Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Twelve
Blood Money

7 Growth 508 (con’td)

The marketplace at Josemeedt is as robust as the party remembers; merchants hawking their wares, traders negotiating prices, and travelers gathering at the Hall of Yülthn to swap tales and drink ale.

The party makes their way to the Hall of Yülthn to find Almaric. The hall is full of travelers, the smell of smoking meat and sweat, and badly-sung songs of battle. Eventually, they find the Boraelan in his usual seat. He seems glad to see them—until they reveal that not only do they not have “his” book, but that it may have been destroyed. They try to make it clear that they were never at the burnt out keep but at the same time make it clear that they were not able to retrieve the item the wizard seeks. They do, however, offer to sell him a spellbook they “came across in Borael”. Almaric grudgingly purchases the book for 75 gold pieces.

Surm and Mõrvar go with Almaric to his room to make the exchange of funds for book. There, Surm asks about the other news that Hakak had brought—that of their brother, Lothar. Almaric confirms that Lothar had been in Josemeedt, looking for them. From what he understands, he and three others were camping out some half-day’s walk north of the settlement.

At this point, the party takes their leave of Hakak. While the split is amicable, it is clear that the party will not miss him, and that he will not miss the party.

The party travels north, with Savaric tracking along the way, looking for the encampment. Sure enough, they find the remains of a camp. The tracks lead to the northwest—toward the village of Aeth, Lothar’s home—and Surm and Mõrvar’s former home. It seems that the band has gotten a two day head start on them. However, the party is on horseback while Lothar and his group are on foot. They decide to head toward Aeth, thinking to encounter Lothar along the way.

9 Growth 508

Having encountered thick forest the previous day, the party is slowed in their trek toward Aeth. Nevertheless, they encounter Lothar and his band that morning.

Lothar Ulrich is a tall man with blond hair and beard and piercing blue eyes. He carries a greataxe and wears several throwing axes on his belt. He travels with three others, two men and woman—all Jossians.

The meeting between Lothar and his two brothers is tense. Surm, as always, tries to keep the peace while Mõrvar is sullen and antagonistic. Lothar seems to be using all of his willpower to keep his anger in check. It seems that Alrik Brytagsson, the King of the Aethyngs (the clan to which Surm and Mõrvar used to belong), has told Lothar that he must offer Mõrvar the option of paying the weregildt (or blood-price) instead of killing him outright for the murder of their father, Kromas, two years ago. The price has been set at 500 gold pieces. In course of the conversation, it is also revealed that Alrik has called the Aethyngs to battle. A new warlord called Magrathar has been riding down from his stronghold in the mountains and raiding various small settlements in the area. Recently, he had the audacity to raid Aeth. In the process, the Ulrich’s sister Sonja was killed and their brother, Ren, and mother Hilda, were taken as slaves. This, so Surm speculates, is why Alrik has insisted on the weregildt. And this is a way in which the two of them could come home again, if they help the Aethyngs defeat Magrathar and rescue their mother and brother. Mõrvar doesn’t see why they should bother—the Aethyngs don’t want them and he and Surm do not need them. But Surm is insistent. After Lothar and Mõrvar trade more barbs, Surm asserts that, right now, they will not pay the price nor do they wish to battle Lothar. Lothar insists that Mõrvar is a coward—but allows the party to leave without attacking.

Surm and Mõrvar decide that the party should go to see their great-uncle Thormax. Like them, Thormax had been exiled by King Alrik for his sorcery and his undead-touched heritage. When Surm and Mõrvar were exiled, they went and lived with their great-uncle for a time. Along the way, they also tell the story of the death of Surm and Mõrvar’s father, Kromas. When the twins were 17, they returned home to attempt to reconcile with and forgive the family for the “taint” their father passed on to them. Upon the suggestion that he carried the tainted blood, Kromas became enraged and charged Surm with an axe. As the young man stared in disbelief, Mõrvar stepped in front of him, caught his father’s wrist in his hand, and as the older man physically shook with fear, Mõrvar slit his throat with the man’s own dagger. Mõrvar then tossed the bloody dagger at Lothar’s feet and said calmly, “I dare you to avenge him.” Mõrvar then just turned and walked away as if nothing had occurred. Surm surveyed the family as they stared in shock, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, you’re forgiven.” Then he followed Mõrvar out of the village. They have not been back there since.

Later that afternoon, they arrive at the hut where Uncle Thormax lives. After greeting the old man and settling, Thormax confirms Lothar’s tale regarding the raid on Aeth. Though they exiled him, Thormax keeps his ear to the ground for news from home. He also relates that Magrathar apparently has a witch in his employ—a witch with a bound demon that turns the tide of battle in his favor. When asked about Surm’s thoughts regarding helping the Aethyngs against Magrathar, Thormax agrees with the young man’s reasoning, and that Alrik needs all the help he can get against the witch’s power, but is not as optimistic that they will be accepted. Thormax allows the group to camp at his home and to leave some of their gear and treasure behind with him when they go to Aeth to meet with Alrik Brytagsson in the morning.

10 Growth 508

The party arrives at Aeth early in the morning. The village, never particularly large or grand, still smolders from the raid. Burned out buildings line the dirt streets. Families camp outside the remains of their homes. Warriors are gathering in camps throughout what is left of the village. They finally arrive at the longhouse, the seat of government for the village.

Here they are met by a villager called Koran, a man who remembers Surm and Mõrvar. He grimly greets the twins and their party and offers to let the King know that they are here. Soon, they are seen by Alrik Brytagsson. Alrik is a hale, but elderly, Jossian with white hair and a long white beard. He has a hawk-like nose and piercing green eyes. He is also currently in a leg-splint.

After exchanging tense pleasantries, Surm presents his proposition of aid to Alrik. The old king is persuaded by the sense of it, but, as Surm proposes, the two exiles cannot join the main forces. They will act as a separate scouting team. The two also come to a compromise on the weregildt. Surm and Mõrvar will aid the Aethyngs in their fight against Magrathar and pay a sum of 50 gold pieces to Lothar Ulrich in order settle the death of Kromas Ulrich.

Later that day, Lothar and his companions arrive in Aeth. Though still angry, he agrees to the settlement negotiated with King Alrik and is paid the 50 gold piece weregildt.

The party decides to head out near nightfall to start reconnoitering the keep of Magrathar. Given directions from King Alrik, they follow a narrow nearby pass. Along the way, the group encounters—and successfully ambushes—three sets of guards place along various checkpoints along the pass. After hiding the bodies, they continue down the pass. They finally come to the end of the trail, which opens into a valley where they can see various campfires being lit beyond a final checkpoint with four mercenary guards. The group manages to ambush and successfully dispatch this group as well. They then settle in hiding to determine their next course of action.

Session Eleven
Lair of Thieves

3 Growth 508 (cont’d)

Robella Autumnwhite leaps across the counter and attacks!

As Mõrvar and Hakak engage with the enraged—and feral—shop owner, Surm makes his way to the back of the shop to let in Savaric and Rilka.

As Robella attacks with tooth and nail, Mõrvar attacks with his longspear and Hakak summons a viper to drop on the woman’s head. The shopkeeper’s attacks are vicious, quickly bringing Mõrvar down to a staggered state. In the meantime, back-up arrives in the form of the two other half-orcs who also engage with the snapping Robella. Finally, they manage to subdue the woman, dropping her unconscious.

Mõrvar binds Robella with twine found off one of the crates in the backroom while Rilka calls for guardsmen to come. Two guardsmen arrive and the party quickly explains that they have been working with Captain Feldane on a case involving the circus and that they have strong reason to believe that this woman—who is unconscious but who mouth and hands and covered in blood—is involved with the Gilded Hands. The guards seem to recognize them and have heard that they are working with the Watch and take the party at their word, taking Robella into custody and escorting the party back to the Watchhall.

Once in the Watchhall, the party reports to Captain Feldane and gives her a run-down of what all has happened and their growing cache of evidence. Convinced that the party is on the right track, Feldane gives the party permission to search the shop for any other evidence that might link Robella Autumnwhite to the crimes associated against the circus. She also sends two guardsmen, Alyn and Rychter, with them.

Back at the Curiosity Shoppe, Savaric finds a secret panel in the back room of the shop that leads down into a corridor heading north and south. The party descends, leaving the guardsmen behind to guard their backs, and head north. After about two and half hours of search travel and searching for traps, the corridor finally ends at ladder leading up to a panel. Savaric emerges from the corridor to find himself in the forest outside of the city. The panel has been camouflaged to look like earth. Climbing a tree, he can see that they are now about five miles from the city and about the same distance from the circus grounds. Apparently the corridor is an escape route of some sort.

Without bothering to check for traps, the party jogs back down the corridor to the Curiosity Shoppe to inform the waiting guards what they have found. At this point, Surm decides to go back to the alchemist, Master Gatling, to find out what the vial found in the skulk village contained. Hakak decides to join him while the others will venture south down the corridor.

Mõrvar, Rilka, and Savaric make their way southward down the secret corridor and encounter a door on the right, left, and ahead. Savaric listens at each, and, hearing nothing, proceeds to open the right-hand door. Upon entering, he is attacked from the darkness by two men bearing short swords. He and Rilka manage to subdue the assailants, causing them both to surrender. The party calls the two guardsmen down from upstairs to secure their new prisoners and begin to vigorously question them. As the guards place manacles on their wrists and cover their heads with sheets from from nearby cots, they reveal that their names are Pinder and Feclan. They are members of the Gilded Hands and Robella is their boss. There are others, which they name, and they are out on a job with Borvius, Robella’s husband. They don’t know why the circus was targeted—they only followed Robella’s orders. She is the one who makes the Shiver that is distributed to the skulks and to others on the street. Beyond the door ahead is a corridor that leads to the docks. To the left is a series rooms.

Satisfied that they aren’t going to get much more out of them, “Captain” Rilka sends one of the guards back to the Watchhall for more guardsmen in case there is more trouble.

