Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

Adamantine Fortress - 10

After a meager, cold, dry breakfast, the heroes exited the mountain cave, and met up with more companions from the caravan. They had set up base camp further down the mountain, and brought porters and helpers with supplies to help with exploring higher into the mountains.

They climbed upwards for hours, through tedious and treacherous terrain. A glint through the boulders ahead had the companions on alert.

The heroes approach warily. It appears to be a cliff side made partially of metal. As they slowly approach, watching the surrounding rocky terrain for an ambush, it starts to look like perhaps a metal fortress that was partially covered by a landslide long ago.

Aldeen takes a closer look, and finds what looks like the outline of a large door near ground level, approximately 10 feet wide and 15 foot tall. There are no obvious handles or means of opening the door.
After the heroes spend some time search for any way to open the door, Aldeen swings his mighty earthbreaker at the door with all of his strength. Bringing his face closer and closer to the struck spot, he can see neither dent nor scratch. “As strong as adamantine!” he calls over his shoulder to his companions.

Rhogar spreads out his search farther from the door area. Barovar looks higher up the wall, spotting a smaller door that is now partially open. As he points it out to the others, they all indicate agreement that it was not open before.

Rhogar points out a line of pitons that have been hammered into the stone to the left side of the metal wall. “They do not appear old. Perhaps a week or less since they were placed.”
“Let us investigate!” smiles Barovar as he activates his magical boots, floating upwards, but to the side of the doorway. He dismisses Andie, intending on recalling him after they breach the entrance.

Ropes are tied and knotted as the heroes use the pitons to climb up to the open door. Aldeen slowly pushes the door open from just below the door, weapon at the ready. It is dark inside, but the daylight illuminates the interior as the door silently swings fully open at the paladin’s touch. “It is a clear room with some strange doors.”

Rhogar’s stretches his arms out wide as his form starts to shift. His arms elongate and thin out, a membrane forming a leather-like wings. His nose turns up, and his face takes the shape of a large bat. “C’mon Ripmaw!” Rhogar the bat says softly to his bear companion as he grabs the bear and easily lifts the bear the 200 feet upward to the open door. He places the bear just inside the doorway after Aldeen climbs inside, and shifts back into dwarf form to land with a thump on the metal floor.

The floor is littered with leaves and dust that appear to have blown in over several weeks. A large metal double-door with no handles is on the far wall. On the side walls, closer to the double doors are similar, smaller doors with a panel on the door’s right side.

Aldeen inspects the panel. “There is a horizontal slot a few inches wide. The metal panel around it is purple.” The slot appears even too thin for a dagger.

The heroes gather around the two smaller doors to get a closer look.

Barovar hears a slight sound behind him, and turns to see the light disappear as the outer door quickly slides shut. Reaching into a breast pocket, he grabs the small gray stone, and tosses it into orbit around his head for light.

He quickly examined the door from this side, and found no handle or mechanism.

“We’re trapped,” stated Rhogar.

Moments later, as the heroes started to curse their luck, the double doors at the back wall quietly slide open into the wall on either side.

It is completely dark inside. There are three hallways leading out of the next room, and in the center is a circular partition that extends to the 10’ ceiling. There is an opening in front of the double doors in the circular wall, and on the opposite side as if you could walk straight through the circled area. Rhogar approached the circle area as Aldeen starts to head to the left.

Barovar emits a strange, muffled cry. The heroes turn back to see Barovar wide-eyed and pale, staring off at nothing. “I can’t feel Andie! I can’t call him to me!”

“Can you summon anything?” asked Rhogar. “No,” responded Barovar weakly as he leans back onto the double doors that they have now noticed are closed behind them. Again, there are no handles apparent. “I am lost,” Barovar moans as he covers his face with both hands, sliding against the smooth metal doors to a seated position.

Rhogar peeks into the circular area. There is no floor inside, and it drops away as far as he dwarven darkvision will show. There are metal rungs to either side, similar to a ladder, but spaced too far apart.

Monkeyshines - 09

The heroes decided that the empty cave was a good enough place to camp for the night. Barovar dismissed his eidolon to his extraplanar home for the night, and laid out his bedroll near the back of the cave, behind all of the others, and offered to take first watch. Aldeen set his backpack down for use as a pillow, putting his left hand behind his head and into his backpack. His right hand held the handle of his earthbreaker resting across his chest. Rhogar curled up with Ripmaw, saying a prayer to Trudd for the spirit of the bear that was forever lost to the maw of the basilisk.

