The as-yet unnamed party:
Arxire Coilbone, tiefling warlock (Rory)
Erdon Thistleborn, elf cleric (Michael G.)
Felix, gnome wizard (Nico)
-Belvedere, his familiar
Gogh, half-elf rogue (Brian)
-Esh, his donkey
Mathis, human monk (Zach)
Misty, elf paladin (Allie)
Naivara, elf druid (Janine)
Saul, human woodcutter (Michael D.)
Beezmo, halfling druid
-Drex, his mastiff
Kiko, Naivara’s ferret
Lichen, drow warlock
Tyriel Morlane, half-elf ranger
Having discovered the tragic fate of Antsiss Whitebeard, destroyed every living creature in Malvern Manor, burned said manor house to the ground, and captured a half-dead dwarf who they assumed to be Old Man Malvern, our heroes started back toward town to inform Mayor Whitebeard that…well, therein lay the rub. What to tell the Lord Mayor?
Should they tell the mayor that he’d abandoned his gentle, unloved son to a hideous fate and present him with the pile of irrefutable evidence, knowing that the mayor’s primary concern was not for his son but for his own reputation? Should they lie and say that the rumors of Antsiss sneaking away on a pirate ship were true? How much should they tell him about the nefarious doings of Old Man Malvern? The group was divided, but in the end they decided to send Gogh, Hero of Fairbanks, to meet with the mayor, along with Arxire, who’d had his problems with the mayor but who possessed a considerable degree of tact. The rest huddled up in the woods south of town, with Erdon tending to their prisoner.
The sun was setting as the assassin and the warlock strode into the market square. They were shocked to see a small but sharply appointed schooner at anchor in the harbor. It was far too late in the season for merchants to risk the ice-choked waters of the White Bear Sea…who had arrived?
They proceeded to the Golden Stein, where they found the mayor in high spirits and surrounded by a hearty looking band of adventurers led by a stout dwarf who looked remarkably like him. Mayor Whitebeard was delighted to see his trusted agent Gogh, though somewhat less delighted to see the the forger Arxire; nonetheless he called them over and introduced his son Altwar and his famed band of adventurers the Altwarriors. They’d come to town to rid the region of the threat from Blackstar Canyon, get the damned road open, and save the town, by Moradin! Huzzah! And the packed public house rejoiced at the hero’s bold proclamation.
Though no doubt perturbed at the mayor offering the canyon contract to another party, Gogh greeted the haughty heroes cordially and asked the mayor for a private word in the back. The mayor insisted that his famous son join them as well.
When Gogh and Arxire returned to the party, they were escorted by Altwar, who took the half-dead dwarf prisoner into his custody and returned to town. They no longer possessed any of the journals, letters, or other evidence collected from Malvern Manor, though Erdon still had Antsiss’s novel. Gogh and Arxire related to the party that they were all to be well paid for their services, though none of them should ever speak of any of this again, on pain of death. Antsiss had hopped aboard a pirate ship some months prior, Malvern Manor had burned down accidentally, and there was nothing more to say about the matter, ever. The holy men Erdon and Mathis were displeased with these terms, though there was little to be done about it now.
Our heroes returned to town and were forced to take rooms in the seedy Winking Serpent (the Altwarriors had commandeered the Golden Stein). No doubt some slept better than others.
The next morning, much of the town was assembled in the market square where a dais had been erected, upon which Altwar and the Altwarriors were being feted and were regaling the commoners with tales of heroism (their own, of course). Naturally, the mayor was basking in the glory as well.
