Maelokh raised his voice and asked a question he already knew the answer to:
“What did you say your son’s name was?”
“Kildar. And his sister is Elaya.”
Even hearing it the second time, Maelokh’s heart tightened in his chest. Kildar! The name of his father! And this old man was also a druid, and knows Ha’Shem. It was too great to be a coincidence. Maelokh raised his voice, slightly trembling, and told the wrinkled druid what had been plaguing his mind since the story began:
“Rapha, I belive you are my grandfather.”
A tear came upon the old man’s eyes as realization settled upon him. Then, with a spry energy he jumped to his feet and grabbed Maelokh by the face, examining him closely.
“Why, yes! You have your father’s jaw and his thick dark hair! It must be your mother’s eyes that you carry, though, because your father’s were a dark brown, like mine. Yes, yes! I can see it now in the light. How are your father and mother? They must have made it out alive after all!”
Maelokh’s face darkened. He did not want to deliver the mournful news, but there was no avoiding it. He told his grandfather everything: The prophecy, the attack on the village, the death of his parents and his narrow escape. The two of them talked quietly for quite some time, while Absolom and Oakson sat in reverent silence. The elderly druid shared the story of his people and how they slowly left the city, including his son Kildar, who left with a large caravan many year ago. For the first few years there had been letters. He had found a young elf, Ilieth, who had taken up the ways of the druids shortly after their meeting. He also shared that Maelokh must have had an older brother, because he had received news of their first child being miscarried.
One night, in a dream, a figure visited me. He was very tall, and shining brightly. He spoke of my daughter-in-law . . . that she carried a great light in her womb. But, as is always the case, the darkness was coming to snuff out the light. The messenger told me to pray for protection, that the light would not fade away. Then . . . it disappeared! Shortly after that the letters stopped, and I feared my prayers had been in vain. But now, here you are! Ha’Shem is ever faithful.
Before leaving, Rapha also provided insight to their own story. The green light they had seen escape the shrine at Evansdale reminded him of a tale he had heard many years ago. Many druids used to live at the base of The Father, a great mountain on the western coast. But one day the sky turned green and all of the plants and animals died, never to return. Shortly rumors of strange beasts and fiendish creatures came across the land from druids who tried to return to the Father. It was said that those who traveled to the Father would return scarred for life, if not completely insane. People spoke of a great wizard, or a warlock . . . or worse. Something was keeping the entire mountain shrouded in a cloud of black magic.
The adventurers soon bid farewell to the druid, and returned to the Paladin’s Keep to inquire on the council’s decision. Lady Catherine was waiting for them. The council had been convinced of their story, particularly with Catherine and Gavin’s reports. Though they were concerned that if Rexan had been compromised, the other council members may not be trustworthy. The paladin’s proposed that they would conduct a cover investigation of the other council members if the adventurers were willing to spy on Darian. They agreed.
The Paladin’s had devised a scheme of transporting the duo into Darian’s Keep . . . or at least, as close as they could get. Under the cover of night, Maelokh and Oakson departed with a small group of Paladin’s, including Catherine and Ulrich the Just—the head of the Paladin’s order. While Ulrich stood watch, the other Paladin’s encircled the party and prayed. Within moments, they were gone, and immediately appeared nearly one hundred yards away, on the opposite side of the wall and on the upper terrace.
To their distress, an armored guard was patrolling not thirty paces away. The two of them dived for the nearby bushes to hide from the torchlight. Oakson transformed into a spider and stealthily crept up the sleep obsidian wall of Darian’s Keep towards an upper window. The guard passed unknowingly, but another shortly followed. Having no other choice, Maelokh drew his breath and leapt for the rope Oakson had lowered. Despite his best attempts at remaining stealthy, the nearby guard heard the noise and turned his back to investigate the commotion. Taking a risk, Maelokh tossed his last remaining alchemist’s fire away, along the opposite side of the path. His scheme would have worked if a second approaching watchman hadn’t keenly assessed the situation and spotted the hiding ranger. The guards sounded the alarm, and Maelokh raced up the rope, narrowly avoiding the guard’s arrows.
They found themselves in a plainly furnished dining room. The servant’s quarters. Exploring the area they chose their best option was to attempt climbing one floor higher (sleeping servants and approaching guards are an unfortunate combination). After scaling the outer wall, they broke in through the window to a council chamber. Maps of the surrounding region were scattered across the tables, along with troop movements and details of the upcoming war effort. While quickly examining the documents, they heard a muffled, but persistent clanging coming from the nearby hallway. The sound of iron striking iron.
Cautiously navigating through the adjacent hallway, Maelokh peered through the keyhole of the first door he passed. A bedroom. Sleeping figures. The clanging metal was still coming from a door near the end of the hall. Maelokh crept towards the door to perceive where the sound was coming from, when all hell broke loose. He leaned down to peer through the keyhole, but misjudged and sneezed, banging his head sharply against the brass doorknob and falling back onto the ground prone, letting out a loud exclamation of pain. The door burst open to reveal a sleepless soldier, unarmored, but holding his longsword. Before he was able to land a strike on the intruders, the spider-Oakson let out a burst of webbing, restraining him where he stood. Maelokh lept to his feet, shoved the man in the room, and pulled the door shut. He was restrained and confined, but he still let out a howl loud enough to wake the entire fortress. Throwing caution to the wind, the duo burst through the corridor into the large, grand hall. And the end of the hall were two large staircases leading up to the top floor of the castle: Darian’s quarters. At the door were two armored guards standing watch and on the alert. The double doors at the top of the stairs were their only hope. Maelokh and the enormous spider charged up the stairs and began engaging with the soldiers. Before long, the restless soldier appeared with backup . . . and ran to the opposite side of the hall, clearly calling for more.
Oakson was pinned against the wall, surrounded by the enemy guards. Maelokh was immediately beyond them, barely able to stand. Suddenly, with a burst of rage, Oakson reverted to his warforged form and let out a wave of thunderous energy all around him, immediately slaughtering all of the surrounding soldiers, but also catching Maelokh in its ferocious energy. The Warforged stood alone, though several reinforcements were pouring in through the opposite end of the hall. He raced towards his fallen comrade (dodging arrows and bolts along the way), slung Maelokh over his massive shoulder, and caused a great cloud of fog to erupt from his oaken staff. With three great swings, the reinforced wooden door splintered open, and the warforged burst through . . . head first into a flash of steel, searing pain, and darkness.
Maelokh’s eyes opened. It was dark. He was laying on a cold stone floor in a musty room. There was slight movement and the grinding of next to him. Must be the warforged. He opened his eyes, to see a small face and a mess of tousled, black hair peering over him.
“Well, howdy, friends! What are the two of you doing here?”
It was Jackson, the delightful Kender they had encountered so many times on their adventure. They asked the same question of him, and he responded with a confused look on his face. “Well, right after you left the art gallery I was thinking about what you said . . . the wanted posters and all . . . but then I saw this really beautiful little painting that I knew my cousin back home would just find delightful! I had to borrow it.” Next thing I knew, I was in a burlap sack and being tossed in here! I say, the people here aren’t nearly as friendly as they were back home!"
The Halfling continued with his story, but Maelokh had stopped listening. They were in a long corridor of cells. Perhaps 6 or 8 in total. At the end of the hallway was a guard on watch.
I have failed to recall how these events took place. Oakson became a toad? Jackson rolled a 4 and happened to have locking picking tools with him? They overpowered the guard somehow and got their equipment back? Something something something——————