Our adventure begins in the town of Crux, at the crossroads of the Plains of Lysium. The town is bustling with activity and decorated to the hilt. Nearly every house is freshly painted and adorned with ribbons. Brighly colored tents and pavilions line the roads around the center of town. The inns are bursting at the seam with guests and merchants.
For this is the first day of the Festival of Renewal!
Don Emmanuel is busy helping the monks of the monastery move casks of beer to their booth on the road. He enjoys being helpful to the brothers that raised him but wishes there were something more important he could be doing.
Skith Stoneskwaller is in town to trade fur pelts that his father has gathered. As he walks through the town, other young men holler mocking insults at him. Used to this kind of thing, Skith just walks on in silence.
Three Dogs as wandered in town almost randomly. Only a week before he left his family and clan dead on the Ice Marches. Saddened that he, too, did not find such a death – Three Dogs looks for an opportunity to drown his sorrows in alcohol or die in a fight…or both.
Alura Firestorm seldom finds herself in such civilized surroundings. But the Festival is the one occasion that is special enough to tolerate the noise and crowds. Her services have been requested by many couples to preside over weddings. Festival is the most popular time for such rituals and it allows her to aid the country folk all at once.
Moira Firehammer has come with a caravan of Dwarves from Krag bringing iron ore and finely crafted goods. This is her first time to observe the Festival with non-Dwarves. She is curious to see how the tall folk go about it.
The festival begins with a ceremony and the unveiling of the Heart – a strange diamond-shaped wooden item that is the center of the Festival celebrations. After the ceremony, the feasting begins. During the celebrations the characters meet, socialize, and share a bit of thier background.
There are many competitive games on this the first day of Festival. Contests are held in everything ranging from pie eating to wrestling to spellcraft. Several prades, most impromptu affairs enabled by the copius free beer, wind their way up and down the streets. The characters participate in many of these contests, proving their prowess and standing out as exceptional in many ways. Three Dogs wins the wrestling competition. Moira gives a brilliant display of spellcraft, wowing the audience into applause. Even the introverted Skith participates along with the others in a makeshift relay racing team. The heckling boys of the village are silenced by the victory won with his new friends.
Throughout the competitions the characters get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company. Don Emmanuel is approached by the mayor of the town who asks a favor. It seems that everyone has shown up to the festival except the people from the nearby village of Krell. For some reason they still haven showed up – which is simply unheard of during the Festival. The mayor asks if Don can take a group with him and go see what is delaying these people. The village is only half a day away so it shouldn’t take too long to work things out.
Don gathers the characters together and asks for their help. Each agrees for his or her own reasons to accompany him. That night the city celebrates under the soft glow of the light of bastion.
The next morning the newly formed party leaves down the road to Krell. A few hours into their journey they are attacked by a pain-maddened boar. After dispatching the poor creature they discover that it has a terrible puncture wound on its back with a black patch of putrid flesh around it. Buried in the wound they find a strange chitinous barb. Alura says it looks like the stinger of a flying insect but is impossibly large.
Only a few miles outisde Krell the party comes upon an abandoned caravan. Several wagons stand on the road, their beds filled to overflowing with wares and trade goods. On closer inspection the characters see the dead bodies of several people and horses just off the road. As they inspect the scene they are beset by five massive wasps, each the size of a cat. One of the wasps is able to hurl bolts of sickly black energy from its abdomen while the others attack with massive stingers.
The party dispatches these creatures and continues to the hamlet of Krell. There they see the small church surrounded by more of these massive wasps and can hear the villagers besieged inside. Another battle ensues and the creatures are driven off.
The villagers tell the story of how they were attacked while leaving for the festival in Crux. What’s worse is that their children have been carried off by the wasp creatures into the woods. The party agrees to go and find the children.
Alura uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help track down the lair of these creatures. A cave in a hill, recently exposed by a landslide, is home to the wasps. The party enters and fights their way through until they find the Queen Wasp herself. After a harrowing fight the queen is slain and the children are rescued. On inspecting the queen it is found that she has veins of a strange black crystal imbedded within her body. The same crystals are found at the back of the queen’s chamber.
On the door is carved a symbol that looks much like the Heart from the Festival in Crux. Surrounding the door are several ‘fingers’ of a black crystal which are cold to the touch. Skith determines that necrotic magic is at work here. Moira is certain that the craftsmanship of the door is dwarven work of the highest order. Alura feels that the crystals are not natural in origin. They discover under the dirt a worked tile floor with a ring of runes surrounding this same Heart symbol. The dialect seems to be related to Primal but is otherwise inscrutable.
What is the meaning of these writings? And what mysteries lie beyond the crystal encrusted door?