Shards of Trastenfen

Chapter Five: Dangerous Roads

From the Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum

A bright, beautiful Peerday greeted us the morning after we finished exploring the guard house. We took time to discuss the townsfolk we had met during a light breakfast. Peerday worship at the Abbey of Straben was a highly ritualized affair. I did not observe it up close, but had quite a long discussion about it with Ralpheo days later. The service begins with a 20 minute initiation ceremony, followed by a parishioner participation section called The Phases. One of these Phases is called the Ordeal, where parishioners meet face-face with Straben officials to discuss what they have done to honor Straben. Ralpheo took part in the Ordeal and met three townsfolk: Dirrill, a farmer who was happy with the Abbey; Gomid a fisherman lamenting the poor quality of the catch, and Verely, a wealthy merchant who owns two warehouses, one of which he says the fishermen use as a drydock.

Ashvact took the morning to investigate the warehouses across he lake from Fishtown. Ashvact managed to talk with a guard. He found out that guard patrols are infrequent, that what few guards there are are paid by the Baron, and that militia membership includes all males of at least 13 years of age. Barick went to Garesh that day and received a fine axe, which he named Brok Balor.

I spent Peerday attempting to determine the magical properties of the items we picked up in the Guardhouse. The brooch seemed to have had a magical spell cast on it at some point. The silver ring, however, emits an overpowering aura. I determined to keep the ring close and study its effect on me very closely. The ring so perplexed me that I began walking absent-mindedly through town, ending up on the north road out of town. Just past the guardhouse I found a young man along the road. He was dead. I did a quick search of the body and found a note from someone named Gren, addressed to the Baron’s mage Peltar. I hid the note and immediately reported the murder to the guards. To my shock, the guards asked if I needed help getting rid of the body. The interaction forever changed my opinion of the town guard in Trastenfen. The note, which was in some strange Elvish script, told of a power being drawn from the ground. He mentioned a companion named Weel, asked Straben and Eord to protect them, and ended with the cryptic: “If we do not return, you know what to do.” I spoke to Fliban about the note and he indicated that the ruins were near Pale Hill, many miles from Trastenfen.

Falco’s was surprisingly busy Peerday evening. Amid the bustle came a caravan from Pinewald. The members of the team seemed to be a hardy bunch, but they were surprisingly skittish that night. They spoke of trouble along the North Road towards Pinewald—more raids. We also heard news that there have been goblin raids on the thorp of Pinewald itself. The teamsters said attempts were being made to rebuild Pinewald’s keep, despite rumors that it is rumored to be haunted. A man came to see me that evening claiming to be a representative of one Bradbert Crandel, owner of Crandel’s Den, an invitation-only gambling establishment. I told the man I could not accept just then, but that I would certainly entertain the offer. Ralpheo received a letter that evening. Ralpheo was immediately tranfixed by the letter, neglecting to tip the messenger. The letter was from a man named Almon, an official at the Abbey, and advised Ralpheo to use silver when combating the undead.

Garesh stopped in to see Barick that evening. He told a story of friend of his whose daughter was ill. He told us of an abandoned temple to Cunefir near the High Glade. He said there was a well there with water that could cure the girl.

Ralpheo went to a gathering in Fishtown that evening. He heard more tales of the North Road—this time a man whose friends were taken into the Hollow Forest two weeks ago. He also heard rumors of an abandoned manor four miles from town between the Kelman Woods and the Great Cliff. Just before he left, an old fisherman warned him against going to Goat Hill. The ugly, hairy beasts there continue to attack herders.

A myriad of options lay before us. We adjourned to our room that night and a heated discussion ensued. Barick, naturally, wanted to help Garesh, one of the few humans in Trastenfen who he has taken a liking to. I kept reflecting back to the note, about the strange power that the Baron’s mage seems to be trying to draw from the ground. I was convinced a trip to Pale Hill would shed light on the undead we encountered in the guard house. Ashvact and Ralpheo seemed ready to proceed with that plan until I suggested we borrow some horses from the caravan for the long trip. Ralpheo put up a strong protest and, thinking that a child might be in trouble, I agreed to go to the temple. Ralpheo paid a visit to the Almon at the Abby afterwards, evidently a kind man that helped restore Ralpheo’s faith in the Abbey. He could not stop praising the man during our trip the next day. Ashvact picked up a bow and some arrows he had ordered from Perk and Pello the following morning.

We left for High Glade early in the morning. After an hour or so we left the road. Travel became grueling as the ground began to grow rocky and slope upward. My companions proved to be a hardy lot, never once allow a complaint to pass their lips. Other than a few grumbles from Barick as Ralpheo talked on and on of Almon the Curate, it was a pleasant enough journey. We camped near one of the Fourtop Hills and took turns keeping watch.

My mind drifted during my watch. I was still trying to perfect my sleep spell, as it was proving to be quite useful when facing the horrors of the world. I meditated on the spell as I stood watch, remembering the lessons of my wise mentor Hector—keeping a calm mind, recitation of the spell in my mind, and remembering how the correctly cast spell felt when emanating from the air around me. I fell asleep as Ralpheo began his watch, the spell lingering in my mind.

A short time later I awoke to the deathly snarls of a seven-foot-tall hairy beasts with the face of a hyena. We were being attacked by four gnolls. I could think of no weakness and knew they did not take prisoners. I had the chilling sensation that this might indeed have been our end. Before I could react, I felt cold steel plunge into my abdomen. As he raised to strike again, I saw a flurry of steel from the corner of my eye. The gnoll turned to face my companions. I am certain it was the flurry of Ralpheo and Barick’s attack that saved my life. I could feel the life draining from my body. I tried to cripple my attacker by cutting his at the ankle, but that had no effect. Ashvact went down and begane desperately trying to crawl away, a trail of elven blood following him. Ralpheo and Barick felled two of the gnolls, but Ralpheo went to the ground shortly after.

