Misery loves company...
The town of Azurestone, a military post for a decade after the famous battle, is now a quiet, near-frontier town, famous only for the twenty-year-old war monument. Unfortunately, the banner and skull were stolen last night in a raid of stealth quite unheard of among the monstrous clans of the Fog Peak Mountains. A handful of witnesses claim to have seen a small group of goblins and gnolls leaving town with the banner, and one child claims that they met a huge man with the head of a bull not far outside the village.
While most of the town’s inhabitants are relieved that the monsters left without causing trouble, the town’s constable, Marcus Laenwald, is concerned that this event means someone is trying to reunite the mountain tribes and means to use Graebung’s banner as a unifying symbol. He is convinced that the safety of Azurestone and the surrounding lands requires the return of the banner, and probably the death of the would-be leader. The party is convinced or hired by Laenwald and his few supporters to track the thieving band and return the banner and skull. Any other information about what is happening in the Fog Peak Mountains will be of critical value to the town.
As it turns out, the banner and skull were stolen at the behest of Graebung’s own son, Garbek. He does plan to use the banner as a unifying symbol, but more important to his plans is the skull. He, along with his tribe’s shaman, plans to raise his father’s spirit in a ritual that will grant him the abilities to unite the mountain tribes and continue his father’s path of conquest. The ritual will bind the spirits of Graebung and Garbek to the soul of the tribes themselves, giving Garbek the charisma and leadership skills to unite them into a warhorde greater even than his father’s. This is a new monster template: Hordebound, with the Hordebound Ogre as the module’s new monster.
The party will begin their quest with an immediate confrontation with a minotaur, placed outside the town to thwart any pursuit. The party’s path will be plagued with traps and ambushes, often by monsters of unusual skill (class-advanced hobgoblins, gnolls, etc., or specialized monsters like blues or ogre mages) and dire animal companions. A particularly nasty ambush is set for the party in a gorge leading into the Fog Peak Mountains by a pair of formian warriors (who would love to see Garbek lead the tribes out of the mountains for good). Particularly skilled trackers may give the party opportunities to turn the ambushes around on the monsters, but Garbek is unusually intelligent for an ogre and has sent quite a number of groups to thwart pursuit on several avenues.
If the party is successful, they will reach Garbek’s lair at the back end of the gorge: a small complex of caves. Still in the process of completing the ritual, Garbek will send his shaman against the party (actually an annis hag disguised as an ogre). Once the ritual is finished (and probably about the time the party finishes off the shaman, the now hordebound Garbek will take on the party. Although Garbek as managed to round up the assistance of a number of small groups, most of his followers are likely to scatter if he is defeated, reinforcing their long-held beliefs that working with other tribes just isn’t worth it.