Before leaving Sir Keegan’s tomb, Taskar paused next to the alter in the antechamber. He touched the makeshift dragon amulet around his neck and considered leaving it where it had be found. He felt he owed this fallen champion and his knights a great debt. However, something tugged at the back of his mind, that perhaps Bahamut wasn’t finished with the Dragonborn, so he kept his statuette and began making his way out of the underground.
As the party stepped out of the collapsed keep, Taskar wondered what had become of the elven ranger. They had called to him down the wells, but perhaps the moving water had carried their voices away. Surely he had had the wherewithal to get out of the Shadowfel. Taskar resolved to find him once the Dragonborn had gotten those still under his charge to safety. Whether Caelyn would be grateful for his efforts, he didn’t know.
The trek back to the village was long and quiet. No words were exchanged between the new stranger and the battle weary party. The paladin slid his sword into fallen zombies they passed on the road, but even that was half-hearted. They were all very tired. When the torchlight of the village came into view, Taskar heaved a sigh of relief. He would just have to trust this Adair fellow, for tonight Taskar planned to sleep with both eyes closed.
While the party had been calling for Caelyn, Arista’s mood had been much more somber than usual, worried as she was for this elf that had somehow become one of her closest friends over the past couple of days, she hoped that he had made it safely out of the nether regions before the magical gateway failed. But, now that they were finally out of the keep and under the glorious star-filled sky, she could not keep herself from letting out a gleeful shout while spinning around with her arms outstretched. The rest of her companions trudged all the way back to town, but Arista was feeling more and more refreshed by the minute and continued to dart through the trees, touching, smelling, and even sometimes kissing the beautiful foliage around her, so great was her joy at finally being surrounded by the living.
Once they reached the inn, she elected to rest in the tree outside their window, offering to keep watch while the others slept. So, when the tiefling arose after a long rest, Arista watched him wander downstairs, and after about ten minutes, decided to join him in the tavern. It was time for a decent meal, after all. (And, she thought, a couple of drinks couldn’t hurt, either…)
Of course Aosid wakes up first. His blessed coma lasted a mere one and a half days. In sooth, the bloodbath beyond the portal had rejuvenated his mind from the ravages of that foul keep more than he cares to acknowledge; if it hadn’t been for his treacherous sleep-dependent body, he might have wandered the town the day they returned.
At any rate, he has some time to kill. He wanders down to the tavern, orders a tall one, and sets himself to the not-unpleasant task of starting a raucous celebration. It would be easier if the locals knew the horrors they nearly met, but Aosid’s mood is infectious.
Once the shindig is in full swing, he starts asking celebrants surreptitiously whether they know anything about a Stormsoul named Adair.
Tavarius had found it difficult to contain his manic glee on the first leg of the return journey, but then all at once his activities during the past few days caught up with him. Where he had just been ready to fight another horde he then found it difficult to prod fallen undead lying in the road on the way. It also seemed that he had left his mind in the shadowfel. That adventure had been the most contact he had ever had with the Raven Queen, and now back in the physical plane away from her visions, the absence of her presence left a void that left him feeling vacant and detached.
As he sat in the bar half-listening to the conversations and celebrations of his compatriots he began to feel less and less satisfied with their success. The Raven Queen’s connection was a drug, and he needed more. Her commandments were simple: stamp out evil where it is found, and have no pity in taking their lives.
He could stand it no longer, so he stood up to leave the bar. Somewhere someone’s time had come.
Having been abandoned by the S. Nexus, Caelyn stumbles his way out of the Shadowfel, back into the underground tunnel system. Unable to muster much strength, he follows the stream, more blood than water now, several miles until it finally emerges into a sparse forest.
After days upon days of being beneath the earth and in other planes, Caelyn is quite unable to tell what time it is, on top of having little idea where he is or how to get to civilization. After an effort, the elf manages to climb a tree and establish a safe perch before passing out.
The next morning…
Early that morning, Taskar wandered around town. He visited Thar Thunderstriker and picked up his polearm, chatting the dwarf up and dodging questions as to why it’d taken him so long to claim his weapon. On his way back to the tavern, he noticed a small book shop, hidden away in an alley. Stepping inside, he was greeted by a wizened old man. The shop was decorated in all manner of holy symbols. Perusing the shelves, Taskar found a couple tomes of interest, politely paid for them, and returned to the inn to begin studying.
