Esvele's Chambers

The Steel Vanguard rested below the grinding gulf until Willow awoke from her drow induced slumber. Willow began complaining that the party dispatched the 2 lizards for no reason and complained so much that the entire party wish she had silence cast over her. The next morning they proceeded to enter into the double doors with the faces of woman on them, determining that these were the faces of Shar. Inside they found 2 mezzoloths, demonic creatures of insectoid nature. These creatures were backed up by three worshippers of Shar. The battled raged The prince in his usual manner charged in to combat one of the demons while the remainder of the party struggled with the other. When he neared the beast he noticed 3 followers heading toward the party from the hallway. Brylyn informed the party of this through the iron dragon rings. Dace stepped in tossing a fireball down the hall causing the mountain to shake from the immence power of the spell. The prince then was struck by the beast and returned the favor with a vicious slash of his sword causing the demon to be banished to his own plane. Brylyn moved down the hallway and engaged the 3 cronies and with minimal help the rest were dispatched. During the battle Riki was backstabbed by an undead shade. The shade creature went back into the room from behind a curtain. Willow followed him and found a large worshipping chamber dedicated to Shar. Also a large demonic creature loomed there as well and the group fought its way inside.

Eventually the party overcame the demon and the undead creature; they found a side chamber that happened to house Esvele’s belongings. She was not present but they found a letter written to her as well as a silver music box engraved with her name.
From there they ascending the stair case and returned the set of double doors they had not yet journeyed through. Inside they found an ancient chamber with many sculptures and as they entered they found a side room with three resting individuals. One female shade greeted them and told them her name was Irsomething. She spoke with them at length about the chamber and that her group had been fighting the drow from down below and were searching the tunnels for a magical gate. The group had heard enough and blatantly attacked her. She shadow jumped out of the room and her two minions had to fend for themselves. One fell to the Steel Vanguard and the other went invisible and teleported from the chamber.

Tomb of Magic

When the group approached the tomb, Willow had Pinecone wait outside where it was safer. Also, a Wizard came from Brylynn’s homeland and brought a gift from his mother, the queen. They were rings for everyone that were similar to Cormyr’s Purple Dragon Rings, but these were made of Cold Iron – instead of brass and were inscribed with the Steel Vanguards seal of the Iron Dragon. It allowed the wearers to communicate telepathically, cast light, and detect poison. The wizard named Eragon offered his services to the Prince and he accepted it gratefully. (Services O.o lol) The vanguard entered the cave to find double doors blocking their path. Rikimaru found a small tunnel leading around the doors, but it was blocked with a large boulder that wouldn’t budge. Finally Willow lockpicked the double doors and they went through the entrance of the tomb. The first room was square and lined with multiple sarcophagus’.

Willow stepped in to check for traps when all of the sudden a large serpentine creature came down from the ceiling. The Prince charged in and attacked the creature. The beast bit the Prince and immediately coiled around him. The large creature began constricting and crushing the Prince. The rest of the group sprung into action and with everyone’s combined strength, they were able to get the Prince out of the clutches of the nasty creature. Willow walked up to the next set of double doors and found a magical trap on them. She told everyone she was going to deactivate it. Of course, everyone of little faith took to the ground or hid behind cover. As the Prince and Durzo hit the dirt, they noticed a soft patch in the ground and told Willow to wait. They dug at the soft patch and found two treasure chests filled with gold, a wand, and a necklace. When that was done they resumed their positions as Willow attempted to deactivate the trap. Unfortunately, she set off the trap and even though everyone tried to take cover, they were all caught in it anyway (except for Riki who took the initiative and stepped out of the room entirely. Electricity surged through the floor and everyone was shocked. Thankfully no one was severely hurt so the group continued on.

They had to pass through a long hallway so Willow walked ahead and searched for traps. She unfortunately overlooked a pit trap and fell right in. The trap reset, but the group ran over and manged to lock the pitfall cover into an open position. They looked down to see Willow 60 ft. below struggling to swim. They attempted to cast levitate on her, but it didn’t work. Then they through down a rope, but for some reason she couldn’t hold onto it. Just then Brylynn heard the thoughts of Willow through the telepathy of the Iron Dragon Ring. He could hear her think of agonizing pain and not drowning. He decided to disbelieve the sight of her wading water and in turn saw through the illusion before him. She was actually only 15 ft. down and impaled on spikes…. because thats so much better…sigh. She wriggled off of the spikes and they pulled her out of the pit. They then crossed the trap and she unlocked the next door.

They entered a room that seemed to be an riddled with weaponry, armor, and trophies. A few suits of armor stoood up right on stands and swords were hung decoratively across the walls. One sword in particular caught the eye of Arahntu. As the rest of the group spread out, she walked up to the display of a pristine falchion set upright under constantly flowing sand. The sand ran down the blade and the hilt, then it was swallowed, by a small portal that seemed to feed it over the top of this majestic falchion once again. She reached in and pulled out the falchion. Just then the armor around the room came to life and two flanked Orrin who was near the next doorway by himself. The vanguard worked to fight off the magical suits of armor. Durzo and Orrin fell unconscious but were soon brought back into the battle from Illyn’s healing. Arahntu took the falchion and struck a critical blow onto a set of armor. As she did, the head immediately came off as the severed edges seemed to burn. She wasn’t aware, but it seemed to be some type of powerful magic in the weapon. The group stopped the other armors and regrouped to heal up and the new wizard identified the Arahntu’s sword as the famed Khet-ra’ib also known as The Desert Wind.

The next room was a sight to behold. There was a massive 60 ft. long and 200 ft. deep crater between the group and the other side. Over the crater was massive boulder that seem to float in mid-air. Crashing and colliding with each other. Orin was able to dimension door the Prince, Illyn, and himself over the crater with no problem, but it left Rikimaru, Willow, Arahntu, and Eragon with the difficult task of finding their own way across. It took a bit of time, but they saw through some illusion magic that hid a door off to the side. The door led to a stairwell that went to the bottom of the crater. They would have to go down and hope to meet up with Brylynn, Illyn, and Orrin at the other end.

When they reached the bottom they saw a large set of double doors and out in front of them there was 2 riding lizards tied off to poles. Willow had never seen such neat creatures and she wanted to head over to see if she could befriend them. As she stepped out into the bulk of the crater bottom she was hit with two crossbow bolts. They didn’t seem to hurt that much but she could feel something seeping into her blood. She managed to shake it off and saw a small number of Drow who stepped out from behind the rocks that were scattered across the ground. Riki and Arahntu moved as fast as they could across the rough terrain to combat the evil drow. Eragon stepped into position to ready a fireball. He dropped a fireball on a few drow and managed to penetrate their spell resistances. Willow took another crossbow bolt and began to break out into a cold sweat. Her speech slurred a bit, but she kept her composure. She shot her bow and killed one of the drow, before she was hit by a fourth bolt and dropped to the ground unconcious. The rest of them managed to kill the remaining drow just as Orrin, Brylynn, and Illyn came down a stairwell on the other side of the cavern. It seemed they had missed the fun.

Willow lay comatose and they knew it would be quite some time before she regained consciousness. They saw the riding lizards Willow had mentioned earlier and decided to approach them to see what was in their saddle packs. The creatures were obviously scared of the people who had just killed their owners, but Riki and Arahntu paid no mind to that. The Lizards snapped at the two and even managed to bite Riki’s one good hand as he had reached in. The two Vanguard members immediately turned violent and killed the two lizards who were tied down and unable to escape. (That’s a group of supposed do-gooders for ya. Psssh) The group decided, after the, got done looting the bodies like a bunch of vultures, to rest so that Willow would be awake when they decide to move forward. The set up camp and the large double doors and watched them. It won’t be long until they complete their objective and get out of this tomb of tricks.

