Campaign of the Month: August 2013

Dragons of Autumn

Escape to Qualinost

Session 10

After a day and a half on the road south toward Pax Tharkas, the caravan comes upon a strange, ragged old man with a long bear and floppy hat. He is involved in a one-sided conversation with a large tree:
" I say, did you hear me? " The old man shakes his worn walking stick at the oak. " I said move it and I meant it! I was sitting on that rock enjoying the rising sun on my old bones when you had the nerve to cast a shadow over it and chill me! Move this instant. I say! " The tree does not respond or move. " I won’t take any more of your insolence! " The old man begins to beat on the tree with his stick. " Move or I’ll – I’ll – "
Galloping back from the front of the caravan, Fewmaster Toede shouts, " Someone shut that looney in a cage! "
A pair of Kapak drag the old man away by his elbows:
" Get your hands off me! " the old man shrieks at the draconians who ran up and accosted him. He beats them feebly with his staff until they take it away from him. " Arrest the tree! " he insists. " Obstructing sunlight! That’s the charge! "
The draconians ignore the old man and toss him in the same cage as the group. The group recognizes the old man as the storyteller from their reunion at the Inn of the Last Home (See Session 1). The old man introduces himself as " Fizban the Fabulous, itinerant wizard and wielder of immense arcane power! Would you like to see? "
When asked for a demonstration, the old man throws up his hands and furrows his brow with intensity. After a dramatic pause, he begins scratching his head. " What was the name of that spell? Tire-small… Crier-ball… Liar-call… " He eventually grows tired of trying to remember, " Oh well, it’ll come to me. "
The caravan continues for another day and a half, the prisoners too afraid to escape because their families are being held hostage by the dragon army. Suddenly, the group hears a bird call in the distance. A few of the group spot Gilthanas stiffen and reach for a hilt that isn’t there. A moment later, the bird call repeats and this time Gilthanas responds with a bird call of his own.
With a whoosh and a dull thud, the driver of the cage wagon slumps forward, an arrow in his back. The guard at the driver’s side picks up a battleaxe and leaps to the ground, only to be slain by a pair of arrows. Fewmaster Toede gallops from the rear of the column, urging his troops to fight.
Summoning all his bravery, Toede wheels on his mount and barrels toward his slave, strategically berating the gully dwarf rather than taking arms against the elves: " Do not let these prisoners escape, worm! " Toede then heroically rides toward the front of the column, away from the fighting. Several arrows whistle in his direction, but somehow miss his jiggling bulk.
The gully dwarf climbs back to his feet and shouts at Toede, " Yes, milord! " He turns toward the
group and rolls his eyes. " Worm, eh? Worm. That isn’t new. Me’s get called Worm all the times. "
He hefts his battleaxe. " Y’know, me is sick of being called Worm. " He swings the axe and bashes both locks from the cage door in one blow. As the door swings open, he hefts the axe over his shoulder. " Ha! Let’s see real worm break lock with axe! Hmph. " With an impish grin, he then runs off into the ensuing chaos.
Gilthanas immediately leaps from the cage and encourages the group to follow, shouting, " My
brethren are here! Let’s go! " Theros moves to leave the cage, but nobleman and the other two Seeker militiamen, afraid for the safety of their families, refuse to follow. Fizban glances at them and then says to Gilthanas, " I think it’s best that I stay with him, don’t you agree? " Gilthanas shrugs and wades into the fight with a sword taken from a fallen hobgoblin.
The group follows and is attacked by dozens of goblinoids. The battle consumes more time than Gilthanas wishes, but the group cuts a path to the cage containing their equipment. At the same time, a group of elves runs from the forest to free the humans in the other caged wagons. With the groups equipment and the Disks of Mishakal safe, the group follows Gilthanas to the west along with a group of human refugees.
After minutes of running through the elven woods of Qualinesti, the tall elf in charge of the rescue calls a halt. The group rests and observes the tall elf converse with Gilthanas. Their conversation is heated, but none of the group speaks elven. Almaia is able to ascertain that they are brothers of noble birth and that the taller elf is older than Gilthanas.
The tall elf ends the conversation with his brother and then addresses the group:
" People of Solace, I am Porthios. The Dragon Highlord hold you no longer; you are free to go where you please. Where that is I cannot say, for the land is wracked by their evil. We cannot offer you sanctuary in Qualinesti, for our land is under as much danger as yours. However, we can offer you safe passage through our forest; you may find safety in lands south of Pax Tharkas. Those who so desire, go with my scouts – they will guide you swiftly and safely. "
He turns to the heroes: " I would ask that you please accompany my brother Gilthanas and me back to Qualinost. He has told me something of your story; it would please our father, the Speaker of the Sun, to learn more of your tale. The full hospitality of the people of Qualinesti is yours. "
The group agrees and continues along with Porthios, Gilthanas, and Theros while the rest of the human refugees are escorted south.
The group eventually come to a huge waterfall plummeting from an unimaginable height. The dark granite cliff wall prevents their progress forward, but Porthios guides them behind the waterfall where there is a narrow switchback trail leading up the face of the cliff. At the top of the plateau, the group enters an Aspen forest and a much easier trail.
A few hours later, the group arrives at a narrow footbridge spanning a chasm floored with rushing water. Gilthanas assures them that Qualinost is protected on all sides by such barriers, but that it will prove to be of little use against the Dragonarmies.
Across the bridge, the group lays their eyes on the elven city of Qualinost. Blz031Four slender towers lined with silver mark the four corners of the roughly square city. Slender silver arches stretch like a chain between the towers. A high tower of burnished gold dominates the city. The group follows the quartz-lined streets observing the elves running around gathering supplies in large bundles and heading toward the central tower. The elven children giggle and point at the dwarves beards.
