Mysteries of the Nentir Vale

The Road of Shadows
wherein the Scions of Saruun Khel are formally incorporated...

The Scions of Saruun Khel awoke after a night of troubled, nightmare-ridden sleep. Belwar Jokulhaups, the Svirfneblin knight exhorted and agitated his companions to get moving. The duergar of the Grimmerzhul clan were in disarray, allowing for an easy escape from their mines by the Scions.

After this, it was back to the Road of Shadows, which would carry the party back to the Seven Pillared Hall and their newly liberated stronghold, the former Tower of Mystery (which still awaits a new designation). After many hours of travel through the darkness, the adventurers made it to a large bridge that crossed a slender lava flow. Immediately, Onyx Soulcave spotted some scaly troglodytes and battle was joined. Troglodytes

As the battle was joined by the rest of the party, more threats emerged from the darkness—drow elves, accompanied by a loathsome Drider.Drider A low-ranking House Xarzax priestess spoke from the darkness, demanding that the Scions hand over their newly won deep copper. Some of them had expected this in dealing with drow elves. They had performed their job, and now the dark elves no longer needed them.
Drowarmy

The drider jumped down from a nearby pillar parapet and waded into the warriors with a greatsword, as more trogs and drow raiders buttressed the enemy’s ranks. The priestess herself joined the skirmish. In seconds, Onyx was bleeding profusely and intoxicated with drow sleep poison, slowing his actions. Still, his stone hammer smashed everything in it’s path. Wil fared better in this combat then the previous day’s, and he was able to push the Scions combat prowess to the next level with tactically sound advice and wisened words of encouragement.

Minoan entered into single combat with the drow priestess and received many lashes from the dark bitch’s tentacle rod. Not much later, poisoned crossbow bolts jutted out from sensitive areas, making the usually lively minotaur sluggish and slow.

Benn Slouthestryder and his ever-present bear provided protection to the party as well as tearing into the troglodyte grunts that were plaguing them.

Although the fighting was arduous, eventually the Scions were victorious when Tangarth Saruun swept the priestess off the side of the bridge (as had just been done to Minoan by the priestess herself). The eldritch minotaur leapt from the bridge, landing on the priestess, making sure she could not beat a hasty escape. Minoan and Tangarth eventually slew the demonic bitch and plundered her corpse for valuables.

The party decided to rest for a spell and continue on. Soon enough, Benn’s keen druidic eye spotted a weak area of stone in the passage, and he led the party into a watery corridor with a wooden threshold at the end. As the Scions got closer to the threshold, odd script adorned a plaque above the doorway. Minoan was the first to jump through the threshold—and he suffered for it. Lightning flashed all around the heroes, wounding most of them. They correctly deduced that a Glyph of Warding trap was present, but the language was illegible to everyone. Except Belwar who, belatedly, announced he was fluent in the script, that of the Giants.

A riddle was posed by the plaque and the group put their meager brains together resulting in a solution. The passageway eventually ended in a small room (perhaps a former guard post or tax station) containing a long-dead minotaur skeleton and a rotting table atop which there lay 2 books. One, was the Rise and Fall of the Turathi written by a noblewoman of the ancient tiefling empire and the other was an unnamed chronicle of events that transpired in Saruun Khel, after the majority of the minotaurs there killed themselves off.

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The Gauntlet and Beyond
The Scions of Saruun Khel brave the Grimmerzhul Mine

A newly-reinvigorated group of adventurers continue into the Grimmerzhul Mine complex. Having cleared out the entry chamber, and with the rest of the mine’s occupants alerted to their presence, the party pauses momentarily. Suddenly, a commotion behind the adventurers draws their attention. A man runs through the entrance, followed by a few arrows and the sounds of pursuit.

“Orcs.” says the stranger, jerking a thumb to point behind himself. The man later introduces himself as Wil, a former slave of the Drow with a burning desire for violent revenge.

Bellowing war-cries from the mine turn the ruffians minds back to the task at hand: finding this so-called Deep Copper. First, though, the party has to wade into a bitter melee against duergar, orc and ogre foes.
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Arrows rain down from orc archers positioned both on the floor of the mine and on an upper tier. Duergar scouts appear from side-chambers as ogres close in to strike at the party with their vicious greatclubs. Grevious wounds are dealt and received by both sides. From the upper tier, an ogre dumps a cart full of rocks, which thunder down on top of the beleagured protagonists.

