It’s midday on a mid-Autumn day in the mountains of Sunder, in the small town of Thunderfell. Bodies of goblins and worgs remain strewn about the town, and the bodies of some unfortunate villagers can be seen under massive boulders that appear to have rained down upon the town, destroying several buildings along the way.
The adventurers – Tagar, Aerwyn and Dardiana – are just about to talk to a travelling monk named Kella when a tiefling, clad in wolfskin cloak, arrives at the open drawbridge. He introduces himself as a Ranger of Sunder and member of the Six Swords Society, and explains that he’s come from Vandalin after overhearing conversations between Talia Thornton and some ne’er-do-wells. It seems the acting Townmaster has sent men to search the western road to Mittel and take care of the adventurers. The tiefling has travelled by foot, and believes he’s just beaten these would-be-assassins to Thunderfell – but they are not far behind. Dardiana and Aerwyn talk to Kella to understand what may have happened, but her answers are unconvincing and don’t appear to line up with information provided by Talia. Then, the sound of horses spurs the group into action – Aerwyn and Tagar close the drawbridge, while Dardiana entreats Kella to hide in the inn.
On the far side of the moat are seven men on horseback, cloaked and armed. Carnacki, the tiefling, recognises one of them as a thug-for-hire from Lastlight, named Kenric. The leader of the group entreats them to open the gate, but when the party don’t cooperate they wheel their horses around and turn back toward Vandalin. When the adventurers climb down from the watchtowers, they find that Kella is gone. Her tracks lead to the palisade wall and then vanish; Tagar spots some handholds that she could have used if she was particularly good at climbing, and an empty flask at the foot of the wall, but there are otherwise no signs of how she made her escape.
Using a combination of elbow grease, teamwork and sorcery, the adventurers bridge the smashed walkway to the damaged keep and enter to discover four guards and the body of Lady Nandar, the ruler of Thunderfell. The guards explain that, a few days ago, a strange cloud appeared over the skies of Thunderfell, and the sky began to rain massive boulders. Lady Nandar was one of the first victims, with the keep’s upper floors taking the brunt of the damage. With the keep cut off, the villagers and guards in town fled west, led by a dwarf innkeeper named Morak. Once the town was clear, gigantic figures – humanoid in shape, but impossibly tall – effortlessly floated down and took an obisidian obelisk that has sat within the town square for time immemorial. Aerwyn sketches the Old Tharnic runes he’d seen previously at the Valley of the Fallen Magisters, and one of the guards recognises the rune that could represent wind, cloud or spirit. When Carnacki asks about what happened to Lord Nandar, the guards explain that he was killed some years back in a hunting expedition in the nearby forest by elves. It appears that relationships between the local wood elves and humans are somewhat frosty; the wood elves feel the land to be theirs, as Thunderfell belonged to the elven kingdom that was all but destroyed in the Great War.
The adventurers return to the town itself with the guards, and take a short rest to rejuvenate themselves. As the party restock their quivers from the ruins of the general store, the guards explain that the surviving villagers most likely fled to the Dripping Caves. These are a series of caverns known to locals that are about a mile up the road, not far from where the track branches out to the Tree of Stars. The Tree, they say, is protected by an ancient druid named Verreban, who is old enough to have lived through the Great War that destroyed the old empires, killed the dragons and sheared the mountains of Sunder. He hasn’t been seen much lately, and it’s said that an old hag lurks up near the Tree. The guards also identify the tressym cat that has befriended Dardiana as ‘Rellix’, who belongs to the Kelbrin family.
As they rest, Carnacki explains to them about the battles against the Redcloaks and necromancer of Vandalin. He also passes on news from Rosie Thurn, bartender at Stonehill’s Inn, that the elderly man that the adventurers brought into town has been abducted by Talia Thornton’s men and sent along the eastern road, a treacherous track leading past Widowsreach and from there to the hills of the Heathlands. Carnacki’s travelling companion, a half-orc wizard named Rastus, is in pursuit.
In mid-afternoon, as the adventurers prepare to visit the Dripping Caves, a band of twenty orcs comes through the woods. Some appear wounded, and a number have elf-arrows protruding from their backs. The guards and adventurers climb the watchtowers and use their spells and bows to ward off the attackers. Aerwyn picks off a number of orcs exploring the western wall, but the orcs spot a gap in the eastern palisade near the keep’s walkway, and make their way through the moat. Many are slain along the way, and between Carnacki’s swordplay and Dardiana’s thunderwave spell they manage to fight back the assault. Tagar positions himself on the eastern-most tower, and concentrates his fire on the already-wounded orc boss. The orcs sense themselves to be in trouble and try to leave the moat, only for a band of elves to emerge from the southern woods. They kill the surviving orcs with a volley of arrows and then turn and disappear back into the forest.
When dawn breaks the next day, the adventurers leave and track the villagers’ footsteps to the Dripping Caves. As they enter the massive cavern, the darkvision of Aerwyn, Tagar and Carnacki spot three goblin sentries and an ogre having a mud-bath. Carnacki’s skills allow him to sneak forward unobserved, and he attacks the ogre in its bath. Tagar mystically marks the ogre as his quarry and makes his attack, but Aerwyn’s fire bolt goes wide. In the moment that the mystical fire illuminates the cavern, Dardiana spots another ogre lurking behind the stalagmites. Using her vicious mockery, she causes it to flee. Seeing the chaos, two of the goblins flee – one in the same direction as the ogre, another down a tunnel on the far side of the main cavern. After the two rangers down the ogre and Aerwyn slays the remaining goblin sentry, the adventurers venture down the tunnel where the lone goblin disappeared. It’s slain by Tagar, and the party discovers a half-dozen villagers in a pit, covered in guano. They rescue them by throwing down ropes. One of them, Morak, explains that they’d fled here but were ambushed by goblins. Some villagers have been slain, and they’re not sure how many are left.
At this point, the surviving ogre and a number of goblins emerge from one of the tunnels. Their leader – a wizened goblin named ‘Boss Hark’ who wears a ridiculous headdress – offers to parlay (he’s seen what these adventurers can do as has little interest in a fight to the death, after all). After some negotiation, which includes slaying a ‘black blob’ or paying for taking his ‘larder’, Dardiana and Carnacki pay 200 gold between them as a bribe for the surviving villagers – 30 in all, including those that they’d already found.
As the party lead the bedraggled survivors from the Dripping Caves, the villagers thank the adventurers and make some entreaties of the group:
- A Tiefling lad named Kailen Pavel explains that his mother, Temperance Pavel, was killed in the caves. He asks Carnacki and the others whether they’d travel to Byeldrir – a city in the frostbitten southern land of Themgir, not far from where Carnacki grew up – and tell Temperance’s parents that their only daughter has passed away. Kailen isn’t sure whether he will stay in Thunderfell, the only home he’s known, or go to Themgir himself. Temperance’s parents are Tharm and Anguish Pavel, and they run the furriers on Three Towns Lane.
- The priest, Heyek Meltrum, recognises the tressym as the pet of Melantha and Lathan Kelbrin, both of whom died in the initial attack on the town. Heyek tells Dardiana and Aerwyn that Kelbrin’s son lives in Gilder, and he’d no doubt appreciate it if they visited him there and returned the tressym. The son’s name is Tor Kelbrin.
- Morak the dwarf recognises Tagar’s Heathlander accent. He says that Darthag Goodbrace, who ran the local trading post and was slain by goblins, was a wealthy retiree who’d set up a successful trading company with his ex-wife and daughter, Alara and Lena. Alara is now based out of Thistleton, and Morak would appreciate it if the adventurers could tell her the sad news.