When they arrived in the meeting hall, Lord Ernest Padraig greeted the heroes, “It is very good to see you again. Degault speaks very highly of you as does Lestra. My situation, though not completely dire at the moment, is a growing concern and I could use your services. I suspect that a growing band of orc bandits have been establishing a base near the Old Kings Road a couple days away from Winterhaven at an old ruin called Gardmore Abbey, which so happens to be inside my territorial borders and my problem to solve. I could use some help with and seeing as how you were able to solve a murder mystery in Neverwinter and help Lestra with her problems, I feel confident that you would be able to help me with some scouting and maybe even some head bashing to show those orcs the error of their ways. I just don’t have the manpower to launch a full scale scouting mission and keep the town defended properly. In addition, the town council believes that anything outside the city’s walls is not our problem but someone else’s and they fail to define who ‘someone else’ is. So I am left without any resources except my own to help ensure the safety and prosperity of Winterhaven. So in lieu of the militia, I'm hiring you to deal with these orcs. To start, I want you to go to the abbey and find out whether the orcs are lairing there. Come back and tell me what you find - as complete a picture of their lair and defenses as you can. I’ll pay you 500 gold coins each for all the information you can gather."
So they agreed and headed back to the Wrafton Inn to meet up with Sir Oakley. They left Winterhaven shortly after and had a very uneventful journey for the next two days. They soon saw the ruins far off in the distance, being that the temple was on a fairly tall hill, some two hundred or so feet in elevation. Sir Oakley said that his research led him to believe that there was a secret staircase up to the top of the hill, which was called Dragon's Roost, and that this stairway would be on the backside of the hill cut into the cliff side. When they arrived at Gardmore Abbey, they made their way back around the cliff face and found the stairway pretty easily. it was now getting to be dusk so the party decided that Asphodel would fly up in the air and try to scout out the area by keeping his back to the setting sun, hopefully blocking her for anyone that may be looking up to the sky. When she got up to around 400 hundred feet or so, she took a long hard look at the surrounding area and noted the following:
When she came back down, she told the party what she saw: many fires with some 8 to 10 individuals around each fire that consisted of a lot of orcs, some humans, possibly some ogres, and a few giants, possibly hill giants to boot. A short debate on whether they should go back ensued but instead the party climbed the staircase up to the top of the hill and then decided to split up in order to cover more ground. Zola, Zerak, and Blackwell went towards the gatehouse to check it out while the rest of the party, including Sir Oakley, went to the old temple. The three approached the gatehouse cautiously and Zola noticed that it appeared that some of the statues were moving almost imperceptibly. So the three decided to back up and rejoin the rest of the party at the temple. That's when they heard the shouts from Sir Oakley to come quickly for they were under attack. The three ran as quickly as they could to join their companions.
Meanwhile the others had entered the temple after surveying its battered condition and saw:
The battle began with Kel quickly getting in an attack, but then the three harpies each began to sing their alluring song. All but Jobi were able to resist the songs' tempting allure. She just stopped everything she was doing and walked towards the harpy who had captivated her with its song. Once she got right up close to it, she just stood there and allowed herself to be attacked over and over again, which the harpy was happy to oblige with. Were it not for Sir Oakley rushing to her side and healing her with his lay on hands ability, she would have died in only a short time into the battle. The other harpies moved in melee to engage with Asphodel and Kel. Kel made some very impressive hits against "his" harpy, including an excellent swing that lopped off one of its hands and stunned it till it died a few rounds later. By sheer coincidence, Asphodel also severed a harpy's hand a bit later in the battle.
Meanwhile, two more opponents entered the fray from the shadows. They looked like humanoid dogs and were quickly identified as hound archons. Normally lawful good creatures, these two began attacking the party with the same kind of reckless abandon that the harpies were. The first time one of them hit Asphodel, she was knocked to the ground and stunned. AS this happened, she had felt the card from the Deck of Many Things grow hot in her side pouch, and with a heroic effort was able to avoid being stunned and whipped out the card and used the Donjon ability against the hound archon. It immediately disappeared and Asphodel was hurled across the room and slammed into Kel, causing her to topple over onto her. The two disentangled and eventually stood up (but Asphodel first casted a haste spell to help everyone out).
