scout and try to free the children in the morning.
In the cell, the Companions also discovered the injured Eben Shatterstone (who immediately launched into flirting with Elsebeth and Arthur) and the sick Elistan. Both are being tended by the women before being returned to the mine. Arthur balked at Elistan, as the middle-aged man is a high Seeker albeit deposed.

Gauraux and Arthur explored elsewhere in the lower level and discovered a room of gully dwarves. Introducing himself to the king, the Highkhlad, Gauraux tried to impress them with his knowledge of planks. The king proposed a deal: free a gully dwarf hero, Sestun, being held by Verminaard in the ground floor of the fortress. In payment the gully dwarves will act as a distraction, drawing attention away from the heroes.

The group decided to scout ahead before proceeding, so Tictok made Gauraux invisible and let the minoraur examine the main floor. The ruffian snuck up the stair, listening at every door and silently moving by the sentries in the hall. The group followed, as Gauraux blocked and sealed the door of a barracks while Arthur managed to finesse a fireball into knocking out a pair of guards and Tictok disables all the alarms. The hallway free, the group dashed down and freed the gully dwarf Sestun who cheerfully vanished down the stairs.
Dressing themselves in the uniforms of the two hobgoblins, Eben and Guaraux guard the door in case Verminaard exits. The minotaur is close enough to the door that he can hear the loud voices on the other side, as the dragon Highlord chastises Fewmaster Toede for letting the slaves of Solace escape and not capturing the oracle, Arthur. Toede leaves and is promptly knocked unconscious by Gauraux and Eben then dragged into the cell that had held Sestun. Shortly after, Verminaard exited his throne room and went to his dining hall for dinner.

Realizing the gully dwarves will create an immediate distraction, the group moved to free the children right away. They employed Fizban to create the illusion of daylight in case they needed to lie to Flamestrike, clad themselves as slave women as best they could, and snuck into the nursery. Silently they moved past the dozing dragon and retrieved the children, slipping them out one at a time. As the last dozen kids exited one cries out “goodbye” to the dragon, awaking her in a panic. Flamestrike remembered the old war that cost her all her true children, and grew angry and fearful. Then she saw Elsebeth’s armour and flew into a rage. The group quickly dashed away as the dragon snapped at Wilder Spirit. As the last of the children escapes Flamestrike breathed in and readied a blast of fire. Fizban stepped forward and raised his staff to chastise the dragon before vanishing in a blast of dragonfire. As the group fled to a rallying point Arthur used stoneshape to seal Verminaard in the dining room. The furious highlord tried to push his way out catching sight of Arthur, catching sight of his opposite.

Hurrying, the group moved to the far tower, throwing open both guard rooms and unleashing several waves of hobgoblins and draconians. Tictok handled one crowd with a spell of tentacles and Arthur fireballed another room. Gauraux and Wilder Spirit waded into the room of draconians, hacking and slashing away while Elsebeth engaged the hobgoblin monk Galang in a duel to the death. Else fell but was defended and avenged by Tictok who defeated the monk.

In an adjoining room the last of the captured womenfolk were found. Elsebeth, Arthur, and Gauraux freed them and, with the other women and children moved to find the men. Meanwhile, Tictok and Wilder Spirit returned to the chamber of the chain beneath the fortress and climbed the massive metal structure to its peak, looking for the Great Mechanism of Pax Tharkas used to seal the fortress during times of invasion.
After finding the slaves, Gauraux pretended to be a member of the dragonarmy and moved through the slaves spreading the word the women were freed and provided weapons taken from the keep. The slaves soon rebelled and effortlessly defeated the couple dozen draconian guards. Then, Verminaard arrived upon his red dragon mount Ember. Roaring, the dragon prepared to incinerate the slaves as Verminaard condemned the uprising.
Climbing down the chain after unleashing a torrent of rocks into the keep, Tictok and Wilder Spirit heard the roar of the great dragon Ember. Wilder Spirit suddenly had an idea, and rushed over to the nursery. She cried at Flamestrike, telling the massive dragon that Ember was going to attack her children! With a roar, the senile old dragon smashed her way out of the keep and raced at the smaller dragon.

