Heroes of Godsrage

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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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 (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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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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Investigating Artiban 2
Down Down the Stairs…

Anrak awakens to a splitting headache and news that his friends have already left to investigate the town without him. He cannot recall the last time he had so misjudged outlander drinks. He talks with Olwin, the owner of the inn and finds out that his friends had headed out to talk to the hermit that resides in the grove across the street. He figures that considering the size of the village, he should be able to catch up to them regardless. So he crosses the road and delves into the grove of stately elms on the other side.

It is perhaps only 1 minute into talking to this old grizzled man that he regrets coming here. The man is less than helpful and outright challenges the dwarf to be of some use before he comes asking for answers from the “wisest man in town.” But at least he finds out that his friends were headed off in the direction of the Sanctuary of Ninurte (one of the other places they had decided to investigate the night before).

When he reaches the temple he finds a shocking sight. The characteristic great tree at the center of the sanctuary seems to be withering and the surrounding garden is unkempt and wild. He spots a gardener walking lazily about the grounds. Not wishing to relinquish his weapons just yet, he calls into the sanctuary hoping someone will instead come to the door. A minute later he is greeted by what he assumes is the head priestess of the temple. They discuss the goings on in the town and the sad state of the temple itself. Before parting he asks her about his friends. She says she had advised them to investigate the ruins of the Foaming Mug Inn and that they had headed off in that direction. He takes his leave of the priestess and the sanctuary and continues on, trying to catch up with his friends.

He walks back down the hill and after passing a farm stumbles upon a rundown building. He spies his friend Joshua through one of the holes in its roof. Not wanting to attract any undo attention to himself, he picks up a rock and hurls it at the building, hoping to throw it through the hole and attract the attention of his friend. His throw is off and instead hits the side of the building. Because the building itself is in such a state of disrepair, the rock goes right through the wall. Inside the building, all Joshua sees is a rock erupt out of the wall and fly straight at his face. He bolts the room telling his friend investigating the other side of the hallway that the building itself seems to be attacking him. He runs downstairs to inform the remainder of the group what he suspects as his friend (half-elf gladiator) goes to check on the room.

Meanwhile back on the road, Anrak sees his friend disappear and moments later return (he does not relize this is not the same person). He hefts another rock hoping for better results. His aim is much better this time and the rock sails through the window of the room. (Half-elf gladiator) sees the rock fly in, looks out the window and sees the dwarf standing on the street looking up at him. These two have never met before (at least not while either was sober) and after a brief verbal altercation later they challenge one another to meet at the door of the inn so they can settle their differences. (Half-elf Gladiator) bounded down the stairs to confront this dwarf at the door. One of the stairs broke under his weight and this is when really odd things started happening all at once.

Back downstairs in the kitchen, Dalhar was investigating the trapdoor to the basement. Sticking his head through the doorway, he had smelled something funny. Suddenly he became sick to his stomach and began vomiting. He lost his balance and fell down into the basement. He slammed his head on several of the stairs and landed at the bottom, out cold. Joshua and Oswin rushed into the kitchen to find out what had happened to their friend and just as they reached the kitchen they heard another noise. This time, it was from above them. It sounded eerily similar to what had just been made by Dalhar’s less than graceful descent into the basement. When Joshua came back out to investigate, he found Anrak standing in the doorway and (Half-Elf Gladiator) out cold at the bottom of the stairs.

After a brief discussion of what had just transpired, they decided to extract their friends from their landing spots and bring them outside before anything else could befall them. The Half-elf was easy enough but Dalhar’s massive form ended up being a little too much for Anrak to manage. He tumbled back down the stairs, again landing on the basement floor. They did eventually get him outside.

Anrak went back into the basement to figure out exactly what had affected Dalhar. The room that he descended into was bare. The only things in the room seemed to be two doors on the far side and a feted stench. He opened the door on the left. This room had a few small crates and barrels in it. He opened one of the crate and was met by the smell of rotting meat and a swarm of flies. He chose not to open the remaining crates and barrels and instead when back out to open the door on the right.

He opened the door and was met by a large lizard type creature who hurled itself at him. It must have misjudged his position and missed. Suddenly, Anrak was hit hard in the face by the door and pushed back into the large room. When he again looked ahead he saw two lizard-like creatures advancing on him through the door. He hefted his trident and engaged them. At the sounds of battle from below Joshua and Oswin come down into the basement to help their friend. They both got sick once they reached the floor. Anrak was alone in the fight for now but he held his own even as a third creature came through the doorway. The troglodytes seemed to be a bit disorganized and couldn’t manage a good offense. He dropped one while both of his friends were sick and another after Joshua came up to dispatch the third.

