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Session 47 – Chapter One

With Dancer’s paranoia, he started checking his room for any spyholes, hidden areas, or anything off with the room, and he found nothing.  His single person room, while somewhat nice was still far from the luxury back at the Blackbutter Inn in Red Larch.  The rooms here also lacked the magical protections that made him feel somewhat safer.

The discussion moved to the fact that the statue had moved from ISAC to Vladimir. Ace wondered what would happen if it ever was able to accumulate all four elements.  It was pointed out that it already was able to utilize all four elements, and when it moved gain additional powers of the four elements.  When asked about if ISAC felt any different, he claimed he was still the same and did not have felt possessive at all about it.  Vladimir concurred that he does not have any of those feelings.

From there they talked about if they should split because half the party was more noticeable than the rest.  It might make sense to have one group operate more obviously, but as Vladimir pointed out, that if the cultists were here, they most likely already had accurate descriptions of the entire party.

Vladimir led the discussion to strategize on what they should be looking for and asking about. He suggested that they get a better idea of the political landscape with Womford and Bargewright Inn. It was suggested that they look into Feston more and if they could figure out if he was involved with the cultists or not. Dancer said he would be looking around for at least the first part of the day trying to get some basic information and general vibe of the town.  

They started trying to figure out what things they needed to shop for as well.  Both Angelica’s and Vladimir’s plate had been chewed up somewhat severely by the shark-tooth swords of the Reavers.  There was also a request for a lute and blacksmith tools, as well as many other small items that people needed.  Dancer also suggested that if they were supposed to mercenaries, then they could also use that as an excuse to look around and ask questions.  This led to a longer discussion on what they should call themselves. After many very bad and poor puns, they finally settled on the Seven Blades.

Yllanys went downstairs to get his own room with Kieren following invisibly with Fwoosh heading down to the dining room invisible as well.  After getting his room he headed to the bar and sat and listened to the rowdy people in bar. Between the two of them they were able to hear several different rumors and things that were being talked about.

“Ever notice how Feston gets twitchy when anyone mentions Womford? I bet he’s got some skeletons in his closet that have to do with that town.”

A few merchants heatedly discuss a recent hike in tariffs that seem to be influenced by outside pressures, possibly from Womford, where new power players have emerged. They also heard about a story where a bunch of adventurers were being chased by a dragon and had managed to fireball the wooden bridge into oblivion.  There is not a stone bridge that crosses River Dessarin that replaced it.

Everyone then settled into their rooms setting up different defensive precautions depending on their level of paranoia and slept for the night.

12th of Flamerule of the year 1492

With morning having arrived, everyone except Yllanys came down for some breakfast. Everyone then stated where they wanted to go for the morning.  Angelica headed to the Haeleth’s Horseshoes, Ace to the Shondrin’s Packsack of Plenty, Dancer visited many of the stores spreading around gold and trying to catch any rumors, Fwoosh to the Stalls looking for some armor, ISAC and Vladimir headed to Tabra’s, and finally once Yllanys came down he wandered around town until he found Ace and followed him clandestinely looking for anyone tailing Ace.

Upon entering Tabra’s, ISAC and Vladimir were escorted to a round booth.  Looking around they could see many of the other tables, all round booths were occupied by men and women who were all being served by men and women.  It was a fairly quiet place of people enjoying themselves with other people.  It was not long before two women came by and sat at the table sitting very close to both of them.  The girls were leaning in and touching the two as they introduced themselves.

“What can we get you?”

“A menu.”

“We do not really have a menu; everything is just sort of ala carte. But if you are looking for food, we do have a daily meal, which would be breakfast right now. You can choose how you would like it served.”

“Plates, I think.”

“Oh, you want the mundane serving method. I see.  We can send over a pretty boy over here instead of me.”

“Uh, I, uh, I don’t know, um, the plates would be fine.”

“I’ll send Charles over to deliver the, uh, meal to you.”

“I think we are just here for the food and visibility, kind of.”

Before the food arrived, ISAC and Vladimir discussed their options and that it might be difficult to approach anyone in Tabra’s.  They agreed talking to the staff might be helpful, but how to do so. A young thin man came over with their food and sat next to Vladimir as close as he could and started cutting the food and slowly feeding him each bite.

“Charles, I presume.”

“Yes. Say ah.”

When asking about Feston, Charles explained that Feston did wander around a lot of ordering people around.  But the command on the other hand Chalaska Muruin used to come in regularly, but in the last six months she has hardly been in Tabra’s at all.

“She used to be here almost every night.”

“What happened?”

“I do not know; she just seems to be stressed out and I’ve offered to soothe her nerves.”

“This seems like the place to go if you are stressed.”

“Oh, it definitely is. [to ISAC] I want to hear about you too.  You are a strange looking man.  Elizabeth said you do not feel the way you look.”

Explaining what they came in for.  Asking about something more social and less “business.” Charles let them know that most of the other mercenary groups are probably at the Wet Crossing. Vladimir started asking questions about what rumors they had heard.  Charles seemed a little unhappy and waved over an almost childishly small woman and told her that these gentlemen wanted the special drink.

Tabra

After collecting 100gp from the two, Charles led them to another area deeper into the festhall until they came to a room where Tabra waited for them behind a table.

“Alright gentlemen, you paid for some for some time to have questions answered. What might you want to know?”

“We have heard a number of rumors in our short time in town.”

“Yes, you arrived last night, and you are staying at the Old Bargewright Inn.”

“Maybe that should be our first question, how much do you know about our group.”

“100 gold will not cover that question.  For 500 gold I will answer some of that question.  100 gold got you into this room to talk to me.”

“What can you tell us about Feston Bargewright and his second in command Chalaska Muruin.”

“General history will be cheap, something specific will be more expensive.”

“We have heard that Chalaska has been stressed out and potentially stopped coming here recently. Is their relationship good, is there tension between them?”

“50 gold pieces.”

“Six months ago, he changed.  Chalaska is his right-hand man.  It is not that they are really contesting against each other.  Their behaviors have changed. Chalaska has gotten more paranoid.  Sometimes muttering to herself.  Looking for spies.  In fact, both of them have a small red crystal.  They will grasp and look at it.  They are not usually together and doing their own tasks and such, but they will both have the same behavior, stopping in the middle of something, even in the middle of a sentence, as if a new thought comes to their head. Six months ago, a group of men in reddish cloaks and robes all arrived at the same time and they have not been seen since, nor have they been seen leaving.  Whether that is related or not, there is not any confirmation. I do know that that the organization that Feston owes his allegiance to is getting unhappy with him. I have heard they will send an investigator at some point.”

“Tell us what organization that is.”

“500 gold pieces.”

“I think we will manage that one on our own. Have you heard of the man-bat supposedly running around a haunted mill?”

“50 gold pieces.”

“How about five?”

“For that I will point a direction for you.”

“okay.”

“It is five miles that way.  It is a burned down mill.  It burned down at least 50 years ago. 25 gold more, I will tell you more about the Man-Bat and the old mill.”

“Will it be useful?”

“That is for you to determine.  You pay the price that I quote, and you get the information.  Everything has its own value.”

“Where do you get your information?”

“Where are we?  For 2,500 gold I will tell you that.”

“For whom do you collect your information?”

“To sell, and that will be one of the few freebies.”

“Do you know what those red crystals you mentioned are?  What’s the purpose of them?  Where do they come from?

“I do not have a price on that information.”

“Okay, we will pay the 25 gold for that man-bat information.”

“It is false.  Going to the mill won’t do anything.  Supposedly he got involved with some vampires.  He used to be a priest, why would a priest be at a mill.  He does give enigmatic messages.  We have tried to making sense of them. None have, at least to none of us listening.  He does not come in here.  He seems to be more circumspect about entering some places.”

“But is he at the old mill?”

“No, he is not. Why would a priest ever have been there.”

“Who would have planted that story?”

“Sometimes stories come out of nothing.  There are old men and women who just like to talk.  You look like a former military man, and you have never told a tall tale of a battle you have been in or told a tale and someone else told it.  It kinds of grows and changes the story as it progresses to different people. It is the same thing here.”

“Okay, final question.  We have heard a rumor that there is a tunnel under the river.”

“I will give you this one for free.  No.”

“What is something that we would be interesting in knowing that we do not know about yet?”

“10,000 gold pieces.”

“I think that is a bit too high for us.”

“The more ambiguous you get the more expensive the information gets.”

“Besides information do you happen to sell anything else other than services?”

“What were you interested in?  I am not really a shop here.”

“I am a person who finds interest in Dwarven goods, in particular I like Dwarven history and there is quite a bit of it in this valley.  I am always keeping an eye out for any.”

“Under this hill there is what is left of an old Dwarven fort.  That is why it is a hill.”

“Does anybody ever go down there?”

“It’s buried, that’s why it’s a hill.”

Winding up their conversation, Vladimir did ask about if they could sell information as well and was told that it would have to be something very interesting for her to want to have it.

On the other side of town, Fwoosh started wandering the Stalls.  There were many different craftsmen there.  It looked like all the buildings had multiple shops in them and everything looked more temporary than permanent for the vendors. Heading to one of the leather vendors he negotiated for some studded leather to replace his shredded leather armor. As he continued to wander, he found himself in a “witchy” type of store.

In the witchy type of store, Fwoosh introduced himself and made his request.  When getting some clarification from him, she brought a box of specialized tools that would be useful at Tabra’s. Nothing in the bin was of interest to Fwoosh, so he brought out his Death Fortune card and asked about it.  That is when she offered to do a reading for Fwoosh.  Going into the back room, she started shuffling a deck and as he watched the cards started flying around her until they all settled into her hands.

Death Card

“I do not think that I can do a reading for you.  Just take these cards with you.”

“Okay.”

“It looks like you are weaving your own fate not allowing others to dictate it.”

“That is awfully kind of you.  I will hopefully do something good with them, and I will.  I will.”

“If you need more, come back and I will be happy to sell you the next deck.”

“We heard about a man-bat near a mill.  Do you know much about that?”

“There are a lot of people in town that move in the shadows and probably half of it has been that. So, there have been of seeing people fly in the sky in the night. Of course, in the age of wizards that is not such a big deal.”

“Of course.”

“It is not like those damn hippogriff riders.”

“I don’t like them.”

“They are arrogant.  They occasionally go to Tabra’s, but they seem to land here sometimes, and then sometimes they’ll land over in Womford.  There always seems to be a group of them flying over at some point.  Who knows what they are doing. They are very snooty and call themselves knights or something like that.”

“Yeah, they must be doing lots of surveying or something. I do not know of what is of value here.”

“They have been around for about five or six years and have been increasing in quantity since then.  It has been the last year or that we have seen the most of them. I have only been here about a year and a half and will probably move in another couple of months I will be moving on.”

“Where to?”

“I won’t go to Goldenfields, it is just a big religious area, and they tend to burn people who are different from them.  Probably somewhere down south.”

At Haeleth’s Horseshoes, Angelica discussed the price for repairing her armor and not willing to make an immediate decision, chose not to leave hers there.  She was able to pick up a Smithing Toolset for Ace. As some backup armor, she also purchased a chain shirt. Wanting to relax a bit, she headed to Tabra’s where she spent the rest of the morning with her personal caretaker Thor.

Haeleth

Ace was seeking some sort of musical instrument and was hoping that Shondrin’s Packsack of Plenty would have one for him. He was met by Shondrin, and odd fellow that spoke too fast and wanted to make a sale, no matter what it might be. While he did not have a lute in stock, he promised he would be able to have one ready by the morning for Ace. The most confusing purchase that he attempted was some slices or a loaf of bread.  While not the most shocking thing that Shondrin has been asked for, it was probably the most mundane.  He sent Ace to one of the taverns in town for bread since it was not something he would carry and did not care to.

Shondrin

Upon leaving the Packsack of Plenty, he noticed that Yllanys was doing a less than stellar performance in hiding and following him.  Ignoring the wink from Yllanys, he made his way to Tabra’s. He briefly saw Angelica who was quickly led away by Thor leaving Ace with Austin as Ace tried to order some bread and Austin kept taking it in a very different direction than he expected.  He was finally able to make it clear he only wanted some bread.  Austin changed an incredible amount for some bread and shooed Ace out of the building.