Duergar reinforcements soon supplement the enemy’s forces on the skirmish line. An infernal duergar bloodmage cuts and gouges his own flesh—fueling sinister magic that blinds the rampaging human barbarian Onyx Soulcave. Also advancing is Saamish, commander of the duergar shock troopers. He didn’t land too many blows with his massive maul, but when he did, the victim felt it. Tangarth Saruun bravely scaled a ladder to the upper tier to deal with the ogre threat from above.

The tide of battle began to solidly turn in the party’s favor when Onyx delivered a massive strike which toppled the bloodmage, a shock trooper and Saamish—albeit momentarily. Two ogres jumped down from the upper tier, disregarding minor injuries from the effort. They were quickly surrounded and, although the heroes took several massive wounds, the ogres were killed.

Finally, Saamish relented. The party proceeded to interrogate the commander in order to locate the deep copper, but they failed to get the exact location of the ore before the duergar tired of the questions and threatened suicide, such was his annoyance at the predicament.

Large, stone double doors were opened easily by Minoan‘s savage power. The Scions soon discovered a slave pen and set about freeing them from bondage. The slaves quickly began to part for one of their own. A dimunitive, but loquacious svirfneblin named Belwar Jokulhaups approached the party and promised them, when asked, to help them find the mine where the deep copper was—on one condition: the party would have to let him come. Despite Minoan’s protests, Benn Slouthestryder voiced his desire to bring him along. The rest of the companions quickly agreed.

Belwar led the party down several passages, stealthily avoiding duergar patrols until he brought them to a passageway containing two large ore carts on a track. The svirfneblin urged the party onto the cart. Wil quickly grabbed control of the cart and sped forward. A duergar and orc patrol entered the chamber in pursuit and jumped on their own cart. The party easily outran their pursuer—who ended up crashing the cart at a high rate of speed.

The Scions began frantic efforts to slow down their cart. They actually did manage to slow it down, but not enough to prevent a crash that left Onyx down the tunnel and the rest of the party scattered throughout a large chamber.

The chamber was inhabited by several warped duergar. The veil between the natural world and the hideous dimension known as the Far Realm was particularly thin in this area. All of the duergar were discolored and no longer possessed arms, but tentacles! Gone were their infernal quills, replaced with writhing worms. Even more horrifying, a warped, two-headed ogred, apparently named Zah-Gah appeared in their midst. With a body more suited to a gelatinous cube and pseudopods in place of arms, the massive abomination surged forward.

The warped duergar smacked Wil and Benn with their tentacles while Belwar Jokulhaups was engulfed by Zah-Gah. The weird emanations from the Far Realm granted strange new abilities to the Scions. Immediately, Benn used the power of his mind to detonate a warped duergar—also doing severe damage to Wil. Other weird effects manifested throughout the battle. The party nearly fell, but for their collective tenacity and advanced battle prowess. In the end, though, the Scions of Saruun Khel defeated the remaining warped duergar and Zah-Gah himself, when Minoan (who’d been engulfed inside him) tore him apart from the inside out.

After scouring the adjoining chamber, a hunk of deep copper was recovered by the battered deep gnome. Apparently, the party’s foes ceased their pursuit and they’ve decided to take a healthy rest in the inner chamber.

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A Deal Made
wherein our "heroes" go about fulfilling their end of the bargain...

The deal made between Morph and Miraal of House Xarzax requires the party to steal something from the Grimmerzhul mine. This something is a hunk of a metal known as Deep Copper. Deep Copper is copper that is exposed to the energies of the Far Realm. Certain areas of the Underdark, Kevinneq explained, are weak and are subjected to the influence of whatever otherworldly realm that they border. The Far Realm is an alien dimension were the very laws of reality are twisted and warped. This Deep Copper will allow Kevinneq to complete the Amulet of Saruun—giving the wielder complete control over all the Bronze Warders in Saruun Khel. The plan is that once Kevinneq finishes the amulet, then the drow will use it to eliminate the Mages of Saruun and use Saruun Khel as an outpost for unknown (but certainly nefarious) purposes.