Once the fight was over they checked the room where the trogs had made their lair. They found a set of doors that led to the outside and some coin and jewelry. But, nothing here seemed to further their investigation into the happenings in the town. Their friends regained consciousness but were still too out of it to walk unaided. Dalhar and the half-elf chose to help each other walk back to the Slumbering Serpent so their friends could continue snooping around.

They were quite confused about how none of the surrounding neighbors had noticed the comings and goings of these beasties. Oswin and Joshua figured they would inquire next door. Anrak chose instead to drag the corpse of one of the trogs straight back to the Ninurtian Sanctuary.

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Investigating Artiban 3
Splitting the Party

Anrak takes the corpse of the troglodyte and drags it straight back to the Sanctuary of Ninurte. He goes through the bushes and trees to the right of the inn’s door and comes out the other side right in front of a sizable pig pen. Between the choice of going through the slop and around the house he chooses the cleaner option. As he rounds the farmhouse he comes face to face with a young boy who spins on his heels and goes running into the house, shouting something about strangers (or was that trespassers). Anrak, not to be deterred, keeps on trucking toward the temple and is already out of the yard when the pig farmer comes out of the house and starts shouting at him.

Oswin and Joshua round the husk of the Inn and see Anrak dragging the corpse up the hill to the temple and the pig farmer (who has a loaded crossbow hidden behind his back) shouting obscenities at their friend. Oswin greets him friendlily but he is surprised by their approach. He turns toward them and levels his bow. They try to talk to him about what they have found but he seems uninterested in talking to strangers and more than a bit scared. They get no information from him as he is unwilling to talk about anything other than them getting off his land.

Meanwhile, Anrak has reached the Sactuary with the corpse. He again calls into the temple and the same priestess comes out to meet him. She identifies the body as a troglodyte and admits that it is really unspectacular to find a few of them in or around the town. Though she must admit, it has been quite some time since one was spotted that far into the middle of town. Anrak is unhappy with the answers he is given but as the day is getting long he figures he can try talking to the mayor again to see what he says. Around this time on the other side of town, Dalhar is feeling much recovered. He drops his friend off in his room at the Slumbering Serpent and goes to rejoin his friends.

Oswin and Joshua agree on talking to another neighbor. Since the blacksmith’s shop is in the closest proximity and within eyeshot of the old inn, they will question him next. As they approach the shop they see that the blacksmith is working late into the day. He and two older boys (who they assume are his sons) are working on what looks like a shovelhead. When he notices them, the blacksmith seems perturbed by their presence. They ask him questions but get nothing but insults and off-hand comments for answers. Rather than stand here and continue to be ridiculed. They decide to walk away. They then notice Anrak walking toward the center of town, still dragging the corpse.

They catch up with him just before he crosses the bridge. They all share their information while standing in the middle of the street. They start discussing what their next move should be. Anrak is set on dragging this troglodyte right to the mayor’s doorstep, but the other two dissuade him with a reminder that their deal with the mayor included not making it known they were working for him.

This is where Dalhar finds them. Together the four of them decide they should indeed go and see the mayor again and at least give him an update. Anrak also thinks they should go see the hermit, to which there are mixed responses. It is agreed that Dalhar, Joshua and Oswin will go talk to the mayor while Anrak returns to the hermit’s grove. They will simply leave the troglodyte’s corpse on the side of the road for all to see (though there was some discussion of stringing it up to a tree to make it more visible).

At the mayor’s house, the trio finds that the mayor also feels the troglodytes being in the abandoned basement is unspectacular but he is not willing to rule it out as related to the problem. Similarly, he is unsurprised by behavior of the pig farmer and the blacksmith (as he had mentioned the blacksmith on his possible people to watch and would also have been upset if someone dragging a troglodyte had run up behind his young son). Though, after again talking to the party he adds the town constable as another person of interest. He reaffirms his suspicion of the priestesses, and balks at their assertions that the malady affecting the townsfolk is temporary and that there is some sort of crop plague affecting the area.

Again Meanwhile… Anrak was still feeling a slight tingle in his head, so on his way to the hermit he stopped at the Slumbering Serpent for a drink to even himself out. He heads back into the grove and finds the old man still sitting in the same place. He starts to tell the hermit about what has transpired since they last met, when the hermit simply starts blurting out the events before Anrak can get them out of his mouth. Then the hermit says, “If you sent someone out to kill a dragon and they returned with its finger nail clippings would you feel that they had proven their worth?” Anrak started to say,”but,” when the hermit again spoke, “is it beyond the realm of possibility that someone might sacrifice their least important part to seem above suspicion?”Anrak said nothing. He simply turned around, walked back out of the grove and headed back to find his friends.