Meanwhile, Surm and Hakak arrive at the alchemist shop. Master Gatling confirms that his analysis determines that the vial they found contained Shiver. Surm asks him if he knows of anyone that makes it and the man replies that no, he does not associate with anyone so disreputable.

One their way back to the Curiosity Shoppe, the two encounter a crowd gathering a nearby park. Apparently some guardsmen have been called and a body is being removed from one of the trees. The man has his eyes gouged out and his left hand severed at the wrist. He was apparently hung on the tree by a long scarf—similar to the style worn around the waists of the dancing girls at the circus. There is also a blood-stained note written in an unknown language pinned to the man’s chest. Surm approaches and identifies himself as one of the team that is investigating the crimes for which the circus stands accused and indicates that he is working with Captain Feldane. One of the guards, Rambal, recognizes the uniform Surm is wearing and is aware of the investigation. The other, Colton, is not. Regardless, the guards allow him to help in the investigation. On the body is found a harrow card, The Desert, which depicts an androsphinx on its face. Also is found a folded-up note from an Arnaheem Braeton indicating that the bearer of the note is to be a worker on one of his boats and that he has permission to purchase boots on credit. Rambal recognizes the victim as Filton Legg, a drunk, Shiver-head, beggar, and local reprobate who was rumored to be trying to dry out. As the guards collect the body, Surm and Hakak make their exit and continue to the Curiosity Shoppe.

Once the party is reunited beneath the shop, they decide to explore the complex of rooms they have discovered beyond the left-hand door. Amongst their discoveries is a conference room with a large, hand-drawn map of Skeene and various notes detailing various crimes—including a diagram of Archivin Walder’s route home from the circus, notes on pickpocketing assignments at the carnival, and ideas on where to string up someone named Filton Legg. There is a also a listing that includes “Captain” Rilka and her troupe, complete with accurate descriptions of each of their features. Beyond this room and a practice chamber is a corridor with more doors leading deeper into the complex. There is also a ladder leading back up. Surm decides to take the ladder up and see what lies above.

Surm finds himself in a small closet filled with cleaning implements and file boxes. Most detail transactions for both the Curiosity Shoppe and for Autumnwhite’s Storage and Hauling. The closet opens into a file room with cabinets set along the wall. Of the two doors in the room, Surm chooses the southmost and walks into an office occupied by a single figure behind a desk. Both seem to have startled each other, asking who the other is. The man behind the desk threatens to summon the Watch and Surm encourages him to do so. Then the man bolts out the front door. Surm decides to wait for the Watch. After waiting for awhile without the arrival of guardsmen, Surm steps outside and finds that he is in street outside the warehouse next door to the Curiosity Shoppe. Deciding that the Watch is not coming, he rejoins his comrades below the shop.

In the meantime Mõrvar and Savaric decide to explore the remaining rooms of the complex. They goe down a corridor that leads to area with three holding cells, two of which contain dwarves. One offers Mõrvar a valuable magical object if he will free them while the other tells him to beware of some “freak” that blends in with the shadows. He begins using his acid splash to slowly eat away at the locks of the cells to free the captives.

Now more guards have returned and Rilka goes over what has been found, including the evidence that exonerates the carnival from wrongdoing. The evidence is gathered and Surm inquires if Captain Feldane wants to see all of this and the guards inform them that the Captain currently seeing to an occurrence at the Braeton estate. Surm points out that this is who Filton Legg, the dead man he investigated earlier, worked for. The rest of party decides to leave the complex, go with the guards back to the Watchhall with their prisoners and the evidence, and then on to the Braeton estate near the waterfront. Mõrvar is determined to explore more of the lair so he and Savaric stay behind as the others leave. Finally, he and Savaric manage to break the weakened bars of the dwarves’ prison, freeing them.

In their exploration, Mõrvar and Savaric find an interrogation chamber and an office with alchemical implements. They also find a logbook detailing the names of various guild members and their criminal specialties. In the same office as the logbook, they find a chest with a tiny clockwork device. One of the dwarves, Barengar Gearwright, manipulates the device and extracts two scrolls and a strange looking device that resembles a bar with hundreds of tiny hinges, levers, and other movable parts. Mõrvar determines that the scrolls are for locate object and cure serious wounds. His brother, Pietros Gearwright, reveals that the strange tool is a traveler’s any tool.

Inside another room, Savaric is attacked from the shadows by a female skulk! After a brief altercation with the half-orc, the creature is defeated and falls. Mõrvar drags the body out of the room and continues on to find yet another room with crates and a set of steel doors. At this point the two finally decide to leave and meet up with their companions at the Braeton estate.

The party reconvenes at the Braeton estate where Captain Feldane awaits them with a pair of small, shell-shocked children. The gathered crowd of onlookers and guardsmen all point and whisper at Rilka as she makes her way to the Captain. The Watch Captain seems a bit stiff as she inquires of Rilka where she has been and what she has been doing. Rilka reports all of the activity that has been going on at the Curiosity Shoppe, including all of the evidence gathered that exonerates the carnival and implicates the Gilded Hand in the murder of Filton Legg—a crime of which the Captain has not been informed yet. She has the party, sans Hakak, gather away from the crowd so that she can speak with them privately.

Once secluded, Captain Feldane informs them that the entire Braeton family, except for the two children, have been killed. And, further, one of the children described the perpetrator as someone fitting Rilka’s description perfectly. Fortunately, Rilka has been wearing her helmet so she hasn’t traumatized the children. However, it appears that the half-orc can more than account for her activities over the past few hours. Feldane then sends the children to the Watchhall with some of her guard and summons two guardsmen to accompany her back to the Curiosity Shoppe so that the party can show her the underground lair.

Back at the Curiosity Shoppe, the group tours the Captain around the premises, showing her the various secret doors and features of the rooms below the shop. She then has one of her men go fetch more guardsmen—she plans on checking out the warehouse next door as well. She declares that Borvius Autumnwhite is officially a person of interest in this case. She invites the party to accompany her next door and they accept.

Once inside the warehouse, Captain Feldane announces herself. The warehouse appears to be emtpy—it is certainly dark. The half-orcs, with their darkvision, decide to sweep the inside of the warehouse, looking for more Gilded Hands members or even Borvius himself. They finally come to a door in the far corner of the building. Rilka opens the door and is attacked from the shadows by another skulk! The creature is soon dispatched and drug from the room. Inside they find a cot, a dinner tray, and footlocker. Inside the footlocker is ragged clothing, a raggedy cloak, and some vials containing a blackish fluid.

Captain Feldane sends some of her men back to the Watchhall to gather another squad of the Watch to accompany them to the docks. They are to seek out and detain Borvius Autumnwhite before he tries to leave the city. In the meantime, she will accompany the party down the secret tunnel that supposedly leads to the waterfront.

The tunnel eventually ends with a ladder leading up. Savaric leads the way and finds himself in a narrow alleyway. The strong smell of the ocean fills his nostrils. The others emerge from the secret panel and follow Savaric from the alleyway and onto the docks. There they find that a squad of Watchmen have indeed detained Borvius Autumnwhite, who is indignantly demanding to know why he is being treated in such a manner. Captain Feldane informs him that he is a person of interest in a variety of crimes including murder, kidnapping, pick-pocketing, and host of other crimes. He claims that this is preposterous, but the Captain counters that it is not preposterous when the underground lair of a guild of thieves lies just beneath his warehouse. The guardsmen apprehend the blustering merchant, as well as everyone else on his ship. As Borvius is being lead away, Surm Ulrich and Savaric notice that he is carrying a pair of red gloves—gloves very similar to those worn by Rilka when in uniform.

The party inquires of the Captain whether or not they have gathered enough evidence to exonerate the carnival. She replies that they have and that the City of Skeene thanks them for their work. Mõrvar asks if a letter of recommendation can be written up for them. Rilka points out that they are leaving in the morning for Jossia with Hakak. Feldane replies that she has a lot of work to do tonight, what with questioning various prisoners, but she may be able to have one drawn up by the morning before they leave once again for Jossia. She will also accompany the party back to the carnival to let Almara Delisen know that the quarantine on the carnival has been lifted.

Almara is subdued at the news of the lifted quarantine. The carnival is already halfway packed and, with all of the negative publicity, she doesn’t think they’re going to get much more business in Skeene this season. Nevertheless, she thanks the party for their work and pays them the promised 600 gold in the form of 60 platinum pieces.

That night, the party returns to the Nine Sisters Inn and discusses their next moves. Surm insists that they need to go north to speak with Almaric and to determine what Lothar wants of them. Mõrvar seems reluctant and less interested in what Lothar wants—claiming that he already knows that Lothar wants to avenge their father’s death. Nevertheless, he will accompany them north in the morning.

4 Growth 508

The following morning, the party re-provisions in the market place. They also go to visit Lord Donat to inform him that they are leaving town. However, he indicates that he was about to send a message to them that he had a potential job lined up for them. Apparently a Lord Coln wants to hire a hunter to procure some griffon’s eggs in order to raise the beasts as mounts. He has a lodge near the town of Riverton at the head of the Slayt Mountains. Lord Donat suggests that they go to Riverton and pay Coln a visit. Thanking him for the information, the party makes their exit. Rilka also swings by the Watchhall to pick up the promised letter of recommendation. She is not able to meet with Captain Feldane, but has been left the promised letter as well as a pouch containing 50 platinum pieces—ostensibly a reward for their work for the city. They also inquire as to the whereabouts of the Gearwright brothers and are told that they are staying at the Restful Bard Inn.

At the Restful Bard, the party makes arrangements with the two dwarves to escort them to Riverton, free of charge, when they return to Skeene. The two brothers enthusiastically take them up on the offer, letting them know that they plan on acquiring goods to sell once they get back home, sailing to Jenna and then taking a riverboat on to Riverton.

Finally, the party makes their way out Skeene, riding north to Jossia.

