Eat the Children

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen began trekking through he caverns of Xymor on their way to the rumored Yuan-Ti settlement of Massar. As they travelled through the night, they came upon a group of Burran refugees led by Botch Solidstance. The refugees were lost and desperate for help. After much deliberation and despite Varen’s suggestion to take them to his home settlement of Hactuan, it was decided that the refugees would go with the Heroes of Burran to Massar. During the night, a horrible dream plagued Arien. She worried that Vermelda was near, but close inspection showed nothing.

The next day, they stumbled upon an underground gas leak that exploded, knocking down a young boy under their care. Nolofinwe created a magical wall of wind to keep the noxious poison at bay. Roman pulled the boy away from the explosion and another refugee offered to help the child. But as the man spoke some strange words, a magical darkness descended. Nolofinwe was able to dissipate the spell and Roman immediately attacked the gruff man. Roman noticed the man’s teeth had sharpened as he morphed into a hyena-like humanoid. The beast turned and regurgitated a vile substance on the boy and killed a female refugee nearby.

Roman wrestled with the creature and forced it onto the gas leak as Varen forced the beast to confront its greatest fears. Helpless, the foul creature was no match for the heroes and was finally slain by a magic missile shot from Arien’s wand…

Going Home

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen kept navigating through the caverns on their way to the rumored Yuan-Ti settlement of Massar. During their travels, vile nightmares plagued Arien, causing her to wake every morning weaker and weaker. She suspected Vermelda caused her suffering, but despite Nolifinwe’s attempts, there was little anybody could do against the hag. Being experienced in wandering unknown areas, Nolofinwe noticed they were no longer heading south toward Massar. Varen confessed to actually leading them to his home of Hactuan to bring the Burran refugees to safety. Enraged at the betrayal, Roman swung at Varen, but barely missed. An intense argument followed, with Arien and Nolofinwe attempting to keep the group from falling into turmoil. All agreed that Varen betrayed the group, but concluded he acted in their best interest, with the exception of Roman who harbored doubts and anger toward the half-drow.

During the night, Roman was visited by Vermelda. She offered him freedom from Xymor in exchange for Arien’s gem. Roman seemed to agree and Vermelda promised to return once the gem was secure before disappearing again. The next day Roman talked with Arien using the silent Lover’s Language they developed during their enslavement in the magmium mines. He wondered if Arien could remove her magic gem without hurting herself, but unfortunately, she feared removal of the gem would cause her death. Since Vermelda was watching, Roman had Arien slap him and then he punched her in the face. Not privy to the ruse, Varen became greatly agitated and tried to intervene by casting a spell on Roman. The spell failed and Roman stomped away as Arien assured Varen that all was well.

They continued their tense journey to Hactuan. Upon arrival at the settlement’s opening, Varen grew concerned by the absence of a guard. He had everybody stay back as he turned invisible to investigate. He heard an old voice calling out for help and noticed several dead bodies, so he ran in a panic to his own home. There he discovered the body of one of his mothers… Nyx. Desperate with grief, he went back to the group and pleaded for them to help him despite past quarrels.

They agreed to help. Roman marched in with the others following. Arien used her magic to give Roman additional speed in battle as four huge hoofed badger dogs emerged from hovel entrances…

Home is Where the Hag Is

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen fought the leucrotta that feasted on the dead bodies of the Hactuan residents. Arien and Varen both lobbed fireballs in the middle of the beasts to singe their hides and Nolofinwe increased the growth of the lichens and fungi in the area to hamper their escape. Roman sliced through the creatures with his glaive and they all eventually succumbed to sword and spell.

As the rest of the group examined the dead settlement for clues as to what happened, Roman used his powers to speak with a small spider. The arachnid told him that Duergar slavers had taken most of the residents away and slaughtered the others. The leucrotta arrived later to make an easy meal of the dead. Roman called his companions to a Hactuan hovel and drank a potion of etherealness to see if Vermelda lurked near. Satisfied that she wasn’t, he told them what the spider said. Varen immediately determined that he was going to find the slavers to save his mother. But Roman convinced the bard to help the group get rid of Vermelda first.

The plan was for Roman to act like he killed Nolofinwe and Arien, then bring the supposedly dead body to the hag. Nolofinwe would cast a spell on Arien to make the ruse more realistic. Then, they would use their remaining potion of etherealness and Nolofinwe’s magic to prevent the witch from escaping and kill her. Varen agreed to help in the endeavor and then took to the task of carrying out funeral rites for Nyx. He played a personal funeral tune for her and when the others left to their hovels, he spoke solemnly over the dying embers of her body.

