The bustling town of Singingwater in southern Redwater is a growing town situated on a convenient crossroads, just a few days’ travel from Unkard. It is there that our story begins with a simple proposition – a caravan is traveling from Stillwater to Unkard for the festival that is about to take place.
The events planned for the next week have been planned for the past year. The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the death of Garrick the Forger and the centennial celebration of the founding of Unkard are set to be the most magnificent spectacle seen in the Thrannish Empire. People from all over the Empire have traveled, some for months, to join in the celebrations.
Among those travelers are Baern the Whitebeard, a dwarf of Fauchard who has taken Unkard as his adopted home; Gudrun Gudlaugsdottir, a dwarven paladin seeking growth and knowledge in a far-off land; Iluliaq, the only survivor from her decimated tribe, and her faithful wolf companion, Kasake; Toriel Calenlasse, an elven druid seeking to uncover her race’s untold history; Talara Anderose, a woman unsure of her own abilities, but running from her past; and JOHN IF YOU DON’T NAME YOUR CHARACTER I’M GOING TO KILL YOU OFF… REPEATEDLY AND IN INCREASINGLY HORRIBLE WAYS, an elven shaman.
These six join the same caravan – some as guards looking to acquire a bit of coin, others seeking protection from the wild things that lurk between the cities. On the first night of their journey, a comet begins blazing its way across the night sky. Many of their fellow travelers are frightened, believing the comet is some terrible omen. Baern and Hartmut Silvertonge, a bard also along for the journey, do their best to sooth the people’s fears. “Comets are omens of change, neither good nor bad. Just change.” Talara shares the caravaners’ apprehensions, while Toriel dismisses the comet as “just another aspect of nature.”
The trip to Unkard is uneventful, other than the comet steadily growing brighter. The caravan successfully arrives at the Iron Gate, a huge edifice on the western side of the city. Just as they are pulling in, an eladrin dressed in robes of gray appears on the city walls. “You! All of you! You have seen the signs in the sky; you have HEARD the sounds in the wind and felt the earth TREMBLE with its secret, and you turn to your neighbor and ask what it MEANS…” His hand makes circles in the air. “The earth IS moving, Children of the Dust. The sky shifts and the STARS stream from their courses. The waters… ah the WATERS are hungry. The ocean is hungry; she is restless; she heaves in her bed… she WRITHES. The worm EATS at her bowels and she screams. Do you hear? DO YOU HEAR!?”
He points dramatically at the comet hanging over the city, bright even in the daylight. “The light DIES in the west. We die. YOU!” He jabs at the caravaners, as if his finger were a dagger. “Make ready your houses. Make ready your TOMBS!” Reaching into a small pouch hanging from his belt, he scatters what appears to be a handful of seeds to the wind. The seeds burrow between the cracks of the cobblestones, take root and sprout into blood red plants, writhing with vines. Screams can be heard all over the city and the plants advance, buds swelling and ripening before the group’s eyes.
The brave guards leap into action: Toriel shifting his form into that of a wolf and savaging the plants. Ilu and her wolf working as a single unit, surrounding the plants and hacking at its fibrous stalks. Gudrun squares off with the plant, toe to toe, challenging it to attack any of her comrades. Undaunted, the plants’ buds ripen and drop, spilling goblins forth. Baern’s blessing from the goddess Sehanine consistently obliterates the goblins, stemming their undying tide. Talara gathers her powers to try and protect her newfound friends, but the white fire she throws seems misguided and splatters ineffectively against the cobblestones.
Though the plants emit stinging nettles and blinding spores, the group is ultimately victorious. As they are finishing off the last goblin, a portly man dressed in cleric vestments runs up, agitated. “They’re all over the city, these things. It’s a disaster! The Fields of Pelor are completely overrun; the militia is combing the city; now we’re getting runners from the outlying towns! The damn seeds caught the wind, they’re all over!” Concern for his city washes over Baern’s face, “What can we do to help?” he volunteers.
The cleric, Borin, directs them to Lionel’s Crossing, a tiny hamlet about 10 minutes’ walk upriver from Unkard. As they head off to the village, Toriel explains about the plants: Known locally as “Goblinplants”, the creatures are never found this far south, usually growing in northern Vertland and even further north, in the lands claimed by the Children of the Twelve. Its seeds are rare and difficult to gather. It’s imperative that, once found, a Goblinplant is exterminated immediately, as it is a constant source of goblins that can overrun a town in a matter of days.
