The Rise of the Maleficarum
We waited for a few hours with no sign of Raikonen and Quinn. Cas, Kalin and I were growing concerned that something awful had befallen our comrades, so we headed into the hills to take up the search. We hadn’t gone far when we heard the approach of rider. Thinking it wise to avoid confrontation, we opted to conceal ourselves. The riders were decked out in the regalia of the Zhentarim, which we knew from Gunthar had a long history of working for the Black Network. Kalin caught my eye, and started making strange gestures with his hands. Confused, I motioned for him to stay hidden, but instead he notched an arrow and let fly at the two human riders. Cas fired as well, but my friend did not score hits on the riders. Aware of our presence, one rider let out a blast on a horn, altering probably every goblin within twenty miles to our location. Desparate, I summoned the aid of Moradin and commanded the other rider to sleep. He fell out of his saddle and Kalin finished him. The other human fled. We quickly moved the body out of the open and holed up in a cave. Within a half hour, the hills around us were swarming with kobolds and goblins. They spent a few hours combing the area, but Cas had made sure we were well hidden.
After the coast cleared, we easily followed the tracks of the stupid goblins back to a ruin that seemed to be serving as a camp for the Zhent raiders. Watching from a distance, we saw Raikonen and Quinn tied to a statue in the middle of the ruin. Several gobins, kobolds and humans crowded the ruin and patrolled its borders. Timing the patrols was a simple matter, and my friends and I made short work of the pathetic kobold sentries. Fearing that their absence would quickly be noticed, we resolved to enter the ruin and carry out a rescue attempt immediately. Kalin led the way and I followed after a moment. Finding the elf standing over a kobold corpse, I moved to the next door. Cas climbed the ruined wall and perched at the top, readying his bow. I called upon Moradin’s shield to protect me from the aggression of my enemies, then moved into the center of the ruin, towards Quinn and Raikonen. The two of them seemed to be injured, but aware, and they pointed me towards their stashed weapons. I went to retrieve their arms, but they were apparently not in the mood to wait. Quinn and Raikonen rushed towards their weapons, narrowly avoiding being killed in the process.
Quinn once again summoned a tangle of vines to prevent some of our enemies from joining the fray. I called once again upon the All-Father’s aid to heal Raikonen’s wounds so that he could join the battle. With my friends freed, and almost half of our foes incapacitated by Quinn’s druidic magic, I returned to the room in which I’d left Kalin and Cas. I was shocked to find them engaged with over a half dozen kobolds and goblins. I moved into the room to support Kalin, while Cas rained arrows down on the goblin scum. Things seemed to be going well, but again Cas inexplicably decided to throw out another flame-enchanted gem. Another explosion rocked us, although the good lad learned enough from the last time to keep plenty of distance between us and the fire. Unfortunately, Cas opted to land his fireball in the tangle of vines, resulting in the vines burning away and freeing several enemies, including an able-looking human who was obviously their leader.
Outnumbered, Kalin and I stubbornly held our ground. After a few minutes, we realized that more enemies were surrounding us, coming from the area where I’d left Raikonen and Quinn. Concerned, I cleared a path through the goblin tide and raced back towards our friends. To my horror, they were both bleeding out on the ground. I did what I could to treat their injuries, but Quinn’s arm had been severed and I had no time to rouse either of my comrades. I heard a high-pitched cry of pain and I realized that Kalin had fallen as well. A kobold and a human came my way while their smug leader looked on, and I was forced to give ground. The Maker was with me though, and I managed to defeat my foes, though I took a wound in the process. To my relief, I caught a glimpse of Cas creeping up behind the leader. I watched, satisfied and strangely proud of the lad, as he buried his blade in the evil warrior’s back.
The human must have been made of sterner stuff than I thought, because Cas’s deft strike did not put him down. Rather, it was Cas who fell beneath the Zhent’s blade. Calling on the All-Father’s strength, I rushed the Zhent and crushed his skull with my trusty hammer. With the battle over, I looked around the ruin and found some makeshift cots. One by one, I carried my comrades to the cots and treated their injuries. Exhausted from my efforts, I turned in for the night.
In the morning, Cas and I searched the ruin and we found several items which appeared to be magical in nature. I found some Dust of Coagulation, which I held onto, figuring that my comrades were sure to be injured again in the near future. Everyone had recovered enough that they were awake, but we opted to spend another day and night resting in the ruin.
We found a note to the Zhent soldier from someone called Semimnon. His orders had the soldiers reporting to the ever-mysterious Nethir, and included maps that seemed to be some kind of plans for an assault on Eveningstar. There was also a cart and a team of horses just outside the camp. We loaded up the cart with our spoils and resolved to drive the cart back to Eveningstar. As dusk came on, we neared the town and were dismayed to find thick columns of smoke rising from within the town limits. A group of militia supplemented by two Purple Dragons met us at the bridge and explained that orcs and goblins had been attacking the town for the last two days. Enraged that the cowardly orcs would be attacking this peaceful town, I resolved to speak at once with the Lord Winter. As usual, Lord Winter was more than accommodating, and again somewhat surprising. She revealed herself to be a mage of no small amount of skill, and used some kind of magical artifact, fashioned as a helm, to restore Quinn’s severed arm. Even Lena Split-Table of the Sonnlinor had never shown such mastery of healing powers!
After speaking with Lord Winter, we determined that the best course of action would be for the badly depleted militia to barricade the bridges against the invading hordes while the Lucky Few took the field. We decided to spend the night in one of the outlying farmhouses, which had been abandoned since the attacks began two days ago. Our plan was to wait for the majority of the raiding forces to bypass us and engage the militia. From behind enemy lines, our task would be to seek out and defeat the commander of the raiders. Such tactics were similar to the tunnel ambushes we had often carried out against ravaging orc parties in the tunnels under Adbarrim, and I was confident that my friends and I could carry out our mission. As the next day dawned, the hordes attacked Eveningstar, passing us by exactly as we’d anticipated. We watched as a blast of fire exploded amid the goblin ranks, and then the battle was joined at the southern bridge. I said a prayer to the Maker for the souls of the brave men who were tasked to hold the bridge. That done, my friends and I prepared to carry out our duty.