During the night, Arien was again plagued by Vermelda’s nightmares and woke the next morning even weaker than before. During the day, Vermelda appeared to Roman demanding he soon retrieve the gem for her. He agreed, but she warned him that she was always watching before fading again into the ether.

That night, they discussed the final touches of their plan. Nolofinwe cast feign death on Arien before taking his watch. Soon, Roman snuck up behind Nolofinwe and pretended to break his neck. The druid fell to the ground in an overly dramatic manner. But unbeknownst to everybody, Vermelda emerged from the ether right next to the alone and helpless Arien…

Fog of Dispair

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen tried to carry out their plan to catch the ever elusive Vermelda. With Arien left alone and in a debilitated state, the witch appeared and attempted to claw out the half-dow’s magical gem. Arien struggled to get up and blindly flee while screaming for help. Roman, Nolofinwe and Varen rushed in to attack, but the witch managed to once again slip into the ether. Nolofinwe drank their last potion of etherealness to track Vermelda. He spotted the hag as she moved into the rocks below. The druid cast dispel magic on her and she sprung from the rock, hurt and in corporeal form. Roman tangled with the witch and brought her to the ground as Varen’s hideous laughter spell failed to take hold.

Vermelda quickly entered the ethereal plane again, slipping from Roman’s grasp, but Nolofinwe was still in the ether. She tried to flee, telling Nolofinwe that he should help her in her quest instead of hinder her. Instead of taking the witch’s bargain, Nolofinwe tried drowning her in a tidal wave. Enraged, Vermelda pummeled the elf with magic missiles as she fled.

Nolofinwe reported to the others that Vermelda had escaped causing a fog of despair to grip the group. The companions grew angry and frustrated at the lack of options and Roman insisted that Arien was good as dead. Botch tried to encourage the companions, calling them heroes, but Roman admitted they weren’t. He confessed that they actually didn’t help Burran and were in fact the cause of the blaze in Burran. Even Arien scolded the dwarf as he solemnly left the group.

Roman tried questioning Dirt to see if his strange obsession with Morgath could be of use. With threats from both Roman and Varen, the pitiful man agreed to try to contact his master somehow. Varen cast Tiny Hut to block Dirt’s door and they all kept watch over Arien in shifts. During Nolo’s shift, he saw Roman suddenly call out and wake in a panic. As the wisps of his nightmare faded, Roman heard the witch cackle… “You will pay for breaking the bargain, oaf…”

A Bloody Message of Hope

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen rose from their night’s rest. While Arien had uninterrupted sleep and regained her full magical abilities, she still felt in a weakened state. However, the nightmare Vermelda inflicted on Roman left the barbarian unrested and more glum than ever. As the others shook off their sleep, Arien went to check on Dirt. To her horror, the scrawny human was dead with his wrists slit. Written on the wall in his blood was a map with two words: “Crystal” and “Beware”.

After some debate, the companions decided to follow the map, hoping that Morgath had a hand in Dirt’s artwork. Varen led them through the small tunnels and after a few slips, they eventually made it to their destination. A red glow emitted from a small tunnel heading straight down. Varen used his powers to become invisible and climbed down into the chamber below. Inside, a huge glowing red crystal jutted from the rocky floor. Varen hid to await any movement in the chamber after seeing something scurry in the shadows. Meanwhile, Arien also turned invisible, then drank a potion of gaseous form to float into the chamber as Nolofinwe and Roman waited behind.

In the chamber, several small gopher-like creatures appeared from side tunnels and took up guard next to the crystal. Varen threw a rock at the crystal, causing the creatures to emit loud whistles and chittering. Meanwhile, Nolofinwe and Roman started making their way into the cavern. Nolo hung from the tunnel at the roof of the chamber when the gopher creatures began to attack. With Varen and Arien invisible, they focused their slings on Nolofinwe, nearly killing him before he managed to scramble back up the tunnel.

Roman used his magical goblin intestine rope to climb down into the cavern. He flew into a rage and swung his glaive in a wide arc to kill two of the creatures and Varen cast fireball to singe a group of them. He leaned against the crystal as the gophers turned to attack him. The chamber filled with bright red light and Varen felt fully healed. Arien returned to corporeal form and came under immediate vicious assault. She was barely conscious when Varen told her to touch the crystal. She made it to the magical mineral and laid her hand upon it.

