Heroes of Godsrage

Investigating Artiban
Oswyn's Perspective

Green Glen is lovely, but we were restless and in need of funds. So when the opportunity arose to be of some assistance to nearby Artiban, we made ourselves available. Some of the rumors regarding the troubles of this place were ludicrous. Swamp hermits, plagues, changelings leaving fang marks on their victims’ throats, wizards from Thrace, missing farmers, a shepherd named Cartbringer defiling sacred stones, black unicorns, and strange beasts stalking sheep… I ask you, what beast does NOT stalk sheep?

The sleepy village we arrived at was not so terrifying. The fields looked poorly for mid-summer, and some of the homes appeared vacant; but we were not met with violence. From what we gathered, 53 years ago this farming community developed and flourished with the aid of the Holy Order of Ninurte. They had problems with goblins and such, but nothing they could not resolve. Two years ago a trade route to Stalton’s Moor was carved out of the forest, but the problems did not begin until roughly a year ago. Supposedly, the commencement of these bad times were marked by a fight that occurred at the Foaming Log Inn, which caused the destruction of the building and left no known survivors. Crops began failing. People would go missing for days at a time then return without explanation, while others would simply leave. A hermit moved into the area some 5 years ago, and there are claims that he’s been experimenting on wild beasts. It is difficult to distinguish fact-based knowledge from the understandable but fear-inspired suspicions the folk here are burdened with.

The town must have been prosperous, indeed! Zacharias the mayor is offering a substantial sum to solve their problems discreetly. Were I still in the depths of intrigue at the capital, I would be suspicious of the man. However, he seems sincere and his family faithful to their territory. Either way, something is amiss.

After a very pleasant evening at the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent, we decided to take the owner’s advice and seek out Ramne the hermit. Ollwin the innkeeper may be a well-intentioned soul, but I believe he was mistaken. The man we met obviously suffered from his isolation and was barely able to hold a conversation. He insisted we perform an unspecified task to prove who we were before he shared his wealth of knowledge. I want nothing to do with him, but the others believe his self-promotion to such an extent that I may have to investigate further to satisfy them. Sometimes an old man in the woods is just an old man in the woods.

From there we went to the local temple, as it appears the village is failing primarily due to the plagued crops. The priestesses there are helpless to stop whatever is happening and have been unable to determine what must be a magical cause of the deterioration of the vegetation. They are as suspicious as the rest of the villagers but did add new rumors to our mill. The first is that the mayor has elvish visitors living in his guest house. Another is that there is one farm seemingly preserved and still flourishing, run by a family that has only been dwelling there for 3 years. There are no ruins in the forest (new or ancient), and there is no one in the village by the name of Cartbringer. Rather than confirmation the villagers have been going missing, we were given a new perspective. It seems some of the villagers will temporarily… How can I best describe it? They become not themselves for a few days, then recover. We witnessed such a person at the temple. He was a gardener hired from outside the area. The man meandered, unfocused and capable of performing only the simplest tasks. Very strange.

I admit, at first I did not believe the cause to be supernatural in origin, but now that we have heard as much I know this is nothing we can resolve. If the priestesses cannot overcome a curse, we certainly will not be able to. The best we can do is identify the source and continue on to Stalton’s Moor to seek aid from the House there.

I must also have this sleeve repaired. I cannot abide blood stains.

As I speak to you now, I stand in what was once the entrance archway to the infamous Foaming Log Inn. I could detect nothing magical in the vicinity. It is merely a sorry monument to a tragedy, now. The others went into the cellar, I believe. No doubt I will be required to rescue them shortly.

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The Road to Stalton’s Moor (Detour)
From Greenglenn to Artiban?

When the party makes it back to the road with Clarissa and Druno’s body, they see that Robert Grunwald and his guards have managed to right the cart. While they are loading the body of their fallen comrade Druno onto the cart something falls out of his pack. It is a large ornate scroll case which has strange ruins inscribed on it. The case is made of precious metal and is sealed with wax but they have no way of deciphering the strange script.

Though the merchant’s horses are dead, Dalhar is more than strong enough to get the cart, the merchant and his daughter back on the road and to Greenglenn. The remainder of the trip is uneventful and they are making their way past the town’s guard tower before the end of the day. Robert tries to reward the party with what remaining cash he has but they refuse, saying that rescuing his daughter was not something they did because he offered a reward. They would not take his money, so he procured lodging for them while they remain in the town.

Zemic took Druno’s body to the local temple (A Holy Orders temple dedicated to Aaroth and Cepheus). The priests there knew little about the burial rituals of the Hearthgard religion, so Zemic instead paid for the priests to preserve his body for the trip back to RocÉmingrad.

