Westlaws Update 1.5
They met under typical circumstances; in the service to the Castle and its Marshal. But before that they each had tales to tell. The adventurers were unusual; they included many races and origins, but they all were in Sentinel trying to solve the situation they each uniquely found themselves in.
The cries and scampering sounds of kobolds deeper in the tunnels resounded through the cramped complex, as PCs took stock of their position and resources. Brommik argued loudly that they retreat and rest from the horrible fight they had just engaged in. After some discussion on the matter, the group agreed. The PCs slipped down the trapped tunnels leading to the common kobold’s living chambers, past the hated scorpion (which was battered into scrap by Brommik), and out of the caves to their encampment north of the hill.
The PCs returned to find their kobold minions clustered around the roaring fire, with the lizard tied and wrapped in a bedroll. Guards were set and the group settled in for a cold night.
22nd of Uktar : All through the night, distant cries and sounds could be heard leading off north in the woods. By morning, the cold rain had ceased, to be replaced by a freezing ice fog. The kobolds had nestled next to the lizard and were buried under a pile of spare canvas sheets and blankets from various sources (Where did they get all those blankets?). The smells of cooking bacon awakened them enough to nestle close about Grignak and beg him for food.
A discussion of the sounds from last night, followed by the fact there might be a hidden exit from the lair no one had yet seen, prodded the PCs to begin a search of the entire circumference of the hill, looking for something that might be such a back door. After several hours of fruitless searching, they returned to the main entrance, and agreed to travel deeper into the lair. Quick observation of the corpse outside didn’t reveal anything new, so in they went.
Passing through the trapped passages, the group noticed that the only changes were the inner incredibly average door had been spiked shut once more. In the chambers beyond, the eggs and females had evacuated as well, and many of the easy to loot supplies and weapons had been taken from the numerous kobold corpses during the past day. The dog corpses seemed to have been hacked and chewed a bit as well.
In the chambers beyond, they found a refuse chasm filled with trash, an arena of some sort, and its connected pit and kennel. Once home to about a dozen dogs, the filthy chamber had a single kobold corpse mauled by a sole-remaining shaggy wolf-hound. The dog was frightfully wounded, though it responded to a number of soothing words and rough jerky from Brommik’s pouch. He managed to coax it to follow him and though it seemed to distrust anyone else, it became approachable to Brommik, who took a little time to examine its wounds and do a little martial healing.
Further down the tunnel, they found a small, rough-hewn chamber of clay and stone with a large “altar” of some sort along the south wall. It consisted of a mass of rubble, sticks, branches, antlers and countless other items, like rocks, leaves, dried flowers and strips of cloth tied into a large jumble. Resting over a pot of dried blood, it was noticed by Colo that the stone block had an ancient “Firebloom” carving in its sides; something he identified as the mark of elemental fire, an ancient symbol from Galana’s Nature cult. Colo salvaged the block, since it did not belong here, with hopes to find how or why it was in this place.
Eventually the passage ended, with a large double door sealed from this side, made of thick, rough timbers. After a quick examination, they pulled the doors open to reveal a long, narrow natural chamber strewn with thick webbing and various cocoons. Illuria gleefully moved into the chamber, lighting one of the group’s precious torches, intent on burning some webs. Just then a large fanged spider leapt from the sheets of webbing along the walls to the attack. Movement into the webs proved them to be difficult to escape from when blundered into. As the group engaged the spider, forcing it back, its poisonous spittle did grevious wounds to everyone, but the brutal attacks from the whole gang made it retreat, until it fled from the chamber through a rock tunnel leading sharply up to the top of the hill. They tried to follow after it a ways up the tunnel, but it proved to be too steep, and so it escaped.
After a short rest, a discussion again began, talking about where the retreating kobolds had fled to. Finding no entrances anywhere other than the tiny rat passages back in the commons rooms, they realized they needed to examine some walls. Illuria presented her tried and proven technique of prodding the walls, and this revealed two separate secret tunnels in the dead-end corridor next to the spider chamber.
The first revealed a narrow crawl-tunnel dropping straight and quickly down into the dark. The other revealed a small chamber with a large hide nest in its center, and a cobbled section along one wall, as though someone was improving the chamber’s clay walls and floor. The group examined the stone floor, and Vani identified a strange octagonal carving in the center. He determined it was a strange key of some sort, and proceeded to open it… setting off a flurry of needles from the cracks in the walls, striking everyone present nearby. There was obviously poison of some sort on the needles, but the group resisted the effects easily.
