Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Thirteen
Valley of Blades

10 Growth 508 (cont’d)

The party looks down into a valley that is filled with various encampments. At the far end of the vale, is a long, wooden palisade with a large wooden gate in its center. They can see large torches and the movement of men in the firelight atop the gates. The smell of cook fires, wood smoke, and sweat fills the air. The party is gathered at the foot of the vale, discussing and debating their next move. They eventually decide to have Savaric look for a trail up into the mountain wall to the side of the valley for a trail that could be used to circumvent the camps. But before he can act on it, the party spies the arrival of a couple of perimeter guards coming in their direction. They all fade into the darkness and back away from the perimeter. One of the guards hears something, but his companion dismisses it as nothing and the two move along.

After the close call, Savaric starts to quietly make his way across the rocks of the mountain wall. Meanwhile, Surm Ulrich and Mõrvar Ulrich start quietly making their way along mountainous perimeter of the camp toward the palisade. Rilka hides near the entrance to the valley.

Surm and Mõrvar quietly sidestep the light of the fires and the rocky terrain, making their way all the way to the palisade without being detected. Along the way, they observe that there are no banners associated with these soldiers and that they seem to be a group of individual camps as opposed to a unified military force. These are mostly likely clanless mercenaries. At the palisade, the twins decide to climb over it, using the angled corner where wood meets stone to their advantage. Mõrvar tried to climb up but managed to fall off of the structure, alerting a guard at a nearby campsite. The two stand still, depending on the shadows to protect them, and the guard moves away. Surm has better luck, nimbly making his way up the palisade and gazing out over the other side. There, in the moon light, he can see the shadowy outlines of shacks lining this part of the valley. Beyond them is another wooden palisade, its gate alight with torches and obviously guarded. Beyond the palisade, the young sorcerer can see the upper stories of a keep tower. Mõrvar throws a rope up to his brother, who secures it to the palisade, and makes his way up the rope. The two then scamper down the palisade and begin walking around the perimeter of this other encampment.

Meanwhile, Savaric finds an elevated trail along the wall of the valley. At first he has trouble lifting himself up to the ledge, but finally manages to get it. He begins following the trail down toward the palisade. Looking down, he can see various campsites and can hear drunken singing and guffaws issuing from others. The half-orc quietly makes his way down the rocky trail, hoping that he can follow it enough to discover if it will allow him to bypass the camps below.

Surm and Mõrvar make their way in the darkness toward one of the structures. They are brought up short by a man’s voice. “You’ve already had your rations, now move on.” Surm can make out a shadowy figure, holding something in his hand. The sorcerer tells him that they’re not after his ration and the figure tells them to move on. The twins move on. Arriving at another structure, a mud and wood affair with a thatched roof, they can hear light snoring within. Mõrvar spots a figure coming down the perimeter with a torch in their hand. They still have time, but while Surm goes into the structure to talk to the inhabitant, Mõrvar elects to stay outside and watch for the guard.

Surm creeps into the shack to find a heavy-set form lying on the floor, sleeping. He sneaks up to the form and places his hand over the snoring man’s mouth. The man stirs and Surm warns him not to scream, that he’s not going to hurt him. The man acquiesces and Surm removes his hand. Surm learns that the man’s name is Rathic and that he is a skaald, a loremaster/storyteller. He was taken by Magrathar while he was traveling and it apparently amused the warlord to have a bard in his midst. This area of the compound is filled with slaves, about a hundred. Some are from Aeth. Rathic has been trying to keep the slaves’ spirits up, but it is hard. Food is scarce—they get one ration of food in the mornings and fights have broken out over the rations. Rathic has befriended a man named Vorthar, an apparent brute of a man. Each of the palisade gates have a contingent of about 5 men. Overall, there are probably two hundred soldiers outside in various camps.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar sees that the approaching patrol guard is going to be able to spot him. He can tell that it is armed figure, probably female. He ducks inside the hut to find his brother and the slave talking. He then hears the approaching footfalls get louder, but then fade into the distance. Surm is forming a plan. If Rathic can gather up some insurrection-minded slaves, then perhaps they can attack the guards from this side of the first palisade when the Aethyngs come marching upon the keep. He and Mõrvar leave some weapons with Rathic, burying them within the shack to conceal them. Rathic will distribute them to some of the slaves and will be prepared to attack the guards once the commotion of battle starts. Surm also tells him to find a slave named Ren and warn him that King Alrik Brytagsson is coming. Rathic is not to mention Surm or Mõrvar to Ren. Once the weapons are concealed, the twins head out into the darkness to creep their way back to the foot of the valley.

In the mean time, Savaric has made his way about 2/3 down the valley toward the first palisade. At this point, he decides to turn back and reunite with Rilka at the foot of the valley. Soon after, they are joined by Mõrvar and Surm. The party then makes their way out of the valley and back to Aeth.

In Aeth, the party meets with King Alrik Brytagsson to report what they’ve seen. He seems pleased with their work, telling them that they have done well. A discussion of various plans ensues, with one coming to the forefront. A small party will go through and eliminate the checkpoints along the way, ahead of the Aethyngs. Then that party will sneak along the goat trail around the warlord’s army and get inside the slave area. Once the Aethyngs arrive, they can help lead the slaves to revolt and open the palisade gate. The Aethyngs will then slaughter as much of the warlord’s army as they can and then pull back, hopefully with the freed slaves and the lead party intact. The companions agree to be that lead party. Alrik tells that the Aethyngs can march in three days.

13 Growth 508

Over the past three days, the party has encamped outside the village of Aeth, resting and tending to each others’ wounds. Finally, it is time to march.

As evening falls, the party comes upon the first checkpoint. The only light they have is that of the waxing, nearly full, moon. Rilka and Savaric, being half-orcs, can see in the darkness. They approach stealthily and confirm that there are four guards at the checkpoint—last time there were only two. Savaric manages to find a upper trail along the mountain wall and creeps along it toward the other side of the guards. As he gets to the end of the trail, one of the guards is alerted by the sound of falling stones under the ranger’s feet.

“Who goes there?” he cries, drawing his weapon. The others pull their steel as well. Further back, in the shadows, Surm casts a spell and the sound of goats fills the small pass. One of the guards puts a hand on the alerted man’s shoulder and tells him to calm himself, that it is only a mountain goat. They all seem to be on edge.

With the element of surprise, the party goes on the attack! Rilka and Mõrvar spring from the shadows and attack the guards. Savaric attacks with his bow from the shadows and Surm fires his crossbow. In the course of the action, one of the guards yells “Ambush!” and attempts to retreat. He is eventually brought down. Another guard casts down a sunrod, coating the area in light. Finally, after a tough fight, the guards are brought down and the party is victorious. They take the weapons and armor of the guards and move on.

They then move on toward the second checkpoint. They come upon the guards in a bend in the trail. This time there appear to be two on the rises around the trail, two on the ground. The party approaches cautiously, hoping to have the element of surprise on their side. This checkpoint is taken with more ease than the first; the party’s ambush is much more successful. After a relatively brief skirmish, the party is once again victorious and the checkpoint is taken. These bodies, too, are looted and an intact, unlit sunrod is taken.

The party proceeds toward the third checkpoint.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Session Fourteen
Restoration

13 Growth 508 (cont’d)

The party continues down the mountain pass toward the warlord’s encampment.

Savaric searches the area for a pass that can be used to circumvent the checkpoint. He finds a high ridge that passes about five feet above the checkpoint. He stealthily checks out the situation: at a bend in the pass are two men on the ground and two others perched in rocks of the mountain wall with bows. He takes in the scene and goes back to the report to the others.

After a lengthy discussion, the party decides to try and use the high pass to ambush the archers first and let Rilka take on the men on the ground until the others are free to help. Savaric will lead the way up the pass while Mõrvar and Surm follow. Rilka will give them a ten-minute lead and then come walking up the path.

The half-orc and the twin sorcerers make their slowly, sneakily, up the ridge and around the bend. Surm diverts down a side-trail toward one of the archers, while the others continue on, hoping to down onto the pass beyond the checkpoint and attack the other archer on the opposite side of the pass. As Savaric makes his way past, and over, the first archer, some stones give way beneath his feet, tumbling off the high ridge. Everyone freezes as the archer looks up and around—but not too broadly; he doesn’t wish to give away his own position. Surm uses his sorcery to call up the sounds of goats passing in the night. This seems to placate the sentry and the half-orc and Mõrvar continue on.

Rilka hears the goats as well—and as Surm has used it as a diversion before, she suspects trouble and picks up her pace.

Mõrvar and Savaric continue along the ridge and Mõrvar eventually climbs down to the pass to take up position near the opposite archer, utilizing the advantage he has of his weapon’s reach. Then, all lie in wait for a few moments, contemplating who is going to begin the ambush.

Finally, Mõrvar acts, attacking his foe with his long spear. The others then fire into their targets: Surm with his crossbow, and Savaric with his bow. Rilka charges into the action as well, once the shouts go up. One of the archers manages to light and throw a Sunrod into the pass, lighting the area. After a brief melee, the sentries are down and the party is victorious.

Rilka manages to take the brunt of the damage from the skirmish, so the Mõrvar uses their Wand of Cure Light Wounds on the injured fighter.

Now the party continues down the past to the fourth and, they hope, final checkpoint.

If the checkpoint lies in the same place as before, the sentries will be gathered in an area where the pass expands to a width of twenty feet before narrowing once again. Again, before they get too close, Savaric scouts to see if he can find a route around the checkpoint. While he manages to get close enough to the gap to scout it out, he finds no alternate route.

Inside the gap are four more sentries. The area is lit by a campfire. Three of the sentries are at points around the fire while the fourth seems to be guarding the other narrowed pass on the other side of the gap.

After a long debate, the party decides to have the archers line up in the pass to fire upon the guards near the fire. Surm will lie down in with his crossbow, Savaric will kneel behind Surm with his longbow, and Mõrvar will line up behind the kneeling half-orc with his weapon. Rilka will charge in, bullying past the three guards at the lead and attack the man at the back before he can run for help. Once the plan is formulated, the party skulks into position.

Rilka charges into the checkpoint, praying to Bruni to give her courage. She takes several attacks from the guards she passes, but arrives and engages with her target. Meanwhile, the others of the party fire upon the guards they can see through the narrow entrance to the gap. Then, Mõrvar follows in Rilka’s wake to engage with the guards with his spear. Soon, all the guards have fallen—the party has taken the checkpoint. Once again, the half-orc fighter is in need of healing and receives it.

Finally, the party sneaks forward along the pass and finds themselves standing before the enemy encampment. Savaric once again finds the pass along the east side of the valley and leads the others along it to the other side of the first palisade. Once at the palisade, Rilka slips on some stones on the ridge, alerting a passing soldier. The party stands in stunned silence—then Surm manages to summon the sounds of goats passing, which seems to alleviate the man’s concerns, allowing the party to continue down the pass to the other side of the wooden wall.

Once the party is on the other side of the palisade, they descend into the slave’s shantytown. They stealthily make their way through toward the hut where they had met Rathic before. As they make their way between shacks, an enormous bald head emerges from one of the huts and looks back and forth, clearly alerted by some noise or another. Satisfied that no one is there, the figure re-enters his hut and the party continues on their way. Finally they make it to Rathic’s hut where Surm raps on the doorframe.

The slave answers the rap at the door and ushers them all inside. “So it’s happening, so soon?” he asks. Surm tells him that it is time and inquires as to whether Rathic has been able to get word to others that they are to take the gate once the commotion starts. Rathic says that he has, and that he has distributed the few weapons that the twins were able to leave during their last visit. He has also been able to speak with Ren, as asked. The young man is willing to help, but will not be able to do much—he is missing half of one of his legs. As to their mother, Rathic has not seen her.

Suddenly, Mõrvar is on alert. He’s heard a noise outside. Surm skulks out of the window and starts heading to the door, sticking to the shadows as he moves. Gazing around the corner to the front of the shack, he sees an enormous bald slave standing at the door. His bald head glistens in the moonlight; it’s the man that heard their approach earlier.

