Elven footfalls made barely a sound as Starrbolt Wanderer ran along the road toward Eastham, a village along the northeast coast of Dereth -- the island realm of Lord Asheron’s call.

Starr was hurrying to meet an adventuring partner named Brianna, who was already solo-exploring a dungeon near Eastham called Thieves’ Den. Darting between forest trees, the leather-armor clad elf spotted the glowing, swirling purple lights of a transportation portal. He glanced at his map to confirm the coordinates -- 17.7N, 65E -- and, without breaking stride, leaped into the portal.

The familiar sensation of rushing headlong through a twisting, turning tube of energy and light carried Starrbolt to his destination, a cavern chamber marked by several large stalagmites. By means of the telepathy that denizens of Dereth shared, Starr conferred with Brianna, and soon the red-haired, green-eyed adventuress joined him in the chamber.

While Brianna reported on her exploration, another adventurer came running up a ramp from the south, chased from a deeper part of the dungeon by a growling banderling chieftan. Instantly, Brianna’s ice tachi swung to the attack while Starrbolt raised his Alluvian wand and began to cast a magic spell.

“Malar Zhapaj!” Starr shouted, and flashes of colored light momentarily engulfed the beleaguered adventurer who was still fleeing from his monstrous pursuer. The magic partially restored the injured man’s health.

The banderling chieftan snarled angrily as it slashed and raked with sharp talons. Tall, lean, and muscular, the green-skinned, pointed eared, loin-cloth clad monster leaped with animal agility and speed over a stalagmite in pursuit of its prey. Bravely, Brianna intercepted the formidable foe, pitting her shield, armor, and sword against its bone-hard hide and deadly claws.

Starrbolt cast wardings from the Creature Enchantment school of magic, which temporarily made Brianna stronger, quicker, and better protected. Targeting the banderling chieftan, the elven mage shouted, “Cruath Quaguz!” A black cone of eldritch energy closed over the two-legged, towering monster, decreasing the effectiveness of its natural armor.

Now Brianna’s cold-enchanted blade struck tellingly, cutting deep wounds. With savage fury, the banderling fought back against the female warrior. With timely healing and revitalization spells from Starrbolt, Brianna weathered the monster’s attack and soon gained the advantage. With a final sword slash, the mighty creature fell.

In the aftermath, Starr commented, “I’d never seen a banderling chieftan before.”

“Neither had I,” replied Brianna. “And I don’t want to see another.”

Down the southern ramp went the pair of adventurers, through wooden doors into a stone-hewn pathway, which was marked by a wooden sign with a posted message that read:

Heed this Warning
The left path will put any seasoned warrior in jeopardy.
The right path will lead to riches beyond belief.

“It’s a trap,” stated Brianna.

“Oh? How can you tell?”

Brianna explained that she had traveled both paths a bit and found the right path to be deadlier. She led her elven companion down the left path until they came to a locked iron gate. Another sign posted the message:

You should Heed this Warning!
Turn back now! Your are trotting in the wrong direction!
Riches of gold and splendor can be found on the other path.

From her backpack, Brianna produced a lockpick and deftly undid the lock. Further down the path, they came to another sign that warned against trespassing Gertarh’s lair. The grumbling of banderlings emanated from chamber ahead. Boldly, Brianna ventured forth and Starrbolt followed.

Crouched in fighting stances, the adventurers spied a large banderling looming in the center of the chamber with sentries guarding pathways on either side. Braced to fight or flee, the female fighter and elven mage were surprised when the banderlings did not attack.

Starrbolt and Brianna brave Gertarh’s lair in the Thieves’ Den.

Instead, the monsters stood their ground, breathing and grumbling. Whispering, both adventurers commented on how odd the situation was. Ever before, when Brianna and Starrbolt had encountered banderlings, the beasts had attacked with bloodlust. Starr speculated, “Perhaps they are enchanted?”

Examining the banderling in the center of the chamber revealed that it was Gertarh. Amazingly, the creature offered to sell armor and other items.

Turning away from the odd banderling, Brianna said, “Let’s see what’s down this way.” She walked toward a gated alcove, but, with great speed and ferocity, Gertarh attacked from behind. Two fierce slashes sorely wounded both adventurers.

“Run!” shouted Brianna.

Thanks to savvy and teamwork, the companions escaped Gertarh, found the surface portal, and escaped the dungeon. But the mystery of Gertarh’s lair remained.

Brianna and Starrbolt agreed it would be good to return with a strong party of adventurers to find out what was guarded by Gertarh and his banderling sentries.