It Started With a Kidnapped Pig...

To Feathergale Spire - part 2
Feathergale Spire

Date: Mirtul 11th, 1491 DR

The track continued beside a large gash in the earth, which one of the cultists said was called The Sighing Valley due to sound of the wind moving through some strange rock formations. It turned out to be a large canyon rather than a valley, with a small river flowing through the bottom of it. True to its name when the wind blew through the rock spires it made a sighing noise, and sometimes howling when the wind blew hard. Gareth told the party that gnolls laired in the valley, and sometimes hunted outside of it but only attacked when they had numerical advantage. There was no way into Feathergale Spire from the canyon floor. A manticore also hunted in the area, but there was no sign of it. The trail split, with one trail going into the Sighing Valley, and the other ran but ran adjacent on the cliffs of the canyon. They were taking the clifftop route so, Gareth said, danger from creatures here was minimal most of the time.

feathergale_sm.jpgThey approached Feathergale Spire, which rose from a pillar of rock high into the air past the top of the canyon, the tallest point for miles. Built from white limestone and embellished in marble, the spire resembled a gleaming sword that pierces the sky. The gatehouse and drawbridge were the only apparent point of entry. Tall, wide windows encompassed the bottom level of the tower, and a circle of open salls ringed the tower’s foundation where it met the rock spire the tower was built on. Above each stall a sculpture of a hippogriff was depicted leaping from the tower’s base. Around the tower, two figures riding giant vultures circled around, apparently doing some kind of patrol.

A gap of twenty feet separated the ledge where the trail ended from the closed drawbridge on Feathergale Spire. The space between the cliff’s edge and the gatehouse dropped several hundred feet to the bottom of the canyon. The party could see some kind of large bird, a giant vulture perhaps, eating something on the ground and some smaller birds circling it. There were some rough buildings here near the edge of the trail – Esplen realised they were likely to be storage sheds and stables for the oxen and other beasts. Near the ledge, a brass bell hung from a wooden post.

“Jerks,” growled Gareth. “They could see us coming. They could have dropped the drawbridge earlier and not made us wait.” He rang the bell vigorously, while the other cultists started unloading the carts. More cultists came from the storage sheds to assist. A small window near the Feathergale Spire gate opened, and a female face appeared. She shouted a welcome and to wait a moment. The drawbridge started to lower.

When it was all the way down, the gate opened, and Gareth escorted the party across, along with some cultists carrying stores. In the white stone hallway the young woman who opened the gate approached.

“Hurricane Gareth,” she said to Gareth with deference. “Welcome back, and I see you brought guests. I’m guessing these are not initiates?”
“Lady Savra,” said Gareth, “I want you to meet these adventurers from Waterdeep who killed the evil cultist priest who was corrupting the Town Elders there. They asked to accompany us back to Feathergale Spire. I expect the Commander will want to meet them.”
Seeing the enquiring looks, Gareth said “Hurricane is a title in our order. There are various titles for various functions or ranks. I must leave you now and see the stores are properly distributed.”
“Gentlefolk,” said Savra, as Gareth departed back out of the gate. “I am Savra Belabranta, Knight of the Feathergale Society.”

[work in progress]

To Feathergale Spire - part 1
Meeting the air cultists

Date: Mirtul 10th, 1491 DR

TL;DR – party meet Air Cultists at Market, travel with them to Feathergale Spire.

Market day happened in Red Larch every 10 days. Today was the warmest day the party had experienced since they had arrived in the Dessarin Valley area. The southern wind brought the warmth of the southern lands with it, and there was only an early morning light rain to spoil (in Ulryn’s opinion anyway) the day.

The market was a muddy, well used field ringed with outhouses and rings of stones used as firepits to cook or to burn trash. Today it was crowded with wagons from nearby farms or belonging to travelling merchants. Farmers had driven in from homesteads miles away to sell all manner of in-season produce, cheese, cider and cider vinegar, and last years pickled fruit and vegetables in jugs and jars. Merchants sold all manner of things from imported food to cookware and glassware to medicinal remedies. Other people sold food on sticks or served in wooden bowls. The smell of food cooking mixed with that of people and animals.
The party wandered around, looking at various displays. Ulryn had neglected his study of mask magic, which he had started learning at a bard college in Waterdeep, and had been reviewing it over the last couple of days. His recent use of magic in stressful situations had given him a better grasp of the nuances of the power, and he believed he was close to be able to create a couple of magical masks that would help him. He found some old jewellery he could melt down for the precious metal, and few small gemstones which he needed. The elf bard already had the particular type of wood needed for his masks, but they still needed some carving and engraving work, as well as the adding of the metals and gemstones. The masks would need to be created in one go, and he’d only get one chance at it with the materials he had. If he failed he’d have to start again from scratch, so Ulryn was keen to wait until everything was right.

Windypop suddenly stopped and stared, and then pointed at some men negotiating with farmers for their produce.
“We need to talk to those men,” he said. “They are from Feathergale Spire.”
The party had talked about visiting Feathergale Spire first, Ulryn and Natas needed to make contact with the young woman there and perhaps talk her into returning home to her family in Waterdeep.

They made their way over to the men from Feathergale Spire, and talked to the one who was giving orders to the others to load up produce and checking things from a list.
“Are you from Feathergale Spire?” asked Natas. He and Windypop stood at the front of the party.
“Who’s asking?” said the man. He was tall and thin, cleanshaved and well dressed. He did not seem alarmed at the unusual gathering before him.
“We’re heading there ourselves,” answered Natas. “We’re a combination of adventurers and entertainers. I think we could be of benefit to you.”
The man frowned and looked like he was about to tell them to go away, when he caught sight of Windypop making the sign of the air cult.
“We’re going to the tavern before we leave,” he said. “Meet us there in an hour and we’ll talk. We have a few more items to acquire.”

