Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Nineteen
Exploring the Ruins

7 Illumination 508 (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Eighteen
Climbing the Summit

4 Illumination 508

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Illumination 508

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

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

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

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

6 Illumination 508

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

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

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

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

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

7 Illumination 508

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Seventeen
Travel and Omens

16 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

17 Growth 508

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

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

18 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

19 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

20 Growth 508

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

21 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s over in a heartbeat.

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

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

22 Growth 508

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

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

23 Growth 508

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

24 Growth 508

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

25 Growth 508

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

26 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

28 Growth 508

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

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

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

4 Illumination 508

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


Session Sixteen
Confrontation in the Keep

14 Growth 508 (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

One says to the other “You see anything?”


“The old man’s getting paranoid.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Fifteen
Once More Into the Breach

14 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Fourteen

13 Growth 508 (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Yes, it’s me.

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

“What is this?” Ren asked.

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

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

“Where’s our mother?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Thirteen
Valley of Blades

10 Growth 508 (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Growth 508

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

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

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

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

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

The party proceeds toward the third checkpoint.


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!