Suddenly, I the sleep spell began to take shape in my mind. I focused it and reached out my hand, drawing on all of my reserves to strike the beasts down. I remained concious long enough to watch one of them drop to the ground. Ashvact wasted no time. I saw him crawling towards the gnoll, dagger in hand, just before darkness overtook me.

I awoke to find Ralpheo hovering over me, hastily praying over me and applying some sort of salve to my wounds. His eyes were frightened as he looked all around him in the early morning sunlight. I looked to my left and saw Ashvact proped against a boulder, bow in hand, a grim look on his face. Barick stood nearby, ace in hand, the grimmest of looks on his face. Ralpheo smiled at me, which reassured me at everyone was okay. I asked him what happened. He told me a story of Barick facing the final gnoll, his body weakened from the attacks of the beasts. He said he drew Brok Balor over his head and called up the name of the Grimhammer Clanfather who saved his people years and years ago. Ralpheo’s eyes widened as he told me that a fantastic clash of thunder shook the air and lightning arced through the air, enveloping both Barick and Brok Balor. The axe came down onto the gnolls head, nearly splitting his entirely in two. I doubted Ralpheo’s account, knowing that he is prone to a wide-eyed view of the world. I asked Barick about it, but he would not speak of the matter any further. We were alive, and however we managed to survive the attack, I was thankful to be alive that morning. Thankful and even more cautious than ever. The Foothold is no place for the weak-willed.

Chapter IV: A Nest of Vermin

From the Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum
Once again safe in our upper room at Falco’s, I thought it time to take a closer look at the medallion I had obtained in the bowels of the guard house. I used my arcane resources to determine that the medallion was indeed magical. I placed it around my neck and felt that it indeed had some beneficial properties. It perhaps may even be intrinsically good or holy in nature, as our friend Ralpheo claims to see some sort of inner glow pulsing from inside its ruby center. I have enclose a sketch of the medallion at the back of this book. I will continue recording the item’s properties as they make themselves manifest.

While I was sketching the medallion by the fire of the tavern, a dwarven drama was unfolding near the bar. Barick confronted Falco about a target he found in the guardhouse. Evidently, Falco was more than a little annoyed at Barick showing it to him. We learned later that Falco had indeed helped trained militia members until having some sort of falling out. The militia in Trastenfen, it seems, is protecting other interests than the townsfolk. That night, however, Ashvact and Barick defiantly questioned Falco’s motivations. Ashvact went so far as to land a perfect bullseye with one of the darts crafted by Falco’s grandfather—without looking at the board! Ashvact is on his way to geing an exceptional archer. I am sure of it.

The next day I was able to speak with Tolvar, an administrator for the Erren family. He helped send a message to my father regarding the strange shipwrecks plauging the shores of Trastenfen. The message was sent to my home in Forlan, by way of Donir. While I sent the message, Barick took it upon himself to teach young Ralpheo how to fight. Ralpheo was not interested, but when Barick insisted and began hitting him, Ralpheo showed his grit. He punched the veteran dwarf in the face, breaking his nose. Barick seemed to relish this broken nose and, oddly, I think it went a long way to forge a friendship between the two. The two of them went to the Abbey of Straben again, this time for some healing after the fight, and spoke with Selmo, as well as a rather frightening looking priest named Horaig.

Tolvar and I were able to work out an agreement for the jewels we had found in the guardhouse. I did not negotiate like a Maestrum, but we were hard pressed to move the items and we needed money to continue our investigations into the mysteries of this town. Tolvar asked for my promise of a job with the Maestrums in exchange for a better deal on the gems. I refused. A Maestrum’s word is his lifeblood and it cannot be given easily.

Ashvact stayed outside in the shadows while we negotiated. On the way home we were followed by a grey hooded figure. We attempted to double back on the figure, but he proved too elusive. Strangely, we met up with him in Falco’s Tavern later that evening. I played the arrogant young man and bought a round for the house. I was able to somewhat befriend the gray hooded figure. In the raucousness that ensued, Flibban showed up, drank the last of my good wine, and managed to divert the figure’s attention from a conversation with Barick. The figure and I stepped outside, where I quickly put him to sleep and Ashvact tied him up. A brief interrogation revealed that his name was Volcifar. He claimed to be performing due diligence in watching us, making sure we were honorable. Ashvact followed the man to Tolvar’s office and home to his house. H even went so far as to question the man again. Volcifar claimed to be Tolvar’s brother. We all agreed that Volcifar needed a close eye kept on him in the future.

Our last night under the guardhouse revealed little more than foul vermin—13 giant rats swarming us at once. I was able to render 10 of them unconscious with one incantation. I have found certain components, combined with the a few tweaks of the base incantation to be a powerfully effective combination. I have included a component list and incantation instructions on the following page. We found some treasure among the refuse of rats nest, including an ordinary-looking ring. It is the ordinary rings that cause the most trouble in the world. I planned to take a close look at the ring at my earliest convenience.

My companions appear to be meeting quite a number of the townsfolk. Two particular merchants stand out: Pello the Fletcher and his twin brother Perk, who makes bows. They appear ordinary enough, but Ashvact insisted they were, like himself elfkind. It was around this time that I first met Garresh the Blacksmith. I was accompanied by Ralpeho. Garresh seemed disgusted by the trappings of Straben Ralpheo wore. He refused my business. It seems as though, like our friend Falco, there is more to many of the merchants in this town than meets the eye.

Chapter 3: The Secrets of Trastenfen

From The Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum
I advised my companions to obtain additional swordsmen if we were to go back into the depths of the dungeon below the guardhouse. My wounds were too severe to take this task on myself. I trusted Ashvact with the task before falling into the deepest of sleeps. He had done nothing of the kind when I awoke, much to my consternation.

