Starting the morning on the edge the swamp, the weather was remarkably warmer than the previous several days. It took only a day to reach the Long Road where they decided to camp on the side of the Long Road. It was a nice change to have the merchants take care of the camp and everything related to setting up the camp. While not stated, it was evident that the group needed some camp nannies to help them out.
At some point of the day, Angelica noticed that one of the merchant drivers kept looking up confused. When asked about it, she was told.
“I saw something weird flying above us not long ago. It seemed like a horse with wings or something.”
Later in the day one of the other drivers also noticed something flying in the sky. The report was basically the same as he first description. Deciding that if someone were on top of the wagon, they might be able to get a better view of whatever might be flying around. Fwoosh and Sky decided that they would be the ones to watch from on top of the wagons.
Later during the afternoon, Sky was able to notice far away some creatures flying. It was not horses with wings, but a creature with an eagle in the front part and a horse in the rear part. After discussing it between themselves, they were able to figure out that it was a hippogriff. Now that they were more aware of what might be flying, they were able to watch more carefully.
The hippogriffs seemed to be flying parallel to the road and occasionally there were more than one flying, and looking closer, they noticed that people were riding these creatures. Vladimir was able to remember that there have been some military forces that have used flying creatures in some of their more elite units. He vaguely remembered a former Waterdeep unit that had all quit together and moved somewhere else. They were called “feather-something”, he could not remember the entire name.
The group finally reached the Long Road as night approached. The merchants quickly set up camp and took care of the horses and wagons. At some point Fwoosh looked for Jepos and noticed that he had started putting together some new clothes to replace his rags, some new shoes, and even started tailoring some of the clothing from the dead bandits to fit him. The rest of the night was uneventful If not a little fearful with the thought of those creatures flying above them somewhere.
18th of Mirtul of the year 1492
The morning was simple, and everyone worked together to take the camp down, the party, the former prisoners, the horses, and the remaining two wagons all headed south toward Amphail. Nothing happened on the route south, however, ISAC stopped everyone to look at where they had been ambushed two weeks ago. It was very puzzling and alarming. All the bodies were gone, the fallen trees gone, the ground seemed to have been repaired. It was like the ambush had never happened. Fogo pointed out that it must have taken a druid, or powerful magic to have fix everything like it was.
While still on top of the wagons, Fwoosh and Sky kept an eye on the sky but instead of hippogriffs, they instead saw that the sky north of them was no longer a dark orange, nothing unnatural, there were only a few dark clouds. It was toward the late afternoon Fwoosh was able to see faintly four things flying in the sky. Something to the east of them. Four creatures flying in formation.
The last few hours of the day passed, and they began to reach their camping site, they saw a fortified outpost sitting on the side of the road. As they approached, ten soldiers came marching out, soldiers that were all wearing Waterdeep uniforms. The same uniforms as the soldiers in Rassalantar.
These soldier unlike the ones in Rassalantar, these were all older me, scarred and much more serious. Vladimir was able to recognize their specific unit. They were a well decorated and were veterans of many wars. While he did not remember their commanders name, he did remember the two nicknames he had, which was “The Law Giver”, and “The Butcher”. A strict man, one that kept the law very rigidly.
Stopped and queried by the sergeant they were instructed to park and camp next to the outpost. After an inspection by the solders and the group sharing some information about the Ruined Moathouse, the party was told that they would be escorted to Amphail the next day and brought to the Commander, who now was the Lord Warder of Amphail.
Getting the camp set up, the group rested with a contingent of guards wandering around their camp during the night. Another uneventful night passed them by.
19th of Mirtul of the year 1492
With the soldiers coming to the camp before daylight and attempting the roust the group, the merchants managed to get the party together and on the road with the soldiers jogging beside the wagons as everyone else road them. Arriving at Amphail another surprise greeted them as they could see a large Motte and Bailey being constructed by several hundred workers. The wooden walls were already constructed, a 70-foot hill sat in the southern part and a stone tower was being constructed. The small fort would easily be able to hold at least a hundred men.
As they slowly road into town, they were also able to smell the Middens. It seems that someone had burned it to the ground since they were here last. The sergeant led them into the fort and had them park while he ran up the staircase up the hill to the tower. There were also two stone fortified buildings being built inside. The entire fort would be completed before the end of the month. It was at this point that the party realized that Jepos was gone and no longer with them. They were not sure at what point he had run off.
They with the sergeant waited to be called by the commander. When they told him about the missing gnome, the sergeant seemed to be confused since he and his men had not seen the other gnome, nor had recorded his presence. They gave a description and what little details they had about him. After an hour they were finally called up to meet the commander. Sky and Fwoosh used this opportunity to rush and run to the top of the stairs. Only through their excellent dexterity allowed them to get up those uneven and treacherous steps and not fall and seriously injure themselves.
They were escorted into the commander’s office and seated in chairs fanned out around his desk. There sat the commander, Briiathor Alogarr.
A tense discussion then took place, mostly tense for the characters and much less so for the very stern commander. They explained about themselves and how they managed to rescue the Ammakyl merchants with most of the details of what they had found and faced. They gave him their map from the Constable and later during the conversation the letter they found in Lareth’s room. He was also surprised by the varied weather and temperature changes in the swamp, and even that there was a swamp in the valley. After being told about the bleeding eye tattoos, he seemed to recognize it and told them that the name of the commander of those bandits was called Lucius Morgan.
He was also apprised of the possible water cult using the drow water symbol. The Lord Warder asked a lot of clarifying questions and pushed for answers in several different ways. While asking questions, he also revealed more information about the different forces in the valley and their distribution. He was curious about what had been encountered, how many of different types, and how skilled each group they encountered might have been.
They had also mentioned that they had seen several hippogriffs with riders in the area as well. Briiathor remembered about a unit from a few years ago called the Feathergale Knights that had been serving in Waterdeep under the command of Thurl Merosska. There was some sort of scandal with nobles and their leader led them all away to somewhere else. It was assumed they had become mercenaries of some sort. He also expressed his admiration for the Knights of Samular, and that they are considered very trustworthy.
He did query into all their circumstances and reasons for being in the valley and specifically Red Larch. As a final part of their discussion, they also mentioned that there had been a gnome with them but had disappeared. The party was requested to tell them if they encountered this gnome again. He also requested that they seek and destroy any remaining bandits since they had not yet killed all that were around. It would take many more bandits to have taken out the Ammakyl wagon train than they had encountered so far.
Before departing they were given a small, silvered coin with a gauntlet with lightning bolts on it. It represented this military unit and would allow them to make contact and request assistance sometime in the future.
With the merchants, the group headed down to the Ammakyl store to settle accounts and deliver the freed merchants. The once again met Tina Ammakyl and other shopkeepers. There were a lot of sad stories told as the merchants talked about who was missing. In the end only eight came back out of the over 40 that had left with the merchant train. Tina rewarded them and even bought the contents of the wagons and any else they wanted to sell no matter the source.
After finishing a short rest, Fogo did a quick Detect Magic to see if any of their ill-gotten gains were magical, and it turned out that one of the maces and the breastplate the priest had been wearing were both magical. Stashing them away and cleaning up their impromptu camp the group was ready.
The party decided to finally look at and attempt to open the last heavily fortified door. It was not locked and proved to be the priest’s office and bedroom. The room looked like it had been ransacked. All the furniture had been beaten up, a table and desk bashed with a hard blunt instrument, a bookcase tossed over, and finally, a large pile of burnt documents sitting by the door.
It seems that the priest before running out to engage the characters had paused to burn anything important to ensure no information leaked in case the combat did not go their way. Avery stepped over to the desk to see if he could find anything remaining while Fwoosh dug through the ashes hoping for a remnant piece of paper.
The desk proved to be completely empty, and secret compartments in the desk had been opened and dumped, and the desk itself bashed enough times to break it in half. The ash pile was not even warm anymore. It was evident that the hour-long waits gave the small fire sufficient time to burn down anything that was there and to cool completely. As he continued to dig through them looking closely, he saw a sheet of paper under a chair nearby.
While in a hurry, the priest seemed to have missed something. Fwoosh scooted over and grabbing the paper. It was clear that it had been in the fire, and through some means had escape before burning completely. Most of the message was obscured by the burnt hole in the middle. If they had only gone into the room sooner, more might have been recovered.
There was one passage that seemed to stick out for them:
“I have contacted our spies in Red Larch to keep an eye on them and remove their presence if needed.”
Otherwise, the room was empty of anything else. In fact, it seemed overly empty. The room had been almost completely cleared out of anything. There were not any clothes, knickknacks, or anything, it was bare except for smashed furniture and a burnt pile of documents. When everyone examined the rest of the space, it looked like the soldiers had completely emptied out the areas only leaving their packs. They were ready to depart in just minutes before the characters had arrived and interrupted their exit.
Knowing there was nothing else to find everyone convened in the main room. A lengthy dialogue occurred about what their exact plans should be. It was decided that securing the exit would be the best plan before gathering the prisoners. They also remembered that there were supposed to be ghouls somewhere in the ruins that they had not yet met. There were only a few areas they had not visited, but they felt the urgency of needing to get the prisoners away to be the most important.
Heading down the tunnel, they were finally able to reach the end of it after over 500 feet. The tunnel was straight and in the last 50 feet the ground started becoming frozen as well as the walls until they reached the4 end where the walls, floor, and ceiling were sheathed in a thin coat of ice. Looking out into the open area they could see a damaged wagon just outside of the opening, and two wagons with horses tacked up and ready to go. They also heard voiced. Rough and ruff voices to the right and left of the opening as well from one of the wagons up ahead. Voices speaking in a language that only Avery could understand. Goblin. There were bugbears waiting outside with the wagons needed for the escape.
Huddling around further back in the tunnel, the party started making plans. It was good that the bugbears were further away and were not expecting invaders since the group were not speaking in hushed tones. There were several close calls as the bugbears are well known for their ambushes, assassinations, and capability to hear very well.
Deciding on a path of action, Fogo used Disguise magic on himself making him resemble the priest exactly. Moving out through the exit it did not take long for the bugbears to notice the characters. Avery split off from the rest in anticipation of hostilities, which made the bugbears much more suspicious because none of the party was recognizable except the priest to them.
A larger bugbear began speaking loudly at Fogo, unfortunately Fogo did not speak goblin.
“Lareth, is everything ready to go? Where is Sar?”
At which point Avery answered:
“Sar is dead.”
“Who are you? Lareth, what is going on?”
It was at this point, that Fogo interjected in the common tongue since he did not recognize any of the previous conversation.