The chamber again filled with bright red light and she found that not only were her current wounds healed, but the weakness caused by Vermelda’s previous nightmares had lifted…

To the Rescue

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen continued their battle against the small gopher-like humanoids that guarded a magical red crystal. As more of the determined and fierce creatures emerged from the tunnels into the cavern, Varen turned invisible to flee. However, the gophers managed to thwart his escape, nearly killing him. Nolofinwe used his healing magic from his hiding space to revive the bard, but the little brutes simply cut down Varen again. Roman, frustrated with the whole experience, scooped up Varen as the gophers assaulted him.

Arien, now invisible and climbing the rope to exit the cavern, urged Roman to touch the crystal in order to heal himself. Roman refused the advice and made his way up the rope with the unconscious Varen in tow. Despair gripped Roman as he drew ever more attacks from the vile rodents and thought about the loss of Dirt, his one key to finding the Black Witch. He thought about letting go of the rope and succumbing to the void, but his responsibility to saving Varen overcame the darkness and he managed to escape the red crystal cave alive with his companions. Before leaving, Nolofinwe tapped into the power of nature to create vines that sealed the tunnel to any intruders.

Back at Hactuan, the heroes took a much-needed rest, but Roman was once again plagued by horrible nightmares and visions courtesy of Vermelda. They woke the next morning to hear commotion from the fungi forest. Several Hactuan residents had returned to the village after escaping from Duergar slavers. The slave caravan had come under attack by strange insectoids. The creatures killed the Duergar and some of the villagers, but took most of the slaves away, including Shanna. Varen asked his new comrades if they would help him rescue his captured mother. They agreed to support his endeavor and prepared to depart with Kymorel leading the way.

Roman discovered a parchment on the ground and perused the contents. It belonged to Varen and the barbarian threw the writing back to the half-drow with obvious distaste over what he read. They headed out and tracked the survivors to a series of tunnels. The trail soon led them to a small chamber occupied by a giant ant…

Ants in Your Pants

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen entered a giant ant hive in search of Shanna, Varen’s missing mother. Nolofinwe used his power over beasts to communicate with one of the giant ants, but it insisted they leave. When Arien began casting a spell, the insect attacked. The hive awoke to the intruders and an additional giant ant and swarm of smaller ants took to defense. The swarm engulfed Nolofinwe and the giant ant grabbed him in its mandibles. Varen used his unique gifts to scare the ant away, but the creature brought Nolofinwe with it. Roman grappled the ant, but it viciously stung him, nearly killing the weakened barbarian. Arien cast her magic from afar to destroy the pests as Varen jumped on the giant ant’s back. Eventually, the insects were terminated and Nolofinwe rescued from a painful death.

Exhausted and terribly wounded, Roman suggested that the companions leave the hive and go back to the red crystal cavern for healing. However, Varen insisted on going forward to save his mother. The two stubborn men came to a tense impasse, nearly tearing the group apart. But Arien eventually convinced Varen that it was in his best interest to have a healthy Roman. Without Roman, any effort to save Shanna would fail.

On the way back to Hactuan, they passed through the cavern where Shanna and the other residents were stolen from the Duergar. Roman carefully inspected the area and concluded that maybe the insectoids actually just wanted to kill the Duergar and not the slaves. This gave him hope that Shanna was still alive. Arien suggested that the insectoids were controlled by something else since Varen’s previous contacts with them had been peaceful.

During the night, Varen was visited by Vermelda. The hag tried to bargain with the bard. In exchange for Arien’s Gem of Power, Vermelda would provide Varen and his mother a way out of Xymor. Varen tried to negotiate, but the hag quickly reentered the ethereal plane.

During his watch, Nolofinwe noticed Roman mumbling and tossing in his sleep. The druid woke his friend from slumber, negating the hag’s nightmare effect and allowing Roman to get a full night’s rest…

The Red Crystal

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen traversed back to Hactuan in defeat after being repelled by giant ants. The companions tried to devise a coherent plan for using the power of the red crystal. Roman wanted to find out more about the crystal: where it came from and what all of its powers were. Arien simply wanted to get in, have Roman touch the crystal for healing, and then get out. They decided on a stealthy approach, using magic and potions to become invisible and silent upon their approach.

