The Ruby Tower Syndicate

Beneath the Padwick Ghost Hold
What horrors lie in wait in the darkness beneath?
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Padwick Revisited
What evil lurks beneath the Ghost Hold?

Because of their valiant efforts against the frenzied drakes, the Ruby Tower Syndicate were the first people thought of by the locals of Padwick when mysterious happenings began around a small Ghost Hold to the north of the village.

The Hold, a ruined temple to a forgotten god, had lain vacant for many years, but lately some village trappers had noticed eerie lights and unsettling shadows around the place at twilight. As only a lackwit would see such occurrences in the Realms and not deduce a sinister development, the townsfolk sent another message to the Ruby Tower to alert them to a possible situation.

Because the arcane segment of the team was occupied with studies and rituals, the martial members of the group set off on an exploratory sortie. Along the way they encountered two haughty women, an eladrin and a genasi, who were apparently seeking either treasure or adventure at the same hold. The Ruby Tower party, feeling no camaraderie with the pair, fell back as the ladies spurred their mounts to a trot.

Upon reaching the Ghost Hold, Morrigan discovered the women’s horses tethered to a dangling gate and proceeded to move them a short distance away as a joke or possibly a statement. (It is hard to tell with drow.)

Sneaking around to the graveyard behind the ruin, the party then discovered that the place was indeed full of undead horrors! But even without the aid of magic, Queris, Morrigan, Lacey, and Dangorin were able to send a number of shambling corpses back to their resting places in the earth.

They then decided to venture into the old temple itself, from which a deep thrumming noise had begun to emanate. Inside, they found the eladrin and genasi cowering before a number of gravel elementals that had apparently spilled forth from the shimmering portal in the center of the room. One of the elementals loosed a spray of gravel at the pair, knocking them unconscious before turning its attention on the Ruby Tower party.

After dispatching the elemental threat, the party learned that the genasi woman had conjured the portal using an experimental ritual, but had been unable to bind the summoned creatures to her will. She and the cleric pouted and bickered as they limped out of the temple, presumably to return to town to lick their wounds.

The Ruby Tower trio then decided to descend a dark stairway leading into the temple basement. After dispatching a few guard zombies, Morrigan crept ahead using her dark elf guile, hoping to learn something of the foes they faced. What she learned was that a shadowy figure had bound a large number of tough-looking undead to his thrall and was now performing some sort of ritual in the basement library.

Deciding to effect a tactical retreat to replenish their energy reserves, the party moved back to their horses and started to make camp. Unfortunately for them, a pack of wolves decided it was dinnertime rather than bedtime, and a fierce melee ensued. After putting down the beasts, the sharp-eared warlord Queris noted the sound of many shuffling feet and undead moaning coming from the road nearby.

Unwilling to risk discovery by the zombie horde, the party mounted up and rode back to the relative safety of Padwick, where they sent word to the Ruby Tower that reinforcements were sorely needed.

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Tiny Teeth, Big Attitude
Who knew they could fit so many drakes into one dale?

Having received an urgent message from the village of Padwick, Miranda sent the party to see what could be done. After a brief rest at the tower, they mounted their new horses and galloped northward.

A spokesman for the town greeted them with hat in hand and a beleaguered mien, explaining that several woodmen had be set upon by swarms of needlefang drakes, cat-sized reptiles with too many teeth and terrible tempers. Woodsmen and hunters had begun to fear for their lives each time they ventured into the forest to make a living, and the children of the village could no longer be allowed to play outdoors.

The Ruby Tower agents immediately stabled their horses and set off to find the source of the problem. It wasn’t long before dozens and dozens of the tiny monsters picked up their scent and attacked. The battle was long and bloody, and in the end the party’s fighter, Dangorin, figured the needlefang death count to be well over a hundred, with no casualties on the side of the mammals.

Just before the drake battle, Morrigan the ranger was sure she heard shouts coming from a bit deeper into the forest, so after having cleaned off their blades and taken a quick swig from the waterskin, they forged ahead to investigate.

To no one’s great surprise, they found a small encampment of kobolds, several of whom were chasing individual needlefangs into the bushes. Even less surprising was the fact that they were failing abysmally in their attempts to tame the little beasts. However, much to the Tower agents’ chagrin, the kobolds had managed to tame some larger drakes. They also had a wyrmpriest with them, who cast glob after glob of stinging acid as the party fought madly against the coordinated attacks of the other kobolds and their scaly pets.

The party did triumph once again, and they returned as heroes to the village and thereafter back to the tower. It was certain that their names and faces would be remembered well, if not throughout the Dales just yet, at least in the village of Padwick for now.

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Marlee Washburn and the Blood-sucking Bastards
Save the horses!

The fledgling adventurers went forth from the tower and found the village of Cantering. Receiving a warm greeting from Horsemistress Washburn, they settled down to a country luncheon to listen to her tale. A certain amount of fuss was raised when the local rat-catcher presented his trophies at a most indelicate time, and some further ado was made over the sensibilities of one faerie warlord’s palate.

The luncheon suffered a still more grievous and untoward interruption when the source of Marlee’s primary distress decided to pay an early afternoon visit: an ominous cloud of flapping, shrieking stirges suddenly darkened the sky over the horses’ grazing pasture!

Fortified with Lady Washburn’s slyly administered tonic of clarity, the adventurers sprang into action. It cost the five of them every ounce of effort and cunning they could muster, but some long, frantic minutes later the last of the stirges shrieked the last of its shrieks. And to Marlee’s great satisfaction, every horse remained alive (though some had been perilously drained of vital humours).

After a sedate but celebratory evening repast, the guild hopefuls turned in for a well-deserved rest at the local inn, compliments of the Lady. But peace had not completely settled over Cantering, for in the gray hours of the morning, the mysteriously desperate rat-catcher was seen galloping off with one of the ranch’s prize breeding stallions!

The adventurers, abruptly roused from their deep slumber (or trance, as the case may be), were asked once again to render their services. To their mild dismay, there were not enough healthy horses in the village for them to make a mounted chase, so they set out on foot to ferret out the bounder’s trail.

After a brief disagreement with some of the local fauna, they tracked the horse thief to a small cave by a stream. But upon approaching the cave, they saw not a rat-catcher, but a small cavern teeming with monstrous rats of all sizes! They wasted no time in skewering, chopping, and burning as many of the disease-ridden vermin as they could see. In the midst of the fracas, one of the larger rats underwent a rather grotesque metamorphosis: before them now stood the wretched form of a literal rat-man, wearing the telltale filthy brown cape of the ill-mannered rat-catcher!

The group surmised that the clever beast had been using his rat minions to scam the good citizens of Cantering for quite some time. Unfortunately for him, the appetites of the larger rats had outgrown his ability to feed them and, unwilling to part with his ill-gotten gold, he decided to let them feast upon horse-flesh. This act of unreasoned greed led to his ignoble demise when a dwarven axe separated his snarling head from his slouching shoulders.

The party collected the gold and the horse and headed back to Cantering, where Marlee thanked them once again. Before seeing them off to the guild headquarters, she gifted each member of the group with one of her fine steeds, along with a special pangolin-sized platform that could attach to the saddle of the drow’s saucy young mare.

Miranda Fishcock was most pleased to welcome them back to the tower, awarding them their stipend for the mission, a bit of magical gear, and most important, full membership into the Ruby Tower Syndicate. Congratulations to Oren, Efra, Queris, Morrigan, Lacey, and Dangorin on a job well done!

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