After an exhausting two months of dealing with unrest and evil cults, the heroes were looking to get back to the business of running their kingdom and exploring the wilds surrounding it. But alas, it was not meant to be. No sooner than they had recovered from their battle with the cult leader trouble in the kingdom arose again.
A report was brought before the heroes of a missing boy. The boy liked to explore the forest along the river just outside of town. It was not unusual for the boy to spend entire days out and about, but it had been a couple of days since he had been home. And this in and of itself was not so worrisome. He was, after all, a growing boy, so spending a couple days out in the woods was not wholly unexpected. The problem was that a forest drake had recently moved into the area and was terrorizing the citizenry. A search party needed to be formed immediately. Ilieo and the group set out at once.
Not far from town, the group stumbled across a group of wayward gnomes led by Jubilost Narthropple. A band of kobolds had attacked their caravan and spooked their ponies who found themselves stuck in the raging river. Thanks to the heroics of Ze, the caravan wagons and their ponies were saved. At dinner that night, Jubilost shared the tale of his company. They were wanderers, explorers. They spent their days mapping the unknown regions of the River Kingdoms. After a lovely evening and an uneventful night, Ilieo and his group set back out in search of the lost boy.
Once into the Narlmarches, it did not take long for the group to stumble upon more trouble, though nothing near as exciting as a caravan stuck in a raging river about to be swept away. The group found a lumber camp run by a man who went by Korlax, a man who had been having kind of a rough day. Korlax and his crew were in search of coachwood trees and they had recently found a glade with an abundant number of the trees. The problem was that this particular glade was filled with a number of ancient coachwoods and was inhabited by a group of fey who were very protective of their trees. The fey had spent the whole morning harassing the lumberjacks. Nothing serious. Tricks, illusions, a couple of lumberjacks ended up charmed and defending the fey. The group came upon the kerfuffle as it came to a head. The lumberjacks were ready to start attacking the fey and the fey were ready to start taking more drastic measures. Thanks to the silver tongue of Ze, and the help of the others, the group was able to learn of another copse of coachwoods and convinced Korlax to move his camp there instead despite it being further off the river. In exchange, Ilieo promised Korlax that the kingdom owed him a favor. After the lumber situation was resolved, the fey were asked if they knew anything about the lost boy, but unfortunately they had not seen him.
Onward the company of adventurers went. A couple of days passed and things were beginning to look bleak for the young boy until the group stumbled across the grove of a timid dryad. They found her near the edge of a beautiful, serene pond. She was seemingly distraught and did not even notice the group’s arrival. They approached her and asked her why she was upset. The dryad told them of an evil entity located in another part of the woods. It had taken the form of a large tree and was killing her kind all throughout the forest. Ilieo assured her that they would deal with the menace and asked her if she had seen the boy. She said that she had not seen him, but knew he was being held by a group of lizardfolk camped along the Nurque River to the south. Finally! A spark of hope in the search.
The group set out at once. It was a day’s journey to reach the lizard encampment – a small, walled village set upon an island in the middle of the river. After much discussion, it was decided that there was no reason they could not be civilized about the matter and diplomatic routes would be exhausted before force would be used. Ilieo called out to the gate. Two lizardmen appeared asking what we wanted. Ze and Anera stated that we were looking for a lost boy and were told we could find him here. At first the lizardmen denied it, but as their case was pleaded, it was apparent the lizardmen were growing more and more hesitant to keep up the charade. Finally, they relented and opened the gates for the group and allowed entrance.
Once inside the lizardmen told the group they had to keep quiet and stay hidden. The reptilian conspirators explained that they did in fact have the boy, but the chief insisted on keeping the boy alive for the sole purpose of scaring and frightening him as much as possible. They went on to explain some of the cruel forms of torture and tactics used to accomplish this. The lizardmen did not know what had gotten into their chief and were tired of this nonsense, so they asked to group to free the boy so it would stop. They led the now boxed in adventurers around the outskirts of the village to where the boy was being kept. The time for rescue had come.
