Eager to protect both the nation of Vardor and their investment in Fort Gollant, the party from Stormguard begins making plans for how they can contribute to the war effort. They begin by setting out as representatives of Emil Gollant to visit the four minotaur tribes he endeavors to add to the kingdom: Gilded Stag, High Reach, Low Eagle, and Bent Horn.
Knowing that the Gilded Stag tribe had historically controlled the area, despite their recent decline, they go there first believing that the other tribes will be willing to supply soldiers if the respected Gilded Stag tribe has already agreed to.
At the seat village of the tribe they meet with Chief White Ear who expresses that he would gladly lead 30 minotaurs if he could march under the battle standard of the Guilded Stag. The tribe has never lost a battle under that standard, but since its loss decades ago, they have been losing ground to the High Reach tribe. The standard had vanished along with a war party on its way to skirmish with the minotaurs of High Reach.
The party is intrigued by the idea of a standard that gave victory over centuries and agree to go and find it in order to bring it back and secure the 30 minotaur force. They follow the same party the war party would have taken, thinking to investigate among the High Reach tribe to find the standard.
En route, they make camp and Benquil on a whim goes out of the camp seeking game. As he steals through the trees he realizes he is standing on what was once a wide, paved road. He informs the others and follows the road into the foothills away from camp. He soon comes upon cliff with a gaping doorway in its base. Ruined towers are built into the cliff face on either side. The towers are in ruins from apparent bombardment and the heavy, iron-bound doors lie broken in the doorway.
With the sun setting, Benquil’s tunic makes him nearly invisible, so he confidently creeps toward the entrance. Skeletons litter the ground approaching the doors, seemingly mostly kobold. In the dark interior, Benquil’s infrared vision allows him to identify some minotaur skeletons among the many kobold and dwarf bones. The minotaur bones are much newer and lay in undisturbed full bodies.
Suddenly a voice speaks in Benquil’s mind, telling him to leave the place. He tries to speak with the voice but I’d interrupted by a sudden disorienting force. He can’t remember where he is, but seeing himself surrounded by bones he hurries toward the dusk light and out the door. Outside he recognizes Hilbrent and Lamila, who he approaches, asking where they are.
As Benquil recovers they realize his confusion was caused by some kind of mental force. Lamila is strong of will and believes she may fare better. She enters the cavern and is threatened by the force. She persists and soon feels an assault on her mind which she manages to rebuff. She repels a second and a third mental attack and the being becomes enraged. He threatens to crush her and rubble begins to fall from the ceiling as the cavern trembles. She runs deeper, going left and left again before ascending one of the battered towers.
At the top, she sees the others outside and they see her. She looks back down the stairs and sees a Drakogeist (though she would never have recognized it as such) attacking. Her axe passes through it doing little harm and it grabs her, clawing at her armor and draining her strength.
Lamila is unable to wield her axe so grappled and rather than struggle against the tentacles, strikes with a fire burst from her ring. Seeing her struggle, Hilbrent teleports himself and the others onto the tower where he uses his sentient teleport gauntlet to teleport the creature away. Wounded by the fire and outnumbered, it flees into the complex. They pursue and quickly find themselves deep in the battered compound, which they realize is the multi-god temple complex Brimahil had told them of. A hole to the lower floor looks down to a pile of treasure and Benquil drops down to look around.
The Drakogeist attacks, protecting its horde, and Benquil produces his crossbow from his magical ring, firing a lightning encharged bolt into the creature. Though the bolt passes almost harmlessly, the lightning spiders through it, destroying the creature. Benquil immediately begins to stuff anything valuable looking into his sack (including what he presumes is the Gilded Stag standard) while Hilbrent lowers a rope into the hole. Lamila climbs down, but as soon as she is off the rope, Benquil climbs up, fleeing the compound. Before he gets too far, he realizes he owes it to Brimahil to investigate the temple complex and see if he can clean it up.
He returns and they go through the temple cataloging the shrines and scrolls through the night. In the morning they proceed to the High Reach tribe and inform them of the opportunity to prove themselves, slipping in that the Gilded Stag tribe will be contributing 30 minotaurs under their recently recovered battle standard. Chief High Dust, not to be outdone, agrees to provide 50 minotaurs, if they can do something about the witch to the West whose elementals wreak havoc from time to time. They decide to split up, Lamila and Hilbrent going to deal with the witch while Benquil runs to the Bent Horn tribe to speak to them.
