A horde of monstrous humanoids calling themselves the Empire of the Fallen has been steadily expanding from their stronghold in the center of the continent in an unstoppable wave of conquest. The remaining free peoples have banded together to stem the tide, but they have not been able to overcome the Empire's powerful half-dragon generals.
Hearing reports that an army was advancing on a key strategic position without its general, the alliance sees an opportunity to strike back. But it proves to be a deadly trap, with the king himself cut down in his golden armor.
Two survivors of the massacre awaken amid a pile of bodies…
Chapter 1: Among the Dead
The first to come to consciousness is the halfling sorcerer Dinard Clickyfingers, who finds himself half-buried by the bodies of other allied troops. The corpses are piled up in the courtyard of an estate. A lone goblin picks through the bodies, occasionally carrying parts off into the house. Two more goblins are hunched over a large wooden chest nearby, bickering over the plunder.
Dinard waits until all three goblins are presents and then draws upon his sorcerous powers to cast sleep. The goblin picking through the corpse pile falls over, as does one of the looters. His compatriot simply giggles "More for me" and digs into the loot chest.
Dinard hears soft breathing nearby and realizes his sleep spell affected one other creature: a young human woman garbed in the tattered remains of a battle nun's habit. He gently awakens her and then points to the lone conscious goblin.
The cleric girl retrieves the sword from the snoozing goblin by the body pile. Dinard tiptoes on his little hairy feet to get right behind the distracted goblin. When the young battle nun tries to join him, however, she hooks her foot on one of the bodies and sends it clattering to the ground.
The goblin cries out an alarm and flees into the building, taking a wound in the process. Dinard chides the young woman on her carelessness. She introduces herself as Sister Ekaterin and retrieves a shortsword from the chest of loot.
Goblin reinforcements arrive and Dinard uses his magic to call up an obscuring mist that surrounds and follows him. After a failed swing at the goblins, Sister Ekaterin retreats back into the mist with her halfling ally. She casts bless to bolster their prowess against the little green monsters.
A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, with the goblins venturing into the mist to hunt the heroes. Sister Ekaterin fights back with steel, while Dinard tosses around acid splash. After more than a minute of fighting, the goblin reinforcements are vanquished. But the toll on the adventurers is great, with both suffering serious injury.
Sister Ekaterin calls on her protector god, the Aegis, to heal them both. They scavenge more supplies from the chest, recovering a pair of potions of cure light wounds. Dinard finds a masterwork shortsword, which he passes to the battle nun. She switches her previous sword to her off-hand, and claims a dagger as well. She also retrieves bedrolls, rations, and other camping supplies. they also take the time to finish off the two sleeping goblins.
Surrounded by a courtyard wall with the sound of gnoll patrols outside, their only choice is to enter the house. A trail of blood from where the bodies were dragged from outdoors leads off to the right. The two adventurers decide to go left instead.
After nervously checking the door for traps, they step into what appears to be the pantry where rations for the army are being stored. One of the burlap sacks moves, and they go to investigate. Inside is the frightened goblin who raised the alarm.
Dinard intimidates him into revealing that the goblins work for a troll chef who is preparing food for the army. As far as the goblin knows, the only way out is past the troll. Dinard explains to a gung-ho Sister Ekaterin that trolls are serious business and can only be killed with fire or acid. He kills the goblin with acid splash as an example. They concoct a scheme to douse the troll with lamp oil and set him on fire. Dinard begins to catch on that Sister Ekaterin is zealous but a little… slow.
Chapter 2: Troll a la Dinard
Taking the hall to the right, the duo notice that the blood trail stops at a door. But the hall itself continues on. Dinard would prefer to skip the bloody door, but Sister Ekaterin insists she has a duty to investigate and destroy the evil within. She peers through the keyhole and sees a troll in a chef's apron clutching the bleeding stump of one arm. Once Dinard confirms for himself that the troll is wounded, they agree to open the door together.