“It’s alright, it’s alright. We found these guys, and everyone has a price. We were able to convince them to join our cause and we are bringing them with us. The rest of the people are back and are almost done packing up. They will be here in just a couple of minutes. In fact, it would very helpful if someone could give them a hand.”
“The wagons are already packed.”
“There were just a couple more things that they needed back there.”
“Can we get two or three guys going back there?”
The bugbear boss started yelling at some of the other ones and four of the six splits off and started running down the secret passage. It seemed that Fogo’s persuasion worked and most of the bugbears departed. Fogo continued.
“We got into a bit of a scuffle with these guys before they decided there was a better option them. I wonder if we have any healing potions, we can give them so they can be at full strength for the journey.”
The bugbear boss responded in goblin.
“Only if you packed something, only you would know what is in there.”
Not understanding, Fogo just kept nodding his head in agreement, but the conversation continued in goblin.
“Why did the gnome say Sar is dead? Where is Sar?”
Using that opportunity, Avery decided that the jig was up and let off with a Ray of Frost missing the bugbear, but fully alerting him that something was not right. Yelling for the last remaining bugbear they attacked the party. It did not take too long to finish the two of them off, but their constant yelling did attract the other four who made it back just as the others died. The combat continued until all the bugbears had been killed except one that they captured to question later.
Finally having time to start inspecting the wagons they found enough arms and armor for at least 20 to 30 people and food for a 100. There were two small chests and a single large one. There was also a particular long box full of black cloaks. Avery took a cloak, one of the small chests while ISAC took the other small chest. It was getting very late, and darkness had already descended, and the cold was biting into them a fair amount. Untacking the horses attached to the wagons, they moved those 12 horses into the hallway to prevent them from freezing, abandoning the two lame horses outside as well as the two warhorses that would not allow them to get too close.
Moving the horses about 150 into the tunnel they left ISAC and Fogo to guard the horses while the rest began shuffling the merchants down to the soldiers’ barracks room. The merchant who had been hanging in chains and heavily tortured had died at some point not been healed. As the time neared midnight, the party started their watches relieving those guarding the horses every two hours and keeping the heavily fortified doors locked. It was before the first watch ended that Fogo realized that his bugbear prisoner was imminently about to escape. Not wanting to deal with it, he just bashed in its skull killing it.
During Sky’s watch he allowed the horses to move forward deeper into the warmer tunnel until the lead on was stopped by the closed door in front of the barracks. There was some consternation with the next group having watch as the horses were occupying all the open space.
Sometime during the night as ISAC was resting, he lost focus and began dreaming again.
“Your body feel light and gently floating. As you open your eyes, you see an open void. The inkiness of the void is very stark, but at the same time you do not feel lonely. You feel companionship nearby. Something familiar is close to you. Your body slowly spins around, and you can see the golden statue. It seems much larger that you are, it feels like you could fly around it. It is transparent, as if it is not fully there, or that it is only partially represented in this space.
As you close in on the item, the four blocks of the bottom split out and start making a slow orbit around the top part. As you watch, you realize that the top part is really an eye. A closed eye, but it is attempting to open, but cannot.
You feel it drawing something from you, some sort of internal essence. You feel weaker as it draws from you and while that happens, you are slowly becoming more transparent, while it seems more solid. As it becomes more solid you can feel the eye attempting to open again, but still cannot, something is preventing that.
A shape pain strikes your head, your brain, your being, and you awaken with a severe headache and the dream fading with the morning. The golden statue rests in your hands.
Upon awakening, the statue was truly in his hands and Fwoosh did not have it. While somewhat disturbing, Fwoosh seemed to be happy that it did not seem to be attached to him any longer.
16th of Mirtul of the year 1492
Early the next morning the party, the merchants, and the mysterious gnome all headed out. It took them to nearly noon to get the horses back out of the hall, tacked up to the wagons, and get everything ready to go. While working outside, the four horses that had been left outside were all dead. It was not sure if it was because of the cold or some large creature since the two warhorses had large bites missing from them, one of the lame horses clawed into pieces, and the second lame horse missing, and clearly dragged off into the frozen swamp somewhere.
Before departing the gnome insisted that they burn the last remaining wagon to ensure they were not leaving anything for the bandits. Putting the Ruined Moathouse behind them, the group all traveled forward. The small trail they were able to follow first headed to the east, then made a turn to the north until they exited the swamp. The closer the got to the edge of the swamp the warmer the weather was becoming, and the muddiness of the trail and swamp more prevalent.
Reaching the edge, they could see the trail then headed directly west. Nighttime had already arrived, and they set up camp for the night. Fwoosh put on a little show to entertain the merchants and the opening of one of the barrels of brandy helped the night pass well for everyone.
As the evening moved on, ISAC had Fwoosh investigate the two chests. The small one was opened and contained a large amount of gold coins, probably some of the bandit payroll. The larger chest was heavily trapped with poisonous darts and difficult lock but was nothing in front of Fwoosh. Contained within was a multitude of wealthy goods. It looked like all the expensive goods from the priest.
Theories and ideas were shared, and that perhaps the cold was related to the water group, and maybe the heat was related to a fire group. It generated many different hypothesizes and directions, but without any evidence they could only guess what it all meant. But as more pieces of information came it started creating a larger and complex picture of what was happening.
With some input and arguments for what direction to go, the group decided to head to Amphail the next day since they would be halfway between Red Larch and Amphail.
Deciding to revisit the statue, ISAC was able to demonstrate that it did have additional powers that it did not have previously. In fact, it now had some offensive power to compliment the previous defensive powers. The new attacks where of the four different elements, each one new and different from any magic any of the arcane casters have heard or seen of previously.
17th of Mirtul of the year 1492
Morning came and the camp was packed up with everyone starting to head in the direction they believed was toward the Long Road.
And that is where the session ended.
The Ruined Moathouse comes to an end. They encountered a new group, ones that seemed to worship water as a source. This is now two of the four elemental symbols they have come across. The merchants rescued and they are near the road, safety is near, or at least they all hope so. The Gold Statue has changed, it has more power, what else does it have?
The mid-morning started off some serious dialogue among the party. ISAC had to get some information off his chest about what had been happening to him. He explained that he is never asleep nor has ever needed to breath, but when the giant bug had ambushed him, his thoughts vanished for a period time, and then there was the dream. A dream that made him feel suffocated and unable to breath, a unique experience for him. And he too heard a voice speak out.
“I shall tear the breath from all of you, I will give you unending agony of being torn asunder and spread your blood and flesh over the wind”.
It was clear that the party had now dreamed of the four different elements, and something dire at the same time. The conversation then veered around different tactics that they might want to employ the next time they got into combat, especially trying to control Sky’s need to run forward, something he himself did not seem to really understand why he did that. Something deeper within him was the cause and anxiousness of that.
The discussion also covered the need to start using the members of the party to take care of the actions that they were best at, such as searching, trap finding, and other aspects of general exploration and adventure. Once the talks were complete, the group began moving forward again.
Sky was able to notice that the eastern most doorway seemed to have had the most amount of traffic. Working carefully to not set off another alarm Vladimir and Fwoosh worked together to ensure a smooth and quiet entry into the area behind the door. No trap, nor alarm was found, but a long corridor that went south and had a branch that went southeast just a bit passed the door. They could feel cold air come from the southern passageway.
Hoping that this would lead to the exit, they skipped the southeastern passageway, but Avery did notice that it went about a hundred feet and ended in a door. As they creeped south, they found another junction in the corridor, this time one heading straight west into additional hallways. They were also able to see a staircase that would take them further down and south. Fwoosh was able to hear the faint sound of water splashing coming from the southern direction.
Wanting to be more thoughtful and careful with their actions and movement, Vladimir and Fwoosh headed down the stairs leaving the rest of the group further up the corridor and safely out of the way. Just past the stairs to the west, the passageway opened into a room. It was not too large, but it was mostly filled with a large pool of water. The pool was large enough to almost reach all the walls of the room. The more horrifying sight was that there were 30 to 40 skeletons scatters around the room. All in different positions, none had any remnants of clothing or belongs, as if they had been tossed into the different limited open spaces around the pool.
Thinking that whatever that was in the room, was not going to be pleasant, Vladimir decided that retreating was the best option. While coming to that conclusion, Vladimir was able to notice that something very large was swimming in the water. As he attempted to look closer, he noticed that it seemed to be a person on the top part and a long fish body on the bottom. Nothing he had ever seen, nor heard of before. The swimming figure seemed to be chained to something in the water.
As they both turned around and began to depart, they heard a young woman’s voice calling out to them.
“Can you not leave; I am trapped here. I am afraid they will come back and kill me. Can you please help. I can help a little bit, but…. I am chained here by magic and cannot escape.”
“What are you?”
“I am a mermaid; these water worshipers summoned and trapped me here.”
“What is with all of these skeletons here?”
“There is a priest here, he sacrifices people here to his water god.”
Vladimir was strongly doubting her words and determined that there was just something wrong with her and what she had been saying but was not able to figure out anything specific, the mermaid seemed to be honest with him.
“Hold on, we will be right back”.
“Don’t leave me, you are the first non-worshipers I have seen here.”
“We will be back in just a second.”
Moving somewhat quickly, Vladimir and Fwoosh rushed up the stairs. Discussing the issue with the group, Angelica was able to remember about other primitive god worshiping that might have had sacrifices like what was described. The green glowing chains that held her there were an interesting point. Maybe if they could be removed, she would be able to return from wherever she had been summoned from. As a result, Vladimir pulled out his broken dagger to ask it for an Augury about trusting the mermaid.
Getting an answer that did not bode well, he suggested they just leave her there. With the rest of the party ready to drop her like a bag of dirt, they began discussing where to go next, when they heard another different voice behind them, from down the stairs. A haggard, creaky, and just old sounding female voice.
“Oh, my little lambs, you could have made this so much easier.”
What Vladimir and Fwoosh were able to see was an old woman approaching them. She looked like she was covered in ice, and as she approached, a freezing cold mist spread out over 30 feet from her decreasing the already cold temperature to something well below freezing. Cold enough to start causing them pain and damage.
As battle broke out, anyone that entered or stayed in the misty area took damage. The battle raged further up the stairs with the hag first engaging them with different ice spells and finally closing in to attack them with her claws. With a fair amount of effort, the party was finally able to kill her. Upon her death, the freezing area dissipated, and she melted into a pool of water.
