The characters for this session
Seck Rustrau, enemy of the red dragon, doom of Gleekmound, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane, Giantslayer, Savior of Thane Braden, ear-taker, Shadow’s-end, enemy of the Fiend, Virtuous of the Long Road, Friend of St. Berronar, friend of the New Town, enemy of Sebek, Steel-ranked: a 2nd-tier rogue wielding both the 2nd-tier shortsword named Red Whisper and the 2nd-tier throw-blade named Maelsauga, and wearing an Elf cloak and Boots of the Skirmisher. Objectives: enjoy the wilds, enforce the Duke’s will against the Green Dragon cult.
Seck’s level 6 gain is Expertise in Perception and Acrobatics.
Cat Weasel, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane, Giantslayer, Savior of Thane Braden, Shadow’s-end, enemy of the Fiend, Virtuous of the Long Road, Friend of St. Berronar, friend of the New Town, minor tier Rumbler, Steel-ranked: a 2nd-tier warlock wielding a 2nd-tier Rod of the Pact Keeper; also a Hat of Disguise, Ring of Mind-Shielding, and Ring of Protection. The former ring contains the spirit of Arkul Hammerwing, a green dragonborn. Objectives: rescue Helena, seek vengeance against the Green Dragon cult and investigate the Black Wyrm cult.
Cat’s level 6 changes involve a shuffle of spells and eldritch invocation features. He can now Misty Escape in response to harm.
Phoenix Pilandaros, hag’s bane, Giantslayer, Savior of Thane Braden, Shadow’s-end, enemy of the Fiend, Virtuous of the Long Road, Friend of St. Berronar, friend of the New Town, enemy of Sebek, Steel-ranked: a 2nd-tier barbarian wielding the legendary weapon Mocair, and a superior shortsword. Objectives: rescue Helena, seek vengeance against the Green Dragon cult.
Phoenix’ level 6 gain is Spirit of the Eagle, enabling him with detail sight, line of sight up to a mile, and no disadvantage for seeing in dim light. He also gets 4 rages a day.
The trail to Milborne
It is mid-afternoon on a warm late-spring day. Following Vir’s advice the three Long Roaders have taken the south trail out of Mooregate, working through the well-ordered villages of Boxall and Coggypoint. Then, rather than crossing the saddle over to Frickley, they swing west and follow the line of the watershed, then north towards Haranshire. This, the same path taken by Helena and her treacherous guards, avoids both fey woodlands south and haunted moors north!
The Lyrchwood is on their left, throwing growing shadow across the trail. Phoenix spots a cluster of farm laborers heading south toward them. One of them waves and they make as though to pass peaceably. Farms must mean that the village of Milborne will be gained well before night.
Two arrows from the Lyrchwood whiz past Phoenix and Seck! Then two more! One nicks a cut in Seck’s pack.
“Bandits!” cry the farmers, making as though to join forces with the Long Roaders. Their weapons are no better than staves, cudgels and crude farm tools.
As the two archers, longbows now slung and longswords drawn, vault from the forest verge out onto the attack, the farm hands also attack!
Phoenix is ready with Mocair (not in pact, since his own totem suits travel the best) and the mighty blade nearly bisects the nearest swordsman. He trades ineffective swipes with the other. Seck stabs with Red Whisper, but merely scores the swordsman’s leather armor. Cat steps clear of the farm hands and casts Shatter: to a man they topple, blood gushing from ears and nose, and barely twitch.
“I think you need to choose wisely,” he says cheerfully to the survivor.
Who promptly throws his sword down and raises his hands on high!
With both Seck and Phoenix intimidating, Cat makes an advantage Persuasion roll and scores 22.
Calanis is a member of Mooregate’s Sealed Knot Assassins Society. Calanis humbugged local farm hands into attacking “evil raiders.” He himself is in the pay of Morchefus, a cleric of some sort and a feared figure who wants spellcasters taken alive. He professes himself unclear about his patron’s plans for spellcasters, except they involve the Thornwood. Since Morchefus has ways of keeping an eye on his hirelings, Calanis would really like to leave the district.
