Episode 7: The Cult of Dretha

It was late evening when Gydion, Silaqui, Asa, Janekfan and Draken returned to Trunau with Othdan, the pig-farmer’s son whom they’d rescued from the Plague House. It had been a grueling, trying night which had changed them all forever. Upon entrance Silaqui insisted on bringing Othdan to the Long House to speak to Patrol Captain Jagrin Grath, but he’d already gone to sleep for the night. So they took the boy to Halgra of the Blackened Blades (Silaqui using her friendship with her daughter, Ruby Red,— to gain entrance) and had him recount the story of his kidnapping for her. At Silaqui’s urging, he added that he’d heard his half-orc captor speaking with others about a planned orc invasion of Trunau. The Chief Defender listened quietly, said she would call a Council meeting in the morning to discuss the matter, and wished them goodnight. Jane sensed that she was more concerned than she was letting on.

Silaqui and Jane then returned Othdan to his home via the South Road; his parents were overjoyed that he’d been found. They offered the two elf-ladies one silver piece each as a reward, which they politely declined. The others, meanwhile, went to the Sanctuary, where they found Tyari Varvatos getting ready to turn in for the night, having just finished her evening prayers. They excitedly informed her that they’d made great progress clearing the Plague House of evil undead monsters. As the cleric healed their wounds, she thanked them, and told them they’d earned the undying gratitude of the Church of Iomedae; and, further, because of their heroic efforts, she invited them to stay at the Sanctuary, rent-free, indefinitely. The group graciously accepted and quickly retrieved their possessions from their rooms at the nearby inn, the Ramblehouse, where they’d been staying since they’d first arrived in town the past few nights. Each was then show to their own cozy (if sparse) monk’s cell; the two elf maidens joined them upon their return from Othdan’s farm.

The next morning, Tyari’s acolytes served them breakfast while she reiterated her gratitude. As a token of Iomedae’s favor, she gave them each a medallion with the holy symbol of Iomedae (a longsword with the sun in the background) on it. Silaqui’s wizard brother Turin was there, and even though he hadn’t set foot in the Plague House, he was also presented with one, by virtue of his affiliation with the party and their virtuous act of bravery. Tyari then excused herself, explaining that she and the rest of the church members were spending the day in prayer (it happened to be high holy day), during which she would be asking for divine guidance regarding the fate of the Plague House—should they try and salvage it, or raze it to the ground? Then she disappeared, with Asa and all the other Iomedaean disciples, into the Sanctuary’s worship space. The party was left alone in the dining hall with the scullery maid.

There was a loud knock at the door, and then the door opened. It was Brinya Kelver, and she needed help! She excitedly told them that she’d been visited, late last night, by Patrol Sergeant Omast Frum, and town drunk Inez Grenelll. The pair had just left the Killing Ground pub, where they’d decided to elope! The party expressed surprise, because they’d had no idea that the two had even been dating; Brinya nodded in agreement. Omast explained that he needed to leave town and get a fresh start, and Inez was going with him. He further explained that he’d been wracked with guilt over the untimely, mysterious death of Rodrik Grath, which the party had been charged with investigating. He told them how he’d sworn to Rodrik’s father (and Omast’s boss), Jagrin, long ago, that he would look after his two boys as their godfather—and now, he’d failed. Still further, he’d fallen in love with Inez, and Jagrin hated half-orcs. Omast couldn’t face working for Jagrin any longer, under the circumstances, and hence, their plans to elope. They were coming to Brinya to express their sympathy over Rodrik, and to tell her they were leaving Trunau that very night, for good.

Brinya told the party that they all shared a few drinks at Brinya’s, and then the pair left her. On her way out, Brinya said, Inez was so drunk that she fell into a basket of weaving yarn in her front room, and was covered in the stuff. After they left, she noted that the twosome didn’t take the path in front—instead, they ducked around into her backyard, towards the city wall. Then she saw a flash of light, which she found very peculiar. Unfortunately, the alcohol had got the better of her, and she fell asleep at her kitchen table, without going outside to investigate.

When Brinya woke up this morning, she replayed the previous night’s events in her head. Something didn’t seem to add up; she though that Inez’s behavior in particular had been very odd. So she went into her backyard, where she followed a trail of yarn right up to the base of the city wall. She then looked down and found a strange, gold token with a symbol on it: a glaring, bloodshot eye. Grabbing up the odd coin, she went to go find Jagrin, but when she found him, he wanted nothing to do with her—he wouldn’t even listen to her. He clearly didn’t like her, because she was half-orc; and moreover, because she had been the secret girlfriend of his dead son, Rodrik. Desperate, Brinya headed to the Sanctuary next, in hopes that someone there would know what the token was.

