By Jamey Martin
The Dark Druidess
Having at last arrived at their destination, a rustic town called Aithelar, the cargo was unloaded and the band prepared to accompany it on the final leg of it's journey. As they made their way through town up to the humble castle that stood atop a nearby hill however, the caravan was attack. Try as they might, the band was pinned down by their assailants and could do little more then watch and vent as the bandits made off with the cargo.
Proceeding to the hall of Lord Cauldyth of Aithe, the band learned that there was a rising tide of evil rolling across the isles, led by an evil woman called the Dark Druidess. She had ordered and overseen the destruction of sacred groves, the slaughter and dismemberment of druids, and presumably had begun to work with her underlings to raise up the walking dead throughout the lands. Without the blades the band had been hired to guard safely to the Lord of Aithe the Ffolk of Callidyr would be next to defenceless against the Dark Druidess and her minions.
And so, with the help of a guide, the band set off on the trail of the bandits and managed to tracked many of the weapon crates down. In the process they ran into Bry'th of Tiamat, who obviously had been restored to life since his death in Myth Drannor. He offered Hector the chance to return to the CoT, and when this was refused he warned that it was Isellishtra, the High Priestess of Tiamat and co-ruler of the CoT herself that was overseeing the cults deeds and doings in the Moonshaes. With that he escaped with the might of a magic ring, covered by a couple of abishai and a number of undead.
When the minions of the cult were at last dealt with, a druid who had been their prison told the band that he overheard Bry'th speak of a secret base near Cantrev Dalton on occasion. And so, accompanying both the weapon-crates and the survivor back to Aithelar, the band next set out for Kingsbay in eastern Corwell at the encouragement and expense of Lord Cauldyth. He feared that they meant to pollute Myrloch Vale itself.
Making their way to Kingsbay, the band hired a guide and then struck out for Dalton. En route it came to pass that they were ambushed by a large gang of rogues led by Bry'th and Glistra. Before signalling the attack, Bry'th spoke with the band, revealing that they had long had a traitor in their midst. As he invited said traitor to at last take his place at his and Glistra's side, all eyes turned to hector and the insults began to fly. With Hrek on the verge of throttling the stripling, Tyros ordered the lot of them to clam it up and stormed over toward Bry'th and the warrior woman. After a long moment the ex-Zhentilar's hand moved to his sword hilt, and then he turned to take place alongside the cultists.
Again the insults flew, and as Hrek began to storm forward, the gang of bandits launched their attack. Certain of their demise, Bry'th, Glistra, and Tyros bid their former companions farewell and rode off.
Of course, even without Tyros' blade, the outlaws were not a match for the band. In the end, the wargs retreated and the band stood, quite a bit miffed, but victorious nevertheless.
Continuing on in their journey, the band soon arrived at the burned out remains of what was once Dalton. And while it was clear that much blood had been spilled here, there were no corpses. The guide said it was as though the dead simply got up and walked away.
That evening the guide related how the castle of Lord Cyndyllan Darkhorn, an early leader of the Ffolk, had once stood in this area, but that he eventually ran afoul of the elves of mythical Synnoria, who used their magic to reduce his mighty castle to ruins. Asking the guide if he could lead them to these ruins the band went on to discover the secret base Bry'th had mentioned, clearing it out of a gang of outlaws, and learning that Isellishtra was here to retrieve the heart of Kazgoroth from the bottom of the Great Moonwell in My loch Vale.
It also came to pass that Hector discovered a secret tunnel in the ruin. Following it, he eventually came to a chamber in which a Ffolkish hero, all decked out in in kilt, torc, and blue war paint sat encased in amber. Detecting a dweomer upon the amber, Hector attempt to dispel it and found himself confronted by some brutish demon fiend. With the aid of the others, the demon was at last defeated, but as the battle raged, the amber dissolved and the barbaric warrior, though somewhat senseless and disoriented, was nevertheless upon his feet and moving by the time it was over.
That evening the warrior explained that his name was Stradidar of Moray, whom the like of Corwin and Hector had most certainly heard of before from tales spun out of the Avatar Wars. The last thing he remembered was returning to the isles to find the High-King Tristan Kendrick slain and the lands of the Ffolk fallen into chaos. Kazgoroth stalked the land. Thus, with the aid of his constant companion, the Reacher of Moray's clan Mac Art, he worked to influence the Ffolk to accept Kendrick's young daughter Alicia as their new High Queen, bring the Ffolk of Gnarhelm into an alliance, and then beat the Northmen into submission. Finally, armed with the Sword of Cymrych Hugh, Stradidar went forth alone into Myrloch Vale and met Kazgoroth. The battle was vicious, but in the end, he stood victorious over the Beast. On his way out of Myrloch Vale however, he was ambushed by the servants of the dead god Bhaal, who had a bit of a score to settle since the Avatar Wars. They used some magics to encase him in amber and then stashed him beneath the ruins of Darkhorn, while Midnight's gift to the Swordwielder upon her ascension to godhood made it impossible to scry the Morayan hero out. And so, he had been entrapped in the amber since the year 1360 by Dale Reckoning, and since the first year of the reign of High Queen Alicia Kendrick by the reckoning of the Ffolk.
By evening's end Stradidar had also learned of the band's purpose here in the isles ... for often the presence of foreigners has meant the presence of new troubles for the Ffolk. Hearing them out, Stradidar subsequently took the reigns and guided the band into Myrloch Vale where they met up with a native force of heroes, including the Swordwielder's old companions the Reacher and Illyass of Oman's Isle. Together they faced the forces of the Dark Druidess, an enormous dracohydra amongst them, and in the end the heroes were victorious. However, they could not stop Isellishtra from retrieving the heart of the Beast and vanishing from the isles with it.
In days to come, as the band regained their strength and enjoyed the hospitality of Caer Callidyr -- the only "hospitable" region of the Moonshaes according to Corwin -- it was explained that the presence of Kazgoroth, or at least the potential for his presence, was integral to the overall health of the isles. With its loss, both the Ffolk and the land itself would slowly stagnate, and eventually die. Thus it was that Stradidar, the Reacher, and Illyass all swore oaths before the High Queen to return to the mainland, never to return without the heart of Kazgoroth. And thus it was that the band departed the Moonshae's, and began the long journey back home with their new found allies.
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