The Kingdom of Paradon is in Peril!
You’ve uncovered a secret: a shadowy cabal of unsavory spell casters called the Seven Sovereigns are running a vast criminal empire across the kingdom.
But to your surprise, they aren’t your chief antagonists, at least not currently. It turns out there’s a bigger threat: the despotic dragon usurper of the neighboring island nation of Sibril is scheming to seize Paradon for himself. The Seven Sovereigns are using their power and resources to stop his invasion, if only to protect their own interests, and they have enlisted you to help.
The Seven have learned what they can about their enemy. His true name is Cognail, and he has a weakness: halflings. Specifically, the descendants of a halfling clan (‘dardai’), of legendary dragon tamers from old Axla, the halfling homeland, where the dragon himself hails from. He both hates and fears those of this clan, for they ran him out of Axla, and it’s said that, even now, centuries later, he will reel at the presence of one from that lineage. He can smell the offending blood in their veins.
The halfling clan, called the Dardai Derulade, marked their anti-draconic weaponry and magic items with the heraldry of a thistle flower. As a pre-emptive defense measure, the Seven began amassing as much of the thistle-marked paraphernalia as they could, but found that the clan’s magic was inaccessible, locked behind unknown Axlan command words. The Derulade, it turns out, were possessive of their powers.
In their research, the Seven also chanced upon a secret weapon that they could use to really hit Cognail where it hurts. An ancient Axlan oracle once predicted the return of a heroic figure called the Shepherd Prince. The legend tells of a halfling of modest beginnings, one born “under the thistle”, who will one day rise up in a foreign land and defeat a terrible and mighty foe (generally interpreted to be a dragon), restoring glory to the homeland. The dragon Cognail is surely well aware of the prophecy and dreads its fruition. So a plan was devised by the Seven to exploit his fear and weakness. If the Shepherd Prince could be found, likely among the agrarian halfling immigrant population, then the Seven could help him fulfill the prophecy and exploit the dragon’s vulnerability.
Well, guess what? The Shepherd Prince has been found! His name is Tumn Thistlebottom (surname’s a dead give-away, honestly), and he has been “shepherded” to a secure location to prepare him for his eventual showdown with the dragon. Cognail’s not even going to see it coming. Paradon now has a fighting chance!
Meanwhile, while the Seven Sovereigns prepare their champion, the scheming dragon is up to something himself. Word has come to the Seven that he is interested in a recently unearthed barbarian queen’s tomb in the Plains of Nemir. A Sibrillian spy sent by the dragon is planning to infiltrate a group of scholars from Raismonts wizard academy as they plumb the depths of the tomb for the first time.
You three were sent by Furik, one of the Seven, to join the scholars on the expedition, ostensibly as trap-removers and monster-purgers for hire. You were tasked with determining what the spy was doing there and what interest the tomb has for the dragon.
In exchange for performing this deed, Furik has promised to teleport you to Daisy’s brother Tumn. Plus, she’s gifted you a lot of expensive weapons you can sell, spell scripts for Dov, an Axlan full plate for Daisy, and your lives.
You delved into the tomb and succeeded in rooting out the spy. But the tomb took a victim, the student wizard Ereleuva, who delved herself too deep into its mysteries. The cleric guide Gylaw had been secretly sent by her family in Slikston (Paradonian city) to watch out for her, and he’ll now have to bear the burden of sharing news of his failure.
The ancient Nodkun barbarians practically worshiped their Queen Nomobobo Bloodboat, so much so that they ceased being nomads altogether just so they could tend to a vast necropolis where all her subjects could be buried with her. Said subjects were buried in a highly unorthodox manner: propped upright against the walls, stripped to skeletons and equipped with their weapons and armor. A hieroglyphic warning to would-be robbers was written on the entrance wall: “We will find you when we wake.”
At what seemed to be the final burial chamber of the queen, the dead did indeed wake up and attack you, but it turned out to be a false tomb. These undead guardians were merely meant to distract you from the real queen’s sarcophagus, found hidden behind a secret door. It was here that the dragon’s spy finally made his move.
The leader of the expedition, the powerful wizard Azitain, suddenly cast a spell which caused everyone to freeze in place, unable to move or speak. He then strode over to the remains of the queen and unceremoniously pulled from her skull a black gem-like thing, then darted out of the room. Dov was the first to break the spell’s control and he began to chase the wizard back through the tomb, towards the entrance. He finally caught up and confronted him, but was mentally confounded by another of the wizard’s spells. It made him either mutter incoherently, attack the nearest ally – which turned out to be Gylaw coming up from behind to assist, or stab himself with his own rapier.
Dov’s quick pursuit failed to stop Azitain, but it did have one important side-effect: it provoked the real spy to take new protective measures. The two surviving wizard students, Naro and Pedocles, suddenly began to duel, causing a distraction for Nim and Daisy, now recovered from Azitain’s spell and trying to catch up to Dov. To avoid the fight, Naro’s familiar, her raven, flew off her shoulder. Besides offensive spells, accusations were getting hurled between the two students, each trying to make it clear the other was a villain. One of them was clearly in league with the retreating Azitain and had to be stopped, but who was deceiving who?
Well, it turned out that Naro was a terrible liar. She was unsuccessful at pinning Pedocles with peccancy. Seeing through her bluff and not one to wait, Daisy bounded over on Ambrosius and promptly bullrushed her into prone submission, then she got her tied up. Meanwhile, Nim was able to convince the guiltless but panicky Pedocles to form a hasty alliance. Together, they raced to the front area of the tomb to find Azitain gone and poor Dov still blathering in gibberish – which, considering how laconic and on-point the investigator usually is, was amusing but also a little shocking.
The party returned to drag a restrained Naro outside, and with a Zone of Truth cast by Nim, everyone could hear her unrestrained story. She revealed that the raven who was always perched at her shoulder, whispering in her ears, was not in fact her familiar at all – but a spy, working for the nation of Sibril. Naro herself was not evil, she explained, but was being extorted into aiding the avian villain because her family was being held hostage. The bird wore a powerful magic ring which he used to cruelly control Azitain with mental domination. One side-effect of the cursed thing is it made the wizard incapable of speech except for spells. So one of Naro’s duties for the spy was to pretend to send telepathic messages as Azitain to favored student Pedocles. This allowed the raven to manipulate the expedition so he could gain possession of the skullstone inside the queen’s head.
As you all listened to her confession, the raven, a master of stealth, was keeping watch over the proceedings in the shadows, seeing how much Naro would betray. Not even Dov’s keen eyes could perceive him at first, but right before the raven was set to fly off and join his mind-slave Azitain in their escape to Sibril, the investigator spotted him. The bird was flushed out with a crossbow bolt, and a well-timed Ray of Enfeeblement spell courtesy of Pedocles dropped him unconscious to the ground. The black-feathered blackguard was bound up, and his two rings were removed by Nim – the aforementioned Ring of Enslavement he had been using to control Azitain, and a Ring of Mind Shielding, which prevented anyone from trying to divine his evil alignment.