Their investigations led them to believe a shadowy enemy named Mordawas desperately seeking the stones, possibly on orders from a more dangerous foe-one higher up on the ladder, so to speak. With no better leads, they had set up a phony sale of one of the stones to try to lure Morda out of hiding.
Our heroes waited at a run-down tavern in the shantytown called the Broken Teacup. They should have known Morda would send underlings to do his dirty work. When the buyers (more common street thugs by the look of them) arrived, the vaporous negotiations quickly fell apart and erupted into chaos as more assassins burst through the windows rather cinematically.
The Hand slapped the bad guys down hard, but failed to extract any useful information from their assailants. Even worse, Breogan and Oris, who had been on watch outside when the fight began, had been kidnapped!
The remaining members of the party were at a loss. A ransom note was covertly delivered a few hours later, dictating that all of the stones (not just the one they had pretended to be selling) should be delivered at the town gates at noon the next day if they wanted to see their friends alive again. Dox was outraged: if their enemies knew about the stones, it is likely they also knew he was a changeling—his most closely guarded secret.
The Hand of the Silver Flame was conflicted: Would they agree to the trade and hand over the obviously powerful and dangerous stones, or simply attend the switch and hope chance favored them when they refused to give in to the demands?
Luckily, an unexpected ally gave them another option.Reniss, the sister of one of the poor West Wind Riders, who had been watching out for the Hand ever since they returned some of her late sister’s belongings, had seen where the kidnappers had taken their allies. Enlivened by the chance to turn the tables on the villains and rescue their friends, they followed the half-elf to an average-looking warehouse in Trade Town and snuck inside.
The warehouse was filled with carts, some empty, some full, of what appeared to be weapon crates marked with a familiar (and foreboding) burning moon they had seen all too often lately, as a trademark on the weapons and armor of their foes at Rivenroar and Orcbone. In the center of the room, and covered in a sheet, was an even more shocking find: A mystical portal.
Another weapons cart, attended by shadowy gnome-like creatures called dark creepers, was visible on the other side of the portal. With stealth and tact typical of the Hand of the Silver Flame, our heroes rushed headlong through the portal and into danger.
After a brutal battle against the dark creepers and a pair of terrifying shadow hounds, one of the creepers managed to flee, no doubt to inform others of their arrival, but buying some time for our heroes to take a defensive position and catch their breath for a moment before venturing further.