6 Growth 508

Along the way to Jossia, after crossing the river, the party is attacked in the night by a pair of goblins. They are quickly dispatched.

7 Growth 508

The party arrives in Josemeedt in the late afternoon.

Session Ten

2 Growth 508 (cont’d)

After a lengthy discussion in the sphinx’s tent, the group decides to start looking for an alchemist to analyze the vials. However, their search will have to wait for the morning so they head back into the city toward their rooms at the inn.

At the city gates, they are recognized by one of the guardsmen who passes on a message from Captain Feldane to come to the Watchhall and meet with her as soon as possible. Once again bypassing the gate tax, the party is escorted to Captain Feldane’s office. Inside the Watchhall, they encounter a half-orc being apologetically ushered out of the building by a guardsman. They overhear something about his being “caught up in larger affairs” and “our apologies”.

The Captain informs the group that, earlier in the day, her troops performed a raid of the skulk encampment based on the information provided by the skulk captured earlier in the day. Her men were “overzealous” and only one out of about ten survived to be taken prisoner. She offers to allow them to opportunity to question him.

She escorts the group deep below the Watchhall, into the dungeons. Inside one of the cells is the skulk, his hands chained high on the wall. He cringes as the group enters. Captain Feldane begins by reminding him that she has a murder without a suspect that she could easily pin on him, as his tribe has already been implicated in the robbery of the murder victim. She suggests he cooperate, else she’ll have a gallows prepared.

Then Mõrvar begins to try and intimidate him into talking, to giving up the names of those involved in the crimes—especially the humans that hired them for Shiver. After few instances of trial and error, Mõrvar’s threats finally seem to work. The skulk admits that his group is used by a group of humans to steal and “hurt people” in exchange for the drug. Only two of their number—Kymeth and Onamae—deal directly with the humans. He admits that a group, including two named Rogi and Zakhar, were solicited to work a “circus job”—rob a man’s shop while he’s distracting himself at the circus. He insists he doesn’t know who else was involved nor the humans that asked them to it—they deal only with Onamae and Kymeth. Finally, as the group is leaving, he tells them that the group of humans call themselves “The Gilded Hands”.

Captain Feldane recognizes the name—it’s an up-and-coming thieves’ guild in the city. She has very little information other than that—she doesn’t know anything about their members or their origins. She also informs that a half-orc traveler got caught up in their raid, but he has been released with her full confidence that he was not part of their operation. Recalling the half-orc seen earlier as they entered, the group decides that they want to speak to him.

As the group is leaving the Watchhall, they see the half-orc, whose name is Hakak, nonchalantly waiting outside for them. After a brief exchange, it becomes clear that he was looking for them and has information for them. They all decide to take their conversation off the street and head to the common room of the Nine Sisters Inn.

Once in the Inn, the group question the newcomer vigorously about his interest in them. It turns out that he has been in Jossia and was hired by the wizard Almaric to find them and get him the book they were hired to retrieve. He went to the keep that they were sent to only to find that it had burnt to the ground and that a “tall pale man and a half-orc” were wanted for the deed. Reasoning that if things went wrong they’d venture south, Hakak made his way to Skeene. He also bore a message from Almaric—that a man named Lothar was looking for Mõrvar and Surm. The twins reveal that Lothar is their older brother. Mõrvar suspects that Lothar is out for revenge while Surm wants to reserve judgment—perhaps he only has news or information for them.

Surm suggests that Hakak stick close to them as they have business with the circus to take care of and then, perhaps, they can accompany him back to the north to prove to Almaric that they do not have the book in question. Hakak agrees and rents a room in the Inn.

3 Growth 508

The next morning, the group ventures out to find an alchemist. After making a few inquiries they secure the services of a Master Gatling. For a retainer, he agrees to work on analyzing the vials found in the sphinx’s tent to determine what was inside them. The work will take until about three in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the party decides to explore the site of the skulk raid to determine if there are any further clues there. They find a ramshackle collection of broken down huts near the waterfront outside of the city walls. Here Surm finds another empty vial, discarded and half-buried in the dirt. Examining the vial, Surm finds a maker’s mark for the glassblower that manufactured it.

The party then ventures back into the city to find the glassblower who uses the mark found on the vial. After making some inquiries, the group is directed to a master glassblower in the industrial district. Here they find other works bearing the maker’s mark borne on glass vial found at the skulk village. After confirming with the glassblower that he made the vial, he indicates that he makes them in bulk for a Mistress Robella Autumnwhite of Mistress Robella’s Curiosity Shoppe.

With this bit of information, the party decides to stake out this curiosity shop to see who comes and goes. They secure a table at the Restful Bard and watch the shop from one of the inn’s windows. They also note that the shop is not terribly far from The Locked Box, the place of business of the first murder victim. After watching the shop for several hours, the party sees nothing suspicious and decide to return to the alchemist to hear the results of his analysis.

Master Gatling has determined that three vials contained three different materials: a feral mutagen, an Extract of Enlarge, and an Extract of Invisibility. The party reasons that it was probably the feral mutagen and the enlarge that allowed the murderer to pose as a large beast. The invisibility extract was probably used to make their escape. Master Gatling is given the newly found vial from the skulk village to analyze. He says it will take about an hour. Examining the previously found vials, they find the same glassblower’s maker’s mark on each. With such evidence in hand, they decide to go to the Curiosity Shoppe.

As they approach the shop, they decide to split up. Rilka and Savaric go to watch the back-door while Surm, Mõrvar, and Hakak go inside. The shop has all manner of materials on display, from vials of perfumes and other extracts to masterwork weapons and tools to primitive turtle-shell soup bowls. Behind a counter is a thin, dark-haired woman. “Can I help you find something,” she asks. Surm and the others approach the counter. Surm says that yes, perhaps she could help them find some extracts their looking for: a feral mutagen, an Extract of Enlarge, and an Extract of Invisibility. He lays the three vials on the counter with each declaration for emphasis. The woman narrows her eyes and hisses “If anything has happened to my husband, you’ll all find knives in your back”. Suddenly she downs a vial that she has palmed. Her teeth elongate and her nails become sharp claws. She leaps across the counter and attacks!

Session Nine
Murder's Mark

1 Growth 508 (cont’d)

After the incident with the baby dragon, the three companions decide to take in the sphinx’s show. The sphinx, Jherizhana, holds court in a large tent outside of the big top labeled “The Lair of the Sphinx”. A line of folks gather outside the tent and are managed by a couple of circus “toughs”. Inside is a large, bottomless, cage with various cushions and pillows lying strewn about the interior. Jherizhana lounges on the cushions, politely answering questions of the audience, who are then herded out by the circus crew. As Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar Ulrich come by, Rilka asks the impressive creature about the possibility of sabotage at the circus. The idea seems to surprise and disturb her, throwing her out of her usual aloof manner. The others ask questions as well, but Jherizhana seems to be thrown so much by Rilka’s question that they get unsatisfactory answers.

Afterwards, Mõrvar decides to hook up with Lanii and persuade her to come back to the inn with him. Meanwhile, Rilka and Savaric explore the circus a little bit more and then head back to the Nine Sisters. Mõrvar is successful in his persuasion of the dancing girl and heads back to the inn a little bit later.

2 Growth 508

That morning, the rest of the party explain to Surm the events of the previous night. He reiterates his extreme dislike of “lying carnies” and is altogether unimpressed with the tales of monsters and fun. Mõrvar decides to escort Lanii back to the circus for her morning rehearsals. He is met on the way by Trask, one of the half-orc crewman for the carnival. The half-orc confirms that Mõrvar was one of the ones that stopped the baby dragon and traveled with them from Stavan. Trask tells him that Almara Delisen wants to see them at her wagon as soon as possible. Mõrvar excuses himself from Lanii and heads back to the Nine Sisters Inn to fetch the others.

The four gather at Almara Delisen’s box wagon and knock on the door. “Enter,” she calls from within. The wagon is cluttered with mementos of various shows and attractions. With the five of them in there—and several members of the group being on the large-side, it is quite crowded. After introductions are made, she chides them again for not visiting her with the Beast of Stavan story. “But, no matter. I appreciate your efforts yesterday in the regrettable incident with our dragon. I fear I could also use your help with another matter. You may have heard there was a murder in town last night…” The others asserted that they did not and Surm asserted that in a city of Skeene’s size, murders probably happen there all the time. Almara accepts this but continues “However, in this case, the circumstances, I am told, implicate people from my circus—something I find very hard to accept. I’d like to contract you to represent the Umbra Carnival to determine who is really responsible and preserve our reputation.”

Almara offers them the sum of 600 gp to accomplish this task. She also offers to draft a letter to Captain Kyra Feldane, Captain of the Watch in Skeene, indicating that the group is her designated third-party investigator in this matter. Surm, who hasn’t bothered to disguise his contempt for the carnival and its folk up to this point, wonders if Captain Feldane will accept their interference in this case. Almara counters that the letter should help in that and that, hopefully, by being fully cooperative, she can be persuaded. She encourages them to go to her before starting the investigation so as not to step on any toes. Surm makes a point of asking if she wants the truth or only information that exonerates the circus. Almara attempts to reassure him that she is confident of the innocence of the person implicated—Jherizhana the sphinx and that the truth of the matter would put things to right—so, yes, she wants the truth. She also says that she will give them access to most of the circus for their investigations. Surm asks about this, wanting to know why they don’t have access to all the circus and if she is going to tie their hands in the investigation. Almara responds that no, she not going to allow a tent-to-wagon search of people’s homes for no good reason but if their request is reasonable, she would allow searches of private spaces. Surm responds that “then our hands will be tied, then.”

The four have a vote and decide to take the case, mostly for the money involved. They are not subtle about this fact. They also decide to have Almara draw up a written contract for the arrangement.

Almara doesn’t have too many more details. The murder took place last night after the circus let out and that Captain Feldane came by her wagon this morning to let her know that the sphinx has been implicated and to not leave until the matter is settled. Almara isn’t afraid that Feldane is incompetent, but that her priority is order in the city, not necessarily the truth of the matter.