The paladin nudged the druid awake. “It was a quiet watch for both of us.” The druid lay down farther out towards the cave entrance, but was wide awake. Sniffing. Watching. Listening.

The sun would be rising soon, and the druid was running an inventory of their food supplies in his mind for breakfast. Then he heard a grunt from the cave entrance. Then a responding grunt. The dire bear form scooted back to use the turn of the cave wall as cover, and nudged the paladin. The druid put his paw across the paladin’s mouth to indicate that he should be quiet. The paladin moved back further in the cave to alert the summoner.

The druid watched for movement, and figured there were at least four creatures, at least as large as himself in his dire bear form. But one wasn’t as stealthy, and Rhogar could make out a shaggy four-armed creature. Then one came at him from his left. The creature’s claws raked at his face and chest, rending the gashes apart with powerful muscles, and the jaws clamped down, reaching the flesh beneath his thick fur. The druid grunted in pain as his life’s blood poured forth, his snout going pale.

A hound archon appeared next to the druid, greatsword slicing through thick abdomen muscles, spilling entrails to the floor. The creature tried to stop his innards from spilling forth with his two lower arms, raking its own face with the other two from the pain.
The paladin rushed forth and grabbed the dire bear as healing powers flowed into the druid’s wounds. The summoner drew a thin wand, and offered further healing power to the torn druid.

As the druid tried to defend from another round of slashes from the beast, everything went dark. His darkvision could not make out the beast, and the summoner’s orbiting tiny torchlight was gone. The druid sniffed and listened. He thought he heard some low grunts near the cave entrance again.

The summoner quickly went into spellcasting, to combat the darkness. Although he was certain that his own spell had worked, it was still darker than darkness. The other heroes tried to swing at the darkness where the beast had been standing, but did not connect with anything solid.

The half-elf expended another use of his dispelling magic, and the utter darkness was gone. The beast and its brethren were gone as well. There was a considerable amount of blood splattered about the spot where the beast had stood. It was probably dead, and didn’t know it yet.

Bear Cave - 08

In dire bear form, the druid gained an acute sense of smell. Another bear had certainly laired in this cave, but there was another stench wafting from within that he could not identify. Barovar tossed a small gray stone into orbit around his head. It looked like a tiny torch, but did not give off any heat. The half-elf could not see in the dark like the dwarves and his eidolon could.

The group quietly and carefully entered the mouth of the cave, which soon forked left, right and straight into the side of the mountain at a slight downward slope. The left fork was searched and concluded to be an empty dead end. As the group worked their way back to the intersection, the strange scent became stronger. Strange green, glowing eyes on a large lizard creature rounded the turn. Its thick body sprouted eight legs. As it hissed, the foul breath washed over the group. Andie charged, claws and teeth tearing at the scaled flesh of the beast. The creatures eyes narrowed, and the lions movements slowed as his flesh turned to stone, spreading from the front to the back until it was completely stone like a sculptor’s life-like lion in an action pose. “No!” screamed Barovar. The half-elf swiftly cast a spell, summoning a hound archon, a celestial guardian, to their aid.

The dire bear shook its great head as he neared the beast, trying to force the foul stench from his nostrils as it slashed and bit at the lizard. The paladin, unable to get past the big dire bear, and the swings of the greatsword-wielding hound archon, loaded his crossbow with a finely-made arrow, and sent it flying.

The beast snapped its jaws, but was unable to defend itself from the skilled heroes, and it crashed to the cavern floor, blood slowly spilling from its wounds.

“Aha!” proclaimed the half-elf as he watched the blood drip, “Good druid, slash the beast’s throat, and hold up its hindquarters.” The druid thought he understood what the half-elf had in mind, and did as requested. The half-elf started to scoop up the blood with both hands cupped, and started painting the stone eidolon thickly with the warm liquid.
The paladin looked around the rest of the cavern, not wanting to watch this strange blood-painting ritual. He pushed a white piece of stone with his armored toe, and cocked his head as he looked at the shape. It looked like part of a hand, as if a statue had been broken. “Oh, no,” he breathed out. He looked at a few more bits of stone to confirm his fears.

