The Tide of Shadows - Chapter 1

Adventure Date: March 27, 2010

Last Updated: May 27, 2009

The Gathering

And then suddenly, the world goes black...

The room was 40' x 40', slightly illuminated by what seemed to be 4 braziers situated in each corner. The walls were covered by tapestries and contained a few tables, a chest with drawers, a couple of chairs and a pedestal with the bust of a man on it. More importantly the room did not have a door. Also scattered across the room were a group of 6 odd individuals, and a dog, who were waking up groggily from an enchanted sleep.

A medium built, fit, and well-spoken man with brown eyes and black hair introduced himself first "I am Pelias and I had heard of the stories of The Lost Guide and came to investigate. I now find myself awakening here." The next person who introduced himself could only be described as an aberration - tall and gaunt with eyes, hair and skin of silver "My name is Ro-Lund-Do". "Nice to meet you my slaves" he thought to himself with a grin. The last male spoke and introduced his dog, Beast, and himself as Ska'arr, a huge and powerful man wearing a chain shirt and holding a spiked chain with both hands. With a threatening glance, he looked over to the next person, a female gnome standing about 3'6" and weighing no less than 40 pounds, and said in a gruff voice "Are you a midget orc?" The gnome, cowering back a few steps introduced herself as well. "I am Whisper, a gnome, here for the same reason as you all are. One would think that a ranger folk such as you would know how to recognize an orc." Ska'arr's look did not change and said "Yes but you are sooo small and that is the only reason that you are still alive". At this point Whisper stuck her tongue out at him and moved behind what seemed to be a giantess. At 6'2", the dark eyed and black haired beauty looked at the men briefly in disgust and said "I am Raven Battlestar and am next in line as Mistress of the Northwind and you shall do no harm to this small being." A timid blind girl, wearing only clothes and a veil on her face finally spoke and introduced herself "My name is Shribryn, let's not start squabbling, we need to figure out where we are and what we are supposed to do."

The group agreed and started looking around the room at the tapestries, walls, drawers, nothing was found. A brief moment later the bust started to speak!

Welcome my would-be treasure hunters. I trust that you're comfortable and have arrived unmolested. I must apologize for the ruse to get all of you together, but I doubt you would have all agreed to meet otherwise.

Now please do not hold any grudges against those who directed you to me. None of them knew what I had planned. My associates and I look out for each others' interests and all I had asked is that they direct any would be treasure hunters seeking the "Lost Guides" hoard to specific locations at specific times and let me know as soon as possible.

Now - to answer the question of why you are here.

There have been many who have sought the hoard of the "Lost Guide" and many that sought my aid, but none were ever worthy of the quest or of my help. In fact the last group whom I deemed worthy, was never heard from again - the only surviving member of that party was a pack mule - which plodded back into town one cool clear evening - completely unscathed except for a nasty gash on one of its saddlebags.

So now ... if I am to spend my precious time helping someone, I want to make sure that they are at least clever and strong enough to survive and thus I have devised a test.

If you can defeat the test I have devised, I will make this all worth your while.

So best of luck - and now for the first test - get out of this room ...

The group acknowledged that this was a test to see if they could work as a team and swiftly went to work. Whisper searched the desk drawers and found nothing. Raven looked for secret doors and was unsuccessful. Ska'arr looked for tracks and didn't find anything interested. Shribryn looked blindly at the wall… using some kind of extra sensory power and detected nothing. Ro-Lund-Do stood with an air of superiority (at what he envisioned were his minions doing the work. Pelias casted a detect magic spell and found an area glowing in the wall. "This must be our way out." He said. Looking more closely at that section, Ro-Lund-Do discovered that the tapestry covering that wall actually depicted the same room we were in but the furniture was arranged differently.

The ladies took the initiative to start moving around the lighter items, while the men struggled with the chair in the middle. Once the furniture had been rearranged accordingly the bust started talking again in a riddle.

My life can be measured in hours
I live to be devoured
Thin I am quick
Fat I am slow.

"Tis a candle!" exclaimed Whisper as she rapidly started looking for other compartments in the furniture. She found the candle in a drawer underneath a table and inspected it. Waving it to the group, "A key is inside" she said as she quickly moved to the door. As she touched the area that had detected magic previously, the portion of that wall disappeared only to open to a pitch-black doorway.

Feeling her way to that doorway, Shribryn volunteered herself to go and explore. "What better way to explore a totally dark area than for me, a blind girl, to go in!" The gruff voice of Ska'arr said "Wait, let's tie you up with this rope… just in case something bad were to happen."