The four leave Almara’s tent and, after a bit of discussion, decide to question the sphinx. When they arrive at the sphinx’s tent (“The Lair of the Sphinx”), they see a line of people waiting and some circus “toughs” moving the spectators along. Surm approaches one of the toughs and asks how long until the show is done. He approximates about half an hour. Surm lets him know that when the show is done, that they want to see her. The tough says that he can’t do that, but if they want to see the sphinx, they can get in line. Frustrated, Surm goes back to Almara for something indicating to the circus staff that they are working on the circus’ behalf and to allow them full access. Almara concedes that word-of-mouth may not have reached everyone yet and gives him a writ. Surm then goes back to the tough and presents the writ. The tough takes it stride, letting one of his fellows see the writ as well, who goes into the tent and reemerges a few minutes later. “Jherizhana will see you briefly after the show,” the tough informs them.

The sphinx lounges in her cage on her cushions and pillows. Surm actually seems impressed that it is an actual sphinx. She is beautiful and aloof, asking the four what they want of her. They ask her what she knows of the murder that she is implicated in and she replies that she doesn’t know much—only that she is implicated in a murder she did not commit. She was in her cage, bound by Berthold’s powers last night after the show. She knows of no one who would want to frame her or bring harm to the circus. During the questioning, Mõrvar moves forward to examine the cage in which Jherizhana is imprisoned. Both the circus tough and the sphinx herself are quick to warn him back away from the cage. This piques his curiosity further, making him believe that not all was as it seemed. Nevertheless, he could see no change in scene before him. If this was an illusion, he could not part the veil of it.

Meanwhile, the sphinx seemed to grow more exasperated at the numerous questions from the party about her captivity. Surm knew from his arcane experience that such creatures were civilized, wise, and not known man-eaters. Savaric and the others doubted Berthold’s powers as a sorcerer and as a ranger. Something did not sit right with them in this situation. Finally, Jherizhana told them to tell Almara to let them speak with Ika. Then, all their questions would be answered.

The group then heads back to Almara’s wagon where they tell her that Jherizhana told them to tell her to let them speak to Ika. Almara seems irritated, but then resigned, and has a carny fetch her from the Midway. Soon they are all joined by a beautiful woman—a woman wearing the sphinx’s face! Ika explains that there is no Jherizhana, that she creates her with illusions. The entire carnival is in on the trick, ensuring that their main attraction is not found out. Ika apologizes for the confusion, but Almara takes responsibility for the deception. This is why she is positive that the sphinx has committed no crimes—there is no sphinx. Surm, taking this as proof of the untrustworthy nature of carnival folk, is exasperated and wants to know why she didn’t admit this in the first place. Almara asserts that it still doesn’t solve the problem. Someone was murdered and if the carnival loses its main attraction, then they can’t reprovision in town. All admitting the truth will do is further implicate the carnival in lying and threaten its ability to do business. Further, whoever is trying to implicate the carnival gets away with it—and with murder. After asserting that there are no other “secrets” that the investigators may need to know, Almara suggests that they go speak with Captain Feldane about the murder.

After the group leaves Almara’s wagon, they have a discussion about their next steps. Surm insists that they need to present a more professional front when speaking to Captain Feldane. He thinks that they need to have a militaristic cover story, placing “Captain Rilka” in charge of their troupe and speaking for them in public. They also need to have uniforms. After a long discussion of who would portray what role and how the uniforms would look, the four go off into town in search of new outfits and weapons. When finished, Captain Rilka is bedecked in a full helm, black shirt, black gloves, black pants, and black boots with a red cape and a red sash with a red belt. The others in her command (Herald Surm, Second Mõrvar, and Tracker Savaric) are dressed; in white shirts, red gloves and belts, black pants, red boots, and red hooded cloaks. They are under Captain Rilka’s command, a former militia soldier from Jossia, and have been commissioned by the carnival to investigate this matter. Finally, long after midday, the group approaches the Watchhall, home of the City Watch.

They are met at the Watchhall by guardsmen wearing tabards with the colors of the city—a boar’s head on diagonal bands of orange and white—and ushered into the Captain’s office. Captain Kyra Feldane is a woman in her late twenties with fiery red hair in a short soldier’s crop. Rilka presents Almara’s sealed letter and introduces her group. Feldane asks her what she is captain of, and Rilka reiterates that she formed her own group, the Redcloaks, after leaving the militia in Jossia. Feldane says that she will accept their part in the investigation so long as their behavior is exemplary. Their behavior will reflect directly upon the carnival they represent and will be directly proportional to the amount of aid they will receive from the Watch. If they behave badly, they will find the Watch to, in fact, be an impediment. So long as they are clear in this, they can work together. Rilka indicates that they are in full understanding of her meaning. With that, Captain Feldane provides more information on the murder.

The victim was Archinvin Walder, a moneylender and sometime pawnbroker who owns a local business called the Locked Box. Walder was found mauled while walking to his home after the circus last night. Walder’s wife (Agnes) went looking for her husband when he never came home and discovered the body. Agnes begged her husband’s four full-time guards, who lived at the Locked Box, for help. Three left their post to help while one stayed behind to secure the office. Thieves, presumably in league with the creature that killed Walder, burst into the Locked Box, killed the remaining guard, and stole many easily carried valuables (gems/jewelry). The robbery was interrupted by the arrival of the guards bringing Walder’s body back to the office instead of his home. They glimpsed two humanoid figures fleeing into the night. Upon finding the guard dead and the building burglarized, the three remaining guards secured the building until the Watch could be notified.

Feldane confides that she isn’t entirely convinced that a creature from the circus is responsible for the murders. Nevertheless, she explains that the people of Skeene can be fiercely independent and reactive: “The mood in town is sour. There are stories all over the place about a great four-legged beast flying over town last night after the circus closed down, silhouetted across the moon. Of course, I’ll be damned if I can find a single eyewitness who actually saw the sphinx. Now poor Walder is left dead in some bushes. It’d be one thing if these deaths were accidental, but the robbery angle stirs a lot of unworthy opinions of outsiders.” Feldane offers her cooperation but reminds the group that she has to do what she feels is in the best interest of the city. She also cautions them to watch out for people nursing a grudge against outsiders.

She offers to have her guardsmen take them to where Walder was found. Surm asks to see the body and Feldane says she isn’t sure that it will be possible. The priests of Sadum have the body and have probably interred it in the necropolis by now. When asked, she reiterates that he appeared to be mauled by some large animal. In hindsight, there were no bite marks—only claws.

Guardsmen escort the troupe outside the city to where the body was found. Savaric searches the area for tracks and finds the tracks of a big creature, but also with swept away portions of humanoid tracks leaving only the paw prints. The tracks are not leonine and are not deep enough for a creature as large as Jherizhana—or the manticore in the traveling zoo, for that matter. Clearly someone tried to make it look as if the creature had flown into this spot.

The watchmen then escort the band back into the city to the home of Agnes Walder, widow of the victim. They are met at the door by an armed guard, who, upon noting the city watch, lets them in. Another guard is in the room and Agnes sits on the couch, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. The group, led by Rilka, asks the woman questions about the previous night. Archivin decided, after seeing the processional, to take in the circus. She did not, not being interested in watching Archie ogle that topless “she-lion whats-it”. In fact, she’s convinced that if she had gone with him, this wouldn’t have happened. After it got late, she decided to go looking for him and came across his body. She went back, notified the watch at the gates, and got Archivin’s guards from the Locked Box to help her retrieve his body. When the guards returned to the Locked Box, they came upon humanoids running from the premises and later found their comrade with his throat cut. They notified the watch of this new crime as well.

When asked why the guards took the body to the Locked Box instead of the home, Agnes replied that she wasn’t ready to have her husband’s mauled body in the house just yet. She was in such a state that she asked two of the remaining guards to stay with her, so she wouldn’t be alone, and the third to take Archie’s body to the Temple of Sadum, as was proper. Rilka asks for permission to search the Locked Box and Agnes, as the group is being vetted by the Watch, grants it, having one of the guards, Kaldis, take her key with them to the place of business, just a couple of doors down the street.

Savaric checks all of the alleyways around the building for signs of suspicious activity while the others of the Redcloaks wait. Finally satisfied, Savaric rejoins the others. The guard opens the door and lights lamps in the interior.

Here in the showroom, glass display cases, broken in a few places, line the walls, while two additional cases sit like islands in the center of the room. The cases contain an eclectic mix of valuables such as unusual tools, masterwork weapons, jewelry, fine china, antiques, and artwork. A set of merchant’s scales rests on top of one of the display cases. Doors to the north lead to the Office, the Guard’s Quarters, and the Vault areas. Surm asks about what items were taken and the guards indicate that the inventory is probably in Archivin’s office.

Surm asks to see the Guard’s Quarters, as that where the dead guard was found. Inside, two cots and a bunk bed sit in the room. Footlockers are tucked underneath the cots to store personal belongings. A table and chairs are in the room’s center, a well-used deck of harrow cards on the tabletop. A large rusty red blotch remains on the floor where the guard’s body was discovered. The guard tells them that his throat had been slit.

Next the group heads to the Vault. The double-doors lead to a wide staircase heading down into a corridor. The corridor widens into a chamber with another set of double doors at its end. The guard cautions them that there is a trap in this room but that the key will disarm it. Sure enough, when he turns the key in the lock, the group feels vibrations beneath their feet. The guard indicates that it is a pit trap designed to catch thieves after they leave the vault.

Inside the vault, the guard stands aside and lets the group enter to investigate. The chamber is lined with shelves, including freestanding shelving in the center. There is ample room in the vault, but labeled boxes, bags, weapons, and armor are spread throughout. The Redcloaks begin to investigate the state of the vault, trying to determine what, if anything, was taken from here by the robbers. They do find several of the boxes in states of disarray—just as Rilka dodges a blade that springs from the darkness. The short sword is being wielded by a strange-looking humanoid with charcoal-colored skin that seems to blend into its background. Rilka returns the attack and misses. Suddenly, everyone is attacking the Skulk (as Surm has identified it)—including the guard. It drops its weapon and surrenders, crying “I give!”