Exploring the now unoccupied room, they were able to find a fair amount of coin, and using his innate Detect Magic, Fogo was able to find a magical stone lantern as well as what appeared to be a scroll case. Avery looked at the scroll inside, and it was evident that what was contained on the scroll was some sort of arcane writing, but Avery would still require a fair amount more training and experience to be able to read or utilize that scroll.
Moving on to the southeastern angled corridor the party made their way to the door at the end of it. While all the doors in this basement had been replaced with new and reinforced door, this was the first time they came across one that was so heavily banded in iron. Even though there was a locking mechanism, the door itself was not locked. Taking a cautious method of opening it, they group could see another door immediately to the north with the same reinforcements as this door, and a very long somewhat straight corridor heading directly east.
After a quick listen to the door, the party decided that going down the long corridor was a much better idea. They began walking down that hallway, but it proved to be much longer than they expected. After traveling over 400 feet and a slight slope upwards they stopped. The party could feel that the further they walked the colder the temperature became. Figuring that this was probably the exit, they then went back to that last door to ensure no one would be ambushing them from behind.
After preparing for entry, they opened the door to a group of soldiers who all immediately opened fired with their crossbows. Attempting to position themselves more intelligently and tactically they cast several spells, while the group hoped that the soldiers would advance, but that would be in vain. The soldiers, much better trained in tactics compared to the bandits, kept their distance and moved in and out of the far room for cover and only exposed themselves to fire their crossbows.
Knowing that they needed to close, the party rushed forward and engaged in melee with the men. A slaughter ensued except for one brave soldier that managed to hold out for well over a minute. The men in front were replaced as quickly as they were killed, and then the sergeants replaced them, finally a lieutenant entered the fight, and finally their boss who stood in the back tossing out damaging spells at the party. At one point, he even managed to Banish Angelica to some remote realm.
But, even the heavily armed, armored, and spell casting boss was defeated but not before causing most of the party to have been wounded and several to be knocked out. Angelica at some point transferred back to this world without any difficulty except for falling on a large pile of dead soldiers.
With the battle over, the bodies looted, and everyone gathering in the room at the end of this hallway, they were faced with another heavy door to the east. After a lot of chatter, they decided to start resting right here and not open that beckoning door.
This is where the session ended.
The group managed to get to the local boss in time before he departed this base for the next one. If they had spent just a little more time and they would have missed out on a lot of things. The ice hag was obviously feeling under the weather and did not fully execute all her powers but made for an interesting encounter.
Everything started off with a discussion about the health of the prisoners and that because of their condition, the party might consider taking them all away now instead of trying to keep them hidden and alive somewhere in the Moathouse. Most of the party agreed and talked about how to prepare about coming back, or just skip completing this mission. This was the general assessment until they realized that because of the falling temperatures and the poor condition of the former prisoners, it would be difficult if not impossible to bring them back without some sort of transportation. None of the people saved would be able to survive attempting to walk through the swamp, even when it was warmer.
It was at this point the discussion moved to where they could put the people to keep them safe while the party could finish their exploration and elimination of threats and looking for something to transport them by. There should be wagons somewhere. A lot of wagons had been seized by the bandits, and they had to be somewhere. Deciding to use the Ogre’s room again, they moved this set of prisoners there and while planning on moving the dead Ogre’s body to the old larder.
While in this process of moving dead bodies and starting to get the former prisoners settled, Fwoosh noticed that there was another secret door in the room where they had originally come down. A doorway on the east wall and when opened led to a staircase going down. Deciding that exploring further was the best of all their limited options. Fogo once again warned about the Bugbears and their fiendish ways.
Heading down the stairs, it led to several other hallways, one leading south, and one leading east. Light was non-existent and trying to keep their lantern set on low as to not alert anyone ahead of them meant moving was very slow for the entire group. Looking for tracks, it seemed that there had been more traffic to the south than the east. Taking the route less traveled, they moved to the east. Strange noises kept being heard, rattling noises, perhaps rocks falling, it was unknown. But it also reminded the party that they were no alone down here.
Moving further east they came to an open room with an opening to the north and three doors to the east. Sending in Benny as the designated target and the party waiting to see what happens, the ambush Fogo had been warning about finally happened. Several javelins pierced through Benny alerting them to the presence of the Bugbears in the room to the north. A heavy and difficult fight ensued with the party once again prevail, but at the expense of almost everyone becoming heavily wounded.
With the battle behind them, they explored the Bugbear area looking for any new treasure. More Ammakyl boxes of food was found, much it not eaten. Again, looking to take a short rest they made the unfortunate decision to investigate the doors first. Even with looking them over carefully, they missed the wire that was attached to the door they opened which set of a loud clanging alarm which could be heard throughout the entire underground.
Realizing that staying was a bad idea, they began running back to the Ogre’s area. In their way was a portcullis that had fallen in the corridor before the stairs. They were trapped, but not for long since Dolores the wildfire spirit of Fogo, was able to teleport a few of them at a time to the other side of the portcullis, only stopping them for about a minute and allowing them to continue their retreat and away from any approaching danger.
After getting to the Ogre’s room, they found the former prisoners attempting to hide in the room and huddling in corners frightened by the alarm and the sudden appearance of the characters. The party rushed everyone forward to the stairs in open area to the west. Shooting it with an Eldritch Blast, all ISAC managed to do is to splatter it around instead of killing it. Avery was quick to come by and using his burning hands burned it all away quickly. The path was clear for them to go up the stairs.
Carrying the more heavily wounded of the prisoners, everyone started going up the stairs. Again, everyone was moving slow because of the need to help many of the others. The stairs did go up all the way to the ground floor, a full 70 feet upward. The alarm could still be faintly heard from the underground. Meeting up with the first three they had rescued it was once again decided that moving to the larger bandit room was the safest option.
Digging up some ice from the frozen swamp outside, provisions were made available for everyone. Blocking the door and setting up camp in the room with a warm fire in the large fireplace everyone attempted to settle in. However, the weather outside continued to worsen. It was becoming even colder than before causing everyone to huddle as close as possible to the fire. Using the same watches as before, the night passed without an event except for the noises of large creatures moving around outside. It was deathly silent outside, not even the insects were moving or making noise. Traveling right now in the cold would be almost impossible to survive except with a lot more appropriate clothing than they had. The night passed safely.
15th of Mirtul of the year 1492
It was in the morning in a conversation with the remaining leader of the Ammakyl merchants that they found out that the merchants were not aware that they were in a swamp, and that they had been ambushed on the Long Road. Postulating that they must have been drugged or poisoned for that trip because none of them knew about it, and it was only here in the prison was when they awoke. While this story was being told, the gnome came over.
“We’ve had our eye on this spot for a while. I was sent here to investigate bandit problems.”
“Who do you work for?”
“There have been different issues with the flow of goods and money, this is one of the spots that we had identified. The Bugbears were out and about and managed to ambush and capture me. I have been here about a week longer than the others. The bandits would bring in people, usually merchants. The Ogre seemed to have an allowance but would occasionally come in for an additional snack, and then there are the grey things that would grab people occasionally. They also seemed to be on some sort of schedule. When the number of people would run low, more would show up. The Ogre would eat a person a day, more if he could sneak one.
We think there is some kind of boss in here, but given what we have heard you talk about, there must be another 20 to 30 bandits somewhere. We suspected that they had multiple outposts and only came together for a big attack and then split up again. I was watching this place for about a week until they captured me. I was not aware there was an underground until I was captured.”
The gnome continued about the dangers of the swamp, and that he was not aware of where the wagons may have moved to. He also expressed his concern about more bandits showing up. He described the bandit operations in some more detail.
“When they operate, they seem to be overly organized, almost like a military force, but sometimes they are just bandits. There seem to be some of them, the leadership that are a little stronger, harsher, more regimented, more disciplined.”
When asked about the Bleeding Eye, it was not an organization that he was aware of. He also stressed that whatever was here needed to be taken care of, otherwise they would never be found again. When shown the map from the Wererat, he did not display any change of expression, but Avery noticed something, something in his expression showed an interest with the map. When talking about the swamp stated.
“There is no information about a swamp. I did a little research of this area, and the swamp was not mentioned It’s like there was not a swamp here ten years ago. There was a river, and some small wetlands, but nothing like this. This is unnatural.”
“There is that word again.”
There is an accumulation of water here that is just beyond what should be possible in the area. It is an arid grassland everywhere around here. Why would there be a swamp in the middle of arid grasslands. Wouldn’t you think that is a little unnatural?”
The gnome also suggested that the party search for the arms and armor wherever they might be and destroy them. Otherwise, it would end up in other bandit hands if left here. This was a known location to the bandits. He was expecting more bandits to eventually show up since they brought their goods to this location. When explaining about the bandits, he again mentioned that the officers of the bandits were a nasty bunch, and that they all seemed much more disciplined and fanatical than the regular bandits.
“They seem to be willing to die for whatever the cause they have, which is unusual for any bandit. Bandits tend to run when you inflict enough damage to them. These seem to have a mission.”
It was then that he mentioned an armored men in black that gave orders to the bandits and the bugbears. He did not know much about them, and when a Deathguard was described, he told them that there was no resemblance between the two sets of men.
With a firm plan to move through the rest of the basement, they quickly moved forward moving through the secret door, down the ladder, and finally down the stairs. As they started travelling down, they noticed that the alarm was no longer sounding. Having Benny and ISAC lead the way the group made their way via the south passage. Attempting to move as quietly as possible ISAC eventually made his way to a large open room with three doors to the south. Almost stepping inside, he was able to notice that the room was filled with Orcs in an ambush position, but they had somehow not seen him. These were Iceshield Orcs.
When trying to move back quietly, ISAC was only able to stumble and alerted the Orcs behind him. With a lot of yelling, it was clear that they were aware of him. The two groups converged on each other with the party having an initial advantage. That changed when the Orc Shaman got involved and began commanding and interfering with different members of the party. It was severely aggravating to Avery since the Shaman used the exit into the room as a hiding place and only briefly popped out to cast his spells.
With a hard enough push, the party was able to finally kill the orcs including the Shaman.
And this is where the session ended.
Another rough session. Bugbears and Orcs are never a fun fight. The Shaman played a few games with the characters using his Command spell causing a bit of chaos, especially when combined with his Bless and Spiritual Weapon. This is their first real encounter with a smarter caster, and it caused a fair amount of difficulty. It did not help that most of the combat occurred in a hallway bottlenecking both the Orcs and the characters.
A most feeble utterance from Fogo to get the action started. With only Fogo and ISAC in the room, the combat quickly became a bottleneck as they moved further in and allowed the ogre to move to the doorway and prevent any of the rest to enter the room. This severely limited the party’s ability to gang up on the Ogre and did not allow all of them to display their powers to their full extent. It became a battle of slow attrition on both sides.