One by one, the adventurers examined the token, but no-one could say what it was. Turin cast Detect Magic on it, and determined it was indeed a magical item—but could not determine what powers it possessed. Unfortunately, they explained to Brinya, that was the best they could do, because Tyari and her followers were cloistered all day, celebrating an Iomedaean holiday. Just then, the seer Katrezra passed by in the hallway. Would the sickly, elderly half-orc know what the token was—and what the symbol meant? They hailed him and asked his advice.

When Katrazra saw the token, his eyes went wide. “Goodness!”, he exclaimed, “this is the holy symbol of Dretha, the Dark Mother.” He revealed that the symbol had featured in his dreams the past few nights—and now, he knew why. The seer revealed that Dretha is the orc goddess of fertility and domesticity, but also the goddess of possessiveness and revenge. He didn’t know what the token’s magical properties could be, but he was adamant that the appearance of the token was a very bad sign. The group listened intently as he told them that the Dretha’s cultists are almost always female orcs or half-orcs who live at the margins of society—refugees; embittered divorcées; disabled women; and scorned prostitutes. The group eyed Brinya suspicously, as she fit the cultist profile perfectly—but she rebuked them for even dreaming she’d be involved in a cult like that. Katrezra continued on saying that if such a cult existed in Trunau, and Omast and Inez were involved with them, they could be in serious trouble.

After some discussion, the group decided to examine the area where Brinya had last seen the couple: Brinya’s backyard. While they walked to her house, Brinya proposed a “plan B”: making contact with the Drethan cult; becoming one of them; and hopefully, being invited to one of their meetings. She said that since she fit the cultist profile, she was the natural choice for infiltrating their ranks. She proposed going undercover… as a street hooker! She asked Silaqui and Jane if they wanted to go with her—perhaps as “wingmen”? She said she might even be able to disguise them as half-orcs. Jane accepted the offer, and the two went into Brinya’s house to “slip into something more comfortable”, while the others investigated Brinya’s backyard, and the city wall that defined its back border.

The party easily picked up the trail of yarn that Brinya had found earlier, and followed it to the base of the wall. They tried fitting the coin into different slots in the wall, in an attempt to activate the coin’s magic—but nothing happened. They then noticed that a piece of yarn actually seemed to be imbedded in the wall itself! Which they found very peculiar. The group then decided to see what was on the other side of the wall—to do so, they needed to climb up the tower a few hundred feet to the south. The guardsman on duty let them pass freely—“you have the run of the town, as per Halgra’s orders,” he smiled. Looking down, the group could see that there was a ladder positioned on the top of the cliff, outside the wall at its base, directly behind Brinya’s house. Silaqui asked one of the militia members about the ladder, and he told her that it must be new—he’d never seen it before, and it wasn’t there the day before! Then, the nimble elf ranger carefully climbed down the wall and down the ladder, while the others made a beeline for Trunau’s front gate. (Turin took the lead, because he was worried about his sister, out there on her own). On their way, the party ran into Jane coming out of Brinya’s house—she had poured herself into one of Brinya’s hand-woven knit dresses, and was ready for action. They informed her that they had found another lead they wanted to investigate. Slightly disappointed, she went back inside Brinya’s; quickly changed; and joined them as they headed towards the front gate.

By the time Jane and the others reached them, Silaqui and Turin had picked up a trail of yarn, which had begun again at the bottom of the makeshift ladder. The group followed the trail west to the South Road, and saw that it continued down the south road for about two miles. It was easy to follow in the bright, Spring sun. They passed a few farms on their way, and wondered: What happens to these farms when orc invasions come?


As they rounded a bend in the road, they saw a most unusual sight: a garagantuan figure, sitting on a pile of rocks, shaking a jug above his head—as if he were trying to get the last drop out of it. The creature was sobbing to itself in some unknown language. Half of the group decided to head towards it, surreptiously, through a farm field, while Gydion, Kingsley, Jane and Toboe approached it from the road. As they got closer, Gydion, Jane and Draken recognized the creature: It was a hill giant! It had blue liquid dribbled down its chin, wore a necklace of humanoid skulls, and was surrounded by empty jugs and flasks. Gydion addressed the creature: “What seems to be the matter, friend?” The giant shook the jug in front of him and said “All gone! No more!” Over the course of several minutes—and fits of tears—he told Gyidon, in broken Common, that his name was Munguk, and that another hill giant, Queen Grenseldek of the Mindspin Hills, had left him, and now he was left with nothing! “All gone!” he kept repeating. As Munguk spoke, Gyidion recognized one of the flasks as belonging to Innez! (They’d seen her drinking out of it often, over the past few days they’d been in Trunau). Gydion pointed to the flask and asked the giant, do you know where we can find the owner of that flask? Munguk answered, with a question of his own: Could Gydion or his friends get him any alcohol? Gydion told him that unfortunately they didn’t have any alcohol on them; however, if the giant could kindly tell him where the owner of the flask was, he promised he would bring some alcohol to him. Munguk grumbled “OK” and then pointed to a farmhouse in the distance.