Beyond the door revealed by opening the lock, was a round chamber of clay and stone with numerous rough-spun sacks, a pair of small chests, and a finely carved wooden box. There were also the two missing children, bound and gagged and lying on huddled together! Both were hungry, thirsty and scared, having been left here for nearly two days alone and bound in the dark. Identifying themselves as Hala and Aldy, they begged to be taken home to Dewmount.
The chests and sacks were filled with silver and copper coins, each carefully polished and shining brightly, many ancient and worn with time. The box was a masterwork item depicting a trio of monks praying (20 gp), and contained an ancient lizard figurine of jade with obsidian eyes, golden claws and tongue (320 gp).
The group gathered up the loot and the children, and discussed whether they should follow the new obvious exit from the kobold complex, or retreat back to camp through the route they already knew. They decided it was safer for the two children to go back the way they had come, and so, returned to camp without incident. The need to get the children home to Dewmount took priority over returning to the complex, and so deciding they had broken the backs of the “Tearing Claws” tribe, they packed camp and began moving out of the Dimholt Woods to return to Dewmount.
Packing the children and numerous chests, sacks and other loot on a pair of Grignak’s Floating Looters, they had the kobolds their guard lizard along with their crude spears (they made spears while we were in the tunnels?!?) and bundled in blankets on another, while the group slowly trudged through the cold and wet ice fogs in what seemed to be the correct direction. Vani seemed to know where to go, anyways.
As darkness fell, they eventually reached the Moonbrook, and followed it south to the “Mooncut Ravine”. Wading through the dark chasm, and thence to the Crookwinde Stream, they followed it up over the ridge to Dewmount village. Heading straight to the local inn, the “The Roaring Lion”, they found the place warm and welcoming.
Explaining their tale to the local innkeeper, they feasted on roast mutton and ale, while the kobolds and lizard lay bundled in a corner by the hearth. Eventually, Sir Redhall, the local knight arrived with a couple guardsmen, and after thanking the PCs for finding the children, he had the guards escort them back to their families, while hearing of their tale. He listened intently, and hearing of the demise of two kobold tribes in the woodlands, promised to tell Thane Pike of their exploits in his next visit (Yay for +2 Reputation!). He noted the group has already been amply rewarded for their efforts, but paid for the group’s stay at the inn, and welcomed them to visit him in his hall anytime they needed to, shaking their hands and bidding them a good night.
23rd of Uktar : Over a morning meal of mutton stew and more ale, the group planned their next actions, and after Vani expressed his interest to return to Broadwell and his relatives there, the group decided they would head due north to the Blessed Woods, where they might talk to the druid who laired there about the stone Colo had recovered. From there, they could slip over to their own lair in the Goblin Warrens, depositing their mounds of treasure and minions, and on the morrow, travel to Sentinel market and get some much needed supplies. From there, they could travel north into the Dagger Hills visit Broadwell and return to Caer Pyrestone to hunt down the elusive owlbear and recover Colo’s lost equipment and pride.
The morning was clear, but still freezing, and they made good time crossing the ridge to the southern edge of the Blessed Woods, towing the lizards and loot on a pair of Floating Looters. An impenetrable wall of ancient hardwoods, they camped along the edge of the woods, calling into them and trying to get the attention of the local mistress, the Druid Ravenhair. They waited several hours, but eventually a lone figure emerged from the dark woodlands, revealing herself to be their quarry.
She revealed herself to be a female elf of stunning beauty, with amber-glowing tresses, and wearing a simple wool tunic of brown and white with a long cloak of fine winter-wolf fur. She bore an ornate longsword with a handle of horn and a green stones on its pommel and hilts on her belt. Greeting the group, she asked their business, to which they explained who they were and that they had come to her with a question, regarding the block of stone buried under the treasure. She thought for a moment, eyeing the party, and agreed, offering to take them someplace warm and private. The PCs were warned to stay close and harm no living thing.
