11. Garesh Asks a Favor: That same afternoon, Garesh comes to Falco’s seeking Barick. He tells Barick that he needs his help to assist a good friend of his. Apparently a man who trained with the same mentor as Garesh lives up north and has sent a letter to Garesh seeking help. The man’s wife was died a couple of years ago and he was left raising their only child, a young daughter. Recently, the daughter became ill and nothing the priests, herbalists, or shaman could do has helped the girl. The man is convinced that water from an old well can help. The well is in an abandoned temple to Cuneflir that sits on a hill near the High Glade. Garesh asks Barick to retrieve some water from the temple well and bring it to him so that he can help his friend cure the young girl.
12. Ralpheo at the Fishtown Celebration: Ralpheo attends the celebration in Fishtown that evening. It is a fine party, without too much debauchery, and mostly just a nice gathering of people who are trying their best to get back in the good graces of Straben. While there, Ralpheo hears three stories that are of particular interest.
A middle aged man who had a bit too much to drink tells a story of traveling along the north road, accompanying some friends on their way from Pinewald to Trastenfen. Suddenly the group was ambushed and two of their number were taken into the Hollow Forest. The rest of them fled and survived, but the man has been upset about the incident since it happened 2 weeks ago. No one will help him retrieve his friends. He does appear quite broken up about the situation, but he also appears to have drunk a little too much this evening.
The second story comes from a young man who rushes into the celebration a bit later than the rest of the group. He tells of just having his wits scared out of him at the old Miller House. Asking a few well placed questions, Ralpheo learns that the Old Miller House is an abandoned manor 4 miles from town along the coast between the Kelman Woods and the Great Cliff.
The final story is more a word of warning than an actual story. One of the fishermen warns Ralpheo against exploring Goat Hill, the hill above the local farms, because the trouble there. Apparently the hill offers a great view, but several farmers have been attacked by ugly, hairy creatures. The herders no longer take their goats and sheep up on the hill.
13. Decisions, Decisions : Finding out about so many new events and hearing so many new pieces of information around town proves to be a less than ideal situation. The list of things to explore is getting bigger and bigger and the group tries to figure the best way to take care of everything. As they discuss the issues, two top choices seem to rise to the surface. Waldrick is convinced that the ruins on Pale Hill will provide lots of information and perhaps some resolution to some issues in town, most specifically the trouble with ghouls and zombies in the burned out guardhouse. Barick is convinced that the best course of action is to help Garesh retrieve water from the temple fountain.
At first, Ralpheo and Ashvact both think Waldrick is on the right track because the burned guardhouse and un-dead menace found there is a major cause of concern and seems connected to the shipwrecks, the warehouses, the troubles in fishtown, and the strange behavior by some at the abbey. When it becomes clear that the ruins on Pale Hill are far enough away that the group would need to acquire horses, they set about discussing how to get them. When Waldrick suggests that the only way to accomplish the task is to ‘borrow’ some of the caravan horses, Ralpheo refuses. Ralpheo then proceeds to try and convince Ashvact that they should go with Barick’s plan to help Garesh. The argument turns easily and Waldrick’s plan is outvoted, so the group gets set to travel out to the temple fountain.
14. Ralpheo’s visit with Almon: Once they have decided what they are doing next, Ralpheo goes back to the Abbey to seek out Almon. He wants to get a handle on the strange note before leaving town for a few days. He goes to the abbey and finds that Almon is a very high level Curate of Straben. He takes Ralpheo outside and speaks to him like a fatherly mentor. He gives him advice about dealing with people in the church and hints that he shouldn’t judge the priests too harshly here, and also hints that he himself is trying to change the way certain services are provided. Almon treats Ralpheo the way Ralpheo expected to be treated by everyone in the order when he arrived. Finally meeting someone who can speak to him as a true leader in the church lightens Ralpheo’s heart and he leaves Almon, thanking him for the advice, and walks back to Falco’s with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. His faith in the Abbey has been restored.