The group thanked him and quickly moved towards the farmhouse, the giant’s sobs booming behind them. The red, wooden building that Munguk had pointed to loomed before them: it was roughly box-shaped, about 100 feet on either side. Silaqui quietly scouted the perimeter of the place and found some stables on the west side of the building; she had to climb a fence, beyond which she found some horses grazing. She looked through the stables and saw a dimly lit barn inside, piles of hay strewn about. Meanwhile, Jane went up to the door and knocked—they waited a minute, but there was no answer. Jane then examined the door closely to see if it was locked, and found a thin, nearly invisible tripwire across it. She backed away and explained to the others what she’d found. Turin offered to use his Mage Hand to trigger the wire: his Hand threw a rock at the wire, instantly springing the wire loose. Nothing happened.

Finally, Jane went back up to the door, opened it, and shouted “Inez?!” She looked around and saw piles of hay everywhere inside the dimly lit barn. There was a loft space, with haystacks in it, on the far side of the barn. The room had opened horse stalls to the left, as Silaqui had reported to her. She and Toboe moved into the barn and beckoned the others to follow. After a few tense minutes, Jane found a bloody, woven blanket—resembling those made by Brinya—under some hay. At about the same time, Gydion found a door in the floor with a handle on it. The others gathered around.

Draken pulled the hatch open, revealing a set of iron stairs heading downwards into a dimly lit room. The dwarf started down the stairs slowly, the others close behind him. As soon as he reached the midpoint on the stairs, dark laughter reached his ears. Looking into the darkness, he saw an altar of piled stones, with a glittering red gem atop it resembling a glaring, bloodshot eye. Two doors, one on the north side of the room and the other on the south, exited the room. In front of the altar stood three figures: a slender, female half-orc wearing a black tunic and an ornate headdress; Omast Frum in his militia uniform; and a shorter, feminine figure wearing a black wedding dress, the veil pulled over her face. Omast seemed frozen in place, and his eyes were half-closed and glazed over. “Your too late!” screamed a voice, and Draken saw it was coming from the black-garbed half-orc. She seemed to be the one in charge. “They’re already been wed in an orc church!” She sneered, and added: “But you’re just in time for the sacrifice! Kill him, Inez!!”

Turin was the first to act: he darted down the stairs and cast Magic Bolt at the female half-orc, which sent her reeling towards the altar. Silaqui was next, firing an arrow that missed her by only a few inches. The black-garbed female composed herself and directed her minions—six dark-robed figures half-hidden in the shadows at the edge of the basement room—to attack the intruders. She then chanted an incantation and pointed a finger towards Turin—whatever spell she’d cast, the elf had successfully made his Will save, and he shrugged it off.

The woman in the black wedding dress acted next, drawing out a dagger from the folds of her dress, and stabbing Omast in the chest! Their would-be rescuers—our heroes—were greatly dismayed by this, and moved to intervene, but were blocked by the dark-robed Drethan minions, five of whom were rapidly advancing on them. (One moved towards the woman in the black wedding dress). It was only after the woman in the black dress stabbed Omast a second time that Draken broke free from the crowd, barrelled towards the altar, and tackled her. (In doing so, he suffered three attacks of opportunity, including one from the woman, but he only got hit by one of the minions, which only cost him one hit point). Helplessly grappled, the woman in the wedding dress dropped her bloody dagger onto the floor.

After a few rounds of combat, four of the Drethan cultists were lying on the ground, bleeding out—and Toboe, too, had lost a lot of blood. The black-garbed, slender female half-orc reached inside her tunic and pulled out a gold token—identical to the one that Brinya had found in her backyard—and pointed it up, towards the ceiling above her. Gydion tried to incinerate her with a Produce Flame spell, but missed. The woman then shouted a command word (Turin interpreted it as Orcish for “open sesame”) and a hole appeared in the ceiling above her—hay fell in on either side of it, onto the altar below. Before she could escape through it, however, she was hit with a double-whammy: Turin hit her with another Magic Bolt, and Jane hit her with an arrow. She fell to the dirt floor below; and, seeing this, the two remaining cultists surrendered. At the same exact moment, Omast woke up out of his stupor, and cried out in pain from his injuries.