Our suddenly anonymous heroes decided to visit their old frenemy Carlin the Seer. There they gained a great deal of knowledge about the wide array of magical equipment they’d acquired at the manor house, but as usual, the price was steep. They were forced to trade several interesting trinkets, including mysterious bottles that turned coins into more valuable versions that couldn’t be extracted (Erdon was to learn that these were knowns as Lesson Bottles, and that by dropping his entire personal fortune into one, he’d learned an expensive lesson about dropping money into magical bottles). Mathis learned a great deal more about the monk hero Carrack, whose boot piece he carried, where he could find the other pieces of Carrack’s attire, and that his own dead brother was searching for him—but he was forced to give up his most closely guarded secret in order to do so. Now Carlin possessed information that could bring down the wrath of the Tahsatran Empire upon Mathis and his companions (not to mention several pints of their blood, samples of their bodily hair, and the promise of the paladin’s firstborn).
When they returned to town, they visited poor, ailing Sister Marla, then the warlocks headed for the archives to research godknowswhat and brew some potions. While there, they noticed a shadowy figure spying on them, but they were unable to prevent its escape. Anxious to try out his new rituals for corrupting and uncorrupting woodland creatures, Arxire captured a squirrel, and performed the ritual. He was unprepared for the evil monster he created, which sank jagged fangs into his hand and ran into the woods.
Fortunately, the druid Naivara was unaware of this travesty against nature, as she, Felix, and Mathis were about to engage in one of the most daring and astoundingly successful bits of espionage in history. Mathis used Antsiss’s magical box to shrink himself to the size of his thumb, Naivara turned herself into a spider, and Felix directed his familiar Belvedere, in raven form, to carry them to the window ledge of the mayor’s office, where he was conducting a private meeting with the Altwarriors.
Mathis and Naivara learned that the mayor distrusted Felix and was unsure if the new title he’d bestowed upon the gnome (“Most Excellent and Dignified Recoverer of Answers and Antiquities”) was enough to buy his silence and complicity in the Antsiss matter. He’d arranged to meet Felix that night near the ruins of Malvern Manor to discuss further terms, including a seat on the town council for Felix. But now it sounded as if the mayor and the Altwarriors were preparing an ambush.
Midway through the meeting, the mayor stepped out to meet with Gogh, and he returned with a signed contract that he secreted away in the stout floor safe beneath his desk.
With that, the mayor adjourned the meeting and instructed the Altwarriors to make all necessary preparations and await him in the Malvern orchard. He then locked the window and his safe, and departed for the Golden Stein, locking his door behind him.
But unbeknownst to him, mini-Mathis and spider-Naivara had already snuck into his office and were hiding behind a potted plant on the window sill. Naivara crawled into the keyhole of the mayor’s floor safe and against all odds was able to decipher how the lock worked. And against absurdly all odds ever, was able to pop the lock from inside it. Mathis then swung the safe door open, and before them lay reams of evidence of the mayor’s shady dealings with smugglers, extortion and bribery of the citizenry, even secret pacts with the cult operating out of Blackstar Canyon. They also discovered a fortune in gems and platinum pieces.
Mathis dragged every last piece of evidence—every hidden contract, every damning bit of correspondence, every pledge of secret support—out of the safe, bound it together along with as many jewels as he thought Belvedere could carry, and the three of them flew back to the Winking Serpent.
And now the great debate. What to do with all this power? Should they confront the mayor? If so, where? In the orchard at midnight, away from witnesses but where he’d be unable to call down the town guard? Should they stir up a revolution in town while the mayor was out of pocket? Were they any match for the Altwarriors? They sought the council of Sister Marla, who encouraged them to be brave and to speak with the furrier Pallock Pawstorm, a sturdy and respected dwarf who was one of the few citizens known to stand up to the mayor.
Pawstorm assured them that he was not in the mayor’s pocket, but cautioned them that he was one of the few. Impressed by his reputation and bearing, the party proposed installing Pawstorm as mayor, once they toppled the corrupt Mayor Whitebeard. He was willing to do what was best for the town, but he warned the party that the Whitebeards were allies of the Boldcrates, the despised but unquestionably dominant dwarf family, whose head sat on the Tahsatran Council of Three. Overthrowing a Boldcrate-appointed official would earn them enemies in the capital—but doing so would also win them a great many friends in Oldberk, the birthplace of every major dwarven revolution and the ancestral capital of the ancient dwarven kingdom.
