The Next Week and a Half
November 19 2010
by GM (Louis)
Day 1 – The First Evening
In the attempt to apprehend the assassin the party was instead arrested under suspicion of murdering the Duke’s son by the Duke’s personal guard and imprisoned within holding cells beneath House So’ren. It was within those cells that the party met Trax, a rogue and scoundrel with aspirations of leading the local thieves guild (the Clinkers).
The irate Duke was ready to have them drawn and quartered, but his personal wizard, Uriel, convinced him of the unlikelihood of the party’s guilt.
Day 2 – The First Morning
The Duke gave the party a test of character, sending them into a tunnel at the end of the cell block without telling them what they were looking for. The party passed the test (after a couple of scuffles), by returning a locket of apparent significance to the Duke.
Coming along for the ride was a big boozing brawler named Vaughn, who thereon threw his fortunes in with the party.
On the way back to their cell the party spied an odd sight: an adjacent cell containing a small boy with an unusual birthmark.
The duke’s problem’s were compounded when the King’s bulldog, Caleth, turned up with a platoon each of Pharanathian and Jodanian soldiers. Caleth was sent to enforce the King’s order for Duke Lexin So’ren to return to Bloodrose Court, the King’s summer residence.
The duke hatched a plan that would fool the King into thinking he was complying, while actually staying in So’ren. He had his wizard use his magic to disguise the party as members of the Duke’s family, and have them make the journey in the Duke’s stead. He gave the party a sealed letter to deliver to his spy at Bloodrose Court and sent them on their way with the blessings of Melor.
The party departed on the Duke’s personal river boat, encountering Caleth on the way, who was most pleased to see the Duke so compliant.
A peaceful day sailing downriver was interrupted by the odd sight of a woman in flames hurtling down the riverbank and plunging into the water. The attempt to rescue her was stillborn, but a plume of smoke was seen rising above the trees lining the river, seemingly from a fire some way into the woods.
Investigation of the fire revealed a village that had been burned to the ground. The charred remains of children were lined up in the main street side by side as if part of some mass execution. The investigation was cut short when Orcs were spotted exploring the outskirts of the village
Day 5 – Evening
The boat docked in Hanreth on the evening of the 5th day. The party made their way to an upper-class inn: The Broken Tiller. During dinner one of the serving wenches and her three brothers confronted Dayreth (disguised as the Duke remaining son) with the in-utero product of their previous dalliances.
The party delicately defused the situation by promising compensation (that would obviously not be forthcoming).
On leaving the inn the party was intercepted by a Halfling named Jangi who had seen through their illusionary disguise. Jangi implored the party to help him find his cousins, whom he believed were kidnapped by Morgana, a mad Halfling from his village.
Of course, the party had something a little more important to attend to. They had to be seen leaving Hanreth in the direction of Bloodrose Court while still disguised as the Duke of So’ren’s family. They wandered down to the docks to commission a boat, and something went wrong. A fight started. The fight turned into a massacre of the local constabulary, during which the Duke’s daughter was seen running across the battlefield in a way no upper class dainty would be seen on the move. The spell was broken, and Rauko was revealed before many witnesses, a fact that would later come back to haunt him.
The party fled Hanreth, making their way north of the town where they soon met up with Jangi. Jangi led the party to where his cousins were abducted, on a track leading down into a large bowl shaped depression in the terrain. At the bottom was a cave, and at the back of that was a dungeon, where the party took on some strange, glowing blue, animated stone carvings, followed by some crazy cultists, apparently part of some sect of Torog that Morgana had started.
They eventually located Morgana (who seemed to be rather covetously cradling some mysterious blue rock) and defeated her posse, but Morgana herself got away, escaping through a Halfling-sized tunnel at the end of her pre-planned escape route. The cousins were rescued, but Paleant was not satisfied, vowing to track the crazy Halfling down.
The party returned to where they left Jangi, and reunion with his cousins was a joyous one. The joy was short-lived, however, when upon returning to Jangi’s village, Summerbee, they discovered that it was on fire. Odd figures were seen moving about in the fire, arranging small people in a line and executing them one by one. The party tried to take on the strangers, but they raised a pack of undead and shrugged off any attempts to attack them as they strode away from the scene.
A distraught Jangi asked the party to track down Tabiel, Summerbee’s protector, who had not been seen in a couple of weeks since leaving to investigate the comings and goings of a group of Dwarves to the northwest.
The party set off to track down Tabiel and the Dwarves. The endless hills to the northwest were at first confounding, but they bumped into a rather craven Kobold named Exylothixyl, who kept raving on about a white queen. The white queen turned out to be a white dragon wyrmling named Initraxis, who, along with her Kobold worshipers, had taken over Coppernight Hold, a new mine bring constructed by the aforementioned Dwarves. The party defeated Initraxis and her posse, recapturing Coppernight Hold and freeing the Dwarves and Tabiel.
In thanks for rescuing them, the Dwarves promised to create a magic weapon for Rauko, and the party left with Tabiel, who was soon reunited with her animal companion, a falcon named Tully.
