Neiriel stood atop the roof of The Ladyhouse in Corm Orp in the dark of the late night. Three hooded, black-cloaked figures stood beneath her behind the that temple, ice-cold arrows sticking out from their forms. Their initial surprise worn off, the black-cloaked figures launched their own volley of darts at Neiriel. Three struck home deep into Neiriel’s chest and abdomen, and the poison quickly hit her heart and lungs, causing her to gasp in pain as her vision blurred and her legs went wobbly. Aeron quickly ran up the side of the building to her, and put her on the winged lioness, Elsa.
The lioness telepathed to her mistress, “Archon, there are enemy at the temple and the ranger is hurt. We need help.” Then she roared towards Aeron, “Get on! We are leaving!”
“Not without Ziv,” Neireil sputtered, coughing up blood. “Take us to the front of the temple, Elsa.”
Meanwhile, inside the entrance of The Ladyhouse, Aerith confronted the two dark figures that had entered that way. One of them wore a fearsome metal mask and wielded a dark-bladed rapier with a black diamond pommel. They were on Aerith in a flash, and with two swift strokes, the masked assassin had killed Aerith before he could do anything. The other assassin quickly started dragging Aerith’s dead body deeper into the temple.
By the main entrance to the hamlet, Varia received Elsa’s message, but had her hand full controlling the three-score gnolls she had persuaded to turn against their tribe after the defeat of Ghostaxe, The Last Alpha. Miriel, Arcturus, and the newly arrived Avil (with his equally newly acquired black iron greataxe) rushed to the temple, instead. Toggel and Bree atop Furious were soon to follow.
Meanwhile, Neiriel and Aeron mounted on Elsa circled to the front of the Ladyhouse and landed. There they saw the masked assassin cleaning a freshly bloodied black rapier blade. Neiriel let fly her icy arrows, missing with one but pinning the masked assassin’s arm to his body with the other. With a roar of pain he broke the icy shaft off, then he laughed to himself.
“Can’t have any loose ends, now can we??”
Then he lunged at Neiriel with his black blade, piercing her heart. Neiriel’s vision went dark as she slumped, slid, and then fell lifelessly off Elsa. Aeron in half-shock leapt off Elsa and charged at the masked assassin, silver blades in hand. Elsa pounced on the dark figure, almost knocking him down. But his black blade found purchase in the heart of the winged lioness, and soon she was naught but wisps of golden light dispersed into the night air.
Miriel, Arcturus, and Avil arrived only moments later to see Neiriel’s body fallen on the ground, and Aeron violently engaged with a dark cloaked figure. Avil pulled out his new black iron axe and charged at the assassin while Arcturus went to help Neiriel and Miriel provided covering fire. Under the combined assault of Aeron and Avil, the masked assassin threw a dagger from under his sleeve towards the darkness of the temple beyond, and then vanished.
Arcturus used his recently acquired power over death to quickly revivify Neiriel to life once again. Miriel scouted ahead and found the lifeless body of Aerith, but quickly moved on. She surmised that something else was going on. She peaked around the corner and saw that the kitchen was completely engulfed in flames.
By this time, Toggel and Bree atop Furious had arrived and circled the second story of the temple to find away to see inside.
Aeron went to examine Aerith’s body, when a dagger shot out of darkness from the back of the Ladyhouse and found purchase in his side. Suddenly, the masked assassin was there at Aeron’s side, holding the dagger in his hand and bringing his rapier in for the kill, but Aeron avoided the fatal strike to his heart, and only took a glancing blow. Avil re-engaged the masked assassin and swung a mighty blow into his side with the black-iron greataxe. Arcturus saw his opportunity to end this, and reached from behind and clutched the masked assassin’s throat, the black energy of death smouldering from his fingers as he appeared to choke the very life out of this deadly foe. The masked assassin fell to the ground. Arcturus quickly grabbed the dark-bladed rapier, and took possession of it before it did any more harm. As soon as he did, there was a quick series of whistles from the fallen assassin, and a volley of darts came out of the gloom somewhere in the back of the temple towards Arcturus. Most of them missed, and the one that did hit annoyed Arcturus more than hurt him. But as he looked down, the masked assassin’s form had vanished yet again.
Meanwhile, aloft outside the second story of the temple, Furious had broken through one of the windows, and Toggel had spotted one of the assassins and took a shot at it with his thunder cannon, Muad’dib.
“The fookers are in the fooking rafters!”, Toggel yelled down to whoever could hear.