That is not to say my companions were idle while I slept. Ralpheo took my advice and paid a visit to his fellow followers of Straben at the abbey on the hill. He was able to obtain holy water from them, but I feared that what he learned there was taking us into the black heart of Trastenfen. An adept at the abbey made the suggestion that Ralpheo give no aid to the fishermen being haunted by the foul creatures of the guardhouse. The adwpt suggested the fishermen were not paying the proper respect to Straben. The young cleric was understandably shaken by these revelations, even more so when he found they were making money on the sale of holy water and that they had some sort of arrangement with the farmers of the town.

Barick had realized that his current axe was not fit for a dwarf. He paid a visit to the blacksmith, telling the blacksmith that the axe “just doesn’t cut it.” To this day, I do not know if the joke was intentional or not. At that point in my quest, I was unsure whether a dwarf could even make a joke. The blacksmith joked that Barick Grimmhammer should, naturally, have a hammer. Barick would not hear of it, though, and insisted on an axe.

Ashvact did go down to the docks, but rather than looking for extra help, he searched for information. He spoke to two children, a boy and a girl. The girl seems to be the one Barick overheard talking about “walking bones.” The girl was shy, but the boy told Ashvact of the guardhouse fire and ghosts he often sees.

That night we were again in the depths of the guardhouse. We were able to find some hidden areas on this night. Ashvact showed his skill at opening locks on an old treasure chest we found. We also found a secret passageway leading to the bank of the river, directly across the river from a warehouse dock. We fought more creatures this night, including some particularly large rats infesting the lower reaches of the guardhouse. I came back to our room in Falco’s wondering what is the more dangerous: the ghouls below the guardhouse or the people of Trastenfen.

Chapter Two: Initiation

From The Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum

As Hanten turned to Thalen , the four of us found ourselves continually more restless at the oddities appearing in town. It was obvious the four of us craved some form of movement, whether through curiosity, righteous, vengeance, or some combination of all three. This restlessness seemed to posses Ashvact the most. He continued disappearing for days at a time. I assumed one day he would leave and never come back. He continued coming back to Falco’s, though, and the four of us began taking on small tasks to break up the monotony of drinking and dining. Barick and Ralpheo often helped Falco at the bar.

The four of us even went so far as to collect herbs for Delcar and Reswold, two local brewers. While we were in the woods collecting the materials, Ralpheo was nearly devoured by a giant snake. I was engaged in the task at the time and did not see Barick kill the beast. When I finally arrived, Barick stood over the severed head, his axe in his hands, a look of blood-red glee about his face.

Back at Falco’s rumors were running rampant about those poor souls in Fishtown. The Fishtown section of Trastenfen is home to the fishermen of the village. The shacks and shanties of that section our humble, but in my frequent walks I found the people pleasant enough, if a tad malodorous. We heard news that a girl wad bitten by a large rat near a guard station in Fishtown. The guard station was subsequently burned down.

Around this time, we were also witness to a scuffle in Falco’s between some humans and the half-orc Grimvock. Grimvock was a particularly ill-tempered orc, but had caused no problems up until that point. Barick was glad to see him go, but we all thought it somewhat strange. It was even more disconcerting when we learned later that Grimvock had killed a man. Some of the human regulars at the bar, however, told us the guard was seen near the guard house just hours later. Our collective curiosity was piqued. We made the decision to investigate the guard house.

The night of our investigation, I met a local mage named Fliban. Fliban is apprentice to the baron’s mage. Fliban was arrogant and condescending, speaking to me in a tone of which Maestrum’s are not accustomed. I bought the mage some wine, sat with him, and was quietly grateful for all of the dry gatherings I was forced to attend in my youth. They proved excellent preparation for my conversation with Fliban. Fliban proved helpful. He seemed suspicious of the guard house being burned to the ground. It seemed like a rather odd and lazy solution to a infestation problem. Fliban also told me of a Captain Kisto, one of the few local captains never to see a ship sunk in these waters.

My companions were already watching the guard house from the woods when I arrived. Barick informed me that he had heard a girl talking to her father on his way to our rendezvous point. She told her father of “walking bones” near the guard house. We began exploring the burned out guard house, eventually splitting up briefly. Barick and Ralpheo searched the armory while Ashvact and I investigated movement in a heavy tangle of trees and bushes nearby. I cast a simple sleep spell and the two of us foolishly went into the woods. Two animated skeletons met us on the woods. We made short work of them and met up with our companions.

The guard house was obviously infested. We saw rat tracks quite frequently. We also discovered a cavern system below the ruins. It appeared to be some sort of abandoned hideout. We encountered more skeletons and the most foul creature I had encountered up to that point in my life, a ghoul. Ralpheo raised a trembling hand and began to mouth some incantations. He hesitated at first, but then the words picked up forced. The undead fled before the young cleric. The rest of us looked at each other with raised eyebrows. I thought I detected the beginnings of a smile on Barick’s face. We continued onward into an old pantry, filthy with rotten food. Before we knew what was happening, a host of zombies and ghouls were upon us. A pitched battle ensued in the tight quarters. A ghoul pushed forward, nearly knocking me to the ground. The ghouls hands clawed at me, attempting to land a paralyzing bite upon my arm. If not for the strength of Ralpheo and the impressive battle-hardened determination of Barick, I might very well have lost my life there in that foul cavern. We immediately left the cavern and returned to Falco’s. I fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep. I dreamed I saw the sails of the Maestrum’s out at sea, burning and slowly sinking, being dragged to a watery grave by a host of ghouls too fiendish to describe here.