Dinard's first act is to toss the lamp oil onto the troll. Sister Ekaterin steps forward to stab him, having cast bless and divine favor. The troll is surprised to see food offering itself up to him. He reaches over the battle nun to claw the halfling with his good arm. Dinard staggers backward, badly hurt.
The sorcerer uses a strip of his own clothing to create a burning wad that he tosses onto the troll, setting him on fire. Sister Ekaterin continues to jab him with her swords, and a follow up acid bolt from Dinard finishes him off. Surveying the kitchen, they find his missing arm boiling in a pot—he was apparently cooking parts of himself.
Sister Ekaterin criticizes his culinary skills: "Zee gobleens 'ave no cuisine."
A thorough search of the kitchen reveals that one of the apron hooks by the fireplace is actually a hidden lever. Dinard insists that the battle nun pull it. She is reluctant, as her Mother Superior had warned her not to tug on strange levers. Dinard protests that he can't even reach it himself, so she gives it a pull. It reveals a secret passage in the back of the main oven.
Chapter 3: Words in the Dark
After they put out the fire in the oven, they investigate the passage. Sister Ekaterin casts light on her holy symbol to guide them in the dark. Apparently the tunnel was used as a means of disposing of ash. However, it keeps going deeper down, where they come across emaciated bodies of humans who had died from starvation.
A journal on one of the bodies reveals that these were members of the manor household who hid down here during the goblin invasion. They weren't able to take the tunnel to safety, however, because of a dangerous creature in the caverns below. They were trapped in the dark and suffered a grim fate. Sister Ekaterin makes the sign of the Aegis and performs last rites over the remains.
Completely spent from their battles above, the two adventurers decide to make camp near the bodies. Dinard uses mending to repair the damage to his snazzy outfit. He takes a look at the battle nun's tattered red and black habit and offers to fix it as well. She takes him up on the offer and he gently runs his hands over her torn clothing to knit it back into one piece.
Dinard notes that Sister Ekaterin doesn't seem to have met many halflings. She admits that he is the first one she's spoken to at any length; she's spent most of her life cloistered in her convent.
He offers to answer any questions she might have about halflings. She asks if it it's true that the reason halflings don't wear shoes is because the hairs on their feet are sensitive like whiskers on a cat. Dinard says that he prefers the feel of dirt under his toes, but agrees that the hair on his feet is sensitive. He asks her about her obscure god, the Aegis.
She tells him that the Aegis is a god of protection who guards civilization from monsters and disorder. Dinard asks her to tell him a fable from her religion before they go to bed. She relates the tale of Saint Ekaterin the Undaunted, who held a pass single-handedly against an army of hobgoblins to protect a vulnerable village. Sister Ekaterin took the saint's name as her own when she was invested in her order.
She hopes to follow in her hero's footsteps and die a glorious death in battle against the enemies of civilization. Dinard argues that they can do more good surviving rather than martyring themselves. Sister Ekateri is unconvinced.
Chapter 4: Horrible Hooks
After an uneasy rest in the tunnel, they rise and have a cold breakfast. They have no choice but to press on and confront whatever creature lurks below. Faced with a fork in the tunnel, Dinard's "clickyfingers" lead him to the right, where they come across an underwater river. Unwilling to brave the murky water, they backtrack and try the other path.
They come across the bodies of a pair of professional bounty hunters who were contracted to deal with the monster but fell prey to it. based on the notes from the hunters, the creature is believed to have come from the Underdark.
They scavenge some gear from the bodies, with Sister Ekaterin swapping out her chain shirt for an enchanted breastplate. Dinard retrieves a necklace of fireballs. They also pocket another pair of cure light wounds potions.
As they near the creature's hunting grounds, Sister Ekaterin casts several buff spells: bless, divine favor, and shield of faith. Despite these precautions, the hook-armed monster catches them by surprise in a deadly ambush.
Sister Ekaterin tries to keep it focused on her, while Dinard summons up another obscuring mist for cover and pelts it with acid splash. The cleric and the creature trade blows, but it eventually gets the better of her. Through the mist, Dinard hears her cry out and fall to the ground with a clank.