While the party discussed their next move, a mysterious woodcutter named Saul, who’d sought out the party and expressed interest in joining their cause, slipped out of Pawstorm’s house on a mysterious errand.
Shortly thereafter, the alarm bells were ringing in the town square. Upon arrival, our heroes discovered the bodies of two town hall guards, cut down in cold blood. The second-story window of the mayor’s office had been shattered and foul curses were scrawled on the front door of the town hall in orcish. The town was in a panic, and the mayor and the Altwarriors were nowhere to be found. Gogh and Mathis talked their way past the guards and entered the town hall. Mathis distracted the sergeant and his troops, who were conducting a thorough search of the first floor, while Gogh slipped upstairs, picked the lock of the mayor’s office, looted the remaining treasure, closed the safe that Mathis and Naivara had left open, removed the stone that someone had thrown through the window, and snuck quietly back downstairs.
Meanwhile, Felix was rallying the townspeople, encouraging them to take heart and seek out the absent mayor and demand retribution for this invasion. Arxire created the aural illusion of orc howls and horns emanating from the south of town. That, combined with Felix’s persuasive powers, caused a group of 12 townspeople, including the sergeant of the town guard, to begin marching south—toward Malvern Manor where the oblivious mayor and Altwarriors were awaiting the arrival of Felix.
Sneaking ahead of the crowd, Gogh espied the mayor in a clearing just off the road, casually burning all the Malvern evidence in a merry bonfire. Mathis rushed ahead of the townspeople and spread all of the evidence from the mayor’s safe on the road in front of them. Then Erdon and Saul stepped into the bonfire’s light and told the mayor that the jig was up. They were in possession of evidence of his corruption and now so were the townspeople. The mayor looked with disbelief, then with horror as his citizens and sergeant pored through the contents of his secret safe. While Felix found himself fending off magical attacks from an unseen source, the mayor ordered them all back to town, but they were beginning to look at him with newfound distrust and loathing.
The mayor’s expression changed from near panic to grim, hateful resignation. “Biggsley, destroy the evidence” he said. A massive fireball hurtled out of the darkness behind him, incinerating the evidence and eleven of the twelve townspeople. Only the sergeant survived the explosion.
Altwar stepped out from behind a rock to stand at his father’s side, hefting a massive two-handed maul, and it was clear that there would be no peaceful resolution on this night.
Mathis charged forward but lost his footing and fell into the mayor’s bonfire, while Erdon got Saul back on his feet after the fireball from the Altwarrior’s terrifying hidden wizard Biggsley. Gogh misfired his crossbow, then snuck toward the mayor’s flank, coming face-to-face with Gondom LePag, the massive swordsman. Felix and Arxire launched ranged attacks on the mayor, who was urging his comrades on with tales and songs of Whitebeard bravery, and the Altwarrior’s dark dwarven priest Caleb Ironwheel. Altwar himself sent Erdon, Saul, and Mathis reeling with devastating blows from his maul, and all the while Biggsley stalked the shadows unseen, launching arcane attacks.
Then Felix the warlock stepped up, first putting the mayor to sleep then charming Gondom LePag into seeking out and attacking the hidden wizard Biggsley. Gogh’s and Arxire’s ranged attacks began taking their toll on Altwar and he staggered, near death. But Ironwheel revived him, and Mathis and Erdon turned their attention to the priest. Gogh and charmed LePag brought down Biggsley, and the priest fell before Mathis and Erdon. The monk then beat the half-elf thief Shish into pulp, and by the time the mayor woke up from his ensorceled sleep, he was surrounded by dead Altwarriors. He threw himself on the mercy of our heroes, begging for his life and that of his son. The party took him prisoner, stabilized Altwar, and sent the sergeant back to town with the news that the true heroes of Fairbanks were returning, and that change was coming with them.