The sorcerer whispers, casting his message on the wind to be heard by those inside. “It’s a large bald man.” Rathic returns the message. " That’s probably Vorthar. He’s alright. " Surm makes his way back inside the hut while Rathic calls out to Vorthar to come inside. The big man enters the tiny, already crowded, hut. Mõrvar manages to keep to the shadows behind the behemoth, his hand on his knife, just in case things go south. Rathic informs Vorthar that the time has come: the attack will be tonight. King Alrick is bringing his army. Vorthar grunts in response.

After a discussion of their various options, the party decides to have Rathic inform the others in the shanty town of the approaching army. They will take up position in a shack near the gate. As fortune would have it, Ren Ulrich’s hut is near the gate. The party decides to there and confront the estranged brother of the twins and, hopefully, launch their attack on the gate from his shack.

As the group winds its way through the shantytown, Rathic knocks in code on some of the shacks and leaves more weapons behind, informing folks that the time has come—King Alrik is on his way. Finally, they make it to Ren’s shack.

Surm raps on the doorframe. Lurching forward into the moonlight is a young man on crutches. His left leg is missing from the knee down. His bright eyes sparkle in the sparse light.

“Surm?”

Ren Ulrich looks about in disbelief at the people assembled at his hut. Surm nods.

“Yes, it’s me.

Everyone then followed the sorcerer into the hut behind the injured man.

“What is this?” Ren asked.

“Alrik sent us. We working as a scout group ahead of the army. They’re coming to break you out but we need to take this gate from the inside.”

Mõrvar notes that his brother hasn’t acknowledged his presence.

“Where’s our mother?”

Ren turns to his brother, the man who killed his father, and says, “In the keep.”

The tension in the room is palpable. Surm tries to cut through it with the urgency of their mission.

“We need to come up with a plan to take out those guards on the gate.”

As they approached, the party noted that there were three guards on the ground and one archer on each of the high platforms surrounding the gate.

Strategies are made and discarded, discussed, and digested. Finally, a plan takes shape. Rathic sends word to the slaves that are poised to fight to bring flammable materials to place at the gate. All that remains is to wait for the signs that the Aethyngs have arrived.

Horns are heard approaching the encampment. The Aethyngs have arrived.

Rilka and Surm exit the hut and head towards the gate where a mob of slaves have gathered and have started attacking the guards. Mõrvar and Savaric fire arrows at the guards on the platforms. Savaric hits his man so hard that he falls from the platform. Mõrvar injures his man as well.

As the horns continue to blare and the sounds of battle carry over the palisade, the mob attacks the guards at the gate. Mõrvar fires again at the man on the platform, taking him down. Savaric then takes Ren and heads to a place of safety.

Surm shouts at the collected slaves, asking them to make a path for a warrior to get through. Rilka impatiently awaits for an opening in the mob. Meanwhile, slaves begin to fall in the fight.

Mõrvar makes his way up the ladder to the platform and begins taking pot-shots at the guards below. Finally, an opening occurs and Rilka inserts herself into the fray. Soon the guards are dispatched.

Mõrvar surveys the area beyond the palisade. The melee below is chaotic and undisciplined. Pockets of fighting dot the plain. He also spies movement at the other palisade, though the gates remain closed.

Mõrvar calls out what he sees. The half-orc fighter then takes up the pulley line to open the gates. Surm bolts through the open gate toward the banner of King Alrik. Rilka leads the refugees out of the encampment and onto the battlefield as Savaric carries Ren. Mõrvar stays behind to ensure that the newly formed barricade catches fire and ushers the remaining refugees out of the gate.

As Surm makes his way to the banner, he is stopped by a mercenary warrior who charges him. Calling upon his powers, he summons a snake to drop on the man’s head, distracting him long enough to get out of harm’s way and keep running.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar is gathering canvas and cloth from the nearby shacks to add to the fire formed at the gate, which is growing into a steady blaze. Gazing at the next palisade, he sees its gate open and shut, a single form emerging. It’s too far away to get any details, but soon the screams begin—“Demon!” he hears people cry as the form makes its way forward. Eventually he sees a large figure, with long, goat-like horns and features carrying a halberd making its way through camp, stabbing slow-moving slaves as it goes. Once he sees that the fire is in place, Mõrvar runs after Rilka and the refugees.

Surm makes it past the King’s guards and to the man himself. He informs him of the movement of the refugees, the fires set at the gate, and the need for the army to retreat, according to the plan. Screams of “Demon” start to carry across the field, prompting the King to sound the retreat and order a detachment of soldiers to take up the refugees into the troop movement.

The refugees, lead by Rilka, Mõrvar, and Savaric, are soon surrounded by Aethyngs and slowly escorted into the retreating forces. The movement is slow-going, but steady.

Meanwhile, cries of “Demon!” begin to escalate as it approaches King Alrik and his banner. Surm asks if any cold iron weapons were made and the King tells him that, yes, some weapons were made—they’re being wielded by his personal guards. Those guards form a tight circle around the banner and their King—and now Surm. King Alrick, who is wielding two weapons (a battleaxe and a sword) hands the battleaxe to Surm.

Rilka and the others begin to try and break out of the line of troops to catch up with Surm. But the going is slow as they are moving against the tide of troops and refugees. Both she and Mõrvar attempt to intimidate their way through, but they can’t fight the sheer numbers of slow-moving people.

The ring of warriors around Surm is rocked back as the demon attacks. An unholy stench fills the air. Surm makes his way stealthily out of the ring to take up a position behind the beast. One of the Aethyng warriors fall as he moves, the ring closing to fill the gap. Finally, the sorcerer is in position behind the demon and readies his weapon. Aiming carefully, he strikes the beast hard in the back with the iron battleaxe.

With his impressive strike against the creature, Surm draws the demon’s attention. It wheels on the sorcerer and strikes with the halberd. Surm narrowly dodges the long weapon. The Aethyngs, now behind the demon, plunge their weapons into it, taking the beast down. It’s remains fade away, leaving behind only its stench and its corroded and nasty halberd.

The circle regroups around the King and Surm who start making their way to rejoin the rest of the Aethyng host. Rilka, Savaric, Ren, and Mõrvar Ulrich reunite with their comrade and all retreat back to their camps at Aeth.

Once at Aeth, King Alrik demands the attention of the gathered warriors.

" We have fought hard today and gained a victory. We should celebrate that. You have earned it. But this fight isn’t over. Soon, Magrathar will respond and we will fight again for our homes and families. So we must remain vigilant. This is not over. For this reason, the alehalls will not be open this night.

“But we must also not forget that we owe today’s victory to our former comrades and brothers, Surm and Mõrvar Ulrich and their companions. Without their work, the battle could have turned out much differently.

“It is for this reason, that I, your King, welcome these men back into our clan and allow them to reclaim the blood of the Aethyngs.”

A murmur arises in the gathered host, with some scattered cheers. Surm grins in obvious satisfaction while Mõrvar scowls in discomfort. Some of the Aethyngs approach them and clasp their shoulders in thanks for their efforts and celebrate their re-entry into the clan. Mõrvar goes to find Ren, who is resting on the outskirts of the encampment, checking to make sure he is alright. Ren acknowledges that he is and looks his brother in the eye and says “Thank you.” The taciturn sorcerer murmurs an acknowledgement and walks away.

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Session Fifteen
Once More Into the Breach

14 Growth 508

After the pronouncement of King Alrik, the party settles into their camp within the ruins of the village of Aeth. Though they are located within what is left of the walls, no other groups camp near them. It seems that many of the Aethyngs still do not wholly accept their strangeness—the sorcery of the twins and the two half-orcs with whom they travel.

As the group settles in to rest, Surm and Mõrvar discuss their newly restored status in the clan. Surm is pleased, but Mõrvar is still troubled and resentful. He wonders if the clan would accept their uncle back into the fold after all these years. Surm doesn’t think so, as he has done nothing to re-endear him to the King as as they have done. He also believes that Thormax is not interested in being restored to the clan after all these years. This seems to reinforce Mõrvar’s bitterness toward the clan, much to Surm’s consternation.

The following morning, there is much activity in the village. Scouts are running from the village and up the pass in order to give advance warning of an invasion by Magrathar’s troops. Groups of men are working on the broken palisade that surrounds the village. Weapons are being sharpened and ready for the battle that all anticipate will come soon. Savaric and Rilka volunteer to help with the palisade. Their aid is accepted, though it is clear that many of the workers are suspicious of the two half-orcs. Surm and Mõrvar decide to walk about the village and check-in with various family members and acquaintances.

First, the twins go and meet with their brother Lothar. The older Ulrich is cold, but answers the questions put to him about how the Ulrich family fared during the twins’ long absence. He left the family soon after their father’s death, fighting and raiding with various other clans. Ren had stayed behind to help their mother and Sonja manage the home. As the twins leave him, he does manage to tell them “May the gods favor you.”

Next, the two Ulrich brothers go to meet their brother Ren, who is camping with many of the other wounded refugees from the warlord’s encampment. He’s not sure how he is going to carry on without his leg—in Northron society, the old, frail, and maimed are often discarded. He was an apprentice blacksmith before the raiders came—perhaps he can go back to that.

Feeling nostalgic, Surm and Mõrvar decide to visit their childhood home. It has experienced extensive fire damage, but still stands.

Finally, the two brothers decide to visit with Rathic and Vorthar in the refugee camps. From the former bard they learn that many of the refugees have committed themselves to standing and fighting with their rescuers and have petitioned the King to become part of the Aethyngs.

Runners are dispatched throughout the village—the King wants all camp leaders to gather in the central longhouse. Surm and Mõrvar reunite with Savaric and Rilka and discuss who they will send to the longhouse. It is finally decided that the twins will go—once Surm exacts a promise from Mõrvar that he will be quiet during the meeting.

Alrik begins the meeting by announcing that he has decided to bring the battle to Magrathar. He has called all of the camp leaders together to discuss strategies to do just that. But first, he calls upon the Ulrich twins to give insights into what the witch in the warlord’s entourage is capable of.

Surm comes forward and orates to the gathered leaders. He tells them that the demon was most likely summoned forth by a ritual spell or an artifact. Though the demon was “destroyed” in this realm, over time it could reform on its home plane and be re-summoned. This could take up to twenty-four hours—which means that if the Aethyngs are going to attack before the witch brings forth another demon, they need to move sooner rather than later. Further, he suggests not attacking but laying in ambush against the oncoming horde. It would be easier to set such ambushes along the pass leading back to Aeth.

The sorcerer’s pronouncements cause a lot of consternation in the crowd. Some shout in agreement while others think the plan to be “cowardly” or lacking in honor. Finally, Alrik calls for order. He will go with the sorcerer’s plan. He calls for camp leaders to volunteer to set up ambushes, while others will work on forging iron weapons and preparing defenses for the village.

While the camp leaders sort themselves out—some staying to discuss the ambushes with the King while others leaving to begin defense preparations, Surm and Mõrvar approach Alrik with some private concerns. First, they warn Alrik that witches are also known to have familiars that take the form of animals—birds, insects, etc. They could be being spied upon as they speak. They warn him to be careful and to pass word to the camp leaders to take down suspicious animals and such over the course of their work. Further, they wanted to pass on to him, out of general earshot, their plan of moving forward and ambushing the keep from behind the line of troops. They will take a mountain pass that their scout (Savaric) had found and make their way behind the palisades and wait for the troops to move. Then they will strike. The King approves of their plan. Finally, the two ask that iron weapons be sent to their group to aid them in the fight against the demon, should the need arise. The King assures them that he will make those arrangements.

The twins return to their half-orc companions and explain the new plan and what transpired in the longhouse. They also make a point of telling Ren what happened and encourage him to help at the forges. Once they receive a cache a of iron weapons from one of the King’s aides, they begin to make their way up the pass toward Magrathar’s keep.

Along the way, they encounter a pair of mercenary scouts posted on the walls of the pass. They stealthily make their way toward one, hoping to take the man out quietly. Unfortunately, they are detected and the man fires an arrow at Savaric. From across the pass, the other scout begins firing as well. After a heated exchange of blows and shots fired by both the twins (with their magic) and Savaric (with his bow), the scouts are dispatched.