Chapter One: The Waves of Fortune

From The Green Tome, as written by Waldrick Maestrum

My chronicle begins on a seemingly peaceful day in the harbor town of Trastenfen. I had recently arrived in town after the completion of what constituted my initial forays into the arcane arts. I am a Maestrum by birth, a name which has followed me, clung to me, for both good and ill, throughout the course of my life. After completing my initial studies into arcana, I was eager to put some space between myself and the Maestrum name. I booked passage on The Argus, a merchant vessel owned by my uncle. I found lodging at Falco’s, a homely little Inn and Tavern owned by a rather gruff dwarf. My initial conversations with Falco gave me every reason to believe he knew I was indeed a Maestrum. I remembered the words of my grandfather when I was a child: “The memory of a dwarf has has deeper roots than we can ever see.” I made the decision to drop all pretense of duplicity when it came to Falco and the ever-present assortment of characters that frequented his establishment. Two characters especially piqued my interest: a rather ill-tempered half-orc named Grimvock and a mysterious Elven rogue named Ashvact.

Ashvact and I struck up a congenial relationship over the next week. At first it seemed as though he was sizing me up for a quick cut of my purse. Over a few days time, however, Ashvact seemed to take a liking to me. This no doubt had little to do with the pleasantness of my company and more to do with the fact that I was simply e only human in these parts willing to talk to Elven-kind. I found out that Ashvact was not elven, but indeed a half-elf. His father was a human and his mother is elven.

During the mornings I often found myself walking absently along the docks. The sea runs deep in the Maestrum blood and I often find being close to the water helps focus my thoughts. On the 15th day of Hanten there was a crowd at the docks. A large assemblage was crowding near the shoreline, looking out to the sea. A massive ship with ornate golden sails had broken up on the horizon. I made a quick note of the weather and found it odd that a ship should wreck itself so far from shore when winds were just slightly above average. Two figures were swimming towards the shore. Some movements were made among the crowd to launch a boat to help rescue the survivors, but they had reached the shore before anything could be done. There we only two survivors. A red-bearded dwarf and a young dark-skinned human cleric. The dwarf had pulled the young cleric from the ship and, coughing and choking, swam the man to shore. Just before emerging from the ocean, the dwarf gave a guttural roar and heaved the cleric to the shore. An old wit on the shore noticed the emblems of Straben adorning the water-logged cleric and joked that Straben was now rejecting his own. The dwarf stood, still coughing, and pushed his ay through he crowd, rejecting all attempts to assist him. The cleric was soon carried to a small room at Falco’s until he regained consciences. If Falco was put out by the use of one of his rooms, he gave no outward appearance. He did seem worried that someone might take advantage of the cleric’s state to do something unfortunate to him. I agreed to sit with him and Falco seemed glad, or what passed as gladness from such a dour dwarf.

The cleric proved to be a very strong young man and recovered quickly. I learned his name was Ralpheo and that his father and brother, also clerics, had been recently murdered. He was an eager disciple of Straben. His eagerness soon wore on the patrons of Falco’s. While dining with other groups at the tavern, Ralpheo would launch himself into one-sided discussions on the finer points of Straben philosophy and teaching. He was soon something of a pariah in the tavern. There was something in Ralpheo’s earnestness, in his wish to be a force of change in the world, that I found quite refreshing. My interest lies not in gods, though, but in the deep mystery of life at the core of all arcana, my servant is knowledge, my master is truth. Surprisingly, and much to my amusement, the dwarf who pulled Ralpheo from the ocean became our frequent dining companion. His name was Barick Grimhammer, the brother of a far off dwarven king who had perished in the shipwreck. It seemed to my eyes that, in his strange dwarven sense of honor and pride, Barick felt a grudging responsibility for Ralpheo’s safety. Nobody, it seemed, was more annoyed by this fact than Barick himself. As the gruff dwarf spent the next weeks grieving quietly for his lost brother, Ralpheo was by his side, discussing Straben and trying to talk to the dwarf about his loss. Barick would turn almost violent at the young cleric if he mentioned his brother, but there Barick was day after day, drinking and listening to Ralpheo ramble on. Of all creatures that walk Rubyorn, none fascinate me like those hardy mountain warriors, the dwarves.

That mysterious figure, Ashvact, came and went a lot during this time. I admit I was highly curious as to where exactly the half-elf went when he was away from the tavern. He offered up little information and I did not inquire. When he was at the tavern, he and I would often discuss elvish craftsmanship and the wonderful items his people make. Ashvact and Barick were surprisingly civil to each other during these times and, while there was certainly a level of distrust among them, as is common among their people, neither seemed to have any particular ill will towards the other. It was during these conversations over warm meals that I began to feel as though I had found a group of adventurers that could affect some some change on the island. We spent a merry night together laughing and drinking, but we all knew there was something not quite right about this town. I began to recall the words of my grandfather: “You will find yourself against evil in the world, Waldrick. You must ask yourself whether you are the hammer or the anvil.”

DM's Session 1 Recap

1. We meet the party:

  • Waldrick: The idealistic black-sheep son of a powerful merchant family who left the comfort and riches of upper-class life to find his way in a world of arcane knowledge. Will he learn enough to survive the hostile world and make a name for himself in his own right or will he gain a new appreciation for the finer things in life?
  • Ashvact: The mysterious drifter whose half-elf origins make him unwelcome company in many places and force him to carve out a meager living any way he can manage. Will he find a way to use his shadowy skills to benefit the world and bring praise to his Elven side or will he descend into the dark recesses of oppressed rage and use his skills for selfish gain?
  • Ralpheo Vi Straben: The over-zealous follower of Straben, young and idealistic, venturing out on his own to find out what happened to his father and brother. Will he discover what befell the devout followers of Straben who disappeared under murky circumstances? Was it just a simple band of brigands or something more sinister that brought down the respected missionaries?
  • Barick Grimhammer: The dour heir-apparent to an influential dwarven clan whose powerful patriarch was killed in the very shipwreck that brought Barick to Trastenfen. The Grimhammers were travelling here for a Dwarven High-Hall Assembly, yet the other dwarven clan leaders are no-where to be found. Was it a pre-planned conspiracy to get rid of the clan or a cruel twist of the fates that leaves Barick needing to prove himself? Will he become a renowned dwarven leader or be forced to relinquish his clan’s status to competing families?