Having studied Calanis’ features so that he can copy him, Cat agrees he can go. He establishes a few other details, such as that Calanis’ senior, a man known as Dryden, wants the Long Roaders dead; and that they have maybe a day before Morchefus realizes something has gone wrong.
Bodies dragged off the trail into the woods, they set off north once more: for Milborne.
Loot: they keep the spare longsword.
Milborne was settled some generations ago and the folk doing the building used traditional, northern designs. The roofs are all steeper than they need to be and the temple has an archaic steeple. The inn or tavern visible seems unusually large for such a small village.
The trio slosh across the ford and nod politely to a codger packing up his fishing for the evening. The old chap recognizes them as adventurers, and recommends the big tavern, the Baron of Mutton.
“Barren of mutton? – Doesn’t sound too promising,” Seck jokes. The sign shows a noble looking fellow hoisting a haunch of something. They head in, and are greeted, in distracted fashion, by a young woman divided between cooking for supper (smells: scorched) and some other worry. She seems and is a daughter of the house, and her father, stout polite Bart, soon provides a more professional welcome and books them in for a room each.
The Long Roaders are soon on the trail of the missing courier. Bart is very worried and glad to have someone to speak to about it! This is the very same lodging that the workers abandoned Helena at. She stopped on for a day and a night, expecting them back: then disappeared without explanation. But she left both the wizard-locked chest she was to deliver to her old mentor Tauster, and her own component pouch.
Bart sends out for one Andren, who proves to be a remarkably handsome young man, shoulders square and broad, hair clean and princely. He rushes over and grasps Cat’s hands: professes to be Helena’s childhood friend! Their stars are destined!
In turn, Andren refers them to Garyld the ranger who thought he found some tracks… he also offers to join any search-party they form. By that time it is deep night, and they agree to visit Garyld at dawn.
Garyld points east
Garyld, ranger and village carpenter, is bronzed and scarred, perhaps twice their age, speaks with an accent that suggests he has wandered afar, and walks with the same kind of heavy limp that Karl Kemp does. He seems to have been expecting them, and observes them closely, then agrees to tell them what he can of the missing girl. He limps out east of Milborne with them and points out various features. They gain a little insight into the New Mire, and some basics of the Thornwood:
- The scourge is the term for the days when Count Parlfray brought in mercenaries to clear orcs from the woods
- Once, the counts – who now live up near Thurmaster – used to live in a great rock spire in the Thornwood
- There’s a strange wild druid girl living there, who runs with wolves. She may know about the feywild regions south, and may know much more about the Thornwood
- The ranger Kuiper, who farms near Thurmaster, would be able to tell them much more about the druid and perhaps other goings-on inside the woods
- Kuiper’s farm and knowledge may be a better start-point than just blundering into the woods
“The war dealt less hardly with him than me, he keeps this region safe,” he concludes.
XP: lvl7-138 (yes, this scene is a gimme so zero xp)
Kuiper is keen
In payment for his help they put in a little volunteer work for Garyld, then Phoenix straps the wizard chest to his back and they set off east. Keeping the river to their right, the trio make their way across rolling country, without peril, and before evening, see a lone farm.
The farm appears to be a working smallholding, with a few hands, and nary a woman.
Kuiper is a very tall and strapping ranger who has the look of someone that prefers close combat to sniping with longbow. He has a bachelor’s sturdy scrub of beard, and the bronzed skin and scars of a combat veteran. He greets them warmly and invites them in for supper.
“We’ve been told you’re the best man to speak to…” Cat begins and he and Seck go on to explain their needs. Getting the druid – Oleanne – onside will help them greatly. Kuiper agrees and promptly suggests that he bring them out and introduce them – much simpler than trying to explain her.
A short rest later, with Kuiper well-equipped, they are ready. They have agreed that the plan is to return here, so can leave unnecessary gear, and the chest.
“I keep a ferry to cross the Churnett – no need to start into the woods with wet boots” Kuiper explains. “We’ll make our way up Hog Brook…”
Flipping a coin for which bank of the brook to take to, Kuiper chooses the left bank. He sets off into the dark at pace, lighting his way with a torch. Seck keeps up with him, despite the thick brush, and thanks to his help Cat can keep up as well.
