…the Golden Scales (or the Band of the Raven)…
…seeks to free the oppressed peoples of the world.
Raven, on the other hand, is a much simpler man: He seeks only The Tools of Zane’s Vengeance, that he might use them to extract his own vengeance on the shadar-kai arms dealer who asked him to create Wicked Fang — Sharshan.
Zane himself appears nightly in his dreams, as if the long-dead shaman has singled him out to use the set of equipment Zane assembled to exact his own vengeance. And Zane is telling him in his dreams that Obanar knows the location of the totem which might complete the set.
Zane seems to believe that the totem has come to be in the horde of a dragon named Urthix. And Obanar may know where Urthix’s cave is. It seems the adamantine dragon has laired in a location far from the Underdark.
Deciding to approach the village of the Torrians openly, the party selected one of the captured lion-men and untied him. He seemed more reasonable the rest and less susceptible to the “whispers” which the others seemed tormented by. When they got to the village, they were greeted by an older Torrian who seemed willing to speak as a leader: “I am Gruthow. Who are you?”
When the man she knew as Raven approached Magdalene about finding Obanar, Maggie realized now neatly this fit into her own plans. She had been hoping to convince the council in Overlook to send two champions to Argent to help Obanar. She was quite sure that Raven and Drake the Enforcer would wear the Silver Cloaks with honor. Since they are both associated with The Order of the Black Feather and the Raven Queen, their service will reflect well on the goddess of death as some one who had come to the aid of Overlook.
This should promote Maggie’s efforts to raise the profile of the Raven Queen’s Temple in Overlook. So, she pointed Raven and his fellow revenant toward a ritual caster she knew who could send them to Argent. Eventually, she decided to go along herself to help slay the dragon whose horde Zane had convinced Raven contains the grisly totem he seeks.
Elyas declined their invitation to join in the dragon-slaying, when they invited him. So, Maggie stepped through the Argent Portal right behind Raven and Drake. Obanar showed them he had be researching Urthix because adamantine dragons are not usually found far from their kingdoms far below the earth in the Underdark. He was curious because he had just been told by a band of adventurers that the Torrians who had once served Argent were now residing near where Urthix was rumored to be laired: a place called the Sheltered Woods.
He told them he knew of a teleportation circle near the dragon’s lair. In fact, he had just sent Maggie’s friends to that very circle of stones deep in the Wood.
Gruthow and the rest of the Torrians listened to the members of the Golden Scales with great intensity. Grigore was particularly impressive as he introduced the group and Alexander Winterforged followed up with his usual combination of bombast and theatricality. The Torrians seemed more impressed than Alexander’s usual audiences among the dwarves. Garen Bladerun stumbled a bit, but Copper exceeded himself to reassure the Torrians. And Sam ended with a flourish that obviously impressed Gruthow who asked, “Why have you come to this place? Why do you bring back memories of distant times?”
When Raven, Maggie and appeared in the stone circle, they could help but notice the smoke rising from the cooking fires of a small village on the other side of the river. But their destination lay in the opposite direction: Obanar had scried the lair of an adamantine dragon in a cave up in the hills. Raven believed the dragon was none other than Urthix, whose horde contained a totem of great value to any shaman who wielded the other Tools of Zane’s Vengeance.
They made their way into the dragon’s lair, where they found the dragon on his pile of treasure. Raven noticed that the treasure was far smaller than adamantine dragons were rumored to possess, but he attributed that to the fact that this dragon commanded no kingdom in the Underdark, populated by kobolds and troglodytes who could dig up treasures for him.
Raven demanded the totem, but the dragon’s refusal puzzled him. Sure, he had expected the denial, but it carried none of the haughty pride which all dragons were supposed to share. Indeed, Urthix had a curiously submissive air about him: slumped shoulders and down-cast eyes.
Raven noticed that Maggie did not seem to be picking up on the strangeness of the dragon’s demeanor. Drake, of course, seemed utterly unaware of anything un-Drake-like in nature and was blustering his usual bluster about “this” (which, it seemed to Raven, the other revenant seemed to mistake for another word for sword).
Alexander jumped in with another long-winded peroration which seemed to affect the Torrians better than it affected the rest of the Golden Scales. But Samwise was able to follow up with a brilliant effort to put the rune-priest’s abstract notions into perspective. Copper and Garen fumbled their historical references a bit, but Grigore was able to tie it all in to the current situation by referencing what he had learned about the Torrian’s own history. Reading the crowd, Garen got the sense the Torrians were deeply frightened. As a dragonborn, the paladin is used to evoking this kind of emotion in other. But this time he could tell the Torrians were not afraid of him or the other members of the Golden Scales. They were constantly shifting their eyes from side to side as though looking for something or waiting for something to happen. Gruthow suddenly grew tense, as though every muscle in his body turned to steel. An uncharacteristic smile spread across his face and he began talking in a higher, more shrill voice: "Champions, huh? They’ll let anyone wear those dusty old cloaks these days, won’t they? Tell me, is old Obanar, that weakling wizard, still alive?