An hour later the thin man entered the tavern with most, but not all, of the rest of his crew. He nodded to the party and sat down with them while his men found another table.
“I’m Gareth,” he said. The party members introduced themselves.
“So what’s the story?” Gareth asked, after ordering his drink.
“It’s complicated,” said Windypop.
“Well, you can tell it to the Commander,” said the thin man. “But if you’re up to shenanigans, you won’t be coming back alive, fair warning.”
“Acknowledged,” said Natas. “If it makes you feel more at ease, know that we killed an earth cult priest a couple of days ago.”
“Did you now?” Gareth seemed stuck between impressed and skeptical.
“We have his medallion,” said Natas, producing the triangle shaped amulet Larrakh was intending to use as a focus for his spells.
“Hmm, well good for you,” said Gareth. “Might be we can use adventurers aligned to our cause. But the Commander will decide, as I said.”
There was some small talk, and then Gareth roused his men who downed their drinks and left. The party followed.

aarakocra_s.jpgThe wagons were pulled by oxen, and the men either walked beside them or rode on the carts of food and goods. It was a slow pace, especially when the road became steep as it climbed up into the Sumber Hills. A couple of hours out of town Gareth pointed up into the air. The party looked and saw two winged shapes, humanoid wheeling towards them. All the cultists reached for crossbows. The fired at them, it was obvious the gesture was to warn them off rather than kill them, the range was too great. It worked, for the two winged humanoids wheeled away and flew off.
“They have weapons,” said Kallista, squinting as she tried to make out the far away figures.
“Aarokocra,” Gareth said. “They are smart, like people, not like animals. But they are likely to attack if we don’t put up a show of force straight away. It is a pity, they are creatures of air and we should be allies.”

Shortly after that the caravan of wagons left the Larch Path and headed south east along a track. There was one overnight stay. The party were invited to contribute to the night watches, which they did, but nothing bothered them. It was a cold night, and so Gareth ordered a fire to be built. Joining in the banter around the campfire before everyone turned in for the night, Esplen judged the cultists to be rigid in their beliefs, harshly judgemental of others, perhaps even evil in the right situation after listening to what they said they would do if they ever captured an earth or water cultist.
“So there are water cultists too,” whispered Natas to Esplen. “We know there are earth cultists, and no doubt there are fire cultists somewhere.”
“Yes, the ones that attacked the village near my forest were fire cultists,” Esplen reminded him.
“I wonder if there are ‘spirit’ cultists?” wondered Natas.
“Don’t be silly,” said Windypop. “Spirit as a fifth element is just in fantasy stories. There are only four elements.”
While the party members were pleasant to the cultists, none of the party members got along with them, with the possible exception of Kallista. She knew and had worked with many people such as these, and knew how to talk and act around them. She, out of all the party, gained the most respect from their hosts.

Date: Mirtul 11th, 1491 DR

The next day at dawn the cultists held a service dedicated to a deity of air that no one had heard of – something like Yancybin and a prophet called Aerisi. They party noticed there was an emphasis on freedom, punishment of sinners (which seemed to be those who would oppose them), and values of intelligence and resourcefulness. The ceremony was short, only 20 minutes, and then they made ready and the caravan continued along the track. After a couple of hours they stopped, Gareth shading his eyes as he peered ahead, his thin frame taut with tension.
“Trouble?” asked Natas.
“More aarakocra up ahead, maybe an ambush,” Gareth replied. “I do wish they would leave us alone.”
“Let us deal with it,” suggested Natas. “We’d like to make ourselves useful and not just passengers.”
“Go ahead, but don’t blame me if you get your body punctured with aarakocra spears,” grunted Gareth. “And try not to kill them, they are creatures of the air, after all.”

Natas gathered the group and made their way towards a group of boulders where the bird-men were peering at them.
Natas hailed them, and the party used all the languages they knew.
“Common will do,” said the leader aarakocra. His accent was harsh, but understandable.
They talked, the aarakocra were suspicious. There was bad history between them and the air cultists. Natas explained themselves, but the bird-men were no less wary. The leader was also some kind of clan leader, and gave his name as a series of syllabals which also included some unpronounceable clicks, trills and whistles. Then he said when interacting with humans he called himself Deekek. He was giving a beak open look which Natas instinctively realised was their version of a smile or a laugh. They exchanged names, and Deekek advised that their belief the air cultists were evil was based on their observation that the air cultists attacked travellers, and sometimes sacrificed people to their air deity by throwing them off the top of the spire. Sometimes the aarakockra try to rescue them in mid air, but they are shot at by the cultists – although more to drive them off rather than kill them. The aarakockra were here to waylay cultists, but realised this cultist caravan had too many men with crossbows, and were just deciding what to do when approached by the party. Natas suggested that he make a show of scaring them off, so as to maintain their cover as friends to the cultists. Deekek agreed, seeing the sense in having allies who could give them information about the cultists at some later time. Natas cast a cantrip to make a lot of noise and light, similar to fireworks, and the aarakocra took to the sky, screeching. There was a cheer from the cultists from behind.

“You took your time,” said Gareth as the party returned.
“We were trading insults,” said Natas. “We got tired of that and let loose some magic, but they flew out of range too quickly.”

The party and cultists continued onto Feathergale Spire.

To be continued…

Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 6

Date: Mirtul 7th, 1491 DR

The following day was cold, winter seemed reluctant to give up her hold on the land just yet. When the party arose and had breakfast at the Swinging Sword, they ventured outside to find slush on the streets from a fall of sleet the night before. The overcast clouds promised more of the same and a bitter wind blew from the south. Normally a southern wind would herald a warmer day, but not today. Ulryn was perhaps suffering the most – he was used to the milder, more stable environment of the Underdark where there was no actual weather. He still wore his mask and full sleeve outfit and gloves which kept him warm. He cut a dashing figure wherever he went, drawing curious glances, and even more glances when he went with the just as colourful Natas.

They had discussed their position last night, and again over breakfast. Last night they had still been wary of the Town Elders power, and sought to cover up their involvement. Now the excitement had died down, they had rested and they were perhaps thinking more clearly, the party decided that it was time for everything to come out. They decided that they needed the one Town Elder who was perhaps was against what had been happening – Aerego Bethendur, owner and operator of Bethendur’s Storage. They headed there only to find that Aerego Bethendur was not there, the clerk told them he had been summoned to a meeting of Town Elders.
“I bet I know what that’s about,” grunted Kallista.
“It’s not a usual meeting,” said the clerk, mistaking Kallista’s comment as in invitation for discussion. “Most unusual in fact, he doesn’t normally have another meeting with them for a few more days.”
“We are considering hiring some space,” said Natas. “Tell me about the storage you can offer me.”
The clerk advised that they asked no questions about what was stored in the warehouse. They could have a large or small secure – the clerk showed them some keys on his belt – or non-secure space. Stored items that don’t move or burst out of their containers were left strictly alone – as long as the monthly fees were kept up to date. However any crates that smelled of death were taken out the back and opened. If they contained dead bodies, the Constable would be informed. However both Natas and Ulryn believed that the clerk made some subtle gestures that Constable involvement could be negated by some extra payment. While he was talking, Ulryn thought it might be a good idea to see if he could lift the keys from the clerk, maybe see what kinds of things were stored here, but fumbled and ended up having to touch the clerk inappropriately on the buttocks to cover up the fact he was trying to steal the keys. The clerk looked hard at the masked elf and suggested it was time for them to go, and return once Aerego was back in the building.

