On the way back to Fallcrest after making a courier delivery to other communities and trading posts on behalf of The Halfmoon Trading House, the party (minus Dworkin who stayed in Fallcrest) encountered others travelling the same way. The most striking and unusual of these was Vennezad the wilden druid. While plant like in physiology Vennezad was similar in many ways to his mammalian friends – he knew the same emotions – love, hate, anger, joy. He loved the land, it was important to him, every tree and hill and squirrel, and he valued good company. Leshanna the eladrin war wizard, beautiful and powerful, Ushma the dwarven warlord from the great dwarven city of Hammerfast, and Gorthak the goliath fighter. Initially the others were seen as rivals – was Fallcrest big enough for two bands of heroes? But after spending time with them on the road it seemed they had more in common than differences and a bond between them was created. It was about this time that Bob the minotaur decided he wanted to be known as Franklin.
Not far from Fallcrest the party found a wagon being attacked by goblins and a pack of wolves under their control. The party fought them off and saw in the distance a man wearing a black cape with a skull motiff riding a black horse disappear over the hill with the surviving goblins. The party had rescued Traevus, the dwarf who owned the wagon and who had been hit and knocked unconscious. Most of his belongings were strewn everywhere, but as he awoke he was most concerned with a small black chest which was missing. When the man on the horse was described to him, Traevus swore and named the man as Malareth, a necromancer and an old rival. Traevus offered the party gold coin to follow Malareth and recover the black chest.
The party followed the tracks to an old ruin, made of huge stone blocks, which Franklin identified as minotaur built. Two tunnels in the hill under the ruin led to a still intact underground area. Here the party made their way through Malareth’s goblin guards until they faced the necromancer himself and his giant undead guardians, as well as his bugbear bodyguard. The battle was fierce and many of the party were smashed to the ground by the hulking undead, Ushma the dwarf was so badly battered he would never rise again. In the end the foe were defeated, but only just. The black box was located (it was opened and a human skull sat inside on velvet lining), and other information pointed to the fact that Malareth was a member of a group called The Iron Circle. This group appeared to have designs on Harkenwold, a collection of villages east of Fallcrest.
Traevus was overjoyed to receive his black chest back, and explained the skull was an artifact of necromancy. Traevus had previously travelled to Sunderpeak Temple to store the skull there, however it had been attacked and destroyed by orcs commanded by a black dragon. Traevus had returned to his home of Hammerfast but it soon became apparent that someone was trying to steal the skull from him. He therefore fled in the middle of the night in his horse and cart, intending to live in Fallcrest where he had no rivals or enemies and could hide it more successfully.
Traevus also offered the party more employment – he knew of another item he would like to retrieve in a ruined tower in Witchlight Fens to the southwest of Fallcrest.