After debating the groups next course of action the heroes finally decided that they needed help. Hopefully the dwarves of Hammerfast would prove to be a willing ally. The companions had made a difficult decision, and could only hope that the Temple of the East Wind’s liberation would somehow avoid enemy notice. The group was well aware of the fact that the sooner they returned the more likely the Temple was to remain uninhabited.
The next morning, after a much needed rest in the newly liberated Temple of the East Wind, the companions departed for Stonefang Pass. It had been nearly a year since the group had delved deep below the Ironwall Mountains in order to stop the Severed Eye Orc tribe from over-running the dwarven Glintshield Clan.
Nearly three hours into the groups day long journey through the dark tunnels of Stonefang Pass the companions began to note the distant echo of hoofbeats up ahead. Hurriedly they decided to sheath their pale glowing enchanted blades, and moved to the passes far outer edges in the hopes of remaining hidden. Soon a distant light could be seen emanating from the dark surroundings ahead, before a rider bearing a torch finally began to take shape. The individual appeared to wear plate armor and was racing south. Suddenly Altain stepped from the shadows in an attempt to make himself known to the mysterious individual, and the man’s horse began to slow its approach. Altain inspected the man carefully for any tell tale signs of the Queen’s Army while introducing himself in a calm demeanor. It was during this exchange of pleasantries that Fin LaVie recognized the design of the man’s shield slung across his back. No insignia was evident, but the design of the steel edging of the shield was unmistakeable, he was a member of the Queen’s Army! Then suddenly, as if the man had somehow noted the look in the paladin’s eyes, he suddenly kicked his horse into action and attempted to shoot through the groups ranks! But the soldier failed to get the jump, as Robyn quickly released a carefully aimed dagger at the man’s horse, striking the hapless animal in the chest. It wasn’t long before the horse collapsed from several other attacks, and soon the unknown rider suffered the same fate. A carefully conducted search soon followed, and revealed a piece of parchment in one of the horses saddle bags. It appeared to be another letter of correspondence destined to General Gathas, and it simply stated: “Victory of the Northland is within the Queen’s grasp as the siege of Hammerfast has begun and should prove successful in the next day or two.” It was obviously a letter that would never reach its destination, and the heroes could only hope that the letters interception might somehow give them some sort of advantage.
The companions knew now that time was of the essence and they prepared to press onward. But before departing Robyn took it upon himself to deface the Queen’s insignia upon the unknown soldiers shield. The remainder of the day passed uneventfully as the companions wasted little time making for the exit of Stonefang Pass. Finally as dusk began to descend upon the Ironwall Mountains the companions began to make out the distant light at the end of the dark tunnel. Robyn was the first to exit Stonefang Pass as he stealthily crept along the passage walls, and then scurried to the shadows outside. It was then that the rogues suspicions were confirmed as armed crossbowmen stood watch atop ancient towers on the opposite side of an old stone bridge. The companions soon followed, but were unfortunately noticed immediately upon exiting the pass. Crossbow bolts soon littered the air, and Altain found himself badly wounded by three unlucky strikes in a few short seconds! It was after the initial barrage that the companions once again began to regain their confidence as they attempted to make their way across the very old stone bridge. But things were about to take a turn for the worse, as one of the small out-house buildings nearby began to shake violently behind the group! It was obvious that something was attempting to escape, and whatever it was seemed powerful. Then with one last push of brute force the two doors of the building suddenly flew off their hinges, landing nearly twenty-five feet away in the nearby river! Mongo raced to cut off the flanking position behind the group with the hopes of getting a better view of whatever it might be within. Soon the dwarf’s questions were answered. It was a large blue-scaled rhino-like beast with lightening coursing over the single horn upon the creature’s snout – a bluespawn stormlizard! Immediately the dwarf set his feet and prepared for what he was sure would be a painful charge. Memories flooded his mind of the encounters of just such beasts deep in the Misty Marshes the previous year, and if memory served him well they were as dangerous as any beast the group had ever encountered. Fin quickly attempted to flank the large stormlizard while Altain scramble around the out-houses perimeter in the hopes of gaining an advantage. But Fin’s assistance soon proved to be short lived as the stormlizard gored the hapless paladin before several bolts from distant crossbows suddenly found their mark – the Paladin of Bahamut collapsed! Things continued to spiral out of control when two more of the Queen’s soldiers suddenly appeared from another nearby building and quickly closed on the remaining companions still standing on the bridge. Astoundingly however a glimmer of hope was to be had as Fin LaVie began moving even though surrounded in his own pool of blood. But then Mongo appeared to be the next victim of the stormlizard’s deadly charge as the beast rushed to impale the defenseless dwarf, but then at the last second the stormlizard suddenly vanished!!! Only to reappear upon the stone bridge, where it gored one of the Queen’s soldiers in the back! Nearby, Altain wore a satisfied smirk upon his face, fully knowing that he had most likely saved not only Mongo, but the entire group and their desperate mission. The swordmage’s suspicions would soon prove prophetic, as Mongo killed the last of the soldiers on the bridge before turning insubstantial and striking the stormlizard with two devastating hacks of his enchanted axe Skull Cleaver. The glowing red runes blazing brightly upon the weapon’s blade as it tore through the blue-tinted flesh of the draconic beast nearly killing it! It wasn’t long after that before the stormlizard, and the surrounding crossbowmen, were finally defeated. Robyn, frustrated and angry at the nearly disastrous conflict, quickly moved to deface the Queen’s insignia upon all of fallen soldiers. Altain, also filled with rage, severed the head of the stormlizard before placing it on the end of a pike and planting it firmly in the ground at the end of the bridge facing south. The group was quick to realize how close they had come to complete disaster.