Aerego2a.jpgThe party left, deciding to go to see the Constable, when they spied Aerego Bethendur engaged in animated discussion with Tywin Dornen next to the Dornen Finestone offices. Ulryn, keen to make up for his blunder before, snuck up behind the small vegetated rise next to the offices and listened in. He just caught the end of the conversation.
“This is wrong, the game is up. You completely messed this up Tywin,” Aerego was saying.
“Don’t play all innocent, you knew about this, even though you didn’t take part because you were too scared,” retorted Tywin. “It’ll blow over soon. I’ve sent Gundren and Baragustas on an errand to Yartar. With a bit of luck they’ll be killed along the way. Even if they don’t they’ll be gone for a while. We’ve buried the bodies elsewhere, now they can’t be linked to us. We’ll blame Larrakh and his crew. We all just have to keep our mouths shut and we’ll get away with it.”
“So who killed Larrakh and the Bringers of Woe?” asked Aerego.
“I have a pretty good idea, it was those adventurers who were snooping around the other day,” growled Tywin. “I tried to send them to Tricklerock Cave but they didn’t go, more’s the pity. They could have joined the last lot of adventurers I sent there to die. Anyway if you want to remain a Town Elder you’ll do what you’re told. Now get out of my face.”

Aerego stormed off, heading back to his warehouses. The party regrouped and followed. At the warehouse they insisted that Aerego meet with them privately. He took them into his office, nervous and then shocked when the party let on how much they knew. Aerego could only see one way out of the predicament he was in. And it was an opportunity as well, to become the leader of the Town Elders.
“You’re right,” he said. “We have to go to the Constable. Our best chance is to have a messenger ride after Grund and Baragustas and get them to turn around and come back. I’ll organise that. You go see Constable Harburk and I’ll join you there.”

Date: Mirtul 8th and 9th, 1491 DR

Over the next two and a half days Constable Harburk showed he was a man of action and not afraid to make decisions. After Grund and Baragustas were recalled to Red Larch and interviewed about the location of the bodies, the exhumations began. He and his constables conducted interviews with all of the Town Elders, Baragustas, Grund, the party, and even Braelen, the Constable imprisoned Tywin Dornen, Marlandro Gaelkur, Albeiri Mellikho, and Ilmuth Waelvur in secure rooms in Bethendur’s Storage.

He spoke to the party afterwards.
“This is too big for us to handle locally. Dornen and Mellikho have ties to noble Waterdhavian families. Waelvur doesn’t, he’s common, but the other two will likely find some way to wiggle out of this, or at the very least, escape custody through bribes or hiring mercenaries to break them out. I am sending for a magistrate from Waterdeep to deal with this. But I fear Dornen’s part was minimal, and so may escape full punishment.”

By the end of the first day, the entire town was buzzing with excitement and horror at the Town Elders being part of a cult and murdering people. Over the next two days, people began distancing themselves from the Town Elders. Gaelkur’s was ransacked until Constable Harburk sent Riker and the other deputies over to lock the place up. Aerego Bethendur negotiated with Marlandro Gaelkur to run his business on his behalf, and it opened again the next day.

The power of the Town Elders was broken, and already people were calling for a full time Mayor to be elected to run the town on behalf of the town and not for the benefit of a few.

[To be continued..]

The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 5

Date: Mirtul 6th, 1491 DR

The boy was Braelen, an eleven year old boy who was being punished by being pinned under rocks for two days for failing to deliver a note for the Believers. The party took off the rocks and gave him some food and water.

Most of the Town Council were Believers, which had something to do, Grund and Braelen knew, with the moving rocks in one of the larger areas. The same one where Larrakh, the priest who seemed to have such an influence on the Town Elders, hung out. Grund was happy that the party took the rocks off the boy, but Braelen was distressed that he was going to be punished further because the punishment ended sooner. He asked the party to put the rocks back.

The statue of a dwarf warrior was wearing a chain shirt, helm, and big boots. He carried a shield on his left arm and a battleaxe in his right hand. The statue has clearly been broken into several parts, the head and upper torso, lower torso, and legs were all seperate pieces. These pieces have been reassembled and held together and upright in a stout wooden frame. A dagger along with several coins and gems lie on the floor in
front of the statue, surrounded by an ring of fine gravel. Ulryn did a detect magic spell, but the ring wasn’t magic, but the dagger was. Grund said the dagger – which still had blood on the blade – was the one used to kill the people in the other room. Ulryn took the dagger and Natas took the coins and gems.

The party went out the door they had yet to explore, and found a short corridor where an older man cringed and begged for mercy. He was Baragustas, a retired carpenter who did jobs for the Town Elders. Currently it was looking after Larrakh, making sure he had food and drink and whatever he wanted. When questioned Baragustas admitted that he knew that three of the Town Elders, under the command of Larrakh, had killed one person each as a type of sacrifice to an Earth spirit. He named them as Marlandro Gaelkur, Albaeri Mellikho and Ilmeth Waelvur. Baragustas stated Larrakh encouraged the Town Elders to make offerings of coins and valuables around the dwarf statue, but later he would come and take them and give them to his crew – The Bringers of Woe. This group of Town Elders were called The Believers because they believed that the moving stones in the next room had properties of divination, and they met to try and interpret what the Delvers, the original creators of this space, where trying to tell them through the stones. It was harmless enough at first, but when Larrakh came and offered to interpret, things became grim and dark, culminating in the sacrificial murder of three kidnapped travellers, chosen because no one would miss them immediately.

