During Sandpoint’s rebuilding and Bandaro’s partying, Sir Ash was summoned to city hall for a meeting with Ethram Valdemar, town patriarch and noble. Valdemar asked the dragonkin to lead a band of adventurers, known locally as the Heroes of Sandpoint, to the Storval Plateau, the untamed home of orcs, barbarians and giants. The stone giants were rallying under the militant flag of a powerful spellcaster called Mokmurian. Valdemar tasked Ash with scouting their force and if possible, eliminating their leader.
The party received a similar offer from another noble, Ameiko Kaijitsu, bard and owner of The Rusty Dragon Inn. Bandaro quickly accepted to maintain her favor. Others were encouraged by the 1,000 gold reward she promised (500 for scouting only). She also announced that a statue of the Heroes was being commissioned for the town square.
Valdemar also told Ash that a Magnimarian tax collector named Elias Kyle traveled to Ravenmoor one month ago and never returned. He was supposed to get 10 years worth of unpaid taxes from the remote town. If found, Magnimar would likely reward their efforts. Since Ravenmoor was along the route north, it might be an easy bonus.
The next morning the heroes set out from Sandpoint along the Lost Coast Road. On steeds, including an ostrich that Albi summoned, the group made fast time to Galduria on the western shores of Ember lake. Approaching a farmstead, they heard frightened cows and snapping timbers. Then a hill giant rounded the barn with a struggling cow under his arm. Another giant was close behind.
After defeating the pair of giant cattle rustlers, the party celebrated a harvest feast with the Galdurian farmers. The family provisioned the adventurers with apples, cornbread, smoked fish and ale. The heroes set out the following morning to a clear day and high spirits.
At midday, they came upon the site of a stone giant ambush. A few large stones and a shattered wagon where all the remainder of a battle of a week ago. Malcanthet tracked the giants into a nearby wood and found a stone giant burial cairn . The remaining giant tracks led off to the north but the party decided to head on toward Ravenmoor.
The next day, the group travel through a misty swamp and reached the small village around late morning. They crossed the Lampblack River via a small ferry. The old ferryman warned of the “water wolf that tears the bowels of those that swim the Lampblack”.
On the edge of the village a child ran by “playing” with his pet stirge. The boy excitedly greeted the travelers and explained that the Founder’s Festival would begin later that night. Maggie asked about an inn and the boy explained that visitors sometime stay at the mayor’s manor.
The simple folk of Ravenmore smiled or nodded as the heroes passed. The small town circle contained several simple buildings including a smithy/trading post, tailor, apothecary and a church of Desna albeit in rather poor repair. Several ravens squawked from the rooftops.
Crossing a small creek that drained into the Lampblack, the party climbed a hillock to a two-story manor. The thick shrubs were tended by an equally thick-necked man who discouraged them from bothering his brother, the mayor. Before things could escalate, the front door opened and Mayor Krieger warmly greeted the visitors. They were invited inside and told of the Festival. Then Maggie asked about the missing Magnimarian tax collector. The mayor explained that he was here about 4 weeks ago and collected the taxes and left. Ash confirmed the story with a divine zone of truth but Maggie and Bandaro were convinced that there was more to the story. The mayor showed the adventures to their rooms upstairs and excused himself to prepare for the festival.
Mal began exploring the town and found many townsfolk preparing tables at a small fairgrounds. Ash and Maggie questioned the ferryman and learned that the tax collector entered but did not leave via the ferry. Albi found the mayor’s small library and got lost in some old books, including some ancient Thassilonian writings. Bandaro helped himself to the mayor’s stash of fine Galdurian wine and flayleaf.
As the sun drew lower, the Founder’s Festival started in earnest. The mayor spoke briefly, followed by several courses of food and fun activities. Mal and Maggie joined the town youths in a greased pig wrestling contest. Mal helped a boy who dislocated his shoulder, while Maggie rode “Squealing Cythie” into submission. The crowd cheered.
Events followed, including a three-legged race, a leap over a bonfire, and a starknife throwing competition. Bandaro noted that the locals were surprisingly unskilled with the starknife given that it is the favored weapon of their patron, Desna, goddess of dreams.
Well after nightfall, the children were off to bed. Then several of the village men brought out cages of aggressive ravens. Mal asked about them and a bearded man replied, “It’s time for the raven fights!” Stunned she asked, “What do raven fights have to do with Desna?” “Uh,” he replied. “It’s just for betting and fun.” Appalled, the scowling ranger pulled out her coin purse and began buying birds for 10 gold each. Before long, all the villagers realized what she was doing. She bought every bird, including one battered from the first fight for “two fifty”. The crowd dispersed disappointedly as Mal calmed the raucous birds and freed them into the woodline.
Later after the heroes called it a night, trouble came looking form them. Each adventurer was in his or her small private room at the mayor’s manor. Ash awoke with start as a costumed human stabbed at him with a curved dagger. Simultaneously, a hostile cleric cast a spell but without effect. Ash retaliated with a magical command that dropped the dagger-wielder to the ground. The dragonkin drew his sword and bathed the room with pale blue light. He saw the spellcaster clearly, a black leather-clad cultist with a beaked mask and an exotic curved dagger – just as a spectral blade flew forward. Ash turned but not before a flesh wound opened on his arm.
Meanwhile, another pair of cultists barged into Mal’s chamber. She was already on her bed with her longbow drawn. A lightning arrow slammed the leading raven cultist. Lilith leapt forward and bit deeply into his leg. The cultist cried out in pain. There was a flash of white light outside Mal’s door and something heavy crumpled on the ground. Then a curved Andori dueling sword slashed across the remaining cultist ending him as well. With the doorway cleared, Bandaro stood naked before Mal grinning rakishly.
Next door Ash closed on the spellcaster. He slashed into his thigh, quickly reversed his grip and severed his raven masked head. The second cultist recovered from Ash’s compulsion and rasped, “Your nightmare just begins.” He cast a spell and the dragonkin was paralyzed. Pulling his own curved blade he moved behind the paladin.
Then Mal and Lilith raced through the door. A lightning arrow pierced the cultist as the streaking fur and claws tore into him. Ordered to subdue the cultist, Lilith wrapped the man’s leathers around his head and stood on his back, arching his neck upward. Malcanthet manacled him. He spat and said, “My waking life means little and your night terror will be unending.”
The heroes quickly searched the house. The mayor and his brother were missing. Bandaro picked the mayor’s bedroom door lock. The bed was covered with a quilt showing a human couple in front of a large winged humanoid and a wreath of flying ravens. Maggie found a hidden chest under the floorboards which contained a detailed tome titled “The Krieger Book”, several pouches with 750 gold and a potion of healing.
Outside, Malcanthet and Lilith picked up the cultist’s trail and began tracking them backward through the damp, cold night.