After restoring Hovel to the villagers, and receiving the gratitude of Odolan, the party headed north along the forest road toward Lord Drenn’s Manor House at Kirlan, a three day journey.
The first day went fairly uneventfully, as did the first night. The second afternoon was met with an obstacle in the roadway, a deer carcass laying across the width of the forest lane. While still staying at distance, Derek’s keen eyes noticed that the deer’s forelegs were bound together, though the wound to it’s belly looked like damage from claws.
Considering the situation, the ranger and druid flanked to either side, and located bear prints travelling diagonally across the road, nearing the point where the carcass lay.
The party also then noticed a series of acorns spread even around the deer, carefully spaced. None of the neighboring trees were oaks.
After a lot of debate about circling the situation, Derek decided to investigate, and stepped toward the deer. As he approached, an acorn erupted into a nest of ropy threads of vine, which tethered him to the spot. As that occurred, a bellow sounded from the next hill, and loud crashing noises began approaching the party.
Derek called for the party to run, leave him! As he shouted, 2 bears crested the hill from the next valley, running toward the deer. Thinking quickly, Derek prayed for an Invisibility to Animals, which was answered by Shenene. One of the bears faltered for a moment, clearly confused, but the other didn’t seem to notice at all.
As the bears neared, one of them shifted between steps, and as the party suspected, turned out to be a Druid. Clearly not used to interacting with people, he eventually apologized for catching the party in his snare, he had not expected to see people out this way.
The snare’s intent was to capture a pair of wolves that have been lurking around this area, somehow immune to the animal friendship skills that Darig possesses. He’s noticed the same about a series of bats in the area, and often around a fallen tower to the north that his bear Cedric refuses to approach at night.
Darig is new to the area, but trying to protect it. He’s clearly very skilled as a druid, and happy to see a fellow follower of Ursus in Colin. He seems resistant to do much in depth investigation however, claiming that he has more traps to manage. He’s happy for the party’s offer of aid though, and easily directs them to the fallen tower.
At the tower lie about 6 bodies, long reduced to bleached bones, surrounded with bits of rusted bits of armor, and chipped hand axes.
The top floor of the tower has slid into the hill behind it, and lies in total ruin. The main floor seems mostly intact, though the door is swollen and crooked in the frame. It looks like the ground floor can also be accessed via the roof where the second floor has fallen away.
The party accesses the tower through both means, and discovers a small bedroom with a bed, desk, and chest. On the floor is a dusty painting of a skeletal hand.
Searching the chest the party finds a few tattered robes, and some gold rilks, along with a finely wrought silver dagger with a small silver skull at the tip of the pommel. It detects as magical.
The desk is determined to have a secret drawer, which reveals a slim, redbound book, also decorated with a skeletal hand. It’s written in a ancient language, unknown to the party. The last page of the book appears to be a spell.
While investigating and reading, the more physical members of the party shift some rocks around the fallen second floor, and reveal the shattered bones of another human, in a tattered robe matching those in the chest below.
The sharp eyed members of the party then spot a bit of movement across the valley, at the wood’s edge. As the party looks that direction, the shape turns away, and begins to flee.
Giving chase, they quickly catch up to two land mingols, who seemed quite panicked. Speaking in broken common, they indicate that they are peddlers, travelling from the far east, and heading toward Lankhmar. They offer some small wares to the party, and then go on their way.
Night has now just about fallen, and the party gathers above the tower, ready for whatever horrors are keeping the animals at bay…
The party headed inland early the next morning, taking another skin full of barley soup for the trip.
The walk to the village was uneventful, though as the party approached the village, the various sounds of the forest seemed quiet, both farther away and muted as they approached.
The village lay at the junction of a set of roads, with a larger lane heading East, and a smaller trail heading south. 7 structures lay within the common, surrounding the well. The forest encroached closely on the village, darkening it more than it should at this hour.
The arc to the north was less heavily wooded, showing signs of recent logging of the heavy trees, especially around the larger structure.
To the south the trail crossed a small quiet graveyard, with a few villagers graves. Some looked fairly fresh, within the last year certainly.