The party entered the next room, ready to fight. It was an enormous chamber with a twenty foot high ceiling carved out of the rock. A lit lantern rested on the floor near the centre of the room. An odd array of stone monoliths – some upright standing stones, and others arranged in three-stone arches – stood around the chamber. Six low stone slabs were set against the walls around the perimeter of the room. Each held humanoid bones, dressed in scraps of tattered cloth and rusted iron.
Windypop caught sight of movement overhead and warned the party – Larrakh was on the ceiling, standing as if it were the floor! He was presenting a stone holy symbol as if getting ready to cast a spell. The party moved quickly into action – Kallista climbed onto a monolith and grabbed hold of Larrakh, crushing him to her, his head upside down in her breasts. As she had a fully armoured chest, it was not as much fun as he might have hoped. Ulryn also tried to climb a monolith and failed. He settled for drawing his bow and firing at what parts of Larrakh he could see without hitting Kallista. Larrakh was struggling and trying to free his arms to cast a spell, but she held him tight. He pushed his head away, just in time to take an arrow to the mouth, piercing his brain. Kallista dropped him and herself to the ground, in what they would describe later as a piledriver to her armoured crotch. It was nothing like that, of course, but regardless, Larrakh was dead. They searched his body and found he had a holy symbol of the triangle, the same as that carved into the forehead of the victims. He also had four small Mirabar trade bars, spindle shaped and made of black iron. Trade bars were currancy, usually between merchants. These were worth about 5 gold pieces each.

They explored the area, discovering the bones on the slabs were many decades, if not over a century old. They were human, not dwarvish, and appeared to have suffered injuries consistent with mining accidents – crushed skull, pelvis or ribcage. Baragustas said that these were “the Delvers” who spoke through the moving stones. While they were there, a small earth tremor was felt – and the Moving Stones moved! Baragustas stood open mouthed, realising that all this time it wasn’t the spirits of the Delvers who moved the stones, but the earth tremors.

A door out of the room led to a stone quarry belonging to Mellikho Stoneworks. It was dark outside, dawn was still many hours away. They dumped Larrakh’s body in the middle of the quarry as a message to the Town Elders. Natas gave the Mirabar trade bars to Grund and 20 silver pieces to Baragustas as a bribe to keep quiet if the Town Elders demanded answers about what had happened.
“Tell them only that they were masked and you have no idea who they were,” he said. They agreed.

[To be continued]

The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 4
The Bringers of Woe

Date: Mirtul 6th, 1491 DR

This fifty-foot-square chamber was hewn out of rock. The floor was rough but flat, the walls showed the chisel-marks of the original builders, and the ceiling was about ten feet high. Identical stone doors with iron pull-ring handles stand in the middle of two of the other walls. By one of the doors, one with a viewing slit, a large half orc blinked in surprise at the party’s entrance. In the centre of the room stood a life-sized and lifelike statue of a dwarf warrior. Near the statue a small human was pinned, face down, by rocks placed atop his arms, legs, and back. He was barefoot and wore ragged clothes.

Grund.jpgThe half orc had a club attached to his belt, but he didn’t reach for it. He had a confused expression on his face. After standing and gaping for a moment, he finally said, “You can’t be here. You have to go!”
Ulryn and Natas tried to bluff him but despite appearances of being none too bright, the half orc wasn’t fooled. He was becoming more distressed and they were worried he would reach for his club in desperation. They tried a different tack, playing on his seemingly good nature. They asked him his name – it was Grund – and then asked about the bodies. Grund expressed sadness that they had been murdered and that they had been killed because “Larrakh” had ordered The Believers – the Town Elders – to do it. Larrakh was some kind of priest, Grund knew, but knew little else. He was in charge of a group of thugs called The Bringers of Woe who wore stone masks.
“They might be the ones threatening the quarry workers at night,” suggested Ulryn.
Grund went on to say The Believers met with Larrakh most nights, including tonight. The priest usually met with them in the room with moving stones, and the half orc pointed to the door opposite to the one he was guarding. When asked about his task, Grund told them he was told to watch the passageway and make sure no one he didn’t know came past this room. Never had this happened, hence his concern and worry when the party entered via the side door. Grund told them the Town Elders used him for various tasks, this guard duty being just one, and paid him for it.

Stone_Masked_Men__1_.jpgMeanwhile Windypop, Kallista and Farideh were getting restless. Farideh decided to explore further up the passageway, not aware at this point it led to the door that the half orc Grund was guarding. She made her way up the passageway, and then two things happened at once. Kallista and Windypop who were still at the intersection with the statues observed the door they had come through open, and several figures in stone masks and wielding weapons, the lead figure with a torch, entered and whooped when they saw the two adventurers. The other thing that happened was Farideh fell into a pit trap, which wounded her badly. Hearing the commotion, she decided to stay where she was. Not knowing what had happened to her, Kallista and Windypop yelled out to her that they’d draw the intruders away, and they sped up the passageway that the others had gone down. The new force made threats with their rough voices about what they were going to do to them when they caught them.

At this time Ulryn, Natas and Kallista saw Grund turn back and look through the viewing slit, and say “oh no! The Bringers of Woe!”
“Grund, you stay here, guard your post as you’ve been told,” said Natas, thinking quickly. “We’ll deal with the Bringers of Woe!” Grund nodded and turned back to his viewing slit.

The party met in the room with the floating rock and made a stand there. The Bringers of Woe charged at them, but could only come at them one at a time or they’d get in each other’s way. They tried to crash past Kallista and Esplen, but the big tiefling warrior shoved them back, and then drew her greatsword and cut into the first one before he could recover. The man then had his stone mask smashed, and significant damage to the face beneath it from a mighty blow from Esplen, who had used a shillelagh spell to make her staff an even better weapon. Arrows and crossbow bolts from the rest of the party peppered the Bringers of Woe, and those Bringers at the rear did the same thing with their crossbows. Natas and Windypop were having trouble sighting the enemy due to Kallista’s large frame blocking the entrance to the room, and decided it would be a good idea to use the levitation properties of the area to float in the air so they could better see their targets. This worked really well, however it also meant Natas and Windypop were also targets and Natas took several crossbow bolts to the body and he felt himself propelled backwards and losing consciousness. Ulryn, who had been using mind magic like vicious mockery againt the Bringers, stopped and applied first aid to Natas to stop him bleeding out. Windypop then cast a cure wounds spell on Natas, which brought the bard back to consciousness. Natas immediately returned to the battle, using mind spells to attack the Bringers and inspiring songs and poetry to bolster the party’s effectiveness, as Ulryn had been doing. The battle otherwise had been going well; soon all but one of the Bringers of Woe were dead, the last one fled but Natas cast dissonant whispers at him and he collapsed to the ground screaming and holding his ears before twitching and lying still.

