THE PARTY MEETS
As newly-inducted members of the Titanite Society, the members of the party converged on Wayford. There were two groups from small training camps: from one came Jason and Gwarryn Byrsodepsis; Wraya, Daughter of Apollo; and Corbin Thresher. From another came Zaylan DeVries, Henry Oldrey, and Timothy Vizjeri. They met at the Surly Bison, which could just as easily have been a descriptor of the proprietor; the smaller party arrived first, and when joined by the larger, both groups recognized the gems carried by the others.
The inn was quiet, as was the town, because trading season had not yet begun. It was early spring, and the roads were still muddy and difficult for wagons. While waiting for their contact from the Titanite Society, they were approached by someone affecting the mannerisms of an old man. The “old man” noted that it was quite unusual for people to be gathering in a group this size outside of trading season and wandered off, but it wouldn’t be the last they would see of him…
Soon they were joined by a man named Phalyn, who revealed a piece of titanite and called himself “the Blade of the East.” With the aid of a magical item able to prevent eavesdropping, he gave the new party their mission:
Nineteen years ago, the stars aligned and a child was born who has the potential to be one of the Great Heroes, able to bring about a new Age of Prosperity. The oracle who noted his birth gave her life to keep him hidden, blocking the view of the stars’ alignment from other eyes. Now, other forces seek him, and they watch the powerful members of the Titanite Society. Thus the great task of finding the destined child and bringing him safely back falls to new, unknown members.
Phalyn directed the party to the grave of Marian Oris, a warrior of ages past, and a martyr and saint. She was a member of the Order of Lightbringers, and fell in battle single-handedly fighting off four bulettes for two hours, while wearing nothing but a robe and her sword, to buy a village time to evacuate. She was in possession of an Angel’s Tear which, when held by the prophesied child, would reveal him. Unfortunately, it is not known what happened to her crystal; but fortunately, her spirit is known to appear at her grave to those who are pure of heart.
Phalyn was able to provide little more information beyond this. All that was known is the age of the child and that he was born somewhere in the Kingdom of Berth or in the Valarian Valley. He left the party with vouchers for horses from the Mighty Thunder stables, some notes about the areas in question that would be in the saddlebags, and asked them to contact Thomas Underrock in the city of Beryl, a week and a half away by horse.
A GRAVE ASSAULT
The party approached the grave of Marian Oris, whereupon she arrived and said that she left the Crystal with the head priest of the temple of Ares, 3.5 leagues to the northeast. After she appears and offers this knowledge, the party is besieged by skeletons, zombies, and a ghoul. The skeletons are armed and armored, and appear to have been waiting, while the zombies are created from other bodies in the cemetery. After the group sends the undead back to rest, they see the “old man” running off into the woods. Though Gwarryn’s wolf Drust follows his scent, the trail stops cold, as if the man just disappeared.
Alarmed at what the man might have overheard, the party rushed back to Wayford. They obtained the horses from the stables while asking around about the temple of Ares. They learned that the temple is a barracks carved into the base of a large hill, and has been out of use for over a generation. They set out immediately for the old temple to make up as much ground as possible, and camped in the woods that night.
THE TEMPLE OF ARES
As they camped, the fire was approached during second watch by a hooded man. Jason was on watch, and though cautious, he welcomed the newcomer to share their fire and some refreshment. The man called himself Markel, and kept his hood low about his face. He claimed that these were his woods, and soon was joined by a companion: a large brown bear with a leather harness that had a titanite stone set into the chest, carrying in his mouth a dead hobgoblin. Thus reassured, the few members of the party awake asked him about the temple. Markel said he knew of it, and drew them a map of the interior as he remembered it. Though he kept the hood of his cloak low, his intimate knowledge of the temple when it was in use led the party to believe that he was one of the rare elves in the Society. Markel offered to keep watch for the rest of the night and guide the party to the temple in the morning, and the party gratefully accepted his assistance.
The group tied the horses up in a grove away from any of the paths commonly used by the hobgoblins and entered the temple. While searching the entranceway and adjoining rooms, they found and defeated several hobgoblin guards, a handful of goblins, and a few goblin dogs. They also found a room whose door had been plastered over, and battled the giant crabs dwelling within. They found a silver holy symbol of Ares, as well as several small magical items. The battles had taken their toll, and rather than progress further into the old temple, they set up a small camp in the hidden room and rested for the night.
The next day, they entered the deeper recesses of the temple. Although they had a map which would guide them to the sanctuary, the easy paths and rooms were blocked by fallen rubble and they had to travel around the long way. They defeated more hobgoblins and found a sealed room with an inscription sacred to Ares on the door, a fresco of the god of war vanquishing an army of gorgons and medusae. Inside the room was four statues and four decorative weapons; each statue had upturned hands, and at the base of each was a different animal. The party was trying to place different combinations of weapons in each statue’s hands, with no success. While looking at the mural, Corbin noticed that the picture offered clues, showing different types of gorgons with heads corresponding to the animal statues being killed by different types of weapons. After placing the weapons into the proper statues’ hands, a door in of this room unlocked, offering the party access to an inner chamber where the walls themselves were a depiction of the tenets of Ares’ faith. It was a training room, where one could teach the important stories of the faith to acolytes who could not read. The walls themselves were enchanted to change images at a touch. Inside a dais in the center of this room was a collection of scrolls and potions, and a warhammer made of a strange metal, unlike anything anyone had seen before.
The party continued down the corridor, and outside the sanctuary of the temple were attacked by several large cats and some hobgoblin archers. After dealing with this threat they entered the sanctuary, where they were clearly expected. A group of hobgoblins fighting in formation with large shields and spears was waiting to greet them, and behind them was an ogre, a hobgoblin shaman, and a warrior – the leader of this pack. This was no ordinary tribe of hobgoblins, as they were too well-armed, well-armored, and well-trained. Never before had any of the party heard of hobgoblins using a phalanx formation. However, Jason had been magically enlarged by Timothy and was able to hold the attention of the phalanx and break it up while the Henry, Corbin and the others worked around the flanks. As the spear-wielding hobgoblins in the back of the phalanx withdrew and drew javelins, the leader approached the large paladin. Jason and Gwarryn flanked the leader and killed him, while Henry flew into a frenzied rage and went toe-to-toe with the ogre and then went after the shaman, who had managed to split the party with fear-inducing spells.
After all of the hobgoblins were dead, the party checked the remaining rooms in the temple. In one, they found a large locked chest containing a large amount of silver in the same coinage as the hobgoblins were carrying, some gems, a letter written in a strange language, and the Angel’s Tear in a small pouch. (It is worth noting that the hobgoblins did not have the key to this chest—Zaylan opened it.) In the other, they found a chest guarded by a gargoyle, who moved from his perch when presented with the holy symbol of Ares and the strange warhammer from the archive room. The chest contained a few other magic items and a silver altar set. With their task complete and the Angel’s Tear in hand, the group left the temple.
Upon magical inspection, the letter was a request to find a crystal matching the description of the Angel’s Tear. It promised a large lump-sum payment as well as continued fees for guarding it, and was signed with an arcane mark sigil. The coinage was from the east, possibly the northeast.
The party traveled to Wayford to purchase supplies and convert some of the silver to something more manageable to carry (they found some jewelry available), then set off for Beryl via the crossing at the ruins of Lodrin Village.