They all met up in the middle of the street again, this time in the intersection just outside the village store. While Oswin is hoping to get them all back to the Slumbering Serpent for dinner, so she can do some poking around on her own. Joshua and Anrak hatch a plan that they should all hold up in the Foaming Mug for the night. This basically spoils Oswin’s plan, besides eating rations while she is within a quick walk of a kitchen seems silly. So the plan is set, they will split the party. Oswin and Dalhar will return to the Slumbering Serpent and Anrak and Joshua will stake out the Foaming Mug.

Joshua camouflages himself in the basement, while Anrak waits in the first floor common room…

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Investigating Artiban 3b
11:30 PM: Caught in the Brush

A little after 11:PM Oswin and Dalhar decide to head back out to the Foaming Mug to aid their friends with the ambush they hope is coming. Dalhar simply walks out into the dark, while Oswin sneaks out so no one sees her. Outside Dalhar cant’t see very well but the light of the moons at least kept him on the road. As they walk past the second farm on the left Oswin notices that there is an entire family just sitting on their porch in complete darkness. If she did not have darkvision, she would not have even noticed them herself. After they pass the farm she tells Dalhar what she saw. They agree that this is strange but are not sure what to make of it.

The next house they pass on the right. There must be about 1000 candles and lanterns lit on this property. Every window of the little pink cottage is alight and the outside of the house is illuminated just as well as it would be in daylight. Once they reach the shadows of all that light, the group splits. Oswin goes off of the road to the left and sneaks through the bushes and underbrush, while Dalhar keeps to the road.

He continues on past the pig farm and comes to the path to the temple. As he is walking past it towards the bend in the road a tall female holding a lantern steps out from behind the trees lining the path to the temple. He presses on. Just then he hears a voice behind him and suddenly a huge hedge crops up all around. He is trapped between it and the path to the temple. He quickly draws his sword and begins to hack at the hedge.

Meanwhile, Oswin who was sneaking through the underbrush, is abruptly confronted with a tall hedge; which sprouts up right in front of her. It seems she will not be able to continue on her intended path so she instead crosses the road trying to find the end of the hedge. When she gets there she continues to follow it as it turns and continues on south. While she can still see the light on the other side, it is eerily quiet. She activates her shadow cloak ability and begins pushing her way through the hedge.

Back on the other side of the hedge, Dalhar hears the sound of many running feet behind him. He turns to confront whoever is behind him. In addition to the lantern bearing woman (who he now can identify as a Priestess of Ninurte by her dress), he sees the Priestess who he had talked to at the temple and four people bearing clubs; two men and two women. The club wielders rush towards him while one of the priestesses rushes up behind them. The lantern bearer tosses a stone toward him. It falls far short of him and he tries to shout an insult and suddenly notices that he can’t hear anything and he can make no noise.

The clubbers advance and all swing at him in turn, but their blows miss or bounce harmlessly off his armor. Dalhar swings at one of the men, the elder of the two, but he his blow goes wide as the priestess continues her slow advance. The clubbers each swing again and the young male manages to connect. Infuriated, Dalhar swings his sword once at the old man, cleaving him nearly in twain; and once at the young man, but he misses. The running priestess steps in and slams Dalhar with her mace. The remaining clubbers again swing wildly as does Dalhar. Oswin’s head isn’t even noticed as it pops out of the hedge. The lantern bearing priestess stoops down to pick up the rock she tossed and the other casts a spell. Both Dalhar and Oswin can now hear but are frozen in place.

The priestess and the clubbers take the ridged bodies of Dalhar and Oswin back to the temple and send the gardeners out to cut down the hedge. The party members are searched and dragged down into the tunnels below the temple. They are locked into what could best be described as a makeshift prison cell, complete with a stout iron door and four Troglodytes to guard it.

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Investigating Artiban 3c
2:AM at the Foaming Mug

It is around 2:AM when Anrak starts to hear noises outside the Inn. Several sets of footfalls are apparent. Then there is whispering, “shouldn’t we wait for the others?” “they’re late! Besides it’s only two of them, we can handle this.” “But one of them is a priest of Enkath and the other is one of those catpeople?” “I’m going in.”

Anrak ducks behind the remains of the bar and hears the first footfalls inside the Inn. A voice rings out, “I don’t see anyone in here.” And another from outside, “we saw them go in, they must be here somewhere.” Another set of footfalls can be heard inside the Inn. Even Joshua downstairs knows this. A third voice sounds, “Go check the kitchen, I’ll wait by the door.”