Jane bound Omast’s wounds. She then checked the cult’s ringleader, now bleeding out on the floor, and Stabilize ‘d her. Next, she tied up the two remaining cultists, and then helped Draken tie up the woman in the wedding gown. Once secured, Draken ripped the black veil from the woman’s face, revealing the face of… Inez Grinell! Or was it? Turin’s elvish eyes were not fooled: upon closer inspection, the wizard saw the face of an old half-orc woman behind an illusion; perhaps Alter Self? The old woman hissed and spat at them, but would say nothing. Gydion ordered her to tell him where the real Inez was, but she remained mute. He threatened her with violence, and still, she said nothing. He acted on his threat and smacked the old woman with his quarterstaff—still, she said nothing!

Jane, meanwhile, was making better progress with the two half-orc cultists, whom she had also tied up. It didn’t take much encouragement to get them talking; they told her that the wedding ceremony and the intended post-wedding sacrifice were offerings to Dretha, to ensure that the orc attack on Trunau would be a glorious one. The party was very concerned at this news; however, the cultists didn’t seem to know much more—they didn’t know when the supposed invasion was taking place, or who would be leading it. After some prodding, however, they did reveal the names of their unconscious leader, as well as the woman in the black wedding dress who had posed as Inez: Malgorzata and Elga, respectively; a cleric of Dretha, and her witch accomplice.

While this was going on, Turin turned his attention to the two doors on the north and south sides of the room. When he approached the north door, he heard what sounded like muffled screaming! Throwing open the door, he found a small 10×10 closet, furnished with two chests. Behind one chest, he saw what looked like someone who was tied up and gagged. Pushing the chest aside, he turned the figure over, revealing Inez Grinell—battered and bloody, but very much alive. He untied her and removed her gag. She belched andthen asked him, “Is Omast OK?” Turin nodded, yes. She then quickly asked, “Hey, did you happen to see my flask on your way here? I could really use a drink!” He added that, in fact, they had seen it; and she told him that she and Omast had given it up to the giant Munguk the night before, in return for free and safe passage as they headed west from the city.

The party searched the bodies, and the rest of the basement, while Inez and Omast regaled them with a detailed account of their journey from Trunau. Inez told them that when she’d received word that some of her half-orc friends were going to surprise her and Omast with a country wedding as they left Trunau and the Hold of Belkzen for good, she was thrilled. When they arrived at the farmhouse, however, where her friends had told them they would be wed, they were jumped! Omast was quickly overpowered by Charm and Hold Person spells, forcing Inez to surrender herself. If it weren’t for Brinya’s instincts and the party’s intervention, Inez told them, she was sure that both of them would have been sacrificed to Dretha.


Opening the chests inside the north closet revealed three gallons of wine, and some dried food. A search of the other closet turned up a sack holding the following items: a wooden bowl and spoon; an empty clay jug; a few strips of dried meat (which Jane fed to Toboe); a glass jar containing a partially eaten pickled sheep’s head; a bent grappling hook; and 60 gp. The sack also contained two scrolls (which could not be determined, yet), and a gnarled piece of driftwood, which (after some careful study) Turin determined was a wand of Hideous Laughter. The party added these items to those found on the cultists themselves:

One magic shawl (worn by Malgorzata), granting a +2 bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks;
One magic shawl (worn by Elga) of Protection +1;
30 gp (on the bodies of the six cultists).

The only other treasure in the basement was the glittering red gem (which Draken identified as a chrysoberyl worth at least several hundred gold pieces), perched on top of the altar; it radiates magic, but abilities/properties couldn’t be determined.

Experience: none.

NB: As the party walked along the South Road, back to Trunau, they paused to deliver the wine to Munguk, who received it gratefully. He allowed them to pass unharmed.

Next: The Flame of the Fallen!

Episode 6: The Plague House, Part III

Upon returning to town, the group went straight to the Sanctuary and told High Priestess Tyari Varvatos that the former Iomedean church, the Plague House, is overun with undead monsters. She looked troubled but regained her composure, and proceeded to heal the injured among them.

Afterwards, Silaqui went to the Longhouse and found Jagrin Grath, who was just turning in for the night. She told him that he needed to warn the town’s leader, Halgra of the Blackened Blades, that orcs and flood trolls were working together, and that a major invasion of Trunau is imminent. She then presented him with Rodrik Grath’s original hopeknife, which the party had found inside the Plague House. Upon reading the inscription (“to Rodrik, my love”), he wrinkled his nose and tossed it back to the elf. “Give it back to Brinya Kelver,” he instructed her, “it belongs to her, in any case.” He then shut his door, muttering something about his distaste for half-orcs.

The next morning, Janekfan—together with Draken and Gydion—went to Lessie Crumkin’s bank and deposited the undead giant king’s golden crown in the vault, for safe-keeping. The three then stopped at the local magic shop, the House of Wonders, and traded the gems they acquired from inside the Plague House for healing potions. While there, Jane told Agrit Staginsdar (the proprietress of the magic shop) about the golden crown, and Agrit told her that, if Jane was interested, she could find a buyer for it—and added that the group could perhaps get 400 gp for it. Jane politely declined.