The fresh blood of a basilisk can reverse the deadly flesh to stone gaze of a victim. Apparently the same still holds true for a greater basilisk. As the last spots of stone were covered in cooling blood, the eidolon’s flesh slowly returned. “Yuelral’s blessing!” proclaimed Barovar as he wrapped the lion-creature in a hug. The lion nuzzled his head against Barovar, and replied, “Praise Yuelral my friend”.
“Rhogar. Take a look at this,” Aldeen sadly mourned, as he handed over a few of the “rocks” he found on the cave floor. The dwarf came to the same conclusion as he turned the pieces over in the light from the half-elf’s ioun torch. “I guess we know what happened to at least one of Bloom’s missing groups… and the poor bear that claimed this cave as its home.”

Quiet Camp - 07

The logging camp was still. It appeared abandoned. The Heroes searched the area, and quickly discovered the grotesque scene of torn corpses and body parts. The bodies had suffered deep gashes, and huge bites that took off entire chunks and even limbs. Strangely, the bitten and torn parts were not taken or eaten by whatever creature slaughtered the loggers.

The Heroes continued searching the area, but only located the footprints of the dead loggers and their companions who were able to flee. They found no sign of an enemy anywhere in the camp. The loggers understandably left everything behind.
The druid located a journal from one of the tents. The only interesting entry was a few days ago that mentioned hearing strange calls and growls from further up into the mountains. Although possibly related to the massacre, the druid could not figure out why there were no tracks.

Suddenly, the druid was leaping. A creature materialized right underneath where he was standing, powerful, three-part jaws snapping. There were three strange eyes evenly spaced around the mouth, and three powerful, clawed limbs.

The druid noticed that there was no earth turned or tunneled, the creature seemed to be appearing from the ground without disturbing it. He had done something similar in the form of an earth elemental, gliding through the dirt and rock as if he was swimming.
The xorn smacked its strange lips, and uttered in a deep, grating voice like two boulders grinding together, “Give me your gems.”
Although the druid was in his favorite dire bear form again, the creature seemed to be reaching and snapping in the location where his gems would be if not melded into this body.

“Oh, no, you rock-cruncher! Ye ain’t munching on me sapphires!” cried the dwarf through his bear snout. His powerful swing knocked the xorn to the side, closer to the lion and the paladin. It was quickly overpowered before it could sink back into the ground.

“That would explain the lack of tracks,” pondered the half-elf from a safe distance. I don’t think it explains the strange calls and growls mentioned in the journal.

The druid spoke with Tracks. “We appreciate all of your assistance. You can take your leave now, as it is getting more dangerous. If you could make contact with the caravan that should have made a base camp to the east. Bring them up to speed, and let them know we are going higher into the mountains to investigate.” They grasped hands, the ranger letting them all know that they should come back to get more jam and honey when their task was completed.

Electric Lights - 06

Gonder and Rhogar spoke as they walked along the road leading up into the mountains. Rhogar tended to keep to the higher elevations, so he wasn’t completely surprised that he had never met Tracks as he wandered the foothills. He was definitely interested in some of the locations for quality mushrooms!

Suddenly the paladin’s camel mounted lead out a strange grunting call. Its head shook from side to side frantically, and it bit down hard on its own leg. The paladin tried hard to control his bonded mount without success. Either the heroes were completely distracted by the antics of the camel, or the creatures were invisible as they attacked. Three balls of light seemed to appear out of nowhere, shooting lines of lightning. The half-elf summoner went into spell casting, hasting his companions so they moved and attacked faster. The lion reached out with a huge paw, snatching one of the balls of light from the air. The ball responded with another of shock of electricity. It did not keep the lion from chewing on the ball until it stopped moving altogether. The druid in dire bear form obliged the nearest ball of light by swatting it from the air, and stomping it into the ground. The third ball of light was easily dispatched with its mates for support.

“Will-o’-wisps?” asked Barovar. The druid replied that he wasn’t certain, but he didn’t think they were. “They looked smaller and brighter than a true will-o’-wisp.” The paladin made sure they were dead, and detected a fading aura of evil from what was left of the creatures. He layed his healing hands up the camel’s torn forelimb, watching the wound stitch itself closed. “He must have been under some Confusion effect from those things,” stated Barovar, remembering seeing similar reactions from that particular spell.

