It’s been a little over a month since the Catastrophe happened, and fall is beginning to creep in in the northern parts of the country. The last of the August wildflowers are fading, and the trees of Everwood are beginning to show their radiant hues of fall. The party journeys on the quiet banks of the Lani Ma’ata river, letting it guide their path. As they proceed along the beaten grass tracks, Toriel spots some strange tracks emerging from the river and headed into the brush. Though his knowledge of the natural world is vast, he cannot quite identify what creature made the prints. After some debate, the party decides to investigate; Gudrun takes the lead and sets off into the brush.
A little way into the forest, they come across a strange creature lying wounded in the forest. The back quarters are those of a bear, but the front of the creature is feathered and has the face of an owl. It lies on its side, pitifully hooting in pain. Gudrun, moved by the creature’s plight, tends to its wounds and extracts several arrows from its side. As Baern and Gudrun see to the creature, Ilu pulls Toriel aside and examines the arrows. They come to the same conclusion: Gnolls. The arrows have a peculiar barbed tip and are fletched with snow goose feathers… but this is farther south than any of the Hyenadie Emipre’s land claims.
The party is about to continue their journey to Forge when they hear the sound of clinking metal coming from south of the river. Thinking a battle is near, they hurriedly cross the river and follow the trail of the owlbear south, eventually coming upon a dreadful scene. The clearing is spattered with the blood of corpses that are chained to a circle of rocks. One of the bodies, though, has escaped the slaughter that took place in this glade – a traveler by the name of Aleistar. They unchain the bard and he vaguely describes what happened there: an elf ambushed the group Aleistar was traveling with and sacrificed most of them to whatever dark ritual he was performing. “The elf had a bear chained to the altar in the middle, and boy was that bear angry when he woke up! Chased the elf right out of the clearing…” Gudrun, meanwhile, examines the corpses that were sacrificed – each one’s throat is slit and, as she bends over to examine the wound, she notices a silvery residue left in the wound. She manages to scrape a sample from the cut when the corpse suddenly stirs and grasps her arm.
Recoiling, Gudrun raises the alarm as the five corpses slither down from their stones and attack the party. Two lob gobs of their own rotting flesh, while the others dart around, gnawing and clawing at the living. The undead are quickly dispatched and laid to rest properly. As the group pokes around the altar, they discover several vials that once contained residuum, a rod that Aleistar said the elf was waving around and a strange, battered tome. The tome is burned and bloodstained, but a few sections are still legible. The letters are elven, but the words are unintelligible, prompting the group to think it is written in some sort of code. Their ponderings are interrupted by a soft hooting and the owlbear emerges from the woods. Its golden eyes fix on Gudrun and it nuzzles up against her.
A little overwhelmed, the group returns to Kaleo Kai’s workshop with the beast. Kaleo Kai is quite astonished at the creature, and agrees to look after it. He is more troubled to hear of the goings-on in the woods not far from his workshop. Aleistar’s description of the magic-working elf lends credence to the idea that Tane Kalani is behind the recent events. Additionally, Toriel is able to identify the substance Gudrun took from the corpse just before it animated as quicksilver. Kaleo Kai mentions that the substance is used in alchemy, particularly mixtures that deal with prolonging life.
Bidding the mage farewell once more, the group again sets out for Gull’s Rest. Three more days’ travel and the party arrives at the post walls of Gull’s Rest. The town perches on a rocky cliff thirty or forty feet above the ocean’s crashing waves. The city boasts a double wall, the outer obviously of newer construction and made of wooden posts; the inner a thick wall of masonry surrounding a fortified keep. A particularly slow-moving group of lowing cattle block the entrance to the city, keeping the party waiting for several minutes. As they enter the city, a familiar voice calls out over the crowd, “Talara! Toriel! Ilu!” and a madly waving man breaks off from the business he was conducting and pushes his way through the cows. “And Baern and Gudrun too!” Gwillam Glendower greets everyone heartily, pumping each hand in turn. “This is an unexpected pleasure! Come, my friends, they are about to close the gates. I insist you spend the evening meal with us, and the night too! Rowen and Morwenna will be so pleased to hear you made it back from Forge safely.”
Gwillam escorts the party back to his house, a stately stone structure inside the inner walls. Rowen greets each of you with a kiss and heartfelt thanks “That circumstances prevented before.” Morwenna eyes you shyly from behind her nursemaid’s skirts, clutching a porcelain-headed dolly. Gwillam treats the party to a sumptuous meal, much better than the trail rations everyone has been eating for the past few weeks, and Gwillam catches up on the adventures. He is sorry to hear of Darcassan’s death, and wishes to do something to honor his memory. The meal is nearly finished when Gwillam leans back in his chair and asks broadly “So, what brings you to Gull’s Rest?” The group explains that they are looking for Konani Kai, thinking she may have some insight into the situations that have been cropping up. Gwillam sadly informs them that he doesn’t know of anyone called that, but Rowen adds, “I don’t know of a Konani Kai, but there’s a Konani Chandler in town. Her candle shop is just outside the walls, you could check there.”