The party had a quick search for Farideh, but didn’t find her, unaware she was stuck down a pit. They thought that perhaps she had fled back out when the Bringers of Woe had gone past. The party dragged the bodies into the same room as the victims and all returned to the room with Grund and the boy under the rocks.

[To be continued]…

The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 3
The bodies

Date: Mirtul 6th, 1491 DR

The party quickly found the cellar door as described by Stannor, surrounded by several old wagons that have been left to rot in the open. There was a large lock on the cellar door, which Ulryn had no difficulty picking, even though he wouldn’t have considered himself an expert at such a task.

Beyond the cellar door, instead of a cellar, a muddy, dark tunnel with supporting, but old beams every 10 feet or so, sloped downward. There was a coffer just inside the door, along with a pile of sand with extinguished torches thrust into it. The coffer had flint and steel, along with fresh, unlit torches. The party didn’t use them, they had Farideh’s light spell, as well as the driftglobe.

The tunnel headed south in more or less a straight line before opening out into a huge cave. This wide, irregularly shaped cavern had a floor of smooth bedrock. Damp dirt and stone, with tree roots protruding
here and there, made up the walls. A stone slab — a door with a rusty pull-ring — stood to the east. By the stone door, a couple of well-used cloaks and a waterskin were on the floor. After some discussion Ulryn and Natas donned the cloaks and went to the front of the party, ready to bluff their way past any guards.

They pulled the door open by the ring, it slid open easily. Beyond a tunnel of dressed stone sloped downward. The party proceeded in cautiously. About sixty feet in they came to two stone statues of dwarves to either side of the passageway. Examining them, the two bards saw there were gaps behind the statues and deduced they were doors. They soon found the activating mechanism, and the door/statues slid aside revealing more passageways. One led to an area that had caved in decades ago, maybe longer. Another headed straight north, while the passageway they were originally on headed east. They decided to split up, with Farideh, Kallista, and Windypop staying near the statues, while Natas, Ulryn and Esplen moved eastward.

Giant_rats.jpgThey had gone a short way, when Esplen wrinkled her nose.
“Death up ahead,’ she said. Soon the others could smell it too, the sickly odour of rotting flesh. The passageway turned a couple of times, and they found themselves suddenly in a room with three corpses and gnawing on them were three giant rats the size of small dogs. The rats were rooting among the bodies, stopping to chew flesh they’d pulled free. Scuttling noises came from narrow crevices in the walls, and two more rats the same size, attracted by the movement and light, emerged, baring their teeth. The rats wanted to defend their food, but the only way to get past the rats to the corridor beyond was to kill them. In the end the rats looked fiercer than they were, and the party slew them without taking any injuries. They examined the bodies, which were two young men perhaps in their late twenties, and a younger red haired woman. Their bodies were badly gnawed and chewed on, but it was clear a triangle symbol had been carved in their foreheads. They looked like they had been killed with dagger thrusts to the chest.
“Sacrifice?” suggested Ulryn. He was familiar with such things as a slave of the drow.
“That girl is one we have heard about,” said Esplen. “She went missing, remember?”
“Let’s continue on,” said Natas. “This is bad. I think we should just look around for a little bit longer and then get out of here.”
“Scardey,” said a muffled voice from his pack.
“Oh shut it,” said Natas.
“You know,” said Esplen quietly to Ulryn, as Natas moved ahead, “I still can’t tell how he does that ventriloquism. Is it bard magic?”
“Some secrets must be kept by the performer,” replied Ulryn. Esplen had the sense that he was grinning behind his mask. She thought maybe underneath the mask he actually looked like his mask. She had never yet seen his face underneath it.
The tunnel opened into a square room. This room held a wonder. In the center of it, a black rock about a foot across hovered three feet from the floor. They were intrigued, and found they could move the rock about with a touch, and Ulryn’s detect magic spell found there was a roughly cylindrical area 20 feet across that had some kind of permanent anti-gravity magic in operation. The magic was old, it was slowly decaying, and in a few decades, perhaps a century, may have faded entirely.

The next room they entered contained another surprise.

[To be continued]

The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 2

Date: Mirtul 6, 1491 DR

Haeleeya2.jpgThe next day the party split up. Esplen went to see her faction contact Haeleeya Hanadroum, the owner and operator of a bath house and dress shop in her large, well appointed home. Haeleeya was a beautiful, dark haired woman in her late 20s. When Esplen introduced herself Haleeya was happy to talk to her, although she kept folding towels from the bath house, and occasionally had to excuse herself to assist a customer in the baths. The doors into the bath house emanated pleasant smells and a warm dampness. Haleeya repeated much of what the party had already found out – the Town Elders were considered competent in business administration, but mostly used their positions to further their own ends, and that they often disagreed with the Constable. The only new information she was able to provide was news of a delegation of “important people” coming from the town of Mirabar up north. The delegation included an elf noble from the town of Silverymoon named Teresiel who was important to the Emerald Enclave. She was carrying some magical seeds which she was dropping off at the walled temple farm of Goldenfields to the south, before continuing on to the city of Waterdeep on the coast. The delegation had other important members too, and they had a few other stops on the way, and this was perhaps why they were running late. However there was some concern about this, and Haleeya asked that if Esplen came across any information about the Mirabar Delegation then the Emerald Enclave would like to know about it.

Albeiri2.jpgUlryn, Natas and Farideh met with the only female town elder, Albaeri Mellikho, owner and manager of Mellikho Stoneworks (no. 18 on the Red Larch map) and the quarry pit behind her business. She was a talkative and excitable woman of middle age, who denied vigorously anything going wrong with her business and laughed at the rumours of masked men haunting the quarry at night. She was curious as to why the party were asking these questions, and suggested that if they really wanted to help Red Larch, that there was a legendary treasure that was said to be hidden in Tricklerock Cave, and when asked she was more than willing to provide directions.

tywin2.jpgKallista and Windypop visted Tywin Dornen, of Dornen Finestone. This plain square building was coated in a graywhite shroud of rock dust from the quarry behind the office, and judging by the thickness of it, this seemed to be a permanent thing. Tywin Dornen was everything they had expected. He obviously took a dislike to the adventurers at the start, and was arrogant and almost rude, especially when he found out they were not potential customers. He denied everything the party had heard about difficulties with workers, and told them he had heard stories of a lost treasure and mysterious villains lurking in Tricklerock Cave. Dornen suggested that was the sort of thing that adventurers should be investigating, not the rumours of lazy workers who didn’t want to work at night.