After the circumnavigation, the party approached the village itself, noting a fallen body north west of the well, long since picked apart by scavengers. The body shows a torso sword wound, and has been trampled.
Heavy hoof prints were driven into the soft earth of the road surface, circling through the city itself, and around some of the houses. They originated and departed to the East. They also appear to be quite old, probably over 3-4 months.
Stepping into some of the houses, the party finds a mix of semi- abandoned properties (portable objects have all been carried away, but larger objects like beds and looms remain), and houses spattered with blood, and rended corpses within, and all the objects left where they were.
All of the bodies are old, but the corpses show less sign of animal and insect damage than you’d expect for how long they’ve been deceased.
The NW most house is different than the others. A distinct chill is felt as the party enters the house. A few party members hear a scream, loud thump, and a falling away cry as they enter. The sounds don’t repeat, but the chill within remains.
This house is also more nicely appointed than the others, with nicer timbering, a formal writing desk, a larger bed, covered with a fur, and several nicer dresses hung in an alcove along with everyday dress. The alcove also reveals a small metal mirror, a vial of perfume, and a bone hair brush, stylized beautifully.
On the desk sits several papers, a nice well and quill, and a small yellowed bound book. It turns out to be a diary, wherein a young woman recounts her trials to escape the reign of Lord Drenn, who mistreated his serfs badly, and demanded the right of first night, and has even killed for the smallest slight.
The diary mentions that they received the right to separate from the lord, and start this new community which they’ve jokingly named Hovel. They’re happy to be free regardless of their spartan accommodations.
It also interspaces with noted about her betrothed, and mentions a beautiful golden bracelet he’s bought her.
The last entry mentions that the Lord is coming to visit on the morrow to speak with the village, and that he regretted his previous actions, and indicates that he has mellowed since his son passed away.
Carefully peering over, they can see that a body is tangled over the bucket, a few feet below the rim of the well. The winch is locked in position, which has prevented it from descending with the extra weight.
With Greg on the winch, the body is carefully brought up and lifted out, to reveal a young woman, clearly dead several months, wrapped in tatters of a formal white dress. Like the other bodies, this one is less degraded than it should have been for how long it’s been here. The right arm is also missing at the elbow.
The body also shows signs of a large impact trauma to the skull. Investigating further, the party finds a dent in the crossbar of the well, with dried blood and hair that match the victim.
Greg and Colin head down the smaller trail with a pair of found shovels, while Al and Derek perform some last rites.
After the grave has been readied, the party then decided that the whole body probably needs to be recovered, and with trepidation, Colin get’s lowered in the well, with a light spell cast on the bucket, to light his descent. With it’s additional light, he finds the arm by it’s golden bracelet’s glimmer, trapped in a root a few feet above the water level.
Carefully extracting it, joining it to the remainder of the body, the lady is put to rest, her arm and bracelet with her.
After returning to the village, approaching the chilled house no longer had any effect, and the normal forest sounds began filling the area again.
Heading out, the party gave Odolan the good news that very night (causing a small fright as lights came from the woods), and helped the villagers back home again over the next few days.
They also vowed revenge on their behalf against Lord Drenn. Odolan gifted the party with his grandfather’s military sword as thanks, which was a basket hilted short sword, with intricate markings. When tested later, it indicated that it was magical.
We rejoin the party 3 days and a frantic escape later. The day of the Turtle opened with a harrowing run through the streets of Lankhmar, warned by Corbin that the Duke had released “Mage Hounds” a variety of magical construct used to hunt wizards. They were apparently seeking a bear wizard they called “the Tangler”.
After a two day journey in still waters, the small Mingol ship finally pulled ashore north of Ilthmar, on a deserted beach. Jabbering in their strange tongue, the Mingols sent the party ashore. A sandy beach crossed with small blue crabs and loud seagulls awaited the party, backed with a bluff, and some thick forest.
Greg scouted about shortly, and determined that a small village seemed to be slightly inland at the bluffs a few miles further north. With no other clear alternatives, the party headed that direction.
The small hamlet had less than 10 structures, and at closer inspection seemed very freshly made, probably within the last 6 months. The few villagers watched the party cautiously, if a bit listlessly. The crops appeared small and wilted, and two pigs in a pen looked somewhat malnourished.
