At the peak of its time, the Gorrakis Stronghold was armed with a battalion of soldiers. Its keep rose hundreds of feet high, and held conference for a great number of historic meetings. Its parapets lined with archers, its barracks filled with swordsmen, and its stables filled with knights, Gorrakis was an impregnable fortress, a safe-haven for merchants, farmers and travelers from distant lands. This, however, is not the peak of its time. Long are the days since the stronghold has been of any importance. The walls have crumbled, the buildings lie in ruin, and the name Gorrakis is now known by only a handful of historians. It is, as far as anyone is concerned, unimportant and abandoned. Yet tonight is unlike most nights, and lights flicker inside a ruined citadel, bringing life once more to Gorrakis.
It is early into the night, and Elias Blackthorne has spent far too many hours patrolling the roads along the great forest of Aelthindaar, keeping an eye on the trade caravans passing by. He itches as his scruffy beard constantly. The farmers of the area have come to rely on Elias, for as a ranger, he would do anything in his power to make certain they keep free from harm. This night has proven quiet, and as Elias prepares to set up camp his attention is drawn towards the ruins of the citadel, where small lights are flickering in the distance. It might be nothing, but he decides to go investigate.
Winifred, Saena of Kangar and Boba Rumblerock have traveled together for two days without rest. They have luckily not drawn attention from many unsavoury creatures. However, their five day trip to the city of Malkara, Boba’s hometown, has not been an easy one, and all three are eager for some rest. Winifred reties her short, black hair back into its ponytail, while Saena wipes the sweat from her brow with her thick gloves. Boba’s feet are covered in dirt, and his stomach rumbles loudly; for him especially, it’s been a long trip. In the distance, they see what was once a very large building, and head towards it to make camp for the night. As they make their way inside, they hear raised voices and begin to see shadows moving across the torch-lit floor.
One of these shadows is Shyama Songsteel. She hides in the dark corners of the room, shrouded by navy and black armour, her cloak pulled up to cover her face. Unless you were lucky, and saw the glint of yellowish eyes or the faint reflection of a silver necklace, you would never know she was there. It’s been four days she’s been tracking this band of slavers. She creeps out from the shadows, unsheathing her shortsword, preparing to strike.
Elias rounds a corner, spiked-shield leading his way, just in time to catch a glimpse of a female Tiefling spring from the shadows and slit the throat of a surly-looking man. It’s dark inside, only a few torches providing any light, and chaos has broken loose. The remaining slavers, for Elias can see at least seven slaves shackled in the centre of the room, have started towards the young girl. Raising his longsword, he charges in towards the fight. From the other side of the room, Winifred, Saena and Boba have watched the same events unfold, and head towards the action.
In the citadel’s basement, the strange duo of Corrin and Spooks stare blankly at a giant metal claw. It once belonged to a mighty golem, constructed to help the architects in Gorrakis create the many buildings which lay within the stronghold. Now it lies disarmed from the rest of the golem, with hundreds of years worth of dust and cobwebs covering it. Corrin holds his torch up, illuminating a near-empty room, laden with broken columns and old useless equipment. A loud crash from above shakes the two out of their haze. Spooks, holding his appearance of a common smoke-grey cat, bounds up the stairs to the upper level, while Corrin runs as fast as his short legs will allow, trying to keep up.
Where once a party of slavers had been, none now remain. The air holds the smell of blood, steel, fire and electricity. The floor is littered with bodies, some cut open and bleeding, others charred to a crisp. Shyama grabs a tattered piece of cloth from the ground, and wipes the blood from her blades, as Elias leans down to examine the corpses. Corrin searches the bodies, looking to loosen the slavers of their now-unneeded coin purses, as Boba heads to the centre of the room to attend to the slaves. Saena and Winifred search the bodies to find keys, and unshackle the former slaves. Spooks stares at everyone curiously.
While the slaves, two different families by the looks of it, begin hugging each other and thanking their deities for saving them, our seven heroes make a crude circle, and begin to eye one another. Shyama begins to question everyone, though remains thankful for their assistance in what had been a ten-to-one fight against her moments before. Introductions are made, and all seven decide they should help the slaves return to their homes in a small fishing village east of Malkara. Not wanting these newfound allies to go to waste, Spooks and Corrin convince the others to help them dig out the claw, and return it to Malkara on their way to the fishing town.
The claw is returned to Professor Leoben Haring at the Malkara Gallery of Historical Artefacts for a moderate reward. Much to the chagrin of Spooks and Corrin, the money is split amongst all seven, rather than the two of them. The group of adventurers and the rescued slaves use the money to fill themselves with a glorious meal and a round of drinks, the first decent meal most have had in weeks. The next morning, they continue on to the slaves’ village.
