‘The Melting’, Mirtul 13, 1493
It all began with a song. At least that’s what Kilran Tumitis will say when he retells this story in countless taverns and inns across Faerun. Kilran was one of several adventurers hired by the dwarven trader Agran Bronzebuckle to escort his caravan on its way from Athkatla, the capital of Amn, to Scornubel, a major caravan stop along the Trade Way. Kilran was hired for his reputation as a bard, as Agran knew that morale among the caravan crew could make or break a trip. What Agran didn’t realize was that Kilran was also a skilled fighter, with daggers, darts, and crossbow bolts hidden in everything from his boots to his lute.
In addition to the bard, Agran had also hired two hulking Dragonborn paladin brothers named Zephyrian and Varrick, and a half-Elf cleric named Athanius to assist with defending the caravan, as well as tending to any wounded. His last hire was a half-Orc ranger named Hogar, who would act as the forward scout for the caravan, warning of any potential ambushes that might lie in wait.
The first leg of the trip was largely uneventful, with the most treacherous enemy being the muddy rutted road, still wet in places from the heavy rains that always fall during the month of Tarsakh. During those first few weeks, there was little interaction among the hired guards. Kilran attempted to tell a joke to Zephyrian, but he simply grunted in reply and walked off. His brother Varrick apologized and told him, “humor isn’t exactly Zeph’s strong suit”. Athanius the cleric kept mostly to himself, and Hogar the ranger was rarely seen by the caravan except for when he came to report back to Agran. Greenest was the caravan’s first major re-supply stop, and Agran gave the crew the night off.
The group made their way to The Hungry Boar, the town’s main inn, along with a few of the other caravan crew members, Najen and Dedel. Unsurprisingly, it took less than a minute for Kilran to gather a small crowd of townsfolk together for a song (hoping to make a few coins in the process). Something had Kilran on edge, but he couldn’t quite pin down what it was. Years of living on the street as a child had honed his survival instincts, and they were telling him that something was off about this night. He was distracted enough that he actually snapped the string of his lute as he began to play his first song. Fortunately for him, and much to the groups’ surprise, Hogar downed his ale, and made his way over to Kilran with a pan flute in hand. The two played a merry tune called “Raise Another Glass of Cheer”, and soon enough, they had almost the whole tavern singing along with them. Just as the song reached its crescendo, a bright white light suddenly flashed outside, followed immediately by the crack of lightning and the peal of thunder. Everyone in the tavern looked around somewhat confused, as it didn’t seem to be raining. As Hogar and Kilran attempted to get the song going again, another lightning bolt struck somewhere nearby, followed not only by the crack of lightning, but a blood curdling scream, quickly cut off.
The innkeeper, Fallon, went to the door to peer outside and see what was going on. She screamed suddenly and attempted to step back in the room just as a small lizard-like humanoid leapt out from the darkness, knocking her to the ground and stabbing her in the chest repeatedly. The townsfolk inside all began screaming and frantically trying to get away from the door, just as two more kobold piled in through the doorway, and two more crashed in through each of the windows on opposite sides of the tavern.
Kilran acted immediately, striking a horribly dissonant note on his lute, catching the attention of the kobold that had crashed through the nearby window. Locking eyes with the scaly creature, Kilran shouted out a nasty insult in draconic that seemed to completely catch the beast off guard. It clutched its head in apparent pain, giving one of the nearby caravan crew the opportunity to bash it over the head with a chair, snapping its neck. Kilran used his hand crossbow to kill the other kobold with a bolt to the neck. Meanwhile, Hogar had pulled out one of his throwing axes and flung it across the room, cleaving in half the skull of the kobold attacking Fallon. Seeing their ally killed so quickly and efficiently, the two kobolds at the door turned tail and ran back out into the darkness. Athanius ran to Fallon and cast a minor cantrip over her that would stem the flow of blood for a time, giving the kobolds enough time to escape as he carefully peered out of the door to see where they had fled. In the distance he saw more kobolds and several hooded figures running after a small group of villagers. He turned back into the inn just in time to see Zephyrian charge the two remaining kobolds that had come in through the other window, cleaving one in half and wounding the other. Athanius summoned a sacred flame that engulfed the wounded kobold, who screamed “FOR THE DRAGON QUEEN!” as he was consumed by the flames.
Immediately after the last kobold had fallen, the group devised a plan along with the remaining townsfolk and caravan crew to sneak across town to the keep, where they hoped they would find shelter. They constructed a makeshift stretcher to carry the injured Fallon along the way. Just before they left the inn though, a sudden gust of wind buffeted the building, shaking the walls. At the same time, a feeling of dread and fear passed over the inn, and the moonlight outside was briefly eclipsed by a great shadow. No one knew what had just passed by, but they did know they couldn’t wait any longer, so they shook off the dreadful feeling and headed out the back door.
With Hogar scouting ahead, the group managed to avoid any major encounters for the first few blocks, and an expert shot by the ranger eliminated a guard that had stood in their way. The town was in utter chaos, with rooftops burning, hooded figures, mercenaries, and kobolds breaking down doors, and the constant sound of screams and lightning punctuating the night. Many of the figures were carrying sacks and filling them with loot as they went from house to house. The group lost one of the townsfolk, though not to battle, but instead to her own frantic paranoia, as she ran off into the night screaming for her family. At one point the group was almost discovered by a small party of kobolds and cloaked figures, but Athanius used a cantrip to mimic the sound of a door slamming behind them, which sent the kobold and its allies searching in that direction. Soon after though, the group heard the dying screams of someone who had been hiding inside. While Athanius regretted their deaths, he also knew he did what had to be done to save the group.