Seck makes 21 on a Survival check
Dutifully, Kuiper check for tracks from time to time, but in the main, just pushes along the creek. He stops in the small hours of the night, for another short rest.
Oleanne is persuadable
As they finish dozing, there’s a rustle in the brush: a tall grey wolf noses into the clearing, followed a moment later by a woman in a very ragged cloak and robe. And from what they can see in the low campfire-light, she is a stranger to bathing. Kuiper motions for them to keep calm.
After a brief conversation in a language none of the trio know, Kuiper turns and introduces them to Oleanne. Petite, probably attractive somewhere under the filth. She gives off a vibe of not caring too much for intruders. And slightly crazed.
Party CHA check, two of three get 10 or better.
Seck shrugs, mentally, he has slept dirty many a time. He carefully avoids eye contact with the wolves.
Oleanne’s command of Teulon is barely adequate, but Cat follows as long as he listens carefully. While she has not seen Helena, she has a more urgent problem and is willing to trade favor for favor. A young lad from Krynen’s farm off to the north has transformed into a werebear and is running wild in the woods. He took fright at Oleanne and her wolves and ran further in. She fears he has fallen under the spell of “evil” elves, who have something to do with the Spire. While she doesn’t want to get tangled up with the elves, she does want the lad returned safe.
So it’s agreed! But only after extending their short rest to a long rest: otherwise, the trek could not be attempted without exhaustion taking its toll. Kuiper seems keen to help, and checks his sword. It is silvered. “Last resort” he assures them. And hauls two weighted nets out of his pack. Phoenix practices with one.
Deep in the Thornwood, a dawn raid
It’s well into the morning by the time their rest is over, though the woods are dense and cool. Kuiper once again takes the lead tracking. Phoenix has stuck with his own totem, and moves easily through the woods. So does Seck, since he can follow Kuiper and is a good hunter himself. Kuiper’s guidance enables Cat to keep up. Oleanne drifts annoyingly right through brush and vines without needing to duck or dodge, and often has to wait for all four of them.
The day progresses into dusk. At one spot Kuiper seems to see something that puzzles him. Seck cannot tell what that might be. At length Oleanne points to a spring. Kuiper finds bear tracks all right, but even with a torch’s light, the point of origin is uncertain.
Time to set up a watch for the night. Kuiper asks them what they know about elves, and Cat recounts his acquaintance with Elin Barad.
Watches: Seck, Kuiper, Cat, Phoenix.
Just before dawn, the camp is attacked!
Ten elves – eight archers and two backup spies – do some damage, but the resources of the adventurers plus ranger are too great for them. The melee types down four without taking too many arrows, while Cat uses Misty Escape and Shadow Blade, and tries to keep negotiating. At length he picks a central point – smartly deducing the elves are mostly within 20′ – and throws out Calm Emotions. Only one makes his save. Cat rightly deduces that these elves will not be victims of a Charm, so reduces their hostility to indifference. Then Oleanne – who has been hiding inside a tree for some rounds – activates some plant control and binds most of the elves in vines.
Hostile by circumstance not preference
The captives have their weapons removed, and negotiate. They act as guardians, reluctantly, because their chief (whom they don’t name) is under duress. The green wyrmling Syralth has occupied the spire, whence they fled the Farwood to. The spire cannot be approached easily: Syralth and his dragonborn champion Nevalth, and other cultists, have also recruited winged kobolds to guard the upper approaches!
(Arkul Hammerwing, needless to say, has been enthusing in Cat’s mind during this reveal!)
As far as the elves understand, yes the green dragon cult is seizing spellcasters, but only because the black wyrm cult was already doing the same. The elves point the direction of the werebear, retrieve their weapons, and depart.
Oleanne’s condition is met: we have the werebear!
A half day later, the trackers hear the werebear before they see it. Phoenix shakes out his net, Kuiper does likewise though he makes sure his silvered sword is loose in its scabbard.
