As the skyship soared through the morning sky, gaining altitude, the gray stain of fog that marked the boundary of the Mournlands diminished from view over the horizon. For many of the passengers on the ship, this marked one of many exotic vistas they would see as they traversed Khorvaire on whatever urgent errand or task that required sailing the sky. Some, seeing the Mournlands for the first time, could not help but stare in abject horror, knowing that they gazed upon the aftermath of a cataclysm. Others, numb to the shock after flying past more than once, muttered suspicions and conspiracy theories to one another. A small handful, having spent years exploring the mysteries of that pit of despair, breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the airship carries them to something better. Perhaps they even allow themselves a glimmer of hope that they might be flying towards some answers.
Our band of adventurers made introductions whilst en route to Dendrake Isle from the Mournlands. As the passengers thinned out, disembarking at one stop or another, there were only four left that were staying for the final destination. They were surprised to find that each person had a unique reason to head to the island, some clue or lead that brought them all together.
Cairn, a Revenant Goliath lugging a huge stone maul didn’t reveal much, only stating that he had come to the island to find answers. Nimh, a nimble and experienced Revenant Tiefling, had left the Mournland in pursuit of a job with House Thrashk. Blackwood, a shadowy sorcerer armed with a staff and daggers, was on a journey to rescue lost family members. The other passenger was a Warforged tinkerer named Yannin Varr. He was strangely garbed as a scarecrow and constantly surrounded by puppets. When asked, he nattered on excitedly about Roger Timble and his hoard of dragonshards.
While they traveled, the ship captain gave them a bit of background on the small kingdom island and its inhabitants. As they prepared to disembark and part ways, the captain offered them a simple job: carry some crates the short distance to the town for a single gold coin each.
The adventurers shrugged, gathered their meager possessions and began to heft the crates when the largest one suddenly burst open. To their surprise, it contained a strange mechanical contraption gripping a huge sword in its metallic hands. In a cacophony of clanking, wheezing and grinding, it set upon them, hacking at them with the sword.
Although both the warforged and the revenant were knocked to the ground during the ensuing melee, they proved stronger than the machine and thanks to Nimh’s whirling weapons, they crushed it to a pile of scrap metal. They were shocked to see four smaller devices spring from the heap and stab at them with daggers. After a matter of seconds, they had reduced three of the contraptions to rubble and one stunned. As it deactivated, it mindlessly repeated its orders: “Kill the Revenants. Kill the Revenants.”
The adventurers caught their breath and tried to make sense of what had happened. Someone had set a trap for them and wanted them dead. But who? and why?
Cairn, fearing more evil machines, began smashing the other small crates with his maul, only to find… that they were actual mundane parcels. Yannin identified their assailant as a Modron, a creature native to a different plane, designed to carry out simple military orders.
They were interrupted by an adventurer named Waldro on his way out of the small nearby village. He said that since they looked like capable folk, that they could take over a contract he had to protect a caravan for Sam the Profiteer as it headed to the capital city of Illuminus. Apparently, he was to meet Sam in the local village but he was late and Waldro could wait no longer. Waldro told them that Sam’s caravan was laden with expensive oil paintings and that they could go and talk to Julian at the Inn to accept the contract.
Upon arriving at the inn, the adventurers accosted Julian. When Cairn’s shouting earned only stares, Blackwood tried a more slippery approach and was able to discover that the caravan had been on the way from the elven town 2 days to the south, but had not showed up for a week. Their conversation was cut short by a commotion outside.
Rushing outside, the unlikely group witnessed filthy kobolds slashing wildly at terrified townspeople. One man had already fallen and the kobolds seemed determined to lash out at the nearest people. The adventurers quickly put down the beasts, and rushed into the house that they burst from, but could find no point of entry. Further examination revealed that the dead man was Roger Timble. His wife told them that she could not understand where the kobolds came from since the windows and doors were untouched. They canvassed the place for a secret entrance but only discovered an exquisite painting and some papers indicating that Roger Timble was a member of The Blood of Vol. They pressed the wife for more information to figure out the source of these mysterious kobolds, but all they learned was that Roger Timble had business dealings with Duergar in the Dwarven City to the North and that most of the Blood of Vol activities were held in Hollis.
As they left to return to their conversation with Julian, they were approached by a well-dressed gentleman named St. Chamblain, who had heard the chittering of the kobolds. He informed the motley group of adventurers that he had heard the same noises coming from his art gallery at night and could use their help in making sure it was not haunted.
At this point, Cairn noticed that their fates were intertwined and proposed that they form a road-bond. This time-honored tradition among Goliaths allowed travelers to form a short term clan in order to withstand the perils of the open road. The other adventurers agreed, and they returned to Julian in the inn.
Julian drew them a map to get to the elven town in case they wanted to investigate the missing caravan. Also, Julian recognized Cairn’s tattoo and told him that he had seen 5 or 6 capable soldiers in Port Tilbur all wearing the same tattoo. Cairn offered him a reward if he could get him any more information from his contacts.
It was nearing nightfall when they arrived at St. Chamblain’s art gallery. He left them to keep watch and they were immediately attacked by a huge insectoid beast that leaped out of one of the paintings. Nimh circled around the beast to hack it with her axe while Cairn and Yannin squared off with the creature. Blackwood seared it with arcane hell, but it managed to grab Cairn in its powerful jaws and attempted to gnaw him in half. To make matters worse, eight smaller creatures crawled out of the painting to menace the adventurers. These beasts were no match for Blackwood, as tendrils of shadow enveloped him and allowed him to flit between them, blasting them with impunity. All eight of the bugs were incinerated by two carefully aimed blazes of blinding light. Meanwhile, Nimh and Yannin continued to lay down the hurt on the larger beast even though it sprayed them with acid. Cairn escaped the grasp of its maw only to be grabbed again. It was looking grim for Cairn. His skin was nearly completely corroded away and he was bleeding from bite wounds all over his body. At the last minute, Blackwood forced the creature away with an arcane word, slamming it against the wall and causing it to release Cairn. This breathing room gave Cairn the respite that he needed and he was able to shake off his pain. In a reckless move, he charged the Ankheg and took its life with a final blow of his lightning-charged maul.
Now, to uncover why beasts appear to be emerging from paintings, and what connects all these events…