Our adventure begins in a Dwarf clan village inhabited by a group of isolated Dwarves who have segregated themselves from much of the typical “Dwarven Underground World” in an attempt to slowly regain their proper place among the races of the Known Lands.
The Dwarf clan has settled in the hilly forest near the vaguely mapped confluence of several Nations, the greatest of which is the Ragesian Empire. The Ragesian Empire has recently been thrown in to tumult by the disappearance of long time emperor, Drakus Coaltongue. This void in the Ragesian power structure has driven the Empire, as well as the neighboring lands in to a time of chaos and uncertainty, where mis-trust reigns as the nations’ jockey for power.
Our three heroes (Korek , Branzen Wolfhunter, and Pedro Goldbeard) are drafted by their clan leader, Balen Dustbeard, to travel to the clan’s wood cutting operation to retrieve the loggers due to an unusually harsh and early winter. They were also entrusted with a sealed letter (which they “accidentally” opened and read) intended to instruct them to proceed to a contact in the free city of Gate Pass.
Before reaching the wood cutting operation, the band of three were ambushed by an Orc group and their hunting wolves as they approached a portion of an ice strewn river. A battle ensued, and the dwarves dispatched the Orcs in surprisingly quick order. In point of fact, the debate over how to use the Orc’s unique belly bow took longer than the skirmish itself. Little did the Dwarves realize, trying to use the unfamiliar bow might be more dangerous as well.
The Dwarves soon arrived at the cutting stand, only to find the loggers packing up ready to head home. They continue on to the milling operation, with hopes that they can meet up with their first contact, and deliver the letter (again, the contents of which they already know…)
As they arrive at the mill, they learn it has been attacked, apparently by some sort of former soldiers of the Ragesian empire. After defeating the deserters, as well as some complex and dangerous sawblades, the heroes find their contact gagged and bound, and dutifully hand over the (yes – already revealed) letter. Their contact confirms their instructions, and the band sets off immediately for Gate Pass.
After travelling a few more days, the group is stopped several miles outside the city gates by a group apparently looking for “Arcane Magic Users”. Content that the stubby Dwarves “hold no magic in their squat bodies”, the roving bandits appear ready to move on in their search. The quick temper of (one of) the Dwarves, and his perceived disrespect leads to a scuffle and fight, with the Dwarves dispatching the bandits and learning that they appear to be bounty hunters looking for Mages.
Immediately upon entering Gate Pass, the gates are shut behind the band, and the city starts a period of lock down. No one is allowed to enter or leave the town. After spending a few days time with their contact in Gate Pass, a retired Dwarf named Orland Ironlocks, the group learns many things about the political climate as well as some more background about the city. In particular, they learn about the local Resistance, and that an apparent attack on the city from the Ragesians is imminent.
Ultimately, on the eve of the new year, the heroes are beckoned to a secret meeting with Torrent, a member of the Resistance. Torrent and the Dwarves discuss the current situation, and she convinces them to help her retrieve a case of intelligence and deliver it to the Mages at the far away school of Lyceum. As the meeting with Torrent concludes, the band is again ambushed by a group that bears striking resemblance to those they saw outside the gates a week earlier.
The chaotic events of the night are set in motion as the ambush attack is interrupted by an apparent air and ground assault from the Ragesian forces. A horse mounted bandit calls off the attack and flees as fire bombs are dropped on the city from winged riders. The heroes and Torrent rush toward the city depository, hoping to retrieve some military intelligence that was secured by a Resistance spy named Rivereye while he was infiltrating the Ragesian court. Along the way, the heroes are waylaid by wounded citizens, burning buildings, and daring rescue attempts.
The gnome’s normal face to face contact, Peppin, died a week ago. Fortunately, the heroes have Peppin’s secret signet ring as well as a pass phrase which should allow them to retrieve the intelligence.
As the heroes enter the tower, they see their contact hobbling down the stairs to greet them. “Follow me Peppin” says the gnome, as he turns to climb the spiral stairs of the depository.
The remarkably shrewd, but often erratic Dwarf Pedro, immediately notices that the gnome called one of them Peppin – something he clearly would not have done with his face to face contact. The Dwarves immediately question the gnome, who by this point is running at great speed up and out the tower. The heroes catch a glimpse of the gnome as they see him leap 40 feet from the tower, land atop a snow covered roof in the city below, quaff a potion, and drop quietly in to the crowd and confusion of the city streets.
Their disappointment quickly turns to anger and fear as the depository guards arrive. While the guards hold the heroes for questioning, a quick search of the tower reveals the true Rivereye has been knocked out, and one of the depository guards killed. Of course the case with the intelligence in it has been taken.
The real Rivereye is brough to the party and notices Peppin’s signet ring, and with the addition of the passcode, concludes that Torrent and the Dwarves are his friends and saviours. The weakening and sickly Rivereye explains that he was attacked by Eladrin and some invisible spirit. He recalls hearing them talk about several topics, including an escape tunnel to the Singing Chasm and the Eladrin land of Shahalesti that is a week away from completion. He also relays the the Eladrin may have taken the case to someone named “Shealis” who resides at Gabals Magic School. He believes that he convinced them the case is trapped. Before parting, Rivereye and the party agree to look in to this matter at Gabal’s in the morning, after spending the evening at a nerby safe house.
After leaving the depository tower the party makes haste to the nearby safe house, which is housed in a Temple of the Aquiline Cross devoted to a deity of healing. Before they reach the safe house, however, they witness the end of an air battle between a Ragesian Wyvern rider and a Gate Pass Gryphon rider. The Wyvern tumbles toward the ground and they see it crash in to a small house, crushing the roof. Screams from within break the suddenly quiet night, as the Wyvern rider dispatches a woman and discards her body in the street. He clutches a young boy close to him, holding his axe blade close across the hostages throat. As the heroes attempt to get the boy released, the rider slices the boy and throws him to the ground.
Perhaps driven by rage at the site of this horror, and in surprisingly effective fashion, the short but stout group dispatches the Wyvern Warrior quickly, and arrives at the city safe house where they are very briefly introduced to the local cleric Buron. They are provided a place to rest for the night, and get a quick look at the provisions that the Resistance has gathered in attempt to safeguard the City of Gate Pass.