Castles will fall

The group headed down the staircase and came to a large room lined with crates of supplies. Each crate was filled with different types of weaponry, armor, and basic general goods. The group noticed two doors to their left in the room. They opened the first door to find a room that had a large tabled in the middle of it. On the surrounding walls were shackles and different types of torture devices. It seemed some twisted individuals got enjoyment out of holding their meetings in the presence of torture and suffering. On the back wall of the room was multiple doors that appeared to be cell doors. The group opened each doors looking for a sign of life in these cramped cells. They did find a man in one of the cells. His hair was a silvery sheen and he had small horns that protruded from the top of his forehead. He told them his name was Falconhand and the horns were from his fey-touched bloodline. He had been captured far away and brought through what seemed to be a portal. The group thought it best to request his help in finding the portal and to gear him with the equipment that lay in the other room. They brought him out and decided to check the second door off of the supply room while Falconhand geared up.

This room was dingy and dusty. It contained many items that would be of no use to the group; however, they noticed a rug that gleamed with magic and it happened to have a magical longsword wrapped inside of it. They were able to identify the rug as a Carpet of Flying, but the sword seemed almost too powerful to read. The best they could do was identify the symbol on the hilt as the symbol of Tyr. The longsword radiated with a magical, almost divine, light. The group had no one who honestly used a longsword so they decided to loan it to Falconhand to protect himself. They expected it back when they would part ways and they hoped to learn more about the sword as Falconhand used it.

They head back out into the supply room and began down a long hallway that lay at the other end of the room. Willow stealthily moved ahead and turned into one of the two doorways down the hall. Inside what appeared to be bedroom chambers, she saw a large ogre decked out in black armor who appeared to be giving orders to two very brutish looking humans. Willow took the opportunity to fire off an arrow at the ogre. It hit him and initiated hectic combat as the group flowed in to engage the 3 enemies. Willow used the confusion to fire multiple arrows at the ogre and eventually took him down before he could do any major harm. The two barbarian humans were easily dispatched by the rest of the group. The group then searched the chambers. The most notible piece of furniture was a bookcase with a glass front that was locked. Willow attempted to open it and set off a trap inside the lock. It shot a poison dart in her that quickly began draining her of her life. Illyn managed to neutralize the lethal poison and remove any ailment the poison had created. They then opened the case to find the history of their kingdom of Shaar Haven, as well as, dossiers on every member of the steel vanguard. It was apparent that someone has been doing their homework on each of the members history. They would need to deal with this quickly if they didn’t want the wrong person to begin stacking the cards against them.

They left the chambers and headed to the door at the end of the hallway. Inside was a large chapel room that was lined with religious statues. In the middle of the room was a barbed devil that had two skeleton lackies and at the altar was an orc cleric who began unusual conjurations as the vanguard entered the room. The vanguard sprung into action with the Prince leading the charge. Prince Brylynn stood toe-to-toe with the wretched devil and began to exchange blows. The skeletons were easily dispatched by a couple of the other members. The devil dropped multiple Fireballs on the group and many of them took heavy damage. Things especially looked bleak as the Prince received an infernal wound that began to fester on his body, but he managed to overcome its plague with the power of his lay on hands. Rikimaru snuck behind the orc in order to deal a heavy blow, but he was immediately stricken with blindness by the orc. The group then overcame the devil and it disappeared back to the infernal plain. They charged the remaining orc. The orc cast invisibility and disappeared. Willow stood guard at the entrance while the others searched around for any hidden exits. They found one behind the drapes of the altar and it led to the small room that had the portal.

The group decided it would take too long to get a strong enough wizard to seal the portal so Illyn stone shaped the around the portal to insure nothing got through. Then the group stepped outside and used the Lyre of Building to take down the entire castle. There was nothing left of the horrid castle when Illyn finished playing the Lyre. Falconhand planned on returning home and requested to hold onto the Longsword of Tyr. He even said that the sword spoke to him and told him that’s what it desired. Well far be it from the steel vanguard to deny a possible nutty man his wish so they agreed to let him take it. The group rested and planned their next move. Willow mentioned to the group she felt something coming from the woods and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. She decided to briefly go out and try to identify the unusual feeling she was getting. After a couple of hour she returned with a bouncy little companion. Willow had given him the name Pinecone and stated that it seems she had developed some sort of empathetic link with the little leaf leshy. With a new little companion in tow the group set out for the Cave that housed the tomb of Alkizar. It would be a two day venture, but they were going to try and make it there as soon as possible. Hopefully they won’t be too late in stopping whatever evil lurks in the tomb.

Storm the Castle Korg

The group thought it best to have Lord Valis and Orrin escort the surviving villagers to Irongate. Once the two had departed with the villagers the remaining group members discussed which location they should strike first. Castle Korg seemed like their closest and best option. It lay on the outskirts of Olegtown isolated from any watchful eyes.

They approached the Castle from a distance and stopped briefly to scout out the surroundings. It appeared that the castle itself was unfinished and the owners were utilizing slave labor to build the castle. People were shackled together as two headed giants with fiery whips struck them repeatedly. The castle was surrounded by a moat and the only passage across was a small makeshift bridge in the front. A patrol circled the outside of the castle at varying distances, it consisted of a number of Gnolls armed with various weaponry.

The group planned to let the patrol come close as they hid behind the CREST of the horizon. Once close, Willow would step out and garner their attention, and lure them over the crest for an ambush…. It didn’t exactly go that way. Willow stepped over the hill and waved at the gnolls. The gnolls immediately responded with three arrows, but before Willow could fall back behind the hill the Steel Vanguard began charging over the hill at the beasts. Glorious combat ensued that lasted quite some time. The Steel Vanguard strategically dispatched the gnolls one-by-one; however, the combat had not gone unnoticed from the castle and off in the distance the group could see large black hounds with green eyes charging their location. It wasn’t long before the Shadow Mastiffs joined the fight and all hell broke loose. The hounds very presence stirred fear in the hearts of a few group members. So much so, that Arahntu panicked, dropped her weapons, and began running off into the distance. Many would call that retreating like a coward, but I’m sure if you ask the alcoholic cavalier she’ll tell you that it was a “Strategic Withdrawal”.

Willow was shaken by the presence of the evil beasts, but somehow managed to keep her composure and begin destroying the creatures with her UBER HOLY BOW! Then something tragic (and sorta funny) happened. One of the evil creatures lunged at Rikimaru and bit off one of his arms at the elbow. No one knew a ninja could scream like that, but he was definitely feeling the loss of limb. Just then a fiery dog appeared that looked like he had come from the depths of hell! Although that creatures presence was intimidating as well, his presence was also short lived. The group instantly focused on the beast and slayed him. After they had destroyed the rest of the foul beasts, they gathered their strength and decided to make a full on charge of the castle.

Prince Brylynn was anxious to get to the castle and yelled “Shadow Powers Activate”. With that, a shadow casted over his figure and charged toward the castle with tremendous speed. The rest of the group tried to follow as fast as they could and even Arahntu had returned from her brief “Strategic Withdrawal” to join the charge. Rikimaru seperated from the group and decided to take an alternate route into the castle. He cast invisible and silence on himself and leapt across the moat in front of the castle. As he jumped across he felt as though he was breaching a barrier of negative energy and having his life force stripped away. When he made it to the otherside, he was almost completely drained and had felt as weak as he had the day he started being a ninja. The group was unaware of his situation but noticed a small ripple of light in front of the castle and the outline of a one-armed man for a brief moment. They knew that couldn’t be good.