When Raven called for them to jockey for position, Magdalene was reminded of something Sam once told her, “For Drake, jockeying for position consists of going up and smashing his opponents in the face.”
One thing Drake’s direct tactics did, however, was take up the attention of Urthix. Using this opportunity, Maggie was able to work her way around behind the dragon while Raven concentrated on healing Drake and getting off the occasional shot at the dragon. Raven was also able to manifest his companion spirit on the other side of the dragon, providing even further distraction.
Unfortunatelly, the dragon had distractions of his own: a large number of suicidal demonic manifestations were hanging around the shadows, willing to swoop in at a moment’s notice and attack Raven and Maggie while the dragon concentrated on the revenant before him.
But Maggie’s positional advantage was destroyed when the real demon coalesced out of those same shadow. Apparently this was the source of the manifestations. This demon seemed to be sorely wounded, however, and Maggie seized her opportunity.
“if there’s one thing I hate more than a prideful dragon,” she cried, “it is a prideful demon!”
Then she launched the newest version of an attack the others had seen before: Assassin’s Strike. The demon fell dead at her feet just as the rest of the Golden Scales arrived.
The dragon’s countenance immediately changed. His posture straightened, and he turned to Magdalene, bowing, “Thank you for releasing me from my humiliating bondage. As a reward I leave you all my meager treasure.”
Most of the party raced to the treasure. Raven found his totem, but the eyeballs which hung from it were too dry and dessicated for the shaman’s taste. He immediately began to gouge out the eyes of the demon’s head (which Maggie had forcefully removed from his body as she killed him).
Then they fell to squabbling: First over the treasure (which Maggie thought should go to the Temple of the Raven Queen for distribution to the people of Overlook who had suffered losses in the war) and then over the name of the group (which Maggie felt should be changed to “Band of the Raven”)
With no arcanists among their group, the party was unable to determine the kind of demon Physandros was, but they could tell he was manipulative and obsessive. Sam was even able to tell he is evil and possibly insane, unwilling to give up control easily: “The Torrians are mine!” he shrieked. “I will destroy them before I let you release them from my will! Hear me well and understand, you arrogant gnats. I am Physandros, and I am power beyond your feeble understanding.”
Leaving Raven and Drake to take up the Silver Cloaks of the Champions of Argent on behalf of the city of Overlook, the party asked Obanar to return them to that very city. Once back in the city of the dwarves, the party broke up over insistences:
- Alexander Winterforge insisted on repairing his heirloom hammer. But he offended several dwarves by insisting that “any city worthy of the name should contain at least one ritual caster who knows the Make Whole ritual.” The dwarves, of course, could see no value in a ritual whose purpose was something any good dwarven smith could manage in a much more artful manner. Eventually he settled on a smith in The Forgeworks who promised him a quick turnaround on the repair of his broken hammer.
- Magdalene insisted on distributing most of the gold from dragon’s horde to the victims of the recent war. She was able to recruit Elyas in this effort as the invoker is eager to raise the standing of the Temple of Erathis in Overlook.
- Grigore Goldforge insisted on visiting his family.
“Daddy, daddy, I saw a butterfly!” his daughter screamed as she leaped into his welcoming arms. Then she confessed to him that she had not always believed his stories about butterflies when she was back in Gloomwrought.
She admitted that she liked his stories about thing with fanciful names like “butterflies” and “faeries,” but she thought they were just pretend to make her feel better in the constant gloom of the Shadowfell.
“But Jerath is a faerie!” she exclaimed with glee before growing more serious. “Only he’s the bad kind of faerie.”
“Yes, Jerath is a drow,, sometimes known as a dark elf.” Grigore explained.
“But how can Jerath be the dark kind of faerie?” his daughter asked. “He’s so nice!”
Rather than explain the intricacies of Jerath’s relationship to the rest of the drow, Grigore decided to voice his own concerns about Jerath: “Honey, I want you to be careful around Jerath. Don’t trust him.”
