With three days walk left to go on the return trip home from one of their endeavors, the group stops at a tavern in a neighboring village. As they sit around the bar in this sleepy town, a strange man wanders in, shaken with fear. One of the mages summons his weasel, commanding it to bite the fear-stricken traveler. With the stranger now shaken from fear and blood-loss, Tharivol approached the man asking what the matter was.
Spotting the weasel out of its environment, Sam Axe charged after it, chasing it through the bar; bashing tables as he tried to hunt the beast. The Halfling in the group jumped on top of a nearby table in order to help pursue the weasel, successfully keeping his footing as the Champion of Thor knocked the table on its side with a heavy swing of his sword.
With a final glorious swing of his sword, the weasel vanished into smoke and flame. The barkeep smiled and gathered his winnings from the various other patrons who had placed bets on the weasel, allowing them to leave without paying for the damages; having witnessed such entertainment and making enough profit in the impromptu endeavor.
With his once bleeding wound burned shut from the weasel bursting into flame at his feet, Tharivol ushered the nervous, scorched man out of the establishment and asked once more what problems the man was facing.
The man explained that he was a resident of Ember; a city a day’s walk from their current village. The village of Ember had been plagued by bear numerous recent bear attacks and was searching for adventurers who could help him. The group accepted and followed the man to his village.
As the group entered Ember, they noticed several houses along either side of the road, and to the far end of the village set a trading post. Only a handful of villagers dared venture out of their homes, the rest could be seen in the windows of the houses. As the adventurers would find, the farmers were too afraid to let their animals out to pasture or tend to their crops for fear of being attacked in their fields.
Before leaving town, the paladin approached the trading hub to search for some kind of improved gear, to find a +1 long sword that the merchant was willing to part with. One of the mages searched the town and discovered an abandoned house. Thrilled at the thought of some valuables, he approached; the remnants of the slashed and clawed door crumbling on contact. Reaching in a second time, the man knocked on the wall; dust and debris falling in the vibrations’ wake.
Under persuasion, the Halfling entered the abandoned one-story home to find a crushed bed at the far end of the room and a large red stain in the center of the room. As the group watched, a young boy appeared around the back side of the house saying terrified, “IT’S YOU! .. and yet it’s not you.”
Tharivol approached the boy wondering who the child was staring at. The boy’s white glazed eyes showed physical blindness, though Tharivol recognized a magical aura about the boy. Tharivol asked, “What is your name and what is it you mean by what you say?”
“My name is Thaven. I have seen all of you in my vision, and yet it’s not you. You will all play an important role in this village in the near future, though I know not when or how you will be involved. I have an uneasy feeling about this future; could I search your gear for something that could help me, like a dagger or something?”
One of the adventurers told the boy “You should go home to your family.”
Putting his hand on the abandoned home, the boy said “This was my home, and my parents are no longer in this world.”
The elven mage in the group handed the boy one of his daggers. The boy thanked them and disappeared into the village. The group followed the bear path out of the town to a small cave at the center of a glade in the forest.
The paladin walked slowly into the darkness, illuminated by the light of a spell cast by one of the mages. Soon into the cave, two large bears came into view along the nearby cave walls. The group slowly followed silently behind him. Breaking the silence, one of the mages fired a spell at a nearby bear, waking it and the others in the cavern. At that moment, the bad bear joke-fest would commence.. and the battle, of course…
The two bears charged at the intruders; one from their left and one from their right. Volleys of spells, swords, and claws flew between the opposing forces. The Halfling leapt upon the bear to the right as the Paladin dropped the Fist of Fury on the other.
Tharivol paused for a moment. Hearing heavy footsteps coming from further in the cavern, he cast Grease on a spot as far into the darkness as he could see. In response, the elven mage cast Web over the same general area. Barely within sight of the group’s few light sources, two of the approaching bears found themselves tangled in the thick webbing. A third bear slowly emerged into sight to the right of the web, getting closer by the second.
One of the human monks stepped forward, dropping Sam’s opponent with one last strike. Sam quickly turned to the monk and gave him a brief ‘that was my kill’ look.
As the approaching bear neared the group, it took a quick swipe at the Halfling, knocking him unconscious; the Halfling’s locked grip still managing to hold strong as the bear tried once more to throw its rider. Sam raced forward, finishing the first and cleaving the newly approached beast with one swing of the Fist of Fury. Tharivol turned quickly to heal the Halfling back to full health before turning his attention back to the approaching bears.
Each group member took in turn to whittle away at the nearby bear’s health. Though weakened by the numerous attacks, the monks managed to bear-ly miss their target. In one last attack, the elven mage cast Burning hands on the bear, igniting both the bear and a small portion of the webbing. As it fell, the two restrained bears burst free of the net, worked their way quickly to the edges of the web, and charged the group from either side.
The paladin charged the bear to the left, dropping the Fist of Fury and two damage spells upon it, though through all this damage, the bear still managed to stand. One of the human monks stepped in, punching at the same bear, though only dealing minimal damage.
