Once upon a time, four very different characters had an unlikely meeting (See the characters' stories in the previous article): Tarren Kyraavi, a human bard, Thianna ImQuess, a half-elf rogue, Ghaal Tokk, a half-orc barbarian, and Arradir Thorail, an elf mage. They had come here for different reasons. Tarren was looking for a mysterious city in the sky, Ghaal was looking for the murderers of his tribe, and Arradir had had a vision of his father and teacher, Leolar, who told him to come to Dagger Falls. Thianna, on the other hand, had no particular goal, and wandered aimlessly, not knowing what she was seeking.
When the sage Arradir heard Tarren talk about the city in the sky, he told him that this city had only appeared very recently, a few weeks ago. It emerged near Dagger Falls and started drifting west. Three thousand years ago, there had been many flying cities that were part of the Netherese Kingdom, but along with their culture, they had all vanished in the mists of time. But that was the extent of Arradir's knowledge concerning this matter.
Since Arradir wanted to go to Dagger Falls, Tarren wanted to find out more about the flying city, and for Ghaal, Dagger Falls was as good a place as any to look for the murderers of his tribe, they decided to head for the city together. Thianna thought that this might turn out to be interesting and decided to accompany them as well, for the time being.
So it came that Tarren, Thianna, Ghaal and Arradir, accompanied by his fey familiar, Amber Vineglow (who had currently taken on the shape of an owl), set out for the city of Dagger Falls.
The first day
Journey with the Brightblade dwarves
Not long after their departure, the party happened upon some Brightblade dwarves. They did not want to have anything to do with the party, but since both groups shared the same destination, they traveled together for a while. They set up camp in the evening (the dwarves only did so reluctantly), and rested.
While everyone was sleeping, Arradir the elf was meditating and his watchful owl circling above them, the sneaky rogue decided to go through Tarren's and Ghaal's belongings, but found nothing worth her interest.
The second day
Journey to Dagger Falls
On the morning of the second day, the dwarves told the party that they did not desire to travel with them any longer. Arradir tried to convince them that it would be beneficial to all, but unfortunately completely pissed them off instead. So the two groups split. The party overtook the dwarves and traveled on.
Shortly thereafter, Amber, always on the lookout, alerted Arradir of a Zhentish caravan coming along their way. The party hid in the grass on the side of the road and remained undetected while the caravan passed by. The party could not help but notice that the caravan had some goblin slaves with them.
Next, the party met a group of riders. As the riders approached the party (Thianna had hidden), they asked whether the group had seen a caravan. The party confirmed having come upon the caravan, which had passed them barely twenty minutes ago. Since the caravan was only a short way ahead, the riders, hopeful to catch it yet, thanked the party and pressed on. Riding away, they bid farewell to the party with a "Don't catch a sneeze!", leaving the party slightly puzzled as to the meaning of that uttering.
Yet another while later, the party encountered another group of riders (Thianna had hidden). Their leader presented himself as Randal Morn, commander of the Freedom Fighters. He told them that some kind of sickness which they called the Dream Fever had taken hold of Dagger Falls. It had already befallen two dozen people; some of them had died, others mysteriously disappeared. He promised that, should the party prove a valuable help in fighting this plague, he would certainly find and reward them. He also warned them of constable Tren, which he did not seem to appreciate very much, to say the least. Finally, he told them of the two taverns in the city: The reputable Red Rock Tavern, owned by Loudon The Cooper, which welcomes travelers, and the Broken Dagger, where Zhents passed their free time and did not take kindly to outsiders. As these riders were also pursuing the caravan and wanted to rejoin their vanguard, they also pressed on.
Rumors and a tavern brawl
When they came to Dagger Falls, the party first headed for the Red Rock Tavern. Ghaal was in a drinking mood and aggressively ordered ever more ale. Meanwhile, the party sat at a table and picked up a few pieces of conversation. Among other things, they heard of a few children that had disappeared, apparently captured by Goblins. They also overheard a group of people blaming some dwarves for the plague. Arradir, ever curious and eager to learn, went up to them and engaged in a conversation. He learned that, according to these people, dwarves had forged a sword long ago, and that sword got stolen recently. Supposedly, the plague had come over the city at that precise moment, and they suggested that the Bladebright dwarves had cursed the sword. They told Arradir that they suspected it might have been hidden in Eagle's Eyrie, near Dagger Falls. They also told him that legend had it that if anyone should enter their delving, the townsfolk will die.