The Companions gathered together the refugees and fled to the south along an ancient dwarven road. The refugees immediately divided themselves into factions: the townsfolk, the Seekers, the plainsfolk, the free folk, and those few that are being swayed to follow Arthur and his new gods. The makeshift council debates the issue and argues their destination. The heroes propose heading to the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin, while other factions want to strike back or flee over the sea. The heroes managed to convince the factions that working together was their best option and the group continued south for a day.
As they rested for their second night outdoors Arthur experienced a vivid dream where he watched a white-robed Elistan wandered without direction. Arthur advised him to not make the same mistake twice and Elistan began to climb a dream mountain, showing his devotion to the new gods.

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Session Six
Face to face to face to face with a hydra, defeated by statues, and facing the black wizard

The Companions ducked back from the balcony, barely avoiding the blast of fire coming from beneath. Before them here was the large square room without a floor that drops down forty feet, where the giant metal hydra was waiting.

The Companions were in Skullcap, the ruined fortress destroyed during the Dwarfgate Wars almost three centuries earlier. They had found rough directions to the Northgate entrance of the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin but lacked the “key” that would gain them entrance.

The hydra’s twelve heads swayed from side to side but only two track the hero’s movement, twin mouths trickling from a fire raging within. On their floor and halfway down were four balconies leading into chambers, possibly leading from level to level. Uncertain if they should proceed, they looked around the floor, spotting a single intact room. Wilder Spirit investigated the room and found a black robed apprentice wizard holding a large ring of keys.

Arthur (who was still in the form of a fire elemental) and Tictok set out at making a bridge from their floor to one of the other balconies on that level. Tictok also sent down his homunculus, Bit, to attack and distract the hydra. Surprisingly, the gnome’s device was ineffective, as its attack was reflected off something the group could not see. As Arthur stoneshapped a wall into a thin bridge, Tictok sent down a glittery dusting of powder that covered the hydra and revealed several invisible walls on the lower floor, and hinted at an invisible bridge (ironically right below the one Arthur magically created). Arthur and Wilder Spirit headed down the bridge, Wisp jumping down the forty feet for a quick descent while Arthur investigated the chamber behind the other balcony and discovered a staircase down. Through luck, Wilder Spirit rushes through a doorway and discovered the staircase down. Elsebeth and Guaraux followed behind Arthur’s descent, slowly feeling their way across the invisible bridges that stretched about each level. Arthur jumped down from the middle layer to the bottom as Gauraux moved along a bridge, only to be attacked by an invisible creature attempting to knock him down into the hydra’s lair. Arthur ran straight into an invisible creature while trying to join Wisp.

There was a flurry of violence as Gauraux and Elsebeth assaulted one invisible creature while Arthur is brutalized by the other. Meanwhile, the hydra destroyed Tictok’s device and moved on to the knight and minotaur on the invisible bridge. Fire and fangs lash out, striking home. Thankfully, Arthur had magically warded Elsebeth against fire so only Gauraux is hurt by the pyrohydra’s breath. Tictok rushed forward to aid the fallen Arthur, attempting to resuscitate the fallen oracle. However, the gnome quickly discovered it was hard to heal someone polymorphed into an elemental. A very injured Gauraux left Else to fight the stalker alone, and quickly escaped to join Wilder Spirit at the stair to the next level. Elsebeth defeated the invisible stalker as the hydra stuned itself with a failed attack. The remaining stalker turned on Tictok, who was trying to “heal” the oracle by pouring oil onto him. In a panic, the gnome dropped the entire barrel of oil, flooding the floor with fire. The stalker fled as, miraculously, Arthur awoke. Barely conscious, the irda priest healed himself and fled downstairs. Elsebeth, still protected from fire, tarried to decapitate the hydra’s two fire-breathing heads then joined her friends below.