Tabiel came with the party back to Summerbee where in camp she told them about someone who may be able to help them figure out what to do next. His name was Leskan, a monk who was also the Provost of the Hanreth chapter of a group known as the Hussians.
Half the party set off with Tabiel to locate Leskan. Dayreth had an attack of the guilts after suggesting Jangi should eat concrete and toughen up rather than fret over his lost village, and decided to stay behind and help rebuild the village. He held back Vaughn to help out as well.
On the way back to Hanreth, the remaining party members hooked up with a pair of wanderers, a paladin of Kord, Erik, and a wizard named Adaris. After a quick scuffle with a few Kobolds and their pet Spitting Drake, they arrived at Hanreth only to find it in lock-down, with a large force of soldiers camped out on the western outskirts of the town.
A checkpoint along the road into Hanreth was looking for someone and it seemed logical that that someone was Rauko given the party’s previous adventures in the town. Rauko decided to find another more surreptitious way in, while the rest of the party proceeded through the checkpoint. As it turned out, the soldiers were carrying a rude portrait of Rauko, confirming the party’s suspicions.
Once within the town the party wasted no time in locating the tavern known as Pug’s Mug (as per Tabiel’s advice). The barkeep informed the party that a man fitting Leskan’s description did indeed occasionally rent out the backroom of the tavern, although he had been away for a while. He had returned, and if they wanted to find him, it was worth checking the whorehouses near the docks, particularly a fine little establishment called Polenna’s Pearl.
After some delicate negotiations with the madam (Polenna herself), the party managed to flush Leskan from his room (and just in time too from the sounds of distress coming from the girl he was with). After a jump from the top story window in an attempt to avoid some out of town soldiers downstairs (who earlier revealed that the army camped outside of town was on its way to So’ren, and not for a casual visit), Leskan took the party back to his rather spartan home where he told them the story of the Hussians.
In the meantime Rauko made his way down to the river to work out how to sneak into town that way. From that vantage point he spied the unusual sight of three large barges moored at the Hanreth docks. It was something that more than warranted investigation (and we are talking about Rauko the instigator here). He kept to the shadows as he followed the bank of the river, passing some warehouses before skipping onto the nearest barge without alerting the guards.
A bit of snooping around under some large canvases on the deck revealed crates of weapons, armor, and rations, and barrels of water, and some sort of incendiary substance. Evidence of an imminent invasion of So’ren was mounting. Rauko then snuck over to the lighted cabin of the next barge and witnessed a discussion of politics between some Aracana Empiricum mages who had been hired as mercenaries.
Back at Leskan’s house the party had revealed to Leskan the distressing news the dragons were back in Pharanathia (or at the very least one had been briefly present but was no longer). In any case, Leskan was not about to take chances, given that the Hussians had, as per their self-imposed prime directive, at one time eradicated the entire draconian race from the continent. He would set off immediately to inform the head of the Hussians and seek his advice. Plans were made to meet up with Leskan again in Rolo in two weeks.
Parting ways with Leskan, the party made their way back to Pug’s Mug for a good night’s rest, but were intercepted by Trax hiding in an alley near the tavern. The ever-enterprising young Clinkers aspirant negotiated a price for some interesting information, that being the news that the Duke of So’ren has hired an assassin to hunt down the party. But not just any assassin; the very same Minute Man (an Eladrin named Juan Ki’reth) that murdered the Duke’s son just over a week before. Additionally, Trax revealed that Juan had assigned the job to his apprentice, a rather nasty elf named Krist Fenwright.
Back on the docks, Rauko made his way off the barges, but not without screwing up enough to attract the attention of the guards. He escaped them, but on his way to Pug’s Mug he ran into a mysterious hooded assassin. His fast reactions quickly got him the upper hand in the fight, and the assassin fled after sustaining a critical wound, only managing to escape with the aid of a healing potion.
Rauko continued onto Pug’s Mug where he explained everything to the others.
Day 9 – Morning
The soldiers, part of a force led by General Caleth, were starting to throw their weight around in town. In between visits to various retail outlets the party came upon a fruit seller beset by soldiers attempting to requisition her produce. Paleant stepped in and resolved the situation diplomatically, convincing the soldiers to take their ill intentions elsewhere.
Shortly after, the party spotted more soldiers leading bound and bagged prisoners through the streets. Tagging along, they soon realized the prisoners (an unfamiliar man, plus, coincidentally or not, the courtesan from Polenna’s Pearl who was fawning over the soldier patrons) were to be publicly executed on the change of spying. The male accused made a break for it, but was cut down in cold blood, the words “my liege” on his dying lips. The party scrambled for a way of interrupting the proceedings without putting themselves at too much risk. They started up a chant within the crowd, somehow finding the perfect raw nerve to strike, stirring them to anger and sparking a full scale riot. The crowd bashed several soldiers to death, and the fight spilled over into the surrounding streets. Unfortunately the courtesan was still killed, but the seeds of discontent had been sewn.