After a quick rest to heal, the group hustles off to Lionel’s crossing, where they find a seemingly deserted village and a single Goblinplant, already rooted and producing minions. Now knowing a bit more about the plant-creature, they deal with it and its goblins swiftly. Just as the last goblin is pierced by Ilu’s crossbow bolt, a blaze of white light ignites the sky, dazzling the party. Blinking, they clear their eyes and look up – the comet has ignited, showering flaming rocks across the sky in all directions. The rocks begin to fall on the village, pocking the ground with craters and igniting the buildings. From the craters, strange creatures rise, creatures seemingly made from brilliant, white fire. They advance menacingly on the group.
With no time to rest or recoup, the party steels itself for the onslaught of the elementals. Thinking quickly, Talara tries to throw one into the nearby river, but its intense heat vaporizes the nearby water and it hovers just over the surface. Seeing her surrounded by the fire creatures, Toreil rushes to Talara’s side, harrying her attackers with devastating hit-and-run tactics. Baern calls for the blessings of the goddess to smite the otherworldly intruders, scorching the creatures with holy energy. Meanwhile, Gudrun seems to be having trouble connecting with the fire creatures, her warhammer passing ineffectively through their bodies. Ilu scores the first kill, a sure thrust with her spear piercing the heart of the creature, its body collapsing into a heap of coal dust. The party steadily hacks its way through the elementals, one after another falling and turning to dust.
The last of the elementals dispatched, the party is grateful for a break. Suddenly, Baern hears a bout of coughing from a nearby building. He rushes inside the flaming house, searching for the source of the noise. “If anyone is in here, come to my voice!” he calls out, raising his normally soft-spoken tone to be heard above the crackling flames. “I can’t!” a tiny voice calls back. Sehanine blesses his vision and he sees a small foot sticking out from underneath the bed. “There’s someone still in here!” he calls out.
Talara also enters the burning building, while “HE WHO DOES NOT NAME HIS CHARACTERS” heals the badly-injured Toreil and Ilu. Gudrun makes her way to the collapsed home, looking for survivors. After only a moment’s pause, Toriel races to another home, bursting through the door. A young man is collapsed in a corner, a terrible gash on his head and his legs trapped by a fallen beam. “I need some help! Someone is stuck in here!” Toreil cries out, bringing Ilu to his side. Ilu’s keen eyes spot that the beam is supporting a section of the wall that will collapse if the beam is simply moved. Toreil shores up the wall with a hoe and a pitchfork, but still, their combined strength isn’t quite enough to shift the beam. After a cursory glance in a third building, “http://www.behindthename.com/random/ USE IT” joins to help the trio free the trapped villager. To the south, Talara drags the scared youngster out from under the bed and she and Baern sprint from the burning house.
Once in the clear, Baern revives the child and tends to the young man’s wounds. Though grievously wounded, the man will survive. The party brings the wounded back to Unkard. Triage has been set up in the Field of Pelor, now back under the control of the militia. The young man is tended to, and a Matron of Pelor takes the young boy away until his family comes to claim him.
They proceed to meet Borin, currently swamped by various militia members and others who have lent their skills to the defense of Unkard. All demand payment, and Borin is frazzled trying to sort through the honest and the pretenders. Fortunately he recognizes party and pays them each 50 gold, though Baern requests materials for divine rituals instead of the currency. Borin is grateful, as the calamity is stretching Unkard’s coffers.
Just as they are collecting their payment, Queen Katrionna storms out of the main Council Chambers. Gliding smoothly down the stairs, she is followed hotly by Bryce the Game, hollering that she won’t get away with such treachery. Alden the Dark follows a short time afterwards, looking pensive. As the commotion dies down, a herald mounts the stairs. “Devastation is sweeping through our lands. Our armies are spread too thin to investigate every occurrence. We need volunteers to investigate the extent of the damage and control the creatures that have appeared.” Baern looks around to those who have risked his life with him. Kasake whines and give a sharp bark. Ilu smiles and strokes the wolf’s head. “We’re in.” Toreil nods in agreement “The wilds must be protected.” “As must the people,” Talara adds. Gudrun and “XXX” agree.
The herald looks pleased at the group’s quick volunteering. “Ah, most excellent, We have early reports from three places: Glenn’s Dale, in Vertland; Sweetclover, in Redwater; and Gustav’s Pass in Fauchard. You’re the first to volunteer, so you have first choice.”
After a quick bit of deliberation, they choose to go to Gustav’s Pass, to secure the road for any refugees that may be fleeing the fires from the sky.