An added wrinkle was added in when they discovered that the Ogre was able to heal itself by grabbing a character and taking a bite. This proved difficult for Angelica who was grabbed twice for a munch and some healing for the Ogre. Sky was able to summon from within himself and several astral arms appeared around him allowing him to strike over and around Angelica providing some additional support, but just not quite enough. Eventually after the second bite, Angelica was tossed unconscious into the room behind the Ogre so he could move on to the next snack.
It was then Vladimir’s turn to also suffered a small chew, and it was when he was about to be grabbed a second time and smokey ghostly figure of a thin man with glasses and a large smile appeared in front of him and blocked the blow. The figure disappeared after that and left Vladimir a bit shocked.
The Ogre was somewhat quickly dispatched after that point and the party tended to their wounds and started pestering Vladimir on what had happened.
Going through his feelings and what happened, Vladimir felt sure he could replicate what happened. Concentrating he focused on his thoughts and feelings and tried to bring Benny back again. But nothing appeared in front of him. Benny was gone and had saved him once again. Until that is, a hand was on his shoulder, not very heavy, but carrying a great weight. As he turned around, he could see the smokey and wispy Benny once again standing behind him. They were once again together, connected through Vladimir’s growth and strange powers he was able to demonstrate.
Just seeing his old friend, even as this wisp of something, made Vladimir feel better, like something settled in his heart.
Searching the room, Fwoosh was able to notice a shabby clock in the stained Ogre bed that seemed to be of higher quality than the rest of the rags. There were several remains of arms and legs on the side of the bed. It seemed that the Ogre enjoyed late night snacking while resting, although his snacks were from parts of people.
Taking a short rest to allow the group to heal a little and prepare for whatever might be found next. They dragged the remains of the Ogre to the front of the door to the south leaving the door to the west somewhat uncovered. Angelica used her Ring of Biting Retort to insult and then apply healing to Fwoosh which made him feel a little hurt and healed at the same time. Deciding that the larger Ogre room was better for a rest, everyone spread out with Fwoosh diving into the nasty, stained, and smelly pile of clothing in the corner where the Ogre used as a sleeping area.
Once everyone had a little rest and additional healing they moved on to the doors. When inspecting the two doors to the west and south, Fwoosh heard a very faint voice from the south door.
While checking the south door, ISAC discovered that the door had six heavy latches hidden in the door frame that were not visible from a distance. ISAC was able to muscle one open. Concerned that there might be something bad on the other side, Fogo started looking for anything magical and noticed that the cloak that had been found was magical, and when looking around further, he also noticed that the shield and sword they had found upstairs were also magical. When peering at the south door, nothing magical was seen. Vladimir was excited to be able to replace his Ogre chewed shield, but when attempting to work the items through their paces, he found that they were resisting his use of them. He would have to spend at least an hour focusing on them to gain more insight.
Girding their loins and shaking their bravery awake, they started opening more of the levers to get the door open. After a fair amount of time, Vladimir was able to finally open all the levers and pull the door open. Everyone was ready for action, but to their surprise, inside were two beaten humans and a scrawny gnome. Piled in the corner were more arms, legs, and torsos that had been ripped off more humans. This was the Ogre’s larder. The smell that wafted out was pungent and sickening. Blood, offal, and body parts made for a ripe sensation. Looking inside Vladimir noticed that the two humans had small insignias on the clothes. They were people from the Ammakyl family. It seems they had found some of the missing merchant train.
“Help us, food, water, hurry, the Ogre is going to come.”
“Don’t worry, the Ogre is dead.” Replied Vladimir. Fogo rushed in and gave them some Good Berries to give them a little healing and food.
“There should be over 30 of us, there is a prison nearby here. The Ogre just pulls some of us out and eats us.”
Requesting assistance from the party to help find the remainder and help them get home. Only after mentioning the possibility of a reward, was Fwoosh a lot more motivated to assist. It seems that they had been ambushed on the Long Road and then knocked unconsciousness. The party was also informed that they had been attacked by at least 40 bandits. Their wagons were filled food, arms, and armor.
With the healing and food, the gnome approached Fogo and gave him an iron ring and told him that he could seek help from other gnomes in the valley if he showed them this ring. Avery was able to determine that these rings are made through some alchemical means and given to their benefactors when something extraordinary was done for them. The gnome clans had a unique ring for each area where they lived. Using another alchemical substance, the gnomes could identify any specific ring.
With a tremendous amount of effort, they were able to bring the three former prisoners up the stairs and finally the ladder. With them being very feeble and weak, it took a lot of effort and time to bring them upstairs. They were moved to one of the rooms with a door in the corridor. Planning to rescue the rest of the prisoners and then making a run for Red Larch to drop them off and then finishing their exploration of the Ruined Moathouse, Vladimir realized that if there is an organization here, they will either reinforce and set up ambushes, or just leave and take any clues with them. Understanding that this was their best time to complete their mission and waiting would not be good in any way.
Heading back down, the group moved to the west door in the Ogre room hoping that it led closer to the prison cells and the remainder of the prisoners. Having found out that that there were wandering Bugbear guards, Fogo warned everyone that they are nasty creatures and master of ambushes. Everyone needs to keep on their toes and watch out. Opening the west door, they found it filled with odds and ends covering the floor. Any attempt to move across the room would most likely make noise and would have been a wonderful warning for the Ogre if he had been alive. The party seemed to make the most of it and stomped on much of the junk on the floor, with only a few tripping and falling on their faces.
Opening the other door, they could see cells lining the west wall of the corridor heading to the south and an opening on the east wall halfway down of the southern corridor, and to the west was a staircase going up with piles of boxes lining the entire west wall. Splitting the group up with Sky and ISAC heading south, and the rest waiting for something to happen. Which it did. As Sky came to the opening there were a group of Zombies that waiting were for them, which then also signaled for some to come out of the one open cell and additional ones behind the southernmost pillar. All the Zombies were wearing the Ammakyl uniform.
As Sky seems to frequently do, he ran into the room with the Zombies to engage them leaving ISAC in the hallway. Activating his astral arms, he applied some additional damage. It did not take long for him to be knocked unconscious and once again turned into smoke and reappear naked elsewhere in the torture chamber. The rest of the battle moved to the hallway and the rest of the party was able to start engaging. Benny made several appearances since every time he showed up a Zombie would whack him. The Zombie elimination seemed to be going smoothly except that they did not actually fall. Angelica informed everyone that unless they are killed with magic or a direct hit to their head, they would not die and be able to continue to attack indefinitely. With that information the group was eventually able to kill off the zombies with Fwoosh killing one most spectacularly by tossing a playing card through a Zombie’s head.
Once the Zombies were cleared out, they started exploring the torture chamber and the cells across the hall. A heavily tortured Ammakyl merchant was found hanging in the room who was carefully brought down and healed with a good berry. It did not help much with his overwhelming wounds, which included broken fingers, amputated toes and fingers and many broken bones throughout his body. When exploring the cells, they found four men and two women in three of the cells. All were battered and in poor condition. The women seem to be most wary of all the men in the party and were quick to take cover behind Angelica, the only female in the group. When questioning the Ammakyl merchants they found out that there were also some Ghouls that occasionally came and grabbed prisoners as well.
Avery, Fogo, and Fwoosh moved over to the stairs and the boxes on the west wall of the more northern hall. When walking past the stairs Avery noticed a ledge above the stairs with some Green Slime on them. These slimes would have been difficult to see on the way down and could easily drop on top of anyone unaware.
While Avery was observing the slime, Fogo and Fwoosh were inspecting the boxes, most of which had the Ammakyl symbol upon them, but more importantly, there were a pair of doors hidden behind the piles of boxes.
And that is where the session ended.
The group killed the mighty ogre Lubash with only a few pieces missing. Many prisoners were rescued, but what will they do with them. It seems everyone has forgotten that is much below freezing outside and all the prisoners are weak and barely able to walk.
Still inside the ancient Dwarven fortress, the party decided that resting was the wisest choice they could make. However, realizing that it was still early afternoon, they should use the rest of the daylight to finish exploring the ground floor of the ruins.
Moving back to the corridor where they had finished off the giant lizard, they started looking into the last of the rooms on this wing. One of the last rooms that they had not yet entered proved to be an old kitchen with rusted utensils and mold everywhere. There were a few barrels in the room that vaguely smelled of ale and piss. ISAC decided that he by himself was sufficient to examine the room and look for any remaining treasure. While peering into one of the barrels a giant tick dropped on his back and was able to attach and start sucking on his fluids quickly knocking him unconscious leaving his body hanging half in and half out of the stinky barrel.
Vladimir was the only one that saw the large bug drop on upon ISAC and as he started intercepting it, it climbed up the wall near the ceiling attempting to escape. Fwoosh was able to get off a shot with his bow, while nicking it, did not do much damage. Many others ran into the room, but no one else was able to find the tick as it continued to escape. Vladimir was able to yell out the location of the bug, run inside and took a swing with his axe, he hit, but it was insufficient, and it was able to escape into the ceiling where there were many holes large enough to allow it to exit. Fogo applied some healing to ISAC, and everyone seemed confused on what had really happened.
Given the large number of holes in all the ceilings everyone was a bit more paranoid about dropping insects or anything else from that point forward. The exploration then continued. Another chest was found, this time in the giant lizard room, which contained some armor and a crossbow.
Moving on to the southern corridor, the group started opening doors and looking into each room. One overly smelly room proved to be filled bats which when disturbed flew around biting anyone in the room until they all managed to fly out of the room. Nothing was found in that room besides many inches of guano covering everything inside the room.
Swarm of Bats
In another room Vladimir found hidden behind a wall case, a long sword which was then just tossed into the party’s pile of growing loot. When trying to situate themselves more tactically Fogo backed up into the room at the end of the hall which disturbed a giant poisonous snake within. Another short battle it was killed off and the exploration was completed for the day. After some discussion it was decided that resting would be best for everyone because of the quick arriving evening and darkness.
Giant Poisonous Snake
Blocking the doors with all the available chests that had been found, as well as closing the secret entrance to the lower level, everyone settled in for the night. A fire was lit in the large fireplace in the north, and a watch schedule was set. The weather and general temperature was cold, but it only continued to get colder and fell into the freezing temperatures quickly. That caused everyone to start huddling closer to the fireplace to stay warm during the night. After setting the watches everyone hoped for an uneventful night.
