The party stepped out of the burning, corpse-filled remains of the Emerald Gauntlet Guildhall only to find more cultists gathered outside. Three of the cultists wore red robes, and another red scaly humanoid (a half-dragon) wore light armor and wielded a fiery Greataxe. Another wore heavy armor with a dragon’s head design etched into it over his red robes. He called forth a ferocious red-scaled Manticore, which perched on the roof and peppered the party with spikes. Ari engaged the three minions, a whirling dance of death. Donovan immediately bound the dragon with magic, and Augustus finished off the helpless creature. The armored one wreathed himself in flames and began bashing with his sickle. Donovan fired a scorching ray at the Manticore before finding that it was immune to fire. The battle was going in the party’s favor when the Manticore decided to engage them directly, jumping to the ground and breathing fire over most of the party. Tamera coated her sword in blood and stabbed the thing, but it quickly put her out of commission.
Dispatching the rest of the enemies, Portia and Augustus moved in to kill it. They succeeded, but not before it landed a killing blow on Ari, knocking her head clean off with a well-placed claw attack. A silence descended on the flaming battlefield after that. It was soon broken as a dark-skinned human woman in red and black robes appeared and, surveying the destruction, mistook the party as cultists. She drew her staff and prepared to fight. In response to this, Augustus and Donovan reached for their holy symbols. They eventually convinced her that they were not her enemy, and the woman introduced herself as Susannah, a sorceress battling the advances of this very cult on behalf of a powerful Brass Dragon. Donovan revealed what he had gleaned from the chanting of the cultists – the chant was a verbal component of a spell that would cover the world in flames. However, to cast the spell, immense magical power – and Circle Magic – would be required. In addition, they showed Susannah their fallen comrade.
“Wait,” she said, “I recognize that elf…hold on.” She then took the body and it’s severed head and disappeared. While she was gone, the party picked over the equipment of the fallen cultists.
Ari awoke to find a gigantic dragon head in her face, which immediately exclaimed, “Oop!” and everything went black again.
Susannah and Ari re-appeared about 15 minutes later. Susannah told Ari that she was a valuable member who they couldn’t afford to lose, so the dragon provided a resurrection in exchange for the money she had on her. “Of course, we can’t do that too often. Our resources are stretched pretty thin as it is. Be more careful, okay?” After telling her this, Susannah said that, as a reward for defeating the cultists and giving them a clue to their plan, she’d teleport them anywhere they wanted to go. Naturally, Portia decided to pursue their other bounty, and requested a transport to Northcourt to hunt down the fugitive Elbert Payne.
Susannah dropped them off at the mountain village of Northcourt. Once there, they immediately sought refuge to rest and regain spells for the night. They decided on the nicer of two inns, The Wandering Swordsman Inn and Tavern. Once they walked inside, they came across an old friend – Lissa Drakreth, who they had parted ways with in Valens. Lissa revealed that she, too, had come to search for Elbert Payne on behalf of the Church of Celia, enforcers of Valendian Law. Portia pressed her for information, withholding information about her task for the Emerald Gauntlet.
Lissa told her that Elbert Payne had been accused of the murder (and possible rape) of a member of the Silver Robes, a group of arcane casters in the Valendian army. He apparently murdered the Wizard and fled the battlefield with his group of soldiers. She apparently tracked them to Northcourt, where they had fled into the mountains. Lissa had been unable to pursue them further, as she was alone and a trek into the mountains would be dangerous. She then asked if they would like to accompany her. Portia agreed, and the party rested in preparation for the trip. They agreed to meet at the central monument.
The next morning, the party gathered supplies, while Portia waited impatiently at the monument, where an old man sat, telling tales about the statue to any who passed by.
The statue was a realistic depiction of a man named Torc Wolfbane, a mighty warrior who holds a sword in a defensive position in front of him. The plaque reads: Ser Torc Wolfbane – Hero of Northcourt. Protected the city from an army of raging Frost Giants, insuring our eternal solidarity with the Dwarven Kingdoms.
“Fantastic work, isn’t it? So life-like – the artist got the proportions perfect, that’s hard to do. And the HAIR – just look! Fine work, fine work. He was a real hero, Ser Wolfbane. History won’t ever forget his name, and this statue does him justice. I met the artist once, you know. Yeah, odd fellow – slim, wore goggles all the time. He came by about 15 years ago and said he had to do some maintenance on the statue – wear and tear and erosion and such. He took it down and came back a few days later with the newly redone one. Remarkable work. Amazing that this one hasn’t eroded much, too.”
After the man rambled on for awhile, the party arrived. The man escorted them to the entrance to the mountain range, warning them to beware of Frost Giants and telling them that the quickest way to Gilnorra, the Dwarven city, is also the most dangerous, as it passes by several Giant settlements. Augustus wondered if this old man was a deity in mortal form.
With that, the party ventured into the mountains. They followed the roads, camped for the night and heard wolf howls. After crossing a rickety bridge, they came across a Dwarven caravan. Portia took it upon herself to warn them of the fugitive on the loose.
“Be careful, there’s a criminal hiding in these mountains.” “Oh, aye? Wha kin’ a criminal?” “A rapist.”