So this was a bust. Not only did we not manage to reach Eralion’s keep, but I’ve joined this quest pretty much hoping to actually learn something from a fellow sorcerer, especially the one that studied under such a prominent (rather notorious, some would say) wizard, Feriblan the Mad, but that Corin fella turned out to be quite utterly useless. Alright, maybe not entirely useless, but let me start at the beginning.
Ever since I saw Corin’s call to an escort mission on the guild’s board I was thinking “Finally, another sorcerer in the making that could probably share some arcane knowledge, maybe offering me a better understanding of my own powers.” An interesting quest he would lead only added to my eagerness, of course. Boy, was I sorely mistaken…
After a few days of travel we got to Reme, a small port town on the north coast. I’ve never been to Reme, but I immediately got that nostalgic, familiar feel, as it really reminded my of my hometown of Luskan (except for that blatant display of their holy hawk sigil all over the place). As we were approaching the city gates we noticed a petite, scrawny man with horn-rimmed glasses beckoning us. It was Corin. Not exactly a reassuring sight, but a mage is usually all about the mind, not the constitution, so I was still hopeful. Corin regarded the five of us with almost the same doubt in his eye. We definitely weren’t your run-of-the-mill band of adventurers – Benito, a Dwarf Bard, and a self-appointed leader of our group. I’ve read about his PTSD-laden adventures before. He was certainly the loudest one of the company; Fargrim, another Dwarf, this one a Druid, and a healer of the group, which is always a good thing to have; Gobart, a Drow Elf fledgling Wizard, very enthusiastic and eager to get a jump-start on this quest; Krack, a Half-Orc fellow Sorcerer, proud of his orcish heritage, which kind of rubbed Benito the wrong way; and yours truly, Elthanias, a Half-Elf Sorcerer on a lifelong search for the origin of my wild magic powers. So anyway, after a very quick introduction where Benito already managed to make Corin so uncomfortable with his conduct that he almost backed out of this whole thing, we make our way to The Starving Stirge Inn (the very notion of those winged little bloodsuckers made my skin crawl, but I powered through, as Corin already secured accommodation for us there).
As soon as we’ve entered the inn Corin exchanged glances with the bartender, nodded and went upstairs, expecting us to follow him. Benito, however, went straight to the bar and ordered “whichever alcohol”, so the bartender hands him a jug. Benito takes a swig and… spits it all over the counter in disgust. His unrefined taste buds couldn’t possibly appreciate smooth elven wine, so he asks for some ordinary dwarvish ale to wash the taste out. During that ridiculous display of dwarf etiquette (no offense to the true-to-his-hermit-background Fargrim) the rest of us glimpsed around the tavern, and I noticed a suspicious hooded elvish figure sitting at the bar checking us out. He kinda felt out of place here, but we didn’t have the time to take a closer look. Corin was already getting impatient.
We got upstairs and to the room he reserved for the meeting. We sat around the table and started with the formal introduction. Gobart decided to show off for a bit and used his Mage Hand spell to lift an apple off the table and just… move it around in mid-air. Krack thought it would be funny to mess with him for a bit, so he launched a Fire Bolt at the apple and burned it to a crisp. He was right, the look on Gobart’s face priceless. Corin didn’t find it very amusing, though, so he just moved forward with the topic. He told us how a while ago, while he was apprenticing under Feriblan the Mad, he discovered a letter sent to his master by a wizard named Eralion, who, it is said, some years ago attempted to become a lich, but failed. Enclosed was a mysterious amulet with strange markings, which Corin stole, along with the letter, in an attempt to find Eralion’s keep that is supposedly filled with various treasures. He is not alone, however, in his quest. There are other, darker, more sinister forces at work that are willing to stop at nothing to get their hands on the wizard’s amulet and the fortune that lies in the keep. Hence why he sought some worthy companions to keep him safe and share in the alleged wealth. In the middle of Corin’s speech I heard footsteps that came to a halt right outside the door. I got up, approached the door and tried to hear what’s going on. I asked for assistance and Krack was just about to join me, but the eavesdropper must’ve heard me and ran away before I could open the door and see who it was. My mind went straight to the person I saw at the counter downstairs, but the others thought I was just hearing things. Anyway, it was late and Corin suggested we call it a night. He got us two rooms with three beds each, but we all agreed that it’s safer if we all crashed in the same room, so he found us a larger one just down the hall.