It took a couple of hours for the soldiers’ reinforcements to quell the uprising. Later, the party’s lunch was interrupted by a crier announcing the imposition of a curfew, making it clear how high the stakes were.
Day 9 – Evening
Early in the evening, Kantalar, a boyhood friend of Paleant’s located them at the tavern, having been tailing the soldiers in the hope of obtaining work with them. The party then hit upon a plan to blow up the barges, thus slowing down the advance of the invading troops. Later that night they left Pug’s Mug on possibly the most the most daring mission of their lives. Rauko stayed behind, however, vowing to hunt down his would-be killer.
The party flitted from alleyway to alleyway, making their way past the curfew patrols down to the docks. Except, that is, for Erik, who was spotted and had to fast-talk his way out of an execution (and even managed to get an escort down to the docks, albeit minus his weapon).
Down on the docks the plan soon went awry, and an epic battle ensued. The barges were now heavily guarded by both regular infantry, as well as artillery wizards, and party members were dropping like flies towards the end. The skirmish was resolved when Adaris finally managed to set the incendiary barrels on fire. The resulting explosion killed several guards, blew a giant hole in the bottom of the barge, blasted Kantalar to death’s door, and woke up half of Hanreth.
Subsequent explosions on the other barges ended the combat, and none too soon as reinforcements were just arriving (although the first group had already been sent packing by an Adaris Force Orb special). Having created such a ruckus, the party thought it prudent to make themselves scarce, and hurried along the bank of the river until they were far beyond the outskirts.
There they met up with Tabiel, who greeted them with the words, “What the hell did you guys do?!!”
The party decided to resume the hunt for Morgana. They led Tabiel to the place they last saw her and Tabiel spent some time picking up the witch’s trail. Soon they were headed east through rough scraggy hills, following a path that barely deserved the name. To complicate matters a shocking storm was blowing in, carrying with it heavy rain that seemed almost unnatural in its intensity, drenching all to the bone and threatening to obliterate any tracks Tabiel might have been following.
As chance would have it, the crest of the next hill revealed the welcome sight of a village huddled in a valley below. Proceeding to the village’s only inn, the party was quickly welcomed in by the innkeeper and his wife, who whisked them into their rooms and fetched them dry clothes.
Coming back down to a hot meal, the palpable nervousness about the inclement weather among the other patrons quickly became apparent. Apparently no one had seen weather this bad since the third cataclysm, although it was likely this was a grand exaggeration. The innkeeper, a big bloke named Callum with a thick accent, was queried about the whereabouts of Morgana. Kantalar spied a half-elf sitting nearby who sat up and took keen notice of this conversation.
After some shenanigans trying to get the half-elf to reveal himself, the party settled down for a well-earned rest.
Day 11 – Morning
Working from a tip off from Callum, Adaris and Erik left the next morning to find an old farmer named Jornis, to question him about his sighting of Morgana. He informed them that he had indeed caught Morgana digging around the graves in the village cemetery, and that after he chased her off she fled north.
An investigation of the grave site revealed that indeed one particular grave had been dug up, and an amazing amount of earth had been removed from the plot. Unfortunately it was filled with water, and some tentative investigation revealed not much, except for a curious engraving on the headstone.
Meanwhile Kantalar set in motion a plan to flush out the curious half-elf, passing letters to both the innkeeper, and the half-elf himself (slipping it under the door of his room). The cleverly crafted contents of the letter sent the half-elf into a panic, who subsequently tried to make his escape by throwing a chair through his top-floor room’s window and jumping out. The innkeeper, alerted to the possibility of the half-elf’s nefariousness, quickly joined Kantalar in the pursuit, which was over almost before it started. Callum manhandled the half-elf back into the inn.
The subsequent interrogation revealed that the half-elf, going by the name of Traevus, was on a mission to find a means of rescuing his brother from imprisonment imposed by a cult of dark druids. This unnamed cult was apparently many days travel from this village of Fernwell, but Traevus was here because he had read rumors that a wealthy family, the Kaltons, that once lived in the area, were “great scholars, and kept many rare and significant books, particularly those dealing with shadow rituals”.
So the party then set out with Traevus to find the former abode of the Kaltons (having rejected Erik’s plan to bail out the water-filled grave with a bucket). Callum gave them an additional task, promising a reward if they helped remove the threat posed by a bunch of goblin bandits that had been spotted in the area of the old Kalton residence to the north.
As it turned out, the goblin bandits had taken up residence in what was left of Kalton Manor, occupying a tower that once formed the corner of the mansion. The party cleared the first floor with relative ease, but struggled with the ambush that had been set up on the second floor. Indeed, Adaris fell to the onslaught of the goblin hexer and his snipers, bleeding out on the floor as close to death as mortally possible. In the end it was only a feat of human perseverance that kept him alive long enough for Tabiel to execute a series of fluky maneuvers to bring salvation to him in the form of a healing potion. Of course, no one will dare to mention Tabiel’s subsequent misstep that collapsed half the second floor, sending her crashing to the floor below.
The question for the party now is: will they continue up to the third floor of the tower, or find out what lies beneath the trapdoor they found on the first floor?