Having received a worrying intelligence report of slave traders operating nearby, King Padraig, the lord sovereign of Winterhaven, put out a summons seeking brave adventurers to come and serve their people. Whether motivated by a sense of concern for their fellow man or the rewards sure to follow for aiding the king, many answered the call. Having reviewed the portfolio collected by his agents, the king selected to meet with three: Norendithas, an elf whose reputation as an armorer was well-known throughout Winterhaven; Tamitha, a pixie whose masters informed him that her growing arcane powers were not to be underestimated because of her size; and Telerin, a revenant known for taking decisive, if somewhat brutal, action.
The king informed the adventurers of a letter his spy network had intercepted with the following message:
“Greetings, Kalarel. I have recently learned of your activity in the area and have an offer for you. During your time in this region, if you should capture any humanoids, we are eager to buy them. We have duergar allies in Thunderspire in need of slave stock. If you are interested, send an envoy back to me. My messengers will show the way.” It is signed: “Chief Krand of the Bloodreavers.”
He offered the adventurers 1000 gold for finding the Blood reavers, defeating Chief Krand, and destroying the slaver gang, and returning with proof that the threat has been eliminated. “Give us 500 more, and we’ll get the job done,” a sneering voice responded. “And we’ll need that money up front to fund our adventure.” The king looked upon the speaker. A greedy glint in his black eyes and a smirk on his lips, a tall man with pale skin stood awaiting his response. The king had heard tales of revenants, and knew of their potentially sinister nature. It would be better to keep such a creature where he could keep an eye on it than to set it loose, so he decided to agree to some of its terms. “What I ask of you is a large task. I will increase my offer to by 500 gold, but I will not give you that full amount without any results. You will receive 275 to cover your expenses.”
Exiting the chamber, the newly formed band met a wise old sage dressed in fine clothes. “I overheard you speaking to the King,” he said. “Have you ever heard the legends of Thunderspire Mountain? Tales claim that a great city built by minotaurs in the ancient days waits within the depths of the mountain. If you are in search of adventure, then exploring those ruins and bringing back word of the wonders you see would make this old man extremely happy. Think about how strange such a place must be! And imagine the treasures that might remain from such an alien time and location.”
His eyes bright with visions of adventure, he asked the adventurers to bring back tales of their adventures in Thunderspire Labyrinth and a minotaur statuette to prove that they actually traveled to the depths of the mountain. In return, he gave them what information he knew about the ruins:
- This valley was once ruled by the minotaur lords of the underground city of Saruun Khel. It disappeared from history’s stage about three hundred years ago.
- Two specific parts of the city appear in various texts about Thunderspire Mountain—the Labyrinth and the Seven-Pillared Hall.
- Recent rumors speak of the Mages of Saruun—modern arcanists who seem to have some lesser or greater influence in what remains of the ruined city.
He also offered to pay them 425 gold and enlighten them with a ritual from his private collection. With a bit of bartering and some good natured conversation, the adventurers agreed to share their experiences with the old sage.
On their way out of Winterhaven, the party made a stop at Bairwin’s Grand Shoppe to gather supplies and prepare for the journey ahead. Upon speaking with the enigmatic ranger, the intimidating revenant, and the arcane pixie and learning of their destination, Bairwin leaned over the counter to murmur a request to the adventurers.
“This needs to be handled quietly,” Bairwin explains. “I have competitors throughout the Vale who would love to know my source for some of my more . . . exotic . . . goods. Can I count on your help and your ability to keep a trade secret?”
Suspicious but curious, the adventures wanted to know more. “I need to exchange goods with a man named Gendar in the Seven-Pillared Hall. It’s a rough-and-tumble place beneath Thunderspire Mountain, but I have good contacts there and you can handle yourselves in a fight. I’m sure you won’t run into any trouble you can’t handle. I’d go myself, but let’s just say it’s in my best interest not to. Introduce yourselves to Gendar, and tell him you represent me. He will give you my goods and you will give him this cask. I’ll give you 500 gold in return for your services. ” Bairwin hands a small, locked cask, about the size of along dagger, to the ranger. “Remember,” Bairwin says, “give Gendar my name—but don’t use it elsewhere.”
Exiting the shop, Norendithas expressed his distrust for the man. “We should open the box and see what goods we are delivering,” he said. They attempted to pick the lock, but it turned out to be far beyond any of their ability. Telerin attuned himself with the box, and sensed that if they attempted to force it open by mundane or magical means the box would disintegrate the contents. They decided to deliver the box as requested and see how events unfolded.