15. Ashvact gets his Equipment: As Ralpheo tends to the note from Almon, Ashvact goes to see Pelo and Perk in an attempt to get his new gear. After a few practice shots and payment, Ashvact gets his new arrows and is told to come back in the morning for his bow because it needs some adjustments. Ashvact agrees and gets the bow the next morning before the group heads to the temple fountain.
16. An Evening in the Hills: The group leaves early that morning and travels for 12 or 14 hours before calling it a day. The first mile and a half is taken along the road, and is relatively easy, but as soon as they leave the road and head into the rocky hills, traveling slows to a crawl. The find a place to rest just on the lee side of one of the Fourtop hills. They set a watch and settle down for the night, only dousing their fire after the first watch.
In the early morning hours, during the last half of Ralpheo’s watch, the group is ambushed. four large, hairy beasts are upon the group before Ralpheo can shout a proper warning and the rest can shake the sleep from their eyes. The beasts are 7 feet tall, have bodies completely covered in coarse hair of grey or brown or yellow, and have snouts shaped like coyotes or hyenas!
These are gnolls and match the description of the beasts that roam Goat Hill, but the Fourtop hills are far from Goat hill! Waldrick’s mind races as he searches his memory for stories about such creatures, trying to remember any weakness they may have. All he can come up with is that they are vicious pack animals and they don;t take prisoners. He knows the group may be in trouble. The battle is quick, and the group puts up a valiant fight. The jackal-like gnolls are deadly and they wreak havoc on the group, dropping Ashvact and Waldrick both to the ground in the first few minutes. Eventually Ralpheo goes down as well, Ashvact tries to crawl away, and Waldrick fades in and out of consciousness, stabbing at the heels of the tall beasts standing over him as they attack Barick. The group defeats two of the creatures, but the final two are formidable still.
As he feels himself starting to fade out again, Waldrick focuses all his concentration and tries to bring as much force into his mind as possible, conjuring a spell from memory, he gasps out the verbal component and tries to complete the somatic arm movements to important to the arcane arts… As he fades out, he casts a cloud of sleep over the group, hoping it will leave Barick standing alone amongst sleeping dogs.
As Barick is about to make his final stand among the beasts, one of the hairy monsters falls to the ground, taken by the arcane focus of what may be Waldrick’s final action. Barick finds his mind traveling back through the tales of his family to the incarnation of the Grimhammer Clanfather who gave birth and life to his people. With his dying swing, Barick focuses his mind on the power of the clan and calls upon the all-father to guide his axe. As he swings, a great peal of thunder shakes the air and a flash of lightning arcs through the air, enveloping Barick, his axe Brok Balor, and the last standing hyena-man. the axe cleaves through the gnoll, killing it in a single blow, and Barick falls to the ground, exhausted beyond thought.
Ralpheo lays on the ground, breathing heavily and blinking, unsure of what he has seen. All he knows is that he is alive and he needs to help his friends. He cleans and bandages wounds, using his healing prayers on all he can. The group is heavily injured and they decide to travel back to Trastenfen to convalesce. It is too unsafe with the rest of the pack of gnolls about the hills. they rest as much as they can and then travel all day and finally reach Trastenfen in the wee hours of the morning of the next day.
17. Hiring Some Help: After the calamitous ambush that almost resulted in their deaths, the group decides they may need to hire some help after all. They hadn’t discussed this option since they first started working together, but now seems an appropriate time to talk about all their options. Waldrick and Barick ask Falco if he knows of any trustworthy swords for hire and Falco sets up an interview for that evening.
That night the group meets Izera, Tolmuk, and Odran, three men from fishtown who need the money and have a slight bit of experience with a sword. They are all part of the standing militia and so have had basic training. Izera speaks for the men and negotiates a wage of 2 gold pieces per day plus a 20% share of any loot value the group recovers on the mission. They also request that the party purchases any equipment needed by the three to round out their supplies. They are a realistic, if gritty bunch, and are afraid they won’t come back from the mission alive. as a result, they request that the group pay 10 gold to each of their families up front, before they leave the next morning. Waldrick accompanies each man to his home in fishtown and pays the families 10 gold each, sealing the deal with the three hired men.