Eventually, as the sun begins to descend, the party makes it to the valley where the warlord’s keep lies. They follow the ridge that Savaric had found previously. They move extremely slowly and cautiously along the ridge, hoping to not draw attention to themselves as they move. They can see and smell the carrion remains of the previous night’s battle below them. They follow the ridge beyond the first palisade and make it about halfway to the next before discovering that the ridge ends. They can see movement on the gates and catwalk of the next palisade. The group backs up along the ridge and the ranger scouts for another route. He finds one—but they will have to climb up higher to get to it. Mõrvar uses his sorcery to place a grapple into the higher ridge so that the party can climb his knotted rope to the next level. Savaric climbs up to the new ridge and scouts ahead to see if this ridge will take them all the way to their destination. He follows it to the last palisade and can see that it continues beyond it. He also spots five guards on the gates of the palisade and the rest of Magrathar’s army encamped on the other side, around the keep. He carefully returns to his friends.

As the sun continues to set, the party waits on the ridge until darkness falls. Then, they carefully and slowly make their way along the ridge, creeping along the rocky wall until they emerge beyond the palisade. From here, they can see the warlord’s keep. It is comprised of a single-story square building with a three-story tower on one side. The ridge extends along the mountain wall beyond the palisade to end about parallel with the side-tower of the keep. They follow the ridge to its end and then gently lower the rope down and descend to the floor of the valley. Keeping ot the shadows cast by the various campfires, the group makes their way to the rear of the keep, gathering in the shadowy corner where the tower meets the main hall. . .

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Session Sixteen
Confrontation in the Keep

14 Growth 508 (cont’d)

The party is gathered in the shadows at the base of the keep, between the tower and the keep proper. Mõrvar uses his sorcery to conjure an invisible hand place a grapple on the roof of the one-story keep building. Everyone climbs the knotted rope onto the flat roof.

Once everyone gathers on the roof, Savaric stealthily makes his way about, scouting out the area. He finds no other way into the keep, but does find two slots cut into the stone roof where smoke comes wafting out. The slots are two small to climb down through. He returns to the gathered party and reports his find.

Rilka sniffs the air and determines that she smells woodsmoke and cooking meat coming from the vents. Mõrvar speculates on the existence of a secret entrance and exit from the keep, used by the warlord to escape should his hold on his minions grow lax. No one else seems as sure about that. Regardless, the only entrances into the keep seem to be a shuttered window at the rear and the double-door at the front. The front of the keep is watched by a pair of guards. The window could be seen by those encamped to the rear of the keep.

Conversation stops as everyone but Mõrvar hears the front door opening. Surm and Savaric cautiously approach the front of the building. Below them, they see two men emerge. They walk past the sentries and then cautiously make their way in opposite directions around the keep, both men keeping to the shadows. Surm reports back to the others while Savaric follows one of the men around the top of the building until he meets up with his compatriot at the rear of the keep.

One says to the other “You see anything?”

“No.”

“The old man’s getting paranoid.”

The other shrugs and the two start making their way back to the front entrance of the keep.

Savaric rejoins the party at the far end of the keep roof, near the tower. The party discusses their options and present, and then discard, various plans. Finally, they decide to have Savaric check out the area behind the keep. The half-orc climbs down the knotted rope, nearly falling but heroically catching himself along the way, and lands in front of the shuttered window. He hears the sound of commotion and drunken laughter beyond the shutters and can smell the aroma of cooked meat wafting from between the cracks of the shutters.

Surm stealthily makes his way to the front of the keep to peer down and check out the front. He can still hear commotion beyond the double doors and one of the sentries says to the other, “We really got the shit end of duty this time, huh?” The sorcerer then makes his way carefully back to the others, just as Savaric arrives back from his excursion below.

The half-orcs both indicate that, based on Surm’s earlier figuring, that they have about a quarter hour to go before the witch is able to summon the demon again. Once again, the party discusses various options for how to proceed. Time is slipping away. Finally, Savaric announces that the witch could start her summoning at any minute.

Spurred to action, Surm, Rilka, and Mõrvar climb down the rope to the shuttered window while Savaric makes his way to the two air vents and clogs them with cloaks. Then he regroups with the others down below at the window.

While waiting in the shadows near the window, Mõrvar hears heavy footsteps coming down the stairs to the rear of the tower. Savaric and Surm hear increased activity in the keep beyond the window. A strong voice calls out from within “Throw open the door and assemble!” Soon the air is filled with horn blasts and the various encamped warriors start to stir and gather at the front of the keep.

As Surm begins to work at the rod that bars the shutter closed, Savaric returns to the top of the keep and retrieves his cloaks—smoking the assembled warriors out is obviously not going to be necessary as they are gathering to march. Once he returns to the group, Mõrvar uses his sorcerous hand to retrieve the grapple. By this time, Surm has jimmied open the shutter.

With the window now open, the party sneaks inside the keep. Surm ducks under a nearby table while the others keep to the shadows inside what is obviously a kitchen area. Surm emerges from beneath the table and joins the others along a wall. At each end of this wall is an arched doorway. Surm peers around one doorway while Savaric peers around the other.

Each of them see into the main hall of the keep. On the other side of the wall is a dais on which stands a large, wooden chair. In front of the dais are a man and woman. The man is large with a craggy face and a whaler’s beard. He wears scale mail and carries a beautiful battleaxe. The woman is lithe and raven-haired, more than a little attractive, and appears to be wearing no armor. The man says to the woman, “The host is gathering.”

Suddenly, the woman pivots and casts a spell in the direction of Savaric. The half-orc turns pale and flees to hide beneath the table, putting it and the wall between him and the source of his sudden fear. The man strides toward where the half-orc was standing and encounters Rilka waiting for him. She takes the opportunity to strike at the man while Surm steps out from behind the wall to confront the woman.

Mõrvar casts a ray of enfeeblement at the man engaged with Rilka. It seems to have little effect on him. Surm casts tendrils of fire from his hands to burn the woman, to little effect but to gain her attention. Rilka attacks the man while Mõrvar attempts to enfeeble him again—once again, to little effect. Savaric emerges from under the table and, though shaken, engages with the man as well. The woman turns her gaze upon Surm, crushes something in her hand, and her eyes begin to glow like coals. Surm recognizes the spell as “burning gaze”. The man, engaged with both Rilka and Savaric, attacks (and misses) Rilka. Surm decides to step forward and attack the woman with his spear, dealing a fair amount of damage.

Savaric attacks the man and misses, followed by Rilka, who does much the same. Surm attacks the woman again and deals more damage to her. She shrieks in anger. Mõrvar changes his position and engages with the woman, striking her down with his weapon. The man continues to trade blows with Rilka.

Mõrvar moves again and attacks the man from behind, missing him. Rilka continues to miss the man as well. Savaric, recovering from his irrational fear, attacks two-handed, with much success. As the other three engage the man, Surm runs to the front doors and bars them shut.

Mõrvar attacks the man, missing him yet again. Surm runs to the fallen woman—presumably the witch—and searches her body. He finds two pouches, a kukri, and a dagger on her when he also notices a small red spider scurrying away. He attempts to step on it, but it is too quick for him. Rilka finally hits the man—presumably Magrathar and staggers him. Suddenly, his eyes go dark and he roars in anger as he moves forward to attack the half-orc.

The warlord hits Rilka hard, her innate ferocity barely keeping her conscious. Meanwhile, Surm throws a ray of frost at the spider, causing it to stoop scurrying, turn over, and curl up its tiny legs. Finally, Savaric deals a savage blow to Magrathar, followed by a huge by Mõrvar. The warlord falls—followed by an exhausted and injured Rilka.

Surm, ever thorough, stomps on the spider’s corpse. He takes a moment to look inside the pouches he removed from the witch‘s body. One is filled with coins, while the other contains a small, clear crystal. He pockets both pouches and returns to his friends. Noting Rilka’s condition, he retrieves a scroll of healing and brings her back to consciousness.

As Savaric goes about and decapitates the bodies, the barred front doors begin to shake. The party can hear a voice beyond the doors shouting “My Lord! The host is assembled!”

After a brief discussion, the party decides that their best bet is to impress and intimidate these mercenaries. Rilka and Savaric position themselves on either side of the door and Surm stays out of sight. Mõrvar stands in the center of the hall with globes of light (provided by Surm) dancing about his form. He has also collected the heads of Magrathar and the witch. Savaric throws upon the bar and he and Rilka gently pull open the doors, careful not to reveal their presence.

Beyond the door is a gathering of mercenary warriors. Mõrvar, in the eldritch light of his brother’s globes, pronounces, “I have slain your witch. I have slain Magrathar. The Schir demon is free-willed. Disperse or I shall set him free upon you!” Meanwhile, Surm is using his magic to whisper through the crowd “The demon is free! We are in danger!”. Mõrvar uses his own magic to carry the head of Magrathar forward, displaying his trophy.

Suddenly, a shout arises from beyond the doors. “Demon!”

Rilka and Savaric shut the double doors and the party gathers in the main keep to plan for this new development. The demon is apparently on the rampage outside. Horns begin to sound and the troops start to rally. Mõrvar strips the scale mail from the warlord’s body while Savaric takes his axe. Mõrvar then takes up the two heads once again. The party goes to a set of wooden doors that obviously lead into the tower. Inside they find some discarded barrels of ale and some unused tables. There is a door leading to the stairway and a trap door in the floor. Above the trap door is a simple pulley apparatus.

Surm opens the trap door and casts his dancing globes of light down into the darkness below. Inside, he can see more ale casks and grain sacks—and the packed bodies of a number of women. He calls down for his mother, “Hilda?” A tentative answer comes up from below—“Surm?”

Everyone comes out of the basement—fourteen women in total, including Hilda Ulrich. Rilka introduces herself and Savaric to the refugees. She fills in the group on current events. Hilda and Surm embrace, while Mõrvar keeps his distance.

Surm goes upstairs and finds a locked door on the second level. The stairs continue up to the third. He borrows his brother’s Traveler’s Any Tool to pick the lock on the door. He turns the lock and lets himself and Mõrvar inside. It appears to be a pretty standard bedchamber with a moderate-sized chest at the foot of the bed. While Mõrvar searches this room, Surm heads up to the third level. Once there, he again picks the lock of the door.

Opening the door, he reveals a room with a large pentagram painted upon the floor with an altar at its apex. A scattering of cushions line one wall. Surm searches out the room and finds a secret compartment within the altar. Inside, he finds a rolled-up piece of parchment and a velvet pouch. Inside the pouch is an assortment of gemstones. The parchment is written in Tradespeak and details a ritual used to activate the Crystal of Pentharic, an artifact that contains, allows temporary control over, a Schir demon. A diagram on the parchment matches the crystal he found on the witch’s body. He takes his finds and returns to the second level to meet with his brother.

In the meantime, all Mõrvar has found of interest in the room is a map of Jossia. Surm comes in and unlocks the chest. Inside is another assortment of gems, a bag full of coins, and an exquisitely-made short sword. These are gathered by the brothers as they discuss whether or not they will keep the loot or turn it over to King Alrik. Surm feels that they should turn it over to the King to build their prestige within the clan. Mõrvar could not care less for the prestige within the clan.

Surm looks through an arrow slit and sees no sign of conflict on this side of the palisade. He can also hear no sounds of battle. Rejoining the others on the ground floor, they all decide to send Savaric out to assess the situation.

The half-orc ranger runs across the field to the palisade and then creeps forward toward the open gate. Beyond it he sees a small body of warriors being addressed by an obvious leader. The leader says “It is decided” as one of the assembled warriors shouts an alarm and points toward Savaric. The half-orc quickly pulls the line attached to the pulley that closes the gate. He hears a male voice call out from the other side “Hold! We would parley! Tell your sorcerer we would speak!”

Savaric runs back to the keep and reports to the others. After a brief discussion, the party heads out of the keep and to the palisade. Rilka and Savaric make their way up to the right side of the gate, while Mõrvar and Surm make their way up to the left. Surm keeps low and out of sight and casts a set of dancing lights around his brother’s head.