They then decided to head for the Zhentish tavern, the Broken Dagger, to see if they could learn more about what was happening in the city. Fearing that they would not be welcome, Tarren proposed to enter the tavern alone and cheer up its guests so that the rest of the party could follow behind without attracting too much attention. He might well have succeeded, but unfortunately, the impatient and drunken Ghaal decided to smash down the door and loudly demand some ale. The bard tried to assume responsibility and appease the bar's proprietor. However, this did not work too well as the orc grabbed the barkeeper by the collar and forced him to pour him some ale. Arradir and Thianna, shaking their heads, now also entered the tavern. While the rogue stole some money from the guests, the orc did little to ease the situation and started to pick a fight with a few of the guests; understandably, even the charismatic Tarren was unable to deescalate the situation. Thianna approached one of the guests who was debating with the orc and threatened him with a dagger in his back. Meanwhile, Arradir attempted a distraction by creating an illusionary smell of fire and burning in the kitchen, shouting "Fire! Fire!" and heading for the exit. Half of the guests followed and left the tavern, but Ghaal started a fight. While the remaining guests forced Tarren and Thianna outside, the orc hit a few people, snatched a barrel of ale and jumped through the window, shuttering the barrel in the process. Lucky that nothing more serious had happened, the party headed back for the Red Rock Tavern. On the way, the now totally drunken orc lay down in a meadow and fell asleep. Arradir, convinced that there must be some good in every creature and on top of that, completely broke and unable to pay a tavern anyway, decided to watch over Ghaal.
Back in the tavern, Tarren and Thianna picked up some more rumors. They heard that parts of the wood from which the tavern was built had started sprouting leaves three of four days ago (but after the plague had befallen the city), and that some dark figures, presumably night dwarves, roamed the streets at night. Tarren managed to get free food and accomodation for the night by displaying a delightful musical performance, but could not convince them to let Thianna sleep and eat for free as well. Thianna, however, managed to get a reduced price after speaking with Loudon's wife, Kessla, whom she had already talked to during her first visit in the tavern.
The third day
On the next morning, Arradir and Ghaal, who was stinking of ale and still hung over, headed back to the tavern. There, they met with Thianna and Tarren. They had barely said "Good morning!" when a few soldiers led by an orc entered the tavern. The orc marched straight up to Tarren, presented himself as Marrakt, and let him know that constable Tren desired to see them. The party agreed that it would be insightful to learn what he had to say; they did not have much of a choice anyway.
At the constable's tower, Tren informed the party that he wanted them to enter the ruins of the Temple of Lathander and to clear it of its foul inhabitants. He also mentioned that Randal Morn and his soldiers engaged in suspicious activity there, and promised the party 50 gold pieces for any captured soldier of Randal. He would send a group of soldiers to their tavern on the next morning to accompany them to the ruins. The party did not trust the constable. However, Tarren, very subtly, let them know that they should pretend to accept the offer to avoid confrontation, and the party whole-heartedly agreed. So they played along and bid their farewell to Tren, who took his leave with a "Don't catch a sneeze!" Again that sentence. "Why is it that they all use this sentence here?", thought Arradir, "Could it have something to do with the plague?". He decided that he should find out more about the meaning of this phrase.
The Temple of Lathander
Outside, Tarren, Arradir and Ghaal wanted to go to the Eagle's Eyrie and perhaps learn more about the dwarves' sword, but Thianna suggested that they should inspect the ruins of the temple first, to avoid any nasty surprises on the morrow. The party agreed and so headed to the temple. There, they found that the temple was guarded by eight of the constable's soldiers. The soldiers were rather hostile and told the party to leave, immediately. The charismatic Tarren tried to convince them that they were here on the constable's orders, but Ghaal insulted the leader of the guards as a "maggot", which did not help much in this endeavour. Arradir tried a subterfuge, creating the illusion of voices and steps behind the temple, in the hope that enough guards would go around the temple so that Tarren could distract the remaining ones and Thianna sneak into the temple unseen. Two of the guards left when they heard the voices, but it was at that moment that Ghaal decided to spit on the leader's shoes. That was too much. The guards drew their weapons. Arradir wanted to attempt to deescalate the situation yet, but before he could do anything, Ghaal had killed the leader of the guards with a single blow. The two groups engaged in combat. Even now, Arradir tried to reduce the number of fatalities by magically creating grease to knock the soldiers prone and permit the party's flight. The grease worked like a charm, but Arradir had to learn that the party had no intention to flee and wanted to kill the soldiers instead. With no other choice, he helped his new-won friends, but the powerful Ghaal and the sneaky Thianna barely needed any help in their killing frenzy. Tarren, on the other hand, was rather useless as he stood there and showered the soldiers with insults, but they paid him no heed. But, to be fair, Arradir's aim left a lot of room for improvement too.