Before everyone truly settled in, ISAC gave everyone a surprise by removing his mask and explaining a bit more of himself, or at least what he knew. None of the party had ever seen an artificial person before and there were many questions that were asked about ISAC. He mentioned that he had only been awake for about three years and had awakened in some sort of hidden and abandoned facility in the hills south of Waterdeep. He knows nothing of the location, or about himself. He also talked about his invisible friend Kieran that was around some of the time. ISAC also asked questions about items he knew of this past to see if anything was familiar to anyone else. He mentioned Revenant.
The only person that could come up with anything was Angelica. She seemed to remember reading from an ancient history book, whose contents were most burnt, that there was a reference to something about a black person, an undying person, and that the information was over 400 years old. No one else seemed to have anything that might be related.
With story time over, everyone settled down for a nice long rest. Who was on what watch had been determined and each member of the watch shifted around a little from before, but it remained at four watches. The cold continued to roll into the room from the holes in the wall, especially the large one in the southeast corner which was large enough for a person to go through. More wood was added to the fire, and everyone settled down.
However, since they had not cleaned up their massacre of the bandits, the bodies had all been left in their positions where they were killed in the large hall just outside of the door of the group’s new sanctuary. First watch came and went, but during the second watch a loud pounding occurred on the door of the room they were all in.
“Let us in, why in the hell is the door blocked?”
Sky, who had been on watch, started yelling for everyone to wake up, which was successful in awakening the party, but also was clearly heard by those outside the door.
“Who was that? Open this door now!”
The party started scrambling to get up and prepare themselves. ISAC changed his mask to appear as the bandit captain they had killed previously and left his body in the hall on the other side of the door. Sky and Vladimir rushed to the door to start defending.
“Who the fuck are you guys? Bust the door down!”
Without any movement on opening the door, the bandits on the other side began chopping it down. It did not take long, and the party could finally see their opponents, five veteran bandits and a bandit lieutenant leading them.
There was a lot of running around and at one point the bandits managed to push their way into the room, but it did not matter much, the group with a lot of effort was able to take down the bandits that intruded on their sleep. Once the combat was completed and the bodies looted, the group decided to move all the bandit bodies to the room filled with the bat guano and complete their rest in another room to not be a target again. Hopefully.
Rest came quickly for everyone except ISAC, who seemed to be rocking back and forth and gasping for air. An interesting issue for someone who does not breath. The issue with ISAC was ignored and the evening came to an end.
14th of Mirtul of the year 1492
When morning arrived, everyone slept in a bit more to make up for the loss of sleep and a bit stiff and cold from the uncomfortable arrangements last night. The only thing of note was that something had climbed into the ruins through the large hole in the wall and had dragged out the giant lizard from where they had killed it. Something very large had been right next to them unnoticed. There were also paw prints crisscrossing the large hall through all the bloody drag marks left from the movement of bodies.
It was decided that Fogo would use magic to disguise himself as the bandit captain and head down the ladder first. The ladder dropped down 20 feet before opening into a small room that had a staircase that led further down. Another 40 feet later Fogo was within yet another small room without any exits. The rest of the party joined Fogo as they looked for a possible exit. ISAC was able to spot an incongruency in the southwest wall which turned out to be a secret door.
The door led to a much larger room. Hoping his disguise would work, Fogo started slowly and quietly moving into the room. He was able to hear some loud and rough snoring coming from the northwest corner. It was a deep and rumbling sound, a sound from something large. When Fogo moved further in, the snoring stopped and the sounds of a large person getting up and moving closer. Meeting near the center of the room, Fogo faced off with an ogre.
“Ooo are you? You don’t look like dinner. What’s the word?”
Fogo’s only response was to yell out “attack”.
The party continues to move through the Ruined Moathouse. Holing up in the old bandit lair while nice, was an open target when additional bandit patrols came back in. Will there be more of those? Ending things by yelling attack on an ogre? What run.
Everything started where it ended, in a dark, dank tunnel that led to who knows where with the some of the dead remains of the Ankheg inside while most of the party was covered in the grisly acidic remains of it after it self-exploded.
Hurt, lacking sleep, and after the slight excitement of the second watch, the party worked out the remainder of the watch schedules and attempted to complete their nightly watch. Avery being severely wounded, decided to skip the fourth watch leaving the party all sleeping and resting without worrying about any possible danger that might approach. Sleeping the sleep of the uncaring, the completed their rest not knowing if they were spied upon or not.
12th of Mirtul of the year 1492
In the morning, it was evident that Avery had a difficult time sleeping and had dream that disturbed him. Perhaps almost becoming a snack after dinner last night fueled his dreams. It seemed that he dreamed of the element of water, He seemed very disgruntled and unwilling to talk about what was in his dream. Fogo eventually convinced him to at least talk about if anything was said in the dream.
“I have always been, I will always be. I will erode and cover all. There shall not be any breath but my watery death”.
They discussed where the source of these dreams might be and Avery was quick to blame the gold statue, while Fogo suggested finding additional information, perhaps from some Drow. Avery was quick to argue against it due to his guessing that they are probably evil given their reputation, but he could not confirm anything since he has not experienced any interactions with the Drow as of this time.
The discussion then was around the exit of the ankheg hole. Not knowing where it might go, or even how far, they agreed to not delve into the hole due to not wanting running into more of the ankhegs, especially if they were anywhere near the main nest. It was decided that running away from the unknown hole was better than diving into the darkness. Packing up the camp they headed south searching for indications of bandit.
After a few hours of walking south, they eventually were able to find some wagon tracks that went to the west to the Long Road, and to the south. It was noticeable that some of the wagon tracks were visibly deeper than the others. Sniffing down some horse dung, ISAC was able to determine that some horses had passed here over a week ago. They did remember that there were some Ammakyl wagons missing, and perhaps these might be related to those.
As they continued south, they could start to see some dark green vegetation that began to fill the landscape ahead of them. As they approached the foliage, they could smell the fetid rotting smell that reminded them of the Stump Bog in Rassalantar. The trail from the wagon wheels led directly into the swamp. The area head of them was dark and did not look very welcoming. While not dark enough to require them to light up the torches, it was dark enough to limit visibility and add to the spookiness of the trail ahead.
The weather has remained hot and still, but as they approached it was much more humid and stickier in the swamp area. The sounds of insects and other small creatures’ noises could be heard, none of which anyone was able to identify.
Remarkably, Sky was able to find the tracks. All of them were in pools of algae covered disgusting water. The tracks did not lead in a straight line but meandered around in seemingly random directions. Checking some of the turns, the found that the path not travelled was treacherous and had much deeper than pools of water and mud. The path the wagon followed was avoiding these hazards.
They used some rope to connect all themselves together to attempt to provide some additional safety while traveling the questionable path. With a lot of luck, Sky was able to continue to be able to follow the tracks. Several hours into the foray, Angelica slipped and fell into a sinkhole. She was able to keep a hold of the rope, and with some effort and assistance from the rest of the party they were able to get her out of the mud that was pulling her down. Covered in disguising stinking mud, Angelica was free but had difficulty moving forward and found that moving was more difficult than previously.
A heavy mist dropped on them and slowed down their ability to travel even more than previously. It took about an hour for it to fade enough for them to get back to their more normal slow rate of travel. After a couple of more hours of traveling they were now surprised by a Vine Blight that sprung up its vines and trapped half the party. By summing his wildfire, Fogo was able to teleport a few of his team members to safety out from the vines. It did not take long for them to kill it and move on to their destination.
While it seemed to take days, it was only about a six-hour trip for them to finally reach an opening in the swamp. Ahead of them was a small, ruined fortification. This was not the end of the swamp, but just a wide clearing where the Ruined Moathouse sat.
Sending Fwoosh forward sneaking forward, he approached the Moathouse. As he came closer passing several pools of water and find one ahead that had a pair of giant frogs within. They had not seen him, and he was able to creep past them without being detected. This allowed him to sneak all the way over the broken drawbridge and to the gate. Looking into the courtyard, it seemed abandoned except for the flickering of shadows at the far doors on the other side of the courtyard, but nothing specific was able to be discerned.
Due to evening having arrived, the group decided to sleep for the evening and attempt their entrance the next day into the Moathouse. Using their standard watches, the night proved to be uneventful and nothing besides a multitude of mosquitos bothered them. As the night dragged on, the heat seemed to have fled. A coolness, even coldness started filling the air. The weather had once again changed, this time for an opposite extreme.
13th of Mirtul of the year 1492
With everyone getting up and rested they could see all their breaths in the air, except ISAC. He seemed to the the only one without a breath plume. The party was surprised, and all looked for an answer, but he left them guessing and refused to elaborate.
Skirting the edge of the trail approaching the moathouse they avoided the slumbering frogs and started crossing the shattered drawbridge. All except Avery, ISAC, and Fogo were able to make it across without mishap, but those three stuck their legs through and suffered minor injuries.
Once across they started setting themselves up on the other side. Vladimir was able to determine that the fortifications were Dwarven from over 400 years ago. While examining the courtyard, Sky noticed that there were many peepholes in the walls from the rooms behind the walls. The peepholes were hidden in different decorations and motifs on the walls.
Knowing that any surprise they might have had was gone. Approaching the doors, they went through excepting some sort of ambush, but there was nothing but the decrepit hall behind the doors. They went down one of the hallways checking the doors one by one finally getting to the end of the hall and a pair of double doors. Vladimir opened them to see an old destroyed barracks with a large lizard inside. The lizard who had been sleeping had been awakened by all the banging and bashing of doors. With a roar it charged Vladimir and smashed the double doors.
Reacting the new combat, the party moved into place to support Vladimir. While everyone was focused forward and engaging the giant lizard, a door at the other end of the great hall opened, and a large group of bandits came out shooting their crossbows as they ran toward the party.
It did not take long to finish off the lizard and the bandits did not prove to be too much of an issue. But the bandit captain was a different story. He was able to hold off the entire party and even knock several members unconscious. The only unusual event was that when Sky fell after being beaten severely disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving all his clothes and weapons behind and reappeared 15 feet away stark naked and feeling a bit surprised but alive.
With a lot of effort, the party was able to finally take down the captain. Checking all the bodies and treasure, ISAC found an interesting tattoo on the chest of the captain. A tattoo scribed right over his heart.
When this was revealed to Avery, it upset Avery more than anyone else had seen previously. Taking a blade, he started chopping the dead body until there was nothing, but a heavily mutilated body left.
He was also carrying a red coin with the Drow symbol of water.
Everyone moved into the abandoned bandit room finding a secret door with a ladder leading down as well as a chest full of minor treasure that they collected. Deciding that it was a good opportunity to rest in the mostly secured room.
