It happened that one day we, Tormun Stonesinger and I, received word of a castle, a keep to be specific, out north west of the city of Sheador. This place, Candor Keep, was said to contain artifacts of knowledge and power, perhaps things that we might find useful in our quest to acquire the fortitude to help Tormun’s family, and to advance my abilities as a smith. We journey’d through the wilderness for a few days, Tormun and I enjoying the quiet countryside.
When we arrived at Candor we found a rotting husk of a once-great castle. It had been over taken by nature and left in ruin by some ancient battle. Perhaps, I thought, this would not be the place we sought. As we approached the door we were approached by a strange woman of curious quality. She was gnomish and appeared to be adorned with various artifices, most of which looked unique, of a metallurgic style I had never witnessed. While normally I would love to have interrogated her about her proclivities, we were in dangerous country, and she seemed to have appeared in time to potentially interrupt our search. However, after a few exchanged words we found an uneasy peace. A split of the profits, whatever they may be, was all it took to secure a temporary partnership. She, the gnome Raynewyn “Shockhair” Deckle, also seemed to be in possession of a strange weapon, a sort of exploding tube, this also piqued my interest, but the time for that could come later.
We ventured inside and found the interior was just as decrepit as the exterior. Vines, sprouts, and even full trees had pushed their way through the stone work. This was certainly not of dwarven work, as their creations last even through the harshest of environments. Although, as we proceeded, my theory was thrown into conflict by the appearance of a dwarf clad in robes. He appeared to be a mage of some sort and addressed us with authority. He claimed to be the lord of this castle, and that his knowledge extended far. We were informed that to access it, we must pass three challenges. I asked him whether he possessed any knowledge of the Armiger’s Art and he seemed to lack confidence. I would have turned around on the spot and left with Tormun, but there is the chance that he might have something to aid my friend, so I persisted.
Without waiting for our consent, the dwarf claimed our first trial to be started and suddenly three figures appeared behind him! A gnomish man, an elvish maiden, and her vulpine companion. They appeared dazed, and their clothing and bearing was strange to the eye, as if something about them was just not quite right. The dwarf turned to them and issued commands and soon they had their bows trained on us, as if to drive us from the castle. They appeared to be decent folk, but a trial nonetheless, so I planned to disable them as best I could. I quickly ran to the center of the room, trying to draw their attention from my companions behind. I called for them to lay down their arms, but neither acquiesced so I proceeded to attack the legs of the gnome, hoping to disable his mobility and prevent any further bloodshed. I also called to the maiden to run from this place, as I did not have the heart to do damage to her.
The scuffle continued, but not for long, as it seemed soon the two of them were shaking their heads and appearing even more confused. They soon called for an end to the conflict, but not before I had damaged the little man further. I felt ashamed, while I had done my duty to my friends I had acted hastily, and found myself hurting an innocent. After helping the poor man to his feet we exchanged introductions. It appeared that these people were from another place entirely, unfamiliar with our world and it’s inhabitants (they seemed genuinely shocked by Tormun). They, a wood elf named Veralidaine Sedai and a gnome named Werven Gearbox spoke of fallen comrades, of dragons and mages and of a harrowing time. I offered my assistance, but claimed our mission, and they decided to follow us on that path as well. I am not in need of money so split profits are a minor detail, but I do hope all these new companions do not get in my way of finding what I seek.
After our exchange was complete, we began to explore further and soon found a room overrun with brambles and thick foliage. Beyond the brambles could be heard the distressed voice of a woman. No! It appeared the vile dwarf had drawn even more into his trap. Freeing my rapier from its sheath I began to hack away to the vines, soon aided by my new friend Werven, and we found ourselves in front of a lovely woman of demonic origin, although apparently wishing to distance herself from that notion. She was curiously decorated as well. It appeared as if a funeral mask had been painted on her face. She informed us that she had woken up here, unaware of her location nor her reason for being here. Again we offered aid, but she wanted to explore this foul castle with us, and I am not one to deny any lady her wishes.
So there we stood all assembled. I had previously expected a simple, quick mission with my friend, but now it has blown up in to a full scale excursion. We did not let it hamper our efforts, Tormun and I, and soon found ourselves in another room, this one garnished with several trees, including one that reached to the ceiling! I adjusted my armor to the mode that allows for climbing and proceeded to navigate my way to the top. As I started to return from what appeared to be nothing special, I began to hear cries of battle from below, and saw a serpentine creature race from the shadows and start to enact foul curses upon my new companions. Racing to the bottom I found that several of them had their feet bound by a strange substance, so I donned my full plate once again and rushed over to help. They appeared to break free on their own, and much to their credit, for they used the opportunity to lay into the monster. Our combined powers no match for it. It was a fine fray, but before the end, the monster issued one more perilous gaze. I stood behind and watched, helplessly as it’s magic acted on my comrades. Two of them shook free of its vile grip, but only one, Tormun, succumbed to its clutches. In a panic I rushed over and tried to break the stone from around his feet, but overcome with conflict about striking my friend, I missed and was forced to watch as the stone climbed his body and slowly encased it. Here he was, now a statue of my partner, a relic of the man that once was.
I felt a tremendous anger well up inside of me. This CUR, this KNAVE, would find my hammer upon his brow if he did not free Tormun. I cried out in fury, and beckoned him with sharp words and suggestions of dishonor, but to no avail. I vowed to find him and rushed for where I believed stairs to be, and where I believed I would find that wretched stone-muncher, that pyrite-selling, mother-killing son of a cave whore.