With his newly acquired bread, Ace headed to the docks to talk to some seagulls. Still being new to this form of magic, his attempts to communicate with very small, brained birds proved to be fairly fruitless, but he was able to feed them well.

Yllanys who had been following Ace decided that the Stalls were more of his interest than following Ace outside of the town. He stopped by a small shop that claimed to have some dragon dung. Arguing that he should be allowed to test it before buying, Yllanys left discouraged by the rejection.

Visiting all the stores and shops, Dancer made his way around the town spending gold in every place and chatting with the local working in each one. He had some interesting discussions and was able get a few new rumors. It was at Rinthar’s Wagonworks where he was able to get the most interesting conversations.

“A young lad here claimed he found an old coin with a strange symbol by the riverbank. His mother threw it back into the water, fearing it was cursed. Said it looked like it was crying.”

“You know, Chalaska used to be a good man, but now he’s all hush-hush. Last week, he nearly took my head off for asking about his new friends from across the river.”

“You mean Womford?”

“That is the rumor said.  He has been carrying around this little red stone and every once in a while, stops and stares at it as if lost in thought or talking to himself.”

“You think that maybe he is going kind of crazy?”

“No one would tell him that because he is really good with the sword and has proved it many times.”

“Well, that sounds creepy.”

“Both he and Feston have turned kind of creepy lately.”

“Who is Feston?”

“He is the one that runs this whole place.”

“I would have thought it would have been one of the Bargewright’s.”

“It is, he is Feston Bargewright. Feston still swears about some woman named Olga.  Claims that she plucked out his eye and ate it.”

“I do not know what to say about that.”

“It happened 20 years ago and only the older guys remember it.”

“I don’t need to worry about someone eating my eyes right now.”

“The only person that has been here for a very long time is the half-elf who runs Old Bargewright Inn, Nalaskur Thaelond.  He’s been around for about 40 to 50 years. He had supposedly helped Feston to take the ownership of this place.  Feston did have eight brothers and sisters, and the only one left is Aldon.  All the rest of them floated down the river.

”Wow, well, obviously we are new in town and part of a mercenary group.  Would you know anyone who is looking for a small crew?”

The chat went on a bit longer with Dancer being directed to one of the taverns such as the one in Old Bargewright Inn or the Wet Crossing.  He also suggested waiting at the gate and greeting some of the incoming merchants and seeing if any of them needed guards.  Dancer asked about a part-time job with the guards themselves and was informed that the guards are fairly particular about who works with them, and most of the guard positions have been passed from father to son.

When prompted for something more chemically recreational, he whispered to Dancer that supposedly you can get some of that in Womford at the Temple of Chauntea and Valkur.  But did not know the specifics, only a rumor. Dancer then went to the Stalls to see if there were any additional rumors he could pick up.

“They say the man-bat was once a priest who meddled with forbidden powers. Now he’s cursed to fly the night, warning us of dangers we’re too blind to see.”

With everyone having completed their errands, they all met back at the Old Bargewright Inn.  Angelica passed on the Smith’s Tools to Ace, and everyone brought their lunch up to Dancer’s room. Vladimir relayed what he had learned at Tabra’s. His biggest theory was that there were fire cultists underground somewhere, probably in the buried old Dwarven fortress below them. The rest also shared what they had learned from wandering around the town. Both Vladimir and ISAC questioned the veracity of the information and that they should still investigate the mill to confirm it was a dead end.

When the conversation came to the organization that Feston belonged to, Dancer admitted that he was the investigator from that organization that had been sent down here to find out what was wrong. Dancer suggested that the source of the issue might come from Womford or maybe below the town, but he believed that there was more evidence pointing to Womford. Since it was already very late afternoon, they decided that tomorrow would be a better day to head to the old mill instead of trying to trek there tonight.

Deciding that they still had time for a little more intelligence gathering, Dancer and Vladimir headed to the bar in the Old Bargewright Inn while the rest made their way to the Wet Crossing.

The two staying at the Inn went into the bar heading for a table somewhat near the middle of the room.  Trying to be circumspect, Dancer looked around occasionally looking for Nalaskur, but the half-elf never showed, even after being in the bar for several hours. They were able to overhear several groups talking.

“The water levels near Womford have been oddly high this season, even without much rain. Some say it’s unnatural, the work of those who walk with wet feet.”

“I heard from a reliable source that Feston’s been meeting with some cloaked strangers at odd hours. They’re not from around here, and they carry the scent of the river on them.”

At some point of the evening, they spotted Feston, and his brother Aldon show up and move to a table.  Food and drink were brought to the two brothers, and they seemed to be arguing about something over the meal.  After an hour, they both left.

Feston Bargewright

Aldon Bargewright

The rest of the party arrived at the Wet Crossing.  The entire building was a combination of bar and dining area.  The clientele was mostly mercenaries and locals. Looking around for anyone familiar but nothing came up.  Getting drinks, the group sat at a table with Fwoosh playing some cards and the rest watching. Using Keirin to listen in on some conversations they also caught some rumors.

“I heard from one of the caravan guards that the boats coming from Womford carry not just goods, but also cloaked figures. They don’t mix with the locals and disappear as soon as they land.”

“I wouldn’t go nosing around about Womford if I were you. Last person who got too curious about the goings-on there hasn’t been seen for weeks.”

At some point Ace started buy drinks for everyone in the place keeping the cheer high and made the entire Wet Crossing increase in volume. Using this opportunity Ace sat at several of the tables getting some stories from them and telling some of his own tall tells, most of which include some curious details about some of the places they had been. At one of the tables, he was given some names of merchants that might be looking for guards. Some of the other talk reiterated some of the rumors they had already heard about bodies floating down the river, cursed coins, and a few other tall stories.

While Ace was mingling, Fwoosh joined a card game and was caught by surprise that three of the men he was facing where somehow team cheating and beat him on most of the hands. But while playing, he did get a little more information. Fwoosh brought up the rumor about the man-bat at the old mill, and it was a familiar rumor to them, but they did add to it, that the man-bat has been seen around the area for at least a decade.  The mill rumor seems to be a more recent rumor to them. It also came up that Feston and Chalaska had been acting a little weird of late, but since their merchant boss only came by once a year, it was hard to tell. Chalaska has been a lot more paranoid and inspecting cargo a lot more closely and having less tolerance for smuggling which did not used to matter at all.

Once he figured it out that they were cheating, he gave a small applause and told them “Bravo.” And went back to the party’s table. The group then headed back and linked up with the two they had left behind and headed to Dancer’s room again.  Sharing what each had learned they started planning for their morning. This is when Fwoosh found a note in his pocket which read:

“History repeats its etched sorrows; yesterday’s sigils become tomorrow’s horrors.”

Which then generated a little more conversation, but not much. When the discussions were completed, they all headed to their rooms to rest for the evening.

13th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Morning arrived, and this is where the session ended.

Session 46 – Chapter One

With the combat over and the party licking their wounds, many of them just short of unconsciousness.  Sending Dancer and Skinny forward with Olga following closely, they explored the nearby hills.  Once on top they could see the hidden camp from the ambushers on this hill as well as the one on the nearby hill.  There were a couple of tents on this hill and two sets of tents on the other.

Moving to the tents, the first proved to just be a two-man tent with normal gear in it, but the second two-man tent on the other side of the hill was of much nicer quality and inside was filled with a very high-quality cot, blanket and pillow, and three chests.  Two medium, and one small highly ornate one. Deciding that investigating and going to the other hill was looking for any additional ambushers that might have been left behind.  The other hill had a set of three two-man tents and a single eight-man tent that doubled as a place to rest as well as the dining hall.  The ruins on both of the hills proved to be some sort of Dwarvish Motte-and-bailey fortification with a collapsed stone bridge between the two hills.  All that remained was ruins and rubble.

All the campfires had been put out, but were still warm, and the food on the table in the dining area was still somewhat warm. It seemed that the ambush had been organized somewhat quickly as the characters came down the robe. There were many boxes of barrels of supplies, and on one side of the hill they noticed some hoof and claw marks on a clearing on the second hill.  After investigating more, the figured out that it might have been the Feathergale Knights on their hippogriffs had told them when the party was coming down the road.  This had lined up with them having spotted the flyers earlier in the day.

Inside the building on the second hill contained more supplies as well as some sort of altar.  Yllanys was able to identify it as belong to something from the elemental plane of water, but not specifically who. With their investigation finished, Olga started eating the food on the table while it was still warm, and they waited for the rest of the party to catch up to them. There were not any ambushers left and the camp was empty.  

Dancer, Fwoosh, and Ace went back to the nicest tent to examine the chests.  Fwoosh was easily able to remove the traps and unlock the traps on the two medium chests which the first was filled with coin, perhaps a pay chest, and the second with potions and scrolls. The ornate chest proved to be more difficult as Fwoosh set off the poison needle trap which put Ace and Fwoosh into a near death state requiring immediate attention from the party to heal and bring back to consciousness.

Once everyone was healed up to some minimum amount, Dancer was able to open up the ornate chest and inside was two clear orbs safely cradled within.  The chest had been constructed to keep them safe from any harsh shaking or even being dropped.   There were also three letters that had a fair amount of interesting information.

Letter from Gar Shatterkeel

Letter from Shoalar Quanderil

Letter from Thuluna Maah

The party grabbed all the different loot, coins, and other gear that they had found in the camp and on all the dead ambushers and had Yllanys check for magic.  The orbs as well as the armor the priest had been wearing were magic.  While the rest of the rest of the group prepared a meal from what had been left behind, Yllanys used that time to slowly identify the magic items.  The two orbs were some sort of Elemental Orbs, created to hold elementals to be released upon throwing them on the ground, but both were in an empty state waiting for an elemental to be captured.  The armor was something partially made of some type of icy metal giving superior protection as well as resistance to fire and cold.  He also could see that the newly acquired dagger that Fwoosh had found was also magical, but at this time he did not want to know what it was.

Vladimir was very happy to see some replacement armor since his plate.  Using his time to unattuned to his magical maul he was hoping to be able to attune to the armor soon afterwards, however, it seems that he could not unattuned to that artifact.  Moving on to removing his axe instead and waiting for the attuning to the armor the next day, the group settled down for the night. Concerned with being tracked further, they went over different options on how to possibly avoid the detection as they continued south.

The party then spent the next several hours reviewing the new letters and comparing the information with older letters they had found and what clues they knew.  They come up with abandoned a dozen different plans and discusses where they should go to next.  It seemed that Womford was getting attention from the pirates and probably the water cultists.  Dancer pushed for continuing to Bargewright Inn and gather information before jumping into anything new yet.

Except that Fwoosh, ISAC, and Vladimir were unable to stand watch and had been stuck in some sort of nightmare the entire night.  

11th of Flamerule of the year 1492

In the morning, the three were tired, and the golden statue seemed to have migrated between ISAC to Vladimir taking his one open sloe for a magic item making him very sad. Settling for his old splint mail in place of this plate that had been heavily damaged by the shark-toothed swords of the reavers.  Both ISAC and Vladimir described their dreams which were somewhat similar in that they were sliced by air, burned by fire, buried by earth, and drowned by water.

With some of the group tired, and the rest ready to push forward they were eventually able to arrive at Bargewright Inn.  While on the way they saw several flights of what they thought were Feathergale knights coming to watch them, and then either flying back north and some south toward their destination. Arriving just before dark and before the gate closed, they made their way to the entrance.  It was here that Olga mentioned that it might be better for her to head off another errand.  She reminded them that she had told them that she had gotten into a bar fight the last time she had been here, and one of her opponents had been someone Feston Bargewright and had somehow plucked his eye out during the fight. So, off she when to Goldenfields to run some errands while the rest went in Bargewright.

At the entrance they saw a man that they were told was a Feston Bargewright was commanding a group working on something but occasionally seemed to be distracted and then snapped back to his work. Dancer gave him a look and then they all headed to the Old Bargewright Inn.

