After the events of Borem’s Lair, the party returned to Trollhaven. Cho’Zar was waiting there for them. He seemed only mildly interested that some of the villagers had died in the cave, saying “Villagers are like a yearly crop. Sometimes they just don’t make it. Nothing to get upset about.”
The party asked Cho’Zar about his curse again and how to break it. He freely divulged that he had gone to a seer in the Otus Mountains named Orteh and asked for power to defeat his foes. Orteh offered him a curse that would prevent him from ever returning to his beloved homeland in exchange for the power he wished. He accepted. He was transformed into a troll and cursed to lose control and turn into a mindless killer whenever he was in close proximity of more than one hundred sentient creatures.
Eres indicated that they would like to go on a quest to free Cho’Zar from his curse, but they might need a few more adventurers, as their ranks were getting pretty thin. Cho’Zar said he would check with the villagers and see if there were any who would be willing to adventure with them.
Cho’Zar spoke with Victor Traid, who found a few volunteers. A halfling named Three Stone, a former Cobbler named Oak, and a former Highwayman named Miller. Three Stone said he was in charge of the two humans. Eres spoke with them for a bit, interviewing them for the party. They agreed upon terms that Three Stone and the two would be paid 20gp or 10% of the found treasure, whichever was higher. They were quickly integrated into the party. They commenced their journey.
Cho’Zar agreed to lead them partway into the mountains, even going so far as to scale cliff faces and secure ropes for them. Most of them made it up without much incident, but Hodar had serious trouble reaching the top, falling three times. Cho’Zar took pity on the giant dullard and carried him up the three concentric cliff faces.
After coming to a more level range, Cho’Zar left the party to head back to Trollhaven, stating that he wasn’t comfortable leaving his village for more than a few hours. He left them instructions on how to find the sage. “Follow the setting sun, when you reach a tall spire, look for an entrance at the base. There are three specters. Ask your boon and each will offer you a price in exchange. If you turn each down they will take your life. Do not approach them lightly.”
The party agreed they understood and left. They marched all the rest of the day and camped out under the stars.
The next day they continued their quest. Around Midday, they came upon three Dwarves studying a map and arguing about something. The party sent Three Stone to speak with them.
As the Dwarves noticed Three Stone coming towards them they hurriedly put there map away and the one in the lead greeted him, “Hail and well met, traveler.”
“Hail and well met,” Three Stone replied.
The three Dwarves noticed the larger band of adventurers standing some 30 feet behind the little Halfling. “That is quite the expedition you have there, little one. I am Odem, and these are my cousins, Tronson, and Bronson. What is your name, friend?”
“I am called Three Stone,” replied the Halfling, “It is most fortunate that we have met you Dwarves under these circumstances. We are on a quest to retrieve a treasure map of great value, but the way is guarded by a creature which only speaks Dwavish. It is pure fortune that we have come upon not one, but three Dwarves. For a cut of the treasure, might we enlist your help in recovering this map? Your part would be small, only speaking to the creature.”
“Hmm,” replied the Dwarf, “I must discuss this with my compatriots.” With that they gathered in a tight huddle and whispered to each other.
After a moment Odem returned, “We find your terms agreeable. We will help recover this map and then help recover the treasure. However, we want to have a full half of all the treasure, after all, without our help, you would receive no treasure. What say you, Three Stone?”
Three Stone thought it over for a moment, “Sure, we can agree to those terms.”
With that they shook on it and introduced themselves to the party.
The party, now including three Dwaves, continued that day and again slept under the stars.
The next day they continued and by Midday had reached the tall spire which Cho’Zar had described.
The party wanted Odem and his cousins to go alone, but Odem insisted that he be accompanied by at least three others, one for each Dwarf. They sent Hodor, Three Stone, and Zoltar.
The group of six started into the cave. It was a long, narrow corridor of stone on a downhill grade, which terminated into a large, bare, stone chamber in the center of which was a raised dais, upon which stood a low altar.
Behind the altar hovered three spectral apparitions. They hung together behind the altar, patiently waiting.
Odem nervously moved forward to stand before the three sages. The middle one said a short Dwarvish phrase in a voice which sounded like churning gravel. Odem looked around quizzically. Tronson and Bronson both shrugged, at a loss. He replied in Dwarvish to the hovering sage.
The sage took a moment to consider and then replied. Odem shook his head, saying a negative in Dwarvish. The second apparition spook, in a soft whisper, like a blade being drawn against silk. Again, Odem shook his said, even more vehemently saying no.
The third sage spoke, its voice having the gravity and finality of the grave. It spoke for a bit longer, but in the end Odem said no again, shaking his head and waving his hands, as if to ward them off. His protestations did no good. He was lifted into the air, his body began disintegrating and, in a brief moment, he was broken into tiny particles, which were scattered to the wind.
Twin howls of disbelief issued from the cousins, as they lurched forward, as if they could save him. They fell to their knees, heads bowed in grief.
Zoltar spoke, “What happened, they killed him?”
Through his tears, Tronson spoke, “It asked Odem what he wanted. Odem said he wanted the treasure map. It said it would give him a treasure map in exchange for his arms. Of course he said no. The second said it would give him a map in exchange for the lives of all his children. He said no to that too. The last one offered him the map for his eyesight. He said no again, and then he.. he..” overcome with grief, Tronson couldn’t continue any longer.
Hodor bravely stepped forward. “Hodor handle this,” he said.
He reached the altar and the first specter spoke, “What gift do you wish, mortal?” it asked in its gravelly voice, in common.
“Fix friend,” Hodor boldly stated, in his usual eloquence.
“Clarify, which friend?” Said the specter.
“Fix friend you turned into a troll.”
“Ahhhh. Yes I remember the that one. You wish his curse removed? Than in exchange you will take his curse upon yourself, agreed?”
“Yes!” said Hodor.
In an instant he began transforming. His skin turning a grey-green, his skin bulging and straining, a violent, primal scream ripped from him. His armor bulged and eventually exploded off him, the leather bindings failing before the magical transformation. A moment later a huge, hideous beast stood before them. It looked around for a moment and then made its way up the stone tunnel.
In the absence of the newly made Troll, the remaining party looked at each other, debating whether to approach the sages or not.
Their moment of contemplation was interrupted by Tronson. “You did this,” he whispered, raising his head to glare at Three Stone. “You got Odem killed,” he and his brother stood and drew their swords, rushing at Three Stone together.
The Halfling called for help, but he needn’t have bothered. He quickly, and expertly, dispatched the two Dwarves.
The adventurers gathered at the base of the spire, Hodar already preparing a tree for a weapon, and prepared to return to Trollhaven to see Cho’Zar.