The Ratoid - 05

The druid, in bear form, was walking on his hind legs, holding the jar between his front paws as he licked at the strawberry jam. They had arrived in the village of Wellfield to meet with the miller. Apparently he dabbled in taxidermy as a hobby.

The rat creature mounting was nearly complete already, with six feet gripping a branch. The taxidermist even kept the bones, intending to make a skeletal display as well. He showed the bones to the heroes, pointing out things that seemed off. The shape of the bones and joints weren’t the same as a normal creature. He also indicated that the lungs were quite large, and there appeared to be two heart-like organs.

After mentioning that he would like a sketch of the creature for Froderick Bloom, the half-elf was handed a sketch made by the taxidermist in preparation for the mounting pose.

Gonder and the heroes thanked the man for his time. “Can you take us to the logging camp?” asked Rhogar.

Overland Travel - 04

The druid laughed aloud at the sight. The dwarf paladin astride a double-humped camel! “I am not laughing at you or your fine mount, my friend! I am amused by my constant allegiance with unusual company and companions!”

After meeting with the caravan leader, the heroes agreed that they could make much better time on their own, and would ride ahead to start following up on a lead from Bloom. Barovar sat bare-back on his large lion-like companion, Rhogar shifted into a dire bear form, and Aldeen urged his camel forward after rechecking his backpack for the third time that his companions could note.

In less than two days of travel, the heroes were in the small village of Greenleaf. They quickly were directed to a small, stone house on the edge of town when they asked about a wanderer called “Tracks”. The villagers encouraged the heroes to try Track’s strawberry jam.

A middle-aged human answered the door at the indicated residence. The half-elf took the lead, asking, “Are you the one they call Tracks?” The man bowed, stepped back and waved his hand, gesturing them to come inside. The room was lined with shelves packed with jars, crocks and tied bundles of herbs and leaves. “I am Daniel Gonder. I’m not sure if they call me that because I can track or because I make tracks as I wander the foothills gathering mushrooms, berries and fruits for my jams, and local flora for my poultices. I also have some fine tobacco blends.”

“Actually, we are on an urgent, government-sanctioned assignment,” said the half-elf, “We were told that you came upon a strange creature on your wanderings several days ago, and have actual physical proof.”

“Ah. The ratoid!” Gonder indicated some chairs for the heroes. He packed his pipe with some cherry-scented tobacco as he recounted the incident. “I was near a logging camp. There are some great mushrooms there. There was a skittering sound, and a creature emerged from a log pile. At first I thought it a large rat, but it had more fur and its snout was longer. It had six legs, and the appendages ended in something more akin to hands than feet. The eyes were solid black. The ears of the rat creature were smaller than a normal rat, and turned with greater range of motion. One of the loggers mistook my attempts to calm and speak with the creature as shock or fear. He pinned the rat creature to a log with a well-aimed arrow.”

“You kept the carcass?” asked the druid. “Aye. But I took it to a friend of mine that does some taxidermy. I thought it would be an interesting display. I can take you there if you want to see it.”

Desperate Government - 03

The trio (and their animal companions) is lead into a plush sitting room. The room was adorned with finery, books and a bar with crystal carafes, goblets and glasses.
They didn’t wait long before the fat man walked in. Rhogar could swear her heard the man’s fine slippers squealing in pain.

“I am Froderick Bloom, and I will get straight to the point. I work for the People’s Council, and I’m desperate. The villages and farms along the foothills of the Aspodell Mountains have been invaded by strange, dangerous creatures. None have been the same type of creature, so we are unsure of the origin, but we fear that it may be a prelude to another invasion from Cheliax. Since the Aspodells form the boundary between our countries, it would not be out of the question. We have sent soldiers to the only safe pass in the mountain range in case, but the creatures were not in that area. They were farther to the southern end of the range.

“I have already sent several adventuring groups to investigate, but none have returned. I fear for my coveted position with the government, so I’m willing to pay handsomely. I will give you 1,000 gp to accept this assignment. I will also offer you each 5,000 gp upon completion of the assignment to include a stop to the invasion, and proof of the source. You must be able to leave within the hour. I’m preparing a caravan of supplies, handlers and a few others of your ilk. What say you?”

