The PCs spent the night in the Temple of Mishakal before pushing on. Thorim argued that Qualinesti would be the logical choice to find a leader of the people, elves being a superior species and all. Surprising racism, coming from a half-elf. It was eventually decided to stop in at the Que Shu village on the way to Qualinesti.
Unfortunately, the PCs discovered cinders and rubble where Que Shu should have been. Examining the tracks, Silentstorm determined that a large army of dragconians, had come through as recently as the previous day. Although there were a few bodies strewn about, most of the Que Shu appeared to have survived the battle. Some ran toward the hills east of the village, but most were loaded onto some carts of some sort which went west.
In addition to rubble and tracks, the PCs encountered three things in the village. On the outskirts of the ruined village as the PCs approached, they noticed a makeshift gallows of a sort that had strung up several humanoids, who were promptly burned to a very crispy crisp. Investigation eventually determined them to be hobgoblin. Next to the gallows was a crude sign that read:
“Behold all who would disobey me. Even my own armies are not immune. Kill when ordered. Captured when ordered. Disobey, and die.
“”/campaign/randolphocampaigns/wikis/Dragonlance%20Verminaard/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”> Lord Verminaard"
Further in, near the rubble of the Chieftain’s home, the PCs encountered another gallows. This did not have a sign, and held only a single humanoid occupant. As they approached they heard a low groan — this one was alive! Rushing closer, they discovered the Chieftain himself, Arrowthorn. He had been strung up by his hands and legs, and a large iron spike had been driven through his stomach, nailing him to the main support pole. The PCs took down the support pole and lowered him to the ground. Goldmoon prayed to Mishakal to heal Arrowthorn, but the spike caused trouble. Silentstorm attempted to pull the iron spike from the wood, which evoked a scream of pain from Arrowthorn. This brought out the third encounter:
A group of draconians appeared from behind a large pile of rubble a hundred yards away. One of them was saying “What’s that ‘Chief’? You want another beating? Well, we can — hey! Intruders! Get them!”
The PCs quickly took out the draconians, but chose to capture one for interrogation. From it, they learned that Verminaard was the Dragon Highlord for the Red Army of Takhisis, and that he had conquered almost all of Abanasinia, save Qualinesti, which was next on the list. They learned that he was part of a rear patrol that had decided to do a little looting. Although they asked and even tortured (to the point of actually cutting off one leg, over Goldmoon’s objection), they failed to learn the origin of the draconian species. They did learn, however, that the slaves were being taken, ultimately, to Pax Tharkas (which Verminaard had already taken) to work in the iron mines there.
When the PCs returned to Arrowthorn, they found him already dead. They arranged for a funeral pyre for the Chieftain and those dead they found in the village, then pushed onward. They chose to follow the wagon tracks along the road west toward Que Kiri and eventually Solace. Before they left, they strung the draconian upside down in the gallows that had previously held Arrowthorn.
When the PCs reached Que Kiri, they found a similar scene to that of Que Shu. The tracks they were following went around the village, following an older set of tracks that left from the village west toward Solace. The PCs pushed further to the outskirts of Solace.
Hiding in a copse of woods on the other side of some farmland east of Solace, the PCs observed the city proper. Very quickly they ascertained that it was an occupied town; the dragon armies had apparently chosen Solace, a crossroads in Abanasinia, as a base of operation for their armies. Parked in neat rows in the harvested fields outside of town were dozens of large wagons bearing large steel cages.
Silentstorm changed shape into a raven and flew around the town to scout the area. He learned that although the dragonarmies (several thousand strong) had occupied the town, the townspeople themselves were apparently free (for the most part) to go about their daily lives, which consisted chiefly of servicing the dragon army.
Some were even paid.
Every one of the beautiful Valenwood trees for which Solace was famous had been razed to the ground. Useful buildings had apparently been removed from the tree beforehand. The Inn of the Last Home was a mere shadow of itself, lying half-cocked next to the stump of its former foundation, and yet into it Silentstorm went. There he discovered that Tika still worked in the inn, although she mostly was there to provide ale for the draconians to drink and flesh for the draconians to pinch. She barely acknowledged Silentstorm, hissing that he needed to get out of town before it was too late. So he left and reported back to the PCs.
As they watched from their copse and argued about what to do, most of the wagons parked outside of Solace began to move down the road south, even as several more came up from the western road out of Haven. At almost the same time, Tasselhoff, Flint, and Tika were dragged out and thrown into one of the caged wagons. What their crimes were was not ascertained.
Making up their minds, the PCs chose to follow the wagon train south in the hopes of ambushing it before it could reach Pax Tharkas. Although the train was slow moving, the PCs were forced to be slower, lest they risk discovery. The train was soon out of sight, but the column of dust it kicked up along the road was still very visible. Which is why the PCs almost didn’t see the patrol of draconians, hobgoblins and goblins coming north up the road. Although the patrol consisted of more than a dozen, the PCs quickly chose to set up an ambush, which they very nearly successfully pulled off. One draconian immediately flew off over the tree-line and raised an alarm to the two young red dragons that were flying nearby as part of the patrol — the trees that provided the PCs cover had given as much to the dragons, and the PCs had failed utterly to notice them.
They settled down in flanking positions after alighting the forest to the rear of the PCs ablaze and immediately demanded the party’s surrender. Seeing no alternative, the PCs did so. Or most of them did, anyway. Thorim, using teleportation spells and his considerable skill at hiding, managed to elude capture. What became of him will be revealed in the next session.
The remainder of the party were stripped of their gear and most of their clothing (brr! it’s early-autumn, after all!) then marched back to Solace, where they were placed in the same cage containing Tasselhoff, Tika, and Flint. Their gear, along with Disks of Mishakal, was placed in a fortified wagon nearby. The draconians proved unable to remove the holy symbols worn by Goldmoon and Helrak
Shortly thereafter a fat hobgoblin came out of a nearby building bellowing “Where are they?”. It was Fewmaster Toede, the leader of the hobgoblins the PCs had encountered in Solace a short week and a half ago. “You! I remember you! Lord Verminaard will be very pleased when I bring the folks responsible for the destruction of Xak Tsaroth to him! He has your description spread to the entire Red Army now, and he has special plans in store for you. But you, foul dwarf! Before I give you to him, we have a score to settle. Take him, boys!”
Several hobgoblins then pulled Helrak out of the cage and into the recently harvested wheat fields nearby. Each grabbed an arm and leg, while a fifth sat on his chest. Then, in full view of the entire wagon train, the hobgoblins proceded to saw off Helrak’s right arm (the one without a hand) with an old, rusty wood-saw. This was not done without cost: Helrak called upon the aid of Reorx and smote many of them even from his prone position—that single arm cost the hobgoblins a full dozen men. But their gristly work was accomplished, and the dwarf was tossed back into the cage, bleeding out, too exhausted to heal himself.
Toed stuck his head against the bars and leered at Helrak. “Let’s see your God give you a helping hand now, stumpy!” Then he turned back and shouted “Get this train moving, now! I want double speed. Triple the guard! Verminaard will want them in Pax Tharkas yesterday! MOVE IT!” And with that, the wagon train headed south.
Goldmoon, meanwhile, tended to Helrak, quickly healing his arm. Although she couldn’t grow it back, the flesh knit together through the power of her Goddess and soon Helrak was merely sleeping deeply. Mutters and whispers circulated around the wagon train as those who witnessed the power of the Gods were duly impressed.
Here ends Session 4