Shribryn slowly made her way into the dark room and went around to discover that in was 20' by 20'. She also discovered a door at the opposite end. Whisper promptly followed using the rope as a guide and picked the lock in the darkness on her first attempt. Both girls went through the next door that opened up on a platform which was 15' by 30' with what seemed to be a bottomless chasm which spanned 40' with another platform on the other side. The group followed in. On their side was a short bow with 15 blunt arrows. On the other side stood 5 vases with a doorway. "Looks like we have to break the vases with the arrows" Pelias said, studying the situation. "I'll give it a shot" said Whisper with a wink, looking anxious to prove herself yet again. "My aim is pretty good, I've has lots of practice with the sling." Whisper was able to break all of them with plenty of arrows left. As she hit the last one, a bridge suddenly appeared, joining the two sides of the chasm. "Good work" admitted Ska'arr, beginning to see her not for an orc.

Ska'arr lead the way across the archway and through a long corridor. Listening closely at the door, he seemed to hear some grunting. Thinking this was orcish in nature, he burst through the door and charged! The group followed in to see Ska'arr fighting an owlbear by himself, with his beast growling and ready to attack. Shribryn noticed something amiss with her special sensory powers and thinking this and illusion tried to disbelieve the enormous monster in front of her. Succeeding in her attempt, she gave warning to the group of this trickery. One by one, they did the same thing, except for Ska'arr who was having battle fever and needed to knock this opponent down. Sighing and thinking to himself "silly barbarian", Ro-Lund-Do casted the spell Bane on the owlbear to help his fellow companion. At the same time, Pelias casted Bless to also help out the group in their mock battle. After a few rounds of dancing around with the fake opponent, Whisper finally decided it was time to end the charade and came in swiftly for the kill with a sneak attack, much to Ska'arr's relief.

Upon exiting this last room, a lanky human, of average height and weight, his dark hair hanging limply to his shoulders, which are draped in simple adventurers' garb was there to greet us with a grin. "So, you've managed to work as a team and go out of my little traps unscathed." He said, looking at us appraisingly. "Well met! You are indeed an impressive group. The hoard of the "Lost Guide" I believe will soon be found! I am Zandever and I welcome you to Triboar's Tower - home of Faurael Blackhammer - the Lord Protector of Triboar and my dear friend."

"Rest up, for tomorrow you will debut your journey on the adventure of the Lost Guide. The last place he was seen before he disappeared was at the Stone Bridge, your search will start there for any clues." He continued. "You may stay in town and acquire supplies, you will be leaving in the morning." Then he vanished.

The group met up at the Talking Troll, had an hearty breakfast, and were then eager to depart Triboar to start their journey to the region where the Lost Guide had last been seen. On there way out they noticed a disheveled beggar dressed in rags who yelled, "You have been warned!!!" The group kept going dismissing him as a homeless and harmless crazy man.

On their first day of travel the party stumbled upon a small orc-raiding group of 5. Whisper was first to act and vanished swiftly out of site in the forest. Shribryn followed her lead and did the same. Ska'arr and Beast ran as fast as they could straight for the orcs. Everyone heard a loud growl, unsure if it was coming for either Ska'arr or his faithful dog. Ro-Lund-Do tried to hit one hit with his crossbow but missed by a mile. Pelias moved to follow the rest and casted Bless. Raven seeing all the feeble men run ahead of her, followed them to make sure the job was done properly.

Ska'arr and Beast crashed in the small orc band. By the time the rest of the adventurers arrived, Beast had already taken down one orc and was gnawing at it. Whisper, coming out of the cover of the forest was unseen, came in for a swift one shot kill slicing the throat of another orc. Much to Shribryn chagrin however, the forest is not the same environment as a tightrope, trying to collect her prize as well, she tripped over an exposed root and fell over. Raven was hit by one of the orcs but retaliated with one of her fists. Pelias promptly healed her with his tiny wand. Boy, is she ever a gigantic woman that one. He thought to himself. I better keep her healed up so she can protect me. Ro-Lund-Do remained close by in case someone needed more magical healing. Whisper started to attack another orc. With a mighty swing of his chain, Ska'arr ripped the orc leader in 2 pieces. The other orc who was still alive hit Shribryn as she was trying to get up, unbalancing her and making her miss her own attack. Ska'arr charged the orc that was on Whisper and delivered the final blow to end the orc's life. Ro-Lund-Do at the ready, healed Shribryn and saw at the same instant, Raven kicking the last orc in the face and breaking his neck.