Under stern questioning, the Skulk reveals that it was locked in here after his comrades fled. The guard confirms that that could happen by unlocking the vault door not disabling the trap. The Skulks work for humans that pay them in Shiver, an alchemical drug. They never see the humans—there are two of their number that work for the humans and act as go-betweens. The Skulks live in a tribe of 15 outside of the city.

The Skulks are taken away by the City Watch, who had, in the meantime, fetched Captain Feldane. She assures the group that she will follow-up on the Skulk lead. Shiver, while highly addictive and responsible for the incitement of many crimes, is not illegal in Skeene in and of itself. There is no telling where they got the Shiver from without checking out these two Skulks. Feldane asks what their next course of action is, as they still haven’t solved the murder. The group will return to the circus to see what can be found there.

As the Redcloaks enter the circus at the parade grounds, they see many people making their way out, clearly disgruntled, and hear cries of “these thieving Southrons are bleeding the town dry!” A group of four townsfolk and two of the circus toughs are facing off in the parade grounds. Rilka and Mõrvar face off between the two groups, attempting to intimidate them into submission. Surm interposes himself and persuades the townsfolk to disperse, assuring them that he is one of them and distrusts the carnival folk as well. He learns that “Ed Jones” has gone to the Watch about it and he assures them that between he and his friends and the Watch that the situation will be handled. The townsfolk leave.

As the others handle the disturbance on the parade grounds, Savaric is approached by one of the dancing girls. “There’s a body in the sphinx’s tent!” she whispers urgently. Savaric lets the others know and they rush to the Lair of the Sphinx tent near the Big Top.

The body lies near the rear of the tent. It is a woman in the black-trimmed, red robes of a priestess of Barthal. Her wounds look like the claw marks of a large animal. Circus toughs keep the crowds away while the group looks for more clues.

The party finds a slender rope burn about the woman’s neck. Very little is found in the way of tracks, much less feline or heavy animal tracks. Toward the back of the tent some of the stakes have been pulled to form an exit. There lie three sets of pull-apart clown costumes. They also find three small vials near the body. Surm determines that they contained alchemical materials, not true magic potions.

About that time, Almara arrives with the circus’ chief enforcer, Master Venlok. Almara sends one of the toughs for Captain Feldane. Surm sends Master Venlok to account for all the clowns in the circus. In the meantime, Captain Feldane arrives and identifies the body as that of Sister Esrelda Woodmere, a priestess of Barthal who is half-Yulanian, half-Leilioran and wanted to confront the sphinx about the crimes in the hopes of bringing justice to those that are perpetrating them. Venlok returns with news that all clowns are accounted for, though three clowns were seen loitering near the sphinx’s tent earlier in the day.

With the new body and the rash of pick-pocketing, the Captain seems to be at her wit’s end. She demands that Almara let her see the sphinx. Almara hedges, saying that the sphinx isn’t really a captive and that she resides in a private wagon… Captain Feldane snaps. “You’ve brought a dangerous creature into this community—-a creature you clearly cannot keep track of, let alone control. I can’t say I know for certain there’s wrongdoing here on the part of your people, but after a point it ceases to matter. For the saftey of my city, I’m putting this circus under quarantine. I don’t want any of your people leaving these grounds unless it’s to leave town completely. I’m giving you two days to get packed up and go.” She turns to the Redcloaks and tells them that if they want to continue investigating, so be it. But they should know that any evidence they find had better be more than reasonably convincing if the circus is to be exonerated. Captain Feldane and her troop of guards collect the body and take it out of the carnival grounds.

The group lingers in the tent, discussing their various options and theories as to what is going on with the carnival. There seem to be far more questions than answers…

Session Eight (Part II)
The Circus Comes to Town

29 Awakening 508

On the way out of Stavan, on the way to Skeene, the party encounters a large caravan of wagons, carts, and animals headed toward them. Two outriders approach the group and introduce themselves as Almara Delisen and Selevan Skewes. Almara is a beautiful Southron woman, while Selevan is a balding, pinch-faced man of Midron stock. They represent the Umbra Carnival. Apparently the carnival was on it’s way to Stavan, chasing a rumor that they had a beast in their midst.

Surm informs them that the beasts, both of them, have been slain by Master Hunter Savaric and that the bounty has already been collected. Almara takes this in stride, noting only that Berthold, her Master of Beasts, would be disappointed. She then invites the group to ride to Skeene with the carnival as there is safety in numbers. She also invites them to her wagon to tell her the tale of the two beasts. As she rides away, Selevan informs them that they must not ride with the crew but in the back of the train with the Winding Market. When Surm asks what the Winding Market is, he is informed that it is where a variety of merchants have attached themselves to the carnival in hopes of increasing their sales.

The party takes their place at the rear of the carnival as it makes it way south toward Skeene.

That night, as the carnival settles into a rather raucous camp, Surm and Mõrvar invite themselves to dinner with one of the market families: Liesel, Handor, and their baby, Ran. It is an awkward dinner, but Liesel makes them feel welcome to share their stew.

Meanwhile, Rilka and Savaric make their way toward the section of the camp where they had seen some half-orc laborers. Along the way they are stopped by Berthold, a half-elf, at the traveling zoo. He warns them away from the animals because of the danger. Savaric sniffs at the danger, being a Master Hunter. Affronted, Berthold assures them that they will be duly impressed by the menagerie when it stops in Skeene. They boast a manticore and a baby dragon, among other marvels.

The two half-orcs continue on in search of their brethren, which they find in the crew area of the camp. The camp is lively, with music and dancing and spicy food. Rilka and Savaric converse with the half-orcs for a while before returning to their own camp and to bed. Over the course of the evening they met all of the half-orcs: Kranoc, Trask, Zamar, Thora, Kenda, Forlassa, and Gahndor.

30 Awakening 508

The next morning, as the camp gets ready to depart, Surm helps Handor hitch their wagon in return for the previous night’s meal. The party continues to travel with the carnival toward Skeene. Mõrvar manages to find himself riding with a troupe of dancers and attaches himself to a girl named Lanii. He flirts with her throughout the day as the caravan travels on.

That night, Surm attaches himself to Liesel and Handor again while Rilka and Savaric seek out the half-orcs again. Mõrvar Ulrich briefly eats with Liesel and Handor, but then abruptly takes off to be with Lanii.

1 Growth 508

The carnival arrives just outside of Skeene about noon time. As the crew begins to set up the carnival tents, a contingent of riders, including Almara Delisen, head out toward the city. The party catches up to the outriders, who are going into town for supplies and to speak with the Lord Mayor of Skeene. Almara admonishes them lightly that no one ever came by and told the story of the beasts, but wishes them a good journey.

The party continues into Skeene in search of Lord Donat. After making some inquiries, they find his estate near the city center. They are coolly met by the lord’s guards, but find that their host is a warm gentleman of good humor with much good to say about Lord Stavan. Lord Donat assures the party that, while he has no employment opportunities for them now, he will keep them in mind should any arise. He also reveals that he has heard of the beasts that were slain in Stavan, that they are called “Chupacabra”. He inquires as to where they are staying in Skeene and he is asked for a recommendation. He recommends the Nine Sisters Inn near the city’s north gate.

As the party settles into the Nine Sisters, the carnival’s parade passes through town. There are jugglers, clowns, dancers (including Lanii), men on stilts, and music. Even the half-orc crew are part of the procession. Hawkers call out the various thrilling events at the circus, all to be had for only a few coppers. Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar decide to go to the carnival tonight while Surm refuses, citing a distrust of carnival folk. He cannot be persuaded otherwise, so the others proceed to the circus.

The carnival midway boasts many games of chance. The group stops at one game involving a tall pole with a stuffed lion’s head on top. The harder you hit the base with a mallet, the further you move a puck up the pole, and the louder the lion’s head roars. A Northron strongman urges the crowd to demonstrate their “pride and passion” by moving the mallet up. One man goes forward and hits the base, causing the lion to roar majestically. Savaric confidently steps up with his copper to try his hand at the test of strength. His effort is less than heroic, getting nothing more than a pathetic “mew” from the lion. Finally, after numerous failed attempts (and pieces of copper spent), the half-orc elicits a monstrous, thunderous roar from the lion that can be heard throughout the circus. Solemnly, the Northron reaches into a wooden case and presents Savaric a paper crown, pronouncing him “King of the Carnival”. Not to be outdone, Mõrvar steps forward with his copper to try his hand. He, too, goes through many tries and many coppers before producing a monstrous roar. With the same solemnity, and without a trace of irony, the Northron presents Mõrvar a paper crown and pronounces him “King of the Carnival”.

Moving away from the midway, denying themselves the pleasures of Mistress Masque and Hajeck the All-Seeing, they find themselves in the traveling zoo. Along with some mundane animals such as elephants and bears, the zoo sports three chained animated skeletons, an emaciated manticore (with its tail spikes removed), and a baby dragon. The group is skeptical of the baby dragon, thinking it to be merely a large lizard, but no one can say so for certain.

After the traveling zoo, the group decides to go to the big top. There, Mõrvar will be able to see Lanii dance and the others can enjoy the other attractions. The group is charged two copper—except for Mõrvar and Savaric, who are only charged one on account of being kings of the carnival. After a performance of acrobats, clowns, and other artists, a large cage is wheeled out on the floor. Inside is a sphinx, introduced as Jherizhana, from the wilds beyond The Rift. Her handler, Berthold, asks her some questions, which she answers demurely. Finally, he says, “as a demonstration of the power held over the mighty beast”, he unlocks her cage. She springs forth and takes to the air, flying over the crowds, eliciting screams of fear and of delight. Berthold positions himself near the cage and commands the animal back into the cage with a mighty flourish of arm gestures. The beast flies into the cage and he locks it behind her. Skeptical, Mõrvar notes that Berthold had cast no spell he had ever heard of. Next come the dancing girls, which the group enjoys thoroughly. Finally, the big top shows wind down and the group starts heading away back toward the midway.