One of the warriors assembled below steps forward. " I am Kragar, son of Vortan. I lead these warriors. We would parley with you. We wish to leave this place and go to Rosemeedt. Our quarrel with the Aethyngs is done, but they lie in wait along the pass. We wish to have leave to go. "

At Surm’s prompting, Mõrvar asks “Do you offer restitution to the king?”

There is much murmuring amongst the men below, but Kragar steps forward again. “We will fight for King Alrik for a season. We will help protect the Aethyngs as they rebuild. Do you speak for the King?”

Mõrvar “I will send messengers to the King with your proposal and they will return with his answer. Prepare horses for my messengers.”

The men below start scrambling and gathering mounts from the various horses milling about the battlefield. The party climbs down from the palisade and gathers to discuss this new development and their future plans. They also discuss whether or not to give the loot found in the keep to King Alrik or to keep it for themselves. They decide to give the loot to the King. It is also decided that Surm and Savaric will return to Aeth with the mercenaries’ offer.

Surm and Savaric cautiously make their way through the gate in the palisade to the waiting mercenaries. They are given mounts and are allowed to ride out of the valley unmolested.

As the two make their way out of the valley, they cautiously approach the first likely ambush point. Surm calls out a hail to the Aethyngs. They are told to halt as the Aethyngs assess them and their situation. They are then approached by a warrior who later gives them the password and location of the next ambushes. The two carry on down the pass with this information in hand and eventually make it back to Aeth.

Once in Aeth, the two adventurers seek out King Alrik. They find him in the longhouse. Surm informs him that they have slain Magrathar and the witch, taken the warlord’s keep, and that the demon has been slain once again. He also informs him of the offer of the remaining mercenaries.

Alrik is moved by this news. War is no longer coming to his village, thanks to the Ulrich brothers and their companions. " The gods, and Yülthn, have smiled upon you, and through you, on Aeth. it is a hard thing to admit one was wrong. But I should not have cast you and your brother out so long ago. "

Surm accepts this apology and tells the king that a word from him would go a long way toward making he and his friends more accepted in the village. Alrik assures him that he will do what he can. Surm then asks for an escort of soldiers to take him and Savaric back to the keep. Alrik tells him that to seek out Frey, a warrior stationed outside. She will gather a force to take with them and give news to the ambush points to return to Aeth, that the threat is over.

Surm and Savaric gather up the promised warriors and start heading up the pass to the keep. When reaching the checkpoints, Surm has the ambushers join their ranks. Soon, a large contingent of Aethyngs arrive at the keep.

Surm has Frey “handle” the mercenaries. She leads the Aethyngs to surround the gathered mercenaries and Kragar follows her instructions to stay within the circle until they return to Aeth and he and his men are oathbound to the King.

In the meantime, Savaric has gathered mounts for his companions, as well as an abandoned cart to haul away the looted supplies from the keep. He then returns to the keep and searches the kitchen area and the dais in the keep, finding nothing of interest.

Mõrvar approaches his mother and reassures her that she is safe. She thanks him.

All of the refugees and loot from the keep are loaded into the cart. Then the cart and its escort head down the pass and back to Aeth.

15 Growth 508

By the time the entourage reaches Aeth, dawn has broken. As the party enters the village, they can see that people have already started gathering. Whispers of their deeds reach their ears. They make their way slowly to the center of the village where King Alrik awaits on a small platform.

Surm strides forward and announces to the King all that they have done, and that they have brought supplies and treasure back to him. King Alrik proclaims that the gods are smiling upon Aeth and upon her benefactors, the Ulriches and their half-orc companions. Without their efforts, war and bloodshed would have come to the village once again. A feast will be thrown in their honor tonight. Whispered messages are cast about in the crowd, saying that the Ulriches are heroes. Cheers go up and the people begin to gather about the wagon. Shouts of “Hail Alrik” and “Hail Aeth” echo about the square. Some of the villagers come buy and clap the party on the shoulders in thanks. Even Lothar Ulrich gives the brothers a nod of respect.

Surm approaches the King again and asks if they may keep the armor and weapons they found on Magrathar. Alrik says that they are the spoils of war and that they may, indeed, be kept.

That day, Mõrvar asks Rilka, who is an armorer, to clean the scale mail they took off of Magrathar. Savaric claims his finely-wrought battleaxe. When Rilka is done, Mõrvar takes the armor and approaches his brother Content Not Found: lother-ulrich encampment. He tells him that he wishes to give him the armor out of respect and to bury some of the hard feelings between them. Lothar does not take the armor, saying that his respect cannot be bought. But he does acknowledge that some of his respect has been earned by Mõrvar and his companions actions.

Mõrvar also approaches his mother once again. She slaps him, hard, saying “That was for Kromas”. Then she embraces him, saying “And that is for coming home.”

That night’s festivities in the longhouse are raucous and joyful. People come around and congratulate the party on their success. Alrik makes a series of increasingly incoherent speeches about the victories they have won. Though food and drink are scarce, the Aethyngs throw a fine feast and celebration of the hard-won victory that the party has brought to Aeth.

View
Session Seventeen
Travel and Omens

16 Growth 508

At the dawn of new day, after the festivities of the previous night, the party gets together to discuss their next move. As they have most likely missed the departure of the Gearwright brothers in Skeene, they decide to head more directly south to Braith and, from there, catch a ship to Jenna. From there, they will journey to Riverton and see if this Lord Coln is still seeking hunters for griffon’s eggs.

The group gathers their gear and their mounts and make their goodbyes around the village. King Alrik wishes for the gods to be with them on their journey, and reminds them of their responsibility to heed a calling of the Aethyngs. Surm and Mõrvar’s mother, Hilda, wishes them well. When asked what it is that she wants from her son’s travels, she replies that she wants plenty of work for their brother, Ren. Their other brother, Lothar, will wonder Jossia with his band. The refugees will become Aethyngs and Vorthar and Rathic agree to watch over the other Ulrichs in the twins’ absence.

After settling their affairs in Aeth, the party rides to the shack of Thormax Ulrich. They arrive in the late afternoon and are greeted warmly by the twins’ great uncle. They tell the story of what happened in their former home, including their encounters with demons and a witch. The old sorcerer takes it all in and seems pleased that the family is doing better, but warns Surm to “be wary of the King’s favor, for it will wax and wane.”

While the party prepares and gathers and their gear for the coming journey, Surm takes his uncle aside andd tells him about the Schir demons and the ritual by which they are bound to the crystal. He asks his old mentor if he has had dealings with rituals and summonings of this type before. Thormax tells him that he has not had much experience in those matters, as he concentrated primarily on matters of their bloodline (Undead), but that he doesn’t like the risk of losing control of such creatures. He advises his nephew not to use the thing.

That night, Savaric entertains the old man with the tale of his taming a dragon at a carnival. . .

17 Growth 508

The party mounts up, says their farewells to Thormax, and starts riding to Braith. As they travel, Savaric does what he can to care for the various wounds sustained by the group. The day is bright and warm and largely uneventful, though they do come across an old, dilapidated gallows along the way. The wood is rotten and its juxtaposition against the beauty of the day is consider “creepy” by everyone and places a pall over the day’s journey.

At the end of the day, the party makes a camp and bunks for the night. The night passes without incident.

18 Growth 508

The party is greeted by another, beautiful spring day. The journey is largely uneventful, though the party does encounter, toward the end of the day, a open-air shrine to the god Hathras. On the altar, as per tradition, pilgrims have left supplies for fellow travelers to help them on their journey. Someone has left some arrows, some flint and steel, a lamp, and a whetstone. In an unusual show of reverence, Savaric leaves a day of rations on the altar.

As the sun sinks below the horizon, the party finally arrives at the city gates of Braith. They are welcomed by the guards as they pay their gate taxes. Directions are found to various inns in the vicinity and the party decides on Rydor’s Honor. It is apparently owned by an ex-adventurer.

They enter the inn under the sign of a man with a double-bladed axe. After making arrangements with the innkeep for rooms, meals, baths, stabling, and laundry, they all enter the lively common room. Here, a wide variety of races can be seen drinking together— elves, dwarves, humans, and halflings. Surm puts out feels for ships going to Jenna. Mõrvar sidles up to a sexy half-elf named Dornys, from Ebongate. Rilka buys a pitcher of common wine, while Savaric springs for the good stuff.

Surm is told of a Captain Westin Gale of the Waveraker. He’s an honest man and a good sailor. When he’s doing well, and in port, he’s usually at The Yawning Wyrm, a more “high class” inn near the city’s center. Surm decides to try and find the Waveraker at the docks the next day.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar starts to get a bit “handsy” while dancing and while sitting with Dornys. This seems to put the adventuresome half-elf off and she takes her leave, leaving the unrepentant Mõrvar to pout. Rilka tries to get some dancing started, but to no avail—even earning a “stink-eye” from a table full of dwarves. Finally, the party adjourns to their rooms for the night.

19 Growth 508

In the morning, arrangements are made to stay another day at Rydor’s Honor and the party makes their way to the docks to see the Harbormaster.

Inside the Harbormaster’s office, they are greeted by an officious clerk who must be bribed to get the information about the Waveraker. Finally, they are told that the ship has, indeed, put into harbor at Braith.

As they approach the ship, Surm spots a half-orc on deck and hails him. After a brief exchange, the half-orc sailor says that he will “rouse” the Captain. After a few moments, they are welcomed aboard and greeted by Westin Gale, a human man in his late-thirties. He invites them to come into his office.

The Waveraker seems to be a sound and hearty ship. The Captain’s office is roomy, as such things go, and the party settles in to negotiate their passage. The Captain is heading for Jenna in two days and will be willing to take on passengers. He charges them a rate of 2 silver pieces per mile, and 5 silver pieces per mile for the trouble of carrying livestock. Surm, as per usual, is outraged at the price. After a bit of discussion, it is decided that the party will most likely sell its livestock as opposed to paying for their passage.

The party agrees to meet at dawn on the 21st to cast off and make their way into the city, where they shop, sell their excess gear, arrange to have their armor polished, and purchase a few healing potions for their journey.

20 Growth 508

The party spends the entire day at Rydor’s Honor. Nothing of note occurs.

21 Growth 508

As the morning sky begins to lighten, the party arrives at the docks and boards the Waveraker, bound for Jenna. The crew seems to be lively and professional and the weather is good.

During the course of the day, Surm and Savaric notice one of the human crewmen having a conversation with the half-orc that they had encountered previously. Both are looking at Rilka and Savaric and pointing a lot. Finally, the sailors approach Savaric.

The human introduces himself as Ewan and indicates that the half-orc is Dask. Apparently, the sailors amuse themselves with bare-knuckle fighting down in the hold. Dask is the current champion. The two want to know if Savaric would be interested in fighting. Savaric indicates that he is. Essentially, Ewan collects admission of one copper from all the onlookers and he and the two fighters each get an equal share of the pot. Of course, side bets are also known to happen. Mõrvar wants in on a side bet and Ewan gives him 2:1 odds against Savaric. They all arrange to meet down in the hold around sundown.

In the meantime, Surm finds that the ship’s motion is not agreeing with him and he goes down into his cabin to rest.

That evening, a small crowd gathers down in the hold. Ewan collects his admission fees from everyone while Savaric and Dask prepare for their bout. Anticipation hangs thick in the air as the two fighters pace each other in a tight ring. Finally, Ewan starts the match.

And it’s over in a heartbeat.

Savaric, with two fast punches, lays Dask out flat.

Mõrvar and Savaric collect their winnings and everyone calls it a night.

22 Growth 508

The next day, the party finds Dask down in the galley. He is sporting a swollen lip and black eye. Savaric approaches him with some trepidation, but the other half-orc just shrugs it off and says it was a fair fight.

Later that afternoon, everyone on deck looks in wonder as a bronze dragon floats along the wind currents a distance away from the ship. By accounts, seeing a bronze dragon on a journey is a good omen and the crew is cheered.

23 Growth 508

This day passes without much incident, thought a Eacenian fishing boat is seen out in the water.