Thanking their gracious hosts, the party heads to the candle shop. Unfortunately, the shop is closed, but some judicious questioning leads Talara to Konani Chandler’s house. Out front, a rather large wagon is being hurriedly loaded by a tiefling, and staccato bursts of Elvish come from inside the house. Talara pokes her head in the door and sees another tiefling, a woman, throwing her possessions into barrels and bags. “Out!” the tiefling cries. “My shop is closed; I’m leaving; I won’t answer any more questions! Leave!” Talara manages to confirm that the tiefling woman is Konani Chandler, but the woman is furious. “I said no more questions! You’re the third group to come through asking me about… things… and I won’t stand for it! That part of my life is over and done with; we’re going to Latecastle and starting over there.” Talara opens her mouth again to try and talk some sense into the woman, but the ground shakes and an explosion tears through the air.
Everyone rushes outside to determine what happened. Scanning the seas, everyone can see the terrible tall masts of the White Raider Ship. Two figures leap into the air from its deck and wing their way towards Gull’s Rest. As the things get closer, keen eyes can see that the creatures resemble giant red serpents with huge leathery wings. A Raider leaps off each of the serpents’ backs, tosses something over the edge of the cliff and pegs it into the ground. Konani grasps Talara’s arm in alarm, “I’ll tell you anything you want – just save Shane!”
The group rushes to take action. Gudrun rushes forward to deal with the Raiders that jumped from the Sky Snakes, while Baern and Aleistar go door to door to try and get the townsfolk out. The Sky Snakes breathe another glob of fire onto the town, melting the thick stone walls around the keep. Toriel remembers that the town’s gate has been closed and he, Ilu and Shane sprint to the heavy oak gate to try and open it. Meanwhile, a large group of Raiders have scaled the rope ladder tossed down to them and are also racing towards the gate. Baern calls down the holy wrath of Sehanine on the Raiders and they are dazzled and stunned in place, giving Ilu and Toriel the time they need to reach the door first. Gudrun, meanwhile, squares off against the two Raiders guarding the ladders. They swing their flails at her, battering her armor and shield. Having delayed the one group of Raiders, Baern goes to help Gudrun ward off the attackers. The Sky Snakes, though, breathe another deadly gob of fire, this time searing several party members. Toriel, Ilu and Shane strain at the bar that holds the gate shut, but the stout timber doesn’t budge. Talara, leading Konani, throws eldrich energy at the stunned Raiders and beelines for the tower that holds the portcullis mechanism. Ilu and Toriel again strain at the bar, with little effect.
Gudrun and Baern, meanwhile, deal with a second wave of Raiders that swarmed up the rope ladders. Baern recognizes the threat and yells at Gudrun to move out of the way. Then, Baern unleashes a single word of power that severs the ropes, sending several Raiders tumbling to their deaths. The Raiders guarding the ropes, now cut off from their reinforcements, whistle to the Sky Snakes busy incinerating the town. Back at the front gate, the third time is the charm as the combined strength of Ilu, Toriel and Shane manage to finally lift the bar on the gate. Konani reaches the door of the tower first and flings it open, letting Talara rush in. She teleports to the top of the guard tower where she sees the body of a town guard slumped over the control mechanism to the portcullis. Talara kicks the body aside and triggers the mechanism, raising the gate and letting the townspeople evacuate. The Raiders, though they’ve lost their backup, fight bravely to the death. One of the rope guards manages to escape on his Sky Snake, but the other falls to Gudrun’s warhammer. The last of the villagers stream out of Gull’s Rest as their town burns.
Once safe, Konani breaks down crying. “They said that he’d be looking for me. They said he knew where I was and my son wouldn’t be safe.” She looks up, tears running from her soot-smudged face, “Twenty years ago, Tane Kalani was fairly obsessed with me. And I’ll admit, I didn’t resist. He was handsome, rich, powerful… he promised to give me all the things my family never could. Well, you can think of how the rest of the Hohepa family thought of his romance. After I got pregnant, Tane Ekewaka discreetly got rid of me. My family was paid to move to Blackwater and given enough money to live comfortably the rest of their lives. I went with them. I even had an offer of marriage from a man there that didn’t care, and wanted to raise Shane as his own. But I was young and stupid and ran away from that too. About a year later I was back in Everwood, looking for Tane Kalani. We found each other, but Tane Kalani seemed different. Oh, he was happy enough to see me, and Shane, and discreetly got us set up here in Gull’s Rest, but there was something else. He worked up at some wizard’s laboratory; said he was going to shut his family up and FORCE them to accept me and Shane. He’d come back less and less often, and seemed to become more unstable every time. It was about then that I caught him… doing things to Shane. Taking his blood, his hair. Tane Kalani had a crazed look in his eyes. I caught him trying to take Shane’s EYE! His own son! I kicked him out and told him never to come back. Eighteen years go by without me ever even hearing his name. Then, about a week after the Catastrophe, I get a message from him. I didn’t even read all of it, it was mad. He said he was holed up somewhere in Northern Everwood, far past the Elven borders and that he was working on some project. He said he’d be looking for me soon… It scared me. And then lots of people start asking me about him, I thought it was time to pick up and leave again.”
Talara and Baern try to comfort Konani, but Toriel is a bit more blunt. “Who else was asking you about Tane Kalani?” Konani sniffles, “There were two groups of them. A bunch of humans the day before yesterday. Two female and three males. They all wore heavy armor and were wearing that (she points to Gudrun’s holy symbol). The others were… spooky. They weren’t human. Wore big, long cloaks and came in after nightfall. I didn’t see their faces. They spoke with a funny accent ‘Ve are loo king for our mutual ackvaintance, Tane Kalani Hohepa. Tell us, vhat do yoo know of him?’”
Talara looks at the others. “Eladrin.”