Back on the Prime, the adventurers found themselves placed within the streets of Barter’s Pass. Startled refugees scattered as the group of four men, bloody and beaten, hauled a corpse in armor to the front door of the temple of Chauntea. Dara Esterlee answered the men and sent a pale red-haired girl – Rose – to fetch her “father” Thadius… The heroes of Barter’s Pass had returned from Hell… And one had fallen within its depths.
Rose was stopped before even reaching her father as he strode past her quickly, heading toward the house of the priestess. However he did not enter, he did not even make for the door. Instead he pointed directly toward the elf leaning against the outside wall. “Tegalad,” he stated, “you have brought me the sword… Give it to me.”
Tegalad sneered at the man he had once trusted. “I will not. It has opened my eyes to the truth, Thadius.”
“No, Tegalad. It is cursed, it is corrupting you. Give me the sword now so I may cleanse it,” Thadius pleaded once more, his face stretched in concern.
Tegalad stepped away from the wall. “I said ‘no’ Thadius. This sword is mine and I know what I must do with it. You will not have it.”
Sorrow swept over Thadius’ features for a brief instant, and in a booming command that very nearly shook the buildings around him, uttered a command spoken in a language that all could understand: “Tegalad! Give me the sword!” As the words split the air, wings of light sprouted from the man’s back, and glistening armor and a giant hammer materialized in his possession.
This threat spurred Tegalad into action. He drew the sword and as he pulled the wicked veil over his eyes, he suddenly was not there. The others began to come out to see what was going on, and though they tried as they might to quell the fire of battle in Tegalad’s heart, their words fell on deaf ears. Ixtab was cut down as Tegalad understood that the healer’s support was sometimes the only thing keeping his once-allies afloat. It took Thadius’ divine might to bring Tegalad low and retrieve the sword and veil, with which he left, letting the group tend to Tegalad and bringing Jack back from the dead.
Three tendays passed in Barter’s Pass. The Rose, or Rose as she is known to the town-folk, went about her way, seemingly becoming an average girl settler within the pass, no one really understanding her true origins. Onyx left the group on a mission for his goddess, charged with a task she trusted only him to. Chipper left for his home-lands of Luskan and the Sword Coast to investigate his personal trials. Tegalad, now equipped with the cleansed blade that Thadius requested they retrieve from Minauros, set off for his own home-lands in search of mementos from his slain master. Ixtab comfortably settled down with the growing Harkness family to relax and spend his time conversing with Klaudius and smoking enough pipe-weed as to fit 5 men. Jack settled back into his role as law-man about Barter’s Pass, handling the new refugees and helping direct the rest of the town in a proper manner, while still trying to find time to get in some good fishing.
Houses begun to spring up, Thadius helped with construction once Jack’s home was completed. The Kelemvites and Ilmatari began raising their own temples, consecrating ground and blessing the Father Kalan Cemetery. Shops exploded with imported inventories, extra work and an increase in trade from the west. Fritz began planning additions to The Kickin’ Chicken and enlisted the aid of the goliath Barakus in its construction. A wagon from the east left a pale-skinned, red-haired oddity of a man in its wake, and he swiftly took to asking around town. Barter’s Pass was growing.
Tegalad returned, a new look and air of somber silence about him, his journey to the site of his old master’s death fruitful. Chipper came back next, entourage of a half-elven woman and a drow woman in tow. He bought up the land and house on a certain distressing hilltop and set to repairing it for use. The Pass was peaceful for once… Then, like it always does, everything changed and the peace of the pass was broken.
It was midnight or later, the moon was high and the new town of Barter’s Pass was quietly asleep. Chipper, Jack and Tegalad were all interrupted in their slumber by a knock at their doors. Juniper, the half-elven woman who had returned with Chipper made no short work of rushing him in a seductive manner. Trista Harkness entered Tegalad’s room with lustful intent. Zelda the barmaid attempted the same with Jack at his own home. The attempts at seduction were quick yet effective, Trista and Juniper had managed to get in close to their prey yet Jack managed to notice something was amiss with Zelda and kept her at arms reach. The women, as though linked, struck simultaneously. Zelda slashed a claw across Jack’s face, Trista bit and clamped down on Tegalad’s throat and Juniper did the same to Chipper. Elsewhere Ixtab awoke choking on a force that filled his lungs and refused him the oxygen he needed to live.
The heroes of Barter’s Pass struggled and fought back, Jack retreated into his home locking Zelda out, but Tegalad and Chipper had to strike back further. The knocked the girls unconscious, and out of their bodies floated incorporeal beasts that screamed in rage and began to fight back. Ixtab choked and coughed and forced the thick smoke from his lungs. The battles were swift as the revealed Spirit Vampires attempted to flee but were cut down by Tegalad and Chipper. As the specters were vanquished the north-western sky was lit up with a bright orange ball along the horizon. The false sunrise lasted several minutes and then faded to nothing, the town left in confusion.