Suddenly, screams start erupting from the midway. “The baby dragon is on the loose! Loose dragon!” The group make their way to the heart of the trouble where they see the beast, running on its squat legs and hissing at passersby. Flying above is the strangest sight of all—a bald humanoid with enormous floppy ears, gliding to and fro, calling out to the group not to hurt the baby dragon. Savaric steps forward and uses his ranger abilities to calm the beast. A breathless Berthold arrives with a muzzle and rope and two other carnies to collect the beast. Mõrvar, snickering, tells Berthold to use his magic to control the beast, which gets a laugh from the crowd. Finally, the beast is muzzled and led away. Berthold asks to speak to Savaric privately, but the half-orc has his friends join him. Regardless, Berthold thanks him for securing the beast before anyone got hurt and gives him 25 gp for his troubles.

Session Eight (Part I)
Trouble Under the Hill

27 Awakening 508 (cont’d)

The party, having slain two of the strange reptilian kobolds that had emerged from the hill, reset their campfire in front of the cave entrance. They decide to take up their guard shifts and see if any more emerge. Later in the night, Mõrvar sees several more skulk out from the cave mouth and put out the fire. As he wakes the others up, the kobolds continue to approach their camp. Rilka takes time to put on her armor while Surm and Savaric sneak out of camp to evade their attackers. Mõrvar gets ready to attack with his spear.

Two of the creatures charge into the camp from the outer darkness. Mõrvar dispatches one with a mighty, primal scream, cowing his companion into a shaken state. Rilka continues to struggle with her armor while the other, shaken as he is, attacks Mõrvar anyway. This one is quickly slain as well.

Meanwhile, Savaric sees another kobold skulking in the darkness. He fires upon it and misses. It attacks, though he quickly runs it through. Surm, hiding on the other side of camp, where he hears another of the odious creatures tromping through the woods. He fires a crossbow bolt blindly, to no avail, and runs, screaming, into camp.

As the party regroups, they hear movement in the woods—that suddenly stops. Surm and Mõrvar go to check it out and are ambushed by the kobold, who is as quickly dispatched as his kin. The party decides to wait out the rest of the night (Mõrvar was last watch, after all) and decide what to do in the morning.

28 Awakening 508

The next morning, after a lot of debate on the matter, it is decided that the party will go inside the hill to investigate the kobolds. Perhaps they can enhance their reputation with the town of Stavan by further protecting them from the monstrous threat.

Savaric and Rilka descend into the cave first, followed by Surm and Mõrvar. Taking the center tunnel, they pass the trap where they found the corpse before and continue down the long and winding tunnel. The cavern is cramped, damp, and smells of earth. Suddenly, the earth moves beneath Savaric and Rilka. Rilka manages to catch herself but Savaric falls into a 20’ pit. Rilka climbs down and touches him with their Wand of Cure Light Wounds. Mõrvar move the grapple to the other side of the pit with a mage hand and then Rilka and Savaric climb up the other side. Mõrvar and Surm do the same and they continue down the corridor after collecting their rope.

Savaric manages to find two more traps along the way, allowing the party to avoid them as the corridor finally opens into a chamber. Inside the chamber are 5 kobolds. After an awkward silence, one of the kobolds orders the others to charge, which they do. Rilka and Savaric quickly slay the four creatures and notice the fifth running down another tunnel. The chamber has a pile of cast-off goods from the town, coins, and the belongings of Lord Stavan’s man, Kirlan, whose body they had recovered previously. After a brief debate as to what to do with the pile of stuff, Mõrvar loads it into the dead man’s backpack and his own so that they can return it to the town—to further enhance their reputation. The party then decides to follow the last kobold down the tunnel.

The corridor leads to a dead-end with a trap door in the ceiling. Hand-holds are cut into the wall leading up to it. Savaric notices dust falling from the trap door, so the party suspects that the kobold scrambled up there recently. Rilka climbs up and opens the trap door and, sure enough, a spear comes stabbing down at her from above. Angry, the half-orc charges up into the space above where she squares off with the creature. Though this one seems stronger than the others, it, too, is quickly dispatched.

The party now finds themselves in an abandoned shack. Savaric climbs a tree and can see Corocal’s Barrow about a quarter mile from their location. The ranger manages to lead them back to the hill and to their waiting horses.

As the party rides back into town, a dead kobold slung over one of their horses, the usual whispering campaign begins. “The hunters return with another beast!” At Surm’s urging, the party stops in front of the Green Maiden Inn and impales the kobold on an upturned spear. “This is a kobold. We slew him and others at Corocal’s Barrow.” Then the party left the hushed crowd at the inn for Lord Stavan’s manor.

Knocking on the door, they are met by Lord Stavan himself. Surm tells the tale of what was found in the barrow and offers to show one of the Lord’s men the tunnel and the proof. Lord Stavan asks them to show him. So they take the Lord out to the abandoned shack and show him the tunnel into the barrow. He tells them that he cannot thank them enough for their service to the town and that they will be his guests tonight at the manor.

After cleaning up and during a fine dinner, Surm hints at the possibility of letters of recommendation for employment in Skeene, which is where they are headed next. The lord responds that he knows of no one in need of master hunters per se, but he can recommend them to his friend Lord Donat in Skeene and will do so gladly.

29 Awakening 508

The party, with a letter of recommendation in hand, leaves Stavan for Skeene.

Session Seven
Savaric: Monster Hunter

21 Awakening 508 (cont’d)

The party is running from the burning remains of Quain Keep, with Savaric covering their tracks. They frantically run north along the Mondira River, looking for a ford. Once the fording point is found, they make their crossing, with only Savaric being unhorsed. As the sun rises, they camp in the wilderness of eastern Jossia, hoping that the ranger’s efforts have been enough to deter Quain’s soldiers from finding them.

25 Awakening 508

Over the course of several days, the party runs across the wilderness of Jossia to the southwest toward the highlands of northern Leilior. Finally, the arrive at the Ros River. There they find a river ferry they can signal to cross the river. The ferryman lets them know that the town, Stavan, is beset by a “beast”. The local inn, The Green Maiden, closes when the sun goes down. The local lord, Ulliam Stavan, has placed a bounty of 100 gold marks for the beast’s hide.

Arriving at the Green Maiden, the party is met by the proprietor with a bit of consternation over the half-orcs. However, his wife convinces him that with the larger matter of “the beast” that it would be wrong to turn away strangers so close to nightfall. The nervous man acquiesces. The party (covered in soot, dirt, and blood) order baths and rooms (with much complaint at the prices by Surm) and settle into the modest common room.

Despite their questioning (and some intimidation of traveling farmers by Mõrvar), the party finds that the locals don’t want to talk about this “beast”—except for the proprietress of the inn. She is more than happy to discuss it, almost gleeful. The Beast has haunted Stavan for generations, scaring children and adults alike. It has only been in the past month that attacks of livestock have been happening, attributed to the legendary creature. The strangest part of all is that all the blood is drained from its victims. The most recent attack was at Bowlan Greenbough’s farm where he lost two sheep to the Beast.

Surm removes the bounty poster from the tavern wall and announces to all that will hear that Savaric the “monster hunter” who defeated the minotaur under Grundr’s Teeth, will claim this bounty. He buys a round of Tarsian wine for everyone in the common room.

26 Awakening 508

The next morning, after breakfast, the party begins exploring the area, questioning the victims of various “Beast” attacks. At Tannen Corley’s farm, Savaric finds a partial track and determines that beast is bipedal, has clawed feet, and is of medium size. The only clear pattern that emerges from their numerous questions is that something is coming out of the western woods to prey upon the livestock. And whatever it is is either quite strong or has help.

That night, Surm buys a round of Yulanian wine for every one and the party celebrates the free meal that is given to them as the “monster hunters” friends.

Lord Stavan pays the party a visit, wanting to cast his eyes on the “monster hunter” that has come to his village. Soon after taking his seat, Surm and Mõrvar begin to try and up the take of the bounty, first swearing that their comrade, Savaric, the slayer of “Bulvi’s Wolf”, seldom worked for under 500 gold pieces. The Lord reminds the party that he is not hiring a monster hunter, that he is offering a reward for whomever can kill the beast. Nevertheless, he may be persuaded to up the bounty to 150 gold Marks. He then takes his leave of the party.

27 Awakening 508

The party finds a commotion in the common room the next morning—another farm has been attacked. The crowd leads the party Hapner Plowred’s place where two cows have been drained of blood. Savaric finds tracks leading once again into the western woods. The villagers stay behind, whispering amongst themselves as the party ventures into the woods, following the trail of the Beast of Stavan.

ChupThe trail leads about a mile outside of town to a large hill with a narrow cleft worn into its side. The cleft is only about three feet wide, though it stands about six feet in height. Savaric ventures into the small cave where he finds two creatures lying on the floor. One is medium-sized, the other smaller. Both are bipedal, reptilian creatures with iridescent, color-shifting scales and spiny protrusions coming from their back. One, the larger of the two springs up with a predatory hiss and lunges at Savaric. The ranger tries to dodge but is grabbed by the creature, who brings him forward and starts to suck the blood from his body in rapturous frenzy.

Meanwhile, Rilka grabs Savaric to pull him from the cleft in the hill. Savaric desperately tries to disengage from the creature and finally does so, allowing Rilka to yank him from the cleft. The creature steps out of the cave to continue his attack but is slain by the party. Then the other emerges and, despite its great speed, is quickly dispatched.

Mõrvar Ulrich is determined to search out the cleft while Surm wants to go and collect their bounty. While Mõrvar searches, he hears what could be voices from behind the small cave. His curiosity piqued, he rejoins his companions to tell them of his find.