The Prince was the first to cross the bridge into the castle. He was greeted by two large stone golems who delivered healthy blows to the resilient prince. Prince Brylynn stood his ground until the other vanguard members arrived. Durzo stepped into the castle, but before he could deliver any real damage, he fumbled and stunned himself. The group battled the golems as the rest of the enemies watched from a short distance. The enemies waiting to strike were two giant slave drivers, a group of gnolls, a man in a dark cloak, and another very intimidating man in a breast plate who seemed to call out orders. The Vanguard was uncertain why the group of enemies just waited and watched, perhaps because they thought the golems would be enough. Either way the golems were eventually destroyed and the bold Prince Brylynn charge the group of gnolls surrounding the man in the breastplate. It was at that moment the group realized why the enemies had not moved, because the Prince immediately fell into a hidden pit-trap full of poison tipped pikes. Prince Brylynn was shaken, but not stirred! He immediately knew what to do. Prince Brylynn pulled out a small obsidian figurine and said a small chant. The figurine grew into a large obsidian steed that he mounted and magically flew out of the pit trap.

Both group watched in awe, because no one had seen this magical horse before. The man in dark robes didn’t hesitate and tried to dispel the magical steed. At first the steed trembled a bit, but the steed brushed it off and continued to fly. The Prince laughed at the robed man’s futile attempts, gave him the middle finger of Torm, and then did an aerial charge at the man. Though when the Prince got in close, the robed man struck out at the horse with his staff. When he did, he critically wounded the magical steed and it disappeared. The Prince then fell prone in front of the Robed man and one of the slave driving two-headed giants. Just then Rikimaru, THE AMAZING ONE-ARMED NINJA, popped out of the shadows behind the man in robe and struck a blow from behind. Unfortunately, the strike wasn’t enough and Riki ended up getting struck down by the two enemies. Now the Prince laid prone and Riki laid prone and dying in front of the two enemies. Things did not look good and the remaining Vanguard members had to act fast. Willow planted her feet and aimed her bow at the one calling the shots, the man in the breast plate. She let loose the righteous power of Chauntea and struck the man down before he even had time to draw his sword. Meanwhile, Illyn and Arahntu fended of the small group of gnolls now charging at them. Illyn did his best to keep Riki and Brylynn alive with heals from a distance but it became difficult with the giant and robed man striking at the two. Willow turned the sights of Chauntea’s will over to the two evil beings standing over her Prince. She struck both of them down with her mighty bow! The remaining foes were easy and the group destroyed them with no problem.

They then began to search a few of the inner rooms of the castle. Many just seemed to be the living quarters of the enemies that we’re outside. They did, however, find a magical Lyre of Building which would explain how the castle was erected so quickly, before anyone could really take notice of the work. The group continued deeper into Castle Korg, no knowing what kind of evil awaits them next.

Friend or Foe

The group escorted the remaining prisoners out of the Plane of Shadows. Once that was done, they had someone stand guard at the portal within Shaarhaven until they could get a strong enough wizard to destroy it. It took a little while but they eventually found a wizard who could destroy the portal for a considerable sum of money. Not wanting to tap into the kingdom treasury, the group pulled their gold together to pay the wizard and was finally rid of the accursed portal. One thing that weighed heavy on the group’s minds was the unfinished letter from Ethar that stated the cultists true intentions was something more devious than what was on the surface. Their true goals could only be found in the “Book of Black” and yet the group could not find any such book in the Plane of Shadows. One couldn’t help but ask, “Was the evil really over and their plans truly foiled?” The answer was to come sooner than they would realize.

Time passed after the closure of the portal and the group continued to build their kingdom. One day the Steel Vanguard received a letter requesting their presence at the Temple of Chauntea from Jhod Kavken. They were wary from the unusual urgency of the letter, but they headed to the temple in due haste. Their they found Jhod disheveled and relieved that the group had shown. He spoke of tragic dreams and visions that had been plaguing him recently. He said they we’re of the evil that would be wreaking havoc in Shaar Haven soon. Many thought that Jhod might be scheming behind their back or playing some evil trick, but they could sense the sincerity in his words.

Jhod had a request, he wished for the group to enact one particular vision he has had. In the vision the group stood within the shallow pond in front of the Temple of Chauntea. He was uncertain of its relevance, but he knew it must have some sort of meaning. Willow was the only one who was happy to oblige his request (Helps that the same pond healed her eye many moons earlier). The rest of the group was hesitant to fulfill his request, but thought it would be in the best interest of the kingdom if some evil was truly rearing its head at their kingdom. They stepped in and all were overwhelmed by a vision. Before them stood a fair complected woman with bright silvery hair. She wore a white wispy dress that was covered with designs of grain and wheat. As she opened her mouth to speak, her soft soothing voice induced a warm feeling amongst the listeners. She was in fact the avatar of the goddess Chauntea, who wished to relay a message to the group of adventurers. She said-

“Evil is beginning to swell in Olegstown north of the capital. There are villians there working in the shadows that wish to bring an end to Shaar Haven and perhaps even the world. The lady of loss, Shar, has brought together the worshippers of Cyric and Bane to help her beegin an Unwinding of the Weave. You must journey to three places: the Castle Korg to stop their reenforcements, the Crypt of Alzakair to stop Shar’s ritual and look to the lands below to gain entrance to the Turning Tower, but beware the shadowdark drow. Please go and stop those who wish to do everyone harm. My sisters and I will lend you a few pieces of equipment to aid you in your future battles. We will bestow upon you a cloak, a bow, and a staff. Now please end their evil.”

The group awoke lying face up in the pond. Jhod had only witnessed their convulsions and not the image of Chauntea. He approached them confused and asked what had happened. They informed him of what they had seen and heard. As they spoke they noticed three items in the water of the pond. It was in fact the three items Chauntea had mentioned. Upon identifying the abilities of each item, the group gave the items to the individuals who would benefit the most. The Harvester Bow went to Willow, the cloak to the prince and the staff would go the prince’s loyal companion ’eragorn".

The group stopped by the capital to pick up Lord Valis and made their way towards Olegstown. Half way their they noticed smoke coming from a small town off the side of the road. They ran theere quickly and found the town was being pillaged by Giants and Briggans. The group ran up to find many of the villagers lying injured or dead amongst the pathways in the village. It didn’t take but a moment for the pillagers to notice the Vanguard’s presence and charge at them. The group made short work of the pillagers and managed to take a particularly vile archer into custody. He was very uncooperative and Rikimaru though it best if he take him into a small shed for interrogation…alone. The group agreed and it didn’t take long for Riki to get the information he needed. Riki opened the door to the shack and told everyone the interrogation was over. Orrin immediately took it as his queue to end the miserable pillager. He yelled out " Fireballs coming, Get Away". Riki was surprised by what he said and barely escaped Orrin’s fireball as it came down on the shed, killing the last pillager.

The group was shocked by Orrin’s actions (Rikimaru in particular). The Prince stated it was out of line and their was no excuse for killing an unarmed man. The prince agreed to let it go this time only if Orrin shows repentance, to which Orrin agreed to do. Although not everyone noticed, but Rikimaru was not able to forgive so easily almost being caught in a fireball. He forgoed his anger for the moment and informed the group of some very disturbing news. He said the pillager informed him that they were told to ransack the village by Oleg. Many could not believe it, but Riki reassured them that he sensed the pillager was telling the truth. It would seem that they will need to be careful on who they trust when they enter Olegstown. Could Oleg be the mastermind behind the evil or is he just another pawn caught in a truly evil individual’s twisted game. Time will tell soon enough.

A Stroll through the Shadows

The group readied themselves for the venture into the dark portal to search for the kidnapped magic users. As they were about to cross over they heard the clashing of swords in the courtyard outside the room. They venture out to find a red-haired female rogue crossing blades with the kobolds who had guided the steel vanguard to this location. Being the sleazy little kobolds they are, the tribe had decided to stage an ambush for the group to take the fort for themselves. This plan had apparently been thwarted by the female warrior who had entered behind them. She quickly dispatched the kobolds with precise and graceful attacks. The group couldnt help but notice that her hands emitted the same eerie shadows that would seep out of Rikimaru on occassion. When she was done the group approached her and thanked her for taking care of the trap that the kobolds were setting. The red-haired vixen went by the name of Yastera “Blackhands” Menanoand she wished to speak with Rikimaru in private. The group was not sure what to think, but since she had stopped the kobolds and Rikimaru was a trusted ally, they agreed to return back inside while Riki and Yastera spoke privately.