Below, Wilder Spirit had discovered two identical rooms with dwarven statues, one singled by fire. They ventured to the right, only to have Wilder Spirit fly up to the ceiling in a space of reversed gravity. Then, the statue surged to life! Moving forward, Wisp suddenly fell back down. The anti-gravity field seemed to only be five feet before the door. The golem pounded Wilder Spirit where she lay on the ground. Badly injured, Wisp withdrew, cleverly falling up to avoid an attack and right herself. Elsebeth stepped forward, using Tictok’s magic to enlarge herself. The golem struck again. Arthur suddenly had an idea and slipped forward, and cast stone shap, warping the golem and pinning one hand to its body. Moments later he tried again, disarming the golem. Their opponent unarmed, the Companions quickly destroyed the golem.

Moving forward, the group discovered a long hallway. At one end was a statue of one of the seven aspects of Nuitari, the god of dark magic. Down the hallway the other six aspects are arranged in pairs, with a magical effect centered between each pair of statues. Moving between the first statue, Wisp and Else find all their metal has been transformed into wood! Moving back their gear returned to normal. But, as their answer lay ahead, they returned through the statues and advanced with their wooden equipment. Between the next pair they felt nothing, unbeknownst to them active magic on them had been dispelled. Through the final pair of statues a magical compulsion fell on them, but Wilder Spirit fought it off. Elsebeth failed her attempts and the suggestion took hole, but the Companions never discovered its nature.

Moving into the large chamber beyond, Wisp and Else spy a circle in the middle of the room. Inside are three golden circlets and a blackened skull. Hearing of something golden, Tictok and Arthur moved forward. Tictok passed through the aura of magical dispelling and his fast-moving boots fail, as does his bag of shrinking items. The entire corridor is flooded with shrunken goods and assorted items. The Companions slowly dug their way back out to reunite with Gauraux, careful to clean the items that have been soaked with oil.

As they continued, they found the final room of the keep, a large three-part chamber with the middle section flanked by two treasure hoards. The treasure is protected by a magical teleporter that the heroes quickly deciphered. They found a wealth of steel and gems as well as a dwarven helm covered in gems. The helm contains the spirit of a dwarven prince, Grallen, so he could retell his last moments to kin. The dwarf quickly thanked the heroes and assured them he could show them the way into Thorbardin.

Slowly making their way out of Skullcap, the heroes took the circlets to destroy, freeing the souls of the skeletal warriors as promised. Unsurprisingly, the blackened skull nearby rose up, the last remnant of the black-robe wizard Fistandantilus. Wilder Spirit watched as the spirit raised an arm but did not move to attack. Arthur debated an assault to release the spirit, by Elsebeth advised against it, saying it was better to leave the evil wizard entombed forever on the mortal world rather than releasing him to his afterlife. Returning to the surface, the Companions were reunited with the brass dragon Blaize. The dragon amiably asked what had happened and offered some advice: the dwarves might be hesitant to welcome the refugees into their cities if they force their way in, so it would be better to ask first. He offered to lead the way to a respite where the refugees might have shelter.

After ensuring the refuges were safe, the heroes ventured into the dwarven city. They found Northgate, the large village-sized complex designed to defend against invaders, mostly abandoned. There were still signs of violence and remains from the Dwarfgate wars. Moving through the dark, lifeless streets they found themselves facing a group of armed dwarves. The leader announced himself as Arman Kharas, descended of the famed Kharas that fought during the Dwarfgate Wars. Of the clan Hylar, he warned the Companions that Northgate was under the control of the Theiwar dwarves due to its proximity to their cities. Upon hearing of the Helm of Grallen, Arman agreed to take the Companions to the Council of Thanes.

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Session Seven
A Rescue, Tomb Raiding, and a Battle in the Sky

The Companions had stopped, needing to explain themselves to the Hylar dwarf warrior, Arman Kharas, justifying their presence in the underground complex of Northgate, the defensible entrance to the kingdom of Thorbardin. Arthur, wearing the Helm of Grallen — and using his irda powers to mimic the form of the long dead dwarf — explained dragons had returned and war had come to the surface. Arman said he would escort the heroes to the Council of Thanes. Arman was a Hylar prince, descendant and namesake of the great dwarven hero, Kharas who was the last wielder of the legendary family hammer.

