28 Eleint – 11 Marpenoth or 28th of the Fading – 11th of Leafall.
Having done what they could to aid their leaders in defense of the town, the heroes of Abhain an Tsolais rose the next morning ready to contribute what they could in preparing the town for a siege. However, after a brief meeting with the leaders of the various forces defending the town the heroes found themselves instead investigating the death of the High Priestess who had been slain by a goblin arrow during the battle with Kullamon the Black’s forces. The High Priestess, a ranking member of the council, and spiritual leader for the dragonborn clan of Croi`Tsolais would not have been in a position to be in danger from stray arrows. Her young replacement, Mirith, had preserved her body in preparation for the traditional funerary rites. The ranger Vanya inspected the wound, as well as the arrow which had been withdrawn from it, and found that this was no stray arrow at all, but a deliberate assassination by an extremely skilled archer. Expressing her admiration for the shot, if not the shooter, Vanya hypothesized that the archer would likely still be lingering in the area, as it was likely he would be awaiting another opportunity to strike down one of Abhain an Tsolais’ leaders. After some discussion the party decided that it was time to take the fight to their enemies, and prepared to depart for the citadel of Tiamat’s Pyre far to the north in the Spine of the World Mountains. They planned to travel a circuitous route taking them first through Mithril Hall, and then past Dark Arrows Keep, in hopes of learning more of what was happening with their allies since they had received word that the elves of the Moonwood were beset by the People of the Black Blood, a vicious clan of lycanthropes. The heroes also hoped to draw out the mysterious archer, if he was still in the area, that they might stop him from doing further harm.
So it was that the party departed for Mithril Hall once more, this time feeling secure upon the road for they traveled with an experienced ranger who had a habit of disappearing into wilderness around them to scout out their path. For three days they played cat and mouse with the mysterious goblin archer, allowing themselves to be bait as Vanya slowly stalked him. This deadly game was interrupted on the third day however when they encountered an unusual orcish merchant and his caravan, who were making their way to Mithril Hall. The merchant, who wore silks from calimshan, and had several wives of various races provided an amusing distraction until an arrow struck their shared campfire. After discerning that the archer they sought hid in the rocks above them the party prepared for a battle that proved more one-sided than expected. For even though the heroes below him had not discerned his position, Vanya had, and she struck with deadly accuracy. Putting an arrow through the goblins thigh, Vanya soon had dragged him down to camp, where he was interrogated by an enraged Kuyutha. It was quickly discerned that this unusual goblin was nothing more than a hired killer, with no real knowledge of value, but that he was wanted by the authorities at Mithril Hall. Having decided to drag their wounded prisoner to Mithril Hall to face dwarven justice, they returned to the road along with the orcish merchant. Together they arrived at Mithril Hall on Highharvestide, only to learn that the dwarves of the hall were not celebrating the holiday, for were under attack by a Duergar army from the tunnels deep beneath the mountain.
After handing their prisoner over to the dwarves, the heroes parted ways with the orcish merchant and sought out a dwarven smith that had been recommended to them by the wizard Alistair, who strengthened the enchantments on their gear. After making their purpose known to the dwarven authorities they were given access to a tunnel that would allow them to travel swiftly, and safely through much of the kingdom of Many-Arrows. Availing themselves of the tunnel, and escorted by dwarven soldiers, the heroes had a comfortable journey. Arriving on the surface once more around midday on Marpenoth 3, after which their escort returned to Mithril Hall, and they began following the road to Dark Arrows Keep. Near evening they encountered a strange contraption, like a wagon, but powered by some internal engine that belched steam, rather than horses or oxen. Driving this strange steam wagon were a pair of dwarven craftsman, the elder of whom introduced himself as Brandalur Thunderforge, of Thunderforge smithies. The party found Brandalur almost as intriguing as his wagon, as he was a gold dwarf, and was a long ways indeed from his native lands in the south. Brandalur swiftly demonstrated that his wagon was not the only unusual technology at his disposal as he brandished his goods, explaining that he was a smith and weapons merchant that specialized in smoke-powder weapons. These strange Gondish devices used smoke-powder to hurl metal at unbelievable speeds. He was on his way to Dark Arrows Keep to hawk his wares, and was planning to journey to Abhain an Tsolais next. Once he had finished beguiling the heroes with his exotic weaponry Brandalur introduced his daughter, and apprentice, Moira, and offered to travel with the heroes. Seeing no harm in traveling with such formidable companions the party accepted, and prepared camp.
The next day the party drew near Dark Arrows Keep, only to find it under siege by its own forces, learning from orcish refugees upon the road that two out of the five armies that defended the kingdom of Many-Arrows had rebelled and were attempting to bring down the keep. Vanya provided a solution however, having scouted ahead and found a route through the foothills that would allow them to bypass the keep and it’s besiegers. As they prepared to take this new route they found that their new friend was intent on making his way into the keep, and so they watched with some degree of awe and amusement as his fortified wagon blasted through the surprised orcish siege lines, and was allowed through the gates of the imperiled orcish city. Having ascertained the safe arrival of their friend, and caught a glimpse of the legendary King Obould Many-Arrows, the party prepared to bypass the troubled orcs, but chose to use the scrying stone given to them by Sorchia to communicate with the seer and inform the leaders of their town of what they had learned of the goings on in the world.