A few minutes passed and Yastera left once their business was concluded. Rikimaru returned inside and the group crossed over through the shadow orb. The room they appeared in was identical to the one they had just left; however, the room was caked in dark shadows and the lights around them seemed smothered by the darkness. They noticed large iron doors that had not been in the prior version of the room, so the group decided to proceed through them. Once through they found themselves face-to-face with a large multi-armed humanoid cat that was readying his tools to filet another prisoner for dinner. The large room had corpses and human body parts scattered all around and even had a few hanging from the ceiling like a cow carcass.

The steel Vanguard immediately jumped into action and attacked the large beast. Thankfully the beast seemed to lack hand eye coordination to land any attacks with his multiple arms. After a few moments, and a sharp beating, the creature realized he was no match and surrendered to the group. He said he was once free and content, but recently had been captured and forced to do the bidding of the dark spellcasters that roamed this fortress. Understanding the strentgh of the Vanguard, the creature wished to help the group fight the evil menaces that had captured him. The Prince sensed the sincerity in the creatures voice and agreed to spare his life.

The Vanguard then had the creature wait until they were ready to go outside and do battle with the guards. They found two letters in one clerics armor from a person named Esvele Graycastle that read:

Dear Kithlord Thieraven

My Mistress cannot break the bargain that tied your people’s souls to Her holy realm, but I guarantee that Her plans are successful, you will have a home on Faerun where your kind will not feel the curse’s effects. The Swamp should make a perfect base for your people to gather and establish a true presence in the world. None will suspect it, and no prying eyes will detect it besides a few small tribes that you can slaughter or subjugate, as you see fit. Success in this endeavor will turn lead to other successes, and in due time your kind will have many places where you can live without fear of losing your souls.

As always, She grants you access to the Shadow Weave, and I offer more training in its use. We urge you to convince more of your kind to accept this gift. You have already seen its benefit, and in the coming months and the years afterward, your people will come to knows its total power.

signed Esvele Graycastle

And another letter that read:

Dear Despayer,

The Lady of Loss has seen your devotion and will reward it. I send you Thieraven, who brought you this letter. He carries the means to open the Dusk Passage once again, and thereby provide you with a glorious new home and the means to our mutual ends.

When you have passed through the Passage, you will find yourself in a reflection of the keep. From there another of Thieraven’s race, a shadar-kai, will lead you to the Black Rift. I eagerly await you there, we have much to discuss.

Keep your secrets safe. Their weight will one day bring the Mysteries to an end.

signed Esvele Graycastle

With this knowledge they began searching any adjacent rooms in due haste. One room was a Priory where Willow noticed another letter sitting on a desk. She picked it up and began to read it. It was from a person within the clerics that was investigating the spell casters true goals and intent. He was fairly certain that all on the surface was not as it seemed and that their true goal would be found in the “Book of Black”. The letter went on to read that the writer was unsuccessful at finding the book and would continue his search. Willow couldn’t help but notice the note seemed unfinished as is the writer was interrupted.

Ethar’s Unfinished Letter
Most honored Watchful Skull, Blackwill Aklore,

Greetings from your bloody hand, Skull Servant Ethar. As expected, the Sharrans hide their secrets well, but I did discover something that might lead us to understanding their ultimate plan. We aid them in their ritual to create a rift in the weave and a dead magic zone over the Shaarhaven Swamp. Obviously, this is to their advantage as only shadow magic works within these spaces, but claiming the swamp as a base of operations seems foolish. This incongruity has bothered me, and I prayed to the Black Sun to grant me knowledge of their plans. I received no vision, but while living here in a ruined temple on the plane of Shadow I discovered the a writing that spoke of their secret, praise be Cyric.

It seems the Sharrans have a prophecy that has seemed to appear to be quite accurate to the history we have so far witnessed of late. This Prophecy has apparently been penned by the Lost Sage- Augathra the Mad! The “Book of Black” might just explain more and tell us what the Sharrans truly plan.

I could not find more writings despite my week of searching. I made subtle inquiries with the Sharrans and Despayr. Despayr seemed to know nothing, but with his kind, its always hard to tell. The other Sharrans said they did not know what I meant, and talked about the Prophecy with wariness in their postures. I think we need to find this Book of Black and

She turned to relay what she had found to the rest of the group, but they had left her behind and continued searching (As usual, no one pays attention to the Dryad). She decided to stuff the note in her bag and tell them later. The next room was a ransacked library. Most of the books were gone and the remainder were thrown about. Willow gave a quick once over for the “Book of Black”, but it was not there.

The group decided now would be the time to cross swords with the enemy once again. They stormed out into the courtyard with the multi-armed creature in tow. They quickly slaughtered the guards in the courtyard. Once finished they asked the creature to stay and atch the portal while they look for the kidnapped casters. Looking off into the distance they could see a line of small huts that sat upon large pillars in a canyon. The pillars were connected by strands of wooden bridges. They decided to search across those bridges.

They began crossing the bridge to the first hut. Upon approaching the first hut they were greeted by shadowy dogs whose heads were nothing but a mouth and a tongue. One dog shot his barbed tongue out at Willow, instantly paralyzing her with his saliva and then dragging her quickly into his mouth to chew. The group appeared to have decided to attack the other dog since the initial dog would be pre-occupied with his new Fey Chew toy. They made quick work of the animals and then had to wait several minutes for the paralytic poison to wear off on Willow. The hut on this pillar was empty.

Upon reaching the next hut, the group found a large iron golem sitting inside. The golem attacked the group, flailing his arms in a circular motion and dealing heavy damage. The group managed to take the golem down, but it did prove a greater task than the dogs. This hut again proved to be empty of clues or kidnapped casters.

They crossed the bridge to the next hut. Inside this hut was what appeared to be an anti-paladin who did not take kindly to his unannounced guests. A battle immediately ensued and the group had great difficulty landing any strong blows on the enemy. Willow noticed this and thought she might be able to make the fight easier by using one of her newly acquired spell like abilities “Deep Slumber”. Being her first time using the spell, she did not realize that it was a radius spell that would attack her group as well as her enemies, fortunately the only one to succomb to its power was Arahntu who is used to spending time on her back spread phoenix (tee-hee). The group finally managed to deaeat the anti-paladin and began searching the hut. They found what appeared to be a clarvoiyant mirror which could peer into other room. Through the mirror they saw a group of shadow cloaked individuals gathered in a room. They were unable to tell what the figures were doing or why they were there. Getting no real clue from the mirror, the group decided to press on once again.

This time the hut was carved into the side of the canyon. The bridge sidled up against the wall of the canyon. Willow entered first and found people trapped in jail cells.She walked into help, but before she could walk a step further a mindflayer in the corner of the room stunned her with telepathy. Durzo entered to find the depressing scene and went for the mindflayer. The drow also, fell the same fate as his fey group member. As the rest of the steel vanguard entered they began to get stunned by the mindflayer one-by-one. They did manage to butt the mindflayer up between the cells and Orrin Silverthorn attempted to strike the creature with a lightning bolt through the cell. Unfortunately, the mindflayer resisted his spell and all he accomplished was creating a large hole in one of the prisoners chest. The entire group fell stunned at the feet of the mindflayer and were certain their fate was sealed.

