12 July, 103 CY
Bakkus, Cage, and Kegan were all awakened early by excited chatter from the common room of the Cloudwatch Inn. They came to investigate and found Belgarde and Soveliss talking excitedly with the dragonborn Bax and a barely dressed young man with a mop of dirty blond hair. “Dudes, I can’t thank you enough!” the youth exclaimed.
“I- I still can’t believe it. You’ve brought the Captain back,” said Bax, clearly emotional.
“Who did what now?” said Kegan as he and the others approached the table. He turned a questioning glare on the tiefling and the eladrin, who grinned widely despite their obvious exhaustion.
Turning to see the newcomers, the young human said, “Dudes! You must be these guys’ bros! It is like totally an honor to meet you! I’m Etheran!” The last was uttered with an outstretched hand for shaking. The battlemind hesitantly reached out to take the hand and found himself pulled in for an unsolicited hug. Etheran grinned up at Kegan before attempting the same with the halfling, who adroitly avoided him.
The midnight resurrection was explained to everyone, and then the heroes turned the conversation to the Trollhaunt Warrens. Bax and Etheran readily told the adventurers everything they’d learned about the terrain and the likely location for Skalmad’s lair. “Dudes, there were trolls and trogs, and all kinds of other freaky stuff we never seen before,” warned Etheran emphatically. “Bring fire, bro.” Kegan simply nodded, his hand unconsciously straying to the hilt of a sword he’d purchased recently. “Also, if you could get Sunwrath back so my dad doesn’t kill me…again, that would be awesome,” concluded the young noble.
With Bax and Etheran staying in Moonstair to attempt training up a militia with some basic skills before the trolls came in force, the Silver Song Quartet (with Intern Bakkus) would strike into the heart of the swamp and seek Skalmad himself. They hoped to cut off the head of the force and thereby end the threat in one fell swoop, counting on the leaderless trolls to revert to their natural pattern of unfocused violence.
An ancient stone road led east from Moonstair through dense, damp woodlands that soon gave way to stretches of fog-shrouded marsh. This was the Trollhaunt, a region of bogs, thickets, and low forested ridges that ran for miles. An hour’s march east of Moonstair, the old road gave out, disappearing into a great bog. Faint footpaths led off to either side, but the adventurers soon found themselves in a maze of sluggish streams, meandering trails, and impenetrable brush.
13 July, 103 CY
Around noon the next day, having navigated the natural labyrinth and dodged scores of trolls and other denizens of the swamp, the heroes estimated that they’d arrived at the location that Bax and Etheran had believed to be Skalmad’s lair. The end of the path was blocked by a sturdy gate of thick timbers anchored to the wall of the cave. To the right of the gate, the stream running parallel to their chosen track flowed sluggishly through a number of fanglike stone pillars, disappearing into the darkness beyond. To the left, they could see a narrow window slit looking down on the approach to the cave mouth.
Bakkus and Cage entered the stream, seeking entry that way, while Soveliss and Kegan considered the door. As the halfling slipped between the stalactites and the minotaur broke a few of them off to clear a path for his larger bulk, the bard swiftly popped the hinges of the doors. Kegan kicked the wooden portal down and Belgarde lashed out with his mind at the surprised trolls and troglodytes waiting within.
The melee that followed was swift and brutal, and the battlemind summoned the flames of his new enchanted blade, stealing the trolls’ advantage of regeneration. The burned flesh had trouble healing, and this fact had the trolls on the defensive. The hulking giants gradually edged toward the stream, but they were far too slow to escape their inevitable fate. Two of the three troglodytes fled across a log bridge atop a ridge in the back of the chamber, then kicked the plank over the side. It splashed into the sluggish stream below, where Bakkus retrieved it.
After a short rest to catch their breaths from having utterly dominated the encounter, they gave chase across the shaky span and through the tunnel beyond. The scent of wood smoke could not cover the foul stench that rose from the next cavern. The space was divided into a number of smaller chambers by poorly stacked stone walls. Dim firelight flickered from somewhere ahead, the wall jogging sharply to the east. Beyond it, they could make out stocky reptilian creatures apparently standing guard, stone clubs in their clawed hands.
In addition to the troglodyte brutes, the spear-flinging impalers lurked in a niche ten feet above the floor. Another trog, bearing a quarterstaff and wearing a skull mask hissed from the rear of the cavern, while a pair of aberrations stared at the heroes from two angles, each from a single red eye dominating their large skulls. The fight that ensued lasted far longer than had the encounter with the gate guards. The trog mystic turned the heroes’ blood to poison from afar, while the brutes bashed away with their stone clubs, and the impalers sniped from their niche. More troublesome were the nothic stalkers, whose disorienting gaze leeched the adventurers’ life from them and left them dazed.
Still, the persistent band of stalwart heroes stubbornly slashed and spelled their way through the lesser threats and Cage gave chase to the skull-masked troglodyte when it attempted to flee through a poorly made troll-sized door in the rear of the chamber. The halfing got in front of the mystic and pushed the portal closed, standing defiantly before it. Skull-face fell impaled on Bakkus’ horns, and its few remaining underlings dropped soon after. Hearing no immediate response to the creaking door opening and closing, the Silver Song paused to rest and consider their next direction.