A slight man stepped forward from his hut, and asked if he could help the party with something. He acknowledged that night was coming on, and mentioned that there might be space in a barn for the travelers. When asked about the crops, and the animals, the villager admitted that they had recently moved here, and that the water was poor, too brackish from the sea nearby. It wasn’t nourishing the crops or the people and animals well.
Odolan (the villager, and a carpenter by trade) went on to tell the party that the few remaining people here had fled from another village, a few hours walk into the forest. They’d left because of a ghost, who “wailed” and tore up people each night since the village had been sacked by their previous Lord, in retribution for them leaving his rule, and starting out on their own.
Odolan agrees that this site is terrible for a village, and would go somewhere else, but now everybody’s tired and kind of sick, and haven’t ever been even this far from their former homes before.
Once the party agrees to look into the spectral attacks, and even offers “purified water” via a prayer, Odolan insists they stay in his house here tonight, and have some of his barley soup. It’s thin, and salty, but nourishing.
In a rushed theft, Greg forces the night robe clad Lord Porbell to open his personal safe at the family manor house in Lankhmar, which reveals neat stacks of documents, and a few stacks of Gold Rilks.
Ignoring the gold, Greg grabs an arm full of papers before making his escape. After successfully dodging the Night Watch, and returning to the Swinging Lantern, the party has time to investigate the find, revealing:
(4) a detailed family tree, fully completed through the 4th generation, with a few entries in the 5th and 6th.
(2) a property deed to a watchtower and lands outside Kleg Nar. It’s deeded to Porbell’s brother, Graham, and was exchanged 16 months ago.
(6) pinned to the previous sheets with a brass tie are instructions, starting with “at the lightning split Oak, take 300 paces sunward”. On the first sheet, scrawled in sloppy penmanship are the words “They know. Hide it somewhere safe. -G”.
(8) loosely wrapped in a deep purple satin ribbon are letters from a Countess Amantine, both to, and clearly in response to letters from Porbell. These appear somewhat aged, and probably indicate a youthful friendship and infatuation. Something in the staging of the prose feels stilted in the letters (test Read/Write for the DM to study further).
(1) Carefully placed within the stack of neat, new paper with careful handwriting is a single page of age-yellowed paper with what looks like children’s sketches of their nightmares on it. Below the sketches are a few lines of what looks like incomprehensible quickly scrawled writing. The paper feels slightly cold to the touch.
(1) A list of names, 28 in total. This sheet clearly is written in a different hand than other letters in the pile. The first 7 names have been struck through with a single pen stroke each.
(6) A map of the Martin lands, a small duchy south east of Lankhmar. Individual tenets are written in soft lead on the land parcels, some show signs of being removed and rewritten.
(2) A letter that indicates support for a Lord Harbur as regent of Irillan. It boldly declares support. It’s signed by Lord Tikani. (test Local History/Heraldry for the DM for context).
(1) a “Bearer Bond” for the parcel numbered 1152 in Ilthmar’s Bronze bank.
We join the party at night, camped out throughout Porbell’s Pawn, a shop of ill repute, with it’s owner missing, and the party appointed as caretakers. Greg, Colin, and Derek’s characters all sleep, and Al stands watch in the front room of the establishment.
Al is jolted to attention as a shape enters the room from the back hall, immediately followed by another. Quickly kicking Greg to conciousness, Al confronts the two, who draw short swords, and attack!
Alarmed by the sounds downstairs, Colin and Derek spring awake in the bedroom suite upstairs. Thinking the thieves entered from the alley door, they open the bedroom window, drop to the alley, and attempt to cut off any escape. They are surprised to realize the back door is still locked, and spiked from within, as it was left when they slept. Peeking around the front, they see the heavy door there is still barred.
With no options remaining, they climb the timbered wall back to their bedroom window.
Meanwhile, Al and Greg send one thug running with a quick command spell, and jointly face the other. After some back and forth damage, the thug is dropped. Greg pauses enough in the dim moonlight coming through the barred windows to see a red handkerchief tied to his sleeve, a clear indication that he belongs to Corbin’s gang – The Red Scarves.