Joshua is kept from worrying too much about what is going on upstairs because the outside doors to the basement open. He sees a troglodyte enter the building cautiously. It delays a moment and then heads for the stairs to the kitchen as a second trog comes in from outside. This one checks the other room before it starts following the other. He pauses for a moment and raises a nostril. He lets out a roar, looks right at Joshua and both trogs rush his barricade.

Back upstairs, Anrak sees one man run past the bar into the kitchen door. They all hear the roar from the basement. One of the men shouts out, they are in the basement and another man runs toward the kitchen. Anrak jumps out from behind the bar at this point. He swings with his trident at one of the young men and takes him down. Downstairs, the trogs rip away Joshua’s barricade.

Anrak sees the second young man come running back out of the kitchen and turns to the hulking blacksmith in the door way. He says, “if the two of you don’t give up I am going to kill your other son as well.” With that the blacksmith steps forward, swings his hammer and lands a resounding blow on Anrak. Both trogs try to rake Joshua with their claws but only one manages to land their hit. The second young man swings his shortsword at Anrak but misses but Anrak doesn’t miss him with his trident, and he falls to the floor dead. Joshua jabs his shortsword into one of the trogs but it remains standing.

Anrak takes a swing at the blacksmith intending to incapacitate him but misses and the blacksmith misses back. Both trogs again swing their claws at Joshua and again only one slashes him. Joshua on the other hand lands another blow and that troglodyte is dead. Anrak hits the blacksmith with his next blow and even though he intended only to subdue, he realizes that the blacksmith is only clinging to life. The remaining trog misses and Joshua lands a resounding blow which severs the beast’s right arm and kills it instantly. Anrak is forced to heal the blacksmith to keep him from dying, hoping to have a prisoner to interrogate later.

They take all the bodies and put them in the basement. Tie up the blacksmith and put him in the empty room and barricade the door. They decide to go and check out the blacksmith’s house; which is across the courtyard, when they notice three figures rounding the trees at the end of the yard. They duck to either side of the doorway hoping to stay out of sight. The three figures make their way to the backsmith’s house and go into his shop. Joshua can still see inside and after they knock a few times, two of them go inside the house. While that is happening, Anrack notices a set of glowing eyes watching him from the bushes at the other side of the yard and identifies the creature as some sort of weasel.

While the men are inside the blacksmith’s place, Joshua and Anrak decide to sneak across the courtyard and ambush them. Neither of them know exactly who wasn’t sneaking properly but the man standing in the shop yells, “it’s them!” and starts bolting back toward the road and the sounds of breaking windows comes from the back of the house. Joshua pursues the one trying to get away, as Anrak rounds the left side of the house.

Joshua follows his quarry onto the road as he heads for the bridge. Anrak rounds the house to see the one of the men running up behind Joshua and another running towards the river. He yells to Joshua about his pursuer and follows the other to the water. The first runner crosses the bridge but Joshua is on him. He drops his bow and leaps, catching the man with his claws. He is dead. Anrak pursues his man across the river.

Joshua quickly checks his man to find he is holding little more than a knife and he hears footfalls on the bridge behind him. Anrak realizes he will not be able to catch the man he is following and casts Faerie Fire on him. Joshua wheels around to see a second man armed with a dagger bearing down on him. The man swings wildly with it and doesn’t manage to connect. Joshua pulls his punch but connects, knocking the man out cold. Meanwhile, Anrak keeps running and starts shouting at the top of his lungs that there is a man who tried to kill him trying to get away.

Joshua hears his friend’s shouts but cannot see where he is so he drags his captive and his dead back to the Inn. Anrack keep up his pursuit all the way to the dock behind the mayor’s house, where the man jumps into the lake and starts swimming for the other side. Lights come on in the mayor’s house and the mayor and another man (who Anrak has never seen before) come out armed for battle. Anrak throws his trident at the fleeing enemy and hits him, but this only slows him for a moment. The trident sinks to the bottom of the lake and a minute later the glowing man exits the other side of the lake and disappears into the woods.

The mayor accompanies Anrak back to the Inn. Down in the basement, he identifies all of the dead and captured men. Two of the dead are the blacksmith’s sons and the other one Joshua got on the bridge is named Jake, who is a farmer from one of the outlying farms. The hulking prisoner is the blacksmith and the other is a man named Paul, who is also a farmer but from a different outlying farm. The discussion of what to do with the prisoners comes down to; they have no other choice but to keep them where they are. They mayor returns to his residence and Joshua and Anrak are forced to spend a sleepless night in the basement of the Foaming Mug with 5 dead bodies and two prisoners.