In an attempt to decipher the mysterious ruins on Druno’s scroll case, the group goes to the local brewery next. Several of the townsfolk have pointed to the brewery as the residence of the only dwarf in town. They have a small chat with the dwarf’s Halfling partner before meeting him. He identifies the language as Primus Emin Norin Hiero but admits that he cannot read it. He tells them they would need a highly placed Hearthnal shaman, Mountain Dwarf or one of the Future Tellers to read that language. Perhaps the more valuable piece of information they gain from him is that the nature of the scroll case makes its contents seem very important. He speculates the contents are probably a communique between the hierarchy of the Hearthnal or a decree from the high theign of RocÉmingrad himself, though he would have no idea to who or where the message was bound.

While walking through the town square, Oswin spots several bills posted. One which is hung is several places is a plea for brave souls to come to the village of Artiban and sort out the mysterious problems plaguing the village. While this seems like something they would not be interested in, the bill is signed from the mayor of the village himself and the reward offered is 100 gp per person.

This seems like a hefty sum for just sorting out some problems, so the party goes around trying to find out what if anything the people of Greenglenn might know about this mystery. Each bit of information they gather seems more fantastic than the next and worse yet, none of the rumors seem to be tied to any of the others. Missing sheep and shepherds, secret stone circles, black unicorn, vampires and missing townsfolk are just the tip of the iceberg. While they do not seem interested in the mystery, the promise of loot seems too much to pass up. They decide they will check it out the next morning.

When morning comes, their friends who were trailing them finally catch up. They discuss Artiban and agree that the money might well be worth any delay in their trip to Stalton’s Moor. Also when their other dwarf friend Anrak finds out about Druno, he instructs them on the proper burial rights for a norn of his status. Zemic decides to stay behind and catch up with his friends when funeral games are completed. Zemic also bows to Anrak’s expertise on the nature of all things norin and relinquishes possession of the scroll case, glad to be rid of it.

After brief goodbyes to their friends, Oswin, Anrak, Joshua and Dalhar head off for Artiban.

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The road to Stalton's Moor
The Three Caves

After looting the bodies of their fallen victims in the clearing, the heroes decide to press on and see if they can in fact rescue the merchant’s daughter. They spend a half hour following the drag marks through the forest until the reach a break in the vegetation. Thirty feet across from the edge of the forest is a small hill that ends in a cliff on this side. The cliff is 40 feet high and the face trails downward towards the ground into the distance. Set into the cliff are 3 cave openings. The drag marks continue through the clearing and into the right entrance. The left entrance has two bushes near it and the middle entrance seems unspectacular.

Ozwin and Zimic put an arrow each into the bushes to prove that there is no one hiding in them. The party then settles on crossing the gap where the cliff meets the hill down on the right side. They cross without incident, making their way back to the right entrance and head in (marching order; Dalhar, Druno, Ozwin, Zimic).

Dalhar realizes that the ceiling of the tunnel is lower than his height so he has to crouch as he makes his way forward to a wooden portcullis. He finds he can easily lift it but there is no way to lock it in the up position, nor does the party have anything to wedge under it. He drops it back down and decides instead to pull it out of place. After a few minutes he has managed to rip it out and toss it to the side. He continues ahead and around a corner. As he turns a second quick corner he finds it is now too dark for him to continue. The darkness is not magical and when he lights a torch he is able to see to the extent of its light. As he continues down the passage, he finds that it is getting shorter and tighter; so he must further crouch.

He comes to a junction of several small caves. As he is passing the first, he notices a human woman bound and gagged and sitting on a mat in the middle of the cave. He tells his companions what he has found and Ozwin and Zimic rush into the cave to find a very distressed Clairissa recoiling from their advance. They remove her bonds and gag and she begins screaming. They spend the next few minutes calming her down and explaining that her father has sent them to rescue her. The group spends the next few minutes deciding what they should do next. Should they simply bring the girl to her father and return to clean out the warren at a later time, or should they press on and hope to find another way out.

Just about the time the party has decided to head back to the road, Dalhar sees something dark and furry round the corner ahead of him. It is black and white and it wheels around when it sees him. It sprays something out of its hind end. The entire party is soaked in a thick pungent substance and starts retching.

Due to the cramped quarters in the tunnel, Zimic and Ozwin are unable to leave the cave until such time as Druno starts to move away. Dalhar has only enough room to set his spear against the charge he figures is coming. The skunk charges as predicted. It impales itself on the spear and bites Dalhar. Another skunk rounds the corner.

Ozwin begins to make for the entrance with Clairissa in tow. Druno follows. Dalhar thrusts his spear again and the skunk dies. Zimic is still stuck in the cave. The second skunk wheels and sprays hitting the party again.

