1 July, 103 CY
Soveliss and Belgarde had been back in Fallcrest only a couple of days. They were pleased to find Cage and Kegan had returned from their personal quests and unsurprised that Feh and Thrakath had continued along on their own. They were relaxing in the Blue Moon Alehouse, drinking, eating, and catching up with their friends when a minotaur entered the tavern. The gathered crowd of locals grew instantly silent, but when the bestial figure made no instant attacks and instead bellied up to the bar for a drink, they went about their business. Besides, they had nothing to worry about – The Silver Song
Quintet Quartet was sitting at a nearby table.
The minotaur eventually was introduced to the heroes as Bakkus Freehorn, and he discovered that they had already bested the Pyramid of Shadows, the very thing that had brought him to the Nentir Vale in the first place! Soveliss drunkenly told the tale of the party’s various exploits, and when Bakkus asked what their next adventure would be, he was a little disappointed. At Vyrellis’ suggestion, the eladrin had decided to make the trip to Therund to return the silver amulet that had been a gift to that nation’s king from the Feywild realm of Cenduilon in centuries past. This was not the kind of task he would have expected of the people who had vanquished the legendary artifact prison. He decided that they required further observation, and it was agreed that he should accompany them on their trek.
8 July, 103 CY
The summer sun was burning brightly when the party arrived in Therund, which had downgraded to a mere barony at some point in the past. Still, Baron Stockmer of Harkenwold was a wealthy enough individual – he had thrown an impressively expensive funeral in absentia when his nephew never returned from Thunderspire Mountain, the victim of slavers and then some hellish ritual. Perhaps the Baron of Therund was likewise endowed.
They easily secured an audience with Baron Perenon, and though surprised to discover such a historical artifact in the custody of foreign adventurers, he was no less grateful for the gift’s return. He requested that they seek after his son Etheran, who was overdue to return home from his adventures abroad. The group had most recently entered the Trollhaunt, a large swamp to the southeast inhabited by its namesake trolls and other nasty creatures. Apparently, the trolls were rising up, and Etheran’s band was seeking to discover the extent of the threat.
The last sending he’d received from his son’s wizard friend had been three days before, when their progress reports had been coming every day. He was getting worried. He asked them to take the silver amulet, which he branded with a personal sigil, to Etheran so that the boy would know they had come from his father. He suggested they start in the town of Moonstair, where Etheran and company had been based for their excursions into the swamp.
All the adventurers could think about was their lack of fire.
11 July, 103 CY
On the third day from Therund, a couple of hours from Moonstair, the party crested a small rise to a horrific scene unfolding on the road ahead. A gang of five feral trolls was pulling apart the carcass of a horse, squabbling over the choicer parts. The monsters were still some three hundred feet down the road, and were so preoccupied with their sport/meal that they didn’t notice the adventurers. Thus, the heroes made their way unheard and unseen until they were almost on top of the green giants.
The fighting was fierce, and when a hulking blue-skinned humanoid appeared suddenly to spray the heroes with icy magic, things only got worse. While Cage singled out the oni mage, the others focused on hurting the trolls, but that proved to be a difficult task considering the damned things legendary ability to regenerate most wounds. Even once the trolls fell from their many injuries, they would simply stand back up moments later, their cuts and abrasions already knitting of their own accord.
With little recourse, Belgarde bravely charged a fallen troll with a humble torch, which he had lit in the hopes of stopping the creature’s impressive regeneration. It took a couple of swings for him to land a meaningful blow against the senseless troll’s thick hide, but he did manage to finally kill one. Emboldened, the party redoubled their efforts, following the tiefling’s lead to put the trolls down permanently once they’d fallen. The oni mage was killed and only one of the trolls escaped, fleeing to the east – the direction of the Trollhaunt.
Searching the area, they discovered the body of a young human man, presumably the horse’s former rider. Assuming him to be an unfortunate traveler, they discovered something in the pouches carried by the oni that suggested he was more: a letter to Baron Perenon from the mayor of Moonstair.
Etheran dead already, and Moonstair in imminent peril. They discussed briefly what to do next, but they all leaned toward continuing to the town to find out more.
. . . . . . .
After crossing the ferry, they asked the ill-equipped guardsmen where to find the mayor. They were directed to Moonstair Keep near the point of the peninsula. When they arrived in the main hall, they were met by a tall female half-elf with gray-streaked hair. She wore a plainly embroidered blue dress and a silver chain of office. “Welcome, travelers,” she said. “I am Kelana Dhoram, mayor of Moonstair.”
She was crestfallen to hear about the death of the messenger Perrol. She entreated the adventurers to tell her the story of their encounter with the trolls on the road. Once they’d finished, she brought them up to speed with the situation.
Troll warbands were on the move, and when Etheran came through Moonstair and learned of this, he delayed his return home and established a base in the town, west of the Trollhaunt. He and his companions made three raids into the swamps, routing Skalmad’s forces before setting out on a fourth sortie to face the troll king. Three days later, a band of troll warriors appeared at the town gates, their leader issuing a challenge as he tossed Etheran’s head over the wall.
“Your hero is dead, puny humans!” shouted the troll. “Soon Skalmad, King of Vardar, will claim Moonstair and lands beyond, and all of you will die screaming!” Additionally, as the heir of the barony, Etheran had carried his family’s sword, a magic blade known as Sunwrath. The sword, Kelana presumed, was now a trophy of the troll king. For the first time in centuries, the trolls were gathering for war, and Therund stood in their sights.
Without being prompted, Soveliss volunteered the heroes’ services to Moonstair. He asked about Etheran’s remains, and Kelana reacted with shock and disgust. When he tried to explain that he only meant for resurrection, she insisted that it had not been an option. The bard grew silent, exchanging a meaningful glance with Belgarde. The tiefling only nodded while the others continued to question the mayor about Skalmad and her suggestions for their next step.
“Skalmad is said to lair in the Great Warren, near the heart of the Trollhaunt. Only one of Etheran’s companions returned from the foray into the Trollhaunt – the dragonborn Bax. Speak with him at the Cloudwatch Inn before you go.”
. . . . . . .
Sending Belgarde and Soveliss off to shop for alchemist’s fire and anything else that might give the party an edge against the trolls, Kegan, Cage, and Bakkus made their way to the Cloudwwatch Inn. It was run by a servile halfling called Cham, who offered them food, drink, and rooms for the night. Once business was concluded, they asked after Bax, and Cham directed them to the dragonborn drinking alone in one corner of the bar.
Bakkus brought over a pitcher of ale, and Bax invited him to sit. They asked him about the Trollhaunt, hoping to get as much detail about the swamp and the possible location of Skalmad’s stronghold as possible. It was clear after a few minutes with the man that his spirit was broken. The death of his companions, and particularly Etheran – whom he called Captain – had hit the man hard. It was going to take more than a few drinks or words of encouragement to bring him around. The heroes had their work cut out for them.