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Investigating Artiban 4
Interlude: So now we know for sure!

After a minor amount of aided sleep (they were hit in the head). Dalhar and Oswin awaken in their cave cell which has a few new guests. It seems that an old woman and their Gladiator friend with the broken ankle had also been rounded up last night. The half-elf explains that they had come for him while he was sleeping. He was unable to make any noise and they were on him even before he could make a move. The old woman says her name is Vilma Merridie and that she and her husband had lived in the village since it was built. They used to run a farm but after his death she had moved to the small pink cottage on the lake. She too was just taken from her house a few hours ago.

While listening at the door, Dalhar has decided that it would be in their best interest to escape. He knows he can take down the door but is unsure of exactly who is on the other side, other than some troglodytes. Even though he has no weapons he is confident that he can take them out. He is not so confident about getting out of the temple but figures whatever happens above would be better than waiting here to die.

Without so much as a word to his friends he kicks the door open and steps out. The trogs are on him instantly but his armor holds their first round of attacks. He swings his big fist at one of them and hits it hard but it does not go down. Oswin scoops up some sand from the floor of the cave. Again the trogs swing their claws at Dalhar and one of them manages to get past his armor this time. Oswin casts a sleep spell. Dalhar uppercuts the same trog again, removing its head from its body. Two of the trogs press their attack and one manages to get past Dalhar’s armor again. Oswin activates her shadow cloak ability and Dalhar throws a haymaker at the trog that hit him and connects. Oswin sneaks out of the room behind her friend. One of the Trogs releases his stench and though Dalhar is unaffected, Oswin starts wretching. The other Trog grabs her by the throat, starts to dig in his claws and glares at Dalhar. Realizing that even if he could keep Oswin alive he is too hurt to make good their escape anyway, Dalhar backs into the cell. The trog throws Oswin back into the cell and again slam the door. Dalhar starts plotting his next attempt.

After a brief attempt to strong arm information out of their prisoners, Anrak realizes that Joshua will not allow him to continue to torture these men. By noon he and Joshua have been patiently awaiting the return of their friends in the basement of the Foaming Mug for nearly 10 hours. Realizing something must be wrong they decide that Joshua will stay with the prisoners, while Anrak goes to find out what is keeping their friends.

Anrak heads straight back to the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent and goes up to his friend’s rooms. He finds that the (Half-elf’s) room has been ransacked and there are obvious signs of a struggle. The room he and Joshua share with Dalhar has not been slept in, nor has Oswin’s room. He goes downstairs to question Olwin the innkeeper about his friends. He says that they came back just before dark last night, they ate and went up to their rooms. Also around 11:PM, Dalhar walked out into the night and never returned but neither of his other friends have come back down. Anrak brings the old man back up and shows him his friend’s ransacked room. Olwin has no explanation for this. He explains that neither he nor his wife saw or heard anything before closing the common room and going to bed. If anything happened in the night while they slept, it didn’t make enough noise to awaken them nor any of the other guests.

Anrak is tired of asking questions in this town and getting no answers. Other than conflicting rumors he and his friends have been fed they have found out nothing about what is going on. It seems as if either no one knows anything (which is unlikely considering the timeframe involved) or they are being purposefully misled. As a matter of fact, the only person in town that doesn’t seem to have been lying (other than the mayor) is the crazy old man living in the woods (of course the hermit also hasn’t really told him anything either). So he goes back outside and again crosses the road and walks into the grove of stately elms.

As he approaches Ramne’s shack the scene is much the same as it has been during his two earlier visits, except this time there is a very familiar looking weasel perched on the old man’s shoulder. The hermit smiles at Anrak and says, “so, now we know for sure.” Anrak is confused because if he knows anything for sure it is that he is not sure about anything he has learned so far. So he says, “what do I know?” To which Ranme answers, “well at the very least you know that what is going on in this sleepy little burg is much more than you thought it was, and I know that you are not here to gain my confidence and kill me.” Anrak couldn’t argue those points.

Throughout the most lucid conversation he has ever had with this man, Anrak finds out that the weasel is named Whiskers. People in the town have been affected by what he can best describe as a magical enchantment or curse for over a year (definitely since before that unfortunate incident at the Foaming Mug). He knows many people that are definitely effected, including: most of the people remaining in the outlying farms, the blacksmith and his sons, the carpenter and his family, the town shop owner, the people in the farm across from the Foaming Mug, the town constable and his deputies, the people in the farm near the constable’s quarter’s, and everyone up at the temple (including but not limited to the priestesses). There are several groups of troglodytes stationed around the town. Though the headquarters of what can be best described as a “cult type” organization in the town is the Sanctuary of Ninurte (which is where his friends are presently being held), its true center is out in the woods south of the new caravan trail. Though he has never seen the place himself, whiskers has trailed the troglodytes as far as the edge of the flooded woodlands. He knows that Whiskers could have followed them further but Ramne didn’t want to chance him being caught.