Moving into the heart of the Blessed Woods, they found portions of the ancient woodlands slumbering in pre-winter sleep, but others were awake and seemingly warm, snapshots as the Feywild must appear. The forest was quiet, sometimes a haunting cry or other beast could be seen along the edges of ones vision, but nothing showed itself in their journey. After an hour or two of travel through the trackless woods, a diffuse green light appeared to the north. It quickly revealed itself to be a glowing woodland in the warm embrace of late spring, with a large wooden structure having a peaked roof but neither door nor window in its open sides. At its center lay a stone altar carved with the image of a stag’s head, its horns ablaze in a silver light, like a blooming tree. She motioned for the PCs to make themselves comfortable along the near side, and hung her cloak next to a bedroll and various small chests.
Lady Ravenhair made a clicking and whistling in the air, while she readied wwoden and silver platters and goblets for the party from some of the chests. From the woodlands around her a number of animals appeared, squirrels carrying nuts, wolves bearing cold, roast meat, a stag with a platter of odd, fresh crimson leaves, and a badger carrying a clay jug of wine. They served these items before the players, before retreating back into the forest once more, and the Lady encouraged everyone to refresh themselves while they told of their tale and journey.
As the PCs tale progressed, the cares of the last ten-day in the wilds of Silt-Laws sloughed-away and the strange repast filled their food starved tummies. The question of the stone block came up, and when revealed to her from the jumble of loot, made her ponder for a minute. She agreed it was indeed a “Firebloom”; a rare flower seen as an early symbol of the cult of Galana, but always representing the elemental aspect of “Fire”. She agreed that it should not have been in the middle of a kobold lair, but that it must have been recovered by the Tearing Claws from a forgotten ruin in the depths of the Dimholt Woods, known as “Githil Adlan”.
Githil Adlan, she said, was a forgotten monastery once home to the Ilii su Marel Andira_** (commonly known in elvish as the Marel Andira), or the Brotherhood of the Crimson Sash_, a monastic order of druids dedicated to the worship and honor of nature and the elements. In its early years, it was a place of quiet and peace, where unity existed between the new human folk that had come to the once swaths of woodland and the elves that tried to live in tune with nature.
After humanity came in greater and greater numbers to these woodlands, the place was generally abandoned and faded to the knowledge of humanity. Soon thereafter, a new and far more sinister religious order arose. These folk brought evil to a place of harmony, and their corrupting presence still lingers in the ancient ruins. These black-robed priests, known to history as the Hisrin Aroth, or the “Black Winter”, brought desecration to the hallowed shrines, and practiced blood rites that required the living to die on their altars. At their height, the woodlands festered with evil creatures, and the heart of the Dimholt has never fully recovered from their presence.
At some point, unclear as to when in her tale, a great force of humanity and elves raided the site, and purged the creatures that dwelt in Githil Adlan, sending them back from whence they had come. She would not speak of the horrors these warriors found, but admitted it was around the time of the Battle of the Great Burn. Gone were the wicked cultists, but the plague of their foul deeds remained heavy upon the ruins and the woodlands.
Lady Ravenhair admitted that the PCs might very well have been led by destiny to find the stone in the kobold lair, and return it from where it came, perhaps only because it was fated they find it and be led to the heart of the forest. She promised that as long as you harmed no living thing within the heart of the woodland, travel there would be possible, and that the great guardian treant of the forest would allow them passage. They agreed to return the stone once they had concluded a few personal matters, and finished their feast.
After they had gathered their belongings and bundled back up once more, the Lady led them out of her home, past the great menhir encircled shrine of Galana to a faint trail she promised would open almost due south of their lair in the Goblin Warrens. In need, she said, entrance to her woodland refuge could be gained by following along that path, but she warned not to stray far into the woodlands themselves without escort. They waved to her and left the forests through the ancient, pathway, finding their home with ease.
The party re-explored their lair for intruders, dropping the kobolds and guard lizard in the lower warrens, and taking their piles of loot upstairs to the former shrine of Frogmoth, where they piled their takings. Grignak sorted through the piles of coins and divided it into large portions for the group to have a personal share each, and then settled in for a night of comradeship and tale swapping. Discussions about options resulted in four possibilites; dealing with the owlbear,
travelling into the heart of the woodlands to Githil Adlan, hunting down an ochre jelly in the deep passages beneath the Goblin Warrens, and just generally exploring the caverns under their home, including finding where the water bubbling from the cave spring leads deeper into the Underdark. It was agreed to visit Sentinel and push on to Broadwell tomorrow, and then onwards to Caer Pyrestone to deal with the horrid owlbear.