Meanwhile, at the Hopeful Vale, Elistan fell ill as he was spiritually assaulted by Verminaard and his dark goddess. Eben volunteered to travel to Thorbardin and warn the heroes.

After travelling through Northate for some time, Arman’s scouts returned, having found the location of the Thiewar prison. Arman’s half-brother, Pick, had been captured and needed rescuing. The Hylar prince suggesting using his troops to attract the bulk of the Thiewar forces, while the heroes assaulted the prison proper. After climbing down a transport tunnel, the Companion saw the prison: a sheer stone wall with a single gate. Gauraux and Wilder Spirit scaled the wall, while Elsebeth and Tictok flew over. Arthur just magically reshaped the stone to gain access, letting Arman rush forward. After dispatching the crossbowmen on the wall, the group faced the captain of the guard, mounted on a dire boar. Arthur used his healing powers to aid the injured Arman.

Having defeated the Thiewar and fleeing with Pick, the Companions snuck through the tunnels and complexes of the city, eventually making their way to one of the large warrens that produced the crops the feed the kingdom. The next morning the group reached Hybardin and met with the Council of Thanes. The Thanes were impressed by Elsebeth’s words and Arthur’s tales of the return of Reorx. The Companions pushed for the potential return of the Clan of the Dead, which would act as a tie breaker for the deadlocked council. Having heard their words, the council tasked them with laying Grallen to rest. They also spoke of the Hammer of Kharas, as legend said it would not be rediscovered until there was a new High Thane. Since war was coming and leadership was needed, the Council tasked the Companion with finding the Hammer and thus proving themselves.

The heroes entered the Valley of Thanes and laid Grallen to rest, and soon discovered the magical archway that teleported them into the tomb of the long-dead dwarven king. They were surprised to discover Duncan’s tomb now floated over the valley, having been magically raised into the air! The late beneath was partially the result of the massive structure and surrounding stone being wrenched into the air.

Exploring Duncan’s tomb, the Companions encountered several mysterious features, such as moving objects, greased steps, and everything they checked detecting as magical. They also discovered a sleeping dwarf who claimed to be Kharas, although he was not nearly old enough and had a beard. Moving swiftly through the corridors, escaping traps, the group eventually found the Hammer atop a tall shaft. Tictok flew up and retrieved the Hammer of Kharas, and the others joined him on the highest level of the tomb. They found the body of the real Kharas, and the dwarf following them admitted to only being the guardian of the tomb.

Then, the giant red dragon Ember appeared! The dwarf that had claimed to be Kharas revealed himself as Evenstar, a gold dragon. Evenstar refused to fight as he had vowed only to defend the tomb, and was bound by “the Oath”, which he refused to discuss.

Else took down an old flagpole, apparently having been fashioned from an old and unusual lance, and braced to receive a charge. Gauraux and Wisp peppered the dragon with arrows, while Arthur used his magic to protect the party from fire. The dragon began with a cone of fire that engulfed Arthur and Wilder Spirit. Tictok hurled several flasks of alchemical frost onto the dragon badly hurting the wyrrn. Arthur used powerful magic to wrack it with guilt, paralyzing the wyrm. The tinkerer gnome then tossed a couple of tanglefoot bags that ensnared the dragon, limiting its flight. Before it could reach the safety of a ledge, Arthur stunned the beast again causing it to plummet 400 feet down.

As the dragon flew back up to return to battle, Gauraux, Wisp, and Else jumped off the tomb, striking it as they flew past. Else struck with the lance while falling, landing a devastating blow that shattered the worn lance, really an ancient dragonlance! Tictok used a flying device of the knight, while he and the minotaur fell like feathers. Wisp just grabbed a hold of the dragon, clawing herself onto its back.

Still alive, Ember flew atop the tomb and focused its fury on Arthur, at the same time dislodging Wisp who fell. Thankfully, Elsebeth caught the elf in midair. Alone, Arthur tried to fight, but was quickly defeated, devoured whole by the dragon. As he fell, Tictok unleashed a final spell that slew the dragon, dropping it into the lake. The Companions swam down to retrieve the fallen body of Arthur, barely alive and now in his irda form. Wilder Spirit recognized the form, but did not judge, and helped the barely alive Arthur to his feet. To their horror, they realized the holy man had lost an arm during the struggle.

