Raif, the half-elf captain of the Raven’s Blades, out for a morning scouting mission with his companion, the stout dwarf Osrik, came upon a burning farmstead. Its inhabitants were slain, killed by gnolls, and not far from the barn, he found a scythe-wielding deva and a half-elf priestess facing off a band of gnolls.
Raif and Osrik joined the battle, aiding the deva in defeating the savage creatures. With the beasts slain, the deva introduced himself as Hiyal and his companion, Valna. Impressed by the deva’s prowess, Raif extended an invitation to join his mercenary band. Hiyal agreed; he had no problems in joining a mercenary outfit, if it meant the slaying of more evil creatures.
A rider from the Raven’s Blades met them at the farmstead, greeting his captain, and informing him that the band had marched into the nearby town of Arrow’s Point. The town was recently attacked by a gnoll warband and a Legion cohort has taken residence to shore up its defenses. Raif and Hiyal decided to go to Arrow’s Point.
In the town, a Legionnaire recognized Raif as the captain of the Blades and requested that he meet with his centurion. Raif agreed and he and Hiyal met with Centurion Derning. The grizzled veteran asked if the Blades were available for hire and if Raif was willing to help him with the town’s defense.
Raif agreed and Derning told him that he and the cohort would pursue the warband into the Rohad Hills. The Blades’ job was to secure the town, maintain order, and to stave off any other attacks. There were other warbands out in the countryside.
For three days, Raif’s company kept order in Arrow’s Point. They had not received any word from Derning and suspected the worst. Without much local leadership, the townspeople turned to Raif for government. He instituted a training regimen to bolster the town’s depleted guard and received militia reinforcements from surrounding farmsteads. Hiyal addressed the people’s concerns of faith. He assisted the local chapel in religious ceremonies and the burial of the dead. Many of the locals treated him with grave respect; he was a deva, a holy spirit in mortal flesh.
On the third day, watchmen spotted a ragged rider returning from the east, where Derning’s cohort had marched. The rider reported that the cohort had been surrounded by a massive gnoll horde, much more than they had expected, and were driven from the field. Hounded by the monsters, Derning retreated to the village of Strong Oaks, near the River Erthas. The centurion sent him to request reinforcements.
Raif and Hiyal decided to march to Strong Oaks and ordered an evacuation of Arrow’s Point. They suspected that gnolls would overrun the town as soon as the Blades departed. Marching at a swift pace, Raif’s band of seventy-strong troops marched a 17-mile journey to the village of Strong Oaks. There they found the remnants of battle, hundreds of slain gnolls, pierced by arrows. But the Legion’s banner still flew.
They found Derning and his decimated cohort, along with the locals of Strong Oaks, many of them elves deadly with the longbow, in the village. They had resisted waves of gnoll assaults for two days and were running out of supplies. Derning informed Raif and Hiyal of his suspicions that this was no mere gnoll horde on the warpath. These gnolls carried a black banner, emblazoned with a demonic visage. The elf lord of the village, Hyralian, suggested striking at the leadership of the gnolls, which he and his scouts had spotted journeying to the ruined temple of Bel Taran, where they had met with a band of black-robed cultists.
Derning told them that if Raif loaned him the Blades, he would fight hit-and-run battles against the gnolls to distract them, so Raif, Hiyal, Osrik, and Valna could penetrate gnoll lines and take out their leaders. Hyralian offered to aid them, and they accepted the elf lord’s assistance.