It Started With a Kidnapped Pig...

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]…

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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.
earth_cult_icon.jpg
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]

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The Tomb of Moving Stones - Part 2
Investigations

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…]

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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.

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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.

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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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The Lord of Lance Rock
Esplen is scared of the dark...

Date: Mirtul 2, 1491 DR

They found some amount of goods and coins the bandits had amassed in the small cave, and took the money and some useful gear, as well as some kegs of beer which they put in the cart. No point in leaving good beer, Hufflepuff said. Or bad beer, added Natas. Esplen and Khadgar were concerned about leaving the mule behind as well. Khadgar had cast a speak with animals spell and ascertained the bear had been caught in a trap after awakening from hibernation, which explained much of his half starved appearance. After ascertaining they were not a threat to each other, they let the bear go.

The party decided to have a long rest and then move on to Lance Rock. Ulryn and Esplen had taken some wounds during the battle with the bandits – Esplen from being crashed into by the heavily built bandit leader who went flying due to Ulryn’s thunderwave spell. They rested overnight, and bound and treated their wounds. Hufflepuff and Cedric were overjoyed to be reunited and they cuddled and played happily.

Date: Mirtul 3, 1491

The next morning was as cold as a winter’s day, a chill wind blew in from the west bringing dark clouds and light snow with it. The party ate a quick breakfast, courtesy of the bandits’ stores, and headed off to Lance Rock. They took it in turns to ride in the cart, which they decided to bring with them along with the draft horse to pull it. Hufflepuff happily rode on the back of his rescued pig.

An hour or so later they saw what could only have been Lance Rock, a grey slab of rock sticking out of the ground at a sixty degree angle. The party decided to go see this person who was accepting bodies from the bandits, expecting him to be some kind of necromancer.

As they got closer Windypop noted that Lance Rock was unusual in that it was a chunk of granite and was sticking out of the ground where all the rock was limestone, as if it had been dropped from the sky and embedded itself in the ground. Later in Red Larch they would hear that this was exactly what everyone believed had happened – there was a local legend that a dragon had been carrying the granite and dropped it when it had to fight some other flying creature – probably another dragon. Another story was that the dragon had been trying to chase and squash some creature that had made away with something from its hoard and there was a valuable gem or piece of jewellery under the rock along with a flattened skeleton.

There was an old path that led towards Lance Rock which dipped into a ravine. There was a sign at the start of the ravine saying:

“Come no closer
lest you catch
the disfiguring plague
that afflicts me!
The Lord of Lance Rock”

As the bandits had indicated they had contact with the “Lord of Lance Rock” the party decided to ignore the warning.

ZombieRECV2.jpgThe path continued into the ravine and stopped at a cave entrance. Esplen disliked caves and being underground and so elected to stay outside, looking after both Cedric and the mule and cart. The rest entered, intending to pose as bandits delivering more bodies should they be challenged. They came across a body that turned out to be a zombie and despatched it. Ulryn scouted ahead, discovering two zombies on a ledge over the entrance to another cave, ready to drop a box of rocks on any unsuspecting intruder. Ulryn snuck through without alerting them, and signalled back to Natas. He then used a minor illusion to create the sound of someone coming through and the zombies dropped the box of rocks, then leapt down to attack. They also were quickly despatched, although it was hard to put one of them down, he kept getting back to his feet no matter how many swords were thrust through his body. Eventually though, he was too badly damaged to move.

Another cave led to a body storage area, guarded by skeletons, and yet another room had three zombies in costumes enacting a play. They were all despatched. About this point Esplen decided she had had enough of missing out, she could hear the sounds of battle and wanted to support her comrades, and she joined them. Besides a light snow was falling outside.

skelarch.jpgUlryn found a room with two chests, he tried to open one chest with a crowbar, but it triggered a trap and the ceiling collapsed on him. He managed to clear the room just in time, but took some damage. After the rocks settled a voice echoed through the complex –
“You dare to pit yourselves against the Lord of Lance Rock? Death is your reward!” and then some cackling.