The witch is belligerent and senile, demanding that rather than moving her they make the minotaurs move and prevent Vardor from expanding its borders over her home. Eventually they become frustrated and teleport her to the wastes around Gregor’s Redoubt where they provide the magic for her to build a cave and bring her stuff from her home. She is unsatisfied with the precision of the magic, complaining she will slip on the round stairs. She asks why she can’t live in the redoubt itself. With no particular answer, they move her into the redoubt where she is very happy with the new environment, with large fans her elementals can turn. She complains there is no food around and they agree to resupply her periodically until she can plant a garden in the spring.
Meanwhile, the Bent Horn tribe only requests a removal of the Drakogeist, which they have already done, and provides a promise of 15 minotaurs. The Low Eagle tribe provides an additional 10, just eager to join Vardor. The party returns to Fort Gollant where the tribes rally their total force of 105 minotaurs which join them in clearing a road (mostly by magic) to High Reach to the South on the way to the war front.
During the march, Benquil returns to Taurkiev, convinced they missed something in Margon’s palace. Approaching carefully on foot, he looks down on the abandoned city to find it less abandoned than expected. There is a lot of minotaur activity around the edges of the city, cutting down trees and building wagons. He now understands the hunting parties he passed in the woods. They are preparing for war.
He proceeds anyway, sneaking into the palace and using some newly learned magic to teleport a magnificent mithril axe to himself. Stowing it in his bag of holding, he flees the wolves coming to the great hall and proceeds to search the palace wings he had missed before. In the drawing room he finds a hidden cabinet with a splendid heavy crossbow and a few vials and flasks of unknown liquids. He proceeds up to Margon’s room and searches it carefully, finding a hidden closet with Margon’s crown and other ceremonial armor and equipment. Upon teleporting in, he scatters the armor and he knows the noise will attract the wolves. He quickly gathers it all into his bag and teleports back to Hilbrent, eagerly sharing with them all the things he’d taken. The axe and crossbow seem immediately usable, but the rest they stow for future opportunities.
They continue their march and reach the war front where they are assigned a camp. They are assured that their adventuring skills will be relayed to the commanders to see if they can be used. Hilbrent’s name in particular is recognized for his work with the portals facilitating trade. They are told to await orders, as they will be launching an attack in the morning to retake the town from the Nekolyns and relieve the citadel that is still being held by the Marquis Rutan against the siege.
Before nightfall, King Vindil III visits their camp personally. He is hopeful that Hilbrent will have magical solutions to offer and explains the lay of the land, the goal for the battle tomorrow, and the highly organized military formations used by the enemy. They are outmatched militarily by the enemy, though their numbers are greater and they have powerful adventurers. He also points out that some of the cats can fly, engaging their most potent assaults from the sky. This is the first time they will be engaging the cats where they are entrenched, the first large battle where Vardor will be on the offensive.
Hilbrent offers to open a portal into the citadel so it can be reinforced. The king approves of the plan and, finding the Gollant minotaurs suited to the task, assigns the party and their force to that mission. Hilbrent mentions he could use his magic to devastate the enemy, but he and the king agree that such destruction best not be breached, lest it be turned against them in the future.
Hilbrent creates the portal to the citadel and they pass through with their force, removing all wounded and civilians back behind the Vardor lines. The Marquis introduces the situation to them and assigns most of the minotaurs to join his dwindling forces on the walls and towers, though when the king attacks in the morning he intends to sally forth to attack the rear.
They settle in to await the morning, but a horn sounds and before they can respond 20 flying cats make a run at the citadel, firing arrows into the troops on the wall. The return fire is ineffectual and Benquil arrives on the walls in time to see them landing in a street at a run. They are more ready for the second wave of flying cats that runs toward the citadel down a road before taking off and making an volleying pass on the walls. Don shoots one down with his magical unerring bow of lightning, Benquil wounds another, and as they turn away after their pass, Hilbrent hits them with a fireball that drops at least one more. The marquis informs them another attack will not come, judging by past patterns, and they retire to await the morning action.