Dusk was quickly falling to darkness when the group made the difficult decision to press onward. They now realized that there was little time to spare due to their interception of the Queen’s correspondence – one day maybe, or two at most, or so the letter had read. Each knew that hope was sure to be lost if the dwarves at Hammerfast fell, because with them they most likely took the hopes of Timbervale as well. As darkness fell across the Ironwall Mountains the heroes pushed through the rocky terrain that surrounded them, a winding path their only clue on how to proceed. Nearly an hour later, exhausted from the steep trek along the mountain path, the group spotted what appeared to be torches burning up ahead. They continued cautiously ahead, slowly closing the distance until they could make out numerous torches attached to tall stakes. Amidst the light another stone bridge could be seen spanning a small mountain creek, and a stone outpost stood on the other side. But it was the piles of dwarven skulls that marked various portions of the path, including the entrance to the stone bridge, that really caught the groups attention. It was a morbid sight, and was undoubtedly a warning to any who dare trespass. Robyn asked his companions to stay put, before making his way for a closer look. Carefully the rogue made his way across the ice cold water of the shallow creek, flanking the stone bridge and the outpost to the left. What happened next terrified even the most stout of heart, as a deadly silent dragon suddenly swooped down from the surrounding mountain spires before viciously tearing into the unsuspecting rogue with its razor sharp talons! Robyn’s friends stood at the other side of the creek in stunned silence, unable to sound out the slightest of warnings to their endangered companion. Then with its claws dripping with blood, the large grayish-scaled dragon landed within ten feet of the shocked rogue, before continuing its deadly assault. The creature’s scales protruded upon its head and crest like stoney outcroppings, and its deadly fangs appeared large enough to prevent the beast from being capable of totally closing its mouth. Altain, reflecting back on his many studies of ancient texts began assessing the situation, and believed the large beast to be a rare gray dragon, known by some as as a stone dragon, or fang dragon.
Unfortunately the swordmage had not read of any weaknesses however, and could only call upon the knowledge that the dragon was infamous for its savage and deadly nature. Few in history had been known to survive such an encounter! Pushing these bleak thoughts from his forethought, Altain and the others began racing towards their rogue companion. But as the companions took up arms against the large gray dragon the beast began inhaling deeply before releasing a blast of acidic ooze! The viscous substance clung to anything and everything that it struck, and unfortunately that included Robyn and Mongo. Their exposed flesh sizzled, and melted, and screams of agony filled the still mountain air. Luckily a third member of the group avoided the blast however, as Altain managed to skirt around the flank of the dragon uninjured. Then the large gray dragon released yet another gout of the caustic ooze before taking flight and repositioning its large reptilian body to a more advantageous position, and at the same time pinning the rogue near a rocky outcropping. The rogue, not use to fighting in such close proximity, was beginning to panic. He was now contending with the light headed feeling of one who has lost too much blood, and Robyn was beginning to wonder if there would be any escape this time around? Sensing the groups desperation Mongo called upon his power of spectral vines to help defend the group, and followed it by calling upon the surrounding vegetation for more cover. The stalky dwarf then planted his feet firmly in the ground and prepared to make his final stand if need be. Then the dwarf began yelling at the imposing dragon in an attempt to garner the large beasts attention, while attempting to avoid the creature’s dangerously barbed tail. Nearby Altain also began taking up a his preferred battle stance of the swordmage. The dragon’s very presence seemed to invoke a deep rooted fear amongst many of the companions, and many found it difficult if not impossible to move away. Stunned confusion seemed to cloud many of their minds, and many in the group found these feelings of helplessness to be unfamiliar. A sense of panic was beginning to take hold…