Feston Bargewright

The Old Bargewright Inn was a huge building with a couple of towers on the wings exceeding five stories and the main building the middle standing four floors high. Inside there was a very large dining room to one side, and on the other a bar able to hold at least 100 and almost filled to the brim. At the front desk they were met by a half-elf who introduced himself as Nalaskur Thaelond and the innkeeper of this place. Getting some information about the town and the services at the Inn, they took several rooms with Dancer taking a solo room and the rest sharing two-person rooms.

Nalaskur Thaelond

On the way to one of the rooms to make plans, a shadowy figure stepped up to Ace and whispered in his ear.

“The river whispers of hidden flames, and the old water bears new secrets.”

And then vanished again to the shadows.  Ace attempted to chase but did not find him anywhere. Back in their rooms they reviewed more plans again, and what they should do next.  The plans went from trying to disguise themselves as the reavers that had ambushed them, or to run around asking questions everywhere, when Dancer pointed out that they should consider being more discreet and quieter in their questioning and get a better lay of the land until they have a better idea of what is happening, and that starting here in Bargewright would make the most sense.

And this is where the session ended.

Session 45 – Chapter One

5th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Since it was still during the day, Ace decided to head up the tallest hill near Red Larch and start making an artistic rendition of the town. There had been a lot of growth in the last 45 days with all the immigrating Dwarves.  They had added many dwellings, some apartments for the workers, and even two windmills to allow them to grind their own wheat.  From the hill he could see the miners working diligently in the Tomb Quarry, others working on the construction to fix the sinkhole.  While it was not high enough to see all of the town, he could easily imagine the parts he had seen from the streets.

Fwoosh was using his time asking about the seal on the envelope that had included that message about Glance.  It did not seem that anyone recognized it, and a few suggested it looked like something from a macabre circus of some sort. He found a sympathetic ear with Gwendolyn.  Any of the others in town he asked about did not get him any other information or leads.

Gwendolyn Venelli

She pointed to his ring with the symbol of the Zhentarim on it and suggested that if Fwoosh was seeking something creepy or evil, he would be better going to the group represented by that group, and they might be able to find out something more than she knew.  

With such a busy week, the group all settled down for the evening for another night of a peaceful rest including Dancer who tried different places in his room to sleep every couple of hours as he tends to do.

6th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Early the next morning Dancer headed out for his daily ration of three doze bear claws.  The sky outside was fairly ominous.  The air was very still, not hot, nor cold, just tepid and dead. It felt like a storm was coming, but none of the accompanying smells were in the air.  Just black clouds filling the air suppressing the morning light and casting deep shadows over the town.  Arriving at the bakery and getting the pastries from Mangobarl, the baker whispered in Dancer’s ear that Jepos wanted to see him tonight.

Mangobarl Lorren

Getting back to the inn, he could see the rest of the party stumble down for their breakfast. Vladimir had stopped by the bar to see Dhelosk and collect the letter that had been left for him. When asked about who left it for him, Dhelosk just said that he owed this group some favors and holding a package for them did not cover them all. Heading to the group table Vladimir began reading the letter.

Dhelosk Quelbeard

He explained that it was some sort of Intelligence Report from the Harpers on Thurl Merosska, the leader of the Feathergale Knights. He shared what was written in the letter which led to some interesting side conversations about Thurl. Ace and Yllanys had to be updated on who and what Thurl was and about the Feathergale Knights since all of those adventures had predated them joining the party. All of them were still suspecting Thurl and his knight represented the air cult in some fashion. They talked about different ways of possibly infiltrating the knights to spy on them. Ace reminded them that they had some clues in Womford to follow up on as well.

Letter from the Harpers

Which read:

Harper Intelligence on Thurl Merosska

Name: Thurl Merosska

Occupation: Leader of the Feathergale Knights

Background: Griffon Rider of Waterdeep:

    Service Record: Thurl Merosska was once a prominent griffon rider in Waterdeep, renowned for his bravery and aerial combat skills. His prowess in the skies earned him a position of respect and authority within the Griffon Cavalry.

    Near-Death Experience: Thurl’s promising career took a dramatic turn after a severe storm nearly claimed his life. This experience profoundly affected him, leading to a noticeable shift in his demeanor and priorities.

Behavioral Changes Post-Storm:

    Risk-Taking and Recklessness: Following his near-death encounter, Thurl began exhibiting increasingly reckless behavior. He frequently took unnecessary risks during missions, endangering both himself and his comrades.

    Casualties Among His Troop: Thurl’s newfound recklessness led to several fatalities within his unit, including the death of a noble’s son. This incident, in particular, attracted significant attention and backlash from the higher echelons of Waterdeep’s military and political circles.

    Forced Retirement: Due to the escalating concerns about his judgment and the mounting pressure from influential families, Thurl was ultimately forced into retirement. His departure from the Griffon Cavalry was not voluntary but rather a measure taken to prevent further casualties and diplomatic incidents.

Formation of the Feathergale Knights:

    Feathergale Society: After his retirement, Thurl established the Feathergale Society. Ostensibly a social club for aerial enthusiasts and wealthy adventurers, it quickly gained popularity among Waterdeep’s elite.

    Recruitment and Training: Leveraging his connections and reputation, Thurl recruited several members into the Feathergale Knights. This group was framed as an elite order dedicated to mastering aerial combat and exploration.

Current Activities and Influence:

    Leadership: Thurl is the undisputed leader of the Feathergale Knights. He commands a dedicated group of knights who look up to him for guidance and inspiration.

    Base of Operations: The Feathergale Spire, a tall tower situated on the edge of the Sumber Hills, serves as the headquarters for the Feathergale Knights. This location provides both a strategic vantage point and a secluded retreat for the group.

    Reputation: While some view the Feathergale Knights as a group of eccentric aerial enthusiasts, others recognize the potential danger posed by their militaristic structure and Thurl’s influence. Rumors of their intense loyalty to Thurl and their secretive gatherings have raised suspicions among certain factions.

Known Associates and Connections:

    Noble Ties: Thurl maintains connections with several noble families in Waterdeep. His charm and the allure of the Feathergale Society have attracted individuals from influential backgrounds.

    Recruitment Efforts: Thurl is believed to be actively recruiting more members into the Feathergale Knights. His criteria for selection are not entirely clear, but he seems to favor individuals with a penchant for adventure and a willingness to embrace unconventional ideas.

Unresolved Questions and Concerns:

    Motivations: While Thurl’s obsession with his near-death experience is well-documented, the full extent of its impact on his motivations remains unclear. Some speculate that he seeks to recreate or understand the forces that nearly ended his life.

    Ultimate Goals: The true purpose behind the Feathergale Society and Thurl’s long-term plans are subjects of ongoing speculation. The Harpers are particularly interested in uncovering any potential threats posed by the group.

Surveillance and Recommendations:

    Continued Monitoring: The Harpers recommend continued surveillance of Thurl Merosska and the Feathergale Knights. Any significant changes in their activities or membership should be documented and investigated.

    Potential Allies: Identifying and cultivating potential allies within the Feathergale Society could provide valuable insights into Thurl’s plans and the group’s internal dynamics.

    Caution: Given Thurl’s past behavior and influence, caution is advised when dealing with him directly. His charisma and leadership abilities should not be underestimated.

Summary:

Thurl Merosska, once a celebrated griffon rider of Waterdeep, now leads the Feathergale Knights, a group with growing influence and a reputation for secrecy. His near-death experience and subsequent forced retirement catalyzed his transformation into a risk-taking leader, attracting a dedicated following among Waterdeep’s elite. The Harpers continue to monitor his activities, aware of the potential dangers posed by his leadership and the mysterious objectives of the Feathergale Society.

With breakfast completed, Ace headed back to his hill and because of the black clouds and a general lack of sufficiently light used his imagination more than his sight to continue making his painting of Red Larch. Yllanys went out seeking some exotic skins for his hobby, but there were not any in town, but the Dwarven tanner did offer to process any that he found.

Once a sufficient amount of time had passed, Dancer and Fwoosh headed to the bakery for his meeting with Jepos.  Once ushered in, he could see that Jepos’s office was now a solid stone addition added to the bakery.  No longer was he conducting business on some sacks of flour.  He had a nice furnished office with a nice wooden desk, several bookcases, and all the things he needed to do his work.

Jepos Copperhand

“Wow.”

“I’m glad you guys came in. Let me get straight to the point. Barge right in is critical to our operations in the Dessarin Valley. Any instability there affects all of us, and especially my profit margin. I need you to handle this, Delicately, but effectively, if you can do this job for me.”

“What job?”

“The owner there is a member of our group, Feston Bargewright. He’s a 5th generation owner of the area, and only in the last 20-30 years have we managed to take control of it. We groomed him in, and then slipped in and took over. It’s a big money maker. There seems to be some kind of conflict.

We are getting weird answers out of there. The finances seem kind of odd. They’re not making nearly as much money as they used to. I don’t know if it’s him or his second-in-command who is Chalaska Muruin, and she’s a very fierce warrior, and also a member of our group, whereas Feston is more of the sticky-finger type.

It almost seems like they’re struggling against each other or vying for something, we don’t know. I’m not able to get any clear answers. So, I’d like you to go, begin with observation, and integrate yourselves there, get a feel of the daily operations, and keep an eye on Feston and Chalaska. Don’t necessarily announce who you are. See if there are any unusual meetings or shifts in their routines or changes in their behavior, and once you have a clear understanding of what’s wrong, you need to find a solution. It could be anything from negotiating a truce, uncovering and stopping any external influence or corruption, or if necessary, reasserting our influence directly.

If you uncover threats beyond just internal squabbles, say external forces or deeper corruption, report back to me before acting. You can use this to communicate with me three times. It also can represent my authority if necessary.”

And with that Jepos handed off a small token to Dancer

Zhentarim Token

“My ring looks like that.”

“I need you to kind of be discreet about it.”

The three then strategized on how they would convince the party to head to Bargewright and allow Dancer and Fwoosh to conduct their investigation.

“I have heard through the grapevine that there might be things in Womford that, the party wants to do, which is right adjacent to Bargewright. Any influence that’s occurring into Bargewright could be coming from Womford. There have been some strange happenings there as well. And our influence really hasn’t, for some reason, getting into Womford. So, there’s something on the other side of that river as well. It’s also been known that the pirates have come and gone in Womford, which is probably related. I wouldn’t think it’d be too difficult to convince them to take a peek that direction.”

“We’re so discreet. A cat and a bird. What could be more discreet than that? Nothing.”

“You don’t need to head down immediately, but if you could take off in the next couple of days at least, that would be great.”

“Yeah, I think we could do that.”

“Yeah, it’s roughly the time frame that we’re working on. I think that kind of has the party’s attention right now is that we’ve just gotten some information about the Feathergale Knights.”

“If you get names of people, that’s something that we potentially could create a report on. That is one of the services we provide to people for money.”

“Yeah, I think we actually got a pretty concise report.”

“Thurl Merosska. He was in Waterdeep for a long time.”

“Oh, I can send a request in. Maybe they can get information back.

“Maybe even about some nobles that were funding him. I guess the spire that they built a decade ago was funded by some noble houses. “

“I mean, what we’re really trying to figure out is whether or not he’s tied up with these cultists and what not.”

“Some sort of storm swept him up. That spire was there fourteen years ago. Well, they were celebrating their big ten-year anniversary.”

“I think that spire’s been around for three, four hundred years.”

“That would make a lot more sense given how big it was.”

“Maybe he was just celebrating ten years of his society.”

“How dare he is not so specific.”

“Supposed to be one of the rumored haunted keeps that are here.  I have been doing history research. There’s just been four of them. There was a fortress on the river. There was a monastery. There was a spire, and then there was another building deeper in the hills.”

“Something to explore if you find out more information.”

“I can look into Thurl. It might take two or three days. I mean, if you want to stick around two or three days, then I can probably have the report here for you.”

Fwoosh changed the subject to the symbol on the letter and his fortune card he had found, but Jepos did not know anything but could make a request to see if there is anything he could gather.

“There are two other names that might be useful to you. There’s Aldon Bargewright, who’s Feston’s brother. Something’s happening to Feston in Bargewright. He might know something, but gaining his trust could be difficult. He’s awfully protective of his brother. And then there’s Nalaskur Thaelond, who is the innkeeper at the old Bargewright Inn. The inn inside the Bargewright Inn.”