Whisper made sure no other orcs were around while the 2 healers were tending the wounded. Ska'arr recovered some of the weapons and armor from the orcs. Then the group continued on their trek. A bit past noon, a caravan was seen on the horizon. Whisper and Ska'arr met them first, with wary glances, but soon discovered that the caravan was just passing by. An exchange of information was made, as is customary by traveling bands, and the group learned that the caravan of Gracecaryn Sandtracker, the silk merchant, had been attacked by orcs and other diabolical things.

After a short rest, to relax their muscles and to eat, the seekers of the lost guide continued their voyage toward the stone bridge. A couple of hours later, they saw from afar several humanoid shaped forms walking at a steady pace in the same direction. Approaching carefully and stealthily, the group surmised that these were the orcs and humans that had attacked the caravan. Also with the ruffians, was a large ogre.

Assuming a strike formation the party advanced to begin the battle, they also realized that all their opponents were zombies. Whisper and Ska'arr both hit orcs with their ranged weapons, sling and javelin respectively. The ogre also threw a javelin at Raven, but she dodged it easily. Ro-Lund-Do called for the power of his God and made five of the zombies cower in fear. Pelias, casting mage armor, Shribryn, Raven and Beast continued their advance. Shribryn, Raven and Whisper all hit an orc in unison killing it. Ska'arr launched a javelin at the ogre, which struck him right in the chest, but the ogre continued his advance. The remaining undead moved closer as well to be in melee range. Both the attempts of Pelias and Ro-Lund-Do to turn more undead were unsuccessful. Shribryn missed an attack just as Raven hit with hers. Whisper hit an orc with her short sword. The ogre, being too bulky, fumbled his attack and killed one of the zombies. This seemed to anger one of the human zombies, since he did a mighty swing and fell Whisper in one blow. Ska'arr and Beast tagged team one of the orcs and killed it dead again. Pelias, with renewed faith called on the power of good and turned the remainder of the orc and human undead, leaving only the ogre as a threat. Seeing this as his opportunity to shine, Ro-Lund-Do grabbed his symbol and tried with all his might to turn the last foe, but the only thing he managed to turn away was the power of his God. Ska'arr, trying to save his companions from the onslaught of the ogre, swung too hard and missed, unbalancing himself. Seeing this battle go totally wrong, Raven and Shribryn adopted the mosquito tactic, darting in for an attack and peeling off. The ogre, too slow could only go after them part of the distance and unable to attack. Pelias healed Whisper, who regained consciousness. After what seemed to be an eternity, Ska'arr finally came back to his senses, and everyone joined in the skirmish with Beast delivery the killing stroke to the ogre.

Running after the fleeing undead and cutting them down was trivial. The companions rested up and recovered some of their used weapons and also some weapons and armor from the corpses. More importantly, the human zombies were carrying some valuable bolts of silk.

The rest of the day went uneventful. Camp was setup and the guard roster was established in pairs: Ska'arr and Whisper, Ro-Lund-Do and Raven, Pelias and Shribryn. The night was also uneventful, except for our friend Ska'arr, who suffered terrifying nightmares rending him fatigued for the majority of the next day.

After traveling another full day, the group finally arrived at the stone bridge near dusk and began searching the area for clues. None were found and darkness started creeping, therefore the companions started making camp. Already this preparatory ritual was becoming routine as everyone was starting to know each other a little bit better.

During the first watch, being Ska'arr and Whisper, ugly looking amphibian creatures ambushed the camp. Whisper, with her darkvision, easily detected them and sounded the alarm. Ska'arr took a defensive stance near the bridge and Raven and Ro-Lund-Do woke up instantly.

The five amphibians were the first to attack. The first missed Ro-Lund-Do with its ferocious bite. The second missed a grapple with its nasty claws against Whisper. The third missed Raven who moved nimbly out of the way. The last two, charged Ska'arr in tandem, one of which was successful at bull-rushing him. Ska'arr acting instinctively, grabbed his attacker simultaneously and the two went tumbling down into the perilous waters.

After this commotion, Shribryn and Pelias both finally awakened and moved into attack position. Whisper, using both her short swords, attacked twice on the amphibian that was threatening her, but only found her target once. Raven mirrored Whisper's performance, hitting only once with her fist and missing with a kick during her flurry of attack against her opponent. In retaliation, both frog-like creatures missed their marks altogether. The one left alone on the bridge after the bull-rush decide to attack Pelias but could only find air since he was distracted by seeing his buddy carried by the current. However, the remaining amphibian, dismissing Ro-Lund-Do as a possible threat, decided to advance on Shribryn, and took her down with one bite with a triumphant croak! Ro-Lund-Do then took this opportunity to cast out a sunrod to put some light on the subject! The only sign that Ska'arr was still alive was the emanation of bubbles in the water.