The group is led straight to the tower where they meet Solostaran, the Speaker of the Sun. Before they can speak, Gilthanas briefs his father on the failure of his mission to the south. Apparently, Gilthanas was injured and headed north to Solace where he found the Vallenwood city destroyed. He tells about how he witnessed his companions executed:
" A large red dragon soared above them. I watched the people of Solace forced into a large circle around my captive companions. A great and evil leader, hidden by a beast-like mask, rode the red dragon downward beside the stakes in the square. He spoke as the serpent landed: ’ I am Verminaard, Dragon Highlord of this realm. I have need of all mortal beings in the great work of the Dragon Highlords. Those who obey shall serve me. Those who do not shall feel my wrath! ’ Then the dragon breathed flame upon my fellows… A kind of madness overtook me, and had not elven friend, Theros Ironfeld, restrained me, I too would have been burned into nothingness. He risked his life for me, and indeed, suffered the loss of his arm for the crime of protecting a frightened elf. "
The tragic tale disturbs the Speaker, but he quickly turns his attention to the group. He inquires about their use of holy magic and even attempts to take one of the medallions from their necks. He is rewarded with a shocking jolt from the amulet and apologizes for being impolite. He reveals that the elven clerics disappeared just before the Cataclysm and asks a poet to recite the Canticle of the Dragon. Their conversation is amiable and the Speaker invites them to rest comfortably for the afternoon until he sends for them.
The group is escorted to a secluded grove by a beautiful elf maiden and sister of Gilthanas, Laurana. The group bathes, eats, drinks, and has their equipment mended by elven craftsmen. The group is provided with fine silken clothing for their audience with the elven high council that evening.
As dusk falls, the group is escorted by Laurana to the council meeting at the central square of Qualinost.
The entire population of Qualinesti seems to be gathered around the wide square. The warriors are in the center ring, around the Speaker and several of his chief officers and lieutenants; the other men, women, and children are more distant, but they still observe the proceedings attentively. A path opens through the crowd to the center of the circle, and the Speaker looks up with a cool stare as the group enters his sight. " Forgive our somber air, " he
says slowly. " These are heavy times, and we face the beginning of a long and lonely road. " Look, if you will, upon our situation. " Solostaran gestures to a detailed mosaic on the ground. The colors and shapes seem to represent a map. As the circle of elves draws back, the land of Qualinesti and its surroundings are displayed entirely. " We have learned from captives that the Dragon Highlord would like to see the race of elves driven from Ansalon; they have nearly succeeded with respect to our Silvanesti kin. And they mean to do the same to us. "
" Here and here, " the Speaker says, tapping the end of his staff against the northern communities of Solace and Haven. " Two huge armies of the Dragon Highlord Verminaard
have gathered. Even now they prepare to invade the ancient Elvenhome of Qualinesti. Now, we might be able to stand against them, if it is but those two armies that we face. But it is not. Still a third army poises against us here. "
Now the Speaker’s staff strikes sharply on the narrow pass of Pax Tharkas, south of Qualinesti. " They have us outflanked, outnumbered, and without allies. "
Solostaran breaks eye contact, as if he is ashamed to admit the truth. " We cannot defeat such a force. Our only choice is to flee Qualinesti to the west and hope to bring our people safely to some land in that unknown region. "
The Speaker pauses to let his remark sink in; it is indeed stunning to think of the elves of this fabled wood — a people who have lived here since the Age of Dreams — forced from their ancestral home by the cruel might of the Dragonarmies.
" I now come to how you can help. Here, in the depths of Pax Tharkas, work the warriors of Solace, Haven, and the other northern lands. Why would they slave in the mines, gaining iron for the forges of the evil Dragon Highlords? "
" Because also here, " and the Speaker’s staff strikes Pax Tharkas with a vengeance, " are
their women and children — hostages, lest the warriors display the rage and hatred that they must feel against their villainous masters. This was the reason for Gilthanas’ mission only a few short days ago. He and his band were to enter Pax Tharkas by a hidden route — the Sla-Mori — known only to the elves. They would free the hostages and lead the slaves in a revolt, escaping to the south and drawing the Dragonarmy in pursuit. They failed — but Gilthanas believes a second attempt may succeed. "
" The humans can reach safety and elude the dragonmen, for the mountainous route contains many secluded valleys where they can hide. Far to the south may yet lie free lands where safety could be found. "
" We ask you to accept this heavy task. Gilthanas has offered to accompany your party and show you the ways of the Sla-Mori, even the room of the Great Chain — the quickest entrance to the fortress itself. If you accept this opportunity, you not only offer freedom to those of your kin trapped within the walls of the fortress, but you offer our beleaguered folk a chance to escape Qualinesti alive, for the army in Pax Tharkas, which even now prepares to crush our spirit, will think twice about marching if the slaves rebel and escape. Verminaard will never rest while a potential enemy lurks behind his advance. This distraction will give our shipwrights time to build a fleet capable of evacuating our people. "
" This chance before you is one that none of ours were given when the humans caused the Cataclysm, the turning away of the gods. This is a chance to hand the Dragonarmies their first significant defeat, earn the friendship of the elves, and save countless lives — both elf and human. "
The group accepts the quest to joy of the elven people. Laurana escorts them back to their grove for the night so they can rest before departing early the next morning. As Laurana leaves the grove, the group is startles as six Kapak’s glide down from above. In the distance, the group observes a wyvern land in front of Laurana. A rider atop the wyvern is none other than Fewmaster Toede! The group battles their way toward the wyvern, but they are too late. Toede and the draconic beast take to the air with Laurana as their prisoner.
The group destroy the remaining Kapak who were shocked that they were abandoned by their leader. Elven guards enter the grove a short while later and the group informs them of Laurana’s kidnapping.



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