The ankheg left a lasting impression, and they finally got to the Ruined Moathouse. Avery found something from his past, the group found another elemental symbol. They have the rest of the ground floor to explore, and whatever is waiting for them below ground.
Red Larch has been an important stop on the Long Road for two centuries now. Named for a distinctive stand of red larch trees that were cut down when the hamlet was founded, Red Larch became a settlement in the first place thanks to a drinkable spring that fed a sizable pond ideal for watering horses, oxen, and pack mules.
An east-west trail meets the Long Road at the pond, running west to the logging community of Kheldell and east to Bargewright Inn and eventually Secomber. Another trail leads to quarries in the Sumber Hills and to ruins of stone keeps long ago left to monsters and outlaws (the Haunted Keeps).
In recent years, new quarries have been opened on the northwestern edge of town. So far these have yielded up great slabs of marble much prized in Waterdeep for facing large new buildings and repairing older edifices. Red Larch is also a center for stonecutters quarrying slate on the fringes of the Sumber Hills.
While Red Larch remains prosperous, dark omens are appearing. The heart of the Sumber Hills has become far more dangerous, with monsters lurking seemingly everywhere (no one goes into the hills berry picking or hare-hunting these days, though Red Larcher children traditionally did so daily in summer and fall). Banditry is on the rise, and the weather seems to be getting more severe and more unpredictable. Several Red Larcher shepherds have seen strange figures watching them from distant hillsides in the wild fields east of town where they have traditionally grazed their flocks. Quarry workers used to cut by torchlight when orders were backing up but do so no longer, shunning the pits by night. They are spooked by rumors of dark-robed figures in stone masks lurking in the darkness beyond the torchlight. The townsfolk fear that dangerous times are at hand, but no one seems to know what to do about it.
The group slowly awakened in their two rooms, mostly rested, except for Fogo who had been plagued by upsetting dreams and uncomfortableness all night. It was noticeable enough for Avery, Fwoosh, and Sky to wonder if there were any issues that they should be concerned about. Fogo described his dreams about the earth and stone and believes that it points to the quarries as a possible source. He did quote something he remembered from the dream. He heard from a genteel and well-spoken voice say:
“The last war did not wipe the slate clean. You all shall be crushed by the earth, ground into stone, and I shall begin again.
Fwoosh was still concerned about his golden statue, and he felt like it was sucking things from him. Something unknown, as it was consuming some of his essence. The action of handling it made Avery very uncomfortable, but not for any reason he could articulate, perhaps just fear of the unknown. Concern about the statue was expressed by Fogo as well.
The other group strategized about their plans for the day and wanted to make sure that they visit the owner of the inn who is known to be a wizard. Angelica spoke up about how both Imdarr and the constable should be trustworthy and that they should be planning on taking on the bandits soon.
It was at that point that everyone came together and went downstairs for some much-needed breakfast. Sitting at a large table they all ordered some breakfast and. All of them enjoyed the main room which were substantially cooler than their rooms, and especially the outside. Fogo related his dream from last night and requoted the voice he heard. Vladimir described his dream of fire, and said that he too heard a voice:
“You cannot stop the flames. I shall burn all of you down and rule over the ashes of rebirth.”
They also discussed that disturbing dreams had also seemed to have plagued several of the people of Red Larch. It was pointed out that the dreams were very elemental, perhaps even primordial. In the midst all this, Sky relayed that he too had a dream. It was of a white fox named Deloris, the Harbinger of Death. Sky was not sure about if there were any elemental links, but the giant berry he had been eating in the dream was very tasty.
Behind the bar was a short man sitting on a stool. The party assumed it was Dhelosk Quelbeard, owner of the Blackbutter Inn, and a wizard.
While the conversation was coming to an end at the table, Avery quietly went to the bar and hopped on a stool to converse with Dhelosk. It was explained that the party has questions for Dhelosk, whereas Avery was interested in finding a teacher of the arcane arts. It was implied that instructions might be available for the right price for Avery and his party members.
Vladimir led the party into considering what topics they should discuss and any subjects they should broach with Dhelosk. The golden statue was brought up several times. Fogo expressed interest in magic items and others in potions. It was also suggested that they ask him about the weather and any other odd occurrences in and around town.
As usual, the party then split into different groups. Fogo, Angelica, Avery, ISAC, and Sky went out leaving Vladimir and Fwoosh stayed to speak to Dhelosk.
Vladimir attempted to make a copy of the symbols on the statue, when he realized that all the paper left the building with the other party members. Attempting to develop a talking strategy Fwoosh and Vladimir concluded that after taking the statue out repeatedly, it was likely that Dhelosk had already seen it. So, they approached the bar.
It started with a little small talk that quickly led to asking about available magical wares that he might have available. They were told that what he did have, would not be around long, and new stuff would arrive frequently. Dhelosk expressed his interest in artifacts, old magic, anything that might be interesting for him to research. Vladimir and Fwoosh were directed to the shrine for healing potions, and pointed to the local smith in town that could make very high-quality arms and armor. Most of the things that Dhelosk had on hand were much too expensive for the party.
The old wizard was able to identify the unknown potion in their hands that was found in the Amphail Middens. Something the Wererat had on his possession, it was a potion of cure lycanthropy. He also explained more about Wererat society and their communal nature and that they do not allow new Wererats to exist unless they are a member of one of the clans.
When prompted for their questions, Vladimir asked about the odd weather and the old man replied:
“What has been going on is more primitive, more like ancient magic, something elemental.”
Dhelosk continued to explain that whatever is happening has been affecting magic in the area as well in odd ways. Scrying is all but impossible around and in the Sumber Hills, and that most of it has been occurring within the last year.
It was then they brought out the golden statue. Fwoosh explained a little more:
“It’s taking things from me. It’s warm. It absorbs elements.”
With a gesture and a request, they were brought into the back area. A long hallway with several doors, probably leading to storage and the kitchen, but Dhelosk stopped at a blank wall. With some sort of arcane gesture, it transformed into a doorway which led into a very large room, at least 50-feet wide and deep. With the floors, walls, and ceiling all made of stone. There were a few other exits. This room should not be able to exist, it was outside of the confines of the walls of the inn.
The room was filled with a magical air with one wall covered in books and a comfortable chair and table nearby. There were several tables for different arcane purposes. It was very much a wizard’s research room. Once within the room, he led them to one of the tables and started examining the statue. He fetched a book and looked over the symbols and seemed to be comparing them to what was within the book.
“It’s hiding itself. If those symbols are true, then it is at least two thousand years old. It’s from an ancient Drow civilization. These are elemental symbols from the old Drow magic.”
He then explained each of the symbols:
Dhelosk asked about purchasing said statue but was quickly shown that it was attached to Fwoosh and if brought more than ten feet away, it would automatically return to Fwoosh. He did not know what the top symbol represented and was not in any of the ancient Drow books he had. When asked about the item being cursed, he replied that it might be, or that it might be trying to awaken, or using the “sucking” to power its magic. It was very old and details could not be determined.
When Vladimir expressed his concern that they wondered if it was dangerous. The reply gave them some feeling of comfort.
“He does not look worse for wear, if it is drawing something from him, he is not showing any symptoms of it. He is not aging, not fatigued, not anything. It is hard to say it is cursed at this point because there is no impact.”
After some additional small talk, they departed the hidden room and then the inn heading to the shrine.
The other group of everyone else had wandered outside. It was hot and humid. It was much worse than yesterday. The weather continued to bear down upon them. There was not a breeze, or anything else to break the heat. They headed north to the Mellikho Stoneworks, hoping to find out more about the men in the stone masks. Upon entry to the quarry, they were greeted by the banging of metal on stone with over a dozen men working with a middle-aged woman screaming instructions at them.
With some conversation on how to approach the group, Avery and Angelica split off from the group to head to the bakery everyone had passed on the way here. The rest went further into the quarry. The woman that had been yelling was not happy with the intrusion and when asked about any oddities, she derided them about anyone in stone masks. She told them it was just her quarry miners being weak and not wanting to work at night.
When Fogo pushed, she told them about an old treasure in a cave in the hills near town. She told them to go explore and adventure there and leave her alone.
Arriving at the bakery, the wonderful smells of fresh bread and pastries filled the air. They were greeted by a rat looking man. The selection was amazing, and after purchasing, it all tasted great. When asked about anything strange happening, they were told about the Tarnlar children that had been chased away by an old dwarf from Lance Rock claiming that there is plague there, and then about the Mhandyvver’s children having talked to a ghost somewhere in the hills. Mangobarl dismissed both as just children’s fantasy and games they were playing.
All three groups completed their various conversations and met in the street. Agreeing to meet for lunch later, Fogo left the group and headed into Haeleeya’s while the rest headed to the shrine seeking healing potions and perhaps some penance.
In Haeleeya’s, the store was clearly some sort of bathhouse as well as a dress store. The room was filled with the smells of flowers from the many that were situated in the room. Fogo met the proprietress and with a few shared hand signals they moved in closer and began talking in soft voices.
She was happy to find someone from the Enclave in town and questioned him about what mission he might be on. She expressed her concerned about the unnatural weather, the change of behavior of several members of Red Larch, men in masks wandering around, people having weird dreams, and that there were nearby haunted locations.
“Lots of things happening at once, like the supernatural just woke up”.
When asked about what might important, she told him that the children have been seeing most of the things, mostly because the adults are working, and the kids’ stories just scoffed at.
Everyone else was at the shrine and Imdarr was readily available. He was quick to go straight to Angelica and start talking to her. The party impatient about asking about purchasing healing potions. Because of Angelica belonging to the Order of the Gauntlet, they were given a higher-than-normal discount, and most of them bought a few except Vladimir, who bought five. Imdarr also explained a bit more about the size of the River Dessarin and the fact that there are even pirates on the river. Angelica did ask about her sister and wrote up a letter for her sister to be delivered.
The group then reconvened at the Blackbutter Inn. Ordering food and drink from Delilia.
Gwendolyn brought out the drinks quickly and mentioned that she knew that they had met with her boss. She did not have too much more to add and went back to her bar.
The party discussed what each group had found. A lot of the discussion was around what was found out about the golden statue. They kept talking about wanting to test the magical powers of the statue, all of which would be casting damaging spells toward Fwoosh and hope that he is protected by the statue.
After lunch one group consisting of Angelica, Fogo, ISAC, and Avery went to the shrine and the remainder group of Vladimir, Fwoosh, and Sky went to the smithery.
The group at the shrine were looking for toolkits for some of the party members, but not much was available, but Imdarr suggested the group head to the market that was open on then end of every ten-day. They then headed that direction.