The wizard Morph decides to stay with Kevinneq in order to learn the secrets of the amulet’s construction. The party proceeds down passages which lead to the King’s Highway, named for the legendary creation of the Underdark, when the god Torog tunneled throughout the earth in a vain attempt to escape from the realm.

Unbeknownst to the party, they were being shadowed by a Minotaur warrior named Minoan,who had been set upon by a monstrously large carrion crawler. Hearing the beasts shrieks and Minoan’s war-cries, the party jumps into action and quickly subdues the beast. Minoan’s stated goal is to restore Saruun Khel to it’s former greatness. He finds a comrade in Tangarth Saruun and they quickly determine that they’re from the same clan that disappeared from the minotaur empire over 300 years ago. The party eagerly recruits the new minotaur warrior.
Carrion
The party then travelled back to the Tower of Mysteries and then on to the Seven Pillared Hall. Stopping in the halfling run tavern there, they are approached by a rather tall (by human standards, anyway) man carrying a stone-headed hammer. After some difficult communication, he introduces himself as Onyx Soulcave and soon joins the party.

The misfit band sets out and, after a day of travel, arrives at the Grimmerzhul Mine. The stink of the place is the first thing they notice and it leads them to a guard chamber, wherein duergar task masters, ogres and a host of orcs clash with them. Minoan and Onyx, the new guys, charge up and down the chamber, delivering brutal beatings on the hapless orcs. Tangarth does his double-pointy thing and rains down death at a distance. Benn and his unnamed bear companion strengthen the party and allow for attacks from positions of relative safety. The ogre mercenaries deliver the most challenge, scoring a few good blows against the party. In the end, all of the humanoids and ogres have retreated or are dead. A fleeing duergar is slain by Tangarth (yet another charging minotaur!), right before he triggers a lethal trap that would’ve collapsed the floor of the chamber.

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Fane of Miraal

Having finally reached the meeting place first mentioned in the mysterious letter to Paldemar, the party begins exploring side passages off of the main hall. They are nearly buried alive by a cave-in whilst tracking one of the fleeing drow warriors. The Men of Fallcrest discovered him waiting to cut a rope bridge spanning a dark chasm. Morph hypnotized the evil elf, compelling him to jump into the abyss. The stubborn and still alive drow climbed up the cliff wall and grabbed on to Benn Slouthestryder, threatening to join him in a death-plunge. Before that could happen, however, the drow was slain.

The side passage led back to the main hall and the adventurers chose to explore a large structure off the main hall. The building possessed two giant-sized doors and emanated a purplish glow. The cyclopean doors were festooned with bas-reliefs and carvings of spiders and webbing and, curiously, left ajar.

Finn Birchcutter, the curious halfling, proceeded into the building for a reconaissance. Inside, the dimunitive rogue saw a beautiful drow female,Miraal of House Xarzax, dressed in form-fitting chainmail and flanked by several demonic entities. Barely into the Fane, the halfling was spotted by a mounted patrol—a blade spider ridden by a drow warrior, suspended high on the wall.

After retreating out from the building, Finn shoved his little hand into his pocket and grabbed a handful of copper pieces. He proceeded to close the double doors and jammed the coins between them, locking them fast.

Miral’s minions threw themselves against the doors with all their might, but were hampered by the improvised copper piece ward.

MorphMorgath began an interesting parley through the door. Miraal mentioned that they might be forgiven their trespass on Lolth’s Unholy Fane if they would secure something from the Grimmerzhul duergar clan. To further edify the adventurers, the priestess produced Kevinneq, the heretofore unknown apprentice of Paldemar.

Kevinneq related to them that he had copied all of the evil mage’s research into the Infernal Machine; going so far as constructing a new one that would allow him to construct an item that would spell doom for the Mages of Saruun—the Amulet of Saruun . This item would, according to Kevinneq, allow the wielder to control not just one Bronze Warder, as the Mages’ of Saruun’s amulets do, but all of the constructs. Kevinneq just needs one more thing before he can finish constructing the magic item. What the party was tasked with was taking that special something from the duergar. The motley assemblage of adventurers have agreed to the task. So begins your descent into the truly unknown.

