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Friday, December 17, 2010

The Adventure Begins

Our heroes start their adventuring careers as students at the Dalelands Defense Academy.  Learning skills that will, hopefully, keep them alive long enough to achieve their ultimate goals, whatever those goals might be.  Some adventure for riches or power, fame, glory, cheating death or just a comfortable retirement.  Isn't that what we're all adventuring for?  Fantasy indeed.

So, let us begin.

Murook sits on the parapet wall that borders the large entry courtyard of the ancient keep that is home to the Dalelands Defense Academy (DDA).  He and Boucher talk about the days lessons of martial skill, the lovely new chamber maid that just started work in the keep, and whether or not an axe would do more damage to the skull than a mace, among other topics.  Minutes later Sonlinn Aelar and Madlebrot stroll by and stop to check in with their friends.  They are soon joined by Archelios, who has been hard at work completing his final project for his rituals class.  It turns out that the new chamber maid is a popular topic for discussion.  The conversation soon turns to chuckles, then open laughter.  Being so near to graduation as the companions are, they will soon leave the safe, carefree environment of the DDA to venture forth into the wide world of Faerun to make their way, or die trying.  There is an unspoken bond that draws these five together, and although it has not been discussed, each has entertained the idea of traveling with the others.  They would be a formidable group indeed.

A pause in the laughter seems to have each of the five thinking about that very thing when from above them, high up in the sky above the DDA, there comes a terrible, deafening roar.  The doors from the keep burst open as more than a dozen students, cooks and faculty members spill out into the courtyard running for the bridge that spans the small gorge and the road down the foothills toward the small town of Highmoon in the valley below.  Taken by surprise, the five companions barely notice the small stones and other debris that start to rain down around them from the towers above.  Instead, they leap into action to help the fleeing mob to safety.  It is only then that the source of the panic is understood.  High above, circling the tallest tower of the Academy, is an enormous blue dragon.  The battle is joined high in the sky above the keep.  A smaller gold dragon harries the much larger blue, while spells erupt in a continuous stream directed at the ancient blue from the top of the tower.  The light show is tremendous and although larger stones are raining down by this time, the five companions can't help but pause to stare at the spectacle.  Quickly back to their work, they manage to help all the refugees safely across the bridge and onto the road leading down toward Highmoon.

By this time the battle in the skies above turns against the large blue dragon and Sonlinn Aelar yells out for everyone to hit the deck, as the dragon starts a dive toward the courtyard where they stand.  A lucky escape, as Boucher watches his three friends dive to the side to avoid the lightning breath of the large blue blur that plummets by the side of the bridge and down into the gorge before banking up as it spies its new prey, the refugees on the road.  A mighty blast of lightning into the group makes short work of the defenseless, fleeing mob, and turns the road into a smoking pile of rubble.  Murook looks on in horror as he takes in the chaotic scene.  Rage burns inside the half orc warrior and almost takes control, then he hears Mandlebrot yelling and pointing to the small cave, that is used for food storage, just up the short path on the other side of the bridge.  A safe haven against a raging blue dragon perhaps.  Certainly safer than out in the open. 

Boucher and Murook hesitate looking back toward the doors that lead into the keep, wondering if everyone has gotten out safely or if anyone is left alive.  As if in answer to their fears, the doors burst open.  Myrnn Tyranna, the academy's martial instructor and headmistress, stands just inside with weapons drawn and a determined grimace on her face.  

"Get to the cave and stay there until I come for you!" she shouts at the five confused students.  

She has come to know all of them well over the last few years, and knows that they will do as she has instructed them.  She turns and disappears back into the keep, as Boucher and the others start to bolt for the cave just up the path that Mandlebrot is already standing on.  He looks back at the main tower of the keep and watches as battle between the gold dragon, who now carries a rider, and the blue dragon is again joined.  Mandlebrot's eyes widen with shock as the battle plummets down toward the courtyard just behind the fleeing companions.

The blue dragon crashes to the ground and nearly knocks Boucher, who is bringing up the rear being the slowest of the group, over the bridge just outside the courtyard.  Sonlinn Aelar stops and begins to move back toward him, but Boucher is quickly up and moving again and nearly passes Sonlinn Aelar on his way to the safety of cave.  Mandlebrot watches the amazing sight from higher up the path near the caves entrance.  He stops them all at the entrance as he stares back in disbelief when he sees the gold dragon's rider.  It is the Academy's founder, Thaelioth.  A mage of renown skill and power who was thought dead.  Thaelioth disappeared nearly a hundred years before during the initial manifestations of what would become known as the Spellplague

Stray lightning blasts the mountain side just above the cave entrance and Sonlinn Aelar grabs Mandlebrot and yanks him inside just as the rocks smash down from above him.  Sonlinn Aelar and Mandlebrot take in the last vision of the battle raging just below them as the cave entrance is covered by rubble.  The gold dragon falls, Thaelioth dismounts and begins to smite the blue with everything she has, and it takes its toll on both of them.  Her eyes glow as the arcane forces from the weave course through her.  She bends and shapes these forces to her will then unleashes them on her enemy with devastating effect.  The blue counters with lightning breath that seems to sear the air all around.  There is a crash, then darkness falls as the cave is completely blocked.