Prince, tactfully tracking Taskar by at least 500 yards at all times, viewed all the same storefronts and specialized merchants which the fiery Dragon-Man patronized. He pays no attention to the fierce dwarf peddling his rickety poles, bows, and other assorted weapons, as Prince carries his own weapons in his mind, mouth, and heart. However, five minutes after the Gigantic Lizard Person left the tome shop, Prince placed his foot in the door and made his own way into the treasury of knowledge. The bookkeep, remembering his face from his last few escapades, gave the wizard a brisk nod as he made his way to the back of the store, behind the little velvet curtain.
Back at the tavern, in the privacy of his room, Prince sighed a deep, soul-exhausting smile whilst reclined on his freshly-groomed bed. He was tired. He was more than tired; he was running completely on empty. It was time for some R&R. It was Prince Time.
Oh, he knew the others thought it was just a mite disgusting, but his interests were unaffected. He took a deep draw on his magical pipe. He stroked his shimmering, magical beard he grew over the course of the last few hours just for this purpose. He opened the first book on his personal stack he purchased that day.
Ah, the Bare-Chested Elven Maidens of the Northern Ridge never disappointed.
The common room of the inn is babbling quietly, with only a few merchants eating their breakfast. The bartender wanders by and reminds those of you present that she’s keeping a tab.
The door slides open, admitting slivers of early morning light. Lord Padraig stands framed in the door, an incredulous stare leveled at the party. Behind him the guard captain looks equally haggard. Without waiting for a hello, he grabs a chair, pulls it to your table, and begins a loud address.
“What the hell, pardon my language, have you lot been up to? Did you just traipse off into the wilderness? Do you have any idea what’s been going on here? You’ve been gone four days, we weren’t sure if you’d been killed or just decided to abandon us!
“Two nights ago Valthrun told me that the portal had been opened! Where were you ? What happened? We’ve been bracing for an assault these past two nights!”
As he finishes his speech the wind seems to go out of him, and he sags in his seat. The room has gone silent as everyone turns to stare at Padraig, it is obvious that this is the first these people are hearing of the trouble.
Confident of the party’s full control of the situation, Taskar takes a slow pull from his mug as he waits for the Lord to finish. Licking his lipless mouth, he hunches forward in a pantomime of conspiracy that is clearly menacing. He speaks in an even tone, so that anyone in the tavern may hear if they wish, and the oblivious can keep their precious ignorance:
“Your Honor, if you wanted continuing status updates, you should’ve sent messengers with us. And if you didn’t want your little town overrun with undead, you should have continued investing in a keep and soldiers years ago.”
Easing out of the sarcasm, Taskar sits back:
“As it stands, you had a rather prosperous neighbor in the form of a cult of Orcus under the keep. The emphasis, you’ll be thankful to know, is placed on ‘had.’ The cult has been wiped out and the portal has been closed. None of us are particularly powerful ritual casters, so we can’t be sure, but the rift itself may well be shut. The place appeared devoid of any arcane presence once we had finished. Perhaps you have someone you can send to verify this.”
Taskar’s voice shifts once again as he both takes pity on the man and realizes he still has business to conduct: “You were right to prepare for the worst, however. Again thankfully, you’re efforts were for naught, but they were wisely taken. We now find ourselves requiring your services. One of our own, a prisoner of the goblins under the keep, is lost. We have reason to believe he’s in the woods on the other side of the hill. With your grace, I’d like to take a few of your soldier and go search for him. Our friend is a supremely competent ranger, it won’t take long to find him if he wishes to be found.”
Taskar gestures the barkeep over. “Come, sirs, let me get you something and we can talk business.”
Meeeeanwhiiiiile, back in the forest…
Caelyn awakens at the sound of a forest creature in the ground nearby his tree, most likely a red-tailed deer or an achlis. Despite his multitude of aches and bruises, there are only two things that seem to be bothering him.
Firstly, his right hand, charred black from the Shadowfel fight—it would be several days before he regained the subtle touch needed for archery. No wonder his final two arrows had missed so terribly. He jumps to the ground and begins searching the undergrowth, quickly recognizing several healing plants. Taking their leaves, he peels off the outermost layer of blackened skin from his hand and wraps his palm and fingers.
The second thing that is bothering the elf is his stomach. He has eaten little in the past week. Walking to a clearing on the valley floor, he spots some kind of fortress, surrounded by a high wall, about a half-days walk away. Deciding this was likely the town the S. Nexus spoke of, he sets off in that direction.