The group awoke and hour later within the jail cells and stripped of their gear. The females and males were in seperate cells across from each other. Willow, apparently does not handle being trapped within metal bars very well, because as soon as she awoke she began mouthing off to the mindflayer. The mindflayer didn’t pay much mind and continued on with his regular duties. Just then a large black dragon peeked his head through the door and began discussing something with the mindflayer in a whispering tone. Willow immediately jumped up and began asking who the dragon was…(Against everyones wishes, who told her to sit down and be quiet). She could not resist asking who he was. In hesitation the Dragon responded “Despayr” and that he was an unfathomable power to the likes of the lowly light dwellers. e told the dryad to be quiet lest there be reprocussions. She refused and just as she did, Despayr the Black Dragon spewed a corrosive blast of negative energy into the room. The steel vanguard and the mindflayer could handle the harsh blast; however, the other prisoners succumbed to its dark power and perished. The group pleaded with the dryad to please be quiet. Just as they thought they had gotten through to Willow, she said one more thing to the mindflayer “Hey, tell your dragon friend Gesundheit!” Arahntu immediately began swinging at Willow in an attempt to knock her out. To her dismay, the dryad appeared to be extremely fast and hard to hit without its armor on. She managed to land one blow and quickly grabbed hold of Willow. The huge amazonian woman began man handling the little dryad and began choking her to the point of unconsciousness. It took a minute, but Willow was out cold again. Now they just had to wait for their opportunity to escape.

The mind flayer left and the group sprang into action. Rikimaru managed to jaunt through the bars using his shadow abilities and went to recover their gear. The gear was stored in one of three magically trapped chests. Riki was uncertain of which one it could be but he knew either way he didnt have his tools to disarm the magical traps. He took a chance and began setting off the traps one-by-one and had Illyn use his Oracle channeling to heal through it. Once all the traps had been sprung, Riki began gathering their gear to distribute amongst the group. The thought eventually hit Riki that the mindflayer would return soon due to the loud commotion of the magical traps. He decided he wouldn’t have time to give the rest of the group their gear and spring them out of jail. He tossed Illyn his divine focus as a parting gift and quickly ran off. The Steel Vanguard would like to say they were surprised by Riki leaving them behind, but this was a long time coming from their shady friend. Couldn’t blame Riki for self preservation, everyone knows the shadow brother dies first. Illyn quickly hid his divine focus under his clothes. Not a moment too soon, because the black dragon returned in a fit of rage. Despayr roared at the small group demanding to know who opened the chests and where that person had gone. By this time Willow had come regained consciousness thank to Illyns channeling during the magical trap springing extravaganza! She immediately began talking nonsense to the dragon and answring his questions with her own questions. Noticing that the dragon was becoming increasingly frustrated Arahntu stepped forward and talked over Willow. She convinced Despayr that the person who ransacked the chests was someone the Vanguard did not know. The was hesitant to believe her, but he didn’t want to waste time as the perpetrator gets further away. The dragon stormed off to search for the individual.

Opportunity # 2 to escape! Illyn used his divine focus to cast stone shape against the wall, which opened a large gap for all the connecting cells. The whole group managed to slip out and re-equip all their gear. There was back and forth between the group about whether to continue or go back and bring reinforcements. The Prince believed there would be no place in Shaar Haven for those who would abandon their mission out of cowardice. He urged The Steel Vanguard to press on and they followed.

After a small window of rest, the group crossed the bridge to the final pillar. Upon this pillar was a risen stage that was the focal point for a sword 40 feet in the air. This sword was tearing a hole in the weave of time and reality itself. The stage was fueled by the many surrounding cages that housed the kidnap magic users. The casters were having the magic power forcefully drained from them; all the while Despayr, the black dragon, watched their lifeblood ebb. Before stepping onto the pillar, Rikimaru appeared out of the shadows. Many seemed surprised that he returned, but did not think to ask why he came back. The group was greeted by a large Dragon’s breath that spread across half the platform. A few of the vanguard were hurt, but none were phased. The battle was fierce as many of the heroes found it difficult to pierce the thick scales of the ferocious dragon. The group surrounded the dragon and although few landed hits on him, the blows that landed dealt heavy damage to the beast! The Steel Vanguard eventually overcame the dragon! Without hesitation Rikimaru threw a grappling hook around the sword (later itedtified as the Maskaarn artifact known as The Stolen of Thieves, Shadowfrost) that was tearing ahole in the fabric of reality. With two sturdy pulls, he ripped it out of the sky and the hole closed up. The group collected the sword, as well as a brooch that the dragon had been wearing. Willow also decided to scale the dragon for future armor use.

The group released the prisoners and decided it’d be best to escort them back out of this realm. They retraced their steps back to the portal. Many contemplated on how they might close the gate to this vile world for good. For now, they would just have to be thankful for their safe return and set someone to guard the portal until it is closed.

Silver Tongues Piercing the Darkness

Now that the temple had been dealt with the group decided to head south and take care of the Giant problem… literally! As they made their way south they eventually came across what appeared to be a Hill Giant rampaging and thrashing through the forest. The trees around him lay crushed and broken.(Willow shed a single tear) as per Prince Brylynn Obarskyr “what doesn’t this creature shed a tear over”. Upon further observation the group realized the Giant was really a lush that was heavily intoxicated on the wine he had created from fermented berries within the region. Prince Brylynn Obarskyr decided to carefully approach the giant and attempt to negotiate, using Durzo as the translator. The giant noticed the groups presence and froze in place, his large crossed-eyes watching in confusion as the puny humanoids walked up to him nonchalantly. He bared no teeth at the adventurers only questions in his slurred giant tongue. Durzo did his best to translate and hold a comprehensible negotiation between the giant, whose name was Munguk, and the Prince (Not that either party had anything intelligent to say). The Prince, however, came to an agreement with the giant. In exchange for a steady monthly supply of alcohol, goat, and government cheese, Munguk would survey the southern parts of the kingdom and destroy any banditry or evil creatures he might come across. The group was apprehensive about striking a deal with the spastic drunken creature. The Prince quelled the apprehension of the group by responding “We can always kill him later, at least we might get some work out of him for now”. So wise were the words of the ruler that the group stood in awe with their mouths hanging open (O.o wtf? He’s a paladin?).

With disaster averted for the moment, the team decided to hunt for the large amount of magic users who had been kidnapped while the Hoax Temple of Mystra was still functioning. They followed a map given to them by a Temple guard who had headed the transit of the kidnapped mages. They followed the trail until they came upon an abandoned shrine that had two unknown occupants sheltering between its walls. Willow took the initiative and approached the two wayward travelers. It was a gnome and a human who claimed to be traders within the south-western regions of Shaar Haven. They were very welcoming of the group and offered many accommodations. The gnome told them of a recent act of banditry that had resulted in the confiscation of their entire stock of goods they normally kept stowed away in a tomb close by. The group offered to acquire the goods and return them to the two merchants.

The vanguard made their way to the tomb and easily dispatched the few bandits that had took hold of the cryptic warehouse. As they rummaged through the goods, it became very apparent that the two traders may be more than they are letting on. The group returned with the goods only to find that the pretend traders had packed up in due haste and ran off. They could only conjecture what the two really were, but it was irrelevant to the task at hand and the goods would be confiscated and utilized until further notice.

Continuing on, the vanguards entered swampy terrain that held an eerie presence about it. They immediately came to a halt when they approached a dead log that was ornately decorated with bones and nomadic jewelry (Willow shed a single tear). It wasn’t long before they came across the gruesome artists that had created the monument. It was a tribe of Lizardfolk who had made their home in the swamp. Again, the Prince wished to practice diplomacy with the inherently evil creatures. Yet again he succeeded in a temporary truce since the Lizardfolk have been plagued as well by the followers of Shar that had been transporting the magic users to a nearby fort. They led the Steel Vanguard to the fort, but did not wish to get anywhere near the vile place.