The Companions limped back to Thorbardin, triumphantly wielding the Hammer of Kharas.

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Session Eight
The temple tussle, an overland journey, disaster in the city

The heroes briefly rested and magically recovered from their dragon ordeal atop the floating tomb, before they were again joined by the dwarf, Arman Kharas,who spoke of one of their number – Eben -having been caught by the Thiewar as he entered Thorbardin. Arman warned that two exits from the Valley of Thanes had been sealed. Possibly to prevent assault from the dragonarmies.

The Companions exited via the third road leaving the Valley of Thanes, and reached the South Hall of Justice. There they were surrounded by Daegar, armed with crossbows. Redgar, the Thane of the Daegar, stepped forward and asked the group to come with them. Reluctantly, the heroes followed and were led to a great temple. There, Verminaard stepped into the room and demanded the hammer of Kharas! Eben grabbed it from Elsebeth, to take it to the better paying master. Arthur attacked immediately as he saw the highlord and chaos ensured.
Verminaard summoned a fireshadow, an undead beast from the Abyss. Dark Dwarves and draconians rushed into battle. Tictok sealed the fireshadow in a stone box, allowing Else and Gauraux time to dispatch several dwarves. Arthur had the spirits of several dwarves pound the dragon high lord and green-flaming beast. The fireshadow tore through the stone bubble and savaged Gauraux, as Elsebeth almost sundered the highlord’s weapon, then moved to assist in fighting the summoned monster. Wilder Spirit busied herself dispatching waved of dwarven soldiers. Gaurax was clawed as Elsebeth was lit ablaze by the fireshadow’s unnatural green flame, which threatened to burn away her existence. After a tense couple moments the fireshadow vanished: Elistan had won his battle of wills with Verminaard and the Dark Queen.

Returning to the Council of Thanes, the Companions debate who to give the hammer to, interviewing the Thanes until they settled on Hornfell. The newly crowned High King gratefully allowed the refugees into the mountain. When asked how he would aid the war, he mentioned that the dwarves had been called to the Whitestone Council, a meeting of the dwarves, elves, and human knights.
The Companions wondered where to go next, and Hornfell told them of Tarsis, a nearby port city that also had a sizeable library, which might also have information on dragon and fighting dragons. It was also the best port by which to reach the island of Sancrist, where the Whitestone Council would be held.

After a week’s rest, the Companions set off for these port of the Lordcity Tarsis, and are surprised when they discovered it was NOT by the sea: the Cataclysm had moved the water. The group entered, receiving unpleasant looks from the guards. After checking into the Red Dragon Inn, a crowd of people moved on the inn, angry at the presence of a knight of Solamnia. The heroes were taken before the Lord Governor, who asked why they were there and demanded to know how a knight was allowed into the city. When told of the war and asked if he knew of “dragon men” the Lord Governor gestured for his new adviser to step forward: a yellow hued draconian lacking wings. Arthur immediately attacked and the Governor and draconian fled. Guards surrounded the heroes and took them to jail, except Gauraux and Wilder Spirit who remained hidden. At the jail, the group met an elf maiden who identified herself as “Alhana”. She was sent to jail after refusing to leave town and trying to hire mercenaries.
Meanwhile, Gauraux broke into the Lord Governor’s office to talk with the governor, and discovered the dragonarmies were being “bribed” to leave Tarsis alone. Gauraux told the Governor this was a bad idea. The governor said little to disagree, but had little choice, but referred Gauraux to a scribe the city had on retainer who might be able to direct the Companions to the hidden and forgotten library.

