Quinn awoke in an unknown place, surrounded by unknown people, in an unknown body. The room was a long, midnight black oval, and the walls seemed as if they were closing in on him, suffocating him. He gazed around, and realized that he was in the presence of the Imperator himself. Without knowing why, Quinn knew that he was in the midst of a council meeting. He also knew that he was no longer Quinn. He was Initiate Oakherder, apprentice to Lord Malus, the Convoker. The officials were arguing about the best course of action to take concerning the Elves of 1000 Leaves. They had recently stopped trading with the Empire and sealed off their borders. After much deliberation, Malus arose and spoke to the Imperator. “Imperator, I know that my people will hold true to their word concerning this self-imposed isolation. They would allow me audience, but no amount of persuasion will cause them to change their minds. However, I want you to know that whatever they do, my allegiance lies with you.”
The Imperator leaned forward in his chair, scrutinizing the Convoker. “Your people, they will allow you in, correct?” At the elf’s nod of affirmation, the Imperator arose. “This meeting is adjourned! Everyone except Malus is to leave my presence immediately.”
As the disgruntled people filed out the door, Prime Envoy Frey Morgan approached Initiate Oakherder. “How go your studies Initiate?”
“Malus tends to be a harsh master, and he assigns much work, but I am learning quickly.” Oakherder responded.
“Good, good. It seems as though an acceleration of your studies will be necessary for upcoming events.” said the Envoy. Before Oakherder was able to voice his confusion, Malus burst out of the chamber with a troubled expression on his face. Mentally came the command, “Initiate, prepare the Griffins. We ride in the quarter hour.”
Malus rushed on as the Initiate hurried to obey his orders. After saddling the Griffins, a task of only a few minutes, Oakherder began to daydream. He was snapped out of it moments later by Malus, already in the air, shouting “We ride!”.
Upon arrival at Hallowhall, Malus quietly informed Oakherder to keep the Griffins saddled and ready to go. The sense of urgency in his tone left no room for questions. Only moments later, shouting ensued from inside Hallowhall. Oakherder quickly began shooing away children who came to fawn over the Griffins. As he did so, Malus burst through the large double doors, a body slung over one shoulder. He rushed past the guards and ran towards Malus. Before Oakherder could ask for orders, Malus’s voice came to him through the Convoker’s ring, a mental communications spell. GET READY TO FLEE He shouted. An arrow went through his calf, and then another hit him in the shoulder as he stumbled. PLANT THE PURGATORY ROD AND FLEE!!! Malus screamed mentally. Oakherder gulped. That was an incredibly aggressive maneuver. He steeled himself and grasped the rod in question. Uttering the words of Convocation, he plunged it into the ground. The spell went off, launching a web over a large area and surrounding that area with a ring of fire. Oakherder knew he only had seconds, but he couldn’t leave his master. As he searched for a way to help, Malus screamed once more FLY YOU FOOL! Several more arrows sunk into his body. Oakherder, knowing there was nothing more he could do, mounted and took flight. He made it out of the area of the Purgatory Rod just in time to see a fireball consume everything below him. As he watched, the other griffin flew out of the licking flames with a battered and burned Malus in one talon, and a corpse in the other.
Quinn awoke in a cold sweat. He looked around and realized he was back in the midst of his companions. His sigh of relief was cut short by E’mryk’s voice saying “there are an inordinate amount of figures out there. I think it would be advisable if we left. Now. With all due haste. And then some.” The companions all sprung to their feet and quickly gathered their supplies. They stepped outside the Tree of Artifex and into a nightmare. Black figures were racing through the trees and to one side, creatures were cannibalizing the dead of their own races. As they started away from the door, a figure clad fully in black stepped out of the door from behind them. As this happened, time froze temporarily. The figure pointed at the companions, and the monsters nearby all turned their heads. Quinn froze in his tracks as he saw the figure and whispered “that’s Malus”. At the same time, the companions all heard Gribulp’s squeaky voice yell “RUN”. They obeyed.