Everyone hit the sack except for Benito and me. I just wanted to check out the place first, and he couldn’t sleep because of his “condition”. As we were leaving the room I saw part of a cloak disappearing around the corner. No doubts anymore, we were being spied on. Benito ran downstairs to catch the perpetrator if he tries to exit that way, and I followed him to a room at the other end of the hall. The door was ajar, but I didn’t want to get caught in a trap, so I backed up a couple of steps and used Mage Hand to push the door open further. Luckily no trap, but the spy managed to escape through the window just as I’ve entered the room. I could only see his shadow running across the rooftops. I got down to the bar and told Benito what happened. He said there’s no use in alarming the others right now, as the danger’s obviously passed, so we went back to our room to finally catch some Z’s. Benito pulled out his tent in the middle of the room and slept there. Whatever.
The next morning we got up bright and early, as we had a several day trip ahead of us. Benito and I told the rest of the group of what transpired last night and we’ve all agreed to be extra vigilant going forth. We made some last minute preparations and were on our way.
After roughly two days of walking we got to the entrance to a forest, just as the weather was starting to suddenly shift. It was pretty sunny and warm so far, and now the sky was rapidly filling with heavy grey clouds. Corin mentioned how very unusual this was for this time of year, so our Druid Fargrim tapped into his vast knowledge about nature and determined that the source of this impending storm is definitely arcane. The light drizzle that the clouds brought soon gave way to a severe rainstorm with drops as big as acorns. We quickly entered the forest seeking cover under the treetops, but to no avail. The rain was so dense that even our vision was compromised. It took us a couple of hours, but we’ve managed to reach a man-made shelter furrowed into a hillside rock. We took shelter there and made a bonfire. Gobart and Krack decided to cast their Fire Bolts at the same time and almost scorched us all. Truly wise. Before we settled, Gobart decided to take a quick look around using his superior darkvision, as the sun has started to set, just to make sure we’re not being followed by that hooded character. While he was out there the rest of us were just sitting around the fire, shooting shit, Corin showing us the amulet he was talking about. We tried to decipher the markings on it, but none of us had any idea what they meant. While Corin was putting the amulet back in his robe Krack noticed something up his sleeve, but couldn’t figure out what it was (he told us about that later on). Gobart came back shortly after, so Corin suggested we go to sleep, as it was already pretty dark and to wait the rain out, but we managed to persuade him to push forward as the storm could last for hours more, even days. As visibility was getting increasingly low, to make sure none of us get lost in the woods we employed Benito’s brilliant idea and tied ourselves to each other with rope and walked in a single file.
As we were slowly making our way through the trees and bushes (and hopefully out of the forest) the rain started to die out, and we reached a small clearing, seemingly perfect to set up camp. However, what was weird was that there were no tracks around whatsoever, animal or otherwise, which raised some suspicions, so Gobart, accompanied by Fargrim this time, again decided to scout around for a bit and make sure we’re safe. Shortly after they left, I noticed Corin had started to squirm and look around all panicky while frantically feeling himself up. “Lost something, Corin?”, asked Krack suspiciously. It was the letter. At the same time Fargrim fortuitously stepped on the letter while searching around the perimeter. Just as he was about to call out to Gobart something clocked him from behind, bringing him to the ground. It was a leucrotta, and even though it was just a cub, it was one vicious half-deer/half-racoon motherfucker, and started gnawing on Fargrim while he was still trying to figure out what the hell happened. Gobart turned around and ran toward the beast brandishing a rapier. He was aiming for the eye, but despite his