Surrounded in total darkness, save for an enormous, staring, pair of fiery eyes, the Heroes hear an ominous, disembodied voice, laughing. The Voice challenges them, demanding to know why they would dain to interfere in the affairs of The Overlord—before being interrupted by an unseen messenger. “They found it? Where?…” the voice enquires, excitedly, before returning its attention to the Heroes. ”I’ll deal with you later…if you survive, that is. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH…” ∗snip∗
The floor beneath the Heroes collapses, dumping them unceremoniously into a dark, skeleton-infested crypt. Surrounded, they fight their way through to the entrance of the long-forgotten tomb, and heave over the stone door, escaping. As they collected themselves, the Heroes determined that they were a few hours travel southeast of Kingsport, and began limping back toward home.
Some time later, after the Party finds the road back to Kingsport, they encounter the familiar, horseless wagon of Gestlin the Unpredictable. The doddering old wizard hails the Heroes, recognizing them from their previous interaction at Pleasantville, and offers them a chance to settle their debt to him (incurred as a result of his “rescuing” them) by performing a task for him and the Wizards’ Guild, to escort a couple of halflings from Borrington to the King at Elfwood. Gestlin supplies them with some much-needed healing potions from his wagon, and a Quest Icon, to aid them in their endeavor, before moving on to the North, to meet with the Circle of Wizards regarding the artifact the halflings possess.
The Heroes continue to Kingport, and report in to their new superiors, who grant them permission to take the Wizards’ Guild mission. They provision themselves for the journey, and set out in the morning for Borrington. They travel for two days, stopping to interrupt some deer-poachers, and spoil a bandit ambush, before crossing the Long River into the small, uninteresting (as advertised) town. They quickly find the Kicking Horse inn, and spy four halflings working the crowd there, recognizing them as the thieves from Kingsport they had apprehended some weeks before: Periwinkle Cotton, Merrin Leadfoot, and Hamwise Bilberry, led by Fredo Boggans, who possessed the artifact, an “awesome” magical ring greatly desired by the Overlord. The halflings recognize the Heroes, but have nowhere else to go, and agree to meet with them privately, at the Party’s “insistence.” In the halfling’s quarters, the Heroes announce that they are the help sent by Gestlin, and as they begin to discuss the next move, they are interrupted by a knock on the door. They hesitantly open the door, to reveal the presence of General Dûum, and the Overlord’s Death Knights.
General Dûum addresses the room, as if it were full of old acquaintances, and says, “Excellent. All four halfling burglars in one place. And with them, the new Heroes™. Survived my Lord’s welcome-to-adventuring trap, I see. He likes to nip his opposition in the bud—I’ve told him it tends to have a rather opposite effect, but well…makes my job more interesting. Now, where is Gestlin? I expected him to be here.” The leader of the Death Knights asks politely that the group give up the Overlord’s Ring, and seems pleased that they refuse, explaining that he has some new recruits to break in, and is looking forward to a good test-of-mettle from the adventuring party. Before departing, he adds that the Heroes have until sunup to get a head start running, and bids them a good evening.
The Party wastes no time, but sets out immediately for Elfwood, and trudges through the night, into the wee hours of the morning, until stumbling with exhaustion. After some much-needed rest, with no sign of their pursuers, they continue on in haste. At the end of the third day of travel, they camp at the ruin of an old watchtower, but are caught before dawn by a force of goblins and kobolds, who assault their campsite with spears and stones, but are quickly thrown back by the Heroes. For three more days, the Party travels westward. The Heroes learn that the halflings all suffer an obsession with the Ring; though Fredo carries it, the others continually try to take it, fighting amongst each other—the Heroes, however, resist its magical charms. Úzi occasionally spots what he believes to be warg-riders following at a great distance, and closing. As they reach the tall trees of Elfwood, the warg-riders overtake the Party, but they are rescued by an Elvish druid, Erunámo, who leads them to Caras Brannon.
At the elvish capital city, they are received at the court of Tar-Hrívfindel, King of the Elves; with him is Gestlin the Unpredictable, having arrived just before the Party, having been delayed (for a surprise wine-tasting). In the evening, having laid eyes on it, Bruno succumbs to the Ring’s temptation, and now greatly desires to have it. The Heroes take their ease for the night in luxurious elvish style, and are treated to a fine meal in the morning. Gestlin, also in attendance, tells them that the Circle of Wizards have agreed that the Artifact the halflings had nicked was indeed Nunya, the Ring of Awesome, long-lost prize of the Overlord, and dangerous to anyone who beholds it, or worse yet, touches it. He then informs them of a new opportunity (they’ve been “volunteered” for), to continue their escort of the halflings, deep into Nefaria, to destroy the Ring in the flames of Firemount. They go with the blessing and provision of the King of the Elves, and Gestlin would travel with them, to see it done. The Heroes reluctantly agree to the new mission. Along with a shiny new Quest Icon, they receive elvish provisions, and mounts for the journey, and are celebrated as they depart by all the elves as they pass.