Armed with what he believes is the definitive explanation of what is going on in the village, Anrak heads back to the mayor’s home. Once he relays the information (making sure not to mention it comes from the hermit) the mayor seems very worried. With the layout of the effected people, he realizes that if Anrak is correct, his house and family are surrounded. He reveals that the two elves staying in the cottage down the road are his compatriots and that Anrak and his friends should come up with a plan of attack and contact them after nightfall. The mayor himself is going to be busy securing himself and his family until the next afternoon and so will be of little help until then. As far as the question of the prisoners, he can offer no help. If all the constable and his agents are effected, there is nowhere in the village he can insure they stay locked up unless the party themselves are willing to keep watch over them and then that will only work as long as they are not over powered.

Unsure of what to do he heads back to the Foaming Mug, hoping that Joshua is still there and has not also been taken by the mysterious force affecting the village.

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Investigating Artiban 5
Have fun storming the Temple…

Anrak makes it back to the husk of the Foaming Mug by mid-afternoon. He finds Joshua fighting to remain awake; apparently nothing has happened while he was away. He catches Joshua up on all that he has learned and the two begin plotting an attack on the temple. There isn’t much to say. They can’t figure out a stealthy way to get the two of them inside the temple walls after the doors are locked for the night. Anrak decides a frontal assault in the light of day will be their best bet. Though he is not sure about this move Joshua cannot come up with a better plan, besides waiting for nightfall would have the two of them up and going for nearly 48 hours.

The two head up the hill for what they hope will be the final confrontation with the priestess there. Once there, they again wait on the steps of the sanctuary for the priestess to come out. They notice the old gardener is joined by three younger men who bear a striking resemblance to him. They also seem to be suffering under the same malady as they are all holding farm tools and wandering through the beds of dead flowers and bushes.

The beautiful Misha Devi again meets Anrak out on the stoop of the temple. Joshua hangs back a bit trying to keep a path to the gate open, should they need to beat a hasty retreat. He again tries to question her about the goings on in the village but he feels she is giving him the run around again. Joshua realizes that the four gardeners seem to be trying to surround Anrak and himself. Anrak has had about all he can stand at this point and punches Misha in the face. This catches her completely by surprise and knocks her to the ground.

One of the gardeners charges up the stairs toward Anrak while two others race toward Joshua and the fourth closes and bars the gate. The barking of dogs can be heard coming from around the back of the temple. Anrak advances on the fallen priestess but she manages to get off a spell and he becomes as ridged as a statue. She gets to her feet and runs off through a door off to the right of the sanctuary.

Joshua’s battle with the gardeners goes much better than he expected and he realizes they are just gardeners after all. The dogs are a bit more problematic but Anrak is able to move again in short order and they finish off the canines and a fifth gardener who was probably expecting one or two members of his family to still be alive when he rounded the corner.

Joshua goes and reopens the gate and finds the mayor’s two new-elf friends (Dorian and Llywillan) waiting just outside, about to scale the wall. There is some discussion about why the two didn’t wait for nightfall as planned but Anrak quashes the discussion by yelling, “the priestess is getting away.” So, inside they go and through the door on the right.

They enter into small ready room where the priestesses must prepare themselves before services. The room is bare except for three wooden benches and a locked door. Anrak has no patients for subtlety at this time so he bashes the door down. The next room is a bed chamber, which also contains a trunk and a desk. There is also a door to the left which is slightly ajar. Curiously it seems that the priestess must have shed her robes here, because a set that looks like the ones she was wearing are laying sprawled on the floor along with a Ninurtian holy symbol. The desk contains only documents for the day to day running of the church. The trunk has nothing but similar robes inside it but when Joshua moves it he finds a trapdoor beneath.

Anrak notices a set of dirty footprints heading for the door and follows them. Beyond the door he finds a long hallway of alcoves, the first of which he can see into. The alcove is lit by a glowing rock set into the ceiling and its curved back wall is lined with black velvet; a pedestal is set at the alcove’s center and atop it sits what looks like a solid gold carving of a potato. There is some discussion of whether or not the hall is trapped but since none of the four have any experience with traps… what would that matter. Anrak bulrushes the hallway hoping that his speed will carry him past any traps before they spring. He moves with such purpose it is hard to stop before he barrels into the wall at the other end of the hall. Hurm… no traps at all? Strange! He finds at this end that the hall turns left and after a short distance, ends in a set of stairs leading up.