“There is an inn?”

“There is.”

“What an interesting name for a town. And an inn.”

“It was formed by a bunch of halflings, and they have an odd sense of humor. Interesting. Although, with the intermarriage with humans, pretty much all the Bargewright are human now, with the occasional short stack showing up. Not that I should say anything about short people.”

“None of us really can.”

With their assignment given, the two went back to the inn.

At the inn, Vladimir and ISAC were discussing their next plan and that Bargewright Inn and Womford might be a better destination for them to gather more information before trying to assault another fortified location. He had some concerns that Dancer and Fwoosh might have an issue with going south to those locations and wanted some support from ISAC to help convince them that it was the right way to go. He also wanted to make sure that they had addressed all the commitments they had made as a group.  ISAC reminded him of the assignments from Briiathor Alougarr and Tina Ammakyl, and that they should send them letters before going anywhere.

The party all gathered for dinner.  Vladimir and ISAC started their argument for heading south to Bargewright Inn and Womford before tackling any of the other cultists areas.  They espoused the need for more intelligence and clues about the cults.  Oddly enough, Dancer and Fwoosh were easily convinced about heading that way and Dancer was quick to point out that this was all Vladimir’s idea and not his.

Vladimir was pushing to get the group to move out the next day, but Dancer and others pointed out that they had things to pick up for the next couple of days and should delay until everything was ready, especially the Goggles of the night that they had ordered, giving all the humans and Angelica the capability to see in the dark. Coming to an agreement to depart the day after they get the goggles, the party would finish any preparations needed for the trip over the next couple of days.

They also spent a considerable amount of time trying to decide what they should be calling themselves since the “Watchers of Waterdeep” just never fit very well.  When ISAC asked Claugiyliamatar at the other end of his magical tattoo, she only suggested:

“Snack.”

With that suggestion, they went to bed dreaming of bear claws (or at least Dancer did) and water cultists shooting ice at them.

7th of Flamerule of the year 1492

It was at breakfast the next morning that something unusual happened. A petite red headed woman snuck up on Vladimir.  She had carefully placed her great axe on a nearby table, and as the party watched in awe, she handily picked him up, slammed him down in a suplex and then one handedly grabbed him by the collar and shook him until he woke up again.

“Oh shit, Olga?”

“Oh Vlady, did you miss me?”

It was Vladimir’s sister having come to visit after his too short letter arrived at the family farm near Neverwinter. Vladimir had a lot of explaining to do to her and the party.  After which she made him show her the town and making sure that he paid for anything that got her interest.

Olga Miller

The rest of the party gathered supplies and prepared for their trip, and when meeting for dinner again Vladimir was still alive, although somewhat bruised. Since Vladimir had a two-person room, Olga was quick to take a space within there. The evening ended and the comfortable beds helped everyone sleep well.

8th of Flamerule of the year 1492

The next day went by uneventfully with Dancer and Fwoosh collecting the goggles from Jepos, and ISAC buying a specialized scroll from Dhelosk.  But it was when Dancer and Fwoosh picked up the goggles that Jepos had something extra for him.  It seemed that the report on Thurl had arrived.  It proved to have some important additional information that the Harper one lacked.  Seeing that it contained many sections that might be more questionable for the rest of the party, Dancer spent the time editing it and removing all the more questionable subjects.

Zhentarim Report on Thurl

Which reads:

Zhentarim Intelligence Report on Thurl Merosska

Subject: Thurl Merosska

Role: Commandant of the Feathergale Knights

Personal Weaknesses

Near-Death Obsession: Thurl’s near-death experience during a severe storm has left him with a profound obsession. This fixation on mortality and the forces that nearly claimed his life can be leveraged to manipulate his actions or decisions.

Recklessness: Following his traumatic experience, Thurl has exhibited a propensity for reckless behavior. This trait led to multiple fatalities under his command, including the death of a noble’s son. Exploiting his impulsive nature could drive him to make compromising decisions.

Loss of Noble Support

Disgraced Reputation: Thurl’s fall from grace with Waterdeep’s noble families presents a significant vulnerability. The withdrawal of their patronage and the political isolation that followed can be used to apply pressure or coerce him into compliance.

Lack of Social Cover: With his former noble allies distancing themselves, Thurl lacks the social and political protection he once enjoyed. This makes him more susceptible to threats and manipulation.

Feathergale Society

Recruitment of Wealthy Individuals: Thurl has targeted wealthy and influential individuals in Waterdeep to join the Feathergale Society. While publicly framed as an elite group of aerial enthusiasts, these recruits are potential sources of leverage due to their hidden involvement in unsanctioned activities.

Indoctrination into Cult Beliefs: The Feathergale Society has been subtly transformed into a recruitment front for the air cult. Members indoctrinated into the cult’s beliefs can be manipulated through their allegiance to Thurl and the cult’s doctrines.

Corrupt Noble Connections

Noble Collaborators: Despite his fall from favor, Thurl maintains covert relationships with certain corrupt nobles. These connections can be exploited to gather intelligence on illicit activities and to pressure Thurl through his noble associates.

Noble Patronage: The following nobles are known to have past or ongoing associations with Thurl Merosska:

Lord Ravenguard: Involved in clandestine financial dealings with the Feathergale Society.

Lady Moonshadow: Uses Thurl’s network for espionage and covert operations against rivals.

 Baron Blackthorn: Has engaged Thurl for discreet and unsanctioned reconnaissance missions.

Criminal Activities: Kidnapping and Blackmail

Savra Belabranta: Thurl is suspected of kidnapping Savra Belabranta, a prominent noblewoman. He is believed to be blackmailing the Belabranta family, threatening Savra’s life to extort favors and resources from them.

Search and Rescue Failures: The Belabranta family dispatched men to locate and rescue Savra, but none have returned or made contact. Additionally, an old servant of Savra who went out searching for her has also disappeared, leading the family to fear he is dead.

Leverage Over Belabranta Family: The kidnapping of Savra provides a significant leverage point. The family’s desperation to ensure her safety makes them vulnerable to manipulation and coercion.

Targeted Manipulation

Exploit Obsession: Leverage Thurl’s obsession with his near-death experience to manipulate his decisions. Presenting scenarios or opportunities that play into his fixation can drive him to act in predictable ways.

Pressure through Associates: Utilize Thurl’s connections with corrupt nobles to apply indirect pressure. Threatening to expose their clandestine activities can force Thurl to comply with Zhentarim directives to protect his allies.

Utilize Kidnapping: Use the information regarding Savra Belabranta’s kidnapping to exert further pressure on Thurl. The fear of exposure or the potential harm to Savra can be powerful tools in ensuring his compliance.

Summary

Thurl Merosska, the disgraced former commander turned leader of the Feathergale Knights, presents multiple vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the Zhentarim. His obsession with his near-death experience, loss of noble support, connections with unsavory individuals, and involvement in the kidnapping of Savra Belabranta provide ample leverage points. Strategic manipulation and targeted pressure can be employed to coerce Thurl into compliance, ensuring his actions align with Zhentarim interests.

Working all night, he was able to create a version that was better for public consumption.

9th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Dancer shared the modified version with the rest which spawned a lot more conversation about Thurl and his society.  Finding out that Olga was going with them south, the whole party was very happy, except Vladimir who seemed a bit less enthusiastic. Setting out early with Vladimir still hung over, the group headed south along Cairn road.

The first day heading south was smooth with little weather issues and a severe lack of ambushes. Camping that evening was a simple affair and having done this enough, they were efficient in getting the camp set up.  The watches were simple with Olga helping and Ace taking his life in his hand when he started providing her with Dwarven Ale during their watch. But everything passed without issue, and the evening ended.

10th of Flamerule of the year 1492

Knowing that they would not be able to make it all the way to Bargewright and would come up short by a few hours, they started off with a leisurely pace. Perhaps it was that, or everyone was watching Olga tease Vladimir, they were surprised by a sudden winter storm dropping on top of them quickly followed a cloud of javelins.  Only Dancer was able to respond while the rest were caught flat footed.

The javelins were followed by a second set and a dozen reavers that they had faced previously at the pirate keep. They were following a priest who was quick to summon a ball of water over Yllanys’s head rendering him mostly useless during the combat.  They were not far into the combat when the priest also summoned a water elemental to add to the mix. It was a running battle from the road into the trees to the south where they managed to pin the priest down just in front of some hills where he self-exploded taking down several of the party members.

Water Cultist Reaver

Water Cultist Priest

Water Elemental

And this is where the session ended.

Session 44 – Chapter One

Before heading to bed, the group met in the one four-person room they had rented and had Yllanys work through and identify all the items that they had collected that were magical.  There were many interesting items, but it was the Vail of Lich Essence that Yllanys was fascinated by, and shortly after identifying it, went ahead and consumed it making him slightly more intelligence but less charismatic and a bit weaker as well.  But he was happy with the intellectual growth. The remainder of the items were distributed to the different members with what each one was interested in.  There was also a pile a creeping magic items that the Ghoul Queen had, especially three magic books that had different effects and allowed odd spells to be prepared.

The group spent a fair amount of time discussing on where they should sell most of their treasure.  There were arguments about whether they would sell the Dwarven gear to the Dwarves or have Dancer sell them to his contact.  It took a couple of hours to figure which pile would be sold to what group of people.  The Dwarves would get all the Dwarf stuff, all the creepy items, gems, jewelry, and other mundane gear would go to Dancer’s contact, and all the weapons and armor to Feng. This led to a series of questions and answer between ISAC and Dancer with ISAC not understanding who or what Dancer’s contact was, or what they represented, and Dancer trying to answer in the most oblique way possible without ever lying. In the end, ISAC just had to trust Dancer and his contact.

With the loot split up the party went to their rooms.  Within the next hour, Dancer snuck out and headed to the bakery for a quick meeting with Jepos. He brought all the gems and mundane items with the hopes that Jepos and his contacts would be able to purchase the items, admittedly at a discount. He was able to see Jepos’s new office.  It semes he had paid the Dwarves to add on a stone addition to the bakery where Jepos could live and conduct his business. The two of them talked about the Moathouse and how horrible it was, as well as the nastiness of the swamp. Jepos made an offer for the stuff dropped and Dancer asked about if any Goggles of the Night were available, and hopefully enough to cover all those in the party that could not see in the dark. Jepos offered to get four of them for 6,000 gold, but it would take at least five days to get them to Red Larch. Putting the deal on hold until he could talk with the rest of the party to confirm the sell price as well as purchasing the goggles.

Jepos Copperhand

And with that, Dancer headed back to the Inn and a good night’s sleep, his first not in a tree in almost a week.

3rd of Flamerule of the year 1492

The next morning, before heading down, Vladimir took out his broken sword and cast Augury to find out if Bruldenthar was still alive.  Yllanys had shared that it seemed that the Dwarven sage new something about the cultists and that it might be more important to rescue him sooner. The crew then came down to get some breakfast and they found Imdarr waiting for them with someone new. He introduced Gila as his replacement and the new head of the Allfaith’s shrine.  The party seemed suspicious of Gila because of his severe looks and somewhat snooty attitude. After the introductions were complete, Imdarr led Gila away for further introductions and to show him the town.

Imdarr Relvaunder

Gila Keneufeld

After breakfast, the group broke up into three groups,  Ace, Dancer, Fwoosh, and ISAC heading to the clothier, while Angelica and Vladimir headed to Banmin’s, and Yllanys stayed in his room for some personal time and skin scratching.  Before heading back to his room, Yllanys bought some magic ink from Dhelosk, and the rest of the group bought some potions and healing pills.