24 Growth 508

This day brings torrential rain and more seasickness for Surm. As water pelts the deck, Savaric remains outside and makes small talk with Dask. Capatin Gale indicates that the rain may slow down their travel, adding time to the journey.

25 Growth 508

The rain has grown into a full-blown storm. Savaric, still sniffly from his drenching on the previous day, rides out the storm on deck.

26 Growth 508

The storm has passed, but Savaric feels weak and has the chills. A plague ship is spotted on the horizon. This casts a pall over the crew and prayers for those “poor devils” on board.

27 Growth 508
The day is clear and warm. Savaric still feels weak and ill as the ship puts into harbor at Jenna late in the afternoon.

After settling with the Harbormaster for their gate taxes and such, the party looks around for an inn, settling on the Whistling Hunter. They find it under the sign of a woodsman with obviously pursed lips. A pretty, red-haired woman tends the bar and lets them know that they have only single occupancy room available, but they could use the suite. Cots could be brought up to help accommodate them.

Down in the common room, Savaric purchases some fine wine, hoping to warm the chill in his bones. The room is filled with a wide variety of traverlers from all over Zaldara.

Surm asks around for merchants heading to Riverton, hoping to travel in numbers for safety. He does encounter a merchant called Danu who will be heading to Riverton in two weeks and could use some experienced bodyguards. As the party wants to get on the road much sooner than that, they respectfully decline.

28 Growth 508

The party packs up and heads out of Jenna on the road east to Riverton. Savaric appears to be recovering from his cold, not feeling nearly as week as before.

Along the way, they come across the charred ruins of a razed village. It looks like the damage was done a long time ago and the group moves on.

That evening, as Savaric watches over the sleeping forms of his companions, he listens to the howling of wolves in the distance. Suddenly, a shadowy, snarling form springs from the underbrush and attacks him. He makes short work of the creature, a wolf, though he is bitten in the process. The others, eventually roused from their slumber, wonder why a lone wolf would attack so—perhaps it was sick. With these unsettling thoughts, the group settles in for the remainder of the night.

4 Illumination 508

After several more days of uneventful journeying, the party arrives at the town of Riverton at the base of the Slayt Mountains. There is a makeshift gate set up on the road with local militia assigned to collect taxes. The group pays their taxes and enters the town, asking about the location of Lord Coln’s lodge. They find out that it is located on the far side of town, near the mountains. The party takes the road that leads out of town and heads off to meet their (hopefully) future employer…

TO BE CONTINUED

View
Session Eighteen
Climbing the Summit

4 Illumination 508

That evening, the party arrives at the lodge of Lord Coln on the far end of the town of Riverton.

At the end of a gentle, upward slope, they encounter an estate protected by wooden walls and a large gate. The gate is manned by a group of liveried soldiers. After Surm explains their business with the nobleman, one of the guards sends word to the main house of the party’s arrival.

Eventually, they are brought to the main lodge house of the estate and are met by an older man called Leofric, Lord Coln’s chamberlain. The party is welcomed by the chamberlain and brought into the house. The entry chamber of the lodge seems well-equipped for armed visitors, as the walls are lined with various pegs and racks for equipment. The party is asked to leave their weapons here and are escorted into a small rustically decorated sitting room. The room houses several stuffed animal heads and a large, furred, animal-skin rug. Here, Leofric offers them refreshment and asks for them to await his lord.

Soon, the party is met by a Lord Coln. The nobleman is a man of middle years, with a long, thick mustache and a large body that was probably once muscular, but has since degenerated to a state of pudgy comfort. He is starting to go bald and has a rugged, tanned complexion. He gives the party a hearty welcome to his lodge and takes a seat to hear their business.

In the course of their conversation, Coln indicates that the task of retrieving a griffon’s egg is still unfulfilled. It is a difficult task—the mountain passes are high and treacherous, occupied by more than just griffons, and the beasts themselves are not exactly safe. Surm assures him that they are the party for the job, because with them travels the great Savaric, " Slayer of the blood-beast of Stavan, router of the kobold’s clan underneath Corocal’s Barrow. "

The nobleman is glad to hear it, excited at the prospect of finally getting the egg that he wants. He offers the party 3500 gold pieces for the egg, should they be able to retrieve it. After a bit of negotiation, Coln agrees to pay the price for the delivered egg, regardless if another party brings him one in the interim. They seal the deal with a handshake.

It will take three to four days of mountain travel to arrive at the griffon breeding grounds in the upper reaches of the Slayt Mountains. Their gracious host offers to allow them to stay in his guest rooms for the night.

5 Illumination 508

In the morning, the party travels back into Riverton to shop for supplies. Surm notices that many of the streets are being patrolled by paladins of Barthal. They also meet with Master Cuthmund, an alchemist. He will concoct a sleep potion with which to dose a full-grown griffon. He provides two doses of the mixture. He also indicates that he would be interested in purchasing a griffon’s mane, should they come across one in their travels…

Completing their shopping expedition, they return to the mountains, passing through Lord Coln’s lodge on the way. Here they are allowed to stash some of their belongings, including some of their community funds. Finally, around noontime, the party starts moving into the upper passes.

After spending the day climbing steep slopes deeper into the mountains, the party ends the day making camp on the pass. As the group makes preparations for the coming night, an ogre lumbers into their encampment. The beast is soon dispatched and its corpse is rolled off of the side of the cliff.

The rest of the night, though cold, passes without incident.

6 Illumination 508

The party breaks camp in the morning and continues up the pass. As they travel upward, it gets harder and harder to breath, making the journey arduous and tiring.

Late in the morning, Savaric hears movement coming toward them from around a corner on the pass. The party lies in wait as an ogress comes bounding around the corner. A brief fight ensues, ending in the death of the monstrous creature. Her corpse, too, is thrown off of the cliff alongside the pass.

That afternoon, the party encounters another obstacle. The pass narrows to a thin ledge for a distance of about ten feet, widening again after the ledge. Savaric tries to cross, bearing a rope to secure to the other side. He falls, but is dragged back up by the others. He removes his armor and tries again, finally making the crossing. He attaches the rope to pitons hammered into the mountain wall along the way. Once the rope is secure, he crosses, carefully, back to his friends.

Now all of them make the crossing, with the rope forming a kind of rail. They are forced to leave the mules, and some of their equipment, behind, hoping to be able to come back to it once their objective is complete. They also leave the pitons and robe to be used on their return trip.

That evening, snow flurries begin to fall as they make a camp on the pass. Night passes without incident.

7 Illumination 508

That morning begins cold and overcast as the party continues up the mountain. Early on, they are forced to tread carefully through a narrow field of rocky debris, making their footing treacherous on the still-climbing slope.

As Savaric leads the way, he finds that the slope begins to incline quite steeply. Trudging his way to the top of the next slope, he loses his footing on some of the loose debris and slides steeply down through a crevasse. Catching his breath after the fall, the half-orc takes in his surroundings.

He finds himself in a pile of refuse and garbage. There seem to be some rotted out stalls or stables nearby. He thinks he is in a large, man-made chamber, supported by four carved pillars. There are old tents and lumber strewn about the smelly mess of the room.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party has secured a rope to allow them to lower themselves down into the crevasse, which they begin to do so, one by one.

Savaric hears movement in the shadows and soon finds himself confronted by a bizarre creature with three legs and an enormous, toothy maw. It swings its three tentacles wildly in the air him. A putrid stench emanates from the ghastly creature. Savaric begins to engage it in battle.

The rest of the party finally arrives in the chamber after climbing down the rope and assists the ranger in dispatching the ugly beast. Surm and Mõrvar identify the creature as an otyugh, a beast that feeds on garbage and offal.

The sorcerers provide light as the party begins to search out their surroundings. In amongst the rubble and debris, they some bones that are identified as belonging to “slurks”—monstrous, giant frogs with tusks that are sometimes used as mounts in underground lairs. They also come across some interesting finds:

  • Three tanglebolts : three sickly bolts etched with spider webs and vines, capable of entangling their target upon being hit.
  • An " assisting glove ": The wearer of this simple glove can speak a command word to transform it into a glowing disembodied hand. As a swift action, the wearer can have the glove assist him with a task as if using the aid another action; the glove uses the wearer’s base attack bonus or skill ranks when making the check to see if aid another is successful (it does not gain the benefit of the wearer’s ability scores or other bonuses). The hand remains until it has attempted one action or until 1 minute passes, whichever comes first, at which time it becomes a nonmagical lambskin glove.
  • Two potions: Cure Light Wounds and Cure Moderate Wounds (1 dose each)
  • A scroll in a waterproof scroll case. The sorcerers were unable to decipher the script.

The room also seems to have some sort of plumbing system attached to the ceiling. There are also two sets of double-doors: one to the “west” and one to the “north”. The party gathers to contemplate their next move…

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Session Nineteen
Exploring the Ruins

7 Illumination 508 (cont’d)

After gathering their treasures, the party approaches the wooden double-doors in the northwest corner of the subterranean chamber. Savaric searches the door for traps and finds none. Then he cautiously pushes the heavy, slightly warped doors apart.

The doors open up into a large rectangular chamber. More piping lines the eastern ceiling, leading to, and through, a door in the northeast corner of the room. Another set of doors are set into the western wall and in the northwestern corner. The room is has several mine carts, some overturned, others upright, filled with unprocessed ore. The gleam of minor gemstones flicker in the sorcerous light provided by one of the Ulrich brothers. Mold and fungus gather in patches on the walls and the floor.

Savaric, Surm, and Mõrvar enter the room and begin to search. Surm is accompanied by Rilka, who guards his back. As the party moves slowly about the room, Savaric sees some sort of creature dangling down from the overhead head pipes, reaching out toward Mõrvar. Then he feels a tug on his belt pouch. He turns and sees a small, slightly demonic looking creature with large ears and a mouth full of sharp teeth. It’s wearing some sort of tool belt. The creature gasps as the half-orc swings at it with his sword, yelling that “They’re things hanging from the pipes!”

Mõrvar turns and sees the creature behind him, who has just dropped down from the ceiling. A dagger flicks out toward him and he manages to get out of its way. Surm and Rilka turn toward the ruckus and start to move into action. The half-orc crosses the room the quickly to assist the ranger while Surm begins to ready a spell.

The creature across of Savaric bites him viciously but for very little effect. Meanwhile, Surm hurls a ball of sorcerous frost toward his brother’s antagonist. Soon, both creatures are dispatched and the party are looking over the bodies. None of them had encountered such creatures before. Surm determines that the tools they wear around their belts are essentially lock-picking tools, so his brother collects them for use, and to possibly sell in the city.

Savaric checks the door in the northeast corner and finds no traps. However, he cannot open it as it appears to be blocked with a pile of cold slag. With that exit being blocked, the party decides to try the door to the west. After the usual searches, the ranger opens the doors into a cavern tunnel extending to the left and to the right. Not wanting to go wandering around a cave complex, the group decides to try the northwest door. Once again, Savaric makes the usual searches and opens the doors into a smaller, circular room.

There are doors at the north, west, and east sides of the circle. Near the center of the room is a flat, stone altar. Near the altar are a ring of lit braziers. Above them, the ceiling is nearly black with soot. Some kind of writing is smudged with soot onto the northern door. The party enters the room cautiously and carefully and begin to search it out.

The altar has symbols etched into it depicting an armored dwarf, a swinging hammer, an anvil, and much smaller dwarf-like figures. The door is smudged in soot with characters that none of the party can read. The eastern door has heat emanating from beyond it. This room also has bears patchy colonies of fungus and mold in the far corners and on the walls and floor. Savaric attempts to search the eastern door, but nearly burns himself in the process. Deciding that the writing on the northern door may be a warning of some type, they decide to try the western door.

These doors open up into some sort of catacomb. Surm sends in some magical light so that they can see inside. A narrow corridor goes north and south, with another corridor leading straight ahead into an alcove. The alcove is lined with biers filled with bones and the remains of burial shrouds. Fungus and mold also line the walls and ceiling. They then to decide to split up. Savaric, using his orcish darkvision, heads to the south while Surm and Rilka head to the north with the light.