As they crawled through the tight tunnel toward the cavern entrance, they noticed that the red glow of the crystal was more intense, and there was a strange low whistling emanating from the area. Arien took a look into the cavern and discovered that the chamber was filled with Burrowlings. The creatures used the red crystal in a ritual that reincarnated their dead into Burrowling pups birthed from surrogates. After the ceremony, the chamber emptied with the exception of four Burrowling guards.

The group quietly climbed down and threw a rock which once again caused the Burrolwing guards to scatter, giving them enough time to inspect the crystal. They found the crystal had no inclusions and was perfectly smooth. In addition, it appeared as if the crystal had been thrust up through the cavern floor. Roman seriously considered chipping away at it, but instead, he simply touched the mineral which completely healed him. The Burrowlings immediately returned in numbers, and the companions fled with Nolofinwe touching the crystal on his way out. Unfortunately, Nolo was spotted and sling stones began flying, but the heroes managed to escape with only minor wounds.

As they crawled away through the tunnels they noticed a red glow coming from Nolofinwe’s pouch. The druid looked inside and discovered that his Bear of Healing now glowed…

A Message from Vermelda

Long into the future, in a land far, far away…

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen crawled away from the Red Crystal Cavern, slightly wounded but in much better shape than the last time they visited the Burrowlings. Nolifinwe was able to examine his glowing Bear of Healing. It seemed to have absorbed some of the power of the red crystal, but without knowing more about it, the companions decided to wait on experimenting with the power.

The group arrived at Hactuan and Varen used his magic to see into the ethereal realm. He noticed Vermelda standing close to Roman, but pretended like he hadn’t noticed her. He spoke in elvish to discreetly let his companions know, but the ruse was exposed and Vermelda slipped through the ground and out of sight. The heroes decided to make their way to the Ant Hive in an effort to save Shanna as promised. Varen conjured phantom steeds and they quickly headed toward the insects.

During the evening, Vermelda appeared and placed a small bundle on the ground. Leery of the hag’s intentions, they waited until the next day to investigate. Roman walked right up to the bundle and opened it. Inside was a drow finger with a note promising more pieces of Varen’s mother in the future if he didn’t make a bargain with the hag. Roman called to Arien to discuss the finding. They grew suspicious of Varen’s intentions and confronted the bard about this “bargain”. He denied any bargain and seemed only concerned about his mother. They entertained the possibility that Shanna was no longer in the ant hive, but with few other options, they decided to make sure.

They entered the ant hive under invisibility, in silence and with Roman granted the power of dark vision. Despite their precautions, two giant ants were able to detect them with their tremorsense and attacked. Arien distracted one of the creatures by tossing her tambourine into a corner, allowing Roman to use his physical prowess to destroy the other. The second returned to attack Arien, who blasted it with an acidic orb. Varen caused the ground to tremble and a thunderwave destroyed the last insect… However, they heard rumbling and cracks appeared in the rocks as dust and small stones fell from the cavern ceiling…

Aggressive Pest Control

Roman, Arien, Nolofinwe and Varen continued their search for Shanna in a hive filled with aggressive ants. They soon encountered several giant ants, a swarm of smaller ants and a strange insectoid creature described by the Hactuan residents that escaped capture. Through blade and magic, the ants were destroyed, but the wounded ant man escaped down a dark hole.

During the battle, Arien used her powers to blink into the ethereal realm, where she spotted a surprised Vermelda. The hag attempted to put Arien to sleep, but she resisted the spell before blinking back into the material plane. The next time she blinked into Vermelda’s realm, the sorceress blasted Vermelda with a lightning bolt prompting the witch to flee.

Varen followed the insectoid to the hole and heard whimpering and buzzing from the darkness. The hole appeared to be trapped to collapse, but with growing concern for his mother, Varen hastily jumped into the blackness. Roman followed down the hole, landing on Varen, and crushing the bard. However, the barbarian managed to land on his feet and sliced through the fleeing insectoid.

But the chamber held two more of the creatures. One stood at a bloody altar, its claws perched above a heavily bleeding drow Varen assumed to be his mother. The other attacked Roman, poisoning the enraged barbarian. Varen used his most powerful magic to polymorph into a Drakon and fly over to confront the insectoid at the altar.

Nolofinwe quickly used his druidic powers to change into a rat in order to scurry into the chamber after the others, while Arien remained behind…


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