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Recap 4 (Sept/Oct, 2001)

Having defeated the ogre that led the goblin leaders, the party exited the fort and began the trek back to Warrenville. Soon outside the fort, however, the party heard frightened screams and looked to see a group of goblins emerging from the woods, looking back over their shoulders. The goblins, so concerned with whatever they were fleeing, did not notice the advancing party until it was too late. The group quickly dispatched them, and then heard a voice.

"Sorry about that. We were careless to let them get away from us, but it looks like you had no trouble with them."

Looking up, the group saw a man dressed in the armor of Lord Phantar's knights, and a woman in mages' robes. They introduced themselves as Retameron and Halia. Retameron, a paladin, was the nephew of Lord Phantar and Halia was his wife. Halia, a wizard and a scholar, had uncovered rumors that an ancient wizard named Bigby had once resided in these woods, and the duo were investigating. Hearing that the party of Balin and Flint Fireforge had once sought the advice of Balin, Chyekk, Lashtal, and Venetto became interested. Unfortunately the duo was not able to find Bigby's tower and planned on returning to Roesh for more reasearch. The two groups agreed to camp together, and exchanged stories and information.

The next thing the party knew was waking up in darkness, surrounded by a terrible stench. The last watch had been Raistlin's, and, upon lighting the lantern, they discovered that he was no longer with them. They also saw that they were in an underground cavern, in a room littered with bones. Their horses had been mutilated, literally turned inside out, but their equipment was still intact. Exploring the corridor further, the party discovered that they were in a giant ant colony. The main tunnel was teeming with giant worker ants. The workers left the party alone (though they were still dangerous due to their size and number, as they could easily stampede the party) but as the group traveled through the colony they encountered warrior ants.

With the aid of Retameron and Halia, the group was able to fight their way through, but with no place to rest, the party became weary. Finally they escaped to the surface, just as night was falling. Retameron argued that the ant colony was a danger to the surrounding villages and farms, and the group agreed, deciding that they would return to the colony in the morning. They did, and exterminated all the remaining workers and warriors, and then encountered and slew the queen of the ants.

The Retameron and Halia then left the party, inviting them to visit when they were next in Roesh.

After returning from defeating the ant hill, the party found that they had become heroes in the northwestern segment of Betaya, largely among the merchant class whose routes had been threatened by the goblins due to the withdrawal of Lord Phantar's knights. However, soon after arriving in Warrensville, Leento was approached by a young boy, an apprentice druid, who bore a summons from Hengus, Leento's master. The party traveled to Leento & Lashtal's hometown of Hetasi as quickly as possible.

There, Hengus and another druid named Norwahwen introduced the party to Snow. Snow was a monk of the order of the Drunken Butterfly, an order of Candonian immigrants that have established a monastary in the city of Betaya. Apparently Snow and her master Wei Pai were directed by their superiors in Candonia to infiltrate an orc fort and aquire an artifact. The artifact turned out to be the Jade Elephant of Xian. The monks planned on shipping it to Candonia with the next Candonian merchants, but in Betaya the merchants and monk guardians were attacked and killed by wizards secretly under the employ of Vasper. Since Vasper was a reputable guild-mage in good standing and the monks had no proof of his involvement to show the Betayan authorities, Snow was required to stealthily re-acquire the idol. However, the next Candonian merchant ship would not be leaving port for 6 months, and the monks knew that Vasper was able to hone in on the magical signatures of the idol, so they needed help in hiding the item for the next sixth months. Having connections with the Druids of Chumera, they contacted Norwahwen. Norwahwen, knowing the current active agent of the Druids was Leento, brought Snow and the artifact to Hengus.

Hengus as Norwahwen decided that the best strategy for hiding the Jade Elephant would be to seek out a dwarven stronghold at the northeastern border of Chumera that the Druids knew to be magic resistant. If the party was sure that they had not been followed, the Jade Elephant could be hidden there. Leento was instructed to accompany Snow to the stronghold, and the rest of the party agreed to join him.