After leaving the magic shop, Gydion suggested that they return Rodrik’s hopeknife to Brinya. Rodrik’s beloved girlfriend was extremely excited to see the knife, and thanked them again and again. She immediately took the precious knife to the Sanctuary, and gave it to Asa, who returned it to Rodrik’s body in the temple’s basement, where it was being prepared for burial.

As night began to fall, the party prepared for their second journey to the Plague House. From what they could remember, they had one more level to explore. As they returned to the scene of their ambush by trolls the night before, they noted that the bodies of the flood trolls were missing, as were some of the orcs. The remaining orc bodies, meanwhile, had been thoroughly ransacked, and their eyeballs were missing. They entered the burned church and were immediately set upon by what appeared to be freshly-made orc-zombies. Draken and Asa led the charge and attacked, while Silaqui poked her head inside the large, adjacent haunted infirmary. Seeing nothing, she turned back towards the rest of the party, and pulled out her magic sword—it was humming, in response to the undead in the next room. By the time she joined the rest of the party, however, Jane had already dispatched two of the undead monsters, and her wolf animal companion had destroyed the third.

The group heard low moans and growls coming from the hole in the floor across the room. Approaching cautiously, Jane lit a torch and threw it down, revealing scores of zombies writhing around in the darkness below. Tying a rope around her waist (with the others holding tightly to the other end), Jane approached closer, and hurled flaming flasks of oil down the hole, setting some of the zombies on fire. After this, Gydion, Draken and Kingsley started pushing furniture into the hole—including the large bookshelf. Unfortunately, Kingsley got too close to the edge, and started to fall in—luckily, the two she-elves, Jane and Silaqui, stopped him by grabbing his tail. It was a close call.

Giving up the idea of punishing the undead hordes from above, the group turned once more towards the dark staircase in the corner. Although they had barely survived the encounter with the undead giant king the night before, they knew they had to clear the last, remaining level of the Plague House… so they filed down the damp, stonework stairwell once again, the darkvision-endowed dwarf, Draken, in the lead.

Again, they felt the oppressive darkness closing in on them; and again, they heard strange, otherworldly noises emanating from below. Soon, Draken could look through the stair’s railing at the chamber below, and warned the others: six zombies were waiting for them! Silaqui drew her bow, and, moving to the front of the line, shot one of the beasts. Draken, Gydion and Kingsley then rushed down the stairs and engaged the others. Asa, who was towards the back, jumped over the railing onto the statue of Iomedae, while Jane stayed behind on the stairs, shooting arrows at whichever zombie she could get in her sights.

The group makes quick work of the six zombies, although Kingsley suffered serious injury from a zombie’s claws—luckily, Gydion saved him with his quarterstaff, knocking the head clean off his undead attacker. After the battle was over, Asa layed hands on the lion, and Silaqui, who was also injured.

There were three exits from the room: two doors, and one staircase. They had explored the staircase the night before, so they focused their attention on the two doors. Silaqui took the lead, opening one door and heading the hallway that presented itself. After about twenty feet, she found the stone floor moving under her, so she jumped backwards, narrowly escaping a pit trap. Up ahead, she could see that the hallway turned to the right, where a soft glowing light emanated. Shouting a warning to the others about the trap, the ranger downed her potion of Invisibility and, jumping over the trap, continued down the hall.

Asa checked out the second door. Cupping his hand, he listened and heard a faint voice, calling for help! He threw open the door to find absolute darkness awaiting him. He took out a torch and lit it; he then reached his torch-bearing hand inside the darkness. The paladin was amazed to see that the darkness was indeed absolute—and it was clearly an unnatural, magical darkness, because the torch was completely useless within it. Puzzled, he backed away and shut the door. Jane and Toboe then grabbed the halfling (frustrated with him and not wanting to lose him) and pulled him, together with Draken, into the hallway where Silaqui had disappeared. Gydion and Kingsley stayed behind in the chamber, standing guard to ensure that nothing threatened the party from behind.

Meanwhile, Silaqui found herself in a large, brickwork chamber, softly lit by wall sconces. The chamber was lined with six waxen statues. One of them (the largest) looked like an angel; the other five were disfigured, Bizarro-like versions of celestial beings. Suddenly, Silaqui felt the angelic statue’s eyes upon her, and soon found that when she moved, its eyes tracked her—even though she’s invisible! Alarmed, she walked up to the angel statue and pushed it, but it was too big for her to move. Her actions rendered her visible, however. Frustrated, she pushed another statue—one of the disfigured ones. To her horror, it immediately came to life, and, joined by the others, closed in on her, about to attack!

