In the night’s watch, early in the day of the Raccoon, the party is awakened by a glowing stone in the wall of the guard post, softly pulsing.
After some exploration, Colin notes a humanoid shape hovering over the deceased elven corpses in section 1. Engaging from range, the party discovers that the humanoid share is entirely comprised of flies, and begins to buzz. Al summons a dust devil, which disperses the swarm, crushing the majority of flies. Uneasily, the party returns to sleep.
Forging on, the party rounds the corner to room 7, and are mass teleported into room 8b, where a wraith waits. Al is successful in turning it, and the party returns to area 7 from the north, where they confront the Crypt Wraith that teleported them, ultimately killing it.
The party continued on to room 11, where they battled 4 giant scorpions, in a battle of dangerous levels of damage. Heavily wounded, the party pushes the corpses out, and rests behind the boulders.
After enlisting the aid of friendly druid, Colin is restored to life, and the party recovers before pushing back into Firestorm on the day of the Dog.
Properly prepared with magic and ranged attacks, the party eliminates the guards in room 2, and the reserves from 2B. They also note small passages, only about 1′ in height going north and south from the rooms, and pack them with rubble.
Down the long hallway 3, Colin maneuvers the party around the pit traps, and into room 4, where the group finds long deceased remains under a large fallen rock. With some support, Steve pushes the rock to the side, revealing a Runed Bastard Sword, later recognized as “Thalkainen”, a goblin slayer. On the corpse’s finger is a ring, later identified as a Ring of Sustenance.
A pouch holds a journal, some gems and coins. The only journal entry reads:
Room 5 contains a small bolthole, about 1′ in height. The party suspects it’s a connection to the tunnels in room 2, and blocks it with some rubble.
Around the southern corner of Room 6 lies an ambush as 3 giant skeletons, with flaming chests strike at the party. As the party exhausts their complements of spells and tricks, the final skeleton is slain, and the party retreats to room 2A, inside the guard post, to rest and recover.
As the flames subsided, the valved doors to the mountain silent and slowly opened, revealing darkness within.
As the party approached the dark portal, Al paused, grabbing a loose pebble of granite, and imbued it with a light spell. Giving it a hearty under arm toss, the hallway within was illuminated as the rock bounced along the floor.
The smoothly carved walls reach over 25′ feet in the passage, and are smoothed to a mirror finish. The featureless floors and ceilings are also mined in a tiled pattern, with almost machine like precision.
As the party ventures cautiously within, Greg’s sharp eye picks out a slight reflection ahead, and cautiously approaches to notice a caltrop, made from the same clear metal as the other objects located by the characters earlier. It’s tacky with a deep green residue.
Carefully collecting the caltrops in a bag, the party progresses 40 feet into the cavern, when an ugly, roughly quarried stone wall blocks the passage ahead, studded with spikes, barbs, and other wicked implements. It’s only 10′ tall, and extends in the room beyond, which appears quite larger than the current passage.
Carefully slinging a line between spikes, and covering some with cloth where a route seems safest, Colin begins to climb. The party is surprised when 4 20’+ Elves stand from behind the barrier, magically snuffing the light of the stone, and stabbing forward with massive Ranseurs. The pole-arms pierce Colin multiple times, and his body falls from the wall, bleeding out.
The party scoops to recover his body, and flees the hall, seeking a safe place to hold, and the assistance of a learned healer to restore their companion.
Dawn breaks over the barrier mountains, and the exhausted party members rise to survey the results of last night’s carnage.
The five shapes originally on the mountain’s top turn out to be elves, with pointed ears, almond eyes, and tanned skins. Their clothing and cloaks are all muted browns and greens. None of them wear any shoes.
The other five corpses are even stranger, they also appear elven, with pointed ears, but are shock white, with large pupils within their eyes, and white hair. They are booted in dark black leather of an unfamiliar nature, and their black cloaks wisp away in the morning sun.
The white elves all bear daggers of a very strange material, completely clear where thin, and slightly cloudy where the pommel thickens, and at the heart of the blade. The blades ring like iron when struck, and show signs of damage, but the material is entirely unknown to the party.
The largest of the black cloaked shapes is the strangest of all, with a white torso and head similar but malformed in comparison to the other white elves, but with the belly extending into a bulbous white abdomen, bristling with tiny hairs, and eight chitinous legs. It’s a horrifying abomination. It also carried a blade of “clear metal”, though this was a scimitar.
The young woman, clad only in a night shift seems to have recovered this morning, and thanks the PCs for her rescue. She says she can’t remember anything since 4 nights ago, when she opened the door late to a dwarf who said he know where her father was (who’d been missing almost 2 weeks by that point).