24th of Uktar : The morning proved another freezing day of ice fogs and cloudy weather. Leaving their minions and some of their treasure and loot behind, they travelled to Sentinel alog the eaves of the Blessed Woods. They visited various shops in town, buying potions of healing, various supplies (Winter coats and bedrolls! Yay!), and hunting for news, following their extended absence in the woodlands.
Grignak nosed around town searching for the elusive Forgia, seeking to spend some coins on a few new rituals (OH! You mean FORGIA!), while Illuria bought a magic crossbow (for only 250 gp!) from the Chandler/Locksmith Master Darklighter. Brommik made arrangements to donate large amounts of copper coins (over 20 lbs worth!) to the town orphanage at the Northgate Townhouse. He also left several bolts of cloth taken from the first kobold lair, to be made into a couple dresses for his beloved Passy, with the castle seamstresses, along with some silver for their efforts.
Eventually gathering again in the Whisp for the night, many rumors were heard regarding a recent raid on some merchants way to the south. It seemed someone attacked a middling trade caravan near the crossroads about a day away, and carried off everything, except the wagons. Animals, merchants, guards, goods and loot all disappeared without a trace. Most agree it was some sort of dragon or other flying creature. A few say it’s the Slaughter Crew going after big targets before winter settles and trade disappears for the season. Whatever the source, its like has not been seen before…
25th of Uktar : The morning dawned cool and clearing. Forgia was waiting for the PCs when they came down for breakfast, appearing from the shadows and approaching Grignak. He requested a couple of rituals from her contacts in the Shrine of Nolom (that nervous young acolyte he’d met on Market Day), and she agreed, accurately pricing their value and demanding 10% up front for the visit. He agreed, giving her a couple sacks of copper and silver coins as down-payment, and then agreed to meet her contact on the evening of the 28th of Uktar, when they had returned from Caer Pyrestone.
The trip north to Crossing and north-east into the Dagger Hills went quickly on frozen roads, and they reached Braodwell early in the evening. They met Vani’s aged uncle, who gave them space in the stockbarn of his homestead – warm and snug, it was actually quite comfortable, while Vani and he talked late into the evening.
26th of Uktar : Unusually warm, but cloudy, the PCs made quick travel time along the old trade raod to Caer Pyrestone, well familiar with the route by now. The ruins remained quiet, and they chose to closely examine the fallen bronze bell lying in the shadow of the old chapel. A brief discussion of Pyrestone’s history, led them to agree the bell was indeed something of a relic that the Brommik’s Order of Avarkiel might be interested in recovering. They examined the chapel ruins, finding it small, but mostly intact, and had obviously once been a place dedicated to Larani, and since desecrated to Agrik.
The group then slipped quietly into the main tower itself, and entered the lower levels, travelling deep underground past the small rockfall to the door from which they’d heard roaring and scratching sounds. Opening it, they found a large stone chamber, strewn with bones, rusted weapons and even bits of Colo lying around, from which he was able to salvage some of his old equipment (This is the first time I’ve ever actually handled my own corpse…). One corner had collapsed in, revealing a sharply sloped tunnel to the surface, and bearing the marks of owlbear claws. The secret of how it had gotten 30’-below ground was resolved! They planned strategy and waited in ambush.
No one saw or heard its stealthy approach, and it appeared at the mouth of the chamber with a loud ROAR! The battle was fierce, and it tore into Brommik with a savage grapple and rend, knocking him unconscious. The group battered away on it, however, and as its defenses were being worn down, Illuria woke Brommik from his near death experience, to have him stand and masterfully rend back into the owlbear with his magical relic blade, dropping it at last.
Battered and bruised, the PCs secured the lower tower and rested for the day to replenish their reserves from the nasty skirmish with the owlbear. They discussed salvaging the owlbear hide, but the butchery had been sufficient to make it worth little enough.
27th of Uktar : The morning was warm and foggy, with ice melting from the ground enough to actually help excavating the 800 lbs bronze bell. They loaded it onto another of Grignak’s Looters, and hauled the whole thing to Broadwell late in the day. Again camping in Vani’s uncle’s barn, they rested the remainder of the day.
28th of Uktar : The day dawned hot and muggy, fog obscuring sight beyond a few hundred feet. They said their goodbyes to the kind halflings of Broadwell, and again summoning a Looter, hauled the bronze bell out of the Dagger Hills, past Crossing and into Sentinel. Victory!