Freed from the jail, the Companion met-up at the Inn and encountered a group of heavy armored individuals, who introduced themselves as Knights of Solamnia. They were sent to find ways of combating the dragons. Together, Arthur, Gauraux, Elsebeth and the knights ventured to the library while Tictok and Wilder Spirit waited to meet with Alhana.
At the library the group discovered the name of the second artifact needed to forge dragonlances: the silver arm of Ergoth. They also discovered records of items known as “dragon orbs” which had been used an earlier war to defeat the dragons. Records told of one being taken from the Tower of High Sorcery to Icewall Glacier to the south.
As the group wrote down their notes there was a rumbling: Tarsis was under attack! Red and blue dragons circled in the skies, striking down while draconians fell from dragon back, attacking the panicking citizens. The Companions raced back to the Red Dragon Inn to find their friends only to find it flattened, a crumpled heap little more than knee high.

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Meanwhile 1
... back at Thorbardin

The dwarves are finally at peace. As the Hylar exchange prisoners with the Thiewar they make a strange discovery: a human locked in a cell. He has long hair and a long, dangling beard and finger nails that have not been cut in years. He looks up silently at the dwarves, unable to remember how to speak.

The Hylar don’t remember why he is there, and neither do the Thiewar.

Unwilling to hold him for any longer they release him out of Southgate (as the dragonarmies are currently besieging Northgate). The man spends some time with the human refugees making camp in the shadows of the mountains by Southgate. The other refugees think him strange. He is old, possibly middle-aged, but his eyes seem young and his hands are strong.

One day, the man just walks away.

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Session Ten
Battle for the barbarians, striking at Icewall Castle

After four days trapped by a blizzard, the Companions emerged to a bright, clear winter day. They were still on the barren icy wasteland that is Icewall Glacier. They had spent the last few days repairing their damaged boat, with their new wizard “friend”, Carrion, sending her undead minions to work on the exterior. After a short bit of repairs, under Gauraux’s naval instructions, the ice boat is soon up and skiing again.

After a few hours of sailing, another boat came alongside. Much larger, this boat was filled by armed and angry ice barbarians. Bracing for a fight an elf emerged on deck and was immediately recognized by Gauraux as his old sailing mate Drake, a Silvanesti expatriate. Drake hailed the ship and introduced the Companions to the chieftain of an Ice Barbarian tribe, Harald. Regaling the barbarians with the rescue of an ice bear and assault on minotaurs, the nomads welcome the Companions to visit their village. At the camp, they quickly relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of peat fires and cooked food. Arthur met an old wise man, the descendant of the old healers of the tribe. After some conversation and teachings, Arthur helped the old man regain his faith and restored the gods to Icewall.

All was well until scouts reported an army amassing several deals to the south. An attack force. Becalmed by poor winds the barbarians must fight and the Companions offered to help. They worked to fortify the camp as best they can. Then the forces arrived.

Arthur created several walls of fire to funnel the vast thanoi and minotaur forces into narrow spaces. Carrion unleashed horrible necrotic energies. Drake moved with supernatural swiftness while swirling his double-bladed weapon. The battle was long and fierce (especially after Drake saw Carrion’s massive undead troll for the first time and swiftly killed it). At one point, minotaur reinforcement moved to flank the camp on ice bears while the leader of the force, a minotaur warrior of remarkable presence, rallied the remaining troops. The battle went well but could not be won, the numbers were too great. As the winds finally picked-up the barbarians fled while the Companions held the line as long as possible (while Carrion has her undead drag away the corpse on an ice bear to use as a pack animal). The ice boats sailed away. The dragonarmies had won the day, but it was a pyrrhic victory.

Having reluctantly fled, the Companions headed south to Icewall Castle. There they hope to find the dragon highlord they briefly glimpsed at the end of the battle. Finding the keep atop a high tor of ice, the group slowly began the climb. There is a terrifying avalanche that almost kills several of the Companions but they barely clung to the wall. The ice slide revealed a hidden passage leading up into the castle. Partway up through the icy cavern, the group saw a brilliant gold dragon frozen in the ice, and mounted atop was a knight. They managed to free the lance the knight was holding and carried it with them as they emerged in the courtyard of Icewall Castle. Gauraux and Arthur (disguised as a minotaur) attracted the attention of the guards who were effortlessly dispatched. With the castle unaware it was breached, Gauraux locked all the doors then sabotaged the locks; there would be no reinforcements.

Finding the highlord’s chamber, the group moved to strike!

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