superior darkvision, poked it in its shoulder. The rest of us heard the commotion and came running to our companions’ aid only to be met by this giant, bear-sized, full grown leucrotta momma. As the cub was still preoccupied with Fargrim, Gobart decided to face the big one with us and fired a Ray of Frost at him, to at least slow him down a bit. Krack tried to raise the temperature with a Fire Bolt, and I finally got the chance to use the diamond my mother gave me and cast a Chromatic Orb filled with poisonous gas. All that did some damage, but not enough, so Benito decided to do what he does best. Sing! But on the inside, though. He projected an old dwarf battle song into the leucrotta’s brain, confusing and scaring him profusely, so that he started to flee (I know exactly how the poor thing felt). Gobart quickly followed with another Fire Bolt, but missed. Luckily the beast stumbled in confusion and fell behind a bush, so we finished him up. Meanwhile, Fargrim managed to wrestle the cub off himself, get back on his feet and thwack it over the head with his staff, rendering it unconscious. We let it live, but we did skin its mother. Someone else could’ve done it better, but I had to do it, and I did it poorly, so it looks more like a roadkill than a magnificent beast. It’ll not sell for much. We finally made our way back to the clearing. Fargrim showed us the letter he stumbled upon earlier and read it aloud, much to Corin’s discomfort. It appears that Eralion was an old friend of Corin’s master and wanted him to visit him in his keep to share in the wealth and, potentially, lichdom and immortality. The amulet he enclosed was actually a key to the keep. Corin reluctantly filled in some gaps in the story. He told us about Orcus, the demon Eralion channeled through, but more importantly he told us about Vortigan, the Necromancer, Eralion’s apprentice, who would also very much like to get his hands on his master’s treasures. After learning everything that Corin kept from us so far we definitely didn’t trust him anymore, so I’ve persuaded him to give me the amulet for safekeeping. As he was handing it to me, in the corner of my eye I noticed a crow, sitting on one of the surrounding branches, glaring at us. Its eyes were glowing dark red, so it obviously wasn’t an ordinary animal. I wanted to take a closer look, but as I got up it simply vanished in thin air. When I told the rest of the group what I just saw, Corin turned deathly pale. It turned out that that crow was Talon, Vortigan’s familiar, which meant he’s onto us. Now it was clear that that hooded figure at the inn was one of his agents as well. Anyway, it was getting really late, so we decided to turn in. Krack was the first one that offered to keep watch, followed by Gobart and then Benito. Thanks, guys. The first few hours went quietly, but then Krack heard an unidentifiable buzzing noise closing in, so he woke us up. The feel of dread instantly enveloped me. I knew exactly what that was… the mother… fucking… stirges! My hand instinctively went to the scar on my neck. A remnant from my past adventure when those winged little demons almost ended me. It seems that our bonfire attracted them. Luckily, when they came into the light we’ve learned there were only three of them. We took care of them almost effortlessly (‘almost’, as my Ray of Frost missed, so Krack had to step in for me). After taking a quick look around for any more stirges we went back to sleep, this time Gobart taking over the watch. Relieved that his shift went peacefully, he went back to sleep and Benito took over. Just before sunrise he heard some rustling coming from the bushes, so naturally he went ahead and checked it out himself. It was a
whole den of snake s . He lifted his crossbow to take them it out, but they it sprang towards him, biting into the weapon. He somehow managed to shake them it off and shoot them it in the head. All juiced up after such heroic skirmish he started singing screaming yet another battle song, waking us up. It was time to get up anyway, so we didn’t murder him on sight. Corin took out the map to check the direction, but I’ve noticed he had some trouble with it, so I helped him out. We were supposed to continue northbound, so we finally did. We packed up the camp and went on our merry way.