Rilka and Mõrvar find another cave entrance on the far side of the hill. Inside the cave are three passages. The two approach cautiously, listening for voices, but hear nothing. Savaric and Surm stay behind. Mõrvar lights his spear with magic and leads the way down the left-most passage, listening. After a few twists and turns, as well as a descent, the two find a damp, mossy chamber with four mounds situated around a platform on which sits a long box. The box has bronze runes fitted on all sides, writing from a language that neither understand. Mõrvar approaches the box, but does not touch it. Finally, the two decide that this was not the source of the voices and that to leave the box untouched would be best.

Returning to the first chamber, the two now try the middle passage. This passage double-backs on itself several times as it descends into the hill. Eventually the two come upon a grisly sight—a man’s corpse lies in the corridor, his head crushed by a stone. It looks like the body has been stripped and left to rot in the tunnel. Both can hear the faint sound of voices coming from further down the corridor. Fearing more traps, the two exit the tunnel with the body, thinking that it may be that of the soldier Kirlan that had gone hunting for the Beast.

Now Rilka and Mõrvar try the right-most passage. This one is marked by its dampness and sharp descent into a chamber whose floor is mostly covered in water. The clear water of the pool fills the chamber nearly to the walls, leaving a three-foot walkway around the room. Near the water they find piles of dung, indicating that something has been using this as a watering hole. The two back out of the passage and return to the surface.

Mõrvar wants to check the source of the voices while Surm wants to go collect the bounty, as does Savaric. Rilka agrees to stay with Mõrvar while the sorcerer and the “monster hunter” return to Stavan to turn collect the bounty and return the body of Kirlan to Lord Stavan.

Surm and Savaric head into the village to find Lord Stavan. As the sorcerer and the half-orc approach the village, they start to draw a crowd. Whispers of “monster hunter” and “two beasts” can be heard from the group as they approach the village and Lord Stavan’s manor. At the manor house, Surm and Savaric enjoy Lord Stavan’s hospitality as they discuss the bounty and the fact that there were two beasts, not just one. Lord Stavan sees the sense of upping the bounty and pays them in both gold and with a silver torq, a piece of jewelery that the nobleman reassures Surm is not a family heirloom. They also discuss the hill that the other half of the party is exploring. It is known by the locals as Corocal’s Barrow and is said to be haunted. No one approaches the burial place of the ancient king. No threat has ever come from there other than ghost stories told about campfires and taverns. After being fed and bathed, the two make their way back to the hill where their companions await them. Kobold

The party decides to camp in front of the cave entrance to see if anything emerges at night. The camp’s light is away from the entry way, giving the half-orcs space to see at night with their darkvision. During Rilka’s shift, a strange-looking creature emerges from the cave. It is a small, reptilian humanoid carrying a spear and a shield. As Rilka stirs the others, it is joined by a companion. The two converse in an unknown tongue. They finally seem to notice the camp and approach on the attack, but both are quickly dispatched by the party.

Session Six
Fire and Sorcery

21 Awakening 508 (cont’d)

The roof is lit by bright, instantaneous light that Surm identifies as a “Flare” spell—a low-level cantrip. Suddenly the roof is covered by volleys of arrows apparently being fired from the walls that run parallel to the keep. The party makes their way through several volleys to the edge of the catwalk on the keep to find cover from at least one side of the archers. They use their wand of healing along the way to keep everyone moving from the numerous hits of the arrows.

After several volleys have passed, a voice calls out from below. “This is futile! The only way to avoid death is to throw your weapons over the side of the keep!”. Mõrvar and Savaric answer with shots toward the archers with longbow and crossbow.

A voice identifying himself as Lord Quain calls out demanding to know who they are and what they hope to accomplish by this. Surm answers that they are the Peasant Liberation Front and they are tired of the way that they are treated by Lord Quain.

In the meantime, Mõrvar and Savaric make their way to the torches left by guards killed on the northwest side of the roof. Mõrvar uses sorcery to take one of the torches and then casts it into the hole they had previously made in the roof, catching a tapestry on fire near the mezzanine.

As Surm lists the demands of the PLF, Lord Quain screams “You dare! Men, kill them all!” Shouts of “Fire!” and “Sorcery!” emerge from the hole as Mõrvar continues to cause a torch to dance about the guards attempting to put out the fire in the mezzanine.

At Quain’s order, men start emerging from the towers and volleys of arrows are let fly—even at the risk of killing Quain’s own soldiers. Surm and Rilka fight off guards at the northeast tower while Mõrvar and Savaric shoot at the guards in hole. After Surm and Rilka dispatch their guards, Mõrvar and Savaric start making their way back to the tower. Surm and Rilka enter the northeast tower and head downstairs into the keep while Mõrvar and Savaric intercept the guards that are coming from the other towers and converging at the northeast.

Inside, Surm and Rilka make their way through the long corridor that comprises “Tower Hall”. The corridor makes a perimeter about the keep, allowing only two entrances to the guard towers. Muffled shouts are heard from deeper within the keep. Surm decides to stay in the keep while Rilka doubles-back to the roof to aid Savaric and Mõrvar. She bolts the tower doors behind as she makes her way up. Surm finally finds an exit from “Tower Hall”—only to find it guarded. He bars that door and returns to the southwest tower to ponder his next move.

In the meantime, Rilka has returned to Savaric and Mõrvar, who have dispatched more of the guards. They decide to head into the keep and catch up with Surm. Smoke is starting to pour out of the hole in the roof.

Meanwhile, Surm has climbed to the top of the tower and sees a series of lights of illuminate the roof from above. The sorcerers both identify the spell as “Dancing Lights”, another low-level cantrip, probably meant as a signal or temporary illumination of the roof. Surm drops down to the catwalk, stealthily evading the guards that are gathering around the hole in the roof. Surm makes his quiet way to the northeast tower—his original entry point into the keep and the only tower without barred doors. As he makes his way down, he bars the doors behind him, effectively trapping eight of the guards on the roof.

Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar, meanwhile, have dispatched a pair of guards in the “Tower Hall”. They find the barred tower door of the southwest tower and decide to make their way back to northwest tower to secure that door. At the other end of “Tower Hall” they find a guard, which the three quickly dispatch. Savaric enters the tower and bars the door. They are then met by Surm who has secured the northeast tower.

The reunited party emerges from the “Tower Hall” into a foyer. Directly across from them are two guards hacking at the other hall entrance with axes. These guards are quickly dealt with by the party.

The foyer has two arched doorways as well as the doorway leading into the center of the keep. There is also an open set of double-doors leading to the outside. Smoke is pouring into the foyer from the central hall. Muffled shouts are also heard from within. Surm decides to check out one of the arched doorways.

In the gloom of the smoke, three figures emerge from the center of the keep and are killed—two are guards but one is a finely dressed woman with a purse and no weapons. Though she was killed by Rilka, Mõrvar quickly takes time to search her body for valuables, taking her jewelery and purse.

Mõrvar rejoins his brother in the next room, a kitchen with a pantry and nearby servant’s quarters. The pantry has a staircase leading down, which Mõrvar decides to investigate. Surm decides to search the other side of the foyer with Rilka while Savaric joins Mõrvar in the basement.

Finding a locked door, Mõrvar attempts to open it by casting “acid splash” on it indefinitely until the lock is eaten through. Inside he finds a wine cellar. Taking several bags from his pack, he takes some of the bottles. Across from the wine cellar, Mõrvar also finds the keep’s well. Meanwhile, Savaric searches out a storage area filled with old furniture, paintings, festival decorations, and the like, finding nothing of interest.

While Mõrvar and Savaric search out the basement, Surm and Rilka search the other side of the foyer. Here they encounter and search a small library, a lush receiving room, a study, and a well-searched closet. Finding nothing of interest, they re-emerge into the smoky foyer, discouraged. Determined to find something of value for all this trouble, Surm attempts to enter the main hall but turns back due to the smoke.

Savaric and Mõrvar return from the basement and search the library, closet, and study again. This time Mõrvar finds a secret compartment in the study desk containing a pouch with 50 gold coins and a compartment in the bookcase that conceals a book. The party reunites in the smoky foyer after hearing several loud crashes from the second floor.

Surm drags the body of whom they assume to the Lady Quain into the main hall while Rilka throws two guard bodies outside into the torchlight. The two guards are fired upon by arrows. The party decides to exit the keep through the northeast tower.

After climbing to the top the tower, Savaric climbs to the roof of the tower to see a guard dangling from one of the walls, trying to escape the fire that has already caused two parts of the roof to collapse. The party then stealthily makes their way along the catwalk to the far end of the keep, away from the soldiers that are gathered below to catch their comrades. They climb down the keep wall on knotted rope—except for Savaric, who falls trying to climb the wall without the aid of rope.

The party then trots to the broken section of wall where they first entered the keep, depending on the fire to maintain a decent distraction for the soldiers on the ground. Both Surm and Savaric fall from the wall as they make their way out of the keep, with Savaric needing to be healed by the wand yet again in order to continue. They make their way to their hidden horses and ride out as fast as they can with Savaric attempting to hide their tracks. They plan to find a ford in the river and head south to the city of Skeene in Leilior.

Session Five
Quain Keep

21 Awakening 508

Mõrvar Ulrich and Rilka remain on the northeast tower of the keep wall. Quickly, each dons a soldier’s overlay while Mõrvar prepares a ruse with his magic and his own guile. Using a spell, he transports a torch east, and then north from the tower while shouting that the intruders are heading north. In the meantime both Mõrvar and Rilka spot torches heading her way down the keep wall. They hear a shout to head toward the north and north-east towers, that the intruders are escaping. The ruse has worked—all too well. Soldiers are beginning to gather at Rilka and Mõrvar’s tower!