Pausing to check under the stairs, the party discovers that the previously opened vault is opened again, and still empty.
Hearing combat upstairs, they rush to join Colin and Derek, who are battling two more red scarves, and the party locates the means of ingress – a rope hanging from the skylight above the upstairs stock room.
One scarf, trapped by party members on the stairs takes a very nasty fall, landing on his head has he rolled to the ground floor.
The last burglar got up the rope and began a rooftop escape with a critically injured Colin closely behind. One ill timed jump however lands the thug him in an alley, with both legs shattered badly, bleeding out.
The party bandaged him enough to keep him from dying, and dragged the two now unconcious thugs to the room under the stairs, revived one enough to have him confirm they worked for Corbin, and had been told to come over tonight to “check out” what was going on at the store.
Exhausted (about 3am), the party decides to leave the two thugs locked up, and get what rest they can, to confront Corbin in the morning.
The party awakens later that morning, just after 9 AM with a heavy pounding at the shop door. Greg looks out from an upstairs window, and sees a large Ombrulskan armored in a light mail shirt, with a shield strapped to his back hammering on the door, yelling to open up. He appears to be a member of an adventuring party, with 3 others waiting with him.
After a bit of back and forth, Greg convinces them to come back tomorrow, when Porbell will be back, and they can recover his pawned family sword then. Colin attempts a sneaky follow, but is thwarted by the party’s thief, who questions his intention before learning that Porbell is missing, and that Colin & co were looking for him as well.
Returning to the pawnshop Colin notices a slight urchin watching the storefront in a very obvious manner, and circles behind it to try and question. He/She is quite small, and unusually fair skinned and light haired for the region, which makes them stand out even more.
Bandages circle the forehead and hands, further obscuring the details of the urchin.
With a quick lunge, Colin grabs them. Lithely twisting and turning, the urchin spouts a torrent of words in a non-human tongue like Colin has never heard before. Colin attempts to offer a gold coin, which is ignored, before finally releasing the creature.
The party decides this is the time to approach Corbin about last night’s altercation, and slung the larger head wounded invader across some shoulders, and “drunk walked” him around the corner to the Swinging Lantern. Annadeen, the brothel’s madam sees the party coming through the door, and is upset, asking them what they’ve done now, wringing her hands. When they insist on talking to Corbin she runs out the door.
Colin picks the bedroom lock, and then Al hits the two occupants with a fairie fire as the door opens. Held at sword/dagger point, Corbin and Pole question what’s going on, and slowly come to awareness, and recognize the characters.
After some terse negotiations, the party agrees to accept half the debt owed (1250) if they capture Porbell, dead or alive. The Red Scarves intend to make a lesson out of him for others with outstanding loans.
The party scatters, checking the Hall of Records for other Porbells, taking to various gate guards, tracking down the adventuring party that came by the shop that morning to see if they were affiliated, and even sneaking on a side mission to steal a series of rare Zebral Pelts from the Tanner’s Guild (and even that was touch and go for a bit).
The main two encounters of the afternoon and evening involved tracing down the Porbells registered in the Hall of Records to see if the pawnshop owner was hiding in with them, or if they knew where he could be. Starting in the merchant district, Porbell the tailor and his wife were approached, and an altercation resulted in the wife knocked out, and Porbell carried off, wrapped up in a bolt of his own fabric, unconscious.
During the encounter, Zygag made his nature known, causing a simple directed Fear spell to affect the entire encounter, instead of just the target.
After some additional questioning at the pawn shop, the party determined that this Porbell was unrelated to their missing shopkeep, and blindfold walked him a few blocks before releasing him.
The second Porbell, who owned 2 lots in the Noble’s Quarter, was a tougher encounter. His large walled estate was locked and barred that night, and required some attempts at quick talking, and then some deft lock picking to enter.
A scrambling encounter sent Derek off with a house guard in quick pursuit, and gave Greg the opportunity to sneak in through the back kitchen, through the dining, and up to the lobby, where he knocked a servant unconscious, and then took the troublesome butler Jenkins hostage at sword point, to ensure the approach to the Lord’s Chamber.