The women were all rendered unconscious and taken to The Kickin’ Chicken where their befuddled state was remedied and they were questioned about their actions. As Juniper admitted, she had become possessed by the Spirit Vampire before leaving Luskan, and while she could experience her actions she was aware of the thing in her mind, controlling her body. She told them that the creatures were under orders to slay the heroes of Barter’s Pass, that they had knowledge of them and that they had traveled with Chipper back to town. They were to meet with their master close by.
Thadius and Rose came into The Kickin’ Chicken to find the heroes plus Set questioning the girls, he inquired unto them if they had any knowledge of the happenings and the group responded with what they had discovered. The girls were taken to safe refuge to rest and Rose began by informing the group that Gennevive was in fact dead. Shards of her essence lingered in places, but she was truly finished. They then decided to look into what had happened this evening. Rose lifted her hands and the group witnessed an image shimmer to life before her. She showed the woods north of Myth Drannor, they were scorched, piles of burned and broken wreckage lay for miles centered on a single tower jutting from the earth like a blackened, bony finger. The Rose strained but could not view closer, something was keeping her sight back… Instead she spoke with a strain “I want to see before…”
The image distorted and the forest was whole again around an ivory and emerald tower rife with green forest. Movement came through the woods as robed and armored figures shambled like abominations, into the tower. The image shifted again and the inside of a room was shown flickering, where a white haired woman stood fending off hoards of undead streaming into her room. Thadius made note of her name, and the others noted her as the legendary Symbul, slayer of the undead god Velsharoon, vanished in the fire of his death.
The hoards of monsters slowed as a black armored figure strode into the room, ignoring the Symbul, and pushed his way through a wall into a hidden chamber and emerged with an urn matching the description of the artifact that held the ashes of Velsharoon. The Symbul noticed this and appeared fearful and began an incantation that blanketed the image in orange and white light, the orange glow from the horizon. Rose concentrated once more and stated that the urn was no longer here, and collapsed. Thadius gently took her in his arms and stated that they must all talk the next morning and departed with his “daughter” in tow.
The next morning Tegalad, Ixtab and Set were greeted by Thadius and Set was told to join them. Chipper came in shortly afterward and was bade sit. Jack had gone off fishing, knowing that what was about to come would definitely mean that this morning would be the last restful one he would know in days if not weeks or longer. He came in late after Set had explained to the rest why he was here. Thadius stated that Set would make a proper substitute for Onyx and since he had a vested interest in one of the artifacts sought by the evil that had boiled up, that he should have interest in this task being completed properly.
Jack sat and food was brought to the table by Zelda who blushed at Jack when she approached. They ate for a moment and then talks began of what to do. There were three artifacts left untouched: The Crown of Horns in the Underdark beneath Netheril, the Assassin’s Mask in the Foundation of Woe in the Shadowfell that mirrors the plains east of Rashemen and the Wrath of the Stormbringer, which still remained to be found. The group discussed investigating the woods, but deemed that unnecessary due to the urn no longer being there. They then discussed what to do with the veil that Thadius held. Chipper was keen on using it to their benefit, which Thadius refused as a logical answer. Jack questioned Thadius’ ability to keep it safe and then questioned Thadius’ ability to keep The Rose safe. Thadius insisted that he knew what he was doing and was researching methods of destroying the artifacts so that they could no longer be used. Set objected to this but his interjection was quelled by the others and by Thadius, working with this group was the best way to find information on his goal no matter the outcome.
Tegalad then proposed an ingenious plan and produced the box containing the false veil. He asked Thadius if he could enchant it to mimic its counterpart’s aura to confuse its seekers. Thadius gratefully accepted the veil and said he would set to work with this task. Jack continued to question Thadius’ capabilities until Thadius informed him that he had been rebuilding the Gondian temple that had been raided and that he was constantly reinforcing it with powers from on high. Jack grudgingly backed down, his fear of the artifacts being dangerous to the town he worked so hard to protect making him overly wary of their safe keeping. The group settled on heading to the Underdark to retrieve the Crown of Horns from its Yuan-Ti master. They would prepare this day and set out in the morning.
The next day Thadius greeted the party to see them off, he held the box, bound and sealed and glowing with runes. He said his hellos and then gestured to a door. An archon emerged and he stated plainly to the creature, “This is the task you have been charged with, luck be with you.” He handed the box to the thing which nodded and vaulted into the air. “He is tasked with keeping it moving across all of the realm until a time that it is deemed safe.” The party took this in good faith and began to set out for the Storm Spire mountains to find the earth node that would lead them to the Underdark.
The path is treacherous, the heroes are strong. They head off to face greater dangers than they had before. Set proves his ability against the indigenous life of the mountains as the team meets their first opposition in a hunting party of Hill Giants and their Earth Titan leader. This is but the first of many grueling battles our heroes will face.
Pan out to see an eladrin holding a lute telling the story as he smiles.