Savaric turns the corner and sees that the corridor ends in another alcove. The walls are lined with biers and with phosphorescent fungus. The center of the alcove is occupied by the stone effigy of a dwaven warrior, standing on a stone anvil. He bears a shield with some sort of inscription and a metal hammer. Taking in the sight, he decides to report back to his companions.

Meanwhile, Rilka and Surm explore the northern corridor. Turning the corner, they, too, see that it ends in alcove lined with biers and phosphorescent fungus. However, this alcove’s back wall is actually a railing, similar to what one would see on a balcony. Surm hangs back in the light while Rilka moves forward to use her orcish sight. She notes that the balcony overlooks a steep 20’ drop to a cavern below. The cavern is covered in an eerie glow, probably provided by the rows of man-sized mushrooms that occupy much of the chamber. The smell of fungus is strong here and the stuff probably lines the floors and ceiling of the chamber.

By this time, Savaric and Mõrvar have caught up with the others. They decide that they don’t wish to explore the cavern at this time, as there is now telling how deep into the mountain it may go. They decide go check out the stone effigy that Savaric had found.

Surm translates the inscription on the shield from High Dwarven: “Ye that would inherit this weapon, bring me that marvel which can swallow a city, yet can be swallowed by an ant.” The party determines that this probably means water. After a brief discussion, it is determined that Savaric should put some water on the statue’s mouth. Surm backs up into the nearby corridor to avoid the effects of any traps sprung while Savaric steps forward and pours a bit of water on to the carven dwarven lips. A small metallic “click” is heard and the hammer shifts position in the dwarf’s hands. The half-orc takes his prize.

No one can determine what sort of metal the hammer is made of, though it is clearly not steel or iron. After a brief discussion of party treasure distribution, Mõrvar ends up with the hammer. Finally, the party decides to return to the circular altar chamber and continue through the northern door.

After checking the soot-covered doors for traps, Savaric opens them up into a larger, also circular, room. The center of the room is occupied by a raised platform holding a circular table lined with chairs that are thrown about and in disrepair. The floors, ceiling, and walls of the room are covered in mold and fungus and mushrooms grow in batches in the corners. At the far end of the room is a strange creature. It is small, but humanoid, with a large mushroom cap housing sets of misshapen eyes. The cap splits into a wide smile filled with flat, fungoid teeth. Its limbs look like plant stalks that wave out from its stalk-like torso. It waves its limbs at Savaric and slowly makes its way across the room.

The creature finally stops before engaging directly with Savaric. It begins to clear away fungus trails on the floor in the shape of some sort of script. No one can read the script. The creature seems to grow more agitated, its stalks vibrating and waving about as the party attempts to communicate in the various languages known to them—to no avail. It tries to write something else in the floor in some sort of incomprehensible script. Finally, clearly frustrated, the creature returns to the north end of the room and takes up a position near the northern door.

Savaric reveals that the creature is probably a sentient fungus known as a Fungus Leshy. They are guardians of groves of mushrooms and other fungi, protecting and nurturing the colonies. Surm speculates that it may be trying to warn them away from the northern door. After a brief discussion, the party decides to try the eastern door. As they cautiously make their way into the slick-floored room, the Leshy continues to keep his vigil at the northern door, its torso waving back and forth in an alien dance.

Savaric checks the door for the usual traps and opens it into a smaller, square room with counters and a hearth—probably a kitchen. There is a table in the center of the room, surrounded by discarded chairs. Various cutlery and utensils litter the floor of the room. Pipes run in the ceiling and into a small pump near a basin at the corner of the room. There is a door in the east end of the room and in the south end of the room. The party cautiously makes its way inside.

As Savaric begins to search the room, starting with the central table area, Rilka and the others make spread out in the room, taking a look around. The half-orc is looking under the table when he notices that a cloak draped over one of the discarded chairs begins to raise, revealing the form of a hunched figure. All of them begin to hear a wailing moan as the cutlery begins to rise off of the floor. As the others stand watching, waiting to see what happens next, Surm quickly makes his way to the southern door and through it. Suddenly, the cutlery flies through the air, attempting to strike the others. Savaric attempts to attack the floating cloak and Mõrvar moves to close with their foe. The cutlery flies again and then Mõrvar attacks the apparition with a powerful attack. The cutlery falls to the floor.

Mõrvar gathers up the fallen cloak and the party makes their way through the southern door to follow Surm.

Meanwhile, Surm finds himself in a forge. There are several, lit forges in the room, as well as several tubs that have spigots attached to pipes running into the chamber. There are cobwebs and fungus throughout the room. The western door is blocked by two hot braziers burning in front of it. One of the southern doors is blocked with a pile of cold slag while another stands closed.

With everyone getting a better look at the room, it appears that smears and lines in the fungus on the floor indicate that there has been in movement in the room recently. Further, Savaric spies a pair of eyes spying on them from the pipes at the south of the room. Suddenly, flasks of acid begin flying from the cover of the pipes and splashing to the floor. The party engages with the creatures, which take full advantage of the cover provided by the plumbing. Finally, the creatures are dispatched and are revealed to be more of the creatures encountered previously, also hiding in the pipes.

Suddenly, another of the creatures emerges from the non-blocked doorway to the south. This one is obviously female and is a spellcaster, filling the south end of the room with multicolored light, blinding and stunning Rilka and Savaric. Mõrvar and Surm engage in battle with the creature, finally taking her down. The two half-orcs eventually recover from their spell-induced daze.

Finally able to search the room, Surm discovers that the brazier have been rigged to burn anyone who tampers with them. Further, he finds a crossbow trap set up beneath one of the tubs. They also find various masterwork artisan’s tools for weaponsmithing in the room. There are also other works of metal found in the debris near the forges: a battleaxe, a heavy crossbow, and a well-made scabbard. The party then decides to check out the room where the female spellcaster came from.

This room is dominated by three large metal tanks, each with plumbing attached to them. The low, metallic hum of industry fills the room. The floor is slightly slick with water slowly leaking from the pipes. In the far corner of the room is a scattered alchemical lab. Once again, the party encounters a pair of the small, acid-hurling creatures in the plumbing, quickly dispatching despite the cover provided by the pipes. After dealing with the creatures, the party searches the room. Rilka discovers a secret compartment containing a small music box, some discarded gears and other mechanical parts, two scrolls, a small key (like for a cabinet or wardrobe), and a jaunty hat. The group then settles in to decide what to do next. . .

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Session Twenty
Feathered Fury

7 Illumination 508 (continued)

Examining their new finds, Surm and Mõrvar determine that the scrolls are for the spells Detect Undead and Color Spray. Surm also examines the music box for traps, but finds none. Rilka opens the music box to find a padded lid with the mechanism inside it. If the small key on the side is turned, it plays a lullaby. She then dons the jaunty hat before joining the others in re-exploring the previous room.

As Rilka watches for intruders, the party re-searches this room, finding nothing further. They then move back to the kitchen, where they had previously encountered the angry spirit. They search out the room under the half-orc’s watchful gaze but find nothing out of the ordinary.

Next they check the larder next door to the kitchen. Surm checks the door for any unexpected traps laid by the Jinkins, but finds none. Inside is a great deal of mold and fungus draped over opened barrels and crates. A door leads out of the room. Surm, Mõrvar, and Savaric check out the room while Rilka waits in the kitchen. Savaric finds an unopened barrel and goes to check it out when he hears a “pfftt” sound and a spray of spores flies past him from the mold that covers the barrel. Suddenly, a tendril springs forth from the mass and attempts to hit the ranger. Everyone moves out of the larder and back into the kitchen to regroup.

After a series of experiments with the mold, they determine that it can fire a narrow stream of spores about 30’ from its core at the center of the larder—including through the open kitchen doorway. It seems to be able to detect movement more than sight. Mõrvar uses his magic to pick up a fork in the kitchen, enshroud it in light, and then drops it in the center of the larder. The mold lashes out at the fork while Savaric fires an arrow into the mold. It penetrates the plant, seeming to anger it as its tendril lashes about in agitation. His shot not only pierced the mold, but embedded the arrow into the barrel, which develops of slow leak of whatever it contained. By the smell of it, probably mead. Savaric continues to fire at the creeper from outside the range of its spores (which Surm has determined are probably used to lure its prey closer using some form of hypnosis). Finally, the creature stops its agitated movement and all is quiet in the larder.

The party then searches the larder again and finds nothing but a now-empty barrel of mead and more mold and fungus. Surm makes a show of checking the door for traps and opens it, revealing a staircase heading down.

The party follows the staircase down into a cavern chamber filled with mushrooms of various sizes, from the tiny to the twenty-feet-high variety. Savaric senses movement in the mushrooms. The party continues forward, but warily. Finally, Rilka senses movement as well as one of the mushrooms rushes forward to attack. It has a huge, bulbous purple head and four lashing tendrils that it uses to attack. After a brief fight, the fungus goes down and the party begins to search the chamber in earnest. Savaric finds some skeletal remains wearing a chain shirt that is in good repair and a small, grey prism-shaped stone. When he picks up the stone, it seems to flare into flame and begins floating in a circle around his head! The flame gives off light, but no heat. He clasps the floating stone again, which douses the light and ceases its orbit. Surm reveals that the item is probably a ioun torch, a burnt-out ioun stone with minimal power. In the discussion that follows, Surm ends up with the ioun torch and his brother, Mõrvar with the chain shirt. He decides to carry his scale mail. There is another tunnel leading out of the room, which the party decides to follow.

This tunnel leads back into the mushroom-filled chamber that was seen below the catacombs they had found earlier. Surm and Rilka hang back while Savaric and Mõrvar decide to search out the chamber. As Savaric explores one of the clusters of mushrooms, he, once again, senses movement. He turns to see a creature that looks like a lumpy albino toad, the size of a man,, with long tusks. A slurk! It leaps toward him, its mouth opened wide. Savaric engages with the creature while Mõrvar comes to his aid. Rilka and Surm start coming closer to the battle, careful not to run too fast on the slick, mold-covered floor. As the half-orc engages with the enemy, Surm arrives before Rilka and casts a magic missile, felling the foul beast. Afterwards, after a party discussion of the relative worth of ivory and bone, Savaric decides to de-tusk the creature in hopes of selling the bones.

The party makes their way back into the complex and back to the room where they had encountered the Leshy before. It still seems to be guarding the northern door, frantically waving its tendrils as people come closer to it. After a brief discussion over the merits of possibly fighting the Leshy for access to that door, the party decides to leave it and move on.

They return to the large marketplace room where they had first arrived. From here, they go through the other set of double doors into a cavern tunnel. They follow the cavern tunnel to its end, where they encounter a suspended mine car on a steel zipline leading to a receptacle far below. They check out the gear box of the line, determining that there must be some sort of controls for the mine car. Mõrvar goes to check out the actual car when he is forced to jump back as the car suddenly goes careening down the line and crashing into the receptacle below. Apparently, there were no brakes. . .

The party returns to the marketplace and decide to begin their ascent out of the ruins. When they climb out and to the other side of the rock slide that brought them into the complex, they find that it is evening time. They decide that it would be better to camp back below than out in the open pass, so they once again descend into the marketplace.

8 Illumination 508

After an uneventful night, the party climbs out, once again, onto the pass. After traveling for most of the day along the passes, higher and higher into the mountains, with the air getting thinner with each step, Savaric find signs of griffons inhabiting the area. He determines that they are probably a bit higher up than where the party is now. He collects the feathers, leaves the spoor, and leads on. After a short time, they find a steep trail leading higher into the mountains. Mõrvar once again uses his magic to handle the rope and grapple, securing the grapple at the top of the trail to aid in the climbing. Savaric leads the way, heading up the trail.