There, when confronted and threatened, the Lord stated he knew no Porbell the Pawn, all his direct relatives were in the north, where the family estate was, and even then, none were so “low class” to operate something like a pawn shop.
With some additional threats, Lord Porbell released his safe key, and Greg snatched a handful of papers on the way to making his escape, covered in his retreat by Derek and Colin, and included entangling a group of guards on the street that were engaged in pursuit.
The party made their way back to the Swinging Lantern, and fell to sleep, frustrated with their progress so far.
We join our band of intrepid adventurers for the very first time in the Year of the Titan, Month of the Shark, Day of the Hare.
They are banded together solely through the common thread as tenets of the Swinging Lantern, a down on it’s luck Bordello just off Nun Street, where the Madam rents unused rooms to the desperate, penniless, and wanderers of the realm.
Expected to be “out of way” during operating hours, the four occupy a dingy booth in the Salted Mutton, a tavern which inexplicably only serves seafood. After discussing several opportunities for gainful (if not ethical or legal) employ, another patron of the tavern offers some short term employment, with minimal risk, and fair pay for the weekend.
He goes on to explain that he’s Porbell, a pawnshop owner who lives over his shop, just a block and a half from this establishment. He’s made a special deal for some new merchandise, and needs to meet the buyer about a days ride up river to make the exchange. If the heroes will watch his shop for the weekend, he’ll pay them 50 Gold Rilks, plus a 50% commission on all sales made.
With some hemming and hawing, the adventurers accept, and Porbell hands over a small sack with mixed coinage, and a small ring with two brass keys. Relieved, he thanks the party, and tells them he’d hope they’d open shop by 9 the next morning.
Giving him a few minutes to get farther away, the party them heads directly the Pawn Shop, interested in the state of their new venture, and perhaps interested in what they might find within.
The building itself is wooden, with large post beams, and a heavy ironwood banded door at the front, with no keyhole. Circling, the party finds a smaller alley door, which the first key opens. The small space there leads to the stairs up, and a doorway leads to a small, unremarkable kitchen.
The kitchen opens into a small storage room, with some poor quality shelving, mostly empty. A dented, and pitted bastard sword leans against one shelf, and a quantity of low quality frayed rope lies on another. The door from here opens into the shop proper, which is disappointingly sparse.
A few paper cone hats, an off balance scale, and other cheap trinkets sit on the few shelves not completely empty. A large counter near the rear of the store was clearly made to store more valuable objects. The second brass key opened these cabinets, revealing that they were completely empty.
Confused and irritated, the party quickly searched the upstairs to find it also quite barren, with dust marks where furniture had been, as well as a very small lumpy bed, and curtains missing from the windows.
Back downstairs, a small closet under the stairs revealed a mop, and an obviously discolored set of floor boards. Prying the panel up, the party is faced with a locked safe. Neither key they have opens the lock. Colin sets upon the lock with a set of picks, while the others retreat to give him space.
With a loud crack, and the smell of burning flesh, Colin flies back from the lock, unconscious.
Quickly revived by Gary, and frazzled but determined, Colin confirmed the trap has been full discharged, and returns to the lock tumbler. This time he’s able to open the door, which shows a solid stone cavity, completely empty.
With the investigation complete, Greg decides to try and dig up some dirt. Across the street lies another shop, with apartment above. The occupant, a lazy knife sharpener named Sal shares some details of his neighbor over a dagger sharpening exchange, punctuated with constant spitting.
It turns out that Porbell’s quite heavily in debt, and hasn’t had good traffic in the shop for months. Sal’s amazed that he’d be willing to pay anybody to help with the shop, especially to pay them for the service. He mentions that the largest debt is owned to the Red Scarves, a street gang that “owns” this region of the city, including providing security for the bordello the party lives in.
With that in mind, and the evening hours slipping away, the party heads back to the Swinging Lantern, and approaches Corbin, the large bald Red Scarf that seems to be “in charge” there. After a quick explanation of the situation as the party sees it, Corbin thanks them for the info, and says he’ll pass it “up the chain”, and let them know what’s up in the morning.
With that complete, and the night wasting away, the party travels back to Porbells, and camps out throughout the store, setting a watch.