Though somewhat against her character, she found herself following the strange creature, and can only really remember her terror when she noticed that “things” were moving under his skin, before waking up this morning.
After a little geography, she determines that her village, Long Brú, lies just over half a days ride to the north, and asks for an escort to help her home.
The party tethers the one riding horse to the strange black coach, binds the black wooden case to the roof, and heads north at a gentle pace, allowing Greg time to ride south astride his war horse, retrieve some rations and other riding horse, and return to the party.
The village of Long Brú lies on the shores of the Elliðaá (Ed-Lee-Ow) river, spanning both sides via the Geirsnef Bridge, an amazing span strong as iron, but completely transparent. To the north west lies the grand mountain Eldur stormur (Fire Storm), a large solitary peak west of the rest of the Barrier Mountains.
The population are a mix of Humans (40%) and Orcs (60%), all fairly self sufficient and slavic in appearance. The standard tongue is Orc, though most villagers speak at least a smattering of common.
The party pulls up to the central green, flanked on one side by a longhouse fronted with a newly constructed gallows where a pair of corpses sway.
The other side of the green features the grænt brier (greenbrier) inn, a hotel with 4 rooms, and a very large common area. Brigid Jarldottar (the rescued girl) cries out a friend, and soon villagers and family surround the coach, welcoming her home.
Brigid leads the party into the Longhouse, which is dark, and slightly dusty smelling. The Jarl sits on a chair on a small elevated platform at the rear of the space, and doesn’t rise, even as his daughter rushes to hug him. After a moment, he pushes her off gruffly, and barks a quick word in Orcish.
Brigid, somewhat startled, responds in Orc, and relays to the party that she’s told him that they saved her, and have brought her home. She seems quite uneasy, and begins to step towards the group. She says that they must all be tired, perhaps they can talk with the Jarl later, who simply glowers in his chair.
As she pushes the party members out the door, she falls back against it, and says that she thinks that’s not her father.
Al takes a horse, and heads out the north road to look for any signs of missing people, while the others escort Brigid away.
Across the green in the common room, the party learns that the upcoming festival Dragon’s Tear has been cancelled this morning by the Jarl, much to everyone’s dismay. It’s an annual occurrence to celebrate the passing of a celestial object, that strikes firestorm as it passes, each 27 years.
The celebration was to be extra special this year, as the comet was scheduled to pass, and because the town’s had terrible misfortunes recently, including a drastic increase in violence, still births, a wheat blight, and even family pets attacking without provocation.
The last 5 years have brought stillbirths, drought, disease, attacks by natural and unnatural creatures. The Murder rate has doubled each year of the last 5. Even farm animals and pets have had to be put down recently. Last month has included many scenes of “manic criminal behavior”, and lots of disappearances.
As all of this is getting the villagers worked up, the doors open, and a man shouts on Orcish, and the common room begins to clear out. Brigid quickly relays to the party that the Jarl has declared justice, stating that a young warrior has been given a judgement of death for trespassing on the slopes of Firestorm mountain, seeking his missing cousin.
The Mountain has been more wild recently, but it’s never been a restricted area, and certainly trespassing should not be a fatal offense, and to top it all off, generally the Jarl would sit in judgement and come to a ruling with the elders of the village, “Named Men” who have earned a senior ranking among the population.
By now the common room is empty, even the barkeep across the street listening. Colin slips away to check the Jarl’s house, expecting something amiss. The other push into the back of the Long House, and Brigid relays the loudest of the arguements back to the party.
After some posturing, pushing, and back and forths between the named men supporting the Jarl and denouncing him, one man issues a formal challenge, which Brigid relays means that he’s calling the Jarl’s right to rule into question. It’s a challenge only met in battle, and the town clears quickly into the green, raising quite a clamor.
The named men form a shield circle, with the challenger and Jarl within. Though loud, the crowd is almost more frantic than excited, and clearly this has surprised many. Betting is still active, with odds favoring the Jarl 2 to 1.
He’s wielding a sword in his right, with a single bladed axe in the left, and stands, motionless while the crowd carries on around him. His challenger carries a long sword, and has a shield strapped to his left arm. He’s younger, and has a nervous energy that makes him look almost sick as he prepares to battle.
The battle erupts quickly, as Colin comes back to see what’s going on, and to report that the house is empty, but no signs of a struggle are visible.
The young challenger strikes first, yelling and charging at the Jarl who turns the blow away with the axe head, and clatters high off the shield with a return sword stroke. The challenger is moving around rapidly, and the Jarl stalwartly pursues, striking and parrying, but never making a sound, or darting in response.