Rikimaru approached silently and scaled the walls of the fort as the Prince and the rest of the group made their presence known at the front gate. The guards were apparently not in the mood for entertaining guests, because they soon locked the gates and readied their bows on the group. The Prince and Arahntu grabbed hold of the first drop gate and lifted it open with sheer strength. The team rolled underneath and their two beefy compadres soon tumbled under as well. Now there stood a second gate in their way as they while they were trapped within a corridor also known as “the kill box”. Archers fired arrows through slits in the walls of the corridor while the rest of the guards converged on the second gate. For some reason or another, the two beefy vanguard members could not muster up the strength a second time to lift the consequent gate and the group had to bide their time while they attempted again.

As they struggled within the kill box, dodging arrows and taking fireballs, most of the group contemplated their decisions in life up until now. Meanwhile, Rikimaru began to make his way to the gate lever to free his allies from certain doom. The gate itself soon became tattered from the onslaught of magic damage from the enemies. The Prince realized this and mustered his the strength to destroy the gate with his might sword.The group then spread out and tore down the enemies who were overwhelmed by the sheer strength of the Uncaged Steel Vanguard!!!

The group then pushed their way into the inner halls of the fort and found an unusual sight. Within the center of a large room presided an orb of darkness that spread dancing tentacles to all the corners of the room. Two enemies stood before them. A pale looking sorcerer type who seemed to be bathed in the shadows and a humanoid who possessed scales and appeared to be kin to a dragon. Willow lead the charge into the room and lunged at the sorcerer, the rest of the group tread a little more wisely around the shadowy tentacles and made their way to the enemies. The first to succumb to the vanguard’s power was the sorcerer. Once he had been dispatched, Willow recklessly charged the dragon-kin and happened to pass through the shadow orb in the room. The young dryad vanished within the dark veil. The Dragon-kin chuckled as the dryad disappeared. The group dispatched the enemy in due haste in order to assess what had happened.

Meanwhile, Willow realized that although she appeared to be in the same room things were very much different. Her enemies and allies had disappeared and the room was now coated in almost a grey veil. The few lights that flickered in the room seemed to be smothered by the darkness. The doors they had once entered from was replaced by large iron doors that were closed shut. She realized she wasn’t in Shaar Haven anymore and decided to turn around. Thankfully, in the center of this room, presided a bright white orb thats texture seemed to mirror the shadowy orb she had just passed through. She passed through it once more and found herself back in the same room, but now surrounded by her group of allies and the corpses of the fallen foes. She was grateful and elaborated to the group what she had saw.

The group did not wish to believe that a portal existed in their own land that led to another palne of existence. A plane engulfed in shadows and possible evils. They were uncertain how to respond, most wished to close the gate at the cost of the mages whom have already been led into the dark realm. Whatever may happen, one thing is for certain. This matter needed to be handled now, for if this rift were to remain who knows what other atrocities might befall the newly found kingdom of Shaar Haven. The sound, the light, the very air in the room seemed to dissipate under the heavy tension in the room. They all knew the next action they must take.

Cleansing of the Temple

The Steel Vanguard began their journey towards the inner sanctum of the hoax temple of Mystra. Willow stepped through the double doors first and into a large room. The room was decorated in reverance to the evil deity Shar. The room also contained a large podium and behind it stood a battle ready Starweaver Fembrys. Before anyone had time to react, two enemies stepped out of the shadows and flanked Willow, thankfully the sly fey was spry on her feet and managed to avoid any major damage. The group began to dispatch the enemies that continually kept stepping out of the shadows as they made their way to Fembrys at the podium. Just as the group had him surrounded, Fembrys raised an evil looking orb above his head and and released a great energy over the group. Some were able to resist the dark power of the orb; however, Durzo and Prince Brylynn Obarskyr were not so fortunate. The Prince and the Drow turned towards Rikimaru and began to swing at the unwitting ally. Willow attempted to shoot the orb out of Fembrys’ hand to no avail. She then decided to lay waste to him as fast as she could with her arrows. Calling upon the power of Chauntea (The Mad Black Woman) she took insightful shots against Fembrys. As Fembrys took heavy damage, Durzo immediately rushed over to stop Willow. He dealt a heavy blow to the dryad and she took a step back to regain her composure. She then took her last insightful shot on Fembrys and laid him out cold. As he hit the ground the orb rolled across the floor. Rikimaru drew his wakizashi and readied a strong blow to the orb, but Willow ran over and picked up the orb before he could. As she held the orb, the dark powers of Shar attempted to take over the curious fey; however, the deity Shar proved no match for the will power of Chauntea! She overcame the control of the evil orb and consequently it exploded from her sheer will power. Everyone thankfully survived the explosion; however, Willow came very close to joining her beloved Chauntea.

After healing up they entered the next room which was even larger than before. The room was elongated and the opposite end of where they entered was much darker. They entered calling out Orrin’s name which echoed off of the cold obsidian architecture. Instead of hearing their ally respond back to them, they were met by Lady Arthras charging out of the darkness. She ran up to Willow and swung at her with a mace. Thankfully the mace did not make contact, but more enemies stepped out of the darkness and flanked Willow. She kept their attention as the group surrounded the fiends and began disposing them one by one. As the weaponry clashed and echoed in the large hall a hissing noise in the dark went unnoticed. It wasn’t until Illyn turned around and saw black and blue striped snakes the size of humans, did the group realize they had a bit more fighting ahead of them. It took alot of effort to corner the wirey, slithering foes, but the group eventually managed to make strike the snakes down with the edge of their blades. When the serpents were slain the group searched the bodies as well as rooms that lined the long corridor. It appeared that Lady Arthras had the legendary mace, Thunderstrike,and the group was quite lucky she was unable to strike anyone with the powerful artifact. The group decided it would be best to allow Illyn to wield the mace, since it seems like he often finds himself in tight situations.

As the group split to search the remaining doorways in the great sanctum, the Prince and Riki decided to venture into the poorly lit end of the hall. They found what appeared to be shadows weaved into a curtain that hung between two intimidating obsidian statues. The Prince took his sword and attempted to to use his holy might to cut the void curtain down; however, it swung through the shadows leaving the curtain intact. It seemed though that the shadows stretched the length of the sword and touched the hand of the Prince. When this occurred, the skin of Prince Brylynn Obarskyr turned dark gray for a brief moment. The shadows then returned to the curtain and the Prince’s color returned to him. It was apparent that he might be changed in some way, but how is still yet to be seen. The only one to witness this occurrence is also the only other ally who had been touched by the darkness as well, Rikimaru. Neither man breathed a word of what happened when the Vangaurd regrouped in front of the shadow curtains. After investigating the curtains further, they noticed a pile of bones that lay behind the curtains as if many have tried to pass through the draped shadow, with less than successful outcomes. The group wished to no longer fool with the evil draperies and pressed on.

It was then that they came to a very sad sight. They walked up to a single statue, surrounded by torn scriptures and desecrated tomes. The lonely statue appeared to be a woman holding a single glimmering light in her palm. This was the true altar of Mystra defiled by the invading Shar clerics. As the group attempted to move pass the desecrated mess, the pile of scriptures gathered to form a golem creature and another Shar enemy stepped out of the darkness. Both enemies were disposed of with due haste. Before proceeding further, the Prince attempted to pay his respects to the statue of Mystra by touching it with “lay on hands”. When he did so, he was then engulfed for a brief moment in the light of Mystra. The group was not sure what to make of the light, but they didn’t have time to think about it. They proceeded down a stairwell to find Orrin.