They had almost made it to the keep when they saw a family of five run across their path, with half a dozen kobolds in pursuit. The woman was wielding a small buckler and spear, and managed to kill two of the kobolds as Kilran shouted in Draconic to distract them while Zephyrian charged into the fray. The group quickly learned what had been causing the strange lightning however, as a massive blue dragon flew overhead, roaring and breathing out a blast of lightning breath at a nearby building. Its mere presence was enough to cause several members of the group to begin cowering uncontrollably in fear. Luckily for them, the dragon did not seem to be interested in them, and the group quickly recovered, slaying the remaining kobolds, despite being abandoned by the halfing caravan member, Dedel. The woman thanked the group for their help, and introduced herself asLinan Swift, and her husband as Cuth, agreeing to lead them to the keep.
They were followed into the next alley by a group of kobolds being commanded by a hooded figure and some sort of mercenary guard, but quickly dispatched them and made it to the final road leading to the keep. As they approached however, they were cut off by three hooded figures and a handful of kobolds. One of the hooded figures was wearing some sort of draconic mask, and he began calmly walking toward the group, drawing a wide-bladed scimitar. The two other hooded figures began firing arrows at the group while the kobolds gleefully charged ahead of the man in the dragon mask. One by one the group killed the kobolds, with Linan charging out ahead and skewering one that had been wounded by Zephyrian. Hogar and Kilran used their bow and crossbow to take out the two distant bowmen, although a sudden bolt of lightning caused Hogar to misfire at one point, shooting an arrow directly into Zephyrian’s back, the force of which was luckily weakened by the shield he had strapped there.
The group was momentarily surprised to see Dedel emerge from an alleyway with a sack over his shoulder, but they barely had enough time to register who it was before the masked man swiftly decapitated him with hardly a thought. He then turned his attention to Linan, using both hands to bring his scimitar down with a mighty blow that the woman attempted to block with her buckler. Unfortunately, the strike was so powerful that it shattered the shield, slicing clean through her wrist to remove her hand completely. As she fell to the ground screaming, Zephyrian swung wildly with his greatsword, but the man deftly leaned back to avoid the strike, the blade passing within an inch of his body. Athanius used the momentary distraction to call upon his god and fire a bolt of lightning at the masked man, scoring a direct hit in the chest, scorching a whole through his chainmail and charring the flesh below. He then charged in with his warhammer and swung a mighty blow against the stunned man’s head, shattering his mask and breaking nearly every bone in that side of his face. As he lay dying however, he chuckled, looking up at Athanius, and sputtered out one last warning: “You know what’s coming cleric. I can see it in your eyes. The Cult of the Dragon is rising. The Dragon Queen is coming for you all…”
Hogar screamed that the group had to go, as a large force of kobolds was charging their way, with several more hooded figures behind them, three of whom were wearing masks similar to the one worn by the man they had just killed. In one final push, with Varrick carrying Fallon on his back, Kilran and Cuth assisting Linan, they made a mad dash for the keep. Athanius slipped on the blood-slicked cobbles, and was nearly overwhelmed by the horde, as stones and crude javelins whizzed through the air around him, but at the last second he made it to the keep, where the guards immediately closed the portcullis and sealed the gate.
The group was quickly brought up to speed by one of the guards who urged them to meet with Governor Nighthill, and mentioned that he’d likely be with his Steward, a dwarf named Escobert the Red. The Swift family thanked the group once again, and left to seek out some medical attention for Linan. Varrick offered to escort them, and asked for Zephyrian to seek him out after meeting with the Governor.
Escobert was not hard to find, as the fiery dwarf was screaming at two guardsman in the great hall, screaming something along the lines of “BY MORADIN’S HAIRY ARSE, WHAT DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND WHEN I SAID NOT TO LET HIM GO TO THE DAMN ROOF!”. His temper soon cooled when he learned that the party had saved the Swift family, along with several members of the townsfolk from the inn, although he was deeply saddened to hear that Fallon had ultimately succumbed to her wounds during the final dash to the keep. He took them to see Governor Nighthill, who was bandaged and bleeding, but still tending to several injured soldiers on the wall of the keep. He informed the group that they had lost more than half their militia to the dragon’s vicious breath, and pleaded for them to assist him in taking back the town. Handing them a key to the secret tunnel that led out of the keep, Escobert encouraged the group to sneak out and head to either the Temple of Chauntea or the mill, as both seemed to be under attack. The mill was important for the future of Greenest, as it was where all of the grain they’d need to survive the winter was stored. On the other hand, the temple was filled with people who were unable to make it to the keep, and would be a likely target for the attackers. With that, he granted them a few small healing potions, and wished them the best of luck.
Less than an hour had passed and already these five had faced near-certain death and somehow escaped it, saving several other people along the way. It almost felt like somehow they were meant to end up on this caravan together…and as they sat down to get a short rest, Kilran took out his lute to re-tune it and was heard muttering under his breath, “It all began with a song…”