Dhelosk Quelbeard

Angelica and Vladimir arrived at the Tomb Quarry and were able to be escorted into the shrine within.  Banmin was pretty happy to purchase the Dwarven gear, especially the ceremonial coins in which Banmin explained that these were the best offerings in a shrine and not just some random geared laid at the feet of the gods’ statues. Besides purchasing the gear, Banmin also handed over a few magical objects for the team as a reward for rescuing the Dwarves from the Moathouse.  Vladimir was also interested and anything that could help them in their adventures.  Banmin offered up some healing potions at a discount which were all purchased given they party was light on healing and the combats have been rough. When asked about Bryllyn Trollfist, Banmin relayed that she had gone up there to investigate the possibility of the remains of a Mithril mine, which would allow for superior armor and weapons to be made. With their business completed with the Dwarves, Angelica and Vladimir made their way back to the Blackbutter Inn for lunch and wait for all the other groups to rejoin them.

Banmin Glehuruhr

The second group of Ace, Dancer, Fwoosh, and Angelica headed to the Tarnlar’s Clothiers.  Dancer had run off to the bakery to collect his normal order of three dozen bear claw pastries and met them within. Halvor was within and ran over to ISAC who had spent enough gold to purchase a very nice set of clothing whereas the rest did not and were therefore ignored. ISAC was shuffled off to a fitting room for the next hour while Halvor fretted over him and adjusted the clothing as needed.  While the rest were waiting, Maegla came out and helped Ace with his much less expensive order.  It seemed she was used to her husband’s eccentric behavior. Fwoosh ordered a new mask made of nicer leather and better quality than his hand stitching.  Dancer ordered some well-made traveler’s clothes, and then they all waited for ISAC to finally be released from the clutches of Halvor.

Halvor Tarnlar

Maegla Tarnlar

Finished with their clothing purchases, the four then went to Feng’s to sell all the captured weapons they had.  Dancer purchased every possible arrow in stock, and was able to find three very special arrows, ones that when shot would allow him to teleport immediately to the shot location.  Good for immediately closing with a foe, escaping, or maybe even being able to sneak into a place.  It seems they had been repatriated from an Orc chief by some adventurers. For more arrows, Feng suggested that Dancer head to Thelorn’s Safe Journeys for wood and craft his own.

Feng Ironhead

Fwoosh led the group over to the Sundry store and getting a dozen bear claws from Dancer, he proceeded to hand them out to the children. A few small sundries were purchased the group including a lantern by Ace, and some cards by Fwoosh. Fwoosh shared a card he had found, the death card that had mysteriously appeared in his hat one night.  Endrith knew it was out of some sort of fortune telling deck, but if Fwoosh could supply a copy he would ask about it with his merchant friends in Waterdeep. ISAC was looking for incense and a brazier for some future magical purpose.

Endrith Vallivoe

From there the group headed to Thelorn’s and then to the smithy doe Dancer’s order of arrow parts.  Once those errands were completed, they went back to the Inn for lunch with the rest. While getting lunch, ISAC headed up to his room for the secret ceremony.  Unfortunately, it filled the room with the incense and seeped into all the linen and bedding in the room making everything smell very strongly irritating all of his roommates.

Angelica, Ace, Fwoosh, and Vladimir headed to the Allfaith’s shrine where they met Lymmura who was handling the affairs there by herself while Imdarr was giving Gila a tour of the town. The four of them purchased what healing potions were available trying to fill up their healing needs.  She mentioned that they also had several divine scrolls that seemed interesting to Vladimir which he then also purchased many of those.  She asked about Fogo since she had the book of worship for Mystra.  This led Vladimir to asking for a copy of a book about Savras, the god of divination. She explained it would probably take a ten-day, but a copy could be brought to Red Larch.

Lymmura Audarhk

From here they made their way to Harburk’s office except for Fwoosh who headed back to the Inn. Fwoosh showed Gwendolyn his death card and she did not seem to recognize it in any way. He then went to his room and really did not like the smell in the room.

Gwendolyn Venelli

The other three at Harburk’s could see that what used to be a makeshift office, had been outfitted more officially.  A real counter had been built in the room with a large deputy standing behind it.  They could see that cells had been built in the back of the area to hold prisoners.  The deputy called for Harburk, and he came out to chat with the group.  They turned in the bandit quest and received the reward for that assignment. Vladimir smoothed over any grievances with Harburk, and they were accepted. He talked about his wife, who was now the mayor and that she was interested in having a town hall built in town to help handle the increased population and concerns in Red Larch.

Harburk Tuthmarillar

Asking about any new items, Harburk gestured to a bounty board and suggested that they look there often for possible bounties.  He also asked about the Dwarven books that had come from the delegation.  He queried about where they came from, and if they party had followed up with any of those clues and inferred that it might be good to pursue those clues. He also reminded Vladimir that Captain Briiathor Alougarr had been waiting for a message from him about the bandit issues. It was back to the Blackbutter before dinner and time to review what had happened with the rest of the party. It was then they discovered that ISAC had filled the room with his incense.  ISAC let Gwendolyn know and for a small fee, she sent up one of the kitchen goblins to take care of it.  He spread out some sort of powder that seemed to suppress and then remove the smell that had inundated everything within.

The group extended their rooms for an additional ten-days thinking that they might stay in place for a while, or at least waiting for the Dwarves to get healed.  A quick dinner that the Helm and some carousing with the Dwarves ended the day for most of them.  Dancer, ever the night kitten, snuck off to see Jepos to finalize their deal on the gems and jewels and putting down the gold for the masks. He asked Jepos about Gila and was curious about why a bigwig from Waterdeep was here.

“Since I am in town, I am available if your need anything done.”

“We might need you to correct something in Bargewright Inn.  It is a big center for of ours. We have several places there, and the owner is one of ours as are many of the employees.  There has been some sort of issue there.  Some sort of vying for position there of late between the captain of the guard and the owner, as well as some sort of rumor of a man-bat.  I do not have anything solid right now, but I should in a day or so.”

“It might be a little tricky for me to convince the rest of the guys.”

“Well, there is a lot of other things going on too, so that would help you.  Besides we would not send you down there to be in house, but to clean house.”

“I am just saying it might be a tough little tough sell to say ‘Hey, let’s go down to Bargewright Inn, I have some people I need to take care of.’”

“I am sure we can make a better excuse than that, something like investigating the man-bat.”

“Sounds creepy cool, thanks.”

Dancer headed back to his room and Fwoosh took his turn sneaking over to visit Jepos for some conversation.

“Have you heard anything from the information I had requested over a ten-day ago?”

“I think we found the mansion of the Collector, but it is empty.  It was completely cleared out. There was supposedly some sort of power struggle between the daughter and the mother.  The daughter has only been seen wearing a mask, and now she has completely disappeared as well.  We do not where she has gone, but she left with a huge amount of gold and her followers.  There has been the occasional rumor of sightings of your friends, but all of it has been second and third hand.  They all were wearing the same type of clothing, something like a uniform, or circus clothing that was similar.  The mansion has been emptied for at least a month at this point.  It was made completely clean.  Even divination magic failed, and one mage even had his head explode when he looked a little too deep.  The mansion was connected to a huge underground area but was sealed off from the rest of the Waterdeep underground.  It looks like it might have been interconnected at one time.”

“Wow, that was a lot.  I’ll tell my friends and we will see what we can do.”

Describing the hooded figure that had stabbed and killed ISAC, Fwoosh asked if that was at all familiar, and Jepos had not heard of anyone like that.  Fwoosh was also curious about the ring and amulet he had been given when leaving Waterdeep.  

“That was an executive and for some reason he liked the color of your feathers. He is not someone I can ask questions of, so why he stepped in, I do not know, but he is at least three or four levels above me in the hierarchy.”

“Sounds good, well if a message comes and he is looking for a bird, I’ll do whatever he needs.”

“The executives do that sometimes.  They come across interesting people and want to give them a chance and see how they grow and then reel them back in.  That could be what he is doing here. But it is dangerous for me to ask those questions.”

“About the Collector’s daughter, what kind of mask is she wearing?”

“She has this mask, but it is all third hand, but that it looked like her face was completely scarred like she had been burned or something.”

“That sounds pretty accurate.”

“I did get the impression thought that she is now in charge.  Before it has been her mother, and we do not what happened to the mother, but the girl is in charge now.”

“Well, I always appreciate our time Jepos, if you need anything let me know.”

“There might be something later on for you to help Dancer convince your group to visit Bargewright Inn.”

Fwoosh then also went back to the Blackbutter and his room for the evening.

4th of Flamerule of the year 1492

The following day passed with small errands being run, but the party mostly trying to rest.

5th of Flamerule of the year 1492

The 5th should have passed similarly, but in the morning Fwoosh found a mysterious envelop hidden in his pocket.

Mysterious Envelope

Opening it revealed an odd poem.

Poem Letter

Which read:

“In the carnival’s heart, where magic danced in the air,

There fluttered a light, so delicate and fair.

Bound to a wheel that spun with grace,

He was the centerpiece, in that fateful place.

The crowd watched in awe, as the showman took aim,

His reputation built on his deadly game.

With a flourish, he threw, his confidence keen,

But tragedy struck, in a scene so serene.

A gasp from the crowd, as time seemed to stall,

For the blade found its mark, but not on the wheel at all.

The light that once danced, so vibrant and bright,

Was extinguished forever, on that ill-fated night.

In the silence that followed, a lesson was learned,

Of the danger when trust and caution are spurned.

The carnival mourned for the joy that was lost,

A reminder of the line that must never be crossed.

So, remember the tale of the spinner of dreams,

And the thrower whose aim was not as it seems.

In the realm of wonder, where fantasies twirl,

Lies a warning: not all that glitters will unfurl.”

Fwoosh relayed the contents of this letter to the rest and explained what he had learned from Jepos without mentioning Jepos by name. The weather was warm and cloudy.  Except the clouds were all blood red as far as they could see.

And this is where the session ended.

Session 43 – Chapter One

With a new group of Dwarves to chat with the party had questions.

“There’s an infinite seeming number of ghouls, We have cleared out quite a number of them.”

“So, you are saying that it is a big warren. Was there a ghoul king or some kind of lord ghoul?”

“There’s a queen. A queen ghoul.”

“That’s not so good.”

We slayed that one.”

“That’s fairly good. How long ago?”

“Yesterday. So, about a day ago. Oh, It feels like a month ago.”

“Because she has like, I don’t know, call it pheromones or something that basically keeps the other ghouls away from her and also forced to obey her and after she dies it fade aways within a day.”

“We got to get down there quickly then.”

“And yeah, I mean we only saw some bigger ghouls here but, I mean yeah if our guys are down there somewhere then if they’re near her body instead of keeping ghouls away it’ll start attracting ghouls.”

“So, we should go right now and get out of here.”

With the group somewhat rested, they rusted back down the rest of the stairs and through the larger hallways of the underground to get to the rest of the Dwarves.  Once again, all the bodies of the dead ghouls had been moved somewhere else.  Concerned about the presence of the ravening ghouls, the party sped up.  As they crossed through the larder room of the ghouls Yllanys was easily able to notice that almost all the bodies that had been piled up in the middle of the room had been moved to the edges of the room, as if to make room for something.  

Concerned about the other Dwarves the party and accompanying Dwarves ran into the ghoul queen’s chamber. They found the second fingerless Dwarves exhausted and their sanctuary, the cage they had been imprisoned within surrounded by piles of dead ravening ghouls.  Whatever had been keeping the ghouls away was no longer affected and the little toothy ghouls had found a new source of food, the Dwarves hidden within. The cage. The defenders had managed to kill more than twice their number using nothing, but the daggers strapped to their fingerless arms.

Clearing the bodies out of the way, Yllanys looked forlorn at his missed opportunity with the ghoul queen, but he like the rest needed to move on. Vladimir was still interested in possibly using the ruined Moathouse as a base, but the Dwarves were not at all interested.  It was in the middle of a horrible swamp, there were overly large monsters running around it, and there was still most of a huge ghoul warren below. When the party was wondering why there were so many larger creatures, the Dwarves postulated that some large catastrophic event covered the entire killing all the small creatures.  Something like freezing temperatures over several days.

“All right is there any history? Do y’all know any history to this place or, is it just as much of history to y’all?”

“We were hoping something would be here. I mean there’s some I mean we don’t even know the name of it. I mean it’s like four or five hundred years old. So, there’s just an old form. There are old fortresses all over the valley. Dwarven and other ones.”

“To finish my sentence, an old fortress with a seemingly endless supply of corpses underneath.”

