Long into the future, in a land far, far away….
Arien, Nolofinwe, Varen and Craven stood before Vermelda inside an Ant Hive of Xymor. The hag had suddenly appeared to make a bargain after not answering the call of Arien and Varen the previous evening. The shifty witch promised to no longer cause harm to any of them, including Shanna and the other Hactuan residents, as long as the heroes did not try to harm or evade her. After much debate, it was decided to reject Vermelda’s bargain. Frustrated by Craven’s influence over the decision, Varen headed off on his own toward Hactuan as the others decided their next course of action.
During Varen’s journey, Vermelda again appeared. She offered him a new bargain. In return for him staying away from his companions and not travelling with them, she would leave Shanna and the Hactuan residents alone. In fact, Varen would never see or hear from Vermelda again. Disheartened from the recent turn of events, Varen put off his decision, but Vermelda warned that the offer had an expiration date. The half-drow made it back to Hactuan and found that the once depleted village was gaining residents in the form of Burran refugees. Glad to reunite with his mother, Varen settled in and waited to see if his companions would arrive.
Meanwhile, Arien, Nolfinwe, and Craven continued their own journey back to Hactuan. During the trip, Arien and Nolo fed Craven’s interest in the Red Crystal Cavern and the Burrowling guardians. They recounted their two disastrous expeditions into the cavern which prompted the supposed cleric of Muerath to propose a third visit. He argued for a more peaceful approach and seemed confident in his ability to speak with the gophers. In turn, Craven told his story to Arien and Nolofinwe, hoping to gain their trust and faith in his god.
Toward the evening, the ground began to tremble as a huge earthquake took hold. Rocks fell from the roof and the ground tossed beneath them. They were suddenly slammed against the north wall and Arien was injured. Craven used his powers to heal the sorceress, but before they could get their bearings, Vermelda again appeared. She claimed to have caused the quake and promised more if they did not entertain her bargain. Craven began chanting magic as Arien blasted the witch with a lightning bolt. Craven caused the fiend to go blind and she once again shifted into the ethereal plane.
Back at Hactuan, the earthquake caused severe damage to the village. Several people were hurt and homes were destroyed. Varen helped the villagers retrieve survivors from the rubble and provided healing to those in need. That evening, Varen crawled into his pallet and slept the deep sleep of the over weary.
After their encounter with Vermelda, Arien, Nolofinwe and Craven made haste toward Hactuan. They made camp for the night with Nolofinwe keeping watch for Vermelda’s presence. Just before morning, Arien woke with a start from her slumber. Despite Nolofinwe’s persistence, Vermelda managed to infect Arien’s dreams, weakening the sorceress. This solidified Craven’s stand on visiting the Red Crystal Cavern and ending Vermelda’s reign of terror by vowing, “Her death is imminent…”