As they passed through a dark corridor, they could hear the sounding of running water. When Riki approached the end of the corridor he saw what appeared to be small prison cells surrounding a stream that ran through the middle of the room. It seems that the temple built a connecting water channel that leads from underneath the building to the river. Three guards patrolled the prison chambers, one of which appeared to be leader. One of the cells housed Orrin who was feverishly searching his cell for someway to escape. Earlier he had snapped out of a stupor and just came to realize where he was. It may have been connected to the orb that was destroyed earlier, but he did not lay witness to the deed so was unable to make that connection. The group began sneaking up behind the guards. When Orrin saw the Vanguard he was ecstatic and began motioning to them to get him out. They were going too, but then an all out fight broke out when Riki attempted to sneak attack the leader. Durzo split off from the group and crossed a small bridge to fight a guard on the other side of the room. As he passed over the bridge, he could feel the floor shake and hear the cell bars rattle. Out of the water appeared this large aquatic abomination with multiple mouths and tentacles. Arahntu, Willow, and Illyn took it upon themselves to handle the beast as the others dealt with the guards. Meanwhile Orrin was still in the cell trying to find a way to get out. It finally occurred to him to try and open the door. As it turns out, apparently the guards felt no need to lock the cells for people who are under mind control. Orrin ran over to the prince’s side and tried to join the fray.

The water creature proved to be a handful for the three who were attempting to fight him. The creature managed to grab hold of Illyn with one of its tentacles and drag the cleric underwater. Durzo disposed of the guard and stepped up to the creature, attacking it with a shocking grasp. Unfortunately, electricity was effective on the creature, but also Illyn who was in the water with it. The prince saw the chaos that was ensuing and left the guard leader for Riki to restrain and interrogate. The prince struck the beast with a might blow and it perished. The group then grabbed Illyn out of the water. The heroes went back to the leader and questioned him about what was going on. All he knew was that he would hold initiates captive until he got eight of them. Then, he would gather them in a pontoon boat and send them down the river with a destination marked on the map. Willow had the guard draw her a map and then she transposed it onto her actual map of Shaar Haven.

It wasn’t over, but The Steel Vanguard felt it had done enough to avert the disaster for the moment. They would now need to address the rampaging giant, before they investigate what the Shar clerics were doing with the magic users. The group left the temple only to see that a crowd had gathered around the temple. They asked what had occurred and Arahntu told the crowd that there was evil clerics at play, but they have all been dealt with. Although Willow is a fan of honesty, she believed that telling the crowd all that might cause some unrest among the masses. There was no taking it back though and the crowd would just have to find a way to swallow the difficult information. The group grabbed the rest of their things and went back to the fortress. The heroes are sure to need their rest for what lies next. For there is a giant in the south east of Shaar Haven that needs to be silenced.

Mysterious Mystra Temple

The two cities ( Irongate and Olegtown) of Shaarhaven grow each day, but not all citizens are happy with how the religious faiths are conducting themselves. Tunaster Dranik, a self proclaimed priest of “Mystra” has come to the court of Prince Brylynn Obarskyr astonished at the happenings at a newly raised temple of Mystra. Tunaster states that he entered the temple, jubilant and eager to see fellow clergy in this new city. Only to barely escape with his life, he states that upon his asking to enter into the church that the occupants turned hostile and began to chase him and even fired arrows at him.

He wished the Prince to have the temple investigated, perhaps by the city watch (the Ironguard) or by The Steel Vanguard itself. However, the Prince realized that any undue raid of the temple would cause a stir amongst his people. He decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to allow the Temple to explain its actions. He sent Illyn and Durzo to deliver a summons to the Temple leader, Lady Arthras. They gladly accepted the responsibility and made their way to the Temple.

Upon arriving, the two heroes were met with a surprising amount of guards that surrounded the Temple. Being magic users themselves, they thought it funny that a Temple, especially one with a magic oriented deity, would have employed so many heavily armed guards to patrol a sacred place of worship. They entered the temple and was greeted by a very lively cleric named Shan Thar. The duo explained to Shan Thar that they had a summons requesting Lady Arthras’ presence in front of the council at high noon tomorrow. Shan Thar requested to see the document; however, Durzo and Illyn were very reluctant to hand it to anyone other than Lady Arthras. When this was mentioned to Shan Thar, he apologized and relayed that Lady Arthas was regrettably busy at the moment. Durzo was taken back at how nonchalantly the cleric acted in the presence of the king’s messengers. He then made it very clear that they would not leave until they were able to hand the summons to Lady Arthras herself. Shan Thar wished to oblige them and told them there would be one way to meet Lady Arthras. The two would have to pay 25 gold each and commit themselves to a 3 day ritual to learn the secrets of Mystra. Only then would they have the opportunity to meet Lady Arthras. Shocked by the cleric’s outlandish request the two repeated themselves once more to Shan Thar and made it clear they wished to see the Lady and had no intention of participating in any ritual. The gracious yet stubborn cleric did not waver on his request and told them there might be a possibility of catching the Lady at that evenings service.

Unbeknownst to everyone, Orrin Silverthorn had followed the drow and cleric to the temple and was doing reconnaissance of the surrounding area. He wandered for quite some time until he came to a small house that was on the temple residence. He fiddled with the door and began to hear movement on the other side. He rushed to hide around the corner of the house. As he peered back he saw the head of a guard lean out of the open door. It was obvious that the house was merely guard quarters. Orrin noticed durzo and illyn leaving the temple with frustrated looks on their faces. He thought it best to return with the two and hear about what had happened inside the temple.

The Prince was surprised when he heard the story that was relayed by Durzo and illyn, not so much at the temple’s demeanor, but more at the fact that the two did not have enough foresight just to leave the summons there and settle the disrespect at the future council meeting with Lady Arthas. He then sent a young messenger boy to settle the simple task that two seasoned heroes were unable to do, deliver the damn summons. Arahntu caught wind of what had happened at the earlier summons delivery and decided she would return with the duo to that evening’s temple service. Orrin Silverthorn tagged along out of curiosity. Upon arriving they saw a large gathering of magic users within the temple. They all were there to lay witness to that evening’s service. One exceptionally lively participant in the service was a small gnome by the name of Kevrin the Sorcerer. Kevrin preached heavily the goodness of the almighty Mystra. Shan Thar recognized Durzo and illyn as they entered. The boisterous cleric was very happy to see the two had returned with more people to witness the greatness of Mystra. He then inquired if they had thought over his earlier offer for the three day ritual. They once again refused and stated they were only there to see Lady Arthras. Shan Thar regrettably informed them that the Lady was leading the final ceremony within the inner sanctum for there most recent graduates of the ritual. She would be unable to meet them at this time. The group was immediately frustrated at the cleric. It seemed he enjoyed to do nothing more than play them games them. It was then that Orrin’s curiosity got the best of him, he requested to participate in the ritual. Shan Thar was very pleased and immediately had Orrin follow him to be begin. The group a little surprised by his decision decided to return to the council and let him go through the ritual in order to find out more.

The next day Lady Arthras appeared in front of the council to relay her side of the story. She was accompanied by a dark figure named Starweaver Fembrys and both appeared in full plate armor before the council. When asked about the initial complaint from the cleric of Mystra they had run off, the Lady merely jested about the old cleric’s spryness and disregarded what had happened. She proved to offer nothing in the way of information, she mostly listened to the Prince and gave brief and vague responses to his questions. The prince allowed them to leave, but told the Lady that he wished to visit the Temple on the day of last day of Orrin Silverthorn’s three day ritual. She responded stating that him and his council would be more than welcome to visit and she looked forward to their presence.

In the meantime, a distraught traveler entered Iron Gate requesting an audience with the Marshall Willow (…Texas Ranger). The traveler spoke of a giant that was wreaking havoc in the south east portion of Shaar Haven. When Willow had him point it out on the map, she noted that it was in an unexplored portion of their kingdom that was separated by a river that branched across the land. She understood that the giant would need attention, but she also caught wind of the recent events with the temple. The possible issue on their doorstep took presidence over the problem to the south east. Willow did, however, request additional guards be added to the only bridge that crossed the river leading to the south east. She wished to be informed if the giant moves any further north into the populated portion of Shaar Haven.

