The next step for the party was to thoroughly explore the kobold’s cave, to not only make sure that no more of the diminutive reptilian are lying in ambush as well as to see what treasure they can acquire.
A chest is the only thing of value amidst the filth and debris that makes up a normal kobold lair. It is quickly unlocked and the party finds not only a wealth of gold but a suit of magically enhanced plate armor, which is given to Aldhelm as he is the only member proficient in the use of wearing such heavy armor and fighting effectively in battle.
Discussion next breaks out of the party’s next move. Snúgel proposes heading north to the Keep on the Shadowfell, eager to plumb its depths for lost treasure or perhaps route out any monstrous threat lurking inside, or perhaps both or neither, for with the jovial Halfling it is often challenging to understand his motivations.
However, Sardonyx also strongly speaks up about wanting to investigate the dragon graveyard. He is particularly intent on following up on the rumors he heard in town of a man named Douven Staul who supposedly went in search of a dragon’s treasure in a dragon’s graveyard. Why Sardonyx is so interested in this man is another mystery that the grim, tightlipped mercenary does not divulge to any of his traveling companions.
Eventually the half-elf wins the day and the party decides to set out for the dragon graveyard. However, even Skamos, reluctantly agrees that Kerig is in no condition to travel. His constitution is not made of the heroic mettle that the party members possess and he is still sorely wounded from the battle with the kobolds. Having assured themselves that there are no further inhabitants of the cave, the decision is made to leave Kerig in the cave hideout.
The next few hours passes uneventfully and soon the party comes upon the site of a great excavation. A gnome, surrounded by some burly and rough looking humans, stands in the bottom of a great depression in the ground.
He waves in a friendly manner for everyone to reach and clearly appears excited about something. As everyone gets closer they also notice that there are two creatures on guard that look like a cross between a large dog and a dinosaur. However, as everyone approaches the creatures, while clearly on guard, do not attack. There also are two Halflings standing on opposite ends and on ground above the pit. The gnome quickly introduces himself as Agrid and explains the Halflings are on watch as they’ve had some problems with small raiding parties of kobolds and goblins.
“Out this far in the middle of nowhere you can’t let your guard down for one minute,” he says with a wink.
After introductions are made Agrid explains that they have just discovered the bones of a dragon and are very excited at this first tangible evidence that there is some veracity to the claims of a dragon’s graveyard.
Sardonyx inquires about Douven and Agrid readily admits that he’s been working with him and that Douven went out to explore the surrounding area, as he is want to do, but should be back before morning.
As the tight-lipped but ruggedly handsome rogue is digesting this news, Agrid invites everyone to stay for lunch and have some of his special stew. He sends one of the halfings on watch to a tent to put it together. Snúgel, who claims is own culinary curiosity, follows his fellow halfling, even though he insists it is not necessary.
Snúgel’s curiosity gets the better of him and he notices that there are two tents staked out and after the halfling goes into one of them, Snúgel peers into the other one, where he spies the bound and gagged form of a human male.
Things quickly descend and combat ensues. The vicious dinosaur dogs, or guard drakes as they are better known, swarm Aldhelm and bite him so fiercely and with such mutual savagery that he is quickly down on the ground, bleeding his life blood out.
It looks grim for the party for a flurry of seconds, until they are able to coordinate their actions and bring the pain to their newest enemy. Aldhelm is saved none too soon by a quickly worded prayer from Erais and he does not hesitate to charge the tricky gnome, who has taken the opportunity to hide in some bushes and snipe the rest of the party.
After the dust settles Douven is untied and in a joyful moment gives his magical amulet to Sardonyx, after removing his wife’s pictures.
“Glad am I to see you, old friend. We have much to talk about.”
While Sardonyx and Douven quietly talk with each other, the rest of the group scavenges through the remains and discovers three things. One, the skeletal remains of the dragon that has been uncovered is a juvenile at best, and could not possibly be the mighty beast that is said to rest here. Two, there are papers from Agrid to Baird, the eccentric shop owner, clearly linking to two in a secret cult to Shar, mistress of the night. Three, in addition to a mirror that Agrid uncovered which appears to be important to Baird, the gnome is wearing magical leather armor that Snúgel appropriates, as he is the only member who it will fit without resorting to a ritual to resize it.
The trip back to town is made with haste, after a quick stopover to check on Kerig, to make sure for some that he has not gone marauding out in the country side and for Skamos to make sure no wild beasts have made a meal and an end to his first disciple of the mysterious Pa.
Kerig is found much as they left him, happily reclining on a pile of smelly furs and munching on the remains of something from the kobold larder that is best left to the imagination, or better yet, left to not thinking about.
Everyone, having satisfied themselves that Kerig is going nowhere and will need at least one more day of rest, sets off for town. Though the party is clearly in need of rest, having taxed themselves sorely during the battle at the dragon graveyard, there is one among them who cannot stomach the knowledge he has of an evil cult, dedicated to no less than Shar, ‘Lady of Loss’, ‘Nightsinger’, or sometimes ‘The Darkness’.
Yes, it is the shining light of faith that burns brightly in Erais’ heart that is deaf to his companion’s protestations of more rational courses of action, such as reporting the news of a cult leader to the town’s authorities or waiting until morning, after they have had a chance to rest and recuperate from the day’s earlier battle.
No, Erais marches boldly into Wildarson’s Grande Shoppe and Emporium and boldly confronts him.
Bairn takes one look at the menacing cleric and bolts out the back of the shop, through a door that gives entrance to a flight of descending stairs. Erais pursues and Aldhelm is close on his heels and then Skamos and Tira follow.
Snúgel glances over at Sardonyx and they simultaneously shrug their shoulders.
“Perhaps we should take a quick look around up here before we venture below?”
“Yes, never know what of value we might find among all this junk.”
Twelve seconds later the pair have discovered a potion of healing sitting in the bottom of a large metal tub, inscribed with “Tarrasque Feeding Trough”, on its side.
However, while the opportunistic half-elf and halfling are rummaging about upstairs, Erais and friends in tow have discovered a most disturbing sight.
A secret room below appears to be a small church, complete with a shrine and wooden pews and a long carpet embroidered with several black disks with deep purple borders. However, more disturbing than the obvious symbol of Shar etched into the rug is Baird, standing at the back of the room near the altar, no longer cavorting about with a wide grin on his face, but looking most menacing and dark. More disturbing than that are the two humans clothed in dark robes and peering out from their hoods with eyes lacking all but the barest hint of pupils.
Last, the most disturbing part of all are the two shadowy humanoid figures that each carries a wickedly sharp scythe, like two ghostly grim reapers. They soundlessly approach the party, moving in unison down the carpet, highlighted only dimly by the purple candlelight that suffuses the room. . .