Luckily for Silaqui, Asa, Draken, Jane and Toboe had nearly reached the room, distracting some of the golems as they entered, and allowing Silaqui to find her footing. Draken cleaved through one, and then landed a second, solid hit on the one adjacent to it. Asa and Jane both injured another one, Asa slicing its arm off with a critical hit. Toboe attacked the angelic one, but missed it—in response, the angel met the wolf’s eyes with a sad gaze, and Toboe moved cautiously away.

Eventually, after many rounds of combat, the party gained the upper hand, and Draken dropped the last golem with his mighty battleaxe! All that time, the angelic wax statue remained motionless, silently watching the proceedings. Finally, as the last golem fell to the ground, the angelic figure began to glow. Softly at first, and then more brightly, completely enveloping the party in a sphere of pure, radiant light. Instantly, they felt better (healed for 6 hit points each). Then, as if by telepathy, the statue asked them a question: “Will you accept a gift from me?” Asa and Draken immediately said yes, but Silaqui, Gydion and Jane hesitated. After a moment of staring into the statue’s soft, pleading eyes, however, the elves and the human acquiesced. Suddenly, everyone present was infused with warm, celestial energy—permanently granting them one point to their major ability, and permanently altering their alignments to Good. While Silaqui and Asa were unaffected (both already being Lawful Good), the other three found themselves changed forever.

It was then that Asa recognized the statue: It was none other than Jingh, a celestial being of the highest order, and Iomedae’s right-hand man. He bowed down in reverence.

After clearing the room and collecting what treasure they could (including five magic potions), they explored an adjacent chamber, which contained wax-making forges, cauldrons and machines. The group then left the brickwork chambers, and headed towards the last remaining unexplored part of the Plague House: the supernaturally dark hallway that Asa had discovered about twenty minutes before.

The group opened the door, heard the plaintive cries for help, and contemplated the situation. Eventually, they decided to send Toboe down the hallway, with a rope tied around his waist. Toboe soon found himself in complete darkness, followed by a sharp pang of fear—and the next second, Jane pulled him back, to safety. Jane herself headed down the hallway next, with the rope around her waist, bearing a rock with Light cast on it. After about 30 seconds, she returned as well, coming out of the darkness and warning the others that something awful is coming! The party backed away and waited in silence.

The party waited in the chamber for the thing to appear. Suddenly, they heard the door slam shut. Apparently, whatever was inside was not about to leave the safety of the hallway. The rest of the party questioned Jane about exactly what she saw, and she tells them it was awful—a rotting orc corpse, putrid, floating in mid-air. She had shot an arrow at it, but the arrow just stopped, frozen, about a foot from the corpse.

After a quick discussion, the party decided they had no choice but to go after the creature, and rescue whatever was calling for help inside. Although it might be a trap, they reasoned, they had to chance it. What else could they do?

Draken went first, followed by Asa. When they reached the edge of the supernatural darkness, they saw exactly what Jane had described. Next, Silaqui came up from behind and shot a flaming arrow over their heads, which also stopped in mid-air. However, the extra light shed by the arrow revealed that it was some sort of transparent, gelatinous creature—and the rotting orc was trapped inside it—its latest victim! Jane and the others then entered the narrow, five-foot hallway, bringing up the rear.

Draken and Asa drew closer and, elbow to elbow in the narrow hall, attacked. As the others fired arrows over their heads, the dwarf and the halfling continued hacking bits of its gelatinous flesh. To their horror, the gelatinous cube rolled over on top of them; while Asa tumbled out of the way, Draken wasn’t so lucky—he was trapped inside its jelly!! The two desperately starting hacking at the cube, and Gydion started barraging it with Produce Flame spells. Meanwhile, Silaqui heard the door slam shut behind them, so she rushed back and tried to open it, to no avail. Then, swallowing her potion of Gaseous Form, she slipped out the door as a trailing mist, and examined the door from behind. She saw that it had indeed firmly locked itself, and so returned to her companions with the news that they were locked in.

Meanwhile, Kingsley and Toboe had joined Asa and Draken, engaging the jelly in melee, while Jane and Gydion continued to attack it from a distance. Silaqui, meanwhile, slipped around the creature in gaseous form and found that the hallway ended in a solid, metal door, from which she heard a voice calling desperately for help. Resuming her solid form, she took out her magic sword and sliced into the jelly-creature. A moment later, Jane brought down the foul, rubbery cube with one last, well-aimed arrow, and it collapsed into liquid around her now-freed dwarf brother.