The first of the others to get into the temple was Zerak and his animated skeleton. He resisted the harpies' songs and went after the harpy that was charming Jobi (and so did his skeleton). next to arrive was Blackwell and he too succumbed to the harpy's song and proceeded to walk right up to it as well. The last to arrive was Zola who engaged the hound archon who had just reappeared from being targeted by Asphodel's Donjon card. Her attacks were brutal and, amazingly, ended up with severing its hand too! The other hound archon went after Kel and successfully hit her and knocking her prone. The harpy on one of its last attacks against Jobi, knocked her prone as well. But eventually, the party killed all the opponents without suffering any casualties.
Then they al fanned out and started to search the temple. After a while, Sir Oakley stated, "It is as I suspected. I cannot perform the ritual of purification without the temple's sacred vessels. Our next task, then, is to find them: a chalice, a bowl, and a brazier. In all my research, I have found no mention of those items appearing outside the abbey, so I believe they are still here somewhere. It is only a matter of finding them and bringing them to me." He also stated that he would not be joining the group on their search for the sacred vessels, citing that he is just too old for a dungeon delve and fears he would end up dead before he had a chance to purify this temple. The party did find stairs leading down into the temple's basement and catacomb areas. Asphodel also found some treasure hidden away in the harpies's lair - one of the antechambers that they had filled with filthy straw and other debris used for bedding.
But when they started to search around the main altar to Bahamut, Asphodel once again felt the Donjon card get hot within her belt pouch. So they searched the altar and found a small rectangular impression on the front of the altar and saw that some bricks on the base of the large statue appeared to be about the same size. Holding up a brick to the indentation in the altar and pushing gently, the brick began getting absorbed by the altar and a small compartment on the top of the altar opened up revealing another card. Asphodel pulled it out of the compartment and held it. Again she knew instantly what the card was capable of doing and identified it as "The Fool." She then gave it to the rest of the party members to hold and learn what it did. They also gave it to Sir Oakley who then said it was an object of Chaos and had no place here in the temple. So Zerak kept this card and they left the temple, intent on going back to Winterhaven and reporting what they discovered to Lord Padraig.
Once they returned the told Lord Padraig the run down of the layout they had seen as well as that there could be as many as 400 to 800 inhabitants living in the Gardmore Abbey ruins. He was quite dismayed with the numbers the party quoted but did not back down from his convictions. He thanked them for this intel report and paid them their money. Then he turned to a new topic he wanted them to look into for him. He told them that a long time ago, before the orcs had taken over Gardmore Village, that some elves and other fey creatures had been living in those woods and were allies of the temple and of Winterhaven, but nothing has been heard from them in a long time. He asked the party to scout out the forest and see if any of those creatures may still be there and try to convince any that are to become allies of Winterhaven once more. He offered to pay them another 500 gold pieces each for this task and the party agreed to go back and see if they can find anyone still living there besides orcs.
So the party made the two day trek back and began their search at the southern watch tower. The tower was about 80 feet tall and was located at the end of the wall, which was 25 feet high, and the cliff face. They tied everyone together and Asphodel and Zerak flew (or floated) everyone up to the roof. There they found no access into the tower from the roof. So Asphodel flew down a bit and looked into the windows of the tower. She was startled when she saw several soldiers inside and looking out towards the horizon, obviously scanning for trouble. But hey failed to even acknowledge that she was there. Plus she couldn't get past the windows into the tower and detect magic revealed all sorts of magic types all jumbled together - transmutation, enchantment, abjuration, just to name a few. Then Asphodel and the rest of the party made their way down to the ground and approached the front door, which was the only door into the tower. Blackwell made a check for traps but with all that magic swirling about, he was unsure if he was right in saying that there were no traps. Nonetheless, he tried to open the door and found that it was really stuck and he couldn't. So Asphodel and Kel tried but they too could not force open the door. It was at that time that the cards in Asphodel's and Zerak's possession started getting warm in their pockets again. This prompted Asphodel to take out her card and hold it up to and touch the doors with it.
And a mystical swirling portal opened up and revealed the empty interior of the watch tower. But when they had all entered, the scene they saw was quite different:
When they looked back, the door that they had entered the tower from was gone. There seemed no way to go but deeper into this strange tower...