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Nearer to the Source

The Men of Fallcrest continued on through the Underdark. Using the map drawn with the (presumably) drow letter, the odd party delved ever-closer to the former meeting spot of Paldemar and those who sought alliance with him. They entered a large cavern, filled with large, edible mushrooms. Myconids, fungi-based humanoids, appeared to be farming the mushrooms. One of the creatures spotted Morph and approached. The mage, currently in the guise of a drow, cast a few enchantments that both secured the myconid’s assitance and allowed him to communicate with the thing. They myconid warned Morph of “the masters.”

Thus, the party was not taken by surprise as a pair of dark elves began dropping magical globes of darkness in their midst. The rest of the myconids were alerted and ran to assist their masters. However, the myconid that Morph had ensorcelled was again utilized by the mage to rebel against their drow overlords. The plan worked and the myconids assisted the party in defeating the drow guards.

A short distance from the fungi cavern, the party entered another area and sprung an ambush on some foul-smelling Troglodytes. The melee was joined by hidden dark elf wizards who launched several unsuccessful attacks against the Men of Fallcrest. The party easily killed the brutish and repulsive lizards. With no sign of the drow wizards and no other visible opponents, the party began exploring scattered chambers and found them to be (mostly) dwellings.

Morph discovered a chamber apparently used as a makeshift tavern and proceeded to fill a glass with fine drow wine. The alarmed shrieks coming from the next chamber and belonging to Bundt interrupted the changeling’s relaxation period.

When the party ran to assist Bundt, they saw several drow, including the wizards from the Troglodyte melee bearing down on them. The combat was quick and brutal, with 2 drow fleeing the chamber.

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A Passage Revealed

Having vanquished Maldrick Scarmaker, the party had eliminated all remaining, imminent threats to the Mages of Saruun. In reward for this task, the Mages allowed the adventurers to claim the Tower of Mysteries as their own. Using their collective coin, the Men from Fallcrest (as they’ve come to be known inside the Seven Pillared Hall) brought in clerics to purge the stain of evil Vecna worship from the premises. One of the clerics discovered Paldemar’s notes and research, and, unbeknownst to the party, delivered it into the hands of the Mages of Saruun. Far from trusting their employees, the Mages wished to keep Paldemar’s research into controlling the Bronze Warders secret forevermore. Perturbed at the news of the Mages’ theft of Paldemar’s research, Morph the Mage rails against the jealous and secretive nature of the Mages of Saruun.

The duplicitous cleric, however, missed a nondescript sheet of parchment. Written in an archaic form of Elvish, the letter was addressed to Paldemar and discussed a “mutually benefical” alliance and contained a crude map, indicated a meeting place many miles into the Underdark. While searching the tower, the Men of Fallcrest discover a secret passage on the ground floor of the tower.

The passage leads the adventurers deeper underground for days at a time. Finally, the reach a small cavern in which to rest. No rest was taken, though, as a geyser of caustic liquid exploded on the stunned heroes. Thinking quickly, the halfling rogue Finn Birchcutter severed the cap of a large mushroom and plopped it inside the mouth of the geyser—effectively shielding the rest of party from it’s next explosion. Soon, though, more terror as a large rock in the room began moving, revealing itself to be a dread Roper. The roper grabbed Tangarth Saruun with it’s tentacles, dragging the minotaur sorcerer to it’s waiting maw. Between the erupting geyser and the vicious roper, the adventurers were hard pressed—some even near death—but, eventually, the Men of Fallcrest triumphed and slew the foul denizen of the Underdark.

After catching their breath, the heroes proceeded further into this savage and alien land. They entered a large cavern that contained the ruins of a Dwarven fortress and were ambushed by more Grimmerzhul Duergar! A Duergar bloodmage made his presence known as he hurled fiendish spells towards the party, hampering their progress. The infernal creature would cut and gash himself then use the blood to power his magicks. More duergar—warriors, this time, shot bolt after bolt at the party, but failed to halt their momentum. The infernal dwarves were slaughtered.

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Battle at the Tower of Mysteries

With the evil, scheming wizard Paldemar slain, the party returned to the Seven Pillared Hall to report to the Mages of Saruun. As promised, the Mages granted them copious gold coin and magical gifts for both wrecking Paldemar’s Infernal Machine and slaying the fiend, himself. One task remained—clearing out the Tower of Mysteries. The raiders had cleared the second floor during their previous mission, but the 1st and 3rd floors still needed to be cleared of unknown hazards.