2. The party discusses their backgrounds, goals, and current situation. The first order of business? Find out the reason that supply ships seem to be having trouble completing their trips into and out of the region. The ships get close to the small port city of Trastenfen and then something terrible befalls them. Barick and Ralpheo arrived on the island due to one such incident. Is it bad luck, something in the water, the displeasure of Straben, a political power-grab, or a more sinister plot to control the flow of goods into and out of Trastenfen?

3. The group hears rumors about several things in their first weeks in Trastenfen. Two things that stand out as possibly important:

  • A little girl was bitten by a large rat near a guard station at the edge of Fishtown. Fishtown is the neighborhood in Trastenfen where most fishermen and their families live.
  • A half-orc (Grimvock) supposedly killed a man, and then the man was seen walking around down by a burned out guard station a few hours later.

4. Waldrick meets a local mage apprentice, Fliban, who, despite his arrogance and condescending demeanor, provides a good deal of information to the young merchant wizard. Among the info, these things are deemed important:

  • Captain Kisto is a locally based captain who has never had a ship sink while coming into port at Trastenfen.
  • The guardhouse was burnt to the ground recently due to the rat infestation. To Fliban, it seemed an extreme and lazy resolution to a simple rat problem. Waldrick got the idea there was something more there, but Fliban could not be enticed to say more about the matter.

5. Investigating the Guardhouse:

  • Barick overhears a little girl tell a man (presumably her father) about ‘walking bones’ by the now-abandoned guard station.
  • Just outside the guard station, in a stand of trees and thick bushes, Waldrick and Ashvact encounter a couple of walking skeletons.
  • Inside the guardhouse is a burned out prison cell, an administrative office, and a small armory filled with mostly useless/ruined weapons.
  • The group notices the recent tracks of rodents in the ashes and dust of the guard station. The rodents look to range from small to very large.
  • In one of the rooms of the guard station, the party finds a trapdoor to a cavern below.

6. In the cavern below the guardhouse:

  • The initial entry point is a large meeting room. The old and decrepit furniture that adorns the room consists of several large hexagonal tables, an old broken bed, several chairs, and a chest (which Ashvact attempted to open). Also in the room are more skeletons and a ghoul.
  • Ralpheo uses his divine power to cause the undead abominations to flee. This first use is impressive and gives him confidence while also gaining him some respect among the group.
  • The next room they enter is a pantry of sorts. Several shelves full of rotten food, old rotted wooden tools, and grimy and tarnished pots and pans line the walls.
  • Some zombies and ghouls are in this large pantry and they attack immediately. After the ghouls almost paralyze and kill Waldrick, the party leaves the cavern and heads back to Falco’s Tavern to lick their wounds.

(this session took place on Sept 15, 2012)

DM's Session 2 Recap

1. Waldrick, upset that he almost met his demise in the guardhouse, exhorts his companions to not foolishly run into danger. He tells the group that they need to find a group of people to help with clearing out the burned out guard station. He then rests for several hours.

2. While the mage is recovering, Ashvact goes down to the docks to find out any information possible. He finds a house with two children and an adult female inside. He surmises that the little girl is the same one heard mentioning the ‘walking bones’ and decides to try and speak to the children. When the children go down to the bank of the river to play, Ashvact speaks to them… The little girl who saw ‘walking bones’ is shy, but her brother is full of information, speaking about the large fire that engulfed the guardhouse and the ghosts he sees “all the time.”

3. Meanwhile, Barick sets out to find a blacksmith and commission a new two-handed axe for himself. He starts by telling the blacksmith, usually a dower man, that the axe he has “Just doesn’t cut it.” This makes the smith laugh and he takes an immediate liking to the dwarf. After agreeing to forge a new axe, he inquires as to why Barick is using an axe when his surname is Grim*HAMMER*. On his way back from the smithy, Barick catches Falco, the dwarven owner of the tavern, throwing darts at an expertly made dwarven target. Falco is very good. Barick decides not to divulge this information to the rest of the group.

4. Ralpheo goes to visit the abbey on the hill and try to get some holy water, and advice, regarding defeating the undead scourge. He is surprised to find that one of the adepts in the temple suggests that he not assist the fishermen who are having problems with undead. The reasoning is that the fishermen are taking the bounty of the ocean and not paying appropriate homage to Straben. This rankles Ralpheo because it goes against his philosophy and interpretation of the tenets of his faith, so he starts snooping around, finding that there is a mixed energy about the abbey – i.e. it is not all good-will and lawful intent. He also learns that the abbey has made a deal with the farmers on the other side of the river and they and the abbey personnel have forsaken the fishermen. Lastly, he learns that the abbey is making a profit from the sale of holy water, incense, and food… a large profit.

5. Once Waldrick is rested up, the group returns to the cavern under the guardhouse… without helpers. They discover more undead (ghouls again), a nest of rats (large and stinky), and a room used for target practice. Remembering the expert dart throwing of Falco, Barick takes one of the targets to ask Falco about later.

6. The group also discovers a hidden room containing a bit of treasure (in a chest expertly opened by Ashvact) and a secret passageway that leads to a secluded spot on the bank of the river directly across from one of the warehouse docks. This is a curious discovery and they decide to follow up on it later.