The other set of party members arrived at Tantur’s Smithery. They were greeted by the dinging of metal on metal. The heat of the forge made the day even more miserable than it already was. A muscular family was working the forges. On display there were a mix of weapons and armor, several of which were some of the best they had seen before. The smith’s wife came out and after giving them some of the prices, the group was in shock for some time. All the higher quality items were way out of their price range.
Fwoosh seemed to have taken something from the conversations with the Laefra that triggered him. With a few rude words he departed the smithery with Vladimir. When questioned about his attitude, Fwoosh revealed more about his history in Waterdeep and about how he had been kidnapped and forced to perform in front of nobles like circus freaks.
Both groups came together as they were all heading to the market. It was an interesting mix of vendors having anything from used weapons, fresh fruits and meats, junk, and finally pickles. Oh, those pickles. While shopping, the group heard some loud and raucous laughter coming from a large half-orc. He seemed to be manning a booth selling pickles.
ISAC was looking for someone to purchase used weapons, and there was a booth for Ironhead Arms run by another half-orc. Nothing was new, most were in mediocre condition, but he was willing to purchase and weapons and armor without too many questions. What was most interesting was a set of axes he had on display. While not the best of ironmongering, they were in fine condition. Battle axes, great axes, and some others less important ones. It was these that got Vladimir’s attention and to some extent horror, as they brought up his memories of the Iceshield Orcs from his past. It seems that these axes, were from these same Iceshield Orcs.
It seems that the Iceshield Orcs are in the valley, mostly to the east of the Sumber Hills. They like to raid the farms and steal from where they can. For a final stop, the party went to visit the pickle stand. The vendor was a very happy and friendly half-orc. He did not really pay attention to his sales very much, and he seemed to be much more interested in just having fun and talking with people. He offered dill, sweet, jalapeño pickles, and his extra special pickles.
While they were all chatting, Sky witnessed someone sneaking by and steal some of the pickles. When confronted the thief tossed the pickles at Sky and ran off. When asked about it, Grund claimed it was okay since it was just his friends that were playing pranks on him. Several members of the party bought pickles and when asked about his name:
“My name is Grund. My mother gave me that name. That was the sound that she made when she gave birth to me.”
It was at that point that Sky decided to sample one of the extra special pickles. It went in easy enough, but it did not take long before Sky was writhing in pain on the ground with foam coming out of his mouth. ISAC had to carry Sky back to the Blackbutter Inn. As they walked back, everyone was reminded at how awful the weather was. It was hotter than before, and the air was not moving at all. The stillness was as bothersome as the heat. ISAC went to the room to retire early while Sky went to the outhouse where he had his own personal religious experience while the extra special pickles had worked their way out. Fogo and Avery made their way to Helm at Highsun leaving behind Vladimir and Fwoosh at the Inn.
Fogo and Avery were on the hunt for some of the miners from the quarry. While the Helm was busy and full, they were able to find a set of four that they recognized. Avery headed to the bar to watch, and Fogo went to visit the miners. At the bar, Avery continued his delving into different ales. The bartender was a slender gentile looking man. Avery was more concerned about watching the action with Fogo than a conversation with the bartender.
With the miners, Fogo offered up some ale in exchange for a conversation. When asking about the rumors of men in stone masks, the miners explained after a drink or two that they were concerned about their boss, and that she was upset from the visit earlier in the day. She was always angry but seemed more angry than normal from that visit. They did not know what had been discussed with her, but she was not happy at all. They then told Fogo that the men with stone masks started showing up around a month ago. They would be there at sunset and chase the miners around, there was magic and just general scary things. Why would the miners be willing to work with that? Their boss seems to be upset when people ask about it.
“Strange looking masks, stone masks. Chasing us around. Are they bandits? Are they ghosts? It’s just scary.”
At the Blackbutter Inn, Vladimir started off with a couple of bottles of strong alcohol, very strong alcohol. Fwoosh watched in amazement as his friend was quickly finishing off the bottles. Fwoosh tried to pry information out, and Vladimir explained about his past as a soldier and that a devastating ambush had killed most of his friends and had been conducted by the Iceshield Orcs. It had a profound impact on him.
Once the two from the Helm got back, they could see the poor condition that Vladimir was in, everyone there decided to bring him up to his room and head to bed. Angelica was able to drag and or carry Sky up to his room where Sky was a bit delirious and walking funny from his experience.
Eventually the group was able to settle somewhat in the rooms and went to bed for the night.
11th of Mirtul of the year 1492
In the morning everyone was feeling well except Vladimir who had an excruciating headache and Sky who kept a hold of his buttocks to ensure nothing was leaking. ISAC approached Dhelosk for some sort of elixir to help the boys in pain. Creating a mixture of different colored liquids and some sort of pill, the smoking drink was delivered. Once quaffed, both boys in pain felt a lot better.
After a hearty breakfast, the party got on the road south. Searching for several miles for any possible trail they spent the entire day finding not very much except old hunting and creature trails, but nothing recent, nor anything that led them to believe that they found any bandit tracks. After almost a week of camping with Otis and his sons, the group was proficient in setting up camp, however it seems that Fogo might have been watching George a little too closely and the meal he cooked was just as poor as most of George’s were. Once the meal was completed, they started their normal watch rotations with a small campfire being left lit.
It was very quiet as the watches went by until the second watch which was Vladimir and Fwoosh. Neither noticed the gentle vibrations in the ground. The dirt erupted around Avery as a large insect rose and grabbed him. It just as quickly dove back into the hole it had come from.
It quickly became a mass of confusion as the players started jumping into the hole to save Avery followed by the other characters as they awakened and followed into the hole. They were able to catch up before it ran off with its Avery dinner. The battle did not last long, but they discovered that the first hit upon it made it spew acid from the wound, that it was able to attack with both claws and a bite, and when riled up would also spit acid in a 30-foot stream at them.
There was a lot of yelling, dodging, and bravery, and they were able to kill it without too much difficulty. However, to their horror, they discovered that upon its death, it exploded into a spray of acid in a 30-foot radius which was able to cover almost the entire party. Still, they all survived.
And that is where the session ended.
It was an interesting day in Red Larch. The group got to experience different tastes, experiences, and the smells that went along with them. They finally started hunting down the bandits moving down Cairn Road working their way along the south side of the road first and planning on covering the north side on their way back. Who knows what they will be encountering. Well, someone does and he is not telling them.
With the ambush behind them, the group made their way a little further north and were led off the road by Bart to camp and hide a bit further than normal, in case any additional foes were chasing. It was at that point the night became all too familiar to the party.
George unharnessed the horses on the wagons, did his normal nighttime activities. Brushed the horses, checked the wagon axles for cracks and sufficient grease, the wheels for any cracks, the cargo for safety and tightness of load, and anything else to ensure that everything was in a condition for travel the next day.
Again, dinner was made by George. Even with a low standard, George had managed to make mud pies look appetizing. Even William seemed unwilling to eat the glop that had been made. Fogo created some Good Berries so that everyone would be able to eat safely. Only ISAC attempted the obscene thing called food that George had made, and even he, with his create fortitude against poison did not feel so well.
A bowl was made for Otis, with which he ate his meal like he did every other night. He would slowly spoon it into his mouth without expression or care. He would finish the bowl completely, hand it back to George, and then crawl into his tent for the night’s rest. The party had watched with great fascination as Otis was able to consume the “meal” without any difficulty or complaint.
While the camp was getting readied, Nathan expressed his happiness with the events, and cautioned about wandering around. The Deathguards stood around Nathan’s cart, with their swords out, ready for action at any time. They did not move much, they did not eat, did not look like they were planning on sleeping, and never departed for any personal business.
They would remain in this position all night without any change except for rotating around the cart to give each guard a slightly different viewpoint as the night went on. The Deathguards never spoke during any of the watches, and only seemed to communicate by some sort of hand signals that no one recognized. Even though they were armored in chain mail, no noise came from them. The normal soft jingle of chain was not there.
At some point in the night, Fogo went into the woods to conduct his ceremony to summon and then connect himself to his new companion, a wildfire spirit. A mischievous fey spirit that only druids of a certain circle can even convince to assist them in the human realm.
During the first watch with Fogo and Angelica, they were able to hear something from the road that was about 100 feet away from them, but they did not leave the camp and waiting for the morning to look at it if they remembered. Nothing disturbed the normal night sounds of insects and odd wilderness noises, but something had been on the road.
It was during the third watch that Sky thought it wise to approach the Deathguard. Once he was within ten feet, all three jumped forward and threatened him with their swords. They waved him back and once he had properly retreated, they went back into position, except that at least one of them started keeping a closer eye on all the party members, especially Sky.
8th of Mirtul of the year 1492
The last watch passed without any issues and morning arrived. The morning was like all others. George got up, made breakfast, fed Otis, got the wagons ready, and the camp was broken down. William was immediately pestering Vladimir for some additional sword fighting training.
It was clear that the guards had not rested, nor left their posts since their arrival. They have remained, silent, wary, and ready for action. Bartholomeus prepared their wagon while Nathan slowly awoke from the top of the cart.
Fwoosh, after completing the creation of his new studded leather mask disguise, went around and showed everyone his new look to ensure no one would be confused in the future about who he might be.
Everyone got back on the road with Otis in front, followed by George, and finally Nathan and his cart with the Deathguard walking on the side and rear of the cart keeping their vigilance. While this was going on, Fogo snuck in another detect magic to look over the Deathguard and seemed a little surprised by his findings.
Everyone progressed at their normal pace. Otis led, and he was not in a hurry, nor was he moving the group slowly. It was a normal movement to not tire out the horses too much for the day’s travel. As they progressed, Fogo noticed something somewhat unusual.
As they headed north, the horizon and the sky above had an orange tinge in it. Like a haze and head from a forest fire, but there were not enough woods ahead to have caused this. It was disturbing to Fogo. As they day got longer, others notice the strange coloration of the sky. All that saw it felt uncomfortable, the hair on the backs of their neck rising from the unnaturalness of it.
At some point, Nathan who had been working on something on top of his wagon, seemed to have finished it, and upon that he gave a slightly demented giggle, stood up and with a flash of fire, the paper in his hand burned into ashes, with those ashes slowly floating away from the group. The party looked forlornly at the ashes of what most likely the message that Fogo had found on the dead leader of the bandits of the previous day.
Fogo began asking the question of everyone about what everyone else’s were plans once they reach Red Larch. Avery expressed his interest in following whatever mystery was upon them with Vladimir agreed wholeheartedly. Fogo wanted to find the source of this unnaturalness. Eventually ISAC revealed that he might have some business with a friend up there.