The party teleported into the ground floor of the tower, only to find themselves penned into a small stone room, with a veil of sinister-looking fog blocking their exit. The adventurers braved the lethal fog, only to come face to face with stinking, ravenous ghouls. A dread Enigma of Vecna and a mysterious Armored Jar—which hovered above the ghouls heads, periodically discharging necrotic energy at the heroes—sought to rend the heroes into shreds of flesh.

Battered and scarred, the party eventually emerges victorious. They found the teleport pad and immediately move up to the top of the tower.

Maldrick Scarmaker, the demon leader of the Blackfang Gnolls, was in the middle of some manner of dark ritual when the party appeared on the third floor. The men from Fallcrest are disturbed to discover a Drow elf warrior among Scarmaker’s tribesmen. A muscled barlgura demon heaved beside his new master.

Combat was quickly joined. Initially, the party were sitting ducks in an enclosed room. Scarmaker unleashed hideous magicks along with his allies’ skirmishing. The tide of battle quickly turned as Maldrick Scarmaker made the grave error of moving too close. He was rendered combat ineffective for the remainder of the fight. The adventurers vanquished all remaining foes, save the Drow—who surrendered. In exchange for his life, the dark elf reveals that he was but a simple mercenary hired by Scarmaker as muscle for his bid for power.

After the battle, the party discovered a treasure trove of scrolls and manuals detailing Paldemar’s research into creating the fabled Amulet of Saruun Khel—an item that would grant it’s wielder complete control of the Bronze Warders that the Mages of Saruun rely on to help them maintain control.

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Assault on Thunderspire
our heroes battle the nefarious wizard Paldemar and others

The Gang of Misfit Heroes, upon venturing to Thunderspire Mountain, were hired by the Mages of Saruun to defeat the renegade Paldemar and foil his plot to wrest control of the Seven-Pillared Hall from his former comrades. To that end, they conduct incursions against Paldemar’s forces located throughout Thunderspire Labyrinth—the vast network of tunnels and passages the comprise the former Minotaur stronghold. After destroying the evil wizards Infernal Machine, they set to confront the wizard himself in a “deserted” duergar stronghold. The heroes breach the doors of the place to discover a poison-dart trap, a powerful vanguard of duergar warriors before facing the evil wizard, his norker allies and a bronze warder.

The heroes defeated Paldemar and chose to capture the renegade, rather than slaying him outright. With prisoner in tow, the party makes it’s way through the labyrinth to discover the faerie Zipgrass in a dark passage. The fey creature warned them of a group of Demogorgon cultists in the next chamber which were handily defeated. The party continued on, after this, and stopped to rest in a large cavern with a subterranean river flowing through a section. Suddenly, they were beset by a large force of Blackfang Gnolls—sent by the demon Maldrick Scarmaker to rescue Paldemar from the meddlers sent by the Mages.

The gnolls threw themselves upon the party with reckless abandon. A main force engaged in melee with the “do-gooders” as a Huntmaster rained arrows. Using the tumult, a pair of gnolls split off from the main force and freed Paldemar from his restraints. The wizard fled from the melee, toward a dark passage, but the quick-thinking heroes caught up with the renegade and, finally, slew him.

The party returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall to announce their victory to the Mages of Saruun. While waiting for their promised reward of 450 gp and a magic item each, the Mage of Saruun tasked them with clearing out their new holding—Paldemar’s Tower of Mysteries. The tower was a place holy with the worship of Vecna, Keeper of Dark Secrets. Accordingly, when the party entered the bottom level, they were set upon by a lethal necrotic fog, vicious Stench Ghouls and a hovering armored jar which contained a warped and evil brain.

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On to Thunderspire!

From the rumors they gathered in town they had heard that beneath the stormy peak of Thunderspire Mountain lies the Labyrinth, an ancient, ruined minotaur city. For over two decades, an order of wizards called the Mages of Saruun has controlled the Labyrinth’s upper levels,creating a relatively safe haven called the Seven-Pillared Hall. Here, underground denizens come to trade with the mages and with a small number of surface-dwellers who are in the know. Humans, halflings, dwarves, duergar, goblins, orcs, troglodytes, and others come to the hall to barter under the watchful eyes of the Mages of Saruun and their towering minotaur constructs. The mages have one rule in the Seven-Pillared Hall—maintain order. Visitors who leave the safety of the hall and venture into the Labyrinth do so at their own risk. For in the darkness of the Labyrinth, all bets are off and the truce enforced within the Hall has no bearing.

