Trace of Breath
Alliance with Elves
Chapter 5 of the Quest to Free Barfield
Not wasting any time, the Gatekeepers move on to Hearthelle’s grove. Trudging through the wintery blasts of the forest, they encounter a grizzly bear. Recognizing something amiss because bears usually hibernate this time of year, they discover that they are being observed by an Eladrin warrior who refuses to speak in the common tongue. Polycarp, who speaks Elven, realizes that the archer is waiting to see how they handle the bear. Drawing on the memories of a soul that loved animals, Polycarp is able to approach the bear and heal a wound on its paw. The Eladrin is convinced of their quality and leads them to Hearthelle, the druid master of these woods (200 XP). She sympathizes with their plight, but doesn’t believe it involves her people. Calumnior convinces her that the Iron Circle will burn the woods, and Polycarp mentions the “burning man” they used to destroy Harken. Hearthelle realizes that the Iron Circle must be using a Teifling-defiled Eladrin stone circle to summon tar devils.
When asked how she knows Dar Gremath, Hearthelle explains that he was part of an adventuring company that freed Kinsmet from Tiefling oppression about 30 years ago, and that her people aided them in their quest. She agrees to join them in the battle for Barfield and suggests that their next step be to neutralize the Iron Circle agents at the stone circle.
While the day wears on, the Gatekeepers travel toward the Tiefling site Hearthelle had indicated on their map. To get there, they cross the Duchy border between Barfield and Tarone. The find the border gatehouse broken into and the Taronian guards killed by what looked like savage weapon attacks. Reaching the Tiefling circle of stones, they see a covered wagon seemingly unguarded and no Iron Circle visibly present. They are ambushed by deathjump spiders who hop in and out of the trees to poison their prey. Using the last of their energy, they dispatch the monsters (sending one through a teleportation field in the middle of the stones) and inspect the wagon (233 XP). Inside, they discover a cowering goblin, named Tidbit. He quickly gave them the treasure he was guarding (100gp gem and 20 gp) and explained that he was sent with the “hobbygobbies” from Mythos Barrow to make deliveries to a “pointy-ear” who lives underground. They decide to camp out for the night before entering the teleportation field, some hiding inside the wagon while others find a spot behind some cover.
During the night, a band of Hobgoblins (led by a heavily armored champion of Bane) emerges from the standing stones to discover the slain spiders. They beat an answer from Tidbit who, having been taught a convincing lie by Calumnior, sends them on a wild goose chase. This buys the heroes enough time to rest and recover before they return. Furious with the deception, the Hobgoblins threaten to kill Tidbit, but the Gatekeepers spring to his defense. The champion of Bane seems almost indestructible in his magical armor (+2 Warsheath Layered Plate), but with the help of Tidbit (the duel-wielding cook), they are able to finally defeat him (250 XP). The question remains, however, what greater scheme may be afoot that involves the darkness of Bane.
Activating the stone circle, the heroes are transported to an underground laboratory where they defeat the remaining hobgoblins and free an abused young griffon (150 XP). They find a valuable spellbook (100gp of rituals) and components (400 gp of rididuum) hidden among the scraps of parchment and magical circles.
In the next room, they interrupt a ritual performed by a Tiefling and an Eladrin, whom Polycarp recognizes to be their fellow Gatekeeper, Torodrin. He laughs at their surprise, saying “the Gatekeepers are slow to catch up. They’ll never stop what we have started!” The heroes cut off any further dialogue by launching into the attack. The Tiefling disappears behind a veil of webs, but Torodrin almost defeats his former comrades, whispering poisonous words into their ears that drive them into confusion that has them wandering into spider-filled pit traps and unable to distinguish friend from foe. Finally, however, the heroes gain the upper hand and Camden is able to slay the traitor (226 XP). They search his ritual chamber and find Torodrin’s journal as well as a corpse hidden among some dragon bones that wears an ornate ruby-studded jacket (Level 9 Hide Armor) that Calumnior claims for himself.
Their investigation is interrupted by the appearance of a Half-Elf, Quinnarion, accompanied by a Warforged, SID. They claim to have been sent by Hearthelle, but the Gatekeepers remain suspicious. SID’s presence seems more startling at first, given the recent annihilation of the entire Warforged population, but they soon discover that Quinnarion is the half-brother of Torodrin. He claims that they had not seen each other in years, and that Torodrin had chosen the darker road. After some debate, the Gatekeepers decide to welcome them into their party because they recognize the insignias of Pelor and Bahamut on their garb, and also under the adage of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
Following the trail of the escaped Tiefling, the heroes travel down winding tunnels until they slide down a steep decline and are caught in an enormous web. As they are cutting themselves free, they hear the approach of a large monster. Above them, the mutated face of Torodrin appears, its mouth pulled back to expose biting mandibles and its torso sprouting from a bulbous spider body. Working together, the party escapes Torodrin’s trap, dropping him down an underground river cavern (200 XP).
The tunnel continues for quite a distance, and they take the first exit to find themselves in a large cavern with a tomb and a black dragon skull. The tomb is marked with protective wards from both Bahamut and Zehir (an odd combination). Still having recovered no true memories, Calumnior, now calling himself Cedric, is able to translate an epitaph that reads “Here lies ”/campaigns/trace-of-breath/characters/bartley" class=“wiki-content-link”>Bartley Montague, beloved of Agatha, father of Cedric and Horace." The shock of discovering Calumnior to be the son of one of his own souls sends Polycarp into a flashback. He lies on the ground in Harken Village staring up at the furious face of a younger Denubis who holds a bloody dagger over him. Polycarp knows they are exchanging words, but cannot hear them.
Meanwhile, Taima investigates the dragon skull and realizes that someone is watching them from within the eye socket. When she calls the others to join her, a “CROOAAK!” of alarm bellows from the skull, and they are immediately surrounded by Bullywugs. After a difficult battle, the exhausted heroes manage to defeat the toad-men, but their pet slime drops from the ceiling on Taima, almost killing her with its acid form (280 XP). They spare the Bullywug leader, Bloorpk, who claims that the tunnels below ground have been busy with hobgoblins and demons. He also offers to show them where his treasure is if they leave him in peace.
Deciding his offer is a trap, the Gatekeepers return to the burnt husk of Harken Village and turn Bloorpk over to the Goblin Auntie, whose home was overrun by the toad-people. The goblins throw a celebration and present Calumnior with an heirloom that was taken from the tomb of Bartley (level 8 item).