Silaqui opened the door and found a pale, young boy—who couldn’t have been more than 15—looking up at her from the shadows. “You’ve saved me,” he cried, and ran into her arms. “My name is Othdan—I’m the pig-farmer’s son, from down the South road!”. The others quickly gathered round as the boy hurriedly explained how he’d been kidnapped by a half-orc while exploring the Plague House on a dare. He didn’t know how long he’d been locked in that room—a few days, perhaps?—and knew that he didn’t stand a chance against his gelatinous prison guard. When questioned further, he said he’d heard snatches of conversation from outside his cell, including talk of a planned orc invasion of Trunau. One of the voices was his half-orc captive’s; he didn’t recognize any of the others, though. Gydion offered him some water and food and allowed him to pet his lion Kingsley. The strong animal seemed to comfort the shaken boy.

Further exploration of Othdan’s dirty cell revealed 55 platinum pieces hidden under a pile of coal. The party added this to their treasure from the rest of this episode, which consisted of:

470 gp
95 sp
144 cp
5 magic potions (to be determined)
1 book of How to Make Lesser Wax Golems
Red gold unholy symbol of Nulgrath (worth 60 gp)
6 black onyx gems (25 gp each)
Star rose quartz amulet (75 gp)
Shiny dagger
Steel scroll case (50 gp) with damaged scroll inside
+1 sturdy magic chain mail shirt
fine silver mace (260 gp)
wand of Cure Light Wounds (21 charges)

Experience: ? xp

Next: The Wedding from Hell!

Evil in Trunau's Backyard
A Post by Silaqui

Post by Silaqui: Evil in Trunau’s Backyard.

Our first trip to the Burned Church met with some hard trials and tough battles. Asa, Iomedae’s paladin, was nearly killed, and others in our troop suffered very severe wounds — so much so that we had to break off the quest and return to Trunau to heal and refit. I don’t think the Trunauans knew they had such evil in their backyard, in the Burned Church so close to their back walls.

We’ve yet to see all the nefarious beings in the Burned Church, but we can hope that our return can uncover and defeat Trunau’s enemies there. Asa felt the presence of Iomedae still strong in her sanctuary, and he now wields her sacred sword. Her presence was still in her statue in the basement. Hopefully, she will help guide us during our return. Hopefully, we can rid the Burned Church of all its evil presence and make it once more a place of Iomedae’s peace and love.

To do so is a matter of extreme importance to Trunau’s safety and future. Perhaps one day the church can be rebuilt and consecrated once again to Iomedae to be a beacon of peace instead of a concealment of evil in a troubled land.

Episode 5: The Plague House, Part II
Against the Undead Giant King

Using most of the potions they had left, and Asa’s remaining lay on hands ability, the party healed themselves as much as possible. Then, they quickly divided their new-found magic items among themselves (e.g. the Oil of Magic Weapon, etc.), and descended the dark, winding staircase. As they approached the bottom, they could feel the air growing heavier and more stale, as if imbued with a foul presence. The dwarven fighter Draken, who was in the lead, found that the left wall soon turned into a railing, over which he could see a large, empty room below. There were three exits out of the chamber, and a large statue of a woman holding a longsword in the corner. Low moans and occasional howls emanated from every exit, disturbing the party’s thoughts—especially those of their animal companions. After everyone was at the bottom and safely accounted for, he and Asa examined the statue. The halfling paladin identified the woman as his patron deity (and the patron of the now-burned church they were in), Iomedae—the goddess of valor, justice and honor. While the others guarded the three exits from the room, Asa carefully removed the sword and noted it was of masterwork quality, and had a holy symbol of Iomedae carved into it. Taking it as a sign from above, he claimed it for his own, laying his old sword down while whispering a prayer to Iomedae—after which he found his thoughts and moods calmed for a moment, despite the moaning he heard, which seemed to be getting louder.

Meanwhile, the others were investigating the room, and guarding the three exits from it. The elven ranger Silaqui noted that the southwest exit from the room, which held another downward staircase, was the source of most of the strange noises they were hearing. After some discussion, they agreed to head down and strike at the very heart of the haunting, while they were still fresh and in relatively good health. Silaqui offered to scout ahead of the rest of the party; while some of the party had reservations about this, they let her go.

The human druid Gydion stood at the top of the staircase with his quarterstaff, now glowing with Light, illuminating the first set of stairs. Silaqui descended cautiously and stealthily, and quickly noticed the air was becoming even heavier, darker, and more putrified than basement above. After turning a few corners, she found herself in complete darkness, and had to feel her way to the bottom, which seemed to open into another chamber. The moaning grew louder. As the brave elf stood in the threshold, straining with all her senses against the darkness, something cold rushed past her, chilling her to the bone. She quickly turned and fired an arrow blindly in the direction of the movement she felt, but heard nothing but the clatter of the arrow against what she presumed was a stone wall. She then bolted back up the stairs, and told the others what she found.