Thunderspire Mountain lies amid a wilderness of pine forests and rocky hills. The mountain’s pinnacle is usually wreathed in gray, foreboding clouds, but on rare clear days, it can be seen from a great distance.
The Trade Road, an old dwarf-made highway, passes near the mountain. It links the human town of Fallcrest
(about a two-day journey west of the mountain on foot) with the dwarf stronghold of Hammerfast (three days
east of the mountain by foot). In years past, travelers and caravans hurried past Thunderspire to avoid attacks from monsters lurking in the ruined minotaur city. Today, this part of the Trade Road is reasonably safe thanks to the presence of the Mages of Saruun. From the Trade Road, a steep cobbled path called the
Vale Road turns north and then cuts into the mountain. The road rises through a valley with sparse vegetation and ends at Thunderspire’s base. Small waterfalls and brooks wash down from the rocks above. A few shepherds, woodcutters, and trappers live in the vale. Their humble houses are made of turf and fieldstone and are fitted with stout doors to repel predators, including bears, wyverns, and griffons. The ruins of Saruun Khel beyond the Seven-Pillared Hall are collectively called the Labyrinth. The ancient minotaur city consisted of a vast maze of natural caverns, gaping chasms, hewn chambers, steep stairs, and twisting passageways. Most of these features remain to this day. The Seven-Pillared Hall and its adjoining chambers form a small part of Saruun Khel. Much of the Labyrinth remains dangerous and unexplored.

Traversing up the Khel Vale which consists of many switch-backs and ledges the widest part is crossed via a 100 ft. rickety rope and plank bridge. It was here that the group found the bridge to be trapped thanks to the keen eyed druid who was not distracted by the fanciful and fully entertaining Halfling. Not to be slowed by a simple delay such as this the bull-headed minotaur plodded on ahead – charging up and over the makeshift pitfall with such grace and agility one wonders what could stand in the way of this monster?

Patrolling the valley 2 wyverns saw an easy snack in the party and swooped in to feast. As the minotaur summoned fire and ice down on one of the dragon like beasts on one side of the valley the rest of the group attempted to hide from his mate on the far side to little avail. Seeing that his associates were not proficient in the fine are of skullduggery Finn bounded from his hidden location onto the wyvern’s back! His surprised comrades, in fear for the tomfool Halfling’s life, threw ropes secured to trees and reeled the flying drake back from over the valley’s edge like a prize fish. Seeing the creature up close and it’s pristine primal beauty the group decided to let the wyvern go and continued on their way up the mountain.

The Vale Road mets the Minotaur Gate about 4 miles from the Trade Road. This was the grand entrance to Saruun Khel. The road enters a 50-foot-tall stone archway hewn out of the mountainside. A towering minotaur statue stands on each side of the entrance, glowering down at the travelers.

Beyond the Minotaur Gate, the Road of Lanterns slopes into the mountain. Green light from copper lanterns dimly illuminates the road, which leads about half a mile into the mountain, sloping steadily downward over several switchbacks. The road is a brick-vaulted passage, 30 feet wide and 30 feet tall at its apex. Seventy-seven demon statues, each over 10 feet tall, stand watch along the corridor’s length.

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Raid on Fallcrest

So this bizarre band of heroes consisting of an irresponsible Halfling rogue, a reluctant Paladin of Kord, an eladrin lush seeking revenge, an orphaned half-elf druid raised by bears and a minotaur sorcerer from the Underdark rose up to defend Fallcrest against a vast raid from minions of Demogorgon. They were able to thwart an assault upon the Grand Septarch’s Tower in which a twisted Underdark apprentice of Saruun in control of a Bronze Warder attempted to stop Nimozaran and his Halfling apprentice from completing a ritual on the teleportation circle at the pinnacle of the tower.
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The town was lucky to have wanderers such as these to jump to her aid in such a dire moment… or was it fate? Certainly Kord and Corellon were cognizant to such bravado and valor! What were the gods playing at? Why did Demogorgon’s gaze fall upon Fallcrest? What lays in the depths of Thunderstone Mountain plotting against the Nentir Vale?

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