The party found a huge cavern area, with skeletons and zombies blocking the party’s advance and behind them was a wild looking man with a wand. The skeletons had bows and shot them at Farideh who happened to be in front. The man was the Lord of Lance Rock, who called himself Tim the Necromancer. He was also guarded by a swarm of severed zombie hands. The battle was fierce and the necromancer had many spells. Hufflepuff and Natas being knocked unconscious by magic missiles and Windypop was mind controlled into attacking Kallista, who looked very much like she wanted to strike him back. However after a while he was able to shrug off the spell, and the party resumed the attack. Khadgar and the bards had used up all their healing magic to keep the party on their feet.

WizardTim.jpgFinally the undead were overcome and Tim fled into another cave, where he hid behind a tapestry. This room was lit by a driftglobe a magical light source that could be ordered to follow someone around. Above the driftglobe was a magical eye symbol.

“Can’t you see it? It’s the Eye! It sees your every move! Don’t you fear it?” Tim yelled.
Windypop did know the eye, it had been a part of his visions for many months.

Without undead to guard him, Tim did not last long against Kallista and Hufflepuff in his face and the others firing their bows and crossbows.

The party took what coins and gems he had, as well as a wand of magic missiles which the party decided Farideh should have.

They had a long rest in the first cave – they were going to camp outside, but the snow was the deciding factor – and headed off the Red Larch in the morning.
wandmm.png

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A Meeting
The party comes together

Date: Mirtul 1, 1491 DR

Following the wagon tracks of Roscoe Kalliwart, the halfling merchant who had stolen Cedric the pig, Windypop, Hufflepuff, Khadgar and Esplen came across evidence that the halfing’s two wagons had been ambushed by bandits. One mule and an overturned, broken cart lay beside the track, and there was blood and scuffle marks on the track itself. Tracks showed that Cedric the pig had been loaded from the broken wagon onto the good wagon. There were no bodies.

At this point Kallista, Natas, Farideh and Ulryn arrived. After establishing the others were not the bandits they all decided to travel together to Red Larch.

Further on at an area where merchants would stop for the night, there was more evidence of violence. Windypop read the signs in the dirt and determined that the bandits had attacked two men who perhaps had mistaken the bandits for merchants, given they had a wagon. They had tied the men to a tree and fired crossbow bolts at them. Again there were no bodies.

The party rested overnight here.

Early the next day they saw campfire smoke off the trail, and Windypop and Ulryn crept closer to see six bandits sitting around a campfire, with a bear tied to a stake, and Cedric in the cart, and a pile of bodies by a small cave. The bandits were talking and heard them:

  • grumbling about the poor pickings on the merchant and bounty hunter, but happy about having a huge fat pig to eat.
  • Wondering what to do with the bear, maybe they can eat that too? Or sell it? Or teach it to fight with them?
  • One of the bandits (Pug) poked the bear with a spear and laughed, the others laugh but said it would serve him right if the bear broke out and killed him. Lenny the leader reminded Pug the bear could probably pull the stake out of the ground if it was angry enough.
  • One bandit named Scab was injured from the fight with the bounty hunters and complained about his injury. The others teased him about being too old and slow.
  • They mentioned that the cultists lied about the bandits getting rich from robbing and causing trouble and:
  • Complain about that weirdo at Lance Rock, why can’t they roll him over, he’s probably got treasure in his caves. What’s he doing up there anyway? Why does he want us to bring him bodies? The leader Lenny says they’ve been told to leave him alone, bring him bodies, and that’s all and we do what we’re told if we know what’s good for us.
  • They also asked why can’t they have a job as cult contacts in Red Larch like these dickheads called Bringers of Woe and what kind of a name is that anyway and who are they? The leader Lenny told them to shut their mouths and that it was his job to know why and who the contacts are because he’s the smartest.

Fred_the_bandit2.jpgThe party attacked, surprising the bandits. The party was victorious and were able to capture one of the bandits named Fred. They had wanted to capture the leader, but he went flying when a thunderwave spell from Ulryn went off and he collided with Esplen, both of them taking damage and the bandit leader – already injured from the blast – died.