The party met back at The Swinging Sword and compared notes.
“Maybe we should check out this Tricklerock Cave,” suggested Ulryn. “There could be something useful to know there.”
“It’s likely a death trap,” said Natas. “They probably send all nosy adventurers there.”
“So there might be a lot of treasure,” laughed Kallista.
“Only from novice or incompetent adventurers,” said Windypop. “Which are we?”
“Both!” said Leachim.
“Honestly, do you have to have that puppet even at our meetings?” asked Esplen. “It’s a bit creepy.”
Natas tried putting his hand holding the puppet under the table but Leachim’s muffled voice could still be heard complaining. When Leachim started knocking on the underside of the table Natas decided to put the puppet in his pack.
’I’m going to pay for this later,’ the bard thought as Leachim just stared hard at him as he buckled up the pack.

The party made ready to enter the tunnel described by Stannor Thistlehair. Shortly after dark, they made their way to the business of Ilmeth Waelvur, the employer of Stannor. The workshop was a cluttered, untidy shed surrounded by dozens of wagons shrouded in worn canvas tarpaulins. A crudely hand-lettered sign over the wide main door proclaimed it to be “Waelvur’s Wagonworks.” In accordance with Stannor’s directions the party made their way to an old cellar door in the back of the cluttered work yard. If Stannor’s information was correct, the party should find some answers beyond these doors.

[To be continued…]

The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 1
The Town Elders are up to no good....

Date: Mirtul 5, 1491 DR

That evening the party decided what they were going to do next. They decided that the Town Elders needed investigating, and Minny had given them a clue. After Farideh, Natas and Ulryn’s successful performance in the common room at The Swinging Sword Inn, they all went to The Helm at Highsun tavern to talk with Stannor Thistlehair.

The Helm at Highsun tavern was right across the Long Road from The Swinging Sword Inn. It was a ramshackle two-story building with rusty metal grills covering its small, dirty windows. The tavern’s name was very clearly printed in large, simple letters on both sides of a jutting wooden sign. Atop the sign was a rusting, oversized adornment: a giant warrior’s bucket helm with two eye slits. On closer inspection the helm turned out to be an upside-down washtub.

Inside was a large, dimly lit, wood-paneled taproom. An open-tread wooden staircase climbed to the upper floor, which was just as dim and darkly paneled as the taproom. Across the back of the taproom was a bar with three copper candle-lanterns hanging over it, and a stair leading down to the cellars. It was busy, as it always was. The hum of conversation did not change one bit as the party entered and looked for Stannor, although a few people’s eyes grew wide with curiosity at Ulryn’s mask, Kallista’s horns, and Windypop’s blue skin. A large painting on one wall shows a middle aged man in robes standing next to a suit of armour with a red glow eminating from the helmet where you would normally see a face as well as other gaps in the armour.
“Bet there’s a story behind that painting,” said Natas.

Stannor2s.jpgThe Helm at Highsun was where locals and visitors relaxed, gossiped, flirted, told jokes and “war stories” of their working days, and get drunk. It was not a place for refined dining. A waitress directed them to Stannor, a middle aged, sour faced halfling drinking alone. He looked suspiciously at Ulryn and Natas when they sat next to him, and a cross between lust and fear when Kallista sat the other side of him, but he shrugged acceptance when they offered him some drinking money. The other party members moved around the tavern, engaging with other patrons, looking for any other relevant information.

Stannor told Ulryn, Natas and Kallista that he was a carpenter who worked at Waelvur’s Wagonworks (area 16 on the map). Natas quickly judged Stannor to be a sneaky and unpleasant fellow, who would be up for a bribe to talk about his employer. After enduring some of his insincere protests about being loyal and needing job security and how dare they question his integrity they found it took 10 gold pieces for him to agree to share what he knew. Stannor told them that he’d seen his boss Ilmeth Waelvur, owner of the business and one of the Town Elders, disappear into a hidden tunnel in the back of the work yard. He had also seen other people sneak in after dark and follow Ilmeth to wherever they go, although everyone else had shown up hooded or masked.

The party met up again and shared information. Natas told the others what Stannor had divulged. Windypop had talked to the owner Garlen Harlathurl, who had drunk a bit too much of his own brew. Garlen was chatty and cynical about nearly everything, but gave no useful information. Esplen had talked to several people but was hampered by half drunk men trying to get to know her too well. Those from out of town mentioned the same story about feeling fearful due to bandits and monsters. Farideh couldn’t get a question in, as most people were fascinated to talk with a dragonborn which were rare enough, let alone one so small. Most had thought her to be a dragonborn youth and asked her endless questions.

They decided this tunnel was worth investigating but they would do it tomorrow night, after a rest and allowing the spellcasters to regain their powers after the battles at the haunted tomb earlier that day.
“Maybe we can find out a bit more about these Town Elders,” suggested Esplen.
“Good idea,” said Natas. “We can split up and go ask them a few questions. We’ll just pose as mercenary adventurers, out for treasure and glory.”
“Which is what we are, really,” laughed Windypop.
“Some of us have missions,” grumbled Esplen. “We’re not here just for our enjoyment. I’d rather be home in Westwood.”

They returned back to their rooms at The Swinging Sword inn.

Haunted Tomb
First encounter with undead

Date: Mirtul 5, 1491 DR

The next morning was cold, although not as cold or as windy as the day before. The party checked their equipment and made ready to investigate the tomb.

Minny.jpgTheir first stop was at Mhandyvvers Poultry. This wooden building looked like it had grown haphazardly over many years, shooting out single-story wings and annexes untidily in all directions, motivated by the need for more space. There were children around, armed with slings and daggers, looking for feral cats and foxes. When asked they told the party that the creatures prey on the chickens and Minny pays them for their tails. One of the older children took the party inside. The interior looked like a barn or attic, with exposed beams and posts. Pens with live chickens filled most of the odd corners and halls of the building, leaving only a narrow aisle down to the back, where the Mhandyvvers lived. Here they met Minny Mhandyvver, who had the demeanor of a kindly old dodderer, but the party quickly learned she was sharper of mind than she appeared. She sized up the party, asked a few questions about what they knew, and seemed to decide they could be trusted.