They made contact with Sorchia, only to learn that the forces of the fallen paladin, Croi`Tsolais Ulfain, had begun to encircle their town, and would have it fully besieged within a day. After exchanging news with the worried looking seer they broke contact and journeyed onward, traveling ever deeper, and higher, into the Spine of the World Mountains. After a week of traveling deeper into the mountains they arrived at their destination, an ancient citadel high atop one of the ancient peaks of the mountain range. The citadel hugged a cliff edge firmly on one side, and with it’s strange triangular curtain wall, presented only two sides to lay siege to. Rising from the center of the courtyard was a tall spire of stone that peaked approximately one hundred feet above the ground it stood upon. The curtain wall, and spire alike were sheathed in thick layers of ice and snow. After contemplating this place for a time the party chose to contact Sorchia again, hoping that with her aid they might use the scrying stone to pierce the magical protections Drakosh’s lieutenants seemed to possess and discern what manner of forces the Pyre might have awaiting them within her seemingly deserted mountain fastness. They made contact with Sorchia, and found her busily bandaging a wound in the shoulder of General Varcas Spear-Shaker as Ulfain’s goblinoid forces assaulted the town walls. She swiftly agreed to aid them, and leant her magical might as they pushed the scrying stones power within the walls of the tower. They found Tiamat’s Pyre seemingly deeply involved in studying ancient dwarven lore in the highest room of the tower, below that there were two great scaly beasts caged in a darkened room, and then a guard room occupied by six bored orcs. The bottom two floors of the tower seemed empty, and unused, filled with cobwebs, dust, and frost as the cold seeped through the broken door at the base of the tower.
Having discerned what they could the heroes decided to attempt to breach the gate quietly that they might take their foe unawares. Vanya, using some minor magic, ascended the curtain wall and removed the bar from the gate, allowing it to be opened by her companions on the outside. They ascended the tower slowly, and carefully until they arrived at the foot of the stairs leading up to the room occupied by the orcish guards. Kayutha, having a clever plan, lured several of the orc guards down into the dark where the party made short work of them. As they were finishing off the second group of guards however, they heard one of the remaining orcs fleeing up the tower. Hoping to prevent the orc from warning his mistress of their presence they swiftly ascended higher into the tower. They were delayed by the last of the orcish guards however, and found themselves confronted by two massive lizard-like creatures as they attempted to ascend in pursuit of the fleeing guard. They quickly found that the large lizards were in fact mere beasts and easily cowed, bypassing them with little trouble. They arrived on the fourth floor of the tower to see the final orc, seemingly the leader of the small troupe they had slain, descending the stairs from the Pyre’s chamber to confront them. Seeming unwilling to back down, the orc guard stood bravely, but foolishly against the heroes, and was cut down by a mighty slash of Kayutha’s blade.
The party swiftly ascended to the top floor of the tower to find it denuded of all furniture, except a single table with a lit candle resting upon it. Sitting across the table from them was the cambion priestess known as Tiamat’s Pyre, who greeted them smugly. A brief confrontation ensued during which the Pyre mocked the heroes, and let slip that Tiamat had made alliances with other gods of evil with the intent to overthrow the gods of good at long last. It seemed that the assault upon the Silver Marches, and Abhain an Tsolais in particular, were meant to be a symbol of evil’s ascendance within the realms, hoping to strike fear into the rulers of other kingdoms and shake their confidence. After boasting that her goddess was the true leader of this alliance of evil the Pyre revealed that she had nothing to fear from the companions, for she had already fled, leaving them to converse with an illusion. She hadn’t counted on the unnatural sensitivities of the drow however, as Eldaryn revealed that the candle left sitting upon the table was in fact a gateway to an unknown place. Fearing the escape of their quarry more than the dangers of the unknown the heroes plunged through the portal only to find themselves deep in the mire and muck of a swamp. Uncertain where they were, but knowing it was a long way from home, the party began attempting to discern their location even as Eldaryn retrieved the magical candle, pulling it through the portal. Vanya, now accompanied by the two large lizards from the tower, began attempting to track their quarry even as the rest of the party used the scrying stone to learn that they had traveled far indeed. They found that they were in Lizard Swamp, many miles south of Waterdeep on the Sword Coast.
After a few moments Vanya revealed that she had discerned a trail through the muck, and eagerly lead the pursuit of their quarry. Some hours later, time being difficult to track in the fog shrouded depths of the swamp, the parties journey was interrupted as a rudely awoken black dragon rose out of the water near them. After amusing itself with their fear for a time the dragon seemed intent on making the heroes its breakfast, but turned aside at the last instant, growling something about the party being protected. Baffled by this, but not willing to risk asking questions, the party swiftly moved on. Making their way through the swamp once more they slowly began to find their feet resting on dry land rather than deep in the mire, and they continued onward more easily until they began to hear the sound of some sort of primitive celebratory music ahead of them. Unable to resist, Eldaryn withdrew a flute from his pack and joined in the music, which quickly proved to be a mistake as the music came to an abrupt end. Shortly thereafter they found themselves confronted by a pack of bullywug warriors demanding tribute for their king. After repeated spear shaking and demands of “shinies” for their ruler the bullywugs were mollified when Sparkles presented them with a rock imbued with the light spell. Relieved that this simple trick allowed them to pass the not-too-bright frog people the party questioned the bullywugs about their quarry, only to learn that she had passed recently, but had given no tribute other than death by fire.
Encouraged that they were closing upon their prey the party proceeded onward, only to be confronted by an small, but fierce, bullywug youth who sought vengeance against Tiamat’s Pyre for the death of its father. After calming the young bullywug they learned that it knew where the priestess had fled, and could lead them there. Following the little fellow they soon found themselves in the midst of an ancient dwarven temple of Moradin, at the heart of which was a staircase descending deep beneath the earth.