The seven travelers have bonded over the past few days. After returning the former slaves to their hometown, they get word of a colony of slavers holding many, many slaves. The camp is also holding a vast amount of riches, which peaks the interest of a few of them. Shyama, completely distraught by the news, adamantly insists that the party continues working together to go free these slaves.
They have been advancing for four days now. En route to the slavers’ camp, they stumble upon a caravan under attack by small, sharp-toothed creatures. They managed to save the caravan, and one of its members, a young bard named Philip Brightsong, wrote a song about the party with the help of Boba. Winifred was shocked to find out the song did not even mention her, but was instead about the heroic deeds of the group’s two feline members.
The following night, the weather took a turn for the worse, and the party was faced with a torrential downpour. They sought shelter in a cave, which had been inhabited by a goblin hunting party. Despite Corrin’s best efforts to keep things civil, the goblins were all killed. Young Saena had charged in, whipped off her pirate’s hat, and lit up the camp with bolt after bolt of electricity. After a scolding from Boba, who was opposed to the unnecessary bloodshed, the group began working on a way to bury the goblins at his insistence. They waited the rest of the storm inside the cave, and continued north in the morning.
The full week of travel towards the gathering of slavers has finally finished. It is not a small gathering, as the party was expecting, but rather an entire market for slaves, filled with buyers, slavers and many pirates of Rilador. The camp is protected by magical wards, and various groups of people are arriving by convoy, magic carpet, or are teleporting straight inside the camp. All who approach the camp present identification, and an invitation allowing them in.
The adventurers debate on a way to get in. Spooks wants to storm the camp and light the tents ablaze with his fiery breath. Saena and Winifred, due to their involvement with the Rilador, wish to find another way to deal with the slavers. Corrin and Shyama begin planning out how they can manage to sneak inside the market to get some more information. Elias finally suggests they spend a couple days and do some reconnaissance, and everyone agrees.
After two days of scoping out the slave market, our group has moved on to a different plan. The camp holds upwards of a dozen mages, over twenty guards, and various other slavers, mercenaries and unknown shady characters, a force clearly overpowering the small band. With his knowledge of geography, Elias finds a spot in the forest near one of the roads leading away from the camp where the adventurers have a distinct tactical advantage, in hopes to ambush a group leaving with newly purchased slaves. A wagon containing five people, three in the tattered clothes of slaves, being pulled by two conjured horses, approaches the group’s hiding spot. The two purchasers of the slaves surrender without a fight, and undergo interrogation about why they were purchasing slaves.
They are servants to a midlevel Malkara noblewoman, one Lady Galina, who (as far as they’re aware) has purchased the slaves so they can be freed. The leader of the two servants, a major-domo to the house of Galina, is insulted at being ambushed and having their motives questioned. The party accompanies them back towards Malkara, their progress increased significantly because of the cart. They find out more information about Galina, whose husband is the leader of a merchant guild in Malkara, dealing chiefly in stone, and trading with the halflings who live beneath the sea.
A half day trip from Malkara, along a trade route with lots of camp sites along the road, the adventurers, the servants and the slaves stop to camp for the night. Boba takes it upon himself to take first watch. He stares up to the star-filled sky, thinking of new melodies to write, but stays alert to what is around him. A rumble brings him to attention, this time not from his stomach, and he peers over to the wagon as a massive earwig-looking beast breaks free from under their campfire. Boba yells for his party to awaken.
Standing over ten feet tall, with razor-sharp incisors dripping in acid, foot long mandibles, an armoured carapace and over a dozen legs, the beast leans down to the wagon and takes a large bite out of one of the slaves. Emerging quickly from his sleep, Spooks opens up with a cone of fiery breath, igniting the night sky and the giant earwig in flame. Even after the fire has subsided, the beast is encased in wisps of flame, and is now an easily visible target for the arising warriors.
Winifred dodges the monster’s tail as she approaches with both handax flying, but the attack ricochets off the beast’s armoured carapace. Shyama unsheathes her weapons and runs in to attack. The sky is again lit, as Saena, red hair being whipped around in the wind, blasts the creature with lightning, which also passes through and explodes a nearby tree. Boba readies his Doom spell, but it has no effect. Elias, who started the fight nearest to the earwig, begins slashing at it with his sword, scoring a devastating hit and slicing off one of the creature’s mandibles, causing the beast to cry out in agony. The grass nearby begins to burn away with dripping acid, and several members of the group move back to avoid getting scorched.
After avoiding most of Corrin’s fiery blast, the giant earwig makes an attempt to burrow back down under the earth and retreat. Boba hits one final shot with his sword before the earwig can finish burrowing, but it manages to escape. The air holds a hint of the beast’s volatile stench, as everything becomes silent and darkness once again takes over.