Coppershot was unable to heal the Torrian whose body seemed to be the one that Physandros was currently occupying while Sam and Grigore failed in their diplomatic overtures toward the other Torrians. Alexander was able to pray up a storm, but his success with the gods was not enough to overcome the failings of his fellows. Physandros seemed to grow stronger with each failure: “Your weakness is evident! You are not worthy even to bow in my presence, let alone challenge me. I would not accept you as a blood sacrifice, you pathetic dredges!” Physandros shrieked as he send forth a wave of dark energy, which sapped the staying power of those in the party with less endurance. The tide of battle turned when Copper tried to heal another of the Torrians. While Sam and Grigore still struggled with further with their diplomatic efforts, Garen joined Copper in healing the Torrians while Alexander help up his successful praying. The combination of prayer and healing actually seemed to hurt Physandros: “Why would you want to hurt me like that?” shrieked the shrill voice from yet another Torrian. “I am Physandros!” Once Sam and Grigore switched to healing, Garen decided to try healing the Physandros himself and discovered that healing a demon can actually damage it.
The High Council of Overlook has a insistent message of their own. While Magdalene has not yet successfully installed Amyria in the vacant spot on the council, she is working extensively with them. So, it was not surprising they chose her to contact the most reliable of the adventuring groups they have lately recruited.
She found them at the Temple of Erathis. Strangely enough, there were looking for her as well. She told the Council of Elders was urgently seeking their help. Amyria led the Golden Scales to High Hall and a welcome which was less brusque than some of their previous encounters with the council.
“Greetings, friends,” said Elder Cadrick as they approached the dais. "We have received a desperate message from Megan Swiftblade, leader of the Freeriders. The Freeriders have discovered that General Zitheruun had a powerful ally in his recent attack on the city. Although she does not identify this ally in her massage, Megan has already survived three attempts on her life and fears that more will follow. If we help her, she has promised to tell us who was ultimately behind the war, hopefully in time to prevent another war.
“Again, we find ourselves in need of aid, and again we call upon you. Travel to the village of Talar and find out what Megan knows. Keep her safe, neutralize any immediate threat to her, and then return her to us. Once she again feels safe.”
Further questions by the adventurers revealed the following information:
- The village of Talar, where Megan was born, lies outside the city of Brindol.
- Though Megan does not know who is behind the attacks against her, she believes it to be the ally she is threatening to name.
- Megan’s message to the council makes no mention of where she is staying, saying only that they should leave a message for her at the village’s Green Dragon tavern.
Soon, Physandros was defeated. A dark cloud of malevolence rose out of the collected Torrians and roiled above them. “You hurt me!” cried the voice of Physandros from the dark cloud. “I shall never forget this injury, this insult. I shall find you one day, and I shall make you pay” With that the cloud drifted northward, into the hills, deeper into the forest. The Torrians came out of their trance and warned the party that Physandros had gone to get a pet dragon he kept enslaved in a nearby cave.
Remembering that Belinda had once shown them a portal outside Brindol, Grigore led the heroes to the Temple of Erathis in The Divine Knot. Elyas was able to teleport them to Brindol. They made their way from Brindol to Talar where they found the Green Dragon tavern, hoping to get a good night’s sleep before Megan contacted them.
Their evening revere was shattered, however, when an earthquake struck. Desperately trying to get the terrified villagers out of the building before it collapsed, several party members were unable to leap to safely when the floor collapsed. While Copper joked about staying down in the cellar “where the beer is,” he and other members of the Golden Scales attempted to use acrobatic skills they didn’t have to leap back to the main floor rather than aiding the party members who were trying to pull them up with ropes.
As a result of this miscalculation, the heroes were barely able to get out of the tavern with their lives before it collapsed. After the collapse they lost valuable time digging trapped villagers from the wreckage of the Green Dragon (not to mention their own supplies).
Once they had a chance to look around, Grigore saw that the vibrant village of Talar had been reduced to ruins: Flames leaped high into the air, silhouetting huddled survivors against the heaped mounds of rubble that were once their homes.
Many of the buildings in the area were partially collapsed and fires were spreading through the ruins. Grigore heard a terrified screaming in the distance along the main track. That’s where he led the party as villagers ran past, a dark shape oozing down the street behind them.
When he could finally see where the screaming was coming from, Grigore was overwhelmed by the sight:
A viscous purple-red tide was flowing into Talar, pouring out from a low, craggy hill at the edge of the village. A tower of mottled stone stood atop the hill, the ooze flowing out through a hole blasted out beneath it. Where twin arms of the flow had circled a collapsed house, fire suddenly flared, trapping a terrified and heavily pregnant woman on an adjacent wagon.
Staring at the pregnant woman, Grigore could not help but think of his own daughter’s words, earlier in the day: “Daddy, daddy, I saw a butterfly!”
And he knew what he had to do.