At the back of the cave is a finely crafted, and expertly fitted, heavy iron bound, wooden door.  Through the near total darkness that now fills the cave, the outline of food barrels and sacks of flour, grain and barley can still be made out.  Under one of these small sacks of flour near to the heavy door is a key.  Murook often had kitchen duty during his time at the DDA, and he has many times carried the sacks and barrels of foodstuffs up to this cave which acts as a natural storage area.  The door was put in place to keep things from coming up from the caverns below  to steal the food.  He quickly locates the key and has the door open.  

Cries of fear are immediately heard from beyond the door.  The group rushes passed the door and into a fairly well lit cavern that slopes downward to a small passage at the far end.  four goblins appear one at a time from the darkness beyond this small passage, screaming and looking back over their shoulders.  The goblins are running toward a small opening on the northern wall of this cavern which is the main light source in this room.  They pay no heed to the group as they stumble and climb over one another to get to the opening and escape whatever is chasing them.  As soon as the last one bursts forth from the darkness, arms flailing above its head, it falls dead revealing the hilt of a shiny dagger sticking out from its back.

Sonlinn Aelar is the first to see one of the dark figures as it appears from the darkness and leaps upon the fallen goblin to retrieve its lost missile.  After pulling the dagger from the dead things back, it flashes a wicked grin at the companions and makes ready for attack.  Soon after, three other dark ones appear from the gloom and start to join in the fray.  In the ensuing battle the dark ones retreat through a series of small caverns, all the while being reinforced by others like themselves.  The battle is finally ended as the group manages to encircle and stop the runners from escaping to call other reinforcements.  The battle has not been without cost however.  Sonlinn Aelar is grievously wounded, and Mandlebrot is unconscious.  But, just when it seems they might be able to patch themselves up and catch their breath, from yet another small opening at the back of this cavern comes a loud and very ominous roar.  The group huddles behind a large cave formation and takes advantage of the lull in activity to gather their senses and come up with a plan to survive this next threat, whatever it may be.  Boucher and Murook work furiously on Mandlebrot and manage to rouse him from his stupor.  Sonlinn Aelar feverishly bandages his wounds and manages to collect his wits.  Still, the roars echo from just beyond the opening.

A few minutes break does wonders for the groups morale, and they quickly get to their feet preferring to meet this new threat as best they can.  The roars are more furious now.  Murook moves toward the small opening and now notices a shimmering light coming from within.  Should they wait for whatever is in there to burst forth, or should they try to take it by surprise?  That question is answered shortly afterward as Murook charges through the opening followed closely by Boucher, Sonlinn Aelar and a still somewhat disoriented Mandlebrot.  Inside the cavern standing around a shimmering portal of magic are three massive drakes and their dark one handlers.

Murook's orc half takes hold and his charge takes him right to the middle of the drakes.  The dark ones barely have time to jump back through the portal as they drop the reins and release their pets to deal with the troublesome five.  Sonlinn Aelar and Boucher follow him, and the battle is soon joined in full as the three drakes leap and snap at Murook.  Sonlinn Aelar picks out one drake and expertly keeps it occupied while Boucher and Murook concentrate their attacks on another one.  Mandlebrot distracts the third and manage to deal a few massive blows to it, massive for a gnome anyway, to keep it focused on trying to swallow him whole.  At that moment the gnome wonders if this might have been a bad idea.  Nevertheless, he continues to harass and befuddle the drake until Murook or Boucher can get to him.  Sonlinn Aelar, in the same situation as Mandlebrot, concentrates on his part and hopes that the two brawlers can make short work of the first drake and relieve him soon.

The earlier battles with the dark ones, while hard fought and bloody, honed skills that were learned and practiced but never tested fully, until now.  And furthermore, those battles cemented the five companions into a fighting unit.  Each with a role to play.  Each with his particular area of expertise.  There was no plan.  It was out of desperation that Murook charged through the opening, not wanting to wait in the dark to be skewered by a dagger or worse.  But, it was also the realization that if he charged in, his companions would be right behind him.  So, it was those thoughts flowing through the minds of each of the five as they fought furiously against the drakes, not for themselves but for each other.  Each knowing that if they failed at their task, the others would soon be overrun.