The paladin immediately accepts as he considers it his duty to protect the innocent from the evils of the world. The druid mentions that he is actually from the Aspodell mountains, and protecting his precious mountains and friends is most certainly paramount. The half-elf’s eyes certainly lit up at the mention of gold, and it sounded like a fun adventurer. Andie, his lion companion agreed.

Bloom was ecstatic. “Fantastic! I will send in my accountant right away!”

Early Morning Invitation - 02

Rhogar had barely washed the night’s sleep from his eyes in the basin when someone knocked on the door to his rented room. A young boy in page clothing handed him a folded parchment with a wax seal. The boy bowed his head, and rushed down the hallway. Rhogar noted that both the half-elf and the paladin were standing in their doorways with similar folded packages.

The three gathered in Rhogar’s room. The wax seal bore an emblem that meant nothing to Rhogar, but the paladin identified the seal as from the department of the Andoran government that deals with foreign information and relations.

The letter indicated that Froderick Bloom was extending an urgent invitation. He had witnessed them in action last evening at the Green Dragon, and spoke with others who could vouch for their integrities and capabilities. A carriage would be sent.

Civilization - 01

The rabbit froze in place. Two large bears approached, and sat a few yards away. Rhogar and Ripmaw looked down upon the port city of Augusta on the shores of the Inner Sea. The smell of the sea was a pleasant change, but they disliked civilization.

The rabbit suddenly ran as fast as it could when the larger bear, bone fetishes weaved into its fur, moved its front paw to scratch behind the ear of its companion. The bears paid no attention, as they already expected the rabbit’s flight. Ripmaw’s head turned slightly to find that certain spot as its back leg involuntarily scratched at the air. Rhogar whispered assurances in the Dwarven language, as his large bear form started to change and shrink into a broad, Dwarven frame.

It had been a year since their last trip into the city to obtain the few supplies the druid couldn’t make, grow or find in his mountain home. The druid also liked to visit with one of his few civilized friends. He could spot the Green Dragon Tavern even from this distant hill top. It was situated farther from the docks, affording a calmer atmosphere and more dignified patrons as compared to the rowdy, sailor-filled rum bars. His mouth started to water at the thought of a thick, seasoned steak with boiled potatoes. Estella also kept a fine selection of true Dwarven ales and spirits to wash it all down.

Estella Boffin, proprietor of the Green Dragon, spoke arcane words, waving her agile Halfling fingers over the platter of meat, potatoes and fresh green beans. It was one of her secrets in getting the amazing flavors of her food that attracted so many customers to her fine tavern. She had sunk her entire fortune into the venture after deciding that adventuring simply didn’t suit her.


She set the plate onto a serving platter next to the biggest raw steak she could find, and indicated to her serving girl that the food was ready. The serving girl exited the kitchen into the bustling tavern room. Not only did Estella have a reputation for fine food and drink, she welcomed patrons that had animal companions and familiars. There was an assortment of
owls, ferrets, cats and toads looking her way as she passed by numerous packed tables.

Her destination was closer to the small stage where a bard was singing a slow ballad, and playing his lute. She grabbed a huge mug of ale from the bar with her free hand, setting it down deftly in front of the half-elf. She then lowered the laden platter onto the table, setting the sizzling steak in front of Barovar. The girl then smiled at the lion-like creature at his side, setting the plated raw steak on the floor. The lion-creature thanked the girl in the common language of Andoran, but with a strange, outer-planer accent. Barovar also thanked the girl, and dropped several golden coins into her hand.

Estella Boffin glided out of the kitchen to the bar, looking around at the smiling patrons who were all enjoying food, drink and conversation. Well almost all of them. One of the fattest men she had ever seen was seated at the back table. He had been there most of the day, just watching people. He was certainly well-dressed, and was accompanied by several soldiers of Andoran. She concluded that he was some sort of important government official, or even a member of the People’s Council. Since there are over 350 members of the Council, she couldn’t be certain.