The group then set forth, traveling for many miles on the Trade Road that would bring them to Thunderspire Mountain.
Here they were greeted by an ominous sight:a swirling thunderhead of black clouds, rumbling thunder, and bright flashes of lightning obscured the peak of the mountain ahead of the adventurers. A cobble path led up to a massive stone archway carved out of the side of the mountain. Two imposing statues of minotaurs towered from either side of the gate, glaring down at all who pass.
They traveled into the mountain, going down a road lined by copper lanterns on either side, repeating every hundred feet. They passed by dozens of passages branching off into the distance from the main corridor; already the confusing and labyrinthine nature of this place was apparent.
From one such corridor came the sounds of a man bargaining for his life.
Alert for any sign of danger, Tamitha heard the sound of coarse laughter and guttural voices. “You’re ours now, slave!” a malicious, snarling voice said. “We will easily get ten gold for you!”
“That’s a shame, " another voice responded, " ‘Cause I’m worth twenty. I’ll buy myself if you let me go. "
Tamitha quickly alerted the rest of the party to the voices, and they came up with a plan: they would pretend to be interested in purchasing the slave so they could instead buy his freedom. The adventurers boldly walked up to the door the voices were coming from and knocked.
Silence fell in the chamber. A short moment later, there was the sound of weapons being drawn.
“Who are you, and how dare you interfere with Bloodreaver business!?” demanded one of the growling voices from behind the door.
“We are travelers who were passing by and overheard you saying you have a new slave for sale. We want to purchase him, " the revenant lied smoothly.
After a moment’s hesitation, the door opened, revealing an ugly hobgoblin rubbing his greedy hands together. " This way, this way, " he said with false and greasy cheer. The adventurers found 3 other hobgoblins standing to form a wall between themselves and one in the back, who was seated on some kind of throne and wore a ceremonial skull on his head in the tradition of a shaman warcaster. The fourth minion joined the other three, cutting off ingress to the warcaster and his prisoner.
Negotiations for the sale of the prisoner began, but Norendithas, having never dealt with slavers, let his nerves get to him. The warcaster saw right through his lies and knew what their true intentions were. Outraged, the warcaster ordered his thugs to attack.
Daydreaming greedily of the gold the strangers would give them, one of the goblins was startled by the warcaster’s outcry, and tripped over himself in his haste to comply, falling flat on his face. Telerin was quick to take advantage of the foolish goblin’s error, launching a blast of pure black eldritch energy over the fallen goblin, skewering the shoulder of the warcaster. Pain and outrage blossomed on the hobgoblin’s face as blood began to pour from the wound.
Meanwhile, Norendithas deftly climbed atop a stack of barrels. Spinning, he brought up his bow, knocking two arrows, pulling back, and firing at two of the hobgoblins all in one fluid motion. The arrows struck, one sinking deep into the side of its target while the other went cleanly through the hobgoblin’s chest.
Tamitha climbed atop Telerin’s shoulder to gain a better vantage point, and unleashed a blast of arcane energy, further wounding the enraged warcaster.
With a sharp cry, one of the hobgoblins took a swing at the little creature that would dare attack its master. Nimbly dodging, the blow missed Tamitha, but Telerin was not so lucky. His shoulder was still in the impact zone as the mace came down, and bone shattered as the mace crashed into him.
Another of the hobgoblins saw the pixie trying to get to safety, and took a swing at it with his mace. It slammed into her, knocking her down with a cry. Bouncing to her feet, Tamitha unleashed a wave of fire that caught two of the hobgoblins in its fiery throes.
The warcaster, seeing that a clear shot to the wizard and warlock was no longer available, gathered a blast of energy and unleashed a bolt of pure force at Norenthidas. Seeing the very air warp with the force of the blow, the ranger backflipped off of the barrels, landing deftly on his feet and stabbing one of the hobgoblins with a dagger.
His shoulder badly wounded but his revenant nature preventing him from succumbing to the pain, Telerin poured eldritch energy in to the skull he carried, its form warping and growing bigger, glowing black and green with the magics running through it. Unleashing the spell, the skull screamed as it launched at the warcaster, jaws wide open, and swallowed the warcaster whole.
A sudden quake shook the cavern, knocking loose boulders from the ceiling that crushed two of the hobgoblins. Taking advantage of the chaos, the adventurers were able to make quick work of the two that remained.
What will happen next? To be continued…