The party of adventurers collectively elected to return to Winterhaven from the old dragon burial site. At the town gates they split up.
Mana headed straight back to Valthrune the Prescient’s tower. Agresiv paced back and forth through the market square, making notes for chapter one of his book. Noorwyn turned away from the gates and followed the cry of a falcon he saw circling in the sky over a distant hill outside town. That left Brok standing at the gate by himself.
At the sage’s tower, Mana found the old man at home. He quickly called Agresiv over to join him and they both got invited in for tea. Valthrune confessed that he knew more about the old keep than he had let on before. He told them that there was an ancient rift to the Shadowfel deep under the keep, although it had been magically sealed long ago. He further explained that he felt fairly certain that the symbol he found carved on the pendant was a representation of Orcus, lord of demons. “This does not bode well! If servants of Orcus are active in the area, they are likely interested in nothing less that re-opening the rift! this is terrible! If death cultists unseal the rift, a tide of undead could descend on Winterhaven. And there’s another thing: I found out that someone will need to participate in a ritual to unbind a faltering divine energy source from the Crystal Nexus, a massive pillar of enchanted quartz that protects the surrounding area from the encroachment of chaos. At the same time, you need to seek out a willing nature spirit and attempt to convince it to join the with the nexus. While the nature spirit binds itself, you reweave the freed divine energies to create a protective enchantment. Unfortunately, the text gave no indication as to where this Crystal Nexus is located. Today, we have no empire to call for aid. The death cult will overwhelm us and establish a kingdom of death in this world if they’re not stopped. Can you help eliminate this evil threat?”
Meanwhile, outside the town walls, Noorwyn followed the cry of the falcon over the hill where he saw it dive down. Upon cresting the hill, he saw the falcon on the arm of a hunter. Bird and gnome were transfixed for a moment by each other’s gaze. Noorwyn took out his flute and began to play. Within moments of releasing the magical notes to the air, the falcon flew to him and landed on his raised arm as he held his instrument. The hunter turned to see where her bird had gone. She was furious when she saw the falcon on Noorwyn’s arm. “You!” she cried, “give me back my falcon!” It was Ninaran, and she was in a foul mood, as usual. Noorwyn felt a magical bond forming between himself and the falcon. He simply said, “I think the bird has made its choice.” Ninaran looked as though she was ready to pounce on the gnome and throttle him then and there. Looking past him, to the town’s walls not so far off, she thought better of it. “You haven’t seen the last of me!” she scowled, and went sulking off to the forested are North West.
As these events were unfolding, a woman ran crying through the gates of the town, almost colliding with Brok, who was still loitering about between the tavern and the gate, just inside the town. “Murderers! Thieves!” she cried, “I barely escaped with my life!”
“What happened?” asked the concerned bugbear.
“They’ve burned and pillaged my brother’s farm!” she wailed.
“Who? Where?” asked Brok.
“My brother’s farm! My brother’s farm! Over there, they’ve burned my brother’s farm!” she answered.
“Who? Where?” asked Brok again. She waved her arm vaguely to the east. “Are there any survivors?” continued Brok. But the woman just burst into tears.
It was about this time when Mana, Agresiv, and Noorwyn were all heading back to the tavern. They saw Brok and the woman in distress. Pretty soon they sorted out what had happened and they headed off toward her family’s farm. They didn’t have to go far before they saw smoke rising from burning buildings. As they approached, they saw the kobolds ransacking the place – about ten of them. The monsters grouped up and headed south. Accompanying them was an ogre!
The adventurers followed the band of monsters for a few kilometers. Small glades of trees led up to a cliffside waterfall, where a stream tumbled from the top of a rocky overhang. The water descended the side of the hill and flowed away to the southwest. Mana and Agresiv noticed that the ogre stood beneath the falling water for a moment, then disappeared. They (except Brok) heard the sound of many voices just barely audible over the din of the waterfall, and several kobolds were visible through the trees.
Battle ensued. And there, beside the river, standing in a circle of magical runes, was the Crystal Nexus of enchanted quartz, surrounded by standing stones.
The adventurers the band of kobold robbers without too much difficulty. Noorwyn and Mana then turned to the pillar of quartz. Noorwyn used his arcane power to discern its purpose and energy. He called to Mana to help and by and by they were able to begin the ritual. Mana called a nature spirit from the stream and he was able to convince it to join with the quartz pillar. The divine energy was released and together he and Noorwyn managed to complete the ritual and restore the proper flow of energy. And Brok and Agresiv helped a little too.
With that done, they turned their attention to their surroundings and found a way behind the waterfall into a large cavern. It was the kobold lair they had been hired to find! Brok was immediately swarmed by the little dragonlings but his new-found primal powers destroyed many of them with waves of thunder almost immediately. But then more powerful kobold leaders, and Irontooth himself emerged from the deeper recesses of the cave, followed by their secret weapon: the ogre!
The battle was long and gory. Brok went down at least once, but Mana kept him alive. Agresiv went toe to toe with the ogre, but his blade could not find its mark. Finally, Noorwyn came to his side and the little gnome almost single-handedly bloodied the smelly giant beast! Meanwhile, Mana was skirting with the idea of flight, until Agresiv’s missing streak finally passed, the ogre was brought down, and it eventually became clear that the tide of the battle was turning, and that they just might survive, victorious. Eventually they did overcome, and found a small hoard of hard-earned treasure.