By Jamey Martin
Fengle's Freehold and the Caves of Chaos
Early Fall 1373DR
As the band made their way back to Hap they discussed the news they heard of the Sunset Vale. They spoke of how late last year (1372 DR) the Dawn Alliance at last managed to take to retake Hluthvar in a hard battle that raged almost until Mid-Winter. However, they also spoke of the retaliatory raids carried out in the spring of the current year. Dragons and scores of winged fiends, at times supported by various goblinoids, descended upon everything from Huthduth and Eagles Reach to Proskur and Eastings to Iriaebor and Hluthvar. And while none of these raids could in any wise be considered light, both Iriaebor and Hluthvar were the hardest hit.
In Iriaebor the High Tower itself was toppled, along with numerous other structures, and thousands upon thousands of more people joined the hundreds slain in the raid of the previous spring. As for Hluthvar, the surface structures were devastated, while hordes of orcii and bugbears poured through the ruins thereafter. Nevertheless, the surviving Allies were not unprepared and managed to repulse the goblinoids and hold the deeper reaches of the ruin.
When all was said and done an ultimatum was delivered to the Alliance in Twilight Hall ... unconditional surrender to the rule of Tiamat and her new order, or unconditional destruction.
And so, even as the band rode for Hap they knew that a great force was being coordinated, if not assembled, made up primarily of Alliance forces, but supported by large contingents from Elturel and Scornubel, from Proskur and Elversult, and even from Cormyr itself.
It seemed that slowly but surely the prophecy of Maglas was coming to pass. And they were as yet, no closer to finding, muchless retrieving the Green Orb. Hopefully the other adventuring bands were faring better.
In due time the band rode into Hap, but they did not linger there for very long. With the summer winding down, et al. they took only enough time to catch their breath and recruit both Dawnpriest Handyllan and Sillania to accompany them to Fengle's Freehold.
As they well knew, both Sillania and the servant of Lathander had explored the caves near Fengle's Hold in previous years. They might even have known the adventurers from Featherfalls who were said to have disappeared during the exploration of this other cavern beyond the "Caves of Chaos". Furthermore, within the caves themselves the two "youngsters" knew of a tunnel that had been collapsed or otherwise sealed, presumably by the orcii that had long inhabited them, but which could conceivably lead to this Manastorm's lair.
And so the band made for Fengle's Hold, where they soon came to learn that the bandit force that had over-run Scardale Town had at last been smashed and driven out by the forces of Sembia.
Not long after their arrival Hector observed a fat, greasy and obnoxious merchant. Beyond a handful of mercs, he also had for himself a rather young girl, barely in her teens, as one of his "servants", and seemed to have little consideration for those in his employ ... or his vicinity, with all of his belching and farting. When the Cormyrean mage saw the slimy merchant fondle the young girl, he had at last seen enough. As he stormed over to the merchant's table, the mercs spotted him out and intervened.
They pleasantly asked Hector not to disturb their employer and politely asked him to stand down. While Hector was uncertain about what to do at first, this quickly changed when Baldred and Brutus came up behind him. They quickly persuaded the young mercs to allow Hector to pass, and he did so, boldly. Confronting the merchant, Hector chided him for his lack of manliness and demanded that he hand the girl over. The merchant refused saying that she was his by right, to do with as he pleased, until the debt owed by her dead mother was at last paid in full, interest included of course. As the Cormyrean mage fell to threats however, it just so happened that the Warden of the Keep, Captain Vallin just happened to enter (imagine Stone Cold Steve Austin in platemail).
Now, Hector and company had been warned of Capt.Vallin, that while not a bad man, he was basically a troublemaker with a badge ... as likely to come down on a lawbreaker as someone who simply rubbed him the wrong way. Fortunately for all concerned, Vallin was also a fairly good judge of character, and was generally rubbed the wrong way by precisely the right, or, errr, wrong type of people. So, after chewing out Hector for uttering threats like the mage was somehow the Warden of Fengle's Freehold, and or for imagining, perhaps, that the real Warden didn't have enough work to do already, Vallin turned to the unseemingly smug merchant now standing at his side. The merchant hadn't broken any laws, but Vallin didn't like him and so spoke to him to no length about "the smug look on your stupid little face" and what he was going to do if the merchant didn't wipe it off pronto and return to his seat immediately.
Before all was said and done, the band purchased the girl from the merchant, and the matter was closed ... much to the relief of the merchant's guardsmen.
The following day, the band headed out to explore the Caves of Chaos. While Sillania and Melvarin remained back at the Freehold with the girl, the Dawnpriest showed them the blocked tunnel. After a bit of digging however, which got them nowhere, they decided that they would return to the Freehold and come back the next day with some guides who might lead them to the so-called "Cave of the Unknown".
And so it went, with their guide taking them down one of a number of paths that led away from the caves, and refusing to enter the clearing that contained the Cave of the Unknown. The band however pressed on and therein found a great, gaping cave mouth within the side of a hill. Entering, the band came across a great number of bodies strewn across the cave floor. Some belonged to humans, some to elves, but by far the majority had been orcii. Some of these remains could hardly have been more than a couple of years old, while others were clearly quite ancient. The most recent were taken to be the former adventuring companions of the Hapsters, based upon their gear. They also found a great horde of treasure almost as large as Venom's. Undoubtedly, this was the lair of Manastorm. And it was quickly assumed that this treasure had some guardian similar to those faced in Venom's hole. Thus was the horde left undisturbed.
With that, the Disciple Landrian quickly got around to casting the Stone Tell spell off the scroll. When all was said and done he related that the Orb had been here, but that it was carried off by the wyrm that laired here long ago. That wyrm, undoubtedly Manastorm, never returned.
* * * * *
And so it was that the band set off back to Fengle's Freehold, where they remained for a day before returning to Hap. They knew that their next stop must certainly be the remains of Manastorm, which Hector had long since scryed in a forest glade in western Battledale. Much like Venom however, it was assumed that Manastorm would have died far too long ago for a conventional speak with dead spell to be of much use to them. And the Stone Tell spell would likely be far less useful in a forest glade than it had thus far been within the rocky caverns.
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