Two weeks of relentless travel finds Skamos, Tira, Erais, and Kerig worn and tired with the travels of the road. Fortunately dirt is not an issue they have to concern themselves with, as Skamos is able to keep everyone looking fresh, if not feeling so, with frequent uses of prestidigitation.
Eventually they find themselves on the East Way, between Arabel and Highmoon. Kerig assures them that they are near to his tribe, but the party votes on taking a detour to the nearby town of Winter Haven, where Erais knows of a childhood friend, Sister Linora who is now a devotee of Chauntea. Having promised to visit her should he ever come her way, Erais encourages the party that the detour could prove valuable, as his contact may be able to provide him some valuable information about the surrounding territories and help them decide if Kerig is truly leading them to his tribe out of service or with some ulterior motive to ambush them.
Even the amiable and trusting Skamos decides that a stop in a town would be a fine opportunity to replenish his dangerously dwindling supply of hemp rope.
It is late afternoon on the 13th day of travel when the party is feeling particularly weary and Skamos and Tira are engaging in their daily debate about whether Skamos has the energy to clean Tira’s clothing with magical means or if she should try and find a fresh pool of water for a quick dip, a course of action Skamos heartily encourages.
Just before Erais can interrupt the debate once more, usually ending it by offering Skamos some more of his hemp rope to clean the warlock, a small yelp breaks the otherwise peaceful surroundings.
Small, reptilian creatures with jutting, fanged snouts and small spears erupt from hiding places behind large boulders besides the road and tall grasses. Unable to maintain their patience, the creatures, easily recognizable as kobolds, nevertheless swarm the party before they are able to move into defensible positions. The creatures are small and weak, but what they lack in strength they make up in numbers; that and the fact that Skamos and Tira are poorly equipped to stand in melee combat gives the attackers the edge.
Things turn from bad to worse when additional kobolds emerge from hiding. These ones, carrying dragon scales fashioned into shields and wearing scale armor, move with more coordinate purpose and stand out with their dragonshields and viciously slashing longswords.
If their plight is not bad enough, there is yet another kobold, this one dressed in dark robes with his face covered by a mask fashioned in the shape of a dragon’s features. He stands far from combat and hurls deadly orbs of acid at whichever target catches his attention.
Just as it seems the worst of the situation has been encountered, a towering dragon-like humanoid appears on the road from the East. Dressed in plate armor and wielding a greatsword, it strikes a truly imposing image as its long shadow stretches the distance. If this is another ally of the kobolds, then the adventure will surely end here.
However, as the Dragonborn thunders down the road, his attacks are clearly aimed at the kobolds and the adventurers get their first sign that the battle is not entirely lost. Not lost indeed as Aldhelm, a dragon born paladin, as the party will find out after the battle, has a decided distaste for injustice and evil in whatever guise it attempts to parade itself.
Towering over the battlefield at 6’7” tall and weighing close to 300 pounds, this bronze-scaled, golden-eyed champion of Torm proudly proclaims his allegiance with a prominent holy symbol hung from a silver chain around his neck. Evil everywhere should shudder and speak in whispers, for justice has come and this type of justice will be served at the end of a greatsword.
However, the no one has time to contemplate this new turn of event for long as another figure appears on the road behind the dragonborn. This character, however, is not nearly so tall and moves with the silent but deadly grace of a black panther on the hunt. Armed with a crossbow and shortsword, the cloaked figure studies the situation in a brief scrutiny before unleashing bolts with deadly accuracy at the diminutive dragon-creatures.
Sardonyx will introduce himself after the battle and it will be discovered that he has been traveling with Aldhelm for the previous day, having joined forces upon learning of a common destination, to better ward off the dangers of the road. However, Aldhelm will have no further information to offer about the mysterious half-elf, even with more than a day of acquaintance.
Still, even with the addition of two new allies, the party is feeling the pressure of the shifty kobolds, as they dance around in combat and coordinate strategies in their strange, draconic tongue, which only Aldhelm, of the heroes, is able to understand.
Even then it provides little good, as knowing the shifty humanoids are going to jump behind one and start stabbing is no help when they are able to avoid attacks in their sly movements.
It is then that one more makes their presence known. Coming from the forest northwards of the battle is a small figure familiar to some. Snúgel! Yes, the fallen paladin of Tymora has through fortuitous circumstance come upon the party at a time when they are in need of allies.
Unfortunately, even with the heroes’ number doubled, the kobolds prove difficult foes to defeat. At one point Aldhelm lies bleeding on the road and Tira, atop a nearby rock, lies not only dying but burning from a wicked firepot a kobold slinger slung at her. It is into this dire circumstance that brave Erais offers himself up as target to the kobold dragonshields, hoping to protect his fellow party members and makes the ultimate sacrifice, as both of his kidneys are punctured simultaneously by the small but sharp longswords and he falls into Lathander’s embrace.
Fortunately, a human comes racing in at this point and clambers up the rock to minister to Tira. His identity remains a mystery for the moment, but his actions clearly speak of benevolence, as he restores the warlock to consciousness.
Eventually it is just the lone wyrmpriest, who breathes acid over the valiant paladin, who seeks to halt his escape. However, it is Aldhelm who prevails in the end, breathing his own acidic breath on the kobold as it seeks to escape, burning its flesh into death, with the very energy that it used to harm so many in life.
Finally the battle is over and everyone is able to take stock of the situation. The dragonborn introduces his other traveling companion, Gevarn, an acolyte of Chauntea. It turns out that Aldhelm has been doing his Penance of Duty at a church of Chauntea and befriended Gevarn to the point where he offered to accompany him on the road when he learned of a terrible plight.