The others focused their attention on the bear to the right, slashing and casting spells at the bear as the fires behind it spread across more of the web. With one last attack, the bear before the paladin fell in a heap. Tharivol raised his hands, igniting the last remaining bear, felling it in an instant. Smoke from the webbing began to fill the cavern and the group evacuated to the safety of the entrance. Whoever said “Only you can prevent forest fires” was never formerly introduced to this group [enough bad bear jokes now].
When the smoke subsided, the group entered the cave, passively searching for anything out of the ordinary. The group soon found three bodies at the far end of the cavern; appearing at a glance to have been mauled by bears. The human mage and several others searched the bodies for any personal belongings. Among the remains were 70 gold pieces and an ornately carved gold locket. The image within the locket resembled one of the other humans near it.
The group retired once more for the cave entrance. Tharvol and the Halfling decided to head back for town to deliver the news, while the others began to quarrel and brawl at the mouth of the cave. As the two approached the town, they began to see columns of black smoke rising high into the sky, coming from where the village was. They diverted away from the bear path directly through the woods, soon coming upon the clearing housing the village of Ember. Most of the buildings of the village were ablaze, the bodies of the citizens littered the clearing, though no trace of those responsible could be found at a glance.
The paced carefully just within the forest, stopping at the well-trodden path at the far edge of town. Staring in disbelief at the sight, they barely noticed a group of armed soldiers approaching them. The soldiers called to the two saying, “You there! Halt! We must speak with you!”
As the soldiers approached, they noticed Tharvol’s fine noble clothes. The leader bowed his head and said “Sir, we are guards from a nearby village; we saw the smoke and came to Ember trying to find out what was going on. Who may I ask are you and why are you here?”
Tharvol introduced himself as Tharvol Davarol III and explained that he was part of a group that had been asked to dispatch of some bears that had been terrorizing the village. Satisfied with the answer, the guard asked if there were any other travelers with him. Tharvol nodded, telling the guard that the rest of his group was up a bear trail near the cave where the bears had been. They walked quickly up the bear trail and soon rejoined the group.
When the adventurers were reunited, the leader of the guard asked them to accompany him to their nearby village so the matter of Ember could be deliberated. The adventurers accepted, following the guards back to the nearby village and gave the locket and coins they had found to the authorities.
The group awaited word in the village’s temple for quite some time. Suddenly there was a loud commotion outside. Armor-clad soldiers wielding great swords burst into the room, surrounding the group. The circle of soldiers parted as a village elder stepped forth asking “Were you recently in the village of Ember?”
Tharvol stepped forward and responded, “Yes we were, why do you ask?”
“I have a witness; a survivor of the destruction of Ember, who claims that you committed arson and genocide of the entire village. I don’t know what happened to our sister village, though at a glance I don’t believe ones such as you could have done such atrocities. I have heard your accounts and believe in the possibility of a mis-accusation, though of any of this, I cannot be sure. It is customary that we hold a trial to prove guilt or innocence; though strangers to this area, this custom shall be granted unto you. We will allow you a few days to gather physical evidence as proof before your trial.”
The paladin inquired “May we also speak to this witness?”
“I will have the witness called to this temple so you may speak with her, though remember, we will be watching out for her safety.”
A soldier standing behind the village elder left and soon came back with the middle-aged human; a woman who the group had seen in front of her house when they first arrived in Ember. She screamed in terror, turned, and tried to escape back past the guard yelling “It’s THEM! They slaughtered everyone in my village!”
The elder put a hand on her shoulder saying calmly “Easy, easy now. No harm will come to you.” Turning back to the adventurers, he said “You may speak with her now if you wish.”
Over the next few minutes, the group asked various questions of her. As proof of their sincere gesture, Sam gave the Halfling a potion, claiming it was a Potion of Truth. The Halfling swallowed every drop of the strange potion, instantly believing that every word uttered would be the truth. As the questions continued, the elven mage and Tharivol asked what weapons and spells they were suspected of using; though the mage knew Mage Hand and could perform it, Tharivol seemed perplexed that the weapon he was supposed to have used was a dagger.
Sam stepped forward and asked, “And what weapon was I supposed to have used?”
“A magical Great Sword!”
“Was this great sword silver?”
“Yes, and inscribed with a name!”
“What was the name on the sword?”
“I couldn’t tell; I was running for my life!”
Sam tried to disprove the story as being false, by claiming that it couldn’t have been him, though the elder seemed unconvinced. With nothing more to add, the woman was ushered away. The elder turned to the group and said “We will allow you to search the area in and surrounding Ember for any information of your innocence, though we will have to put a tracer spell on all of you. If you should run, we will be forced to hunt you; do you understand?”
The group agreed to the terms, the spell was placed upon them, and they were allowed to spend the night in the village to rest and gather supplies for the coming days. In the local shop, the group members who wished could purchase each one Bag of Holding to help them on their quest…