The party left the encampment of the high elf wizard Tanara, in order to return to the elven ranger Kale’s clan with news of what the group had discovered in the ruined temple of Myrkul, former God of Death. They were escorted by the White Owl tribe centaurs that had been helping Tanara, some of whom had accompanied the party to the ruined temple.
Once they were out of the mountains, they were met by another contingent of White Owls, led by a rather confrontational centaur named Oriseus. After some heated words with the two centaurs that had insisted on accompanied the party into the depths of the temple (Narcoth and Quiron), Oriseus banished them from the White Owl tribe. At that point, the party negotiated with the centaurs and managed to retain possession of the centaur-provided elk mounts they were using, for as long as it took for the party to return to Kale’s people. Once that was settled, the centaurs left the group to their own devices. Now tribeless, Narcoth and Quiron pledged themselves to the service of the party.
The party pressed on west, skirting the northern edge of the Star Mounts, between the mountains and the southern edge of the High Forest. At one point, they saw smoke from the trees and heard raucous voices. While they debated over whether or not to investigate, they heard screaming and sounds of combat. The ranger investigated and found a camp of dwarves fighting with a giant insect-like creature. Kale, seeing that three of the dwarves had already been killed by the creature, decided to take a chance and fired an arrow at the thing. This only served to make it angry at Kale, and it promptly chased her.
As Kale ran from the creature, she called to her party to warn them. The group prepared for battle. During the fighting that followed, the Cleric of Lathander named Leela (an NPC) was sprayed by a caustic substance spewed by the creature. The rest of the group watched in horror as her armor, clothes, and skin began to be eaten away by the fluid.
Also during the melee, one of the dwarves came out of the forest raving about how he didn’t want the party to “steal his prize,” and used a strange steel rod to fire a projectile (with a loud crashing sound the likes of which the group had never heard) at Quiron the centaur. The dwarf, of course, was using an arquebus, a very rare weapon in the Realms. The projectile took off half of Quiron’s ear, and the dwarf was reloading when his fellow dwarves wrestled him to the ground.
The party managed to kill the insectile creature, which turned out to be an ankheg. The dwarves had come from the dwarven city Mithral Hall to the High Forest to hunt big game, and had managed to capture the ankheg. But it had escaped its bonds when it was in their camp, killing three of the ten dwarves before Kale fired her arrow. The leader of the dwarven hunting party, Kalek, was bound by his fellows for firing upon the centaur. His second in command, Murzod, stated that his leader had gone too far. The dwarves intended to escort Kalek back to Mithral Hall for reprimand.
Leela was stabilized and saved from death by Oisin the cleric, but she was badly scarred by the acidic breath of the ankheg. The party rested overnight with the dwarves, and then moved out the next day with the promise of reuniting with the dwarves again if possible.The going was not easy with the injured Leela. They stopped for a rest the next day, and she showed signs of a deep sadness born not only of her near-death experience and disfigurement, but also of the loss of her friend Nestor in Myrkul’s temple. During the rest, Kale and Leela heard a melodic piping noise that had a strange influence on them. Kale was able to easily shake off this influence, but Leela rose and began to walk toward the forest in a dream-like state. The party was forced to restrain her, and she fought them weakly as the group hurriedly moved on to the west. The group surmised that the strange music was that of a satyr somewhere in the nearby woods.
Finally, the group reached the vo’an of the Spring Dawn clan. Kale was very happy to be back among her people. She and her compatriots were welcomed warmly, especially by Kale’s fellow Daughters of Mielikki, the elite corps of rangers of which she is a member. The leader of the Daughters, Breonna, asked the party to join her in a private tent in order to discuss their journey. Rel and Karis, two other Daughters, also accompanied them. There, the party relayed all of the events that had befallen them since Kale went to Waterdeep.
Breonna, Rel, and Karis were concerned about the events at the ruined temple, but praised the group for their efforts. There had been more attacks by undead humanoids since Kale left, but they had been repulsed. But, not without a heavy cost. The leader of the clan, the voantir Elaya, had been injured during the attack and was near death. She was being ravaged by the plague that the undead seemed to carry. This lent a somber edge to the reunion.
Breonna feared the ultimate demise of the voantir, revealing that there was some dissension in the clan. There were three individuals in the clan that were making known their dissatisfaction with the voantir’s leadership. It was the voantir’s decision, for instance, to send Kale to Waterdeep to seek aid from human clerics. This did not sit well with many in the clan, as seeking help from outlanders is considered a sign of weakness.The Daughters of Mielikki are traditionally aloof from political matters of the vo’an. But while Breonna was struggling to retain that detachment, others in the ranger sisterhood (including Rel and Karis) were pushing for unprecedented action: they believe it is a time for the Daughters to intervene and keep the clan from fracturing.