The party had killed about half of the soldiers when Amber let Arradir know that people had witnessed the battle and one of them was running to the constable's tower to get help. When the party had all but won (only two soldiers remained), Arradir shouted at the party to flee to avoid further confrontation with the reinforcements, who were almost certainly on their way by now, and ran ahead. Yet the party decided to kill the remaining soldiers instead and stay there to discuss. Hardly enthusiastic at this turn of events, Arradir returned, shouting "Fools!", as angry as his peaceful and kind-hearted nature allowed him to be. For there had been no necessity to fight and kill innocents, the party had now drawn the constable's wrath upon them and they were unlikely to be able to operate discreetly in this city from here on out. Yet the damage was done anyway, and the party thus decided to explore the ruins.
Underneath the ruins
They found the entrance to some subterranean tunnel system, but in the first room, a portcullis blocked their way. With the help of Thianna's crowbar, Ghaal was easily able to lift the portcullis and let the party through. There, they found some alcoves with the remains of Lathander's good-hearted priests. Ghaal decided it would be a good idea to cut their heads off and triggered a trap which poisoned him as a result. Somehow, he then felt Evil grow stronger inside him. He decided to take a short rest while the rest of the party went on through the tunnels without their fighter. Promptly, they stumbled upon a young Hook Horror. It had not displayed any aggressive behavior yet and Tarren and Arradir decided to retreat while it was still possible. However, Thianna sent an arrow flying and hit the Hook Horror, who immediately took up pursuit. The three adventurers retreated through the tunnels to get back to Ghaal, who still hadn't rested at all and felt oddly sick. The party engaged in a tough battle with the Hook Horror, during which Ghaal was gravely wounded, but not without striking some devastating blows at the Hook Horror first. Finally, the bard managed to kill off the wounded beast by insulting it so badly that the beast died of chagrin. Then, Tarren healed Ghaal.
Meanwhile, Amber, who had been circling above the ruins, let Arradir telepathically know that soldiers were gathering in front of the ruins. The party debated whether it should press on to look for another exit, or leave the ruins through the main entrance while there were still only a few soldiers. Finally, Arradir summoned Amber to him and let her fly through the tunnels to discover what lay ahead. She found that, after two small chambers, one with a pool of water and another with giant fungi and small, elusive shapes of creatures, the tunnel led to a river. There, her telepathic reach ended. But since a river meant that there had to be another exit, the party decided to press on rather than risk a direct confrontation with the gathering guards.
When they arrived in the chamber with the water pool, they found a nymph. She told them that the shapes that Amber had seen in the next room were Nightshades. She also told them about how she'd been living in the cave for all her life, but knew not where the river led, for she only got out through the main entrance to get food, but never otherwise left the cavern. Then, she disappeared beneath the waters.
Pushing on, the party arrived at the next chamber and found itself facing the three Nightshades that Amber had previously seen, and which turned out to be little tree-like creatures. Tarren tried to talk to them, but the Nightshades immediately attacked the party. Though the party killed them off rather quickly, one of the Nightshades managed to poison Tarren with her toxic sap. There wasn't much that the party could do about it right now, as Tarren himself had used up his healing magic and none of the other party members possessed the skills to heal him. Before they went ahead to the river, they investigated a bush of thorns on the far side of the chamber. Tarren and Arradir tried to kindle it with their magic, but that mostly resulted in a lot of smoke and little fire. Not wanting to suffocate yet curious to see what may lie on the other side of the thorn bush, Arradir decided to knock it up a notch and cast a bolt of fire at the thorn bush, pushing a hole right through it. On the other side, the party could discern a good dozen Nightshades, taller than the ones they had just fought. Uneager to get into a fight with that many foes, the party decided to head on towards the river.
Before they could reach the river, there were a few steep drops to overcome. Fortunately, the party had several ropes on them, and the strong and athletic Ghaal lowered them down one by one before making the 10 foot jump himself. So it came that the party finally found itself on the bank of the river. On the far side of the river, another tunnel gradually descended into darkness. Unsure where to go, Arradir summoned Amber yet again and let her scout ahead through the tunnel. But as far as she could fly without losing contact, the tunnel only descended ever more into the pitch black. She then returned and followed the river's current, until the passage became so narrow and the ceiling came so close to the water that she could not go on any further. Since the party did not know how far the river went underground and whether they could make the swim, they decided to push ahead through the tunnel. Ghaal attached a rope to himself, waded through the roaring torrents and made it safely onto the other side. Then, he helped the party members to make it through the torrents as well. Exhausted, the party decided to take a good long rest before venturing further into the unknown depths of the tunnel that lay ahead, but not before the wizard and the bard magically dried the party's clothes. Thianna refused the help of the mage to have her clothes dried and turned to the bard instead. Arradir, always curious, made a mental note that Thianna did not appear to hate magic per se, but apparently, specifically wizards. He decided that it would be interesting to find out more about the reasons for this behavior, in time.