Left to his own devices, the halfling sorcerer retrieves the biggest bead from his necklace of fireballs. He tosses it high up, hoping to hit the large creature but miss the young battle nun. The explosion badly wounds the hook horror, but it also dislodges some stalactites from the cavern ceiling. The debris misses Dinard, but one stalactite impales the wounded monster, killing it.
The halfling scampers over to Sister Ekaterin and feeds her a heeling potion. She comes to and is impressed with his handiwork. She calls upon the Aegis to heal them both, but she must channel the holy energy several times before her own wounds are sufficiently cured.
Dinard pauses to collect one of the hook horror's eyes as a rare trophy. Sister Ekaterin says she collects things herself, but has to give them away because she's not allowed much in personal possessions.
Chapter 5: The Blackguard's Tomb
They travel further down the tunnel until the natural walls give way to worked stone. Sister Ekaterin recognizes it as a catacomb, like the one beneath her convent. An inscription on the wall describes this as the tomb of Jondar, a local hero who was once a great paladin but turned to evil. He is buried here with his followers. Sister Ekaterin gets the tingling sense that undead are nearby.
They attempt to move quietly through the crypt undetected, but fail almost immediately. The risen body of Jondar, muttering and clanking in plate mail, confronts them. Dinard casts obscuring mist while Sister Ekaterin uses her last spell to cast bless. The skeletal champion lets out a howl to summon reinforcements from the catacombs.
Jondar badle wounds the cleric in their first exchange of blows. Next, he uses foul undead powers to afflict the battle nun with supernatural fear. She cries out and runs, leaving Dinard to face the deathless knight and his two undead cohorts. He attempts to hide from them in his mist, splashing them with acid when they draw near. Eventually, the two mindless skeletons push him towards the wall of the tomb.
Sister Ekaterin shakes off her fear, which is immediately replaced with shame. She chugs her last remaining potion and then dashes back towards the battle. "I'm coming to help you, Monsieur Clickyfingers!"
Dinard uses another bead from his necklace to destroy the two mindless skeletons in a blast of fire. Jondar howls for more and gets another pair of reinforcements. The halfling uses his final fireball bead against the skeletons, but barely scorches them.
The battle grows more desperate as Dinard takes another wound and is disabled. Sister Ekateri channels the power of the Aegis to harm the undead, but it is not enough to destroy them. She realizes her shortsword is of little use against the bony monstrosities. Thankfully, the armored Jondar skeleton proves to be top heavy and keeps falling flat as he lunges at her with his longsword.
Wounded and faced with nothing but bad options, Sister Ekaterin seizes the last healing potion from Dinard's belt. She then smashes it over the prone figure of jondar, causing steam to rise as the necromantic energy is burned from his bones. Dinard, barely conscious, complains at her theft of his potion.
Faced with two remaining skeletal warriors, Sister Ekaterin uses the cantrip virtue to bolster Dinard enough that the halfling can withstand the stress of casting acid splash without lapsing into unconsciousness. They continue this until he is able to bring down both remaining skeletons and they are once again alone in the crypt.
Sister Ekaterin uses Dinard's pearl of power to recall a spell she uses to cast cure light wounds on him. Now more awake, he tells her she was "awesome" and admits that he thought they weren't going to make it.
The battle nun says that she was confident they would make it through, because she knew there had to be a reason the Aegis saved her when so many of her sisters fell in battle. She says that the halfling was right, they still had some greater purpose to serve. Dinard questions whether they accomplished anything beyond merely surviving.
They plunder the weapons and armor from the body of Jondar, which are to heavy for either of them to use. After stowing the gear away, they carefully make their way up through the crypt to the graveyard at the surface.
The graveyard is located on the edge of the occupied village. They are able to dodge the remaining patrols to make their way back to the nearest allied city. There, they are questioned about the tunnel as their superiors realize it could be a back door into the enemy's encampment.