Colin makes his way over to the young warrior who’s fate this battle may decide, and tries to convince him to leave with them, before the battle finishes, and everybody’s eyes are away.
They’re drawn back to the battle by the cries of the crowd, as the Jarl’s axe slipped under the parry, and left a deep impact in the ribs of the challenger, cracking at least a few ribs, and causing a deep wound through the padded jerkin.
Stalwartly pushing forward, the Jarl is caught in return, as the young warrior comes up blade first, scoring a return wound just above the hip. The party, watching closely, notices that the Jarl’s wound doesn’t bleed, though it’s clearly pierced the jerkin, and the skin beneath.
The Jarl batters the challengers shield, striking with both weapons to drive his opponent to the ground. Battered, and soon defenseless, the challenger takes multiple fatal wounds, but the Jarl doesn’t hesitate, pounding the defenseless corpse again and again with his weapons.
The party reacts to try and stop the Jarl, as do several of the named men, stabbing in with their spears. The Jarl doesn’t appear to notice any of the wounds until a red arrow from Greg turns him around, glaring at the party. The magical missile, a discovery of the keep to the south, sends him charging at Greg. The rest the party lay into the Jarl with spells, and weapons of their own, until he’s felled, and lies broken in pieces, limbs a dark clay color, but without blood, organs, or bones.
A Named man reaches into the wreckage of the torso, and holds aloft a clear crystal heart, slightly cloudy in the middle. The dark gray limbs lie silent.
The village erupts into even more chaos, with some arguing over the next line of succession, others trying to mount an expedition to the mountain, who they feel to blame for this recent round of misfortune, and which might hold the true Jarl, and others looking to settle personal grievances and issues.
Brigid pushes her way to the party, and begs them to investigate the Mountain’s gate, set to open the morning of the Hornet. The young warrior, saved from his fate, joins the party.
The party began the day of the Spider early, resuming their tracking on the roadway. The road began to fork quite frequently, splitting to various villages and hamlets, until the main road began to curve to the West, and the hoof prints continued on a smaller trail to the north, barely wide enough to accommodate the wagon.
Three hours into the trail, the path widens into a small clearing, but continues out the other side. At the far edge of the clearing lies a small, partially collapsed hut on the banks of a gurgling stream.
The hut itself seems to have been made from a combination of fallen limbs and standing tree trunks, with a roof of wide leaves and strips of rotten bark. The front door to the hut hangs partially ajar. Dozens of bones and skulls — quite obviously of human origin — decorate the hut and the surrounding area, each bearing numerous nicks and scratches.
After a cursory inspection of the bones and surroundings, Greg pushes his way inside to discover a skeletal form dressed in tattered clothing, and seated on a wooden stump. Other fragments of cloth and rusted bits of metal also lay about the room. On closer inspection, Greg finds a tattered leather bound journal, which misses several pages, and has some text completely lost to damp and mold. The excerpts the party can read follow:
…many survived, but the Thrune’s Fang will never ride again. Sargava’s assimilation must proceed without…
…fine hunting, but the bugs are a constant distraction. Nylithati’s skills at healing help fight the sickness, but I fear she has…
…founded. Nylithati has seized control of my crew. They are hers now. And so I have abandoned…
…fine home. Fresh water nearby and I need not endure Nylithati’s ceaseless raving about…
…will not be returning to that gray, silent tower again. There is nothing there but horror…
…crew lurking about the area. They seem strange, almost feral. It has been almost a decade since the battle. I wonder what strange beliefs Nylithati has…
…changed. There was no sign of Nylithati in the camp, but the focus of their ceremony was a cauldron they must have salvaged at the base of the ruined tower. It was into this they threw the half-eaten body of the still screaming man…
…all around. I can hear them chanting in the green even now. They call Nylithati “Mother Thrunefang” now, and promise me immortality if I lay down my arms and submit. I know what their immortality consists of, and I’ll have no part of that corrupt life after…
With nothing really more to see, the party continues on, but quickly realizes the trail is becoming far too narrow for the cart. With some effort it’s taken back to the clearing, and one of the cart horses cobbled and left to graze, while Al rides the other, and Greg his horse.
After running into several snare traps made of vines and wooden spikes, the party passes a crumbing tower in the distance to the east, but doesn’t investigate, continuing down the trail.
As night falls again, the party has reached an area in the woods that is fairly thinned out, and slightly more hilly. A suitable campsite is located, and watches and preparations completed.