It seems that Sister Linora, a cleric of Chauntea, residing in the town of Winterhaven, has uncovered a secret cult of Shar operating in the town. Unfortunately her mystical visions have not led her to any identities and she asked Gevarn to come and help her root out whoever may be involved.
Picking up the body of their fallen comrade, Gevarn assures the downcast adventurer that Sister Linora has access to a powerful ritual, which should be able to help with bringing Erais back to the living. While the ritual is expensive, a princely sum of 500 gold pieces, Gevarn feels that the donations he has received for the church will be better spent on reviving Erais that he may help in the effort to root out the evil cult.
It is also decided that for his own protection or the protection of others, depending on your perspective, Kerig will be put in chains and taken into town as a prisoner. In fact, Aldhelm will not even travel with the party unless the hobgoblin is securely manacled.
The town of Winterhaven stands as a small point of light in an otherwise hostile world. The walled village has two guards posted at the gate. They briefly question the adventurer’s, being particularly concerned about the hobgoblin, even with it being in chains. However, they then recognize Snúgel, who it appears as been staying in Winterhaven. Based on his assurances, they allow admittance to the town.
Quickly making their way to Wrafton’s Inn, they use Snúgel’s friendly greeting to the owner, Salvana Wrafton, to acquire enough rooms for everyone and quickly move the hobgoblin to Skamos’ room, where he is locked inside.
Gevarn and Aldhelm take Erais’ body to the temple dedicated to Chauntea, where Sister Linora, after initially being distraught over seeing her old friend Erais’ lifeless form, quickly sets about preparing the long ritual to bring him back to the living, should his soul be willing.
The rest of the party gathers in the inn’s common room and are kept well supplied with drink and merriment by Salvana, a comely, friendly human woman and her busy staff of waiters and waitresses.
In addition to several farmers from the outlying farms, including Eilian the Old, one of the town’s long time residents and a historical buff as well as someone who touts the longevity supplying effects of his prize oxen’s musk, there are a few other patrons of note.
Valthrun the Prescient is a learned sage and scholar who occupies the 5 story tower that dominates the center of town, enjoys a glass of wine from among Salvana’s finest selections.
Ninaran, a local elven trapper and hunter, spend her time drinking alone in a corner and does not seek to join in the festivities.
And then there is Lord Ernest Padraig, the Lord of Winterhaven, descended from the noble family that ruled the area under the area under the edict of the old empire of Cormyr. He is greeted with respect by all in attendance, many doffing their hats and calling him Lord, before he finds a table and enjoys a beer.
Through more than a few drinks and conversation it is discovered that Winterhaven has been experiencing more frequent and bold attacks by kobolds in the last few months. Speaking directly with Lord Padraig, they come to understand his frustration with the citizenry’s lack of willingness to make a concerted effort to eradicate the draconic vermin.
They will gather in the town to protect themselves against any major incursions but are unwilling to venture forth into the wilderness. The ten members of the town’s guard, the Winterhaven Regulars are not enough for Lord Padraig to lead into the wilds and besides, that would leave the town completely undefended.
Hearing the hero’s dispatching of the kobolds on they way to town, an agreement is quickly reached and the Lord offers the group 100 gold pieces and the right to keep whatever loot they find in the kobold’s lair, even if it is the former property of Winterhaven’s villagers. Deep into his cups, Snúgel also offers insight into his disappearance. Having lost his way, feeling despondent in his service to Tymora and feeling twisted by the call of her dark sister, Beshaba, he felt his further accompaniment with the adventurer’s was only a burden to them and he left to find his way again.
Proudly holding up his left arm, he shows off the wooden “hand” that has him now walking firmly the path of Torm. He connects with Aldhelm over their mutual dedication to two deities of the well-known trio.
Soon the only sound in the inn is the varied slumbering noises of the inn’s guests. Morning comes too early for some and not for others, who choose to ignore the sun’s proclamation of a new day.
One who is not ignoring the light is Erais. Striding into the tavern, there is something definitely different about him. His soul’s sojourn has left him forever more touched and Lathander has imprinted upon him in the bright silver of his formerly bronze colored armor.
Veritably he seems to shine; having experienced the close embrace of Lathander’s cleansing light. He does acknowledge that he is a bit stiff from his recent demise and may not be as fully functional in combat for a short time, as he adjusts to being back in the world again.
His return is embraced warmly and soon the party has eaten their full and the late risers have risen and eaten and everyone decides to stop off by Bairwin’s Grand Shoppe before assaulting the kobolds in their lair, in search of any supplies that may be helpful in their endeavor.
Bairwin Wildarson turns out to be a wildly colorful character who parades forth a never-ending supply of unusual items. A gilded urn used by none less than the Obaskyrs themselves, a pipe made from genuine Chondathan wood – smoked by a failed apprentice of Elminster, a longsword scabbard that belonged to a captain in the 5th regiment of the Purple Dragon Knights and so on and so forth, until the party is able to ignore the more exotic offerings and equip themselves with the mundane supplies that will actually be useful to them on the road.
Not far down the East Way, a kobold ambush erupts and the party is once again set upon by the scaled pests. This is another hard fought battle and while the party is able to overcome the diminutive dragon creatures, Kerig comports himself poorly and his bow seems to release one arrow in vain after another.
Everyone takes stock of themselves after the battle. Aldhelm holds firm in his position to not travel with the party while the hobgoblin is unfettered, but will continue to keep his distance. Erais also seems to share this view and offers to travel with Aldhelm out front.
The only decision that remains is whether they feel up to continuing on to the kobold lair or turning back and sleeping off their bruises in Winterhaven and continuing on in the morning.