The first drake never had a chance.  Facing the might of a furious half orc and an angry dwarf, it tried in vain to mount some kind of defense against the flash of weapons slicing through the air all around it.  Its defense was soon breached and had it been any smaller in size it would have been cleaved in two.  Without hesitation, for there was no time for it, Murook leaped to help Sonlinn Aelar and Boucher likewise charged to put himself in between Mandlebrot and the drake that was intent on making a meal of the gnome.  With the sudden turn in battle, the remaining two drakes fell quickly and the five turn their attention to the portal that appears to be visibly weakening.  A quick decision was made to jump through it and follow the dark ones.  As soon as that decision was reached and before they could act on it, the portal winks out with an audible pop.  The cavern goes dark.  The only sound is the final rasping gasps from three dying drakes. 

The five spend the night in that cavern, being too exhausted to do much else.  They manage to make a fire, and Boucher De Chavel lived up to his name.  But even the thick, juicy drake steaks did little to ease the questions about the days extraordinary events.  The founder, Thaelioth, returned from the dead.  A metallic dragon, thought to be nearly extinct in Faerun, apparently helping her.  An ancient blue dragon intent on their destruction.  Dark ones in the caves so near to the academy.  As Mandlebrot states each of these facts to the others, he suddenly remembers the last words from the founder as the cave entrance collapsed.  "Protect the orb" she yelled at him.  Yes, she was looking right at him.  He'd thought he was imagining it, but no.  The founder was talking to him, to them all, he now realized.  Did she know them?  What orb?  

"When dealing with a sorceress of the Thaelioth's legendary power, anything is possible" Mandlebrot thought aloud.  

The others didn't seem comforted by this revelation.  Sleep came uneasily to the five companions that night, and it had nothing to do with the rotting drake corpses or the fact that they were in a dark cavern once filled with enemies.

Four Geeks to Rule Them All...umm, make that five

Fellow geeks, step into the Double Town Tavern, located in the enchanted land of Twin City, Georgia and rest your weary sword arms and sore feet.  Here you will be able to read the tales of our four five fearless adventurers as they struggle against mighty foes and try to piece together the mystery that surrounds them in a Forgotten Realm of fantasy.  I am the Dungeon Master, their guide, and your play by play man, along a cobblestone path where dangers lurk, and friends are few.  Come now, and I shall introduce the fateful four five.

Murook, a half-orc slayer by trade.  He aspires to hunt frogs in the swamp lands where he grew up.  A godless heathen, Murook strives for perfection of martial skill.  Delivering the killing blow is what drives Murook.  It is not yet known what value he assigns to the companions that travel with him.  Woe to any amphibians that cross his path.

Sonlinn, a genasi battlemind that enjoys shooting lightning from his fingertips and watching how the light dances off the stunned faces of his companions.  Sonlinn is adept at planning the battle, and watching it play out before him as he decides the next move.  Battle is nothing more than action and reaction to him.  Detached and aloof, Sonlinn directs his foes, while weakening them, towards his waiting companions.

Aelar, the stoic, tree-hugging forest protector.  Hailing from deep within the forests of the Dales, he strives to protect nature and the natural world.  Animals come when he calls, and do his bidding.  Some say its a mystical druidic power that allows him to command the beasts, but it has more to do with the pouch of Beggin Stripes at his waist.

Boucher De Chavel, a dwarf that knows how to handle a carving knife and cleaver.  His family were butchers and chefs in the high kingdoms of the ancient dwarves.  Boucher, gave up the butchery of food animals to focus on the butchery of his enemies.  He is in training to one day become a knight, in whatever kingdom he ends up serving.  For now, Boucher is content to uphold the lofty tenants of knighthood even without the formal title.  Boucher smashes his enemies in the name of Aumanator, the god of the sun.  Priestly work is never done and good things come to those that know how to carve away the crap.  (...Boucher has never done anything inappropriate to the boys.)

Mandlebrot, machinist, inventor, artificer, gnome.  His backpack obeys his commands.  His crossbow can be used as a flotation device.  And, whenever he's startled, he makes the weirdest wheezing sounds.  Mandlebot prefers to let his creations fight for him, but he is as fierce as a rabid bat when forced into action.  If you've ever seen a rabid bat in action then you know just how bad ass Mandlebrot can be.

Archellios, the dark elf.  He was smuggled out of the underdark on a trade caravan to the surface world.  Being the illegitimate, first born son of the first daughter of House Rytim, his future in the  underdark was not promising.  If ever found out, he would, undoubtedly end up as a sacrifice on the alter to Lady Lloth, the demon queen of the pit.  Fortunately for him, his mother is part of a secret society that follows the teachings of Eillistraee, the good drow goddess of music and swordplay.  Archellios has never known the underdark, and has little desire to learn about it. Learning the ways of magic is what drives Archellios.

These five adventurers embark on a perilous journey through the Forgotten Realms after a time of great turmoil has swept the land.  (read:  campaign set in the Forgotten Realms D&D, essentials, 4th edition rules.)