18. Obtaining Potions: Meanwhile, Ashvact goes to retrieve a set of healing salves and potions from a mysterious contact, Almax. Earlier that day, Fliban had suggested to Waldrick that he seek her out if the group needed any discrete help. The abbey charges far too much for a simple healing potion and Ralpheo could not negotiate a better price, so the group had little choice than to go speak to Almax.
She sent them to gather some ginseng root and blackthorn leaves, which they gathered near the local orchards and returned to her. She told them to come back after cover of dark and retrieve the potions. While Waldrick and Barick were interviewing the hired swords, Almax provided Ashvact with 4 vials of healing potion. For payment she simply stated, “You owe me a favor. I have found the terms to always be just when fate comes around to collect on a favor.”
The group used purified water to dilute the two concentrated potions, creating a total of 6 potions of cure light wounds. The group is happy with the terms, but wonder what will happen when they actually have to pay the woman back.
19. In the Temple Ruins: The next morning the group and their hired swords set out for the temple fountain. The group makes it all the way to the Fourtop hills, find a camp well away from the ambush site, and set up camp for the night. This night passes without trouble and the group moves on the next day. they reach the edge of the High Glade forest by the early afternoon and decide to camp again and seek the temple again in the morning.
The next morning brings luck as Ashvact climbs high into the canopy and sees the dome of a large temple approximately one half mile away. the group quickly closes the distance between themselves and the domed structure, coming upon the abandoned temple by noon.
Before them they see a huge structure made of cut blocks of stone, mortared together. The outer walls were very thick (almost 2/3 meter; 2 feet) and the walls were double layered with a thinner inner wall (1/3 meter thick; 1 foot). The huge structure stands up to 7 meters (21 feet) high at some places, though the old building is dilapidated and several regions are full of rubble.
Ashvact moves around the entire perimeter to ensure that it is safe and most of the group enters the temple while Waldrick and Tolmuk keep watch from outside. After the thirty fool entry hall, the temple open out into a much larger room, at the center of which stands a huge statue of a human male with a bull’s head. As they approach, Ashvact sees a body laying at the base of the statue. He turns the body over and discovers a man with a severe gash in his chest. Inspection of the statue brings to light the reality that the axe the statue holds is not part of the stone and it has what looks like relatively fresh blood on the blade.
The starts getting restless and decides to investigate other rooms before they come back to look at the statue more. They find a room full of rubble and detritus, and the remnants of several single beds. Also in the room are several giant centipedes, which the group dispatches quickly.
Several more rooms are investigated, in which mostly rubble is found. They then turn down a hall and run into an avalanche of rubble that splits the group. The group of the far side interrupt a fight between a giant bee and two large red beetles. As the beetles become aware of the humans, they turn their attention to them and forget the bee. The bee lives to fight another day and flies off, unscathed. The beetles, however, are attracted to the human (Odran) standing in the doorway and one attacks him.
A battle ensues in which half the group tries to defeat a large beetle with a very tough carapace and a crushing bite, while the other group scrambles to find another way into the hall to assist their comrades. Barick directs the three hired men into position and encourages them to be brave in the face of the beasts. Eventually the second group makes it over to the area of the fight, but not before Odran has taken a devastating blow and Barick and Ralpheo are in dire trouble.
Waldrick stands back, keeping watch, and happens to notice the faintest of movements about 3 meters behind him. As he pays closer attention he realizes, with horror, that he is staring into the face of a giant spider sitting in its hammock-like web attached to the ceiling. He thinks fast and casts sleep on the spider, knocking it out. He then sends Ashvact to fully dispatch the beast. As Ashvact stabs the life out of the creature, a slimy green fluid drips onto him from the carcass of the spider and his entire left side is covered with the gunk. On the places where his skin was exposed he feels a slight stinging sensation and quickly opens his waterskin and douses himself with it. He washes off 80% of the fluid and moves over to help with the beetle. The group manages to kill one of the beetles and retreat to a safer place. Odran is given a potion by Waldrick, though he doesn’t remember what happened to take him down.
Thus ends session 4.
(this session took place on December 15, 2012)