Whisper and Raven repeated their performance by hitting once each again. Whisper managed to remain unscathed but Raven took one strike of a claw. Ro-Lund-Do was also able to avoid damage, but Pelias was not so lucky and got bit by the amphibian. He then moved out of threat range and promptly healed Raven. Ro-Lund-Do casted bane to hinder their opponents and possibly minimize casualties, and sighed in relief as he saw Ska'arr, all wet, crawl out of the river.

With renewed hope, Whisper thrust her swords will all her might, hitting the soft underbelly of the creatures and causing a massive wound instantly killing her foe. Raven, trying another flurry, came to inches of breaking the neck of the creature facing her. The amphibians, seeing one of their own fall, were a bit more reluctant in attacking and therefore barely missed Pelias and Ro-Lund-Do. Raven, unfortunately, was hit with one of the vicious creature's bite and brought down unconscious. As soon as she hit the ground however, her faithful Puppy (Pelias' affectionate nickname given to him by Ro-Lund-Do) was there to heal her and bring her back in fighting condition. Ro-Lund-Do, seeing that his companion, Puppy, was injured himself, decided out of the kindness of his heart to heal him. Ska'arr, frustrated to have been missing the fight so far, rushed the nearest opponent and swirled his chain only to make a swooshing sound.

Suddenly, the luck of the group seemed to have taken a turn for the worst. Tumbling her way to the next opponent, Whisper missed with her sword stroke. Raven attempted a stunning maneuver, and missed as well. Ro-Lund-Do was hit with tremendous force by his attacker and was knocked unconscious. Whisper was hit as well, but having more endurance, was able to keep on fighting. Raven easily dodged the attack of her foe yet again. Pelias, seeing two of his comrades unconscious on the ground, made his way promptly to heal Shribryn, who had been bleeding out the longest, and healed her. However, she still remained motionless. Ska'arr's attack was also for not as it only displaced air.

Whisper continued her missing streak, failing with both attacks. Raven, deciding on a change of tactics, tried to grapple her opponent, but it proved to be too dexterous for her. The three baddies coordinated their attacks and were successful in striking all their victims, being Beast and Ska'arr and Raven, who unfortunately was rendered unconscious. Pelias continued to administer healing to Shribryn and finally managed to revive her. Ska'arr's chain got tangled up with one of his legs and was unable to move and attack. His pet, however, managed to sneak in a bite.

Shribryn, standing up, analyzed the situation with her special senses; Raven and Ro-Lund-Do were laying on the ground bleeding, Whisper, Ska'arr, Beast and herself, still, were badly wounded and three enemies remained. As if in response to Shribryn's analysis, Whisper, fast as lightning, was able to score a hit at her opponent, which ended his life, leaving only two foes to exterminate. One of which, who had seen Ska'arr fumbling with his chain, decided to take advantage of the situation and easily brought it's great mouth around Ska'arr's other legs and delivered a massive wound making him lose consciousness. The other missing Beast barely. Pelias moved to his preferred companion to heal, Raven, using his wand delicately. Beast, seeing his master down, was overtaken by a sudden fury, and retaliated in kind.

Shribryn, moving to the closest amphibian, was rewarded when the frog's face charged her staff and slammed right into it. Whisper, also ducked in and out for a quick strike and disappeared in the shadows. The last two amphibians both hit Beast and Shribryn, who was knocked down for the second time. Pelias healed Raven again, and stared in her eyes with a smile as she came to. The dog, now blind with fury, nipped at air alone.

Whisper, aiming her sling with great accuracy, hit one of the frogs on the forehead and toppled him over. Only one remained! Seeing all his allies down, the amphibian was nervous and hurried his attack on Beast, missing him completely. Pelias looked at the battle scene and sighed rolling his eyes "Stop getting hit" he thought to himself "These charges are expensive!!! He hurried over to Ro-Lund-Do and healed him, staring in his eyes with a smile as he came to, as well. The dog, feeling a bit uncomfortable being close to these two, wanting to be far away, delivered the last deathblow of the battle.

Looking around to see if any more foes were coming, the group dusted themselves of, continued their healing, and settled in for the rest of the night as tension diminished and dawn gloriously approached.

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