7. They once again return to Falco’s Tavern to rest up and discuss the situation.

(This session took place on October 28, 2012)

DM's Session 3 Recap

1. Magic Items: As this session opens, Waldrick finds that the ruby medallion the group acquired gives off a magical aura, but he is unable to determine the power level or actual effects of the piece. He then makes contact with a representative of a rival merchant family (The Arren Family) in order to get an urgent message sent to his father about the shipwrecks and threat of losing valuable goods if they are shipped in the area. He also notices that a shadowy figure in the tavern is keeping an eye on the Ashvact.

2. The Blacksmith: Ashvact explores town and attempts to find a fletcher so that he can purchase some high quality arrows. He takes Ralpheo and Waldrick to see the blacksmith, hoping that Garesh may have some advice about who to see in town about the arrows. Upon seeing an acolyte of Straben, Garesh claims to know nothing about anything in town except the jobs he is ordered to do for the church and baron. It is clear that the blacksmith doesn’t want the abbey to know about his business.

3. Ashvact’s Equipment: Ashvact eventually finds out who to see and finds a pair of craftsmen who can make him some very high quality equipment for a very high price. Ashvact commissions 12 militia grade arrows (5 gp per half-dozen) from Pelo (the fletcher) and then speaks to the fletcher’s brother (Perk), who happens to be a bowyer. After looking at the quality of the bows this man makes, Ashvact commissions a high quality bow (for 112gp!). As he is leaving, the bowyer speaks to him in Elvish. Since half-Elves, like Ahsvact, are openly scorned and discriminated against, he tries to keep his pointy ears and Elven lineage hidden. The man speaking in Elvish to him was a bit of a shock, though he tried not to let it show.

4. Barick’s Lesson for Ralpheo: Meanwhile, Barick decides that Ralpheo needs a lesson in melee combat. He tries to teach Ralpheo how to fight by inviting him down to the river and attacking him with a shovel handle. Through the interaction, Barick gains himself a broken nose, but the two have more respect for each other by the time the altercation is over. It is also very effective at giving Ralpheo an idea and he and Barick head off to the Abbey.

5. Trouble at the Abbey?: While there, Ralpheo tries to get a priest in the abbey to perform a cure disease ritual on him. he still fears that the rodent bites he received the day before have exposed him to some infectious illness. In the effort to get the services rendered for a smaller fee, Ralpheo and Barick lie to the priest, telling him that they fought a rat infestation in the forest. The priest refuses to perform the ritual unless the pair pay for the service. the standard fee is 350gp, but there is no way the dwarf will hand Ralpheo that much money to give to a priest.

During the interaction, the priest reminds Ralpheo that most acolytes provide service to the Abbey and that he could take on a paid service by delivering a package to a far off place. Barick, tired and with broken nose, grows weary of the conversation and tells Ralpheo to refuse the service task. The two of head back to Falco’s Tavern.

6. Falco’s History: Barick decides to try and let Falco know that he knows the secret about his dart throwing skill. Barick stakes the target he found under the guardhouse up on the wall of the tavern next to the regular targets and challenges Ashvact to a game. Falco hands them some very finely crafted darts. Ashvact throws the dart without even trying very hard and it flies so true that it hits the bulls-eye and goes all the way through the parchment and cork and gets lodged in the wall.

Getting no real response to the incident from Falco, Barick confronts him in the cellar. Barick accuses Falco not telling the truth about his experiences and tells him he would have expected better from a Dwarf. Falco gives Barick an earful, telling him a thing or two about how a true dwarf should act. Falco also tells Barick that he used to train the town militia but that the baron wasn’t using the militia for the right things, so he stopped. Since then, Falco hasn’t been in the good graces of the noble family and that is why the tavern hosts the slightly unsavory patrons in Trastenfen instead of the more moneyed populace. Barick is ashamed to have thought Falco dishonest and realizes that he treated Falco unfairly – the two come to terms with each other.

7. Finding a Fence: Later that afternoon, Waldrick attempts to find a fence so he can offload some of the gems the group found in the caverns under the guardhouse. He feels he is being followed, but doesn’t really see anything concrete. He schedules an after-dusk meeting with a local fence. He and Ashvact go to the meeting after nightfall and Ashvact stands watch outside while Waldrick enters the building to meet their contact.

Waldrick tries to negotiate a fair price for the gems, but the fence, a tailor named Tolvar, also happens to be a local representative of the Arren Family. He implies that he knows the Maestrum family is planning a take-over of the Theud Island trading route and requests that he be given a special dispensation after the take-over. Waldrick tells Tolvar he is meeting him not as a member of the Maestrum Family, but as an individual, but the man doesn’t believe it. Since Waldrick will not commit to giving tolvar a position in the Maestrum family, he undervalues the gems that Waldrick is selling. The final offer he proposes to Waldrick is a value far below the estimated value of the gems (as per Barick’s estimation). In the end, Waldrick accepts the low offer, believing he can do no better without compromising his morals and making promises he will not be able to keep. The final sale nets Waldrick 624 electrum pieces (value = 312 gp).

8. A Shadowy Stalker: After the transaction is complete, Waldrick and Ashvact start back to Falco’s and find they are being followed. They attempt to outsmart the stalker and double back on him. They can’t see him, but are reasonably sure he is in a stand of trees just off the bridge. Waldrick tries to give Ashvact some hand signals, telling him to wait there until Waldrick returns with the group. Ahsvact misunderstands the signals and leaves after he can’t find the person trailing them. As they quickly exit Falco’s, Barick, Ralpheo, and Waldrick are stunned to find Ashvact walking up to the tavern when he should be at the last place they sensed the stalker. By the time they get back to the last place they saw him, they can’t find anything.