Fast forward two days we got within the reach of a village called Fair Hill. We could now clearly see Eralion’s keep in the distance. There was a farm right outside the village, which we normally would’ve just passed by, but something felt off. Gobart insisted we just continue onwards, but the rest of us agreed we should at least check it out. We should’ve listened to Gobart… When we came closer we saw three dead bodies lying around between the house and the barn. Of a man, a woman… and a child. Upon closer examination of the wounds we’ve concluded that they were likely killed by orcish weapons. Corin mentioned that Vortigan was known to hire orcs as his muscles, which likely meant he already went through this place. Krack was obviously vexed, being a Half-Orc, and Benito certainly didn’t help the situation by accusing him of being in cahoots with the Necromancer. The tension would’ve probably risen, hadn’t we noticed something out of the ordinary with the bodies, something that couldn’t relate to a simple orc attack – bite marks. Now there was no more room for doubt; Vortigan was here, and fairly recently, judging by the temperature of the bodies. Gobart’s quick thinking lead him to shoot a Fire Bolt at a man’s body, thoroughly decomposing him. He then entered the house to examine it, followed by Fargrim. Krack, Benito, Corin and I were just about to step inside when we heard the barn door opening. We turn around and there he was… Vortigan with his two orc guardians. I noticed he glanced the roof of the house, so I turned my head and saw Talon, his crow familiar, regarding us from above. He knew exactly when we were coming. As soon as I yelled for Fargrim and Gobart to come out, Vortigan mumbled something, raised his arms, and suddenly six skeletons raised from the ground, including those two bodies we forgot (rookie mistake), the woman and the child, surrounding us. At the same time Talon soared up in the air and, to our disbelief, turned into this huge gargoyle. He alighted just above us and grabbed Corin, trying to take him away, but Fargrim managed to quickly grab him by his feet, suspending him in mid air. However, as the undead horde started closing in on us, tough decisions had to be made. He had to let Corin go. We saw his look of utter disbelief as Talon was carrying him over the rooftops. I felt kinda sorry, I guess. Anyway, it was now time to show Vortigan who he chose to mess with. First I cast Sleep on him and the orcs. They succumbed, he didn’t. Benito then took his claymore with both hands, jumped up in the air and drove it in the ground with a thunderous tremor, pushing the undead mob outwards, making way for Gobart to rush towards the barn and cast the Fire Bolt again. He missed, and Vortigan managed to run inside. Luckily, the Fire Bolt hit a ball of hay and the whole place quickly went up in flames, giving us the chance to either smoke him out or leave him burn to death. Benito had none of that and ran in after him. Of course, the smoke was so dense that Vortigan managed to hide pretty easily, and after teasing Benito for a bit, and him, in turn, trying to charm him with his music (and, regrettably, failing), he got out from his hiding place, pulled a sand-like substance out of his pocket and poof vanished in a puff of smoke. As the barn was already crumbling down, Benito ran outside and joined Gobart, with the two orcs at the entrance still sound asleep. Meanwhile, the rest of us were battling the undead and, as if that wasn’t enough, Talon came back and went straight towards me, trying to grab me by my shoulders. Fargrim, again, stepped in against the stony creature and whacked him with his staff, making him leave me alone. Weird thing was, the gargoyle then simply landed in front of me, not trying to attack me or anything. While we were busy with Talon, Krack got in his ready pose, arms raised straight in front of him, waiting for the skeletons to come closer. Once they did, he unleashed a cone of fire with his Burning Hands spell, mowing them all down at once. Talon and I kept staring at each other for a minute or two, but I had enough, so I took out my diamond again and cast Chromatic Orb, this time trembling with a rage of thunder. Of course, I missed, so the creature lift off the ground again, thus giving me the chance to try once again. Critical hit. The deafening sound of the raving thunder encompassed the creature until it ruptured into hundreds of little pieces. The moment that happened we heard a scream coming from behind the barn. It was Vortigan, of course. The link with his familiar broke which, naturally, hurt him pretty bad. Gobart and Benito immediately scuttled around the barn, but they only managed to get a glimpse of him retreating through the forest. They came back just in time to see Fargrim furiously beating the remaining two zombies to a pulp with his trusty staff. The only thing left to do now was to wake up the orcs and interrogate them about Vortigan’s whereabouts. We tied them up and told them “the first one to talk walks away, the other one dies”. They both started talking at the same time, spouting nonsense, but it was obvious they know nothing. We still killed one of them, hoping the other one would come to his senses, but to no avail. You know what they say, dumb as an Orc (sorry, Krack. Well, half-sorry). So we kill him too. We looted the bodies for some armor and weapons that we could sell back at the guild, and so we set back through the forest towards Reme. As for Corin, the last we saw the poor bugger, Talon was carrying him above the rooftops in an unknown direction. We just couldn’t spare enough time to go and find him, let alone continue to the keep. We’ll just have to return some day, hoping he’ll still be around. He probably will, though, because we still have the amulet…
To be continued…?