It was a typical evening at the tavern of Antler and Thristle. The light coming through the windows was crimson-red, as the sun had just hidden itself behind the Stonehome Mountains.
A group of three humans were playing cards in the corner. Apparently not too intrested in concealing their hand, they talked loudly and moved their hands around, shouting praises at the barmaid’s juicy bits. A dwarf was sitting alone at the bar, drinking and sharing stories with the bartender. At the tables, an exotic looking man sat silent, covered in full plate armor. His eyes were closed, his lips moving barely, probably quietly inciting a prayer. Two mysterious figures were at another table, shrouded in cloaks. The patrons could swear they hadn’t exchanged a single word the whole time they were there. Another pair of males were sitting at the table closest to the door, talking as if afraid to be heard by others, but loud enough to be heard nonetheless.
“So what if the trading caravans are late; that has happened countless times! What bothers me is the Farstriders. What was so important that made them leave the city overnight without telling anyone?”
“I don’t know about you… but I’ve heard rumors that war is coming from the west.”
“Horseshit! That’s rumors spread by the council to have an excuse for asking us to pay such ridiculous taxes for the military… If they knew that war is coming, why don’t they tell us who we’re at war with…?”
Suddenly all the talking and drinking came to a halt. Screams and clashes of steel could be heard from the outside. Footsteps running towards the tavern could be heard, accompanied by warcries of not human throats. Four shadows darted by the window. A moment of silence; then the door came crashing into the room, broken into a dozen pieces. A group of hobgoblins entered the tavern, an upside down Red Hand symbol worn on their armor.
“For Sinruth! For the Hand!” they cried.
The two men on the table by the door were slain before they made a sound. A goblin entered the tavern shouting curses and threw a torch behind the bar. The bottles of liquor exploded. The fire started spreading inside the room, the bartender being trapped behind the bar counter. Another hobgoblin ran towards the barmaid and headlocked her, then threw her through one of the windows, shattering the glass. The card players screamed in terror as they stood, their legs stiff as wood from fear. The dwarf finished his drink, as he thought wasting beer is worse than insulting one’s clan, and picked up his hammer. He ran to the nearest hobgoblin and bashed its head, its helmet flying off and striking against the wall. The armor-clad man ran to the bar.
“Quick! Take my hand!” he shouted, reaching his hand to the bartender. The man grabbed it and was pulled over the counter. Not able to keep his balance however, he came crashing down on the floor on the other side of it. The shrouded pair rose in perfect unison. There was harmony in their movements, as if it was a choreography practiced a thousand times. One picked up a staff leaning next to him on the table, his head turned towards the hobgoblins. It opened its arms, silently chanting in a language unknown to mortal men. Suddenly the hobgoblins started tearing the flesh from their faces with their own claws, screaming in agony and horror. The other pulled a scythe from his back, its size too big to be used for harvesting crops. It too spoke in a bizarre language, swinging the grim weapon to shave the goblin’s head clean off its shoulders.
Two of the card players, seeing the oportunity to escape rushed to the exit, only to be cut down by more hobgoblins and a goblin pouring into the room. The goblin threw another torch, the fire consuming the whole building second by second. A pair of hobgoblins attacked the robed figures slashing and injuring them. Another charged the kneeling bartender who was just saved from the flames and broke his spine with its flail. The heavy armored man, seeing the injustice of slaying innocents before him, was consumed with righteous fury. His blade gave the creature a clean death. The dwarf, seeing his cloaked allies in pain, motioned with his hand and glowing runes appeared under their robes relieving them of their injuries. The scythe went up, then down. A right arm and a big part of a hobgoblin’s torso hit the floor, while the remaining goblin slit its on throat laughing maniacly as the creature holding the staff waved its hand in a commanding manner. The only remaining patron seized the opportunity and fled, leaving all the money on the table behind. The four combatants hurried outside too, before the building collapsed on top of them.
In the city streets, chaos reigned. The sun had set, but bright warm light was emitted by buildings that were burning to the ground. Dead bodies and streams of blood littered the streets. The hobgoblins were killing and burning and pillaging everything in sight. But the real threat just presented itself, coming from around the corner. A massive beast was pulling a wagon filled with explosive barrels, throwing them on buildings and setting them on fire. On top of the wagon rode two hobgoblins, one handing the barrels to the ogre, the other firing arrows at everyone who got near.