9. The Drinken Ruse: Later, at the tavern, Waldrick decides that the shadowy man in the corner must have been the one following them and he decides to play drunk and try to get the man into a conversation. he loudly proclaims his love and luck with gambling and offers to buy the man a drink. He fumbles around and doesn’t accomplish as much as he wants but, amazingly, the pompous mage he met several days ago, Fliban, comes to his rescue.

Eventually Waldrick’s antics convince the shadowy man to accompany him outside. Once there, Waldrick casts sleep on the man. The group binds him and proceeds to try and take him across the bridge to a more secluded area, but the man wakes up during transit. During the scuffle, cooler heads prevail and they realize it would be better to try talking to the man to find out what he knows. They find he has some good advice about the town and that he only took interest in Ashvact because he recognized certain… talents. The man, who identifies himself as Volcifar, didn’t want Ashvact to be recruited by the corrupt faction that runs the town (he fails to name the faction outright). They let Volcifar go and return to the tavern to sleep.

Ashvact trails the man to his home and knocks on the door. He is let in by a woman who turns out to be Volcifar’s wife. He is invited to sit down and eat with Volcifar and he accepts the offer. The stew made by Volcifar’s wife tastes disgusting to Ashvact, but he politely eats some while talking with Volcifar. In the end, he doesn’t get any more information from the man, and leaves to return to Falco’s.

10. Return to the Caverns: After a few hours rest, the group goes back into the caverns below the guardhouse to finish their exploration. The rid the rest of the place of rats, stumble upon some coins and a ring, and then find a couple of hidden entrances and exits to and from the caverns. Ralpheo and Ashvact both get bit by rats during this foray and are now worried that they have contracted a disease. As they travel back to Falco’s they wonder how long it has been since the place caverns have been used by intelligent people.

(This session took place on November 23, 2012)

DM's Session 4 Recap Part I

1. The Discussion: The group settles down at Falco’s to have a discussion about what they should do next. They have explored much of the town and met several people, leading to a discussion about who they should trust, especially if they are going to be splitting up and doing things alone or in pairs. An interesting twist was that they all had different ideas about whom to trust. Waldrick was curious about some townsfolk, but didn’t really indicate who he trusts wholeheartedly. Ashvact thinks almost everyone they have met is extremely trustworthy. He trusts Falco, Perk the bowyer, and even Volcifar the fisher. Ralpheo is so paranoid about what he perceives as corruption in the church, that he trusts no one. Barick doesn’t even really trust Falco, but admits that he has helped the group. The final consensus… trust no one.

2. Peerday Worship: Peerday is the traditional day of worship and celebration in Ruboryn. The church of Straben has an intricately ritualistic service that the worshipers attend. It begins with a 15 to 20 minute Initiation ceremony performed by the ranking member of the church in attendance. Then, it goes through several phases of officer led ritual interspersed with parishioner participation segments (these are called the Phases, as in the phases of proper worship). The Phases are highly stereotyped and ritualistic, performed the same way and with the same basic script at every temple that provides full services to Straben. Anyone young or new gets taken to a separate room or building to learn the rituals and ceremony so that they do not interrupt or corrupt the worship of the entire abbey. The Phases are followed by a 15-20 minute closing segment called the Release ceremony, which fulfills the duty of the parishioners and the officers of the church and ends the service.

During the Phases (that is, after the Initiation, but before the Release) worshipers are pulled out of the pews by any officer of the church of acolyte status or higher and taken to a private room to preform what is called the Ordeal. The Ordeal is a type of confessional, except the servitor and the parishioner are face to face, without an obscured screen between them. Also, the Ordeal is conducted as more of an informal conversation between the servitor and the parishioner, in which the servitor asks the parishioner how they have served Straben. Unlike a confessional where one tells of the sinful things one has done and asks for absolution, the Ordeal asks one to explain what one has done to honor their deity lately. In small townships this is even less formal and includes asking after each other’s families and home life, and the parishioner asks the servitor as much as the servitor asks the parishioner. It began as a way for the church officials to stay connected to the day to day lives of the parishioners, but in larger areas and in more strict parishes, it is often used as a way to check up on ones who may be seen to stray from the true path.

3. Ralpheo conducts the Ordeal: Ralpheo decides to attend services at the abbey and conducts the Ordeal for three parishioners, Dirril, Gomid, and Verely.

Dirril is a farmer who is extremely happy with his place in the town and finds the church helpful and just. He is a pious man who feels he and his family have earned the favor of the church, even if they do not make their living from the sea itself, as the fishermen do. Dirril is a likable fellow and seems as honest as they come.

Gomid is a fisherman who’s family has fallen on hard times. Even so, he seems relatively upbeat, explaining how the catch is not as good in recent months and there are lots of dangerous shipwrecks. He explains that Straben must be angry and that he and his brothers, who now fish together since two of their boats were wrecked, are doing everything they can to regain the good graces of Straben, Lord of the Sea and Master of Waves. He invites Ralpheo to the fishtown celebration that will take place that evening. When Ralpheo accepts, Gomid gets very excited and happy, and explains that no one from the abbey has accepted their offer of celebration attendance in several months. This must be a good sign, the tide is turning, and Straben is willing to see and hear the acclaim those in fishtown have for him. Ralpheo finds it strange, but no stranger than anything else he has heard about at the abbey. Why would the abbey officials refuse an invitation to the fishtown celebrations?

