The death of Kresselack’s guardians left his tomb exposed. He stood alone in an empty room beside his own sarcophagus. He was dead, of course, but revived into a shadow life of undeath, holding his sword and gazing at us menacingly. No doubt, he would be difficult to lay down. Targos saw something in how the old monster moved, different and with more focus and purpose than the shambling hordes we encountered outside. He placed his hand upon Baron Charles’ shoulder and shook his head. Don’t fight this one, yet. Not if we don’t have to. Gary Jansen snorted. I’ll talk to him. Some bag of Myrkul bones dancing around doesn’t scare me. He might know something useful. As it turns out, they struck a deal. There was a threat to Kuldahar in the valley, but it was also a threat to Kresselack. An Aurilite Priestess had summoned shades and yetis to threaten and attack and destroy the town of Kuldahar, and kill the beautiful tree that warms it. Lo and behold, the adventurers rooted out her cave among the tombs, and confronted her, and it was as Kresselack had said. Baron Charles was pleased by the honor of the undead warlord, but the evil of his condition was too great to bear. It was only a matter of time before the tombs swelled with the bone dancers, once again, as fallen explorers are bent to Myrkul’s will. Hera agreed, and thought it better to open the tomb to Auril, clear out all the dead, snuff out all the eternal torches, and let things fall to ruin, but, and this was a very important point, dying at the end of Kresselack’s blade did nothing to help Kuldahar, and it was a fight for another day. Let the slow evil lie, and let us work upon the big, fast evil. The villagers are being abducted in the night. Kresselack is not abducting them, but someone is.
So, we journeyed on. The Archdruid of Kuldahar told us that he needed a Hearthstone to scry the location of the enemy, and the Hearthstone was missing. He knew where it probably had gone, but like all old caves and caverns in the cold and dangerous mountains of the spine, it proved a treacherous place, but the war had come just before the group arrived. The residents of this old temple had already been defeated in battle, and what few remained alive thought Baron Charles were another wave of attackers. The priests and giants there fought hard and without mercy, and there was no option but to either abandon Kuldahar to their fate, or fight to the heart of the temple, where the Hearthstone was. It was a bitter battle, to kick those already defeated, but so many innocent lives were at stake, and the monstrous races of the temple were already thieves, once, for they stole the Hearthstone, once upon a time. Gary Jansen assured Baron Charles that their god was wicked, anyway. It seemed to be the sort of followers that aligned with the wicked, hidden in a place where the wicked would hide. It was a sensible enough argument, but it still felt wrong to slaughter the angry and defeated, and at the heart of the temple, there was no hearthstone. Alas, the powerful scrying gem had just been stolen before we could reach it.
This bitter pill was only made more foul when, the wicked temple to a wicked god had evidence of being assaulted by another wicked deity’s followers. These mountains were full of infidels, determined to poison and harm. Snake venom, and the signs and symbols of Talona, meant that in some dangerous cave, hidden in the mountains, cold-hating Yuan-Ti had found a niche to work their poison into the community. There was only place nearby that the Archdruid knew. It was a cavern warmed by a volcanic nature. Gary Jansen shook his head and told everyone to let him take the lead. Talona and her minions do like their little traps. They are clever in their evil. I have some familiarity with them. If I tell you not to step somewhere, best not.
There were many minor things done. An heirloom was ripped from the guts of a yeti and returned to the man whose brother was eaten by it. The shadows were swept away from the valley, and the tombs were emptied of their guardians. In the temple of the lost god, the attackers left much of the treasures of the temple behind. They sought only one thing, and fought through to it swiftly, like an arrow in flight, reserving their great strength for one task, alone. In their wake, the doomed temple, empty now of all life, would sit and wait open to the mountain for any passing tribe of orc or goblin. No doubt, the great halls of the temple would either collapse upon themselves one snowy winter, or become the shelter from the storm that marauders require in their organized raids. Either way, there was no time to worry about wards or guardians. The Hearthstone was stolen, once more, and a cloud of evil loomed, with cold winter air and monsters slaughtering the farms and passes seemingly of a will and purpose not their own.