As the second watch ends, Colin wakes Derek, who calls his attention to a large fire, set upon the crest of a hill several hundred yards away, but clearly quite large to be visible from this distance.
Waking the party, and advancing through the deep mist fallen in the night, Colin steps ahead to listen closely. After some mishaps with a pair of cursed boots, he is able to close and notices a cluster of man-shapes huddled about the leaping fire at the center of a set of stone columns, cloaks hunched up at their shoulders. Something about them seemed stiff and uneasy, as though they waited on something expected but not necessarily desired.
They appear to be five in number, and a long, dark chest lies at their feet, matching the description of the object of the quest.
A thin night-wind sprang up, setting the high flames whipping. The cloaked and hooded men turned their heads in unison, slowly and almost reluctantly, gazing out into the darkness at the hill’s northern rim.
After a moment, Colin heard it too, a faint sound growing ever so gradually louder: the aching creak of wooden cart wheels. A bulky shape was climbing upward out of the obscurity of the north edge. The men moved away from the approach, circling the fire to cluster together on the side nearest Colin; no word had yet been uttered by any of them.
Dropping back just a bit, Colin circled to the east, trying to get a better view of the approach. Emory, seeing Colin move, began to make his way up the hill as well, benefited by a Pass without Trace spell.
Dim, pale shapes that slowly became horses appeared at the fringe of the fireglow; following behind, growing distinct from the night, was a black wagon.
Blackhooded figures walked on either side, four in all, matching the wagon’s stately, funeral pace. The flickering light revealed a fifth atop the wagon, hunched over the team of ice white stallions. This last figure was somehow larger than the others, and darker, as if it wore some cloak of obscurity; its very stillness seemed to speak of a hidden, brooding power.
The men beside the fire still did not move, but stood rigidly watching. Only the thin mewing of the wagon wheels punctured the silence.
The black cart and its attendants drew to a halt just within the circle of firelight. One of the four standing figures raised an arm, the black sleeve falling away to reveal a wrist and hand as thin and white as bone.
It spoke, voice silvery-cold, toneless as ice cracking.
“We are here to fulfill the covenant.”
Emory turned over his shoulder, and beckoned the party forward, turning back to the view ahead.
Without a word, one of the waiting men reached down, and lifted one end of the black chest, and began approaching the cart, circling wide past the fire. At the same time, a black cloaked attendant opened the cart door, and pulled forth a small woman, bound in chains, with a simple dirty shift on, despite the night’s chill. She cried out pitifully, and then sobbed gently.
Dragging her forward, the black cloaked attendant also circled the fire to meet the other.
Deciding that urgent action was needed, the party struck from surprise. A pair of Dust Devils from Al and Derek threw embers from the fire around the circle, and battered the cloaked figure on the cart.
Taking advantage of the chaos, Colin stepped up, and snatched away the young woman, surprising the cloaked figure.
Greg began firing, putting two arrows into the men in the circle.
Following that, Al hit the large figure on the cart with a Silence, and Derek began battering him with magic stones.
The men in the circle closed on the party, and began attacking with long swords. Al kep several at bay with repeated Commands, while Emory and Greg did sword work on the others. Derek kept a constant barrage of stones and daggers on the cart driver, who, after discovering he was silenced, turned the cart, and prepared to flee. The other cloaked figures joined him, except the one fighting Colin over the girl.
As the cart finished it’s turn, and started to lurch away, Derek landed a final blow, and saw the figure slump to the bench. With a hasty order, the Dust Devil attempted to knock him free, but failed.
As the last swordsman fell, Greg whistled for his war horse, and mounted a pursuit, Derek mounted behind.
A quick ranged battled commenced, with arrows and daggers from Greg and Derek aimed at the cart’s occupants, and a series of wizards spells slung in response. A Melf’s acid arrow missed, a wizard fell to an arrow as his magic missile was a segment away from casting.
A sleep spell felled Greg’s horse, though the impact with the roadway re-awakened it. After a few more arrows, the two remounted, and ran down the cart again, felling the final occupant.
The party hit the road early in the morning, trying to maximize the light for tracking instead of heading out over the previous evening.
After a fairly uneventful ride, the party approaches the location of the ambush site they were warned about from the Klelg Nar Thieves Guild. Whistling the code tune, the party rounded the corner to the bluff, but no sign was called out.
As they slowly continued around the curve, a body came into view in the middle of the road, covered in fresh blood.
Further inspection while stopped showed some dried blood on the face of the bluff to the left.
Colin took to the woods to the left, and scaled the bluff some 50 feet from the roadway, to investigate while in cover, and Greg took to the woods on the right.