Ozwin turns the first corner towards the door still dragging Clairissa, with Druno still following. Zimic is finally able to make his way into the passage. The second skunk charges Dalhar with much the same effect as the first.

As Ozwin rounds the second corner she is met with a hail of arrows. Dalhar again thrusts his spear at the skunk and takes it down, and another beast rounds the corner towards him. Two kobolds wielding two short swords each charge into the cave and towards Ozwin. Zimic pushes his way past Druno and Clairissa. Druno moves past Clairissa.

Zimic pushes his way past Ozwin and prepares for the kobolds attack. Druno and Ozwin switch positions. Dalhar again sets his spear for a charge. The kobolds advance on Zimic and swing wildly. The rust monster advances far enough to eat the tip of Dalhar’s spear.

Zimic and the kobolds begin to trade missing blows, causing little damage to each other. Druno begins to tire of sitting in the second rank and encourages Zimic to press forward against his foes and give room for his advance. Dalhar drops his torch on the corpses of the skunks and sets them aflame. The rust monster flees back the way it came.

For the next few rounds, Zimic continues to trade blows with the kobolds taking more damage than he deals. Dalhar remains standing guard in the back rank leveling his burning spear towards anything that might come round a corner. The cave has been filling with an acrid smoke and the party begins to suffer from inhalation. Clairissa falls from the smoke and Druno rushes to aid her. She awakens and he tells her to stay on the ground until the smoke is gone.

Zimic finally manages to drop one of the kobolds. Druno moves back behind Zimic as Ozwin goes to check on Clairissa. Dalhar is maintaining his position and awaiting a new assault. The kobolds have finally managed to do enough damage to Zimic that he begins to worry. During the next round Zimic uses his healing power on himself and Druno casts a cure light wounds on him. The smoke beings to clear and with his next swing Zimic hits the wall and drops his sword. Druno pushes past him and charges the kobold. He shield bashes him and knocks him to the ground.

Druno looks up and sees the two archers standing at the mouth of the tunnel. Realizing he will be taking fire if he stops to finish off the kobold he is standing on; he hefts his shield and hammer and charges the archers. He yells to Zemic, “Finish that one off.” Zemic pulls his bow and shoots, but misses. Dalhar begins making his way further into the tunnel. Druno finds his way out of the cave suddenly blocked by a rust monster and the fallen kobold gets up from the floor.

Zemic takes two further shots at the remaining kobold in the tunnel but only connects with one. Dalhar sees something shining in one of the further caves. The kobold charges Druno’s back and lands a sound blow. Druno falls to the ground. Ozwin moves into position kneeling in front of Zimic to get a better shot at the kobold. The rust monster sees the metal clad from of Druno fallen before him and begins to feast. His armor falls into dust.

Zemic takes another two shots at the back of the kobold but only hits with one. With Ozwin adding two daggers to the hail the kobold falls as well. Dalhar enters the cave to inspect whatever is shining and notices a metal bar crossing the room buried just below the surface of the floor. On top of the bar sits a glass bottle which appears to be filled with liquid. The rust monster continues to make a feast of Druno’s things and his hammer turns to dust.

Zemic looses two shots at the rust monster and Ozwin adds two daggers but they each miss once. Dalhar reaches to grab the bottle and a trap is sprung. Another metal bar snaps down from the ceiling, catching him between them and shattering the bottle; its contents splash all over him. The rust monster eats Druno’s helm and shield.

Zemic again fires two arrows but the cramped quarters of the tunnel continues to spoil his aim. Ozwin throws another two daggers and manages to hit the rust monster with one. Dalhar gets up from the floor and heads further down the tunnel, finding a further cave. The rust monster begins eating Ozwin’s daggers.

Zemic again fires two arrows and manages to hit with one this time. Ozwin again throws two daggers and also manages a hit, which fells the beast. Beyond it they find that the archers have fled and they call Dalhar up from the rear. They make their way to Druno’s body and find it lifeless. He is beyond their ability to help.

Once they are back together, the remaining members of the party decide to take the better part of valor. They will make their way back to the road with Druno’s body and return Clairissa to her father. Once they are there, they will decide what to do.

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The road to Stalton's Moor
The Roadside Ambush

The party has heard of odd attacks happening in the city of Stalton’s Moor. They have decided to make the trip from Nehéflem to Khazaars to investigate and possibly make some coin. They leave their homeland and cross through the tiny nation of Zenoah and are finally on Hural’s Road. With only 4 days left on their journey they have decided to take a break from the road and stop at the nearby town of Greenglen. The town is a logical resting point on their way to the city and a good place to get the grime of the road off of themselves after their long journey from Nehéflem.

