20 March, 103 CY
Balasar, Etholin, Morthos, Syler, and Tolis-Va walked along the Old King’s Road between Fallcrest and Winterhaven. Each of the young men had an interest in finding a man by the name of Douven Staul, an aged human who had influenced their lives in different ways in years past.
. . .
Balasar Sora-Ghesh, a dragonborn mercenary, had had business dealings with the kindly old man when his draconic family had roamed the land grifting those they could. He’d never approved of the practice of bilking people out of their hard-earned coin, and Staul had provided a friendly ear when Balasar felt he couldn’t speak to anyone else. Their discussions had led the young dragonborn to leave his family in order to seek his own way.
Etholin Immerial, an eladrin practitioner of the arcane arts, had been seeking his twin sister for many years, after she had been kidnapped by a man carrying the holy symbol of the orc god Gruumsh. That had been his only clue during his long search, and he had met Staul shortly after his journey had landed him in Fallcrest. The old man had willingly offered his assistance in researching cults in the region, and though their efforts had never uncovered anything concrete, the friendship that the human had offered had greatly restored Etholin’s flagging spirit.
Morthos Hyjilak, a tiefling and a natural born leader of men, had endured the cruel prejudice of some local children in Fallcrest in his youth, and Staul had intervened to rescue the young man from their torments. Though his father had advised against it, he developed a friendship with the aged man, who would always tell him fantastic tales involving great heroes of past empires. These stories drew Morthos’s mind further from his duties on the farm, and when he finally decided to leave, it was with his the blessing of his father (who was a former adventurer himself).
Syler Thyll, a halfling pickpocket, was raised on the streets. His quick hands had gotten him into trouble more than once in his short life. On one such occasion, he was spared humiliation (and arrest) by Staul’s intervention. The aged human had smoothed things over with the merchant from whom the halfling had stolen. His price for this good deed was small, a weekly visit to discuss any given number of topics. Thyll decided to humor the grey-hair. He HAD kept him out of the dungeon, after all. And he had to admit, some of the old man’s stories had made him laugh.
Tolis-Va, an elven woodsman, had first encountered Staul at his mother Valna’s shrine to Avandra, which was located along the Old King’s Road east of Fallcrest. The old man was an old friend of the family, and he said he was working on a book on the topic of the Nentir Vale. He spoke with Valna at some length about the Harken Wood and the Woodsinger Clan. Then they discussed Tolis-Va leaving with the human on his next trip, so that the young man could learn more of the world outside of his home. It was agreed, and the elven youth spent the next several years traveling with and learning from Staul.
. . .
Douven Staul was about a month overdue from an excursion to a supposed dragon tomb near the village of Winterhaven. His wife Bahla had appealed to each of the young men to find her husband and make sure he returned home safely. It was the third day of their journey from Fallcrest, and they were beginning to think that the tales of brigands on the road that they’d heard in town were greatly exaggerated. That was, of course, when the kobolds struck.