Verely is a wealthy merchant who, none-the-less, doesn’t seem arrogant during the Ordeal, He tells of the vast holding he has and how Straben has smiled upon him and his family. He tells Ralpheo that he owns 2 warehouses in town and that he lets the fishermen use one of them as a drydock, for free, whenever they need to repair their ships. By all accounts, the merchant is pleasant, but not too friendly, and seems to follow the path of Straben. Ralpheo concludes that he is a perfectly fine citizen who has a bit more money than everyone else. The use of the warehouse doesn’t sound as altruistic to Ralpheo’s ears as Verely probably wants it to, but there is no crime in making money…

4. Magic Items: Waldrick has become used to searching for magical auras and hidden powers in the things the group collects. As such, he goes out to a relatively secluded place and tries to figure out if there is anything special about the ornate dagger, the ugly brooch with the rusty pin, the throwing knife, and the ring. The dagger and throwing knife seem to be mundane and utilitarian, with no magical aura about them. The brooch gives off a moderate level of magic, indicating it may have had a spell cast upon it at one time, and the energy of that spell is fading. The ring elicits an overwhelming magical aura, indicating that the ring itself has magical properties imbued into it. Once again, however, Waldrick is unable to determine the exact nature of the power the item holds.

5. Ashvact and the Guard: In the morning, during worship hours, Ashvact decides to investigate the warehouses across the lake from fishtown. He finds that only one guard is patrolling the area. As he cases the place he stumbles across the rest of the guard team, which consists of two large dogs. The dogs alert the guard and Ashvact begins a conversation with him, trying to find out as much information as possible about the place. He finds that the guard is paid highly by the owner of the warehouse and that the general area around there is flush with money. The guard doesn’t much seem to like the church, but he doesn’t mind getting the extra pay while everyone is worshiping. The guard provides little in the way of information, but the exchange tells Ashvact all he needs to know about the patrols (infrequent), the guards (very few, but paid by the Baron), and the militia (every male at least 13 years of age is trained in the standing militia, but it doesn’t patrol). He also finds out that the guard believes that Falco’s is run by a couple of assassins. Ashvact pushes for more information, but as soon as the guard gets suspicious of Ashvact asking so many questions, Ashvact high-tails it out of the area.

6. Barick and the Axe: After spending the morning relaxing, talking to Falco and Gap, and drinking a few pints in the name of Fallow, Barick disappears to perform a personal ritual down on the shore by where the ship carrying his father and brother went down. In the early afternoon he pays a visit to Garesh to retrieve and pay for his new axe. He is told it won’t be ready for several hours, because the ship just came in. He returns later and finally gets to swing the axe around. He gives the new axe a name: Brok Balor.

7. Taking a Walk: Waldrick, pondering the events in town this past week, takes an absent-minded walk. He heads across the bridge and along the road north, out of town. A few hundred feet past the northern guardhouse, he finds the body of a young male human. Upon searching the body, he finds a note hidden in the slit of the man’s belt. Assuming that whoever killed the victim must have taken all of his other possessions and missed the note,* Waldrick* hides the note. He quickly runs over to the guardhouse and alerts them to what he has found. After a few minutes of frantically describing what he saw, two guards assess the situation. It soon becomes clear that the guards think Waldrick killed the man, or had him killed, and needed help getting rid of the body. The head guardsman even asks Waldrick if the “young punk” owed him money. The conversation gives Waldrick the impression that this sort of thing happens often and that the guards help the more moneyed people in town clean up after this sort of behavior frequently. Waldrick leaves as soon as he can and heads back to Falco’s.

When he gets back to the room at Falco’s, Waldrick reads the note. At first it appears to be written in a strange language, but as Waldrick looks at it, the letters resolve into something more mundane and he can read the script, which is in Elvish. The letter says: “Pelltar, it is as we feared! Power is being drawn from the ground here, but it is concealed and I have not been able to locate it. Weel and I are going further into the ruin. I pray that Straben and Eord protect us. If we do not return, you know what to do. In loyalty, Gren.”

Later, Waldrick seeks out Fliban (at his own home) and asks him about Pelltar and the ruins near town. Fliban doesn’t tell him much, but does indicate that the ruins are several miles away, mostly along the road, and near a place called Pale Hill.

8. The Caravan Arrives: In the early evening of Peerday a trading caravan arrives, bringing goods and news from afar. The caravan brings news of trouble on the road, which quickly makes its way throughout town and into Falco’s tavern. Raids along the road between Trastenfen and Pinewald have been a common occurrence for several months, perhaps years. The caravaneers also talk of the trouble at Pinewald, a small thorp a few miles north of Trastenfen, near the base of Foothold Mountain. Pinewald has been experiencing goblin raids of late and are attempting to re-build an old abandoned keep so that the residents will have refuge against the goblin onslaught. They mention that the town council of Pinewald is offering good pay for able-bodied men willing to help rebuild the keep, which is now rumored to be haunted.

9. The Gambling Man: While sitting in Falco’s listening to gossip, a man comes in looking for Waldrick. He says that he represents his boss, Bradbert Crandel, who owns an invitation-only gambling establishment a couple of miles away from Trastenfen. Mr. Crandel would like to extend an invitation to one Waldrick Maestrum, renowned local gambler and man if fine taste, and any colleagues that he may choose to bring with him. Waldrick declines the invitation, but tells the man he will think about it and get back to him. The invitation apparently has an expiration date, and is also apparently rare – usually an invitation to Crandel’s Den is reserved for nobles and very wealthy men.

10. A Letter from the Abbey: While relaxing at Falco’s, a messenger comes in and brings a message to Ralpheo. The messenger waits patiently for Ralpheo to tip him, but Ralpheo is so wrapped up in reading the note that Waldrick has to pull a silver piece out of his pocket and pay the young messenger, who quickly exits the tavern. The note reads, “Acolyte and Servant of Straben, Ralpheo, Upon your inquiry I have searched the sacred library in the west chamber of the fine abbey and found a text which thusly speaks to your dilemma. It is an old, pre-evisceration treatise on the evils of raising the departed without the soul intact. The scribe has said, “Use sliver on the weapons be to reduce the necromancer’s deed.” And is signed ~xx Almon – A friend at the Abbey xx ~

(this session took place on December 15, 2012)

DM's Session 4 Recap Part II

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)


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