“Well, ghouls can replicate from more than just corpses.

“What?”

“They can set up incubation things where they basically get women, and they hold them hostage while they pump them full of the kind of ghoul stuff, not quite killing them off. They can then pump out babies. They usually make these horrible teethy things first and then they eventually grow up into the older larger ones. So, I mean, if you didn’t come across a birthing chamber, that must mean it’s somewhere in the warren. You can suppress the numbers for a while, but eventually the birthing chambers will build up the numbers within another week or two. Since you killed the Queen they might go another direction who knows unless another  Lord Ghoul comes out and takes over The warrens lead all the way to the Underdark Many of these warrens go down all the way particularly if they’re large warrens You can get small warrens with small groups,  that break off and you can find five ten or maybe fifty of them in a place but,  if you encounter more than 50 or 60 then then you have a big warren. Once you have a very big warren. there’s definitely a birthing room somewhere.”

There was a very short discussion about seeking out the birthing chamber, but when warned that it would be guarded by from ghoul lords, and that there might even be a ghoul king nearby, the party thought it best that they brought the Dwarves back to Red Larch since that should be there priority. With that decision in place, the group moved quickly to the exit tunnel hoping to avoid any additional ghouls.  Toward the end of the 500-foot tunnel, they could hear the sounds of a couple of large creatures moving around, and apparently dragging something large. With dawn only an hour away, they could dimly see a pair of huge ghouls.  In fact, they were clearly ghoul ogres and they had been dragging a lizard larger than they were back to the warren.

With many of the party members almost out of ammo, they tried to keep the giant ghouls out of range, but the ghoul ogres were hardy and were able to close.  The combat while short was brutal with Ace once again being knocked unconscious for probably the 20th time since they went into the ruined Moathouse.  With the ghouls dispatch, they knew they should not stay too close to the tunnel exit, especially with such a large dead reptile nearby.  Moving a little deeper into the swamp, the party and Dwarves set up camp and tried to get some much-needed rest.

It was during Dancer’s rest that something made the fur on the back of his neck stand up.  Something malicious was watching them, but he was not able to determine from what direction.  The rest of the watches were made more tense because of Dancer’s warning. The morning, while everyone was able to get a full rest, there was an air of nervousness surrounding them.  Once the camp was put away, their fears were realized as a shadowy ghostly figure flew out from the swamp and attacked.

Shadowy Figure

This creature proved to be one of the most difficult battles they have had.  Even with the 14 Dwarves and bulldog assisting, the mental attacks wreaked havoc on this party.  It seemed to be able to frighten people, force them to attack others, with its intangibility it could pass through people and cause damage, and finally it had a frightening scream containing some sort of knowledge that would cause your ears to bleed.  The worst attacks were when it hit with one of its spectral arms which seemed to suck away at the wisdom of anyone hit. Each time it touched anyone, some sort of insidious whispers went into the mind of the one touched causing pain and confusion.  Some of the whispers were as follows:

“The key to unraveling the universe lies hidden in the chaos of the mind. Search within your madness; there you will find the answers you dread. The lock awaits, will you turn the key?”

“The void calls to you, a deep, resonant drone that vibrates within your soul. It is not a sound but a presence, enveloping, consuming, inevitable. Why resist what you cannot escape?”

“In the heart of the void, where light dies and chaos reigns, true power lies hidden. It calls to you, a siren song of ancient might. Will you heed its call?”

“The chains that bind are not forged of iron but of stars and shadows. They wrap around the cosmos, holding it tight in an endless embrace. Feel their weight upon you, heavy with ancient secrets.”

“Every secret told feeds the void, every truth uncovered strengthens the chains. Are you a keeper of secrets or their unwitting pawn?”

“Do you hear the eternal scream echoing from the void between stars? It resonates through the silent cosmos, a lullaby for the damned. Listen, and its despair will fill your heart.”

“Shadows gather where light fears to tread, and in those shadows, he waits. His patience is infinite, his scheme inscrutable. Do you feel the darkness deepen?”

They were finally able to kill it and the Dwarves proved to be the most effective with their heavy crossbows and a few of the fingerless ones stabbing with daggers attached to their arms. Not wanting to attract any additional attention the party rushed to the edge of the swamp.  Even though this was Dancer’s first time in the swamp, he seemed to be a natural in being able to find the shortest path to the exit. With night already upon then they moved about an hour outside of the swamp and set up camp once again.  This provided some more time to ask the Dwarves questions that the party had been seeking answers to.

“I think we’ve asked this to some other dwarves before, but maybe you might have more insight. Does Koganusân have a library?”

“Aye, the lord there has a library.”

“Would you happen to know if it’s primarily dwarven history?”

“We wouldn’t know that. We’re in the fortified keep inside. Koganusân’s inside the hills. It’s a fortified town, basically, in the hills themselves. It was a refuge from one of the last wars. Basically, it got formed a couple hundred years ago from basically all of the remnants, of everywhere else from the wars four or five hundred years ago.”

“What wars do you speak of?”

“The last wars. There’s been orcs and ogres and trolls coming through this valley for the last thousand years. I’m not a historian so it’s not something that I’m educated for. I’m educated for someone who points a finger in a direction and that’s the direction I go. If something is in my way I step on it. There had been a sage that came through a while back. You know you might be able to find out more if you could find him.”

“Do you think that would be the sage that you guys were traveling with?”

“Could be.”

“What was that sage’s name?”

“It seems like it was months ago that I… I love that guy. He was… I’m sure he was really nice, and I learned a lot from him, including his name.”

It proved to be a completely uneventful evening and morning arrived safely.

Knowing that traveling by road was faster than the wilderness, they moved northeast to meet up with the Cairn road and started their trek to Red Larch.  Marching a bit faster than they would normally they were able to make to their town as dusk was upon them. With Dancer heading to the bakery for a refill of bear claws and then to the Blackbutter Inn to acquire rooms for the party, while all the rest went to see Banmin.  The guards seeing the party and the Dwarves with them were quick to bring Banmin up to the quarry where everyone was waiting. He was very happy to see the Dwarves and gave one of them a big hug welcoming him back. Seeing the condition of the half the Dwarves he seemed saddened but declared that he would have them all fixed up in the next week. He had the guards take them down to the barracks leaving him alone with the party.

Banmin

“Now, we appreciate what you’ve done for us. You had mentioned before that you wanted to borrow some of the dwarves and some of the cultist things that you said you’ve encountered. Is that still the case?”

“It would certainly be helpful if we could potentially have some assistance. On our way here, through some of the encounters that we had, those dwarves were quite handy.”

“They are soldiers. With the unit pretty much decimated, they don’t really have anything else to do. I can have them assigned here off an attachment and then you can borrow them, but it’ll take a 10 day for them to rest and get healed, so if you want, to come back in a 10 day. You can march them off, you can use them for different, things, I’d just tell you not to kill them off. “

“Our main priority is, of course, them getting rehabilitated and back up to full health.”

“Well, like I said, that’ll take about a week. Is there something you’d like from us as a reward?”

“We did this out of… Responsibility? Responsibility. We felt bad that we had lured your men to the boathouse that had not been fully cleared. They went there on our word and found only death and chaos. So, for that we are sorry and we’re glad that we were able to bring some of them back.”

“We appreciate that. I’ll get more of their story later as well. I’m sure they’ve got some adventure stories to tell, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to be wanting to hit the Helm later and drinking their fill as much as possible.”

“I offered them to fight them in the first round. Because it is four, almost five o’clock.”

“Well, I can get one started on the healing tonight and then they’ll probably be there within, actually probably tonight. They’ll probably hang out in the barracks here with the other dwarven soldier. We’ve got some guarding the tomb, and all of them are old friends. Tomorrow is probably the best time to see them at the Helm.”

They proceeded to tell Banmin about the things they had encountered, especially the scary spectral figure in the swamp. He also told them about his great-nephew that had moved to town as the new Dwarven blacksmith, Craig Ironjaw.  Who had brought his entire family as well as several apprentices. With the drop off concluded the group made their way to the Blackbutter Inn and broken into groups heading to their rooms except Yllanys, who felt he still had enough energy to Flirt with Gwendolyn, but not enough charisma to carry the conversation very far.

Gwendolyn

He was able to learn about the new Dwarven smithy, a new Dwarven ale-maker, and that the replacement priest had arrived to relieve Imdarr. With his flirting not having gotten the response he was hoping for, he too headed off to bed and a bath much like how the rest of the party had already been into their winding down mode now that they were once again in a safe place. And without an exception, they all headed to bed for a good night’s sleep.

3rd of Flamerule of the year 1492

Morning arrived, and this is where the session ended.

Session 42 – Chapter One

1st of Flamerule of the year 1492

With the fresh singeing they decided that finding a place to rest would be the best choice and not explore too far right now. They also talked about how to move forward, and that fire seemed to be a valuable resource, but perhaps not using Fireball every time. Moving slowly to the old bandit room, they made their way through the great room and were able to see that the previously smashed door and ransacked room was still the same as it was before.

The previous entry to the secret door and ladder downward had been smashed and filled with rubble and mud, assumably by the ghouls to keep the spiders from the underground.  With a gaping hole in the wall, they were able to see a mass of spider webs outside.  They thought themselves safer than the great hall, since this room had been part of a stone tower and had stone ceilings whereas the rest of the ruins all had wooden ceilings.  Hoping ti was safe for a short rest, the party huddled together in a corner away from the hole leading to the outside.

While trying to recover, a huge swarm of spiders came into the tower room from the spider webs outside. It occupied a huge space and while it did not move that quickly, it was able to engage and start swarming many members of the party quickly and easily.  Dancer and Fwoosh retreated to the hall again knowing that they were limited in any damage they could apply, although Fwoosh did cover part of the swarm with some oil from his lantern.  With some judicious fire and magic and a lot of weapons swinging they were able to finally kill off all the spiders in the swarm. The party was further wounded from the wounds they had been carrying already.

Deciding that the staircase might be the safest, the moved slowly back toward the stairs leading down. Vladimir suggested that they move quickly to limit the giant spider from being able to attack them and ISAC concurred, but Dancer scoffed at the need to move quickly since the distance was so short. It was then that as they were moving through without much of a care, a gigantic spider leg stabbed through the wooden ceiling hitting Yllanys knocking him out.  The party started running with a couple of them grabbing Yllanys on the way.  Moving down the stairs to where they had stone between them and what appeared to be a gargantuan spider in the ruined upper floor. This assumption proved to be correct.  The spiders did not come down, and the ghouls did not come up.  It seems that they found a somewhat safe place, although fairly uncomfortable to rest in.

With a short rest behind them, they sent Fwoosh out invisibly to see if he could find the Dwarves, and if they were still alive after the burst of flame from the fireball having ignited all the webs in the keep. Moving from room to room he found more remains of spiders from the fire, and in the last room where the giant lizard had been he found a large pile of what appeared to be dead Dwarves.  While moving invisible in the halls and rooms Fwoosh was able to see the gargantuan spider moving above him and occasionally looking through the holes in the floor apparently searching for the intrudres.As he appeared within, he found seven of the Dwarves had been dragged and leaned against the walls on the fair side.  Guarding the Dwarves against the wall was a small bulldog.

Bulldog Guarding Dwarves

Feeding one of the Dwarves a healing pill he was able to get one conscious and aware.  Fwoosh was able to whisper and discuss the situation with the Dwarf while having him calm the guard dog whose named turned out to be Gruff.  Bringing the dog back to the party to introduce him to the rest Fwoosh then ran around exploring the remainder of the spaces to ensure there are not any other Dwarves in the ground floor of the Moathouse.

Now that they knew that there were several Dwarves still alive and needed to be rescued, they began their planning.  Realizing that the Dwarves were very wounded and would not be able to sustain any additional damage, especially from a gigantic spider, they planned on having the most of the party move to the great room and act as a diversion for the spider while ISAC moved quietly to the Dwarves, heal them sufficiently to have them be able to move, and then attempt to have them follow him back to the stairs while not being detected by the spider.