Anera crept out, quiet as the darkest night, but the area must have been warded. No sooner than she reached the pillar the boy was tied to a loud roar was heard from within the largest hut in the village. The chief knew the group was there. Out bounded the chief flanked by two vicious looking alligators smiling at the part with blood-stained teeth. Anera freed the boy and pulled him to safety while Ze and Sirio engaged the alligators. The chief, somehow aware of his superior martial prowess, singled out Ilieo. A game of cat and mouse and auroch had begun.
Knowing full well he would be unable to stand toe-to-toe with the formidable chief, Ilieo used his quickness and a host of summoned aurochs to deftly avoid melee with the chief.
The battle seemed to be quickly swinging in the heroes’ favor until a dim light began shimmering over the village. The source of the chief’s strange behavior, a will o’ wisp, revealed itself. Things were starting to make more sense. Will o’ wisps are notorious for feeding off the fear of others. For some reason, the chief felt compelled to serve the creature by feeding it fear. As quickly as the battle swung in favor of the heroes of Zeltennia, it began to swing the other way.
The will o’ wisp quickly singled out Anera, the one responsible for taking the source of its fear. Sadly, Anera was no match for the creature and died a noble death protecting the young boy. How quickly the momentum changed.
All throughout the village battle raged. The lizardmen fought amongst themselves split between supporting their depraved chief and being tired of abusing an innocent boy in this manner. The alligators had been laid low, and Ze and Sirio were doing their best to contend with the empowered will o’ wisp which was quickly gaining strength from the fallen Anera. But sadly their might was not enough. It was only a matter of time before they, too, would be subdued.
Ilieo looked around him and time seemed to slow. How could he have led his friends into such a terrible situation. So much death. So much loss. A loud cry of victory snapped Ilieo from his reflection. His last summoned beast had been slain and the chief finally had a path to victory opened in front of him. As the chief set his trident and sprung forth in his death charge, Ilieo withdrew from his quiver his final arrow, nocked it in his trusty bow and pulled back.
The flight of the arrow was straight and true. It pierced the chief’s armor and buried itself deep in the reptilian abomination’s heart. The chief gasped, a surprised look taking hold on his face. He grabbed the arrow to pull it out, but it was too late. Death had come for the wicked chief. Eyes already glazed over, he feel to his knees and slumped over.
The lizardmen ceased their fighting, shocked at the sight of their once invincible, now fallen, chief. A darkness fell over the village as the light of the will o’ wisp faded as it used its innate ability to turn invisible to flee. Ilieo, who earlier had cast a spell that had given him the ability to see invisible creatures, could the see creature fleeing. The day was won.
The group set about to searching the village for some answers. Inside the hut of the will o’ wisp, they found a sizable hoard of treasure. It all made sense now. The chief must have thought it was a god or messenger from one of the lizard gods and was paying homage to it. Nonetheless, it does not excuse the actions of the chief and his people. The heroes gathered up what was inside and left the hut.
Many of the villagers stood in a circle around their fallen chief, confusion and concern easily read on their faces. Ze parted the group and began retrieving the magical trident and ornaments of his stature from the body. Some might say it was unfair of them to take from the lizardfolk, but they had sat by idly while a young boy was tortured. The right to these treasures was lost.
As the party headed back to Zeltennia, lost boy in tow, Ilieo could not help but wonder how the lizardfolk would fare. Disappointed that the situation had escalated into violence, Ilieo had been hoping an alliance of sorts could be made. It would be nice to have finally found a friend out here in these wild lands. Perhaps he would check back on the village in a couple weeks, after they had time to regroup and proclaim a new leader. He would have to have one of his finest armorsmiths fashion a new symbol of position for the new chief. “So much for normalcy,” thought Ilieo, and he guided his horse northward along the Tuskwater. In the distance he could just make out the pennants of Zeltennia Castle rippling in the crisp spring breeze and he smiled. What would a normal day look like tomorrow?