Avery talked about his partner’s death in Waterdeep. He laid the blame on a person called Gabriel Crowe. All he knew was that the person was dirty because of being able to show his wealth in unusual ways.
Once again, they camped further away from the road than previous camps. Bartholomeus once again chose the location and assigned four members of the party to assist in removing any trails they might have left between the road and the camp sight.
Again, the oddity of normalness filled the camp. George settled the wagons and horses, prepared the camp, and made dinner. Vladimir went forward to chat with Nathan about the Deathguard. It was revealed that these were specially assigned to Nathan by his father and that they only truly only obeyed his father. They should not be seen any time in the future unless his father was involved with something.
Nathan also talked a little about his siblings. While he is a mage, he told Vladimir that his older sister Oedelphina is much more skilled in magic and his older brother Drake prefers the sword. He also revealed that his father Alexander has been the head of the family for the last 30 years, and that the Axedredge family has been around for over 400 years. He also told Vladimir that while his brother is a nice guy, they should watch out for his sister who is well known for being manipulative and cunning.
While waiting for Vladimir to come back and help train him with the sword again, William was completely surprised by Fwoosh who had snuck up on him and made him fall and toss his weapon. Fwoosh delivered a lecture in which Vladimir also agreed about being prepared and be watchful of his surroundings.
Once the watches started, Fogo started by testing his new Wild Shape and transforming into a Giant Rat, a shape he only recently became familiar with. The sky continued to concern the party members as they could see the ominous orange sky to the north. They also noticed that even without any light, the Deathguard seemed to be completely at ease in the darkness and did not seem to have any difficulty in seeing in the dark. It was odd that they never seemed to be exhausted, even though they have not yet rested since they showed up.
Vladimir continued to have difficulty in sleeping. The disease wracking him in pain and uncomfortableness. Wrought with hot and cold chills, his sleep was disturbed at best. Tonight though, his sleep seemed much more difficult than normal, he seemed to be rocking back and forth as if dreaming something truly horrifying. He was relieved from being forced to handle the second watch as Fwoosh took all the responsibility himself.
Otherwise, it was a normal night. The same as usual. No extra noises, the horses were not nervous, Otis snored gently, and the Deathguards kept guard against anything that might show up, including members of the party.
9th of Mirtul of the year 1492
The next morning was almost monotonous. It was the same as every morning. George got up, made breakfast, fed Otis, conducted his wagon check, and finished by harnessing the horses. Bart took care of Nathan’s wagon and horses. ISAC was feeling uncomfortable about the Deathguards, something just did not feel right. Something was seriously wrong about those guards. Fogo relayed that he had seen magic within the Deathguards to ISAC and the others. It left a lot for all of them to ponder on.
Fogo, using his magic was able to confirm that Vladimir had caught some sort of disease from the Giant Rats and would need a magical healing more powerful than what the party could deliver. They would need to see a priest in Red Larch and hope that they would be able to assist.
As they moved north the ominous and dark orange sky became clear to everyone. It was like a large haze hanging in the sky. The weather itself was dry and very hot, much warmer than what it should be at this time of the year. It should be a cool sprint day but felt more like the beginning of a hot summer. Again, it was something not so natural. The air was very still and stagnated.
When asked about the weather, Otis explained that while the weather has been odd, nothing like this. Besides the weather, Otis plans on taking some alternative routes after Red Larch. He did not like the weather, and he really did not want to get in-between the Axedredge boys in some sort of family squabble.
“It’s like playing politics, it’s the quickest way to get your throat cut, usually in a dark alley where no one is watching you.”
They continued to travel north with nothing occurring during the day. It was just another slow and boring day for everyone. Being on guard for so much time looking for additional ambushes or bandits was slowly dragging everyone down. It was getting dreary, dusty, and uncomfortable. As they moved on, they began seeing more farms, but the road was lonely. The was no one else on the road, not merchants, not guards, like it was an abandoned road.
About midday they finally caught sight of Red Larch. It was a welcome relief for many reasons. They stopped at Bethendur’s Storage. It was four large buildings made of big stones. All the wagons were led around the back and parked.
They were greeted by and well-dressed man and several large burly men. A quick negotiation between Otis and the man resulted in Otis being able to store his cart in a regular storage room. George maneuvered their cart over and then he and the large burly men unloaded the cart and sealed the door. The horses were put in a pasture that was just behind the buildings.
Otis paid the party the promised 100gp, minus the penalty from Rassalantar, and an additional 50gp as a bonus for helping so much.
Nathan on the other hand, requested a high security location. They backed his wagon into the secure area and the three Deathguards all went in with it. With some familiar chanting and a flash of light, Nathan came out alone from the room. The stone doors were pushed closed. Doors that were a foot and a half thick. With a flash of magic circles on the door, Nathan and the proprietor locked the doors.
Nathan then paid the party their promised 250gp. He expressed his happiness in the employment of the party and looks forward to a future employment of them. It was revealed that the cart had come from the Axedredge gnomish workshop.
When asked for directions, he directed them to the Allfaiths Shrine further up the street. The entire party headed to the shrine hoping for a priest of better magical ability than they had. They were greeted by the two priests within.
They were quickly able to explain the issue and because of Angelica belonging to the Order of the Gauntlet Vladimir was able to get the healing for free and he finally felt healthy and relieved. Imdarr took Angelica to the side and wanted to know if she was here to investigate the issues in the area. She queried about the current issues and what was happening. He talked about the odd weather and how the whole town seems more suspicious of each other. There were strange men in stone masks, and word of a plague at Lance Rock. He directed them to the constable for more information and assistance. They were also told Gaelkur’s is a hotspot for old men to gossip.
The party then decided to divide and conquer their information gathering. Angelica and Avery went to the constable, whereas Fogo, ISAC, and Sky went to Gaelkur’s, while Vladimir and Fwoosh stayed at the shrine. They agreed to meet later at the Blackbutter Inn.
At Gaelkur’s, it seems that it was a used tool and barber shop, and possible dentist. A group of several old men were all chatting on the side while one of them was getting a haircut. Fogo and Sky wandered the crowded aisles while eavesdropping on the old men gossip.
While his companions were snooping, ISAC found a seat and contemplated his existence. He seemed to be suffering some sort of existential crisis. Having a one-sided conversation out loud to himself, ISAC seemed confused on how to move forward. During the one-sided conversion he expressed his feeling that they should stay with the current group, it should provide some safety.
With Fogo approaching the old man group asking about what there was to do in town. He was told about the different places to drink and eat as well as a few other stores that were in town. Red Larch is just a small town. He asked about the ghost in town and was corrected that there was some girl that had claimed she had talked to a ghost. The girl was the daughter of Minthra “Minny” Mhandyvver.
Not gaining much more, they all headed to the Blackbutter Inn to meet the rest of the party.
Meanwhile at the shrine, Vladimir chatted with Imdarr. They talked about possible employment with the constable and the issue with bandits in the area. The primary focus of the discussion was around a dream that Vladimir had. Asking for help to interpret it, and any details about demons and devils. Imdar told about other types of elemental dreams that others have had, but nothing concrete.
“Fire, a lot of fire. Some sort of figure. Towards the end of the dream, two horns split out from my head while I was burning. But it could have just been my fever.”
Lymmura and “Pick” talked about where clock towers might be and about geography in general. He also attempted to get his ring identified and find a possible contact. Fwoosh seemed concerned about finding someone can help identify magic items.
Before the two departed, they looked for any similarity with the different statues of the gods and their symbols with the one that they had found on the dead body in the middens in Amphail as well as the mysterious golden statue. With nothing else needed at the shrine, they decided to head to the Blackbutter Inn to find the others.
On the way to the Inn, Fwoosh showed the golden statue to Vladimir. Fwoosh was concerned that it was sucking his energy because it was warm to his touch, but cold to anyone else’s. They decided that Vladimir would hold the statue for now until they were able to figure out more about it.
At the butcher’s location, Angelica and Avery approached and went into the store front where they met a large woman wielding a pair of massive cleavers. They purchased a very small amount of meat before heading to the last building to find her husband Harburk Tuthmarillar the constable.
At the last building they found Harburk sharpening a bunch of knives. Angelica took charge about asking about any details on current issues in the area. They were told that bandits were the most immediate concern. Given a map of the area with several points marked, they were requested to handle them with their mercenary friends. The group was also given some history about the area. The oldest civilization was the drow, followed by orcs, and then finally dwarves before mostly humans moved into the area. The whole area is littered with ruins and old remains from thousands of years.
The conversation also led to the Axedredges and that there was a family issue in progress. He said that Nathan was not a bad sort, just peculiar. The town of Red Larch needed that family for bringing in different metals that they do not have locally.
Deciding to go to the Blackbutter Inn and let everyone know about their new assignment from the constable, the two stopped at the shrine to satisfy Avery’s curiosity about who the two priests worshipped.
With everyone together again at the Blackbutter Inn, they were greeted by a young half-elf. She seemed surly and unhappy but seated them and took their orders. While it is hot outside, the inside of the inn was cool, almost cold. Though the walls were thick stone, it would not have been enough to have kept the building at such a low temperature. They all noticed that there was a slight breeze in the room, but from where they could not determine, just that the air was just swirling around.
Their drinks were served by a youngish red head who seemed willing to tease and flirt with the group. When she dropped off the drinks, she chatted up the group. She told them about the strange men in stone masks that had been going around frightening the quarry workers but blamed it on the old men group at Gaelkurs for playing pranks. She also talked about how the occasional dead body has shown up at Bethendur’s Storage, and then just quietly burned by Aergo and his men.
She did reveal that her boss was a wizard and that the other girl was the boss’s granddaughter who was brought out here after her parents had perished. She told them that he occasionally will sell magic items and will usually purchase magic items that had been “found”. Avery jumped on the possible chance of finding an instructor to teach him magic. She told the party that they should come back in the morning to meet Dhelosk.
Once she left, the group shared about what they had found and talked about deciding what their plans would be in the following few days. Getting two rooms for the night, they split into two groups with Fogo, Fwoosh, Sky, and Avery in one room and Angelica, Vladimir, and ISAC into the other.
At some point before everyone went to bed, Vladimir realized he no longer had the statue in his possession and that he must have lost it, until a knock at the door revealing Fwoosh with the statue in his hand.
And that is where the session ended.
It was a great session. A 100% role play episode. The party finally reached Red larch and are almost ready to start the main adventure. Did they pick up the clues they needed?