The trail ends in at a steep cliff, about 10’ high. At the top of the cliff is a nest with two griffons tending it. They shriek in anger as Savaric hurriedly heads down the trail to warn the others. The two griffons take to the air and swoop down upon the both sides of the party at the pass below. Mõrvar manages to dose two arrows with the sleep poison secured at the alchemist shop in Riverton. He fires one at the griffons on their initial approach and misses. The griffons attack with beak and talon, fierce in their anger and indignation. Mõrvar manages to get another shot off with the second dosed arrow, hitting one of the griffons. However, as the poison needs time to work, it is hard to tell if it will be effective before the fight is done. Finally, Rilka manages to slay one of the beasts, its body falling far down below into the lower passes. The others concentrate on the one remaining, finally allowing it to meet the same fate as its mate. “So much for the griffon’s mane,” someone quips.

Rilka follows the narrow trail and climbs up the cliff into the nest to retrieve a single griffon egg. She places it in the specially-made satchel, gathers more feathers for Savaric, and makes her way back to the others.

By the end of the day, the party has made it back to the hole where they fell into the dwarven ruins. They decide to make another camp there that night as well before leaving in the morning, hopefully figuring out how to get past the natural slide that took them into the ruins in the first place. Mõrvar comes up with a plan to create a secure platform across the hole so that they can climb up the slide without falling through the hole. They decide to use the workbenches from the smithy down below to make the platform. With both Rilka’s and Mõrvar’s engineering know-how, they should be able to pull it off.

Once they climb below again, they make their way to the smithy, passing the still agitated Leshy along the way. They leave the Leshy alone and stop only to gather the large workbenches, dragging them back to the first marketplace room. There they make their camp for the night.

During the night, Savaric notices movement in the room. He wakes the others and can see where one of the doors leading out of the room has been shut. They all go to check out the next room to see who it was, but find no other sign of passing. Other than that, their night passes without incident.

9 Illumination 508

That morning is a lot work, hauling equipment and themselves up through the hole, then the workbenches as well. They manage to secure the workbenches and create the platform, according to Mõrvar’s plan, and make their way up the slide. By this time, it is afternoon. They continue down the pass toward Lord Coln’s lodge.

10 Illumination 508

After a cold, but uneventful night, the party continues down the pass. Finally, in the afternoon, they arrive at the make-shift bridge they had built out of pitons and rope. Only one of the two mules they left behind remains. There are signs of a struggle and blood. Everyone crosses the bridge successfully, passing the equipment over as well. After collecting “Pack”, they move on.

Shortly before making camp that evening, the party comes across the site of the battle they had with the female ogre on the way up the pass. Nothing much seems to have changed at the site.

11Illumination 508

Breathing begins to get easier as the party leaves the higher passes by noon this day. That afternoon finds them on the outskirts of Lord Coln’s lands. Here they are greeted by guardsmen who escort them into the estate. At the door of the lodge, they are met by Leofric, who has them wait in the entry way for his lord (the party is quite dirty and bloody and moldy). Lord Coln himself meets them and congratulates them on their success, leading them into the parlor for a bit of celebration. He invites them to have a drink and sit and he goes to fetch them the payment that was promised. He returns with a leather sack containing 350 platinum pieces and places it on the table for the party to take. Savaric gives the Lord a griffon feather as a souvenir. They tell him the story of what they found and how they vanquished the pair of griffons—he pays rapt attention to the tale. Surm, after Lord Coln brings up that they were every bit as good as their recommendation, asks the nobleman for his own letter of recommendation, which Lord Coln says he will draw up. He also offers to allow them to stay in his home tonight and bathe.

That night, the party is treated to a sumptuous dinner and drinks in Lord Coln’s dining hall. Afterwards, they have more drinks in the study. Surm, who has been studiously watching his own alcohol intake this evening, then approaches the nobleman about purchasing the slurk “ivory”. Between the alcohol and Lord Coln’s own disposition, he acquiesces to buy two of the tusks at 300 gold pieces each. He pays the party in a red garnet and a violet garnet, stating that he is low on coin at the moment due to a certain purchase he has just made.

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Rage and Raven: Ill Met in Kalimsport
Part I

1 Awakening 508

It is New Year’s Day in Kalimsport and it is an inauspicious start of the year for Lenoria. After an ill-advised political argument with two Sianaean merchants in the common room of The Elixir and the Prayer, she now finds herself on the run through the streets of the city, the merchants shouting imprecations at her as she bluffs her way past a baker bundled down with his wares. She turns a corner finds herself in a cluttered alleyway. She tries to climb over the clutter, but to no avail. She turns to see the merchants arriving and drawing clubs, smiling, as they call her a “disloyalist bitch” in Sianaean.

It is a rough morning for Rhain Ortha as well. He has spent the night in an alleyway with his horse after being kicked out of the Enchanted Staff for starting a drunken brawl. He awakes in the small alcove he settled himself into the night before to see a young Southron woman with raven tattoos on her face run past him being chased by two wealthy-looking men with clubs. Where he comes from, two men chasing a woman can not be up to any good. He hefts his weapons and steps out into the alley behind the men.

One of the men notices the big the Northron stepping out into the alley and nudges his friend to get his attention. The men take in both the Southron woman and the Northron man surrounding them and one asks is this is a robbery. Rhain responds that he was wondering the same thing, with two men chasing a woman down an alley. Lenoria says that it was a difference of political opinion. One of the men in the middle agrees, stating that this is a private matter. Rhain shows no sign of leaving. So one man says to the other, “Come, Renzo, let’s get back to the ship.” The other man, Renzo, asks Rhain, “Will you let us pass?” After a second’s consideration, Rhain says, “No,” and attacks!

One merchant goes for Lenoria, while the other, Renzo, goes for Rhain. The merchants prove to be more formidable than either combatant thought. Nevertheless, the barbarian makes short work of the two men after Lenoria manages to break her weapon trying to dispatch her opponent. Rhain quickly takes the two men’s belt pouches and ushers Lenoria out of the alleyway. The two introduce themselves as they walk and decide to split the proceeds from the belt pouches once they find a place to sit. Talking along the way, they decide to head to the first tavern they find, The Two Talismans.

At the tavern, they split the gold found on the merchants—a whopping sixty gold pieces total. They celebrate with some food and drink and decide to celebrate New Year’s together. As the two continue to get acquainted, and the bar fills up with local patrons celebrating the holiday, they notice a pair of travelers come in. One, a young woman wearing a longsword, a shield, and a breastplate, is accompanied by a slighter companion, a man wearing a short sword and studded leather armor. They occupy a nearby table and attempt to converse in low tones, though it is hard in the noisy tavern. They have to raise their voices to be heard by each other, allowing Lenoria and Rhain to overhear their conversation. . .

“. . .it could be our chance," says the young man.

“Could be dangerous. . .”

“Yeah. . .but there could be treasure as well. Maybe some priceless ancient trinket or some such.”

“Or maybe goblins. Or worse. Where is this thing, anyway?”

“Ten miles south. In the foothills. Near a crystal formation. There’s a pit, maybe an old air shaft or something. We can lower a rope and go right inside. Take a look around. Climb back out. No worries.”

“We’ll need rope.”

“Among other things. We’ll provision in the morning and then head out. Come on, sis. It’ll be great!”

“No, it probably it won’t be. But I’ve got your back and I’ll be there.”

Lenoria and Rhain give each other significant glances. After a brief discussion over whether or not to invite themselves into the expedition or to simply take it out from under them, the two decide to team up and approach the two young travelers about joining them.

Lenoria interrupts their conversation, indicating that she couldn’t help but overhear their discussion and that she felt that she and her companion could be of some assistance, considering the possible danger involved. She seems to win the brother and sister pair over, despite some disconcerting asides from Rhain (where he brings up both the sister’s reluctance to go and the fact that it would be better to have he and Lenoria’s cooperation than their competition). The two introduce themselves as Alun and Kerra. In the course of the conversation, it is revealed that Alun is a scout and that Kerra is skilled with a sword. Lenoria reveals herself to be a priestess of Imtiau—a fact that seems to take Rhain by surprise.

After agreeing to go on this expedition together, Rhain suggests further cementing their camaraderie by spending the day together at the New Year’s Faire and by taking rooms at the same inn. Everyone is amenable to the idea and, after consulting with the barkeep as to available inns in the city, they decide to go to the Dragon’s Flagon near the south gate, being as how they’ll be exiting the city to the south anyway.

Lenoria leaves the tavern and collects her horse from the stables at the Elixir and the Prayer, heading back to the Two Talismans to meet back with the others. Then they all leave for the Dragon’s Flagon to secure rooms for the night before returning to the city center for the Faire.

At the Faire they all eat, drink, and play games and generally enjoy all of the entertainment provided. There are minstrels and jugglers and puppet shows and the like, as well as many merchants hawking their wares. Alun and Kerra are fairly frugal with their funds, but Rhain, flush with his new-found gold, seems determined to enjoy himself at the Faire. He pays a copper for nearly any game of skill he can find, winning numerous trinkets and dolls along the way. Finally he finds a game more to his liking—an axe throwing competition. His prowess with the weapon gets him to the final round, but he falls short—much to his dismay. He tosses his many, lesser, prizes and remains in a sour mood for much of the afternoon.

Along the way, Lenoria engages in conversation with the brother and sister duo, discovering that they originally hail from Crownport. Alun also reveals that he discovered the hole en route to Kalimsport with Kerra, though they did not have the means to explore it at the time so he waited to bring it up to his sister. In the meantime, Rhain finds another competition to test his mettle—the Taber toss. Once again, his strength manages to get him to the final round, but, even after Lenoria bestows the luck of her goddess upon him, he falls short of the final win. He drags himself off of the field, wishing to “bear his shame alone.” Lenoria tries to cheer him, though he broods for the remainder of the day.

Finally, after a full day of celebration, the new companions head back to the Dragon’s Flagon to rest for the next day’s expedition. Lenoria ends the day with special prayers of thanks to Imtiau.

2 Awakening 508

The newly-formed party head out first thing in the morning from Dragon’s Flagon and out of the south gate of the city. From the guards at the gate, they learn that the exit will have them entering the country of Kuskar. This means little to the intrepid adventurers and they move eagerly to the south in search of treasure and adventure.

Travel is slow, as neither Alun nor Kerra have mounts (unlike Rhain and Lenoria), but by midday Alun announces that they have reached the crystal formation that he’s been looking for as a landmark. Sure enough, they can see the sun glinting off of crystals embedded in the side of a large boulder. Alun indicates that the others should hang back as he checks out the hole first and he cautiously approaches the area near the boulder.

The others watch as Alun drops to the ground near the landmark, presumably at the site of the hole. Soon, he rises and makes his way cautiously back to the assembled companions. He says that he could see debris from where the hole had fallen through and a stonework floor below. He also says that he thought he heard movement down below. Something is down there, but he couldn’t get a good look at it. It’s decided that the rest of the party will approach and see what they can see.

Soon, everyone is gathered around the hole. Lenoria picks up a nearby stone and says a brief prayer over it. It is then engulfed in light. She casts the stone down into the hole, lighting up the entire room. In the light they all see a hideous, reptilian humanoid that hisses in the light and ducks out of sight as quickly as it can.

A knotted rope is quickly secured to the side of the hole and Rhain quickly climbs down into the lit room. It is a largish chamber, wider than the light given off by the stone thrown by Lenoria. Mosaics line the walls that depict the reptilian humanoids supplicating themselves before shadowy shapes floating in the sky. The floor bears a shallow pool, full of debris from the hole above it. Two archways lead to the west while a door leads to the north and another door leads to the east. Alun says that the humanoid ducked to the east. Rhain declares the way to be clear, so the rest of the party make their way down the rope.

Once everyone is down the rope, Rhain encourages Alun to lead the way. The scout chooses to start with the archways to the west. He leads down the hall, with Lenoria lighting their way with her prayer. He finds that the two archways meet in the same hallway and that hallway continues down and turns left back toward the direction of the room they just left, ending In a door. Alun checks the doors for traps and to see if it is locked. Satisfied on both counts, he opens the door to reveal a long, narrow chamber with mosaics on the walls depicting the reptilian humanoids in underground tunnels marching to war.