As instructed, the new fellowship follows the Lonely Road to the southeast, toward the Green Mountains, for eight days and a half, watching over their shoulders for the inevitable forces of Dûum in pursuit. After some deliberation on the eighth day, they decide to take the Shortcut Mines through the mountains, which Úzi insists to be unoccupied, rather than risk the pass, or delays caused by going around. Upon locating the entrance, they send away their borrowed mounts, and enter the mines. They spend quite some time following along in the cold darkness, encountering nothing save some ill-favored gangle-creature that Gestlin mistook for a goblin, and incinerated. Shortly thereafter, they heard the distant, echoing drums of a warband, and rushed to find a suitable location to defend themselves—somewhere the enemy’s numbers would count for nothing—taking refuge behind the massive stone doors of some nearby dwarvish tomb. As the drums close in, the Heroes ready themselves for battle. Suddenly, the drums are silenced, and a knock on the door follows. The Party cautiously opens the door to reveal General Dûum, once again. Gestlin rolls up his sleeves, and with a determined look, says, “I’ll take care of this…”
Part III and IV
Gestlin the Unpredictable leaves the tomb and closes the stone doors behind him. Some quiet minutes later, Alain peeks out, and sees Gestlin and General Dûum next to Gestlin’s wagon, having tea and talking civilly—to no one’s real surprise. Later, Gestlin returns to the tomb and tells the Group that they have a few minutes to prepare for the assault.
A trumpet’s call announces the commencement of hostilities, and a wave of goblins and kobolds assaults the tomb—but through the entrance, their numbers count for nothing, as the Heroes intended. As the Party hacks down enemy after enemy, Gestlin demonstrates the mighty-yet-unpredictable (!) power of Smil-Blam; many enemy are slain by a massive fireball, and even the Party is momentarily blinded by a cloud of large butterflies before they are scattered by a gust of wind. The fighters push back the attackers, into the corridor, while the halflings and casters followed up. Once cleared, they make haste toward the mine’s exit, through a great maze of pillars, and are caught up by the forces of the enemy. Back-to-back, the Heroes cut down their foes, and again, Gestlin lays waste to the enemy with the Rod of Wonder, at one point creating a portal to one of the Hells underneath their attackers’ feet. As the Party clears space enough to flee, Bruno, still in the midst of his battle-rage, attempts to take the Ring from Fredo by force, but is pulled away, having merely pummeled Fredo to unconsciousness. Úzi hoists the unconscious halfling over his shoulder, and the Group heads for the chasm-bridge leading out of the mines. As they hurry across, the army at their backs falls suddenly silent, then scatters in terror, as a Pit-Fiend flies into the cavern to challenge the Heroes, having entered this Realm through the portal (that Gestlin absent-mindedly left open). Quickly, Gestlin encourages the others to continue to flee across the bridge, while he holds off the demon. Again, the command, “Smil-Blam!” is heard, but Gestlin, the demon, and a large portion of the bridge disappear in an instant; no one could know where they went, or to what effect.
As the sun lowers in the sky, the Heroes—now minus Gestlin—find themselves outside, at the foot of the Green Mountains. They see the forest in the distance wherein lies the Southern Outpost, and make haste toward it, lest they be caught out after nightfall by the army that is undoubtedly still in pursuit. They are met at the forest by the forces of the Elves there, led by Princess Lassûr, the granddaughter of the elvish King. She demonstrates her quality by, having handled the Ring, resisting its charms. During the night, the halflings make an attempt to flee, but are caught by the elves and returned. In the morning, Lassûr guides the Group to the nearby Long River, providing them with a couple of boats, and instructing them to follow it into Nefaria.
The Heroes take to the boats, and follow the river for two days, all the while, spotting enemy movement amongst the trees along its banks. At the second day’s halt, at a waterfall, they prepare to camp, but are caught up by their pursuers. They take their defense at a nearby ruin, and beat back waves of hobgoblins before a trump sounds, calling them to cease. The army parts to allow General Dûum and his Death Knights through, and Dûum again demands the Ring, but the halflings have escaped in the fighting. After some awkward silence, the halflings are returned by some of Dûum’s hobgoblins, and he takes the Ring from Fredo…then unceremoniously stuffs it back into Fredo’s pockets, declaring it a fake. To the air, he exclaims, “Well-played, Wizards. Well-played…,” and then he and his army marches away, with nothing more said.
Afterward, the Heroes look around, and find that the halflings are missing, yet again, and this time, so are the boats…