The ogre caught sight of the group in front of the burning tavern and threw a barrel at them. The barrel exploded a little off target, but the fire it created was dangerous still. The party barricaded themselves in a nearby building, as they knew the couldn’t fight the beast up close.
The hobgoblins saw them enter and decided to leave none alive. They tried to enter, but their way was blocked by the paladin and the dwarf. The paladin was struck badly and fell to the ground, dying. The dwarf killed one of them. Then, to his surprise, he felt a force pull him towards the window. The ogre! It had come from the side of the building and it was trying to take them out and break them one by one. The other hobgoblin was killed by the staff wielding man, while the one holding the scythe struck the ogre‘s hand, helping the dwarf escape his grasp. Then he attacked again, burrying the blade of his scythe into the monster’s shoulderblade and pulling him inside through he window. The ogre was too big to fit through, so it was stuck there. Just as they were ready to finish it off, four arrows pierced its neck and it stopped breathing. The town guard had come to their aid; though not at the most critical moment.
“We’re driving them off! Quickly! To the bridge!” they shouted.
The party brought the paladin back into conciousness and followed the guards to the town market, where the hobgoblins could be seen in the distance fleeing the city. The raid had been repeled. A higher ranked memeber of the guard approached them and thanked them for everything they had done. He didn’t hesitate to show how impressed he was for how they handled the ogre. He asked them to go rest for the night and assured them that their deeds would not go unrewarded. Everyone agreed, except for the paladin, introducing himself as Damianrath Lucius, who insisted on helping tend to the injured. The guard proposed the Red Door Inn, one of the few remaining buildings, as their place of lodging. Then the rest of the party went on their way.
The Council Summons
The next morning the heroes were contacted by a half-elf woman named Alys. She informed them that a member of the Brindol Council, named Lord Eoffram Troyas had summoned them to discuss an important matter.
When they arrived at the Lord’s Mansion, Lord Troyas was in an argument with a man of obvious noble descent and authority.
“I can’t believe how they left the night before this happened! Would you consider it coincidence? The only people who could protect us and bring this mission to an end!” said the man.
“Lord Jarmaan, speculation won’t do us any good at the time. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not, neither do I care. We have a situation on our hands, and we need to act now.”
“Fine! But mark my words Troyas, you better get results or by the Gods I will hunt those Farstriders down and lock them up for life! And that’s if I’m having a VERY good day!”
Then the man stormed out of the room, not sparing a glance at the party.
Lord Troyas turned to the group and introduced himself. He then expressed his gratitude for the valor they had shown the previous day and asked of them to introduce themselves. The dwarf’s name was Thor Thunderbeard. The shrouded duet lowered their hoods and under them were hidden two very peculiar faces, definitely not human. One was a deva, a celestial race. His name was Lucifer Lightbringer. The other was a shardmind, named Corrigan.
Lord Troyas, unimpressed, informed them that several people were considered missing, probably abducted during the raid. Also some relics were stolen from the Hall of Great Valor. He offered them a mission to rescue the prisoners and retrieve the stolen relics. For that deed they would be rewarded handsomely. The heroes accepted, and Troyas reffered them to the barrack’s dungeons, where a hobgoblin captured during the raid was being held prisoner. Finally he asked them to return to him for further details of the assignment after the interrogation.
The dungeons were cold and dump. A guard pointed them to the interrogation room. Two guards were standing at attention inside the room. The heroes started interrogating the hobgoblin, who said his name was Morrik. At first he was being taunting and provocative, but Lucifer’s sudden action to slam him against the wall changed that. The guards, however, were not as happy about that.
“Do that one more time and you’ll be rotting in the cell next to him! We need the prisoner alive and in good health.” he said, putting his hand on the grip of his sword.
Morrik decided that the odds would be in his favor if he cooperated. He told them about his fearsome leader Sinruth and how he wanted to revive the once great Red Hand army under his banner. He also told them of their hideout, Rivenroar castle, which was located on the edge of Marth Forest, at the foot of Giantshield Mountains. He made a crude map with directions to the castle, with many intentional back-and-forths in hope they will get killed on their way there.
The heroes left the dungeons and were on their way to Lord Troyas, to receive the details of their mission…