Most of the party ran out to the great room making noise and shining lights to attract the spider, ISAC made his way to the Dwarves.  Their plan was very successful as the spider above them focused on whomever was carrying a light as well as those making noises.  Attacking the stabbing legs when they could they chipped away at the health of the spider while it was successful in causing a fair amount of damage to those attempting to be a diversion.

Once the Dwarves were successfully moved to the staircase, the party moved the combat to the open courtyard to allow them to attack the spider more easily.  While it did provide easier access to attack the spider, it also allowed it to attack them as it leaped into the middle of the courtyard allowing it to engage everyone. While no one died, many members were knocked unconscious, and Angelica poisoned and paralyzed at one point.  As their attacks continued, it eventually was damage enough to cause it to flee from the keep.  With its gargantuan size it was easily able to climb the walls and escape quickly.

Gargantuan Spider

Disappointed that they were not able to kill it, the party was also relieved that it was gone, and their survival guaranteed once again. With the spiders seemingly gone, they spent the next hour collecting the Dwarves’ gear and buried the dead ones under rock.  Leaving the armor and shields, they took the weapons and personal items from the dead Dwarves to bring back to Red Larch.

And that is where the session ended.

Session 41 – Chapter One

30th of Kythorn of the year 1492

With their long rest over the party once again started strategizing about how they should move forward.  Dancer was very much in favor of going in the correct direction this time, while Vladimir thought that it might be better for them to move more quickly rather than slowly and quietly. After analyzing the situations, it seems that if they move slowly, it was increasing their chance of an encounter, and hanging around the dead bodies afterwards seems to cause ravening ghouls to those dead bodies.

After exchanging some gear to replenish arrow supplies, Dancer and ISAC checked out the charnel room to see if more ravening ghouls had come back for a meal, but it was currently empty of ghouls. Fwoosh grabbed a finger from the Ghoul Queen hoping that it might add in some sort of protection.  There was a brief argument on who would be chopping off the finger, Yllanys or Fwoosh, but it was resolved quickly with Fwoosh ending up with a pinky from her.

Setting out they followed a different path from last time hoping to get to the stairs they had only vaguely remembered. While they got a fair distance, it was inevitable that some ravening ghouls came across them.  The combat went fairly well until Yllanys Thunder Stepped and created a noise that was guaranteed to summon more of the toothsome monsters, and it did. When you use a spell that can be heard 300 feet from the source in a ghoul filled underground, it would draw in creatures from all corners.

Ravening Ghouls

Having a second wave did not prove difficult, but it was the continued fight that had the opportunity for additional reinforcements if not ended quickly enough. Moving forward quickly after the battle hoping to miss further ghoul reinforcements. For some reason, no further reinforcements showed up, maybe they had finally reduced the ghoul population sufficiently?

Moving forward they found themselves in the old ogre’s room, giving Angelica memories of being bitten a fair amount.  The room was still pretty stinky from the previous owner and all the current ones.  Every wall was pierced with more ghoul tunnels creating a situation where there was no real safe place to move through.  One of the paths to upstairs was adjacent to this room, but both the wall that had previous hidden the stairs and ladder was found to be destroyed and blocked with rubble and mud completely blocking any passage to upstairs from this location.

Dancer snuck ahead to peer into the next room where the stairs leading upwards were, and there he found a new ghoul that seemed to be on watch.  The room was filled with bails of dried grass and hay with two large lit braziers near the stairs with barrels of unlit torches in them.  This new ghoul while looking around occasionally seemed very focused on the stairs ahead of him.

New Ghoul

Unnoticed, Dancer snuck back to the party for them to choose the best avenue in attacking it.  Deciding that Dancer would make an assassination attack and then move back to the party, and they would draw it to them.  Once again, the Tabaxi proved to be more silent than that perception of the ghoul, he was able to get off his critical hit attack but was just not quite enough to kill it. Fleeing backward as the plan called for, they waited for the ghoul to come to them.  However, this ghoul seemed to operate differently and instead started screaming a horrific wail that seemed to be some sort of alarm or alert noise.  They could hear it run off into one of the tunnels escaping the room it had been in. While they were expecting this new ghoul, they instead received a small horde of ravening ghouls that swarmed out of every hole around them.

It seemed that every round brought in more ghouls to attack them, and the number did not decrease until after nearly a minute of combat when they managed to bring down the numbers and a lack of reinforcements allowed them to finally kill off all the little nasty ghouls. At no time did that new ghoul reappear.

Rushing forward to the room with the stairs finally allowed them to see the set up and that the entire stairs also seemed to be filled with dried grass and hay.  Knowing that the stairs went up for almost 80 feet, it was a huge chimney of hay.  The party figured it was some sort of ghoul defense against the spider encroaching on their space. Here once again they argued the merit of either clearing the stairs or just lighting it on fire, and once again, fire won the argument.  Backing off as much as they could, they Firebolted the hay in the stairs and watching it burn its way up.  Hoping that they would not be faced with any additional ghouls while waiting they prepared themselves to go up.  It took nearly half an hour for it to burn upwards as well as for the stone to cool sufficiently for them to travel on it.

Moving upwards the 80 feet they found themselves in a web wonderland.  The fire had managed to burn all the web near the stairs but did not seem to be enough to light on fire the majority of the web upstairs.  Making enough noise and disturbing the webs as they started to move forward attracted a pair of large spiders that attacked them.  In a desperate act, Yllanys opted for the Fireball option and burned the spiders as well as the majority of the web in the main hall.  This ignited a firestorm as it was sufficient to light the majority of the web on fire which even caused damage to the exposed party members.  Now they were able to look into the great hall, or at least those with some form of darkvision.

And this is where the session ended.

Session 40 – Chapter One

30th of Kythorn of the Year 1492

Getting some additional information from the Dwarves learning that their captain was upstairs somewhere, perhaps captured by the spiders and that he had a sending stone to communicate with Banmin back in Red larch.  They also explained that the upstairs area was completely filled with spiders, and there was one as large as a house.  They were also warned that all the spiders were poisonous, and the entire area was covered in spider webs making moving around very difficult.

During the discussion it came around to the types of ghouls seen.  They were told about larger ghouls that they had seen as they were captured.  When asked about the numbers of ghouls, the party was told that given that most warren extend for miles, they should just consider the numbers somewhat huge, but if they killed enough that it should suppress encounters for a period of time. The Dwarves also brought up that with the Ghoul Queen dead, the ghouls had less of a reason to migrate here and in fact had not seen any ghouls in the area where the queen resided except for some of the beefier ones that were summoned, given orders, and then sent out.  None of the ravening ghouls would come in except on the far side of the room where it was attached to the feeding hall.

Vladimir handed out food to feed the Dwarves since they had not eaten for a couple of days. Since all the Dwarves were fingerless, it required everyone to feed them.  Strapping on some long swords and shields to the stubby arms giving them some means of defending themselves when the party left to rescue the remaining ones upstairs. Getting the Dwarves settled into the cage which seemed to be the only safe place in the cavern, the party took a short rest trying to recover a little before heading out again.

At some point during the rest, Dancer was able to hear munching sounds coming from the room full of bodies and bones.  It was not constantly during the rest but came on and off as if groups of things came and went at different times. During the watch, the group discussed their options and what direction they should head to get upstairs.  Knowing that there were two entrances, they considered that the one that had a ladder with a room in-between the underground and the upstairs was probably not the best path if they had wounded Dwarves to bring back.

Once the rest was complete, Dancer snuck ahead to look into the feeding room and once again there was a group of ravening ghouls.  With the group deciding that it would be best to get rid of them before heading forward they engaged them in combat.  Trying to use the tunnels to their advantage and a judicially placed Cloud of Daggers allowed them to quickly kill all of the ravening ghouls that came running. Even with reinforcements coming out of one of the tunnels and ambushing Yllanys, they were still able to kill them fairly quickly.

Ravening Ghouls

At the end of the battle while they were figuring out what they needed to do next, Yllanys kept pulling at the skin on his face.  It seemed it was very elastic and stretching fairly fair when he pulled it. While the party thought it odd and Fwoosh volunteered to skin him they moved on.  Going through the tunnels until they were able to travel through the Dwarven built hallways.  Not trusting the tight tunnels, they felt that the wider carved hallways were a better choice, and it helped that they knew where they were going.  That is until they did not.

At a major intersection, Vladimir remembered that they should be turning right, but the party confused which hand was which and went left.  On the way, they encountered more of the ravening ghouls and eventually leading them to a tomb area that they had never been in before.  Waiting for them there were several regular ghouls and two larger tougher looking ghouls. Again, combat ensued with additional ghouls showing up in the middle adding to the chaos.  It was during this combat that Yllanys pulled on his skin hard enough to pull it off and summon his Arcane Epidermis which made all those that were watching almost vomit. It proved to be something very similar to Vladimir’s Echo, but more Arcane in nature. All of those too were killed and the party continued forward.  It was at this point that that Vladimir told everyone that they had turned the wrong way and that he meant for them to head the opposite direction.

Ghouls

But, given that this was something new to them, they decided to loot all the sarcophaguses in the area.  It proved to be enriching with a fair amount of treasure and even magic items.  They were a little disappointed that they failed to collect all the loot on their previous visit.  After emptying out all the tombs they thought that here was the best place for another rest, of which they got less than half of it when a ghoul worm came out a tunnel and attacked.  It had a great defense in that it would dive underground as an attack was about to hit, and appear in another location and attack, all as a reaction. It was able to swallow Angelica bringing her to near death before they killed it, and it vomited her up.

Ghoul Worm

All of this then led to a large description where Dancer was a proponent of departing with the Dwarves that they have, while some wanted to find a better place to hole up and rest, but most of the party still wanted to figure out the best way to rescue the rest of the Dwarves if possible. Deciding that they needed to rest somehow before venturing more into the maze of tunnels, they made their way back to Dwarves they had already rescued hoping that nothing had disturbed them.

As they passed through the feeding room, they did notice that there were additional bodies added to the room.  Something had dragged most of the dead ghouls to that room but did not venture into the room where the Ghoul Queen had resided.  Her body and the four Shield Ghoul bodies were still piled up where the party had left them, adjacent to the cage that held the Dwarves.

With the two groups rejoined, the party decided to attempt and rest again.  This time they elected for another long rest just a couple of hours after their last one. The repopulated Ruined Moathouse has proved to be more difficult than the first time.  As they started their rest, both Angelica and Ace were feeling a bit under the weather. They were able to complete the long rest and were ready to face the evils here once again.

And this is where the session ended.

Session 39 – Chapter One

29th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Not wanting to continue lingering in the hall they thought that they might be able to take a rest in Lareth’s office, hoping that it was still somewhat secure. Moving that direction while applying a little bit of healing they found that all the heavy secure doors that they had left behind had all been ripped from the hinges and only broken pieces of wood left behind. Dancer took a small foray into some of the tunnels and found that it was just a nest of narrow somewhat freshly dug out passageways.

With ISAC continued to scout ahead finding blood splattered hallways.  The walls and floors covered in claw marks the way forward proved to be gruesome, although oddly enough, no bones or anything else in the hallway besides the dried blood.  Continuing forward he found more holes in the walls, more warren tunnels and eventually through one passageway he was able to see it led to a much larger room. Updating the party, they gathered around to do some strategizing.

Having dithered sufficiently long enough, more of the ravening ghouls came running out of another hole nearby racing to attack the party.  Once again, while individually they were not very tough, but the constant waves of them was wearing out the party somewhat rapidly, especially since they seemed very intent on those that were more wounded than those less wounded, in fact they seemed to be in more of a frenzy with their attacks when blood was exposed.

Ravening Ghoul

Starting down the corridor toward the office they attempted to move as silently as possible, but with both Angelica and Vladimir clad in plate armor, that was difficult. Trying to avoid to anything within the cavern, ISAC snuck passed to the office finding that its door had always been removed forcibility.  In fact, every door that had been there had been removed. With his immediate scouting complete, he informed the group of what he found. They were concerned that they had only found ghouls and no sign of the missing dwarven soldiers.