When the front door opened, Estella grinned widely, running under the bar where her human employees would have to lift a wooden portion to walk through. She easily dodged the seated throng, and practically leapt into the dwarf. “Rhogar! It’s been so long!” Estella wrapped her arms as far around the dwarf ash she could, squeezing tightly as her feet dangled inches from the floor. “Rippie!” she squealed, and grabbed the bear’s face with both hands, squishing his jowls around and flapping his lips. Ripmaw whined, and swatted playfully. Estella pulled a small collar from her apron pocket, and slipped it under the bears snout. The collar lengthened magically as she pulled it up and around to buckle it behind his head. The bear immediately shrunk to nearly half its normal size. “Now you won’t knock over any tables,” she laughed. She nodded her head to the side, “Barovar and Andie are over by the stairs. It is a nice surprise to see both of you at the same time for once! I’ll bring you a plate.”

Rhogar and the bear made their way through the room to the half-elf’s table. The lion had finished its meal quickly, but Barovar was still shoveling food into his mouth. Food spilled from his mouth as he shouted in surprise upon seeing his old friend, reaching up to shake his hand. Rhogar eyed the tavern room as he caught up with his friends, eating the fine meal Estella brought to the table.

He noted the fat man at the back of the room, who was certainly looking his way, but Rhogar was used to stares from the civilized folks. He also noted a pair that was most likely pirates or privateers by their dress and weaponry, one most likely a captain due to the huge, feathered, tri-corn hat upon his head. He also noted a dwarf seated near the Halfling-sized tables who was most likely a paladin with his clean and neatly-brushed beard laying over his heavy, shiny plate armor. He also noted paladin’s huge, shiny, two-handed earthbreaker hammer.

Rhogar laughed heartily as Estella indicated his third empty mug, and went to the bar for refills. The first indication of trouble was the bear and lion jumping to their feet and growling towards the front door. Before Rhogar could turn to see what had entered the tavern room, an ear-piercing shriek bombarded his eardrums, causing an unnatural fear to wash over him. As he covered his ears and tried to find a “defensible” positon under the table, the lion-creature leaped over him with an answering roar as loud as the shriek.

The paladin felt the evil emanating from the water-logged undead creature, as it burst through the front door. As it shrieked, it pointed its clawed hand, and moved faster than any undead the paladin had witnessed before. The creature rushed the human that the paladin had been watching closely. He was certain that the guy was a pirate captain, and not a privateer for the Andoran navy.

The creature practically jumped over the table, grabbing the pirate by the throat with both hands, emitting another piercing shriek inches from the pirate’s face, as salty sea water dripped from its rotten and torn clothing. The paladin grabbed up his weapon as he knocked back his own chair, charging the undead creature. The lion leaped over tables and wide-eyed, huddled patrons as they tried to take cover. Its claws scraped across the wood floor as it rounded behind the paladin to get a clear shot at the undead.

“A revenant,” Barovar said as he turned towards his druid companion, then noting the table rocking as the dwarf dove under. Ripmaw was trying to push the druid out from beneath the table and towards the battle. The bear whined as the druid accidentally kicked the crock of honey he had been lapping up, scattering broken pieces, and slipping on the honey.

The dwarf paladin called upon his goddess to imbue his flaming weapon with the power to smite the risen dead. He felt the ribcage of the creature collapse under the swing of his mighty earthbreaker, but it did not respond. The paladin could hear snapping as the revenant crushed the throat of the pirate captain. The lion finally found a spot to gain access to the fight, sinking claws and teeth into the backside of the creature until the undead collapsed to the tavern floor, turning to dust.

The paladin kneeled down, calling to Sarenrae again as he laid his hands upon the shattered throat of the pirate captain. Warm healing energy surged into the captain, popping cartilage and spine back into place. The captain used his elbow to raise his upper torso from the ground, hoarsely whispering thank you to the paladin. The paladin could sense the man’s unease at the paladin’s stare. The paladin had already sensed evil from the man earlier as he scanned the tavern room, but the revenant only supported the pa
ladin’s opinion. Revenants sole purpose in unlife is to find and destroy the person that murdered them. Since the pirate was still alive, the revenant would return, and he would find him again. He intended to check into the matter further if he could figure out who they were, or at least report the possibilities to the local authorities.

Estella rushed from the kitchen to thank the paladin for his quick action, and scratched Andie under his chin. “Please join us at the table by the stairs,” she asked. The dwarf paladin introduced himself to druid and half-elf as “Aldeen, Paladin of Serenrae”. He
shook their hands with a strong grip, and seated himself at the table as indicated by Estella’s gesture.

Rhogar noted the fat man watching him again.


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