At the top of the stairs the door opened into a large room equipped with several benches and two doors along the right wall. Eight skeletons standing against the left wall jumped to life as Anrak opened the door. The following battle with the skeletons is unspectacular but further slows the pursuit of the dirty footprints that lead through the first door on the right.

That chamber contains nothing but two comfortable chairs and a small table, with an unopened wine bottle and two clean glasses sitting on top it. There is another door along the right wall but there are no longer footprints on the floor to follow. The group fans out to search the room and finds a secret door in the wall opposite their entrance but, there seems to be no way of opening it from this side. Anrak decides to taste the wine before they head onward. He thinks it tastes good, but it is nothing to write home about.

The door opens into a large room which seems to have been converted into a torture chamber (because normally temples of the goddess Ninurte never include such things). There is a stretching rack, a table with heavy straps attached to it and an iron maiden dominating most of the room. These devices of torture have fresh blood on them. Llywillan exclaims, “what is going on with these priestesses?”

As if in answer the room is charged by nine goblin who appear out of several secret doors. Battle is joined again but the outcome was never in doubt. The goblins are dispatched and the party passes through the doors to search the room they came from. There isn’t much there. Some smelly beds, a table for eating and a few silvers per goblin; is the tally of the haul.

One door remained unopened in the torture chamber and that is where the party goes next. As they open the door a small set of bells attached to its inner side start to tinkle. It seems surprise is out of the question. The room is more like a long hallway with no features other than an opening on the left wall. After Anrak and Dorian enter the room, the Misha pops out from around the corner. The beautiful priestess’ face is bloodied and she is no longer adorned in her robes. Instead she is wearing chainmail armor, a different holy symbol and wielding a scimitar. She quickly casts a spell and Anrak and Dorian are again held fast. Llywillan and Joshua press into the room as a small pebble is thrown in from around the corner. Suddenly there is no sound and the room has gone black.

Misha must have fled in the confusion as she cannot be found by the party as they grope through the darkness. Once they round the corner they find themselves in another corridor that runs back in the direction they came from and again ends at an opening on the left. There are strange markings on these walls that seem to have been scribbled with pitch but try as they might none of the party can make heads or tail of them, they seem like gibberish. Around the next corner they are confronted by another corridor of the same type but at its end there is a door on the left. In front of the door is a group of four men standing in front of a towering woman. The men are bare-chested and wearing only cord tied pants and slippers. The woman (who is quite attractive as well, though not of the caliber of Misha) is dressed for battle, wearing chain armor and carrying a scimitar and shield.

Without so much as a word, the men rush the party. While unarmed they seem to be accomplished at fisticuffs. They begin battering each member of the party barehanded. The woman looks at Joshua and orders him to run away. He feels compelled to do so and flees back into the darkness while his friends continue to battle with the unarmed men. The woman advances and begins healing her minions as they continue to pummel the party members. Joshua no longer feels the need to follow the woman’s order but he is again stuck in the darkness, so he begins to grope his way back the other way. She shouts again and a spiritual hammer flies from her outstretched hands and hits Anrak hard in the chest, even as he continues to battle with his boxer. As Joshua exits the darkness again, the fist-fighters begin to fall. The woman casts another spell and the entire party is filled with such fear that they all flee from her presence back into the darkness as she and the remaining bare-knuckled brawlers advance on them.

The fear is short lived and the party resumes their battle. As the bare-chested men continue to fall, the priestess wades into the fray swinging wildly with her scimitar. Things look grim for the party and they are all badly wounded when they finally put her and the last of her minions down. A quick search of her body finds that she is only carrying two items in addition to her armor and weapons; a set of keys and an odd holy symbol. Even with his knowledge of world religions, Anrak cannot identify the holy symbol, which looks like a giant lizard devouring a human or demi-human shaped body.

Passed the door is a room decorated in bizarre fashion. There is a dirty stroke palette on the floor. 2 soft and expensive looking arm-chairs near a low table. A green robe hanging from a hook on the wall above a battered chest and the floor is strewn with rags. A wooden desk sits near the northwest corner of the room. At various points around the walls, small iron hooks for hanging tapestries have been set into the stone, all of which are empty except for one on the wall opposite the door.

After a quick search of the room the party finds there is nothing of interest here. The chest contains nothing but Ninurtain robes. The rags seem to be the shredded remains of tapestries. The desk while exquisitely crafted contains nothing more than temple documents. The robe though not Ninurtain, seems unspectacular. The only thing of interest in the whole place is the tapestry. It formerly depicted a quiet pastoral scene but has been defaced. Written across it in thick pitch are the words “Snake Mother,” and behind it is a concealed door which one of the keys they found unlocks.