Fred was not able to add much more. While the party was deciding what to do with him, Fred suddenly died from a short blade to the neck. No one saw who did it because they hadn’t been watching him during the discussion, but it could have been any of the party members, or some other person invisible. Natas speculated that Fred knew more than he had said thus far and the invisible assailant was silencing him. Others believed it was one of the party whose morals were suspect.

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Summary of the Party
Why we're here and where we're from

Everyone has really given a lot of input into their character’s backstory, which has been great. As we have a lot of player characters, I thought it might be helpful to have a quick summary, in case you don’t want to read through everyone else’s backstory.

The story so far (abridged version). If you want to read more about a character, click on the link.

Esplen – female half elf druid (Natalie)

Esplen.jpg

  • Member of the Dusk Circle, the druids of Westwood – has been asked to investigate a new circle of druids called “Circle of the Scarlet Moon”.
  • Lives in Westwood.
  • Helping her friend Hufflepuff find Cedric the pig.
  • Member of the Emerald Enclave – has been asked to investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.

Farideh – female dragonborn sorcerer (Hannah)

Farideh_Sorc_img2a.jpg

  • Escaped slave of the drow in the Underdark, where she first met Ulryn.
  • Small and skinny for a dragonborn due to being a malnourished slave when growing up.
  • Member of the Harper faction – has been asked to look out for a Waterdhavian noble named Savra Belabranta, and investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.

Hufflepuff – male dwarf barbarian (Stephanie)

hufflepuff2.jpg

  • Folk hero of the village of Kheldell when he played a big part in repelling an attack by cultists. This is where he met Esplen and Khadgar.
  • Member of the Emerald Enclave – has been asked to investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.
  • Wants to find Cedric the pig who was kidnapped by a halfing merchant named Roscoe Kalliwart.

Kallista – female tiefling fighter (Carolyn)

Kalista2.jpg

  • From the city of Waterdeep.
  • On a mission of vengeance to kill the criminal who murdered her lover.
  • Member of the Zhentarim faction – has been asked to investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region, take any action necessary to eliminate whatever is disrupting trade.


Khadgar – male wood elf cleric (Nature domain) (Garry)

khadgar_img2.jpg

  • Priest of Mielikke, goddess of nature and magical beasts.
  • Lives in Westwood.
  • Member of the Emerald Enclave – has been asked to investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.
  • Helping Hufflepuff find his pig Cedric.

Natas Goldenboot – male elf bard (Mike)

Natas.jpg

  • From the city of Waterdeep
  • Entertainer, wears motley harlequin style, including mask
  • Member of the Harper faction – has been asked to look out for a Waterdhavian noble named Savra Belabranta, and investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.



    Ulryn9a.jpg

Ulryn the Fantastic – male elf bard (Piers)

  • Escaped slave of the drow in the Underdark where he first met Farideh.
  • Entertainer, wears motley harlequin style, including mask. Unlike Natas always wears his mask and/or make up.
  • Member of the Harper faction – has been asked to look out for a Waterdhavian noble named Savra Belabranta, and investigate rumours of trouble in the Dessarin Valley region.


    windypop3.jpg

Windypop – male air genasi ranger (Heath)

  • Knows a lot about the Cult of Howling Hatred and seems to be looking for them.
  • Has blue skin and white hair.
  • Good at tracking, and likes being in the hills
  • Helping Hufflepuff find Cedric the pig.
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On the Road from Waterdeep
Prequel for Natas, Ulryn, Farideh, and Kallista.

The Old Bard sat at the back of the inn watching all the young street performers loop and dive and sing and play instruments of all sorts. The pretense of a competition for entry to the Harpers gave him the opportunity to scan the group for any that he could mold into the agent he needed.

A commotion at the bar caught his attention, and he watched as three patrons and the barkeep tried to catch a small elven boy that had a loaf of bread in his hands. The Old Bard sat up very straight as he watched the twisting, leaping and general evading performed by the young boy. As the young elf leapt out a window that no small child should be able to leap out of, The Old Bard smiled…
“Welcome to the cause…”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Natas leaned back at the Harper meeting. He had no input to give into the general arguing among Harper agents about trivial matters like levies and territory restrictions between the factions. His old mentor The Old Bard sat and looked at him, with that slightly disconcerted look on his face that he got on occasion, usually when he was looking at Natas. Natas got it: often his… appearance… just didn’t sit right with incredibly astute people. Natas’ abilities had kept him safe though, and for that he was eternally grateful. He cocked his head. Leahcim wanted to go. Fair enough. It was a bit boring.