This room has a door to the west—presumably leading back to the entry chamber—and a door to the north. Alun checks the door to the north and finds that it is locked. He says that they can turn back and go another way or he can try to get past the lock. They opt to get past the lock. So he pulls out a leather pouch full of small tools and he works on the lock. Click! The lock is turned and they continue through the door into a hallway that ends in another door. Alun once again examines this door and opens it up into another long, narrow chamber.

This room bears mosaics with the reptilian humanoids engaging in ecstatic dances—some of them highly disturbing in their explicitness. Another door lies to the south of the room. Alun once again examines it and finds that it is locked. He uses his tools on the lock and once again conquers it. The door opens into a very short passage to another locked door. Alun stands in the passage and uses his tools on the lock. He then opens the door—and shuts it quickly. “There’re three of those things in there!” Everyone backs up into the narrow chamber and Rhain positions himself in doorway in hopes of bottlenecking any attackers in the passage.

Sure enough, the barbarian is accosted by two of the hideous creatures. Both are dispatched, one at a time in the bottleneck. “I thought you said there were three,” Rhain asks. Alun affirms that there were three. Lenoria offers to heal the barbarian, who bows his head and accepts. Then the party makes their way through the short passage into the room where the creatures came from.

This room is similar in size to the entry chamber. It, too, has a pool in the center of the room. Mosaics on the walls depict the creatures worshipping shadowy figures emerging from the sea. There is a door in the north end of the room. Alun checks out the door and, satisfied, leads the way through it into a long hallway.

The hallway ends in another door. Alun gives it his usual examination and opens it, revealing a small room filled with the debris of a fallen wall. Another door greets them on the far side of the room. Alun checks this door as well and declares it free of traps and unlocked. The party moves on into another, longer, hallway.

As the party continues down the corridor, Rhain decides to try and track the missing humanoid. Sure enough, he finds a track—probably made by the dusty debris from the previous room—leading down the hall. When the corridor leads to a fork, he is able to track the humanoid down one of the forks into another locked door. Alun makes short work of the lock and opens the door into another narrow room. This room bears mosaics depicting the reptilian humanoids enslaving other primitive humanoids and leading them into underground chambers. At the southern end of the room is a door and an archway. Another door leads to the west. Rhain finds another track that leads them to the archway, so they continue in that direction.

A short corridor leads to another door. Alun checks it out and the party continues through it into a largish room with bare walls and a floor full of filthy cloth pallets. Another archway leads to the south.

After following a brief, slightly turning corridor, the party finds themselves facing a door and a portcullis that lead into the same room. Through the portcullis they can see into the room and its three occupants. One is seated upon a throne made of discarded bones. It wears a skull headdress and is obviously in a position of authority. Another is a hulking specimen of the reptilian humanoids that the party has encountered thus far. The third is another of the hideous creatures, pointing frantically in their direction. The figure on the throne motions toward the party, speaking words that are not understood, and suddenly both Kerra and Rhain feel fear and a lack of hope creep into their being. The larger creature begins moving toward the portcullis.

The party retreats all the way back to the narrow chamber with the enslavement mosaic. There, Rhain, having shaken off the effects of whatever the enthroned creature had done to him and Kerra, prepares to bottleneck the coming attack in the archway. As expected, the brutish creature makes his way up the passage and through the archway. Rhain meets him in combat and eventually vanquishes him, though not before taking a crushing blow from the creature’s club. Lenoria attempts to heal him, with only modest effects. Kerra gives him a vial whose contents revitalize him considerably.

Before exploring the rest of the complex, the party decides to take on the enthroned creature and his lackey. A head-on attack is considered to be best. The party then heads back through the archway, through the pallet room, and into the corridor that leads to the throne room. Here Lenoria bestows the blessing of her goddess upon the party and divine luck upon Rhain who will be leading the attack.

Rhain springs into action. Running into the room, he barrels past the lackey and attacks the enthroned creature, slaying him so quickly that he doesn’t even have time to rise from his seat. Soon, the lackey is slain as well. Keys are collected from their corpses, though no other treasure can be found.

The room has two archways to the west. Alun once again leads the way, taking the north-most archway into winding corridor that leads into an empty room. Another archway leads to the west and a door leads to the east. They take the archway to the west, which takes them into a longish corridor that ends in a portcullis. Gazing into the room, they can see it is one of the narrow chambers with another mosaic depicting the reptilian humanoids eating the flesh of some large, prehistoric creature. Another portcullis is embedded in this chamber’s western wall.

As they open the portcullis leading into this chamber, they hear the portcullis on its western wall begin to open and two more of the hideous creatures emerge to engage with them. Soon, they are defeated as soundly as their brethren and the party move on to see what was in the room from which they emerged.

This room is another of the larger rooms, like the entry chamber, with a pool in the center and a mosaic depicting the monstrous creatures worshipping shadowy forms emerging from flames. A door in the southern end of the room leads back into the corridor from which the party came.

Frustrated with the strange design of the complex, the party decides to backtrack all the way to the narrow room in which they defeated the brutish specimen of the creatures. From there, they take the southern door and go down a winding corridor into a small room in which a tunnel has been dug into the eastern wall. After dispatching two of the hideous reptilian humanoids guarding the tunnel, they decide to see what lies beyond in the tunnel. . .

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Rage and Raven: Ill Met in Kalimsport Part Two
Part II

2 Awakening 508 (continued)

Kerra brings up exploring the rest of the complex before plunging headlong into the tunnels. The rest of the party of party agrees. They make their way up one of the unexplored passageways to a door. Alun checks the door and opens it, and then shuts it quickly. There are two of the reptilian creatures in the room beyond. Rhain takes up the point position just as the door opens again to reveal one of the creatures ready to attack.

Rhain dispatches this one quickly. The other one does not advance, but instead throws a javelin into the barbarian—surprising and angering him. Rhain advances into the room, as does Alun and Kerra. It manages to drop its club in the melee but attacks effectively with its claws and bite, much to Rhain’s dismay. Kerra finally finishes it off. Lenoria gathers everyone together into the range of her positive energy to help heal them.

They eventually make their way back to the entry chamber and check the remaining the door that they had not checked before. Alun finds no traps, but does find that it is trapped. He decides to use one of the keys that they had found on creatures they had killed in the “throne room” before. It works—and seems to trip a second mechanism that he had not found. He suspects that there was, in fact, a trap that he had not found. Everyone takes a step back as he opens the door. Nothing happens.

The open door reveals a narrow passageway that leads into to another unlocked door. This door leads into a larger chamber with iron chains set into the walls and a distinct odor in the air. An archway leads into another room, also odiferous with iron chains set into the walls. This room has a hide pallet with crude metal tools set upon it. The floor and walls have coppery stains set into them. No other exits lead from the room. The area seems played out, unless there is some secret passage that has yet to be revealed. Alun searches out the room and finds nothing of interest.

The party decide to climb their rope out of the entry chamber and make camp and try the tunnels in the morning.

3 Awakening 508

The following morning, the party reenters the ruins through the entry chamber, down the rope, and then makes their way to the tunnel chamber.

The tunnel is wide enough to allow them to travel two abreast and descends at a fairly steep angle. Rhain and Alun take the lead with Kerra and Lenoria following. The going is slow as the floor is natural stone, not worked, and quite uneven.

As they make their way down the tunnel, suddenly the two men cry out in alarm as two man-sized insects emerge from a cleft in the ceiling. The many-legged creatures have venom dripping from their large mandibles. Fortunately, the foul creatures are soon vanquished, curling up in the rictus of death.

The party soon find themselves in a larger chamber filled with thin, tooth-like stalactites and stalagmites. It’s difficulty to maneuver in the room without getting caught up in the thin protuberances. The chamber winds in either direction, left or right. They decide to veer to the left.

As they lead the stalactite/stalagmite chamber, they begin to hear voices in the chamber ahead. Lenoria casts light on a sling bullet and flings it into the chamber and then begins to cast guidance on everyone.

In the light come two figures that look like dwarves, but their skin has a grayish sheen and their eyes seem to absorb the light instead of reflect it. One has a light crossbow and the other wields a heavy shield and a warhammer.

Rhain hurls a javelin into one of the strange dwarves and then hides. Everyone else hides as well. The dwarves emerge from the chamber to investigate. Rhain then surprises the dwarf with the crossbow and disarms him. Then he trips the dwarf with the warhammer. As that dwarf tries to stand, he disarms him as well. The dwarf that had the crossbow then punches Rhain in the face. Alun then throws a dagger into the dwarf that had the warhammer, felling him. The other dwarf goes to get the fallen warhammer, but Rhain trips him and Kerra strikes him down. The party then loots them for their armor and weapons and belt pouches of gold.

The party continue down the passage to the left and then hear more voices, as well as a whip snap. Once again, Lenoria casts light upon a sling bullet and flings it into the chamber, revealing three of the strange dwarves—two armored up and armed with warhammers and one without armor and armed with a whip. Before them are chained and bound 3 goblins, one of the reptilian creatures they had encountered before, and a strange dark-skinned elf.

The party move forward and engage with the dwarves, eventually defeating them all. Rhain kills the bound reptilian creature without hesitation. Alun finds keys to the chains on the dead whip wielder and tosses them to the barbarian. After a brief consult with the party, he releases the bound elf, who cautiously makes his way out of the cavern and away. As for the goblins, Rhain begins stacking various burdens upon and makes it clear that if they don’t carry them, they’ll meet the same fate as the reptile.

Deeper in this chamber, they find a pile of gear—probably the former belongings of these slaves. Lenoria casts detect magic on the pile but detects none.

Gathering the bound and burdened goblins, the party make their way out of the chamber, continuing their way through the tunnel. Alun and Lenoria stay in the back with the goblin train while Kerra and Rhain take the lead. Once again, they hear voices as they approach a chamber. Lenoria casts light on a sling bullet and flings it into the chamber, revealing two dwarf sentries, who approach ready for a fight. They are soon dispatched. This chamber has a tunnel leading away that is blocked with a. makeshift barricade. Two pikes have also been erected with the heads of two those dark-skinned elves mounted upon them facing the tunnel. The main tunnel continues on, which the party follows.

Continuing down the tunnel, it begins to take a distinct slope downward. The party also begins to hear the sound of metal striking stone. They can continue down the slope or take a side tunnel. They decide to take the side tunnel. This tunnel leads to another pair of dwarf sentries, which are easily dispatched. Exploring the two side tunnels from the sentries, the party finds a chamber being used as a storage chamber. Various barrels have been placed here. Some contain ale, some contain dried sausages and the like. Rhain decides to leave the goblins here while they explore some of the other tunnels. He re-secures them hand-to-foot and gives them some of the food they found.

Heading down another side tunnel they find a chamber mainly occupied by a spring-fed pool of water. Here everyone refills their water skins. The party then head back to the storage chamber and collect their goblin porters and decide to head back toward where they first headed “left” to check out a different side chamber.

This tunnel seems to be circling back to the stalactite/stalagmite chamber. But before it does a hideous, carapace-covered monstrosity emerges from the ceiling and flings some sort of fibrous filament at Rhain. After a desperate fight, Kerra finally manages to disembowel it.

After circling back to the entry tunnel, the party decides to head back and not explore the caves any further. There’s no telling how much deeper into the under-dark they’ll end up delving and they’re woefully underprepared for that. Besides, they have plenty of armor to sell for profit here. They back track through the ruins to the original entry chamber and climb out, hauling up the armor with the rope. Rhain drops the key to the shackles down to the goblin once everyone else gets out and the rope is hauled up “Don’t you follow us. I’ll kill you.”

They finally arrive back at Kalimsport around sundown. They pay their gate taxes go to the various markets to sell off their goods for a pretty good profit. They all then go to the Dragon’s Flagon where Rhain buys ale for the house “To a successful quest!”, winning him the goodwill of the bar patrons for that evening.

Everyone discusses their future plans. Lenoria says that she goes where the goddess wills it. Rhain just wants to go where the party is and where his gold will take him. Kerra wants to head back to Crownport at some point. Rhain asks the barkeep where people can look for work and adventure. He indicates that the marketplace is where postings are made and news is discussed, or maybe bards have news of adventure and such. So Rhain and Lenoria say that they will go to the marketplace in the morning to seek out their next adventure.

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