Leaving behind Tanis, the party gave their farewells to the Blackthorns so as to continue their journey towards the Druids’ forest and the Eladrin spire, Shae Loralyndar.
Along the way, they easily dispatched a nest of harpies before finally arriving at Grimstone Citadel, intending to spend the night at the House Tharashk allied town. The local Lord, Neera the Mad, was a Tiefling sorceress who, despite having a predilection for torture and outright brutality, was perhaps not nearly as mad as she let on.
At the gate, they were met by guards who, having heard of Morocco’s reputation, wished for him to demonstrate his barbarian ways. Unamused, Morocco let them know in no uncertain terms what he thought of their demands. They let the party pass without further word.
Just past the gates, they noticed some carnival style tents, apparently a gnomish troupe come to entertain the local populace. Being very tired after their long journey, the party wished nothing more than to simply move past and offer Meera their courtesies before retiring to their beds.
As much as Atrius would have preferred his presence to remain unnoticed, the sight of one of the feyborn Eladrin outside ones of their spires was certainly a curiosity. After a few words, Meera eagerly offered a challenge to the party: One of their own versus one of hers in exchange for a recently captured spy if accusations held true.
Said prisoner was in terrible shape and would likely not have survived another night in her care.
The rules were simple: Whoever of the two champions was still left standing would do what he wished with the prisoner. Giovanni volunteered to step into the ring. His opponent: a massive Half-Ogre with a mean disposition.
While Giovanni held his own at the start, it became quickly apparent that the half-ogre’s sheer size and strength were keeping the human fighter in a disadvantageous defensive footing. Atrius and Morocco needed to quickly find some ways of turning the tables. In other words, they had to cheat without getting caught.
Meanwhile, the human prisoner, damn near exhaustion, had just enough remaining willpower to distract the half-ogre through a few well timed cantrips. Atrius quickly caught that, and also caught the goblin referee eying the prisoner suspiciously. He gestured angrily to the prisoner to stop lest he be caught and summarily executed (possibly with the rest of the group), but when he gave no indication of wishing to slow down, Atrius moved alongside the goblin to attempt some distractions. Including stepping on his foot with an audible crunch of bones snapping.
Morocco decided he needed to distract Meera as well … with his tongue in her mouth. What ensued could only be described as a demi-human orgy that no one outside of the greenskin races should ever have to bare witness to. There is a reason why half-ogres never feature prominently in romantic tales as protagonists.
As Giovanni’s blade spilled the blood of the half-ogre amidst the latter’s death cries, the prisoner moved from where he had crawled to during the fight to threaten Meera with a dagger to her neck. The whole room went silent as Atrius and Morocco gently pulled him away from her. Meera advised the party, through gritted teeth, that the prisoner was theirs as part of their deal, but should he ever step into her domain again, he would be killed the moment he was past the gate.
In their rooms, Atrius quietly but sternly had a chat with their new party member, a wizard by the name of Victor Hellgrave, regarding the virtues of restraint and working as a team. As it turned out, the wizard was indeed a spy from Aundair.
The following morning, as the party was departing the citadel, Giovanni noticed one the gnomish entertainers watching the group. Giovanni and Morocco decided to go have a chat with the gnomes while Atrius and Victor remained just outside earshot to discuss their individual goals.
Atrius’ misgivings aside, Morocco was intrigued by the gnomish act, and what they may be hiding, and invited them to travel alongside the party for the remainder of the day. That night, in exchange for some silver, the troupe performed for the four of them. By the time they woke up the next morning, the troupe was gone. No items were discovered stolen.
On the edge of the great forest, a loud explosion was heard, not unlike the sound of thunder. The group ran towards the source of the blast to investigate. They discovered their way blocked by a shallow ravine dense with brush and thicket.
With only a thin tree trunk to use, no one held any delusions as to their ability to safely cross over it, so the group felt it best to simply chop their way through the brush. As it turned out, small insect and lizard like abominations lay in wait and jumped them as they crossed.
The krutiks (Pat, is that the correct spelling?) proved an easy challenge for the group who ripped them apart with barely a scratch despite their numbers. After a few days of proper sleep, Victor’s area of effect bursts proved invaluable against the weaker critters.
Arriving at the source of the blast, the party came upon a graveyard where they discovered some sort of portal and an unconscious and dying young woman with a dagger in her chest. Victor ascertained that the portal connected this world to the nightmare realm, brought about by some ritual in that very spot. Unfortunately, it was impossible to close without the original scroll, a small corner of which the girl clutched firmly in her hand.
After stabilizing the strange girl, the group carried her to the nearby village, only to find it under attack by creatures of nightmare. Two hulking 4 armed blue skinned demons came running at the party. While Giovanni held them at bay, Morocco finally did demonstrate his barbarianesque ways. In a fit of rage, several well placed swings utterly gutted the first demon, and the subsequent charge wounded the next. The latter demon remained virtually locked in place through the efforts of the party’s defender and the icy rays of Victor’s magic.
Just when the heroes felt that they had just won another easy fight, the master appeared: A shadowy winged demon that was virtually impossible to hit due to it’s irritating ability to pop in and out of invisibility and strike unseen. The party managed to get a few lucky cuts here and there, slowly whittling it away until finally, as the demon flew over the group to flank the wizard, Atrius’ running leap planted his greatspear through the demon’s chest and into the ground, ending it’s short lived attempt at otherwordly glory.
After the adventure (Pat’s email cause I feel like being lazy at this point):
Upon searching the bodies of the nightmarish creature and its lackeys, you find a roughly cut yellowish gemstone (topaz, worth 100 gp) and aged, battered crown. Upon inspection, it seems to have some spidery writing inside in a language you cannot identify. Victor is certain that the crown radiates magic. You also find on the body of the nightmarish creature the scroll used to open the portal, with the corner missing from where it was torn from the woman you found.
Wrapping up the adventure
Victor uses the ritual on the scroll to close the portal to the Realm of Nightmares (Victor, you can also inscribe the ritual “Seal Portal (4th level)” in your spell book). When the woman becomes coherent, you manage to piece (at least part of) the story together from her.
The woman’s name is Redra. Her mother, Kirstal, spent twenty years suffering from the same nightmare in which she was attacked by the weird nightmarish creature you vanquished. The creature always said the same thing before attacking her “She must not live!”. When Redra was 13, her mother succumbed to the nightmare and committed suicide. Three years later, Redra began having the same nightmares. She has been suffering them for ten years.
Although not a wizard, she learned enough about magic (more specific ritual magic) to identify the sort of ritual that would be necessary to open a portal to the realm of nightmares. She managed to get her hands on the right ritual and deciphered how to cast it. She went to the graveyard to cast it in the hopes that her mother’s grave would give her additional strength. She intended to confront the nightmare with a cudgel and a dagger, but fell to the dagger wielding foulspawn before the nightmare even escaped. The nightmare stopped just long enough to tear the ritual from her hand before continuing on to the village.