About a day’s travel from Greenglen the party encounters signs of a recent ambush. Just ahead of them on the road is a freight wagon that is turned on its side. There are the bodies of 4 men lying on the ground. All of them a riddled with arrows. Attached to the wagon is a horse which is dead and has been pierced by 8 arrows.

As the party is investigating the scene, 3 men come out of the brush on the roadside. They act confrontational but are plainly afraid. Two of them advance slowly with their short swords drawn and ask “what business do you have here?” “Zimic” explains their journey, which calms the men significantly. When they are asked what happened here the third man comes forward to explain. He is older looking with long grey hair and beard. He says his name is Robert Grunwald and he tells the following tale:

“I am a merchant and I was traveling my normal route from Zenoah to Stalton’s Moor when they were suddenly surprised by a hail of arrows from the right side of the road. Whoever the archers were they were deadly accurate. They didn’t miss one shot. In just a matter of moments four of his hired guards were dead. The horse pulling the wagon spooked but it was taken down by another volley and the wagon tipped over. Before we could collect ourselves I heard my daughter’s voice screaming. She had been in the wagon before it tipped over. I ran round the wagon to find that she was already gone. I imagine she had been pulled off into the woods. We were just searching for her but couldn’t find any trace of her. I fear something foul has befallen her. Would you please find her and return her to me?”

The party ask Robert and his men a few questions to determine if this story is true and if there could be any specific reason for the event. After a short while they determine that this was indeed a random act of violence and will willingly aid the merchant.

Zimic sets off into the woods alone to determine what direction their quarry has traveled. He finds a path of drag-marks which winds through the trees. He also runs into a few traps. The traps are not lethal and it seems that they are designed to discourage anyone from trekking through the woods. But he runs into more than a few before he turns back for his companions.

He explains the issue of the traps to his compatriots and they are off into the woods to find the merchant’s daughter. They travel for 20 minutes, almost constantly tripping over trip-wires or falling into pits before they decide to stop and reconnoiter the area. They find that there are far more traps in this area than could have possibly been set between now and the time of the ambush. They also realize that the path through which the merchant’s daughter was dragged seems to have a higher concentration of traps than the surrounding area. Also it seems who/what-ever was dragging her through the area managed to purposefully avoid setting off any of the traps. Finally they recognize that these traps are really not hidden very well and so it should be much simpler to avoid them in the future as long as they are paying attention.

After another 10 minutes of traveling through the woods they realize that the trail is advancing towards a clearing. The trail goes through the clearing and to the east. There are what looks like seven large burial cairns in the clearing but other than that it seems featureless. The party splits and flanks the clearing on two sides. Dalhar and Druno conceal themselves behind some trees along the south side. Zimic and Ozwin skirt the east side. Zimic manages to not fall into another pit trap and hangs onto a tree for dear life.

When the party settles into their positions they realize that they are hearing a lot more animal noises than they were previously, particularly those of wolves and birds. They recognize that they are coming from within the clearing. Druno decides that he has waited long enough. He leaps out of his hiding place, hefts his warhammer and shouts, “Show yourselves you cowardly bastards!”

Moments later a thick fog starts emanating from the middle of the clearing and soon it is nearly completely engulfed. Dalhar also jumps out from behind his blind and brandishes his bastard sword. The Ozwin pulls her bow to cover what is left visible in the clearing. A moment later Druno decides he has waited long enough. He shouts, “You cowards, I’ll flatten all you skulls!” and charges into the fog. Dalhar charges also.

With his bow drawn, Zimic decides to try to maneuver around to the north end of the clearing to see where the drag-marks go. An arrow is fired from behind Dalhar but it misses him. Ozwin could not get a clear view of exactly where the shot came from. Just then something slides out from behind a tree and stabs Zimic in the back of the leg. He squeals.

Dalhar heads into the fog. Druno can be heard exclaiming, “now that I know where you are you can have a taste of my hammer!” and there is a resounding clash of arms. Zimic wheels around to find he is standing just feet from a short pug-faced creature. It is holding a dagger in each hand and wearing leather armor that is adorned with all manner of local sticks and leaves. Zimic let’s loose a shot from his bow and hits the creature. Ozwin also turns and fires at the creature but

Whether it is the quick action or the cunning of its camouflage, she misses. Zimic looses another arrow but misses as well. The creature tries to bolt back into the cover of the woods. Ozwin takes another shot and hits. The creature falls to the ground dead.

A hard thud and a crunch of bone ring out from the center of the fog. Druno yells, “Now who’s next?” There is suddenly a huge increase in the amount of animal calls and the sound of footfalls running for the hills. Zimic spies several small figures bolting into the woods but can’t really make them out as they bolt into the underbrush.

Moments later a gust of wind emits from the center of the fog and Druno is standing over another dead body brandishing his bloody hammer.

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