Among other things, she shared that a group of town elders (including Tywin Dornen, Ilmeth Waelvur, and Albaeri Mellikho) belonged to a secret club called The Believers, and they pulled many strings in town. She originally thought that the Believers were harmless, but now isn’t so sure. When the party asked if there was any proof, Minny suggested that the party talk to a halfling named Stannor Thistlehair, who works for Ilmeth Waelvur, and who can be found after work at The Helm at Highsun.

With regard to the haunted tomb, Minny said that her adventurous young granddaughter Pell had a frightening encounter with a “ghost” near a long-forgotten tomb a short distance outside of town. Minny ordered the girl to stay away, but she wondered what Pell saw, and she said that someone ought to “make sure it’s safe.” When asked about the tomb, Minny told them that when times were a little better, many rich folks built in the valley. Some were buried in old tombs near town. This was one such tomb, but she didn’t know whose tomb it was.

The party got directions from Minny, and set off out of town.
“We really need to get some winter furs,” said Ulryn, his teeth chattering behind his mask. Having lived most of his life in the Underdark, the variables of weather on the surface world was something he was still getting used to.
“Grow some balls,” said Leahcim the puppet. It was quite eerie how Natas made the puppet talk, sometimes without being near him, Esplen thought. Bard magic, she guessed.
“I think it’s pleasant,” said Windypop, smiling happily.
Farideh grumbled. Like Ulryn, she was still acclimatising to weather, and her dragonborn internal heating was a little different to mammals. The cold made her feel tired.

Within a couple of hours the party arrived at the location of the tomb. A dark, rectangular hole gaped amid the grass and vines of a nearby hillside. A stone door could be seen, ajar, in the tunnel’s dim depths. The door bore chiseled marks that might once have been a name.

“We should explore,” suggested Natas, “and see if we can find those goblins first.”
“There’s one up in the grass, hiding,” said Windypop, pointing, and then realising he shouldn’t have because the goblin realised it had been spotted and bolted. The party gave chase, and soon ran into a goblin camp. Here there were only two goblins, but they were accompanied by a tall, massively built half ogre. A short, deadly fight occurred, and the enemy were dispatched. The party searched the camp, finding only a few copper coins, and food that looked like it had probably been stolen from a nearby farm, including a half eaten sheep.

ghost_warrior_2_by_vaidass.jpgReturning to the tomb, the party entered, only to have a spirit guardian, looking like a knight of some kind, challenge them, and then attack when they refused to leave. The spirit was tough, but had to materialise to do the party damage, and when it did they could attack it in return, albeit it was difficult to hurt. However a combination of spells and perseverance with weapons defeated the spirit guardian and they proceded further into the tomb. There was undead in the tomb, in the form of animated armoured skeletons, but these too were overcome with numbers and brute force. The tomb was searched and only a few old coins and some jewellery were found, including a silver locket with a picture of a pretty brown haired woman, faded with age.

The party returned to Red Larch, satisfied they had done a good deed.

What's Going on in Red Larch?
Things are not as they seem...

Date: Mirtul 4, 1491 DR

Around midday the party arrived in Red Larch with the horse and cart laden with goods taken from the bandits lair, as well as all the bodies. They did as much as they could to separate the two cargoes. It was another freezing cold spring morning, with a light snow falling about mid morning, although it mostly melted as it hit the ground.

The first port of call was the ruler of the town. After asking locals they found Red Larch was ruled by a part time Constable who was also a local butcher, and he was assisted by a group of wealthy businessmen called the Town Elders. While most people spoke well of the Constable, his name they told the party was Ned Harburk, most were either ambivalent about the Town Elders, or else had nothing good to say about them. The Town Elders didn’t have a leader apparently, but if they did most people agreed it would by Tywin Dornen, who owned a business called Dornen Finestone. Almost universally people described him as a cold, arrogant, inflexible man.

Deputy_Riker_s.jpgArriving at the town butcher, they found the business was actually owned by Ned Harburk’s partner, Jalessa Tully. The other meat workers were also part time deputies, including a huge man mountain named Riker who was the first to greet the party and tried to deflect them elsewhere until he heard their story. He nodded and agreed this was over his head and went inside to ask Ned Harburk to come out and talk to them.

Ned Harburk was a long haired man in his forties, with the bearing of one who had seen military service. He listened to the party’s stories and agreed that they had likely killed the bandits who had been plaguing the Kheldell Path – the road west to Kheldell village, for which he was grateful, but told them there were many other bandits on all the other roads.

Ned agreed to take the bodies to see if he could identify them, and organise for them to be buried afterwards. He noted the party’s names and suggested they stay at The Swinging Sword inn, or if they were short of coin they could stay at Mother Yalantha’s, a cheap hostel.

Kaylessa.jpgThe party decided to stay at The Swinging Sword and use it as their base while they investigated the town. The inn was a three-story stone structure, crowned by a steep slate roof that bristled with many chimneys. A signboard jutted out over the door, hanging from chains – a ten-foot-long carved wooden scimitar emblazoned with the inn’s name in red paint on both sides. An inn yard with stables and outbuildings lay behind the building. The proprietor was Kaylessa Irkell, a red haired woman in her late 30’s who was both friendly and businesslike. She organised rooms for them all and put Cedric the pig in the stable. She promised to catch up with them later and answer their questions when it was less busy with the lunch crowd. The party stayed for lunch, talked with Kaylessa afterwards, and then split up to wander around the town, talking to their faction contacts and generally getting a feel for the place. Natas, Ulryn and Faredeh organised with Kaylessa to put on a performance for the evening. Kaylessa agreed for them to stay at a discount if they were successful in drawing a bigger crowd the following night. If they were very successful she would give them some of the extra profits.

That evening the trio were a success, judging by the enthusiasm of the applause. Afterwards, the party got together to compare notes and share what they had discovered during the day.

Kaylessa had been ecstatic to learn that the party had dealt with the Lord of Lance Rock. She had long suspected something unnatural was happening there, based on the stories she had heard around town and from her patrons. She went to the back rooms and brought back a pouch of coins. Kaylessa had gotten together some reward money for anyone who dealt with the evil there, believing it had a lot to do with the problems happening around Red Larch. She happily gave it to the party, and when they later counted it, the amount came to 50 gold pieces.