Deciding to poke the nest they knew about, they hoped to decrease the number of ghouls they could encounter later on. Yllanys and Dancer snuck forward to look closer into the room.  Taking a peek in the large cavern to one side they were able to see that it was filled with blood, bones, many carcasses of undefinable creatures, and a large mass of the ravening ghouls. Perhaps being surprised at the size of the cavern, or the quantity of ghouls, Yllanys stepped on a small bone breaking it and causing everything in the room to immediately look at him. Dancer leaped in front to defend, the ghouls swarmed forward and fighting a retreating battle with a small Thunderstep jump they led the ghouls back to the party and a massive combat ensued in the hall.

Sometime in the middle of the battle more ghouls showed up in the rear as well as attacking the middle of the group from another tunnel. While it seemed hours of effort it was only but a couple of minutes before the battle was completed.  Now with everyone heavily wounded and needing some rest, the shifted most of the bodies to one side to provide an escape route and then they started moving to the office.  On the way more ravening ghouls came running of a tunnel and engaged the group once again. With so few this time, they were dispatched quickly so the party was able to move into the office.

The office had been destroyed and there were two tunnels leading out from it.  Moving all the furniture into the two tunnels as far back as they could, hoping that this would provide enough of a barricade to warn them, or better, keep the little mouthy ghouls away. While the furniture was being moved around Dancer wandered down a few of the passageways to see what was immediately near them.

Vladimir used the time to send a few messages with his Book of Notes.

“Quite infested, making our way through. No dwarves yet.”

“Quite infested, making our way through. No dwarves yet.”

“Infested with what?”

“Undead ghouls”

“That is very bad – have you encountered a leader ghoul?”

“No, what is that?”

“Larger warrens will have a leader in a dug-out cavern.”

“May have found cavern. Will update tomorrow.”

“Yes”

They shifted into watch mode with each group trying to keep aware of anything happening.  During most of the watches they could hear dragging and eating noises from the corridor where they had left all the bodies. As the watches passed, the noises slowly got closer to the room, but those on watch wisely kept out of sight and were not discovered.  It seems that the large piles of dead ghouls they had left behind was enough of a distraction to occupy the rest of the ghouls that had wandered by.

Besides the somewhat constant noise of bodies being dragged are chewed on, the long rest was somewhat uneventful.

30th of Kythorn of the year 1492

It was about 2am when the party completed their rest and wanted to make some progress on finding the Dwarves.  With the information Vladimir had gotten they knew that they most likely would need to go into the warrens more and seek out a possible ghoul leader.  With the long rest also came some growth with most of the party members as well as new capabilities.  One of those was that ISAC could finally manifest Keirin after all this time and having frequently mentioned him.  Using Dancer and Keirin to explore a bit more of the area they found another large cavern with ceilings over 50 feet high and something disturbing on the other side.

In the heart of the cavern, your eyes are immediately drawn to a figure seated upon a throne constructed from bones, a macabre monument to her victories. She radiates an imposing aura of sovereignty, cloaked in shadows that seem to ebb and flow around her form. Her skin is eerily pale, casting a luminescent glow in the faint light emanating from the lichen-covered walls. Her eyes, imbued with a chilling intelligence and a malevolent gleam. Her fingers, slender and reminiscent of skeletal hands, are poised elegantly on the throne’s armrests, each movement she makes is imbued with a dark grace.

Surrounding her, four towering guardians stand in silent vigil, their visages a grotesque blend of the human and the monstrous. Their mottled grey skin stretches over robust forms, and their eyes shine with an unyielding loyalty to the figure on the throne. Clad in patchwork armor forged from the remnants of battles past, they present a formidable front, a clear warning of the violence they’re capable of unleashing. Despite their fearsome appearance and battle-scarred gear, they move with a purpose unified by the will of their sovereign.

With the party hiding in a passageway leading to the large cavern only Keirin attempted to start approaching, but the rest were not as silent as they had hoped, and a voice rang out to them.

“Ah, so the living dares to tread within my realm,” she muses aloud, her tone laced with mockery. “You stand now in the court of shadows, where life and death converge. Tell me, mortals, have you come seeking power, redemption, or is it perhaps the folly of heroism that compels you?”

“Do not think me unkind,” she continues, her voice a whisper that carries a palpable chill. “For I offer you a choice—serve me in life or serve me in death. Decide quickly, for my patience, unlike my reign, is not eternal.”

The party moved into the cavern, and it was revealed to be larger than they had thought with the floor in multiple tiers of height first going down a couple of levels, and then up again to a higher tier than where they entered where the ghoul queen and her guardians were watching.  Because of the distance, only ISAC could see her and describe what he saw.  The rest could only squint hoping to catch a glimpse of what he described. A small amount of banter occurred until ISAC noticed that she had a plate in her hands.  A plate full of small thick worms things.  It was a plate full of Dwarven fingers.

Ghoul Queen

Shield Ghouls

Thinking there was not any room for negotiation, he began the attack with the party trying to get to the other side and be able to inflict some damage to the unseen foes.  She was able to drop in a Phantasmic Death spell on the entire party damaging most of them and causing Keirin to be forced from this plane and back to his resting place. Angelica brought out her Driftglobe and lit up almost the entire cavern with daylight.  Unlike some of the other ghouls they had encountered, these did not seem to be bothered but the bright light, but it had at least provided light for everyone else who could now see what they faced.

The combat was fierce and heavy, and the guardians proved to be much tougher than expected and it seemed that they were able to shield her from any spell and damage and took that damage in her place.  Their constant healing made them more difficult to kill quickly.  Eventually they and the queen were killed and the cage full of fingerless Dwarves were saved.  ISAC applied a little bit of healing on them to try and make sure they were not on death’s door and would survive at least another day.

From the seven Dwarves they found out that they had started with 31 soldiers but through attrition in the swamp and the attacks of the giant spiders upstairs they had suffered man casualties.  The told the party that they thought some might still be alive above since they saw spider capturing Dwarves when the ghouls had broken through and grabbed a bunch of the Dwarves.  They complained about some sort of necromancer or cleric of some type showed up and healed them so that the queen could continue dining on their fingers. The Dwarves knew that Banmin back in Red Larch would be able to heal them once they would be able to escape back to there.

Dancer and Fwoosh began the process of digging through any loot while Yllanys pointed to anything that seemed to be radiating magic.

And this is where the session ended.

Session 38 – Chapter One

27th of Kythorn of the year 1492

The heavy rains kept all the characters inside the tent eating a cold meal and huddling for warmth.  The heavy weather kept the wildlife away and the evening passed without issue.

28th of Kythorn of the year 1492

The morning brought a break in the weather with a slight chill, but no more rain.  Vladimir was moving a little slowly and relayed that he had gotten a message from his notebook first thing in the morning.

“Communication with Dwarves at Moathouse has stopped. Investigate and rescue if needed. Will help repair relationship and possibly give you forces to use against cultists.”

He then relayed a dream he had had as well last night.

“Beneath the shadow of yon ancient peaks, where whispers fill the chillèd air,

A band of dwarven soldiers wend their hearts oppressed by weighty care.

Through swamps that clutch with fingers cold, ‘neath skies of somber, dire grim,

Their path beset by perils manifold; their prospects verily dim.

Giant names, in silence utter’d, with lizards lurking, furtive, nearby,

And plants that breathe of death’s own shroud, instil their brave hearts with fear.

The mire, a sepulchre of eld, where light doth fear to tread,

With every step, their dread is swell’d, amidst the realm of dread.

Forth they press’d their fated course, to ruins stark and drear,

An ancient moathouse, now forlorn, where hope doth disappear.

The courtyard, open ‘neath the sky, a domain of webs did hold,

Where spiders, vast as towers high, their darksome nightmares told.

Some to venom fell, swift and vile, their cries but fleeting breath,

And others, in that ghastly pile, were snatch’d by silent death.

Yet worse than death, for those yet live, to darkness were they borne,

Where shadows whisper, writhe, and thrive, in the everlasting morn.

Beneath the keep, a warren lies, where light hath ne’er been shown,

The remnants of the band, with sighs, beheld horrors yet unknown.

Not beasts of fur, nor fang, nor claw, but hunger ever pure,

That stalks the halls with gaping maw, where screams do not endure.

In chambers damp, with walls that close, the captur’d met their end,

Their final stand, a fruitless oppose, in that eternal bend.

Yet legends speak of courage bright, that in the darkest den,

Of souls who’d brave the perilous night, to face the shadowed fen.

Hearken to this tale of yore, of dwarves so stout and brave,

Into the dark, the damp, the gore, where light and life doth crave.

And mark thee well, the toll they paid, in that fortress, rent and cleft,

For only through such sacrifice, are tales of valor kept.

Yet in the silence they remain, those taken by the night,

Awaiting brave souls to reclaim and bring them to the light.

Through swamp and ruin, spider’s lair, to where the shadows sup,

To challenge death, its lair to dare, and slay the nameless usurper.”

Which he took as collaboration of the message from this notebook and interpreted the message that the Dwarves might all be dead, but some could be rescued.  The group decided that while this was important, they should spend part of their day searching the area for the supposed bandit lair here. A fruitless four hours later they were fairly sure that there was not a bandit camp nearby, and if there had been it had been a temporary one to give them a batter location to attack caravans on the road which was very close by.

Moving to the northern part of the swamp and the secret entrance tunnel they had found when they departed last time they arrived at the edge of the swamp before dark, and not wanting to attract anything within the swamp moved off a couple of miles to the north.  Setting up camp was much easier with the less rough weather.  They got a hot meal and moved on to the watches.

With only half of the party having already been to the Moathouse, the newer members were interested in what the floor plan looked like and what they might encounter. They described the bandits, orcs, ice hag, cultists, zombies, and the giant ticks they had found.  They told them about the different secret passageways that existed and that it might be possible to use to get to different areas.  From Vladimir dreams they also assumed that they there were a great number of spiders and what seemed like ghouls infesting the keep.

It was during the second watch that Dancer and Yllanys were beset upon by four wights.  While Dancer was not surprised, the wights were able to close very quickly and engage Yllanys in combat. With a lot of yelling for the sleeping members, the four wights were killed off fairly quickly.  Only Fwoosh had great difficulty in waking up for the combat with his new magical pillow that allowed him to sleep very soundly.

Wight

29th of Kythorn of the year 1492

Finishing off the watches and catching a little extra sleep to make up for the interruptions they headed south to the swamp. When they left last the swamp had been frozen but now with the tempest storms the swamp was warm, humid, miserable, and much wetter and deeper than last time. Angelica was able to find part of the old wagon trail and they were about halfway through after a few of hours, just in time for a pair of swamp trolls to jump the party and surprising all of the except for the unnaturally alert Dancer.

Angelica took to the air while the rest spread themselves out to go for the attack.  This is one of the few times that Vladimir was able to shine.  His maul glowed with an evil light as he was able to demolish one of the trolls by himself and something reduced it down to number but a ragged desiccated troll sack. The party was able to take down the other troll but Vladimir with his blood raging went and smashed the dead troll which proved to be not quite dead and mashed it down, and when completed, it too was strangely sucked dry.

Swamp Troll

Moving on quickly, it only took a few additional hours before they were able to approach the tunnel entrance. Wanting to take a short break and rest the party found a clearing to have a short cold camp while Dancer climbed a tree to watch the tunnel entrance.  It was shortly after the rest started; he spotted several short figures at the entrance.  They were greyish and seemed reluctant to move into the sunlight.  Reporting back to the rest, Yllanys moved to the path near the tunnel and unleashed a fireball which was able to incinerate the whole group leaving the entrance clear once again.  Dusting himself off, Yllanys went back to camp and the group continued their rest.

Short Ghoul with Teeth

With their rest completed the group moved into the tunnel.  Expecting the tunnel to end at a set of doors they were concerned when they came across several new tunnels that seemed to be freshly dug.  While moving forward carefully, a group of the small ravenous ghouls ran out of the tunnel and began attacking. As they started clearing the hall, it seemed that the noise attracted more, and when ISAC fired off an Unstable Explosion it pretty much guaranteed another group arriving.  One of the groups that showed while fewer in number, were tougher, taller, and seemed more dangerous.

Ghoul

Many rounds of combat ensued with reinforcements arriving a couple of times, but they were finally able to complete the combat without causing additional ghouls from showing up.

And this is where the session ended.

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