Upon hearing that, Aeron summoned up a cloud of fog inside the Ladyhouse that obscured the line of fire of anyone further inside. It also provided cover for Bree as she jumped down through the window and onto the temple floor. From that vantage point she could see at least a quarter of the Ladyhouse was aflame, and the fire was spreading quickly.
But by this point, the curse of the black axe took complete hold of Avil. Once the masked assassin had disappeared again, Avil was in such a maddened rage that he could not tell friend from foe, and he went completely berserk. He turned his draconic rage onto the party and suddenly attacked Aeron with wild swings from the black-iron axe, but he missed badly. Miriel distracted the rampaging dragonborn with a shot right into his chest. Avil charged the elfmaiden with all his fury and unleashed a pair of vicious axe blows that nearly cut Miriel in half. Only the intercession of Arcturus with his devastating death touch saved Miriel from being hacked to pieces. Unfortunately for Avil, the final judgement of the Hand Of Kelemvor is absolute, and the dragonborn barbarian was reduced to naught but dust.
Arcturus then took advantage of the fog cover to revivify Aerith and quickly briefed him on the current situation. Aerith shadowstepped into the rafters directly above, made sure there was no immediate danger, and then took a moment to recover from his recent ordeal. The smoke up there was becoming more and more prevalent, as the Ladyhouse was now half engulfed in flames as the fire approached where most of the party was. With no good targets, and not much for them to do, Toggel and Furious flew to see if they could help Varia at the front line with the gnoll situation.
Bree warned the party that the temple also had underground grain stores, and if they should ignite the whole building could go. But she also mentioned that there could be powerful sacred items that need to be recovered. Aeron volunteered to go deeper into the burning temple to see what he could recover. Aerith, instead, began his pursuit of the assassins, who by now had fled the building they had set aflame.
Meanwhile, south of Corm Orp, Varia and the gnolls she had convinced to turn against their tribe had caught up to the massive gnoll warband and clashed. Varia’s tactically placed Wall Of Fire spells combined with her ability to whip the gnolls loyal to her to a savage fervor, and her use of the Fear spell, made it impossible for her foes to reach her. Toggel arrived on Furious in time to provide close air support on the battlefield against the remaining gnoll tribe Betas, who were attempting to get to Varia. But the White Fury and Black Howler Betas were forced to flee, while the Red Fang Beta was incinerated by Varia’s abyssal sorcery. At that point, with no gnoll leadership, the battlefield became a free-for-all brawl with every gnoll fighting for himself for supremacy over the tribe. Toggel had Furious pick up Varia, and they watched the ensuing carnage from a safe distance.
Back by the burning temple to Sheela Peryroyl, Aerith was on the trail of the assassins while Aeron was searching as best as he could for the items described by Bree in the burning temple itself. Suddenly a small explosion, then a bigger one. Aeron had to escape before it was too late. CRASH!! A burning rafter fell on top of the elf, trapping him in the doomed building. With all of his barbarian might, Aeron shoved the flaming timber off of himself, and got to his feet. Arcturus was waiting by the entrance and cast some healing magic Aeron’s way to shore him up. The party got away from the building as fast as they could as the final grain store ignited and the whole temple exploded in a sunburst of fire and burning wood.
Toggel and Varia saw the explosion even as far away as they were. Toggel assured Varia that everything was alright and that making sure these gnolls were finished off was the more important concern. As the battlefield winnowed down to two bloody and battered gnolls … and then finally one, Furious swooped in low, allowing Toggel to finish the last standing gnoll of the horde off with a final shot.
Having no luck finding any trail of the dark-cloaked assassins, Aerith returned to the party members at what remained of the Ladyhouse. Somewhat singed, they all managed to survive the explosion. The temple, though, was a smoldering ruin. As Toggel, Varia, and Furious flew back to rejoin their companions. They saw from the sky that the glowing flames of the ruined temple formed a pattern that looked like the symbol of Cyric, The Dark Sun, burning itself into the earth.
Exhausted, burnt, and wounded, the party made their way back to the Hungry Halfling Inn. It still stood, as did the rest of Corm Orp, save the Ladyhouse. Not only did the party save the inhabitants, defeat the horde, and kill the last alpha, they managed to save the hamlet and all the homes therein. And so, after many days in the wilderness, facing incredible dangers, and even death, the party retired to the very comfortable beds of the Hungry Halfling Inn for a well deserved and well earned rest.