The companions rushed down the road, With the Ranger blazing a trail ahead and the rest following behind. The two humans paused occasionally now and then to take wild shots at their pursuit and to allow the shorter members of the party to catch up. Goblins, troll runts, and cyclops poured out of the forest behind them and ran to the sides as well. Arrows zipped all around the company, sometimes injuring the companions and missing vitals by mere inches. Unseen cyclops threw small trees at the companions. One such tree struck another tree, and dropped across the road, separating the smaller humanoids from the humans. Zay and E’mryk both stumbled as they attempted to scale it, but they succeeded more or less with ease. Dain, who was running as fast as his dwarvish legs could take him, had built up momentum similar to that of a charging rhino stumbled and slid headfirst into the log. He also struggled up and tumbled over it, pursuit hot on his heels.
By now, rain was pouring down in buckets. Visibility was low, however, Quinn was still able to make out a roadblock being assembled up ahead a way. Grumbling to himself, he drew his bow and launched an arrow, rapidly followed by another. The goblins and trolls being thrown put their heads down in order to keep them attached. One goblin was too slow and took an arrow through the eye. Quinn took this split second to launch himself over the 6 foot tall dirt burm to his left. Enoch quickly followed. The dwarf, gnome and halfling quickly reached that point and attempted to scale the side while Enoch and Quinn quickly disemboweled the nearby goblins. They turned back to help their much shorter companions, and then took off into the undergrowth. The two humans led the group and quickly realized that everyone else was sliding down the hill they were going down. They attempted to put Zay and E’mryk back onto their feet, but were soon plowed over by the dwarven tank rocketing toward them. At the bottom of the hill, they were all launched into a deep, fast river. Dain, who had been knocked unconscious in the fall, immediately sank like a rock. The rest of the companions were plunged deep underwater, just in time to see an incredible burst of fire on the surface of the water. As the conscious companions resurfaced, they quickly realized they were missing one. Quinn and Zay both pulled out ropes, Quinn diving back in with his and Zay seeking an anchor for hers. E’mryk also dove back in, and cast a spell of light on the Rangers left arm. After several failed attempts at diving, Quinn resurfaced and got out of the river. He handed the rope to Enoch, giving him instructions to pull as hard as he could when he felt three tugs. The ranger then ran upstream and dove again. E’mryk and Zay exited the water as well to offer what assistance they could. Quinn reached the bottom of the river and tied the rope around Dain. After tugging the rope three times, he went to gather Dain’s hammer and shield. Zay attempted to pull, but E’mryk was struck by a different, better idea. He waved his hands, muttered an incantation… and turned into a potted plant. As he did so, Enoch doubled in size. With the strength of a small giant, Enoch ripped Dain out of the water in no time at all. Quinn surfaced quickly after and pulled himself to the shore just in time to see a daisy in a flower pot turn into E’mryk. Not even wanting to ask, he pulled himself out of the water and took stock of the situation. Dain was conscious again, and everyone was alive, so he focused on more immediate concerns, like the dozen or so goblins and trolls moving in to engage them.
Zay and E’mryk both jumped into the water and began swimming while Dain fled and Enoch and Quinn attacked the enemy. E’mryk threw a firebolt as he jumped, and a surge of wild magic doubled him in size as well. After dropping a few of the goblins, the humans began sprinting away. They quickly encountered a group of roughly three times as many goblins as companions. Quinn ran through them, pausing to slice into a few goblins. Enoch tripped over one of the goblins and fell, rolling over several of them and crushing a good number. Quinn turned around and engaged, giving Enoch a chance to stand and they ran on. Zay and E’mryk, still in the water, were forced to duck underneath a branch, and they were thrown over a waterfall. Enoch and Quinn ran full on into Dain’s back and fell over the side of a 15 foot cliff, landing in a heap at the bottom.
A few feet in they crested a rise which brought them into the awe inspiring presence of three massive golden dragons. The dragons growled out a single word as they inhaled, “DOOOOOWWWWWWNN!”
The companions, sensing what was to come, dropped flat on their faces just as the dragons put everything behind them to the torch. The weary company arose to see a group of elves standing before them, with master Rianton Vahhandrehellyn.
“What are you doing here?!” the wizened old wizard asked incredulously. E’mryk, realizing he was in the presence of possibly the last elves on Earwa, walked straight up to the most authoritative one and held his hand out, introducing himself. The Elven leader chuckled as E’mryk shrank back down to size, but grasped the hand in a firm handshake. “We have much to discuss,” he told the companions.