Cipriano had returned to Redkeep in order to witness his brother Luca’s confirmation as the new head of the Vesconi House. Arriving a few days early, he first went to see his parents, who were overjoyed at his return. Luca, however, was uncharacteristically absent, the hostility between the two growing in recent times.
Finding himself with little to do, Cipriano decided to take in the festivities at the nearest Arena after learning the popular Rhosashi would be fighting in a bout. Along the way, he was joined by Bahrendor in her typical daytime garb of a Tarken’s Blight victim. The pair found themselves with a small private area around them, as the combination of a plague sufferer and an Academy Mage do not draw a crowd easily.
Rhosashi, finishing his pre-fight tenderization ritual, spoke briefly with Yarrick, learning that Pashik Nals wished to speak to him as soon as he was able. Agreeing, Rhosashi entered the ring. Though suffering a shaky start, Rhosashi easily finished off his opponent, leaving the young hopeful face down in the dust with the promise of a severe headache in his future.
After the fights, Bahrendor had a close call with a merchant as she plied her trade, but escaped quickly. Finding the young dragonborn outside, Cipriano discussed engaging her services as a guard for a trip to the Ashik College, which he’d been asked to visit by Master Diviner Renat Derdrau. The two bartered along the way to Rhosashi’s home (as Bahrendor had offered her brother’s assistance in the proposed expedition).
Meanwhile, Rhosashi visited Pashik at his forge. After the usual banter was exchanged, Pashik got to the heart of the matter… his sister-in-law, a local alchemist, had been having trouble procuring a certain ingredient for her healing potions of late. Her usual gatherers had gone missing and she had requested Pashik find someone who could discover what had happened and harvest some of the precious Fig’s Bloodthorn (the locations of which are a closely guarded secret among alchemists). She knew Pashik had contact with capable beings and offered her wares as payment. Though he dithered a bit, Rhosashi finally agreed to look into it and headed home.
On entering the fighter’s home, Cipriano and Bahrendor encountered a drunken Rhosashi, woozily bemoaning his failed marriage and other perceived wrongs of his past. Managing to bring the woozy dragonborn to a semblance of sobriety, the three discussed their respective upcoming ventures and decided to tackle the alchemist’s problem before venturing into the catacombs on the path to the College.
Procuring horses from his father’s stables, Cipriano met with the others in the morning. They set out on their journey with haste, each eager to complete the task for their own reasons. Unfortunately, the “cakewalk” they expected was not to be.
Nearing the site of the Bloodthorn’s “grove,” they were ambushed by a group of bandits, their leader standing in the open with a loaded heavy crossbow. Rhosashi stepped forward, attempting to intimidate the man into backing off. Sadly, this worked all too well, as the daunted thug gave a signal to his hidden compatriots to attack!
Bahrendor, who had hidden herself after the initial contact, quickly began picking off the bandits one by one from her position. Cipriano took a moment to enhance his defense with mage armor, before being confronted by a bizarre creature let loose by one of the bandits… an abominable conglomeration of bird, lizard and bat. The creature attacked the wizard, causing a significant wound. Rhosashi unleashed his breath weapon upon one of the bandits and charged the leader, hoping to take them by surprise in his haste.
As the fight raged on, Cipriano fell, though not before wounding the creature. Rhosashi, too, succumbed to the assault from the leader. Bahrendor found herself alone against their foe. As the group near Rhosashi moved in on him, she spotted a set of familiar manacles in their hands… these were no mere bandits. They were Chains! A hot anger grew within her and she pressed her assault, downing another slaver and the creature before moving towards her fallen brother.
However, the Chain leader made a mistake. He gave Rhosashi a healing potion after the fighter was shackled, not wanting to lose such a valuable prize. This proved to be his downfall, as the renewed Rhosashi broke his restraints and the siblings mercilessly slaughtered their foes. One of the gang, seeing the inevitable conclusion of the combat, grabbed Cipriano’s horse and fled, barely missing low hanging branches as he spurred the horse onward.
After searching the remaining bodies and reviving Cipriano, the dragonborn pair proceeded to make an example of the slavers, desecrating their bodies and leaving them as a message to any of their compatriots… they would be coming for them. Cipriano managed to follow a trail back to their encampment and discovered several interesting items, including a locked chest and a list of recent acquisitions. The descriptions matched those of the missing harvesters, solving at least one mystery. But, other questions arose… how did the Chains know where to set up their ambush? Had the group been betrayed by Pashik or someone else? Did the grove even exist?
As they took a rest in the encampment, the party debated their next move…