The Daughters suspect foul play was involved in the voantir’s injuries. They noticed elven tracks outside the vo’an that seem to indicate what would normally be considered unthinkable: an elf leading infected humanoids toward the vo’an. Even in the face of this evidence, Breonna was still reluctant to take a direct role in the growing political rifts in the clan.After this grim discussion, Breonna left the group in order to inform the voantir that the party had arrived. There was limited access to the voantir at the request of her family, and Breonna was going to petition to have the party given permission to see the ailing leader.
It was then that Rel and Karis told the party that the Daughters of Mielikki had captured a human wizard who had wandered into the vo’an two weeks prior. The group was taken to the tent where the prisoner was being held, and they were introduced to Keseim (Player Wesley’s character). Keseim hails from Calimport, decadent capital of the southern nation of Calimshan. After some verbal sparring, in which Keseim seemed to excel, the group convinced the wizard to help them in their efforts (his other alternatives could have included indefinite captivity, or worse…)
Keseim and the wizard Vorath compared spellbooks, and Keseim learned a comprehend languages spell from Vorath. It was then that Kale remembered the rubbing of Tanara’s key stone tablet, which would supposedly open a doorway to the hidden tower of an ancient elven wizard called Kurthrad the Artificer. She showed Keseim the rubbing, and he was almost able to read the two remaining runes that Tanara was unable to decipher. He felt confident that once he had mastered the ability to cast the comprehend languages spell, he would be able to translate the last of the runes.
The group got much needed rest that night, with Leela being handed over to the care of the clan’s druids. The next morning, Breonna told the group that they were to be allowed to see the voantir. But when they arrived at the leader’s tent, they heard the sounds of weeping from within. They went in to discover the voantir had died suddenly. Breonna moved quickly to try and convince the family to keep the voantir’s death a secret for as long as possible, so as to prevent an immediate coup. Breonna told Kale and her group that before she died the voantir expressed gratitude for the party’s efforts, and had wanted to talk to them about the next steps on their quest to rid the High Forest of the undead humanoid plague. Now, the decision was left up to them.While Breonna worked to decide how best to hold the clan together, the party deliberated their next move. They decided to head back east toward the ruined temple of Myrkul, but first they would have Keseim decode the key stone tablet’s runes and bring the information to Tanara.
Breonna returned to the group to tell them she had reluctantly decided to act as temporary leader of the vo’an, while telling the clan’s people that Voantir Elaya was still alive and giving orders through Breonna. The leader of the rangers had decided to lead the vo’an west, toward the very fringes of the High Forest and further away from danger. It was understood that this would make the safety of the vo’an further away from the party should they survive, but the safety of the clan needed to be preserved.
The party prepared to travel once again. They were able to enlist the aid of an elven wizard named Eanor and elven fighter Otiver (NPCs). So, provisioned and rested (and with elven-bred horses to ride, since the centaur-bred elk were released to return to the White Owls of their own accord), the group headed east once more, after farewells were said.
Oisin the cleric, Kale the elven ranger, the wizards Keseim and Vorath, the centaurs Narcoth and Quiron, and Eanor and Otiver made an uneventful journey back into the heights of the Star Mounts to the hidden crevasse in which Tanara was making her search for the hidden wizard’s tower. The party arrived to find nothing but the cold remains of a camp fire. There was no sign of any of the White Owl centaurs or Tanara. The party began to investigate the crevasse. Keseim cast a detect magic spell and spotted signs of an enchantment in a small stand of trees. Investigation revealed that the key stone tablet was hanging in a sack from a tree limb. As they cut the sack from the tree and retrieved the tablet, a strange rhythmic clicking could be heard approaching. The group prepared themselves for trouble.They were shocked to see what looked like five halflings come charging from the trees. Except these halflings seemed to be made of some golden metal. The clicking was coming from them, but otherwise they made no sound as they approached. A fight ensued, and the party was able to destroy the strange constructs with minimal injuries to themselves. The constructs proved to be very nimble but fairly delicate, so blows focused on their flexible joints did well to immobilize them.
During the fight, Keseim (who had finally deciphered the runes) read the key stone tablet and began to chant the runes in a precise pattern that would open the doorway to the hidden tower. Upon completion, a portal opened and the party hurried through. The centaurs, suspicious of magic, had to be convinced to go through, but they eventually did so.
The group found themselves standing before a 100-foot-tall tower in a small depression somewhere in the mountains. They faced a huge iron door, and a balcony 30 feet above them (with four more balconies at 10-foot intervals above that).
They were considering what to do next when a loud roaring filled the depression, echoing around them in an ear-splitting din. The group looked up to see a large creature with the body of a lion, the wings of a bird, and the face of a bearded man step out onto the lowest balcony. The beast said in a loud, booming voice, “Who dares enter my realm?”To be continued…