“Gentlemen” he said, standing. Instantly the room went silent. “Sorry, but I have to get out and have a look see, something feels like it is about to happen out there”. The rest of the group looked to The Old Bard, who nodded and smiled.
“Thank you,” Natas acknowledged his old tutor, and stepped outside.
He roamed the streets, watching, waiting, performing little cantrips and sleight of hand tricks for the children. Natas did not get discouraged when nothing happened for a while. Leahcim was almost never wrong…

There! A young disheveled, dirty skinned elf sat next to a wall, begging. Leahcim whispered in Natas’ ear. A dragonborn?!? Where? How?!? Well. That explained Leahcim’s interest. Natas walked over. As he looked at the skinny elf, and tried to understand Leahcim’s message, he saw himself all those years ago. Outcast. Alone. A stranger in a strange place. He knelt down.
“So. What’s your instrument?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

And there. The small dragonborn walked in behind Ulryn. How did Leahcim know this stuff? Natas had given up trying to work it out. He stopped his conversation with Leachim – it always seemed to unnerve people – and turned to the pair as they walked over.
“Greets!” He began, followed by his favourite question to the dragonborn. “So. What’s your instrument?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The tiefling warrior woman introduced as Kallista looked at Natas. Stared almost. Inspected. Examined. Looked for what it was that tugged at the edges of her awareness. The question had been left hanging now for half a minute. Ulryn and Farideh looked at each other, Ulryn looking a little concerned. Natas stood comfortably, his half smile not wavering. Leahcim whispered in his ear. No, she didn’t know. But she certainly saw something. “My sword” she finally answered, having obviously given up trying to work out what it was she could almost, but not quite, see.
“Interesting” Natas replied. “It’s not often people correctly interpret the question as clearly as that.”
“Shhh” he said to Leahcim, who was incessantly whispering in his ear. Kallista looked at him. Then, Ulryn. Then back at him. He should probably introduce her if they were going to be travelling together…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

As the party stopped and considered their need for food, Natas looked around. Who would have thought a dragonborn, a deamonlady and two harlequins would have an issue hunting food? He chuckled at the ludicrousness of his group stalking through the trees beside The Long Road silently and trying to blend in with the brush. How did one blend in motley? Leahcim didn’t seem to find it so funny, and reminded him about the need to keep silent to hunt game. “Spoilsport” he remarked.

He stopped abruptly as Leahcim stopped him short with a hissed “blood!” A quick mental check let him know they were near the ruins of the old Rundreth Manor. A bluejay whistle alerted Ulryn to his find and soon the four travelling companions had gathered around the scene beside the road. Crushed grass, damaged trees, and blood. Leahcim had sensed or smelt the blood before Natas had even seen the damage. Natas still wondered how that could be… but a question for later.
“Belabranta?” Ulryn asked, referring to the noblewoman from Waterdeep they had been asked to look out for. Natas shrugged slightly. Blood was blood really. It all smelt the same.
“Let’s keep moving” Kallista suggested. Natas looked at Ulryn. She was his guest. Ulryn shrugged.
“Fair enough” Natas observed, smiling. “Red larch should be this way” he stated, pointing off the road westward. Whether it was the right way or not didn’t matter. Leahcim told him to go that way, and Leahcim had always given him the best direction to this point.

Kallista watched the crazy elf wander off and again tried to understand how none of the others were unnerved by him talking to himself, or the fracking puppet. Ulryn, obviously sensing her thoughts, patted her on the shoulder as he walked past.
“You get used to it,” he remarked.
“A bit,” Farideh clarified as she wandered past, following the harlequin Natas Goldenboot the third (esq). He was singing, in two part harmony, with the puppet named Leahcim.

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