It came time for the group to go to the temple. This time they all gathered except for Myrine, who had further diplomatic gatherings with the bordering kingdoms. Rikimaru had returned from a mission and was happy to take her place in assisting the group. They group entered the temple and was instantly greeted by Shan Thar. He began to give a tour of the temple; however, the group began to realize that he was avoiding the door that lead further into the temple. The prince asked why they we’re not being shown what was behind the large double doors, to which the cleric responded that entrance into the inner sanctum would only be allowed to those who participate in the ritual. He then offered for the group to participate in the three day ritual to gain access.

The Steel Vanguard was instantly appalled by the gull of this temple to deny access to the kingdom’s councilman and furthermore give an outlandish ultimatum to the leaders who don’t have the time to deal with a three day ritual. Willow instantly took up hostility with the salesman in cleric garments. She had bigger fish to fry, namely a giant, and didn’t have time for the little mind games he was playing. She walked up to the double doors and prepared to open it with some newly acquired skills. The guards around her and the bowman in the upper balcony immediately took note of the sacrilege she was about to commit, but before another thought could enter their head the Prince reminded them any obstruction they commit on the investigation would be found as treason. Willow found a magical trap on the locked double doors and reached for her tools to disarm it. Only to realize that she had forgot to acquire the tools for her new skills. This only added to the little dryad’s frustration. She immediately grabbed out her rapier and jammed it into the lock. The edge of the rapier broke off in the lock and the trap went off. A fiery pillar engulfed the woodland fey and nearly burnt her to a crisp; however, the dryad had developed enough endurance to withstand such a heavy spell. The cleric of Mystra offered healing, but Willow refused his assistance. At that moment the ceremony inside finished and Orrin was to exit with the rest of the disciples. After a small struggle of opening the jammed door, Orrin exited appearing to be his normal self. The group was glad to have one of their own back and decided they had committed enough property damage for one day. They left the temple and decided to take care of the giant in the morning.

The next morning Orrin Silverthorn had disappeared. They could only surmise that he had returned to the temple during the night. They returned to the temple to look for their wayward friend. As they entered the temple they could feel a more ominous presence that had not been there before. Shan Thar stood there near the doors to the inner sanctum, this time there was no smile to be found on his face. His boisterous demeanor had left him after two days of harassment. He looked at the group and told them that in order to qualm their inquiries Lady Arthras has agreed to allow them entry into the inner sanctum. At that moment his facial features became veiled in darkness and the surrounding guards sprang in for a surprise attack. It was an ambush, one that was long overdue. Within the chaos the Steel Vanguard clashed with guards and followers alike. Amongst the frey was the giddy little gnome Kevrin who was know lost in a violent elemental rage. All enemies fell to the blades of the Vanguard and how sweet it was to destroy that nuisance of a cleric Shan Thar.

Willow disarmed and unlocked the double doors with her new tools. As she slowly pushed the door open, the group could only imagine what what ungodly horrors waited for them on the other side.

Fey in Strife

A couple months has passed since the Steel Vanguard had destroyed the Scythe-tree. During that time the kingdom of Shaarhaven has been growing at a rapid pace. A trade route has been cleared from Oleg’s outpost and Irongate (The Capital City of Shaarhaven). A small town has formed on its own accord around Oleg’s outpost. Eggplant decided that his time amongst the humans was interesting, but was not his original intent when he set out on his adventure. He left the group to seek out his true goal in life…pottery. Though as always fate sees fit to bestow new ties in place of old ones. The Steel Vanguard acquired two new allies to assist in overseeing the kingdom. They are a married couple who are acquaintances of Tiressira and Falcor.

The husband, Orrin Silverthorn, was an elf that seemed very timid. A contrast to the normally boastful nature of elves. The wife was the real sight to behold. A fiery nymph named Myrine who held the normal physical traits of her majestic fey sisters and yet she wielded a large Axe and an even larger attitude. The group at first did not know what to think of the two, especially the battle ready fey. The two eventually won the trust of the group over the short period of time and even earned the Diplomancer title for the kingdom. Although, one is not certain if you find Myrine’s diplomacy through the tenderness of her words or the edge of her axe. Be that as it may, they found a place amongst the group and it soon came time to once again venture out into the uncharted territories of Shaar Haven. The Steel Vanguard decided it be best to leave a few members behind to monitor the kingdoms progress and address and incidents that may occur during the groups absence. The few who would remain were Prince Brylynn Obarskyr, Lord Valis Loredamon, and Durzo.

They first ventured down to the Temple of Chauntea to inform Jhod Kavken that he would be relieved as High Priest. It’s not that his service was incompetent, but rather that a majority of the Steel Vanguard worshipped Torim, so they saw it fit to place Illyn as High Priest (Freaking Politics). The demoted priest would be allowed to remain and rebuild the temple, for freedom of religion would still be first and foremost in this new nation.

The group left the temple and decided to explore some uncharted woodland not far from their location. It was there that an great ambush occurred. While traveling through the woods the Steel Vanguard was surrounded by a barrage of arrows. Thankfully most of the arrows missed, but then a group of bandits appeared from the darkness of the trees and enclosed around the group of heroes. Myrine immediately sprung into action and charged a bandit close by. The rest of the group followed suit, dismounting and joining in the frey. It was then they realized that amongst this group of bandits flew a Nixie. Although she would be a small opponent it was apparent, after the two simultaneous rays of energy, she would be a troublesome opponent. Arahntu chose to stay on her mount and swing at the bandits from above. On her first swing she loss balance on the horse and fell to the ground, instantly stunning herself. (Side Note: This seems to be a constant theme with Arahntu. The group is fairly certain she has a drinking problem, but when they approach her she attributes it to an inner ear infection…Denial)

Myrine’s husband, (What’s his face), ran to his wife’s side to assist her in battle. This left Illyn with only the prone/stunned Arahntu to protect him from two approaching bandits. The stalwart cleric held as best he could but was soon taken down by a magical ray from the Nixie. Willow stood a short distance between the trees from Illyn. She could hear the clanging of metal, the chanting of spells, and the bodies dropping to the ground. She was unable to draw a clear shot with her bow and was at a heavy disadvantage. She dropped her bow and pulled out her battle axe, it was time to prove her worth in a fight and if Myrine could wield and axe, so could she (granted a much smaller one).

Meanwhile, Myrine and her husband were still fighting against the same bandit. It was then they realized that this bandit was not only much stronger than the rest, but also well equipped to fight his most hated enemy…FEY! However, Myrine did not falter, her glistening beauty only matched by her unbridled rage in battle. This drew the attention of the Nixie, and it was then that Myrine began suffering heavy blows from the Nixie’s magical rays. Willow managed to cut down three enemies that stood in her way and found herself knelt over the unconscious body of Illyn. With no healing spells at her disposal she quickly grabbed a cure light wounds potion and jammed it down Illyn’s throat. He thankfully consumed the potion without drowning and was soon back on his feet.

The two stepped out into a small clearing where the remainder of the fight was going on. Arahntu finally had come to her feet and was now trying to swing at the small Nixie who was effortlessly dodging the weapon. Myrine had fallen as her husband attempted to finish the bandit they were fighting. Illyn channeled healing energy and brought his allies back in action. The couple finished the bandit as Arahntu and Willow encircled the Nixie. The nixie obviously felt backed in a corner and the claws came out…Literally! But that didn’t last long. It was then that Willow summoned the power of Chauntea (The Mad Black Woman) and with one powerful swing cut the nixie in half!

The group had definitely felt the effects of the two month down time and that battle did not go as smoothly as they had hoped. In the end, everyone managed to survive and perhaps they may have even found a new respect for each other’s capabilities(ooor they’ll still be jackasses! You Decide!).


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