Hengus warned that three groups would potentially be after them:

  1. An apparently new, rival group of monks, The Monks of the Flying Monkey
  2. Vasper's minions. Vasper is a member of the Magician's Guild and has apparently convinced the guild that the item was his rightfully acquired property and that the Monks of the Drunken Butterfly were theives. Therefore, even honest guild mages could potentially be after the party. However, Vasper was most likely to send mages loyal to him.
  3. Animated suits of enchanted armor that Norwahwen and Snow encountered as they traveled to Hetasi. Whether the suits were created by Vasper or by a third party is unknown, but the druids have divined that the suits have something to do with a mysterious new force in Chumera that rumors are speaking of as "The Elders".
Knowing that Leento's powers would be useless in the Stronghold, Hengus presented his student with Ursa, a bear, that would accompany him.

While the others were gathering supplies and preparing for their journey, Lashtal returned to her parent's house. Lashtal's father had already left on his trade route to the south as part of Lord Phantar's latest attempts to open new markets, but Lashtal noticed something amiss upstairs and found herself battling a monk. Lashtal defeated the monk, but he committed suicide to prevent interrogation. Lashtal's mother angrily decided to travel to Yokel keep to live with her aunt for the time being.

Soon after leaving town the party was attacked by wizards disguised as merchants. Though a fireball and a charm spell that caused Snow to turn against the party and brutally assault Chyekk weakened them, the group was able to win the fight and continue on, though it was necessary to use bring the wizard's wagon so that Chyekk could recover as the party travelled.

Several small encounters occured as the party journied north east:

  • A pack of wolves trailed the group for several days from a distance, but after the group dropped some rations, they stopped.
  • One night a group of large poisonous spiders attacked the party's horses, killing one.
  • Another night, human voices were heard, but the group discovered it was just a boy and girl from a nearby farm.
As the party began to approach its destination, Venetto doubled back to see if they were being followed and to cover their tracks. As he was returning, the group was attacked by a creature with a lions body, bat wings, a human fanged face, and a spiked tail: a Manticore.

The creature was defeated (partially due to the unusually acrobatic actions of Chyekk the dwarf, who leapt onto the creature's back), but it drew the attention of some patrolling Knights of Phantar, who were suprised that a manticore existed in that region.

Two days after leaving the Knights, the party arrived at the stronghold, but, since it was closing on night, opted to wait until morning to enter. They found the stronghold in disarray, with dwarvish bones and corpses and mummified children mixed in with broken furniture. The stronghold's walls and doors held many traps. Venetto's armour was eaten by rust monsters. Pressing on, the group began to encounter undead skeletons and zombies. Injured and without Leento's spells to heal them, the party attempted to leave the stronghold to rest, but found that the ghost of the ruler of the stronghold, a dwarf named Straub, had possessed the stronghold doors and would not allow them to leave unless the honor of his people was restored.

After many more fights, the party found that they could safely rest in the winecellar under the kitchen. The cellar had been added after the stronghold was built, and the magic resistance found elsewhere in the building was not in effect there, and Leento was able to use his healing magics.

Fighting their way through the undead, which now included ghouls and ghasts, the party discovered Straub's diary, which detailed his days as a hill dwarf during the Goblin Wars, the forming of Rockholme in the Rusty Mountains after the hill dwarf tribes defeats, Straub's alienation with the Rockholme leadership. It explained how Straub became an aquaintance of the dark elf necromancer Malekon, and how the two had a falling out which caused Straub to build his stronghold over the ancient endless pit that was know for it's magic resistance, paying wizards to extend the anti-magic protection. The diary also made some reference to Flint Fireforge.

The party also found a map to where Melekon's tower stood in those days.

Behind a secret door (triggered by a lever hidden behind a series of pictures depicting events of the Goblin Wars) in the servant's quarters, the party found the dwarves hidden treasure hoard. The chests full of gold coins were too heavy to carry, so they were left in the secret room for the time being.

The party found a dwarven soldier's hastly written journal that described the leader of the undead army, a giant skeleton capable of devestating fiery explosions once every hour. Noting the abilities of the giant skeleton and guessing his location, the party developed a strategy. Leento revealed that Hengus had given him a potion, that contained the essence of Earth power. When drunk, it could kill him, but if it did not, he would have the ability to cast his spells inside the anti-magic zone for a short period of time.

Leento took the chance and charged through the door the group suspected the giant skeleton was waiting. The skeleton's hoard of bodyguards charged as the giant unleased his fire, killing many undead but leaving Leento, protected from fire through his magic, unharmed. The rest of the group entered the room, defeating the undead.

The party then discovered a large pit at the southern end of the room, with a narrow circular stairway etched into its side...

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