In the meantime, Surm Ulrich and Savaric find themselves in a lighted corner of the keep facing soldiers as they emerge from their barracks. Savaric dispatches one as Surm attempts to put out the torch with his cold magic. The torch sputters and Savaric fights on as more soldiers begin to emerge from the barracks. Surm summons a fire beetle to assist Savaric. Savaric fights on. Finally Surm manages to put out the torch, throwing the corner into darkness. Then he casts a Ghost Sound to give the impression that they have run around the corner of the barracks. Finally, he casts a whisper on the wind toward Mõrvar and Rilka to tell them that they need help below.

By this time, Rilka and Mõrvar have descended from the tower and the eluded the gathering soldiers at the wall. All four sneak carefully across the courtyard as soldiers gather from both ends of the barracks and make their way northeast at the command of a voice that rings across the keep. The soldiers are commanded to enact “Drill A”. Keeping to shadows as much as possible, the band hug the wall of the keep proper, making their way west toward the gates. As they make their way, they hear the shout of “who goes there?” from one of the soldiers on the wall. Mõrvar manages to bluff his way past, saying that he is “checking the perimeter”. The man on the wall corrects him with disgust, telling him that he is either to gather at the front of the keep or at the northeast tower. Mõrvar assures him that he will do just that and the band continues to sneak across the darkened courtyard.

Finally the party arrives at the northwest tower of the keep proper. Gazing around the corner, they see more torches and soldiers gathering at the keep’s gate. Rilka climbs the tower and sets up a grapple and rope for the others to climb—but not without nearly falling in the process. The others scramble up the rope onto the roof of the keep. Here they see walkways emerging from each of the four keep towers and a wood beam/tile roof. At Surm’s suggestion, the party makes their way to the center of the roof and starts removing tiles. Finally, they come to the wooden planks of the roof. Surm attempts to remove a plank, using the grapple to pry it loose. He does so—but also jars the gathered tiles as well. Gazing into the keep, the party sees soldiers beginning to gather at the tops of the stairways near their entry point through the roof. They have been detected.

Soldiers begin to emerge from the towers. The party runs into the nearest tower as the other soldiers arrive right behind them. They bar the door shut as they run down the stairs of the tower.

Once they reach the bottom of the stairs, they can either exit the tower via a door or continue down a set of stairs. They bar the door and head further down. Finally they are met with a locked door. Using the grapple as a pry bar, they manage to pop the locked door open. Moving on, they find another locked door. Prying this one open as well they find themselves in a small dungeon comprised of three empty cells and no other way out. With no other options, they make their way back up the stairs of the tower.

As they pass the first barred door at ground level, they can see that soldiers are attempting to hack through it with an axe. They can also hear a man identifying himself as Lord Quain assuring them that they “may find mercy if they surrender themselves. Otherwise, they will surely find nothing but death.” They continue up the stairs to emerge again on the roof.

This time they are met with a retinue of archers and spear-men. Rilka fights her way through one side while Savaric fights his way through the other. The tide of the battle turns against, even with Surm and Mõrvar casting spells to assist their friends. Surm is forced to used the healing wand that he had purchased in Sarra the previous day to keep Rilka in fighting shape. He runs back and forth between Rilka and Savaric, keeping both the warriors alive as they finally turn the tide of battle back to their favor. Rilka and Savaric eliminate the archers and spear men, leaving the roof momentarily empty—but only momentarily…

Session Four
Almaric's Proposal

12 Awakening 508

After camping en route from sunken temple back to Josemeedt, Mõrvar has a vision again from the imprisoned Seal of Akthalos. Both he and his brother, Surm, are wielding stones, conquering all manner of enemies and slaying them before them. Orcs, elves, dwarves, and men fall before their, and the stones’, might.

13 Awakening 508

That sundown, the party returns to Josemeedt. They are met, once again, with stares and speculation, especially having come back with the priest, Grimnir Erolsson. That night, in the common room of the hall of Yülthn, the party discusses their options and the various merits and setbacks of Almaric’s proposal. The foreigner even approaches them at one point but is told that they are still discussing the proposal.

The party also discusses Grimnir’s plans concerning the stone. He will gather a party of men, perhaps some of the warrior-priests of Saemundil that reside in Josemeedt, to take the artifact northwest to be destroyed. He offers to allow the party to go but Surm Ulrich declines, stating that the stone has had too much influence already over his brother.

14 Awakening 508

Surm Ulrich and Mõrvar Ulrich take the various goods recovered in the temple around to the vendors of Josemeedt to trade for cash and supplies. In order to sell tapestries at the Meedt, Mõrvar must meet with the Trademaster to establish himself as a vendor. The Trademaster drives a hard bargain with the sorcerer, finally demanding 4% of his take as the Meedt’s share. Later, Mõrvar manages to barter the tapestries to Korl Bransson, the horsetrader, for 8 fine horses.

That evening they approach Almaric about his proposal. Allowing Mõrvar to do the talking, the party listens as he tells the foreigner that if they determine that his tale is true and the book is his and that they recover it, the party will gladly sell his Grimoire back to him for 100 gp. Almaric does not like the sound of this deal at all, offended that his tale is called into question and that the party continuously pries into affairs that, to his mind, have nothing to do with retrieving the Grimoire. Further, put in those terms, he is afraid that the “price” for the Grimoire has become negotiable and will rise at a later date. The party is disconcerted by the man’s hesitation to divulge his background but agree to pursue the proposal and retrieve the Grimoire from Matrim Quain.

15 Awakening 508

The party first decides to head to the city of Sarra, some 11 miles south of Quain’s keep. According to Almaric, the keep is due east of Josemeedt, 5 miles from the Mondira River that marks the border between Jossia and Borael.

16 Awakening 508

The party continues to travel toward Sarra.

17 Awakening 508

The party continues to travel toward Sarra and arrive at the Mondira River. Here they decide, instead, to travel north and find a village or a bridge at which to ford the river. This location may also prove to be a “getaway” spot in the event that the heist of the Grimoire goes badly.

18 Awakening 508

The party continues to travel north along the river. Across the water they spot a tower flying the colors of the queen of Borael. Finally, near sundown, the party reaches a fishing village at the mouth of the river. They send Surm into the village to check it out.

The village, Filnas, straddles the river. There is a main bridge that is manned by Boraelan troops. These troops serve Queen Beatrix Marat of Borael. They collect taxes for Her Majesty from all those that would cross into her lands. Surm leaves and reports back to the party that perhaps this isn’t the place they want to cross—it is small and they will be noticed in the crossing. They decide, instead, to head to Sarra where at least they may be lost in a crowd.

19 Awakening 508

The party heads south along the river toward Sarra.

20 Awakening 508

Around midday, the party reaches the junction of the Ros River and the Mondira River. Around a natural harbor formed by the conjunction of the waters stands the city of Sarra. The city flies the banners of both the Queen of Borael and those of a black falcon on a field of blue. The party purchase a ferry ride across the rivers and are met by Boraelan soldiers at the harbor to collect entry taxes. Rilka declares her flask of mead as alcohol under their tariff and, rather than having her pay, the soldier merely pours out the flask. This seems to anger Mõrvar more than Rilka.

After a bit of asking about, the party heads for the Crimson Goose, a “reasonably priced” establishment to stay the night. The Goose is a busy establishment that seems to cater to humans, elves, and dwarves. The half-orcs receive some stares but not the open hostility of Josemeedt. Savaric buys a round of drinks for a table full of dwarves after greeting them in their own tongue while Mõrvar attempts to woo a elf maiden. Savaric is the more successful of the two, securing an introduction to a dwarf called “Throndin” while Mõrvar receives nothing but haughty disdain.

After discussing various plans of action, Surm decides to seek out a shop of arcana in hopes of getting information on Almaric and to secure healing magics. Mõrvar woos another girl in the common room, this time setting his bar a bit lower, and succeeding. In the meantime, Savaric passes out in a drunken stupor.

At the arcana shoppe, Surm discovers that much of Almaric’s story was true. His master was a man called “Bulsara” who was murdered, apparently by bandits, on the road between Sarra and Northold. This occurred about 10 years ago. The current Queen has reigned for 15 years, so Surm supposes that Almaric (whose full name is Almaric Amberscale) may not have had any proof against Quain. The proprietor also sells him a wand of light healing that can used 42 more times Cure Light Wounds. Surm trades a mithral bracelet for the wand.

Once the party gets back together at the Crimson Goose, it is decided that they will approach the keep on the following day.

21 Awakening 508

Initial reconnaissance of the grounds of the keep indicate that it is surrounded by a perimeter of farm land extending about a mile from the main keep walls. Various cottages dot the lands, probably homes for the serfs attached to the lands. The keep itself sits on top of a hill overseeing the lands.

The party waits until nightfall and then sends Savaric to scout ahead. He sneaks up to the walls and makes his way around to the rear of the property where he sees that a portion of wall has worn away, making it only 15’ high instead of the 20’ of the rest of the wall. The guard towers house two men each. One man will stay in the tower while the other walks the wall at irregular intervals. The towers stand 10’ higher than the wall. There are 6 guard towers in total, including the gate towers. Savaric reports back to the others.

The party decides that the 15’ high section of wall will be their entry point. Perhaps the irregular intervals of the soldiers indicates a lack of discipline that the party can take advantage of. First Savaric goes up, securing a grapple and rope for the others to use. Next comes Rilka, followed by Surm Ulrich, and finally Mõrvar Ulrich. Each manage to stay silent and dodge the scrutiny of the wandering guardsman—until all are on the wall. Then, from an adjacent guard tower, they hear the sound of “who goes there?” Surm, thinking quickly, casts a spell and the sound of dogs barking and running away fills the night. After a heart-wrenching few moments, the party continues down the wall toward the north-east gate.

The last one to enter the tower is Mõrvar. The sound of his entry is heard by the guard on the platform above them. He looks down with a cry of alarm, followed by “INTRUDERS!”. Mõrvar stabs him with his longspear. Surm and Savaric continue down the tower while Rilka and Mõrvar face the incoming soldiers. After dispatching two more soldiers, Mõrvar and Rilka are left to cover their exits from the tower…