Tales of the Righteous Vanguard

Part Seven: Vale of the Mage - Chapter 3

In the evening of Godsday, the 18th day of Planting, in the Common Year of 580, the Righteous Vanguard were escorted to a guard tower in the Valley of the Mage by a patrol of valley elves, where they were questioned by a cleric of Ehlona named Skywise. When the cleric was done questioning them, the band heard the elves move into a room above them and a few members of the band then overheard a conversation between Skywise and two other elves named Starshine and Swiftblade. From the conversation, they could tell that the elves believed their story about a band of necromancers invading the valley, up to a point, and learned some more details about them, including the fact that the elves were very concerned about the possibility of agents from the Great Kingdom sneaking into the valley with the intention of doing harm to the Black One.

Later that same evening, Kieranen was taken upstairs to be further questioned by Skywise, who seemed to think that he could get more information from him. Kieranen answered the cleric’s questions truthfully without revealing who it was that had hired them, and Skywise appeared to be satisfied with his answers. But before being returned to the guest room, where the door was locked once again, Kieranen emphasized to Skywise the need for urgency in their mission. The rest of the night passed by uneventfully as both Nicholas’s wolf and Nero’s pseudodragon familiar hid nearby in the forest. But Nero was able to do some surveillance of the area and discovered that, contrary to the rumors they had heard, there were a number of humans working with the elves.

The next morning, the elves escorted the band from their room and outside the tower, where Skywise spoke to them again. He told them that he had considered what Kieranen said about the need for urgency and would agree to have a patrol escort the group further into the valley if Nero would agree to allow Starshine to cast a charm spell on him. Nero agreed and the charm spell was cast. Then, once the preparations were made, the band along with a mixed patrol of almost a dozen elves and humans, led by Starshine, they set out on their way further into the forested valley.

For nearly two full days they traveled without any encounters worthy of note, though they did come across many examples of the unusual flora and fauna of the forest. They also learned that the humans in the valley were fairly primitive and moved through the trees just as easily as they moved along the ground. In fact, they made their homes in the trees, thus the reason they were known as the Tree People.

On the evening of Earthday, the 20th day of Planting, shortly after the band and patrol had made camp, they were visited by another elf who suddenly emerged from a large tree just outside the camp.

The elves quickly recognized him as the leader of all the elves in the valley, Summerstorm Nightwind. He was a powerful cleric of Ehlona, and the band soon learned that he was also very distrustful of strangers in the valley. Summerstorm immediately began questioning the band, using spells to try and make sure they did not lie to him. He too was very concerned about agents from the Great Kingdom and his interrogation focused largely on this topic. But the group was able to use this to some advantage, stating that they had reason to believe that some of the ‘so-called’ necromancers were from the Great Kingdom. In time, the band was able to convince Summerstorm of their objective to seek out the necromancers and remove any threat they might pose to both the inhabitants of the valley as well as the surrounding lands. Once this was accomplished, Summerstorm suggested he send only two elves along with them as guides and escorts, while the remainder of the patrol began searching for the necromancers and alerting the other villages. He too would alert the other inhabitants of the valley and locate the First Protector to inform her of what was happening. At this point, Summerstorm admitted to the band that the First Protector was a female, but was very reluctant to reveal anything more about her.

The next day, Summerstorm and the majority of the patrol went on their separate ways, while the Righteous Vanguard, escorted by two elves, Fleetfoot and Calmwaters, continued on the same route deeper into the valley. Unfortunately, later that morning, they were attacked by a creature called a jaleeda bird, which was a cross between a great ape and a giant eagle. It flew out of the sky and snatched Calmwaters off the ground as she was running away. The band was able to bring the creature crashing back down into the forest where they were then able to kill it. But Calmwaters did not survive the fall. So they placed her body in Nero’s portable hole and continued on. Aejiri also cut the head off of the strange beast for some unknown reason. But at least it served as proof that the band was attacked by the creature. Later in the day, the group came across a group of great apes, but avoided any conflict with them by skirting around.

That night, some time after making camp for the night, their campsite was approached by half a dozen venomous snakes. But Nero, his familiar, and Kieranen were able to dispatch them fairly easily without alerting the others.

At about midday, on Starday, the 22nd of Planting, the band finally arrived at a village of about a hundred elves, which had no name. Here, they gave Calmwaters a proper burial and acquired another elven guide named Cutter, to replace her. That evening they had a discussion about what direction they might go in their search for the necromancers. Fleetfoot suggested that the necromancers may have heard about the stone citadel that the Exalted One had built, and thought that the necromancers might look for him there. According to rumors, the Exalted One had abandoned the citadel a few years ago. But there was still a good chance that the necromancers might go there to find any magic left behind by the Exalted One.

There was also a good chance that the necromancers had not heard that the citadel was abandoned. On the other hand, there was also the possibility that the rumor was not entirely accurate either. Perhaps the citadel was still occasionally visited by the Exalted One, since no one seemed to know how to find him and his whereabouts always appeared to be a mystery anyway. Plus, it was also rumored that people like Summerstorm, the First Protector and Endoble Mistikmore, the leader of the gnomes, still made visits to the citadel from time to time, but never seemed willing to discuss their reasons for doing so.

The band agreed that it appeared to be as good a place as any to search for the necromancers, or for the Black One himself for that matter. So Fleetfoot indicated on the band’s map where the citadel could be found, and the following morning, Sunday the 23rd of Planting, they set out.

At about midday however, the band and their elven guides became quite alarmed when they spotted a green dragon flying overhead. They had briefly heard some mention about the dragon before, known as Sylvendeth, supposedly the only one that lived in the valley, and that the dragon was one of many fearsome beasts that aided the Black One in searching the valley for intruders. Because they were accompanied by two elven guides, it was hoped that the dragon would not attack them when it soon afterwards landed nearby.

But Fleetfoot and Cutter had never actually spoken to the dragon before and were shaking with fear when they told the dragon that they were elves of the valley and that they were acting as guides for the others. Unfortunately, the dragon appeared to be insulted by this and clearly did not believe them, saying something about having been deceived once before and not wishing to be tricked a second time. It certainly did not help matters when Cutter called the dragon ‘stupid’, which proved to be the final straw.

At this point, the dragon declared that he would show him who was stupid and began to inhale with the obvious intent of breathing out a cloud of poisonous gas and attacking. Fortunately for the group however, Gildor was quicker and using his magical staff, threw up an invisible wall of wind directly in front of the dragon, which completely dispersed the cloud of gas and saved his companions from any harm. Kieranen then swore an oath that the dragon was now his mortal enemy and with his oathblade, charged at the dragon. He tore into the dragon with vicious blows, while his companions did what they could to defend themselves. Luck was not on the side of the dragon this day, as it then stumbled and fell off balance. Kieranen took advantage of this and did not relent in his savage attack upon the dragon. And though he did not land the killing blow upon the beast this time, it was clearly the elf and his sword that did the most harm to the dragon. The battle was much briefer than any of them had expected, and despite receiving some serious wounds in return, the fight was over before they knew it, and the dragon was dead.

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