The party regrouped and divided up the magic items they’d discovered in the level above, to prepare for their descent. Then, they cautiously headed down the stairs together, again with Draken in front. Upon reaching the bottom, his darkvision revealed what Silaqui’s low-light vision could not—a large crypt lined with stone sarcophygi. The group cautiously filed into the dank, dusty room. The perceptive elf druid, Janekfan, was the first to note that the darkness in the corners was shifting—appearing to take on a life of its own: a shadowy figure appeared to be moving towards them, along the northeast wall! Silaqui was the first to react, throwing a vial of holy water (taken from the upstairs loot) at it, causing the shadow to twist and recoil. Just then, they spotted three other dark figures emerging from an iron grate set in the middle of the stone floor. The shadows were moving towards them!

Battle was engaged. Draken quickly applied his Oil of Magic Weapon (taken from the upstairs loot) to his battleaxe and readied himself. Gydion and Jane (who were completely out of first-level spells at that point), drew their bows and fired arrows above the heads of Draken and Asa, who were cautiously closing in on the monsters. Draken’s battleaxe connected with one of the shadows, but it grabbed the dwarf’s shoulder in response—sapping his Strength and visibly shaking him. The same exact thing happened to Asa, who fell away, swearing, and reeling from the blow.

The fight raged for several minutes, with Kingsley and Toboe entering the fray as well—each scoring solid hits on the spectral, shadowy figures. Jane threw a rock imbued with Light at the figures, illuminating them and making them easy to spot. Finally, Jane and Silaqui dropped one each with well-placed arrows, while Draken cleaved through the other two. Before it fell, however, Asa’s opponent diminished the Asa’s Strength further with another chilling grasp. (Draken joked, “that’s what you get for swearing in a church of Iomedae!”)

Fatigued, Draken and Asa rested on top of two sarcophygi while the rest of the party investigated the ancient crypt. It was L-shaped, with a west wing that terminated in an earthen wall that seemed to be of newer construction. Silaqui approached it, and heard a strange, low, chanting noise coming from somewhere behind it. She also heard an alarming scratching sound coming from inside the sarcophygus closest to the wall. Opening the sarcophygus lid, she saw a skeletal figure inside, which suddenly urched to life and grabbed her by the throat! Gydion ran to her aid and struggled with the creature. Asa mustered enough strength to load his masterwork hand crossbow (which he had taken from the upstairs loot) and fire it at the creature, striking it in the arm. After a few rounds of combat, the undead figure lay prone and unmoving on the crypt floor.

Silaqui then turned her attention to the west wall, chipping away at it with her shield. What was making that weird noise noise behind it? Gydion approached to help her, but suddenly, the undead skeleton on the floor lept up, this time grabbing him by the throat! Silaqui got spooked so badly, she stopped what she was doing and ran as far away as she could, towards the stairs, before finally regaining her composure. The others came to Gydion’s aid, and quickly put down the undead creature for a second time. Jane stuffed it back into the sarcophygus from which it came, and lit it on fire with a flask of oil. The party then regrouped, and turned their attention to the west wall. They noticed that some of the smoke from the fire appeared to escaping through a crack in the top of the wall, and the low chanting continued. What was behind the wall?

Using weapons, helmets and shields, the five adventurers managed to dig a small, hobbit-sized hole in under a half-hour. (Luckily, Draken’s and Asa’s Strength scores returned to normal during that time). Illuminating the way for him with his quarterstaff, Gydion helped Asa up as he climbed through the hole to investigate. The corridor behind the wall was illuminated by softly glowing runes on the floor. Skeletal figures in armor were gathered around what could only have been an undead giant of some sort, wearing a golden crown bestudded with jewels that sparkled in the eerie light. The giant’s eyes were black holes, with fiery pupils that seemed to bore into the halfling’s very soul, causing Asa to wince. All the skeletons except the giant were chanting, but were otherwise motionless. As a paladin, Asa knew he couldn’t allow these abominations to continue their twisted, unlife, evil existence—so he drew his crossbow and fired at one of them. Immediately, the glowing runes disappeared and the skeletal army charged towards him. (Were the runes keeping the army at bay?)

Knowing he was vastly outnumbered, Asa jumped back out through the hole, to the safety of his friends, narrowly escaping two attacks of opportunity. The party plugged the hole with Draken’s shield just before one of the skeletons reached it. A few seconds passed, and suddenly, the wall started shaking. The skeletons were pounding on the wall, trying to bring it down on top of them! After a quick discussion, the party decided to respond in kind, pushing and slamming the wall from their side! (Jane, who doesn’t have a high Strength score, retreated to a corner to watch). A “tug-of-war” of sorts ensued, each side trying to toppled the weakened wall on the other