There atop the bluff, Colin looks towards the road, and can see the slumped over bodies of two thieves, who even from this distance, seems to have been dead for some time.
In the roadway itself, the other party members aboard the cart approached the body, only to see it twitch, and croak out a plea for help.
Al threw down a concealment spell to protect in case of any direct ambush, and Derek darted from the fog to the body, with a quick Cure Light Wounds. The damage appeared to be mostly from a disemboweling claw swipe across the lower torso, with some scratches to the face as well. It was quite shocking that the man was still alive.
Derek then helped him to his feet, and back to the cart. His clothing was also in tatters, and his hair and beard were unkempt, and matted with leaves and debris.
Greg was unsuccessful in noting anything of interest on the right side of the woods, and began making his way back to the cart.
Colin tried to work his way towards the wood border on the west of the bluff when a dark shape slipped from the woods, staring directly at him. It appeared to be a very large cat, but with six legs, and lashing tendrils upon it’s shoulders. It hissed, and Colin turned to run.
It quickly began to eat up the distance, and was only a few paces behind when he leapt off the bluff, shouting to the party for assistance.
The party, including the still wounded stranger, turned to fight the beast, and with effort, were able to slay it. To their surprise, as it fell, the body disappeared into thin air. After verifying that it wasn’t simply invisible, they determined that they wouldn’t learn more here, and instead went to check on the older bodies on the bluff.
With some skill, Colin determined that they were deceased for at least a day, perhaps even longer. Each were killed with a single arrow.
Foraging ahead farther, he found the trailway off to the camp, and 2 more corpses at it’s head. They were also killed with a single arrow.
Greg was able to determine that the hoof prints they’d been following didn’t seem to slow at all through this pass, and continued on the road.
With a quick reconnoiter down the trail to the camp, the party headed off again. The new ally, who stated his name as Emory Ninefingers, admitted to being a member of the thieves guild of Klelg Nar, and lost from his party some 3 months now, wandering though the woods, lost and starving due to his lack of woods lore and direction sense.
As night fell, the party camped in a clearing to the road’s side, uneventfully.
After multiple days of exploration, rest, pursuit of stolen horses, and ultimately, a deal struck with Arch Druid Magni Halfear, the party has completed their exploration of Porbell’s coastal keep, and returns to Klelg Nar to resupply, rest, and regroup.
The party quickly verifies Halfear’s rumor that the dwarves did indeed attempt the assassination of another deity, the venerable Lindisfarne (god of mysteries, hospitality, and wandering) but were repelled, and slain.
From there, the party split, with Derek’s return to Lord Pak, to share the details of the exploration and his share of the property.
Al hit the streets of the gods, then the university, talking up the rumors about Lindisfarne, as well as learning the general feelings regarding the Orc and Dwarven animosity. He was also able to share some details of the god war not known to the general intelligentsia, scoring some good favor.
Greg arranged with a local carpenter and his apprentice to begin repairs to the keep’s main door. They were paid in advance for the lumber, and their expected labor costs.
Colin is awakened by a soft yet insistent knocking at his door in the wee hours of the night. He’s then contracted by 3 minor thieves of the Klelg Nar guild who botched a recovery job, and ended up killing their client. They’re asking him, as an “external” to help cover their tracks, and dispose of the body while they are publicly visible in the bar below, to overcome any suspicions about their involvement.
After learning that his new night lit eyes, and general “aura” seems to frighten the horses, he enlists Greg’s help to take the cart to the client’s address, remove the corpse, and deliver it to the Sage’s residence, for a quick disposal via man eating plants. Additional conversation with Herbifarge reveals that he’s interested in the Keep’s mushroom colony, and would love to pay a visit when possible.
The next afternoon leads to a scheduled meeting with Colin’s local guild contact, who helps connect the party with Lord Beesan, who has reported that a family heirloom was stolen the night before last by a gang of highwaymen, who reportedly fled the city in the night via the North Gate.
The heirloom is a large wooden chest, almost 5 feet in length, made of very dark wood, found in the forests to the north. It’s marked with a family seal, and contains a blade, some campaign banners, and various memorabilia from his grandfather’s military career.
The party verifies with the night guard who saw the escape, and gather additional details with some coin. The men fled on 6 strong coursers, through the door quite rapidly before the guard could even call out to them. He did clearly note the chest on the horse without a rider, and couldn’t give much description of the men, except that they appeared to be average build, and darkly cloaked.
Colin also took the opportunity to learn of a band of allied thieves that prey the northern roads about a half days ride, as well as a challenge/response pair for the group.
With that additional detail, the party mounts up to leave the city…