Past that door is a large room. Shards of rock lay around 4 crude granite statues that stand about the room in haphazard locations. In the southeast corner, a polished jade figure of the snake with a female human head is set apart from the other statues by its obviously superior crafting and material. Near it, a small iron barred cage holds the listless figure of a handsome young man clothed in tattered rags. 2 brass bound chests sit next to the wall.

The man is no more than a teenage boy. He says his name is Cirillo and that he is the son of the village shopkeeper. He has been kept prisoner here for weeks and has been the object of Abrama’s (the big priestess) twisted desire. He says he will tell the party everything he knows in exchange for releasing him. When the party checks the chests they find that they are empty and the boy tells them they were emptied just two days ago.

Cirillo tells this story; he and his family were abducted from their home in the middle of the night about three months ago, by the priestesses, the owner of the Golden Gain inn, several other farmers and a few troglodytes. They were brought here to the temple and held in an underground cell for a week before they were dragged out in the middle of the night and moved to somewhere out in the woods. The journey took two days, after which they were brought into some underground facility and again put into cells. Eventually he was brought before a huge snake-like being with a woman’s head (he indicates the jade statue as almost a perfect replica of the beast). It coiled around him and he was forced to stare into its eyes for nearly an hour. Other than the revulsion he felt at being coiled by this massive slimy snake it had no other effect on him, but the same cannot be said for his family. He spent a few days back in the cell with a few other townsfolk who were similarly unaffected. He saw his family members return but they were under some type of spell because they only kept droning on about the holy work they must do to be a part of the resurrection of the reptile god, or some such. Most of the unaffected people were taken away and never returned but for some reason Abrama must have been attracted to him because when she and his family returned to the village, she took him back to the temple and has kept him in the room ever since. Sometime during the telling of this story the temple bell begins to toll.

He was visibly upset when he found out the party had killed Abama and he did not get to kill her himself. Though he realizes he already owes the party his life he asks them to bring him to safety outside the temple. When they offer to return him to his family, he says he does not want to go back there because he knows they will betray him if he returns before the enchantment is lifted. While all this is going on, Dorian finds a trapdoor in the floor behind the jade statue. The door leads back down to the bed chamber of the first floor.

Back down on the main floor, the party remembers the other trap door below the chest. Still in search of their friends Oswin and Dalhar. Armed with the knowledge that there is a subterranean area with a holding cell, they figure this might be the way there. Down a short ladder to a staircase there is a long room ahead of them, though it looks completely empty but for a door in the left wall. Cirillo is instructed to hide under the stairs and not to come out unless they return for him or one day passes. The party goes through the door. They seem to have entered some sort of labyrinth and before they can get very far they are set upon by a massive Ogre. The ogre’s titanic club does quite a bit of damage to the party but ultimately he falls to their attacks. The remainder of the maze is small but much more daunting and it takes nearly an hour for the party to find their way through.

At the end of the maze there is a hole broken through the foundation of the temple and just beyond it is an entrance to what seems like a natural cavern. As Anrak steps into the cave a large mushroom lets out an ear piercing shriek. There is no damage from the sound but it is sure that anyone below knows someone is coming. There are two tunnels to follow and the party picks the one on the right. As they head down the tunnel they see what looks like an iron door set into a roughly cut doorway. They look and just inside the door are Oswin and Dalhar, as well as Vilma and the half-elf gladiator. As they go to open the door they are jumped by four troglodytes who have been camouflaged against a wall nearby. One of the trogs releases his stink but after much retching and claw raking the party is victorious and the prisoners are free.

Oswin and Dalhar are really in no shape for travel. It seems after their escape attempt the priestesses came down and used hold spells on them. They were then transported to the torture chamber and were pumped for information about their friends. While Oswin gave up nothing, Dalhar folded to his tormentors and told them everything they wanted to know. Regardless the information the priestesses got from the torture was not enough to save them from the remainder of the party but… the torture left Oswin and Dalhar in extremely weakened states. The remainder of the party let their friends lean on them. The party at it full membership exits the temple an hour later, with the addition of Vilma and Cirillo.

After their ordeal in the temple the party in serious need of bed rest. They return to the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent to find that it has been turned into the defacto headquarters of the mayor, his family and bodyguards (in addition to anyone else in town that could prove they have not been enchanted into the cult. Even with Anrak’s magic, it takes a full two days rest for the party to feel confident that they are at their best.

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