While the caravan master hustles to get the wagons under the cover of a copse of trees, a group of guards and travelers decides to investigate the town of Greenest. Cutting stealthily across the open pasture around the town are:
Approaching the town
As they approach the town, the group hears a number of voices issuing orders or crying for help, along with what they determine to be the sounds of numerous kobolds. Through the pall of smoke they can make out caped figures directing the kobolds’ movements.
As the group sneaks around the edge of the first cluster of buildings they come to, a wounded man and two children come running from a house, closely followed by a woman carrying a battered shield and a broken spear. The woman stops, turning to face the house, and braces herself as four kobolds burst through the door and two more step around the side of the building.
The adventurers, though hampered by the billowing smoke, make to attack the kobolds. Arandur’s first shot goes wide, but Brant charges in, yelling “Who’s paying me?” and runs through one of the kobolds with his rapier. The other characters have a hard time catching the pesky creatures, who quickly injure Brant and Marcus, who had charged in swinging wildly (much to the kobolds’ apparent amusement). The spear-wielding woman fares better, however, jabbing her weapon through a snickering kobold’s ribcage.
Neesa moves to protect the injured man and the children, healing the stricken Brant and Marcus as she does so; four more kobolds appear from behind the house, though, with two charging and grievously injuring her. The others pull out slings which they cast at their attackers, knocking the woman to the floor.
Khardrash steps out of the smoke and takes a kobold through the eye with his bow, causing its comrades to chitter in shock at being attacked by a fellow draconic creature. Valos and Marcus make quick work of the nearby kobolds then, while Talak, trying and failing to scale a burning house to obtain a better vantage point, channels his frustration into eldritch blasts which reduce the last two kobolds to charred corpses.
Through the smoke
The characters manage to stabilize the stricken woman, who the injured townsman explains is a former adventurer named Linan; he is her husband, Cuth, and the two youngsters are their children. In his injured state, he is unable to carry his wife to the keep, where they had been heading, so Valos graciously offers to bear her there.
The party makes their way stealthily through the town, using burning buildings and smoke for cover. When they pass a group of kobolds looting houses, Brant sneaks around the back of the building and bangs on the walls to distract them from the rest of the party. Unfortunately a human in a long black robe — a Dragon Cultist — sees them and attacks, but the group are able to put him down quickly before he can raise an alarm. Neesa takes the cultist’s cloak and mask.
She is able to put these to good use soon after; wrapping the cloak around her and pulling on the mask, she succeeds in distracting another cultist in the next street, enabling the party to sneak past.
At last the party arrives within sight of the keep, nestled on top of a hill in the center of town. They see a group of six townspeople hiding in some bushes nearby, and a group of cultists heading for the keep entrance ahead. Taking advantage of their position, Brant strikes the cultists in the back, killing one of them. Khardrash then steps up and unleashes a blast of ice, freezing the others in their steps and allowing the group — along with their six new charges — to escape into the keep.
Once inside the keep, the doors are closed behind them, and they hear the attacking forces ringing the hill, chanting and jeering. Arandur decides to wait with the guards in the keep, helping them to repair their patchy, old armor and weapons. The rest of the party is directed to the top of the keep’s tower to meet with Governor Nighthill, the town’s leader, who appraises them of the situation.
The governor asks for three things:
- The safe passage of any townsfolk remaining outside the keep.
- A prisoner that he can interrogate for information on the attack.
- A rescue mission for some townspeople trapped inside the nearby Temple of Chauntea.
Brant and Talak agree to head out and claim prisoners while rescuing people from the temple; they negotiate a rate of 5gp for each useful prisoner they return to the governor.
The group is directed to an old sewer tunnel running under the keep, which lets out at a river nearby. Obtaining keys from the keep’s Castellan, a red-haired shield dwarf named Escobert the Red, they make their way along the tunnel, pausing only briefly as Valos pounds a swarm of rats into the walls.
Among the trees
Opening the grate at the river’s edge, Marcus spies a group of cultists and kobolds scouring the opposite river bank for hiding townsfolk. Brant slips quietly away to the west, away from the temple, and draws the cultists after him while the remainder of the group sneaks eastwards into a copse of trees to the east. Neesa opts to wait inside the tunnel’s mouth to guard it and to help any townsfolk inside and through to the keep.
Brant climbs a tree and, once the cultists have moved past him, somersaults down to slip away quietly and rejoin the group. Unfortunately, the large silvered buckle on his black leather boot catches on a notch in the tree, spilling him sideways to crash through the branches to the ground with a loud noise. The other members of the party hear this, but decide he can take care of himself.
The cultists turn and catch sight of Brant, who runs and just manages to lose them in the trees. He crouches behind a rock, but hears them coming closer, searching the undergrowth. Peering out, he flings a stone through the trees in an effort to lead them on a false trail once more. Luck is with him this time, and a loud crack echoes back as the stone hits squarely on a tree some sixty feet to the west. Taking advantage of the diversion, Brant is able to quietly slip away and rejoin the party.
A draconian gambit
The party spies the Blue Dragon circling the keep, occasionally swooping down to blast the defenders with lightning. Talk’s intuition tells him that this dragon is likely not here out of any particular obligation, and that its heart isn’t really in the fight. He resolves to do something about this.
Borrowing the cultist cloak and mask from Neesa, he puts them on and walks out into the field. Magically enhancing his voice, he calls to the dragon, and attempts to dismiss it. The dragon hangs in front of him, beating its wings, but Talak manages to avoid succumbing to the terrifying presence of the beast. Things seem to be going well, until…
The dragon blasts the patch of grass in front of Talak to ash, singeing the toes of his boots. It turns and swoops back to the keep, and Talak slowly backs away into the protection of the trees.
The rest of the party tell him it’s ok, it happens to everybody at some point.
Shortly thereafter, they hear numerous footfalls ahead of them through the trees— something is coming their way! Brant and Khardrash scuttle up trees to hide, with Valos’ aid, while Talak ducks behind a tree, and Marcus stands firm in the path of the onrushing horde.
Through the underbrush comes crashing a group of six townspeople. They pull up short at the sight of the cleric, but he calms them with a gesture and waves them on. As they pass, a group of six kobolds arrives, hot on the townsfolk’s trail.
Brant swings down from his tree, surprising the kobolds, bloodying two and knocking four to the ground. Khardrash lets loose an arrow from his position in the branches, and one of the standing kobolds takes the arrow in the shoulder. Valor wades in with his hammer, crushing the skull of a prone beast; Marcus crushes two more with his warhammer and mace, and Talak blasts another with eldritch flame. The kobolds attempt to fight back, but are quickly brought low.
The party sends the group of civilians back to the river to find Neesa and the entrance to the keep, while they press on to the temple. There they see a group of cultists attempting to batter down the main doors, another group — complete with two drakes — circles the perimeter, jeering and chanting.
A last, small group piles burning straw against a back door, creating great clouds of thick smoke that threatens to obscure the area completely…