  • Minny, from Mhandyvver’s Poultry said her daughter had a frightening encounter with a ghost near a long forgotten tomb a short distance outside of town. Minny ordered the girl to stay away, but everyone thinks someone ought to make sure its safe.
  • The town elders sometimes don’t get along with the town constable, people reckon usually when their business interests or family were affected. The elders don’t have a leader but if they did it would be Tywin Dornen of Dornen Finestone. He was generally thought of as a cold, arrogant, inflexible man. Aerego Bethendur of Bethendur’s Storage was thought of by most people the best of the town elders, people thought that at least he had a heart. Ulhro Luruth of Luruth’s Tannery was also an elder, but most people thought he was a fool and talked too much. Stay away from ‘em, they all said, they have Red Larch’s interests at heart, but only so far as it benefits them.
  • Quarry workers used to cut marble and slate by torchlight when they were behind in their orders, but they no longer do so, shunning the quarries by night. They have been spooked by dark robed figures in stone masks lurking in the darkness beyond the torchlight.
  • Kaylessa told them that many folk have been coming to Red Larch in the last few months looking for friends and relatives who disappeared after reaching the town. One of them complained his sister went missing, she apparently had an abundance of red hair. Kaylessa remembered seeing her, but next day she was gone. She thought she was passing through, but apparently went missing.
  • There was a general feeling in town that it was not safe to travel anymore. There had been a lot of banditry and monster attacks reported lately. Apparently Zhentarim mercenaries were working hard to make sure they are the best (and only) merchant caravan guards money can buy but even they had their work cut out for them.
  • Some shepherds around Red Larch had seen strange figures watching them from distant hillsides in the wild fields east of town where they have traditionally grazed their flocks. So far they haven’t done anything except watch, but it was unnerving the shepherds.
  • There was a bunch of artisans working around the clock to restore and renovate old Riverguard Keep. There was also a mercenary company there who claimed to be protecting the trade along the river from monsters and bandits.
  • Knights out of Waterdeep who love flying mounts were staying at Feathergale Spire, up in the hills. They started coming there in the past few months, people can see them sometimes on their griffons and giant birds high in the sky. Most common folk had the same disdain for them as they did for any nobility – what a lazy lot. Still, they didn’t appear to hassle anyone who went past their tower which was appreciated in these troubling times. Natas, Ulryn and Faredeh were interested in this rumour, as it related to their mission of saving a young woman noble who had joined this group.
  • Some folk reported a bunch of wild druids at Scarlet Moon Hall, located deep in the Sumber Hills, where the worst monsters are. No one usually goes near the place. Now apparently you could see bonfires burning on the hills around it. These druids apparently have a weird fire ceremony called the Rite of the Wicker Giant, which they claimed could restore nature’s balance in this troubled region.
  • Some pilgrims and merchants had reported a vicious and wicked manticore that sometimes attacks travellers in the Sumber Hills . It was considered to be an evil thing, attacking by firing spikes from its tail. General advice was to run if you saw it, although by then it would probably be too late.
  • Some travellers complained that they tried to seek shelter from a storm at what they thought were old ruins but turned out to be now populated with a bunch of monks who wanted to be left alone. The monks refused entry to the travellers, who had to endure a miserable night in the wind and rain.
  • The Sumber Hills were generally considered to have become far more dangerous in the last six months. No one went into the hills berry picking any more. No one went hare hunting there either, there were monsters like ogres and bugbears – and worse! – everywhere, not to mention bandits and robbers.
  • The weather around Red Larch had been strange – strange hot breezes coming down from the hills, bolts of lightning arcing from the sky without any accompanying storm, small earthquakes, fog banks that refuse to dissipate when hit by the morning sun.
  • A talented half elf bard called Windharrow came through Red Larch some months ago and spent a bit of time at The Helm at Highsun. He was always looking for those who have any kind of musical talent to join his band called the Wyndwards. His band must have a high turnover of musicians. Anyway he said he was going to be performing at Feathergale Spire, where those stupid flying nobles ponce around on giant birds and flying beasts.
  • At the Swinging Sword the party met Borin, a dwarf and a survivor of a robbery claimed that he the merchant caravan he travelled on along the Larch Path was beset by bandits led by a spellcaster with deep brown skin that had the texture of earth calling himself “The Mud Sorcerer”. The spellcaster killed several bystanders in a callous manner using spells that caused a fountain of earth and rocks to kill everyone within an area. The spellcaster and his minions – who appeared to have stone armour – then picked through the remains of the shattered wagons looking for valuables which is when Borin and other survivors made their escape and made it to Red Larch.
  • Jed was a survivor of a bandit raid on a small merchant caravan travelling by barge on the Dessarin River. He survived the raid by playing dead and later wandered for a while before joining another group heading for Red Larch. He was staying at Mother Yalantha’s but could also be found at The Helm at Highsun. When asked about his experience he mentioned that he overheard that bandits report to someone named Grimjaw in a place called Riverguard Keep. Kallista was very interested to hear this information as she was hunting Grimjaw.

The party considered all these rumours. They decided they would first investigate the ghost in the nearby tomb. Kallista reported that her Zhentarim contact, the baker Mangobarl Lorren had told her that he had done a preliminary investigation and saw a goblin near the tomb. He suspected goblins were perhaps faking a ghost somehow to keep people away, maybe there is a goblin spellcaster using an illusion cantrip. They are perhaps trying to find a way into the tomb so they can rob it. Mangobarl thought Kallista and her friends should investigate because goblins shouldn’t be taking treasure from human tombs. That was for other humans to do.

After this, the party discussed going to Feathergale Spire to investigate, see what information they had, check in with the noble lady Ulryn, Faredeh and Natas had been tasked to find, and find more information about Windharrow. Kallista wanted the party to head to Rivergard Keep so she could exact vengeance on Grimjaw, but she was willing to wait. They noted that two sets of rumours had conflicting information about what was happening in Rivergard Keep. One suggested they were bandits, another that there were mercenaries there keeping the river safe. Of course if you were river bandits, it could be good to spread rumours you were actually keeping the river safe. But Feathergale Spire was closer.

It was about this time that Hufflepuff and Khadgar to drop an unexpected bombshell. They both announced they would be leaving the party, and not do any adventuring. Hufflepuff had already secured a job at Tantur Smithy, and Khadgar was going to be employed as a scout for Constable Harburk.

They decided to turn in for the night and meet with Minny tomorrow before heading to the tomb.

[To be continued]


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