The nets work! Though Phoenix has an uncomfortable time squashed between the netted bear and a tree. On a second attempt Cat’s Calm Emotions spell works too.
Kuiper coaxes the werebear into docility – and extracts an elven arrow.
Oleanne thanks them, mumbles something about Vir and an elf ranger… the words “scrawny bitch” may have been mentioned… and disappears.
Back and forth, picking up breadcrumbs
They trek back out to Kuiper’s ferry. Once at the farm, a parting of the ways. Kuiper wants to take the young lad (who becomes human on the second day out) back to his folks’ farm, east. He suggests a few options. For example if Oleanne’s information is accurate, Garyld could send a message to Kestrel. And Kestrel may have more insight on the Spire.
Following the best lead they have, the Long Roaders vote to head back to consult Garyld. They arrive back at Milborne safely, and Garyld listens to their tale. Then whistles up a raven, and sends a scroll by it to Kestrel. The trio fill him in on their own involvement with Kestrel.
“How long would it take her to get here?” Cat wants to know
Garyld thinks word will probably arrive back overnight. Meanwhile, he’s sure Andren would like to know how the search went.
A second night at the Baron of Mutton costs the same again, and, over a meal in the common room, they meet Pomfrat, a merchant and factor for local reeve Darius Carman. Pomfrat, slightly worried by tales of kidnapping, wants them to guard his Thurmaster-bound cargo on the river. It pays well, 25 gold coin a head. Though that includes laboring as well.
Counting his Charlatan background, Cat makes 12 on Insight, which leads him to conclude…
It is simple to check Pomfrat’s bona fides since Carman wants to see them. The generously-built reeve proves hospitable, shares a good rustic wine with them, and outlines a mission to investigate the New Mire, which is spreading. Already a family of farmers has lost their livelihood. And then there have been a couple of missing presumed lost… a party of pilgrims from the north, and a diviner he sent to investigate the mire.
Carman does recall the story of lizardfolk, but that is associated with the Shrieken Mire. He has much to say about the region, the tales blending with other yarns they later pick up in the Baron of Mutton. [Handout 3]
Garyld confirms that if they head around to Thurmaster, they will easily be able to reach the Blessed Wood – really just one corner of the Thornwood – where they should be met by Kestrel. So they take Pomfrat’s job, money down, and pole up the Churnett over the next two days.
Phoenix has water transport proficiency, and though it costs him an Inspiration, supervises the other two and the bargemen, and there are no mishaps.
Thurmaster, Tauster, and another breadcrumb
They have uplifted Tauster’s chest and their own spare gear en route, so when they disembark at Thurmaster, a small palisaded village, they are all set to see Tauster. The village’s palisade is not up to much, and a number of abandoned buildings are falling to rack outside the walls. A couple of bored but reasonably presentable town watch guard the gate.
Striking while the iron is hot, they seek directions to Tauster, and the only building with a tower, across the village from the gate, is pointed out to them.
They stride across. The tavern’s sign has a fox and hound type of design. The village has lamps, of the lamplighter-hook style.
Seck studies the building. While the two-story tower bears the marks of disuse, the adjoining quarters – a single-story affair – has the smell and smoke of normal living. He knocks at that door.
In the normal space of time for an elderly person to disengage himself and make his way over, the door is opened. Amiable and elderly: short, paunchy, sandy-haired: Tauster blinks watery blue eyes at them.
He’s most concerned that Helena has disappeared, invites them and his chest in, and though a little suspicious at first, is somewhat reassured by their tale.
Group CHA: only Seck achieves a good score.
Deeply worried now he hears the full detail, Tauster agrees that they are following the best course. This recent migration of elves is news to him. But he does bring forward the thought that the Parlfray family once occupied the Spire. If they speak to Count Warcrown Parlfray and get on his good side, he may have a map that would help. The house now resides north of Thurmaster. Warcrown has returned from his season in Mooregate. Tauster checks they are abreast of Kuiper’s role in the region, and seems content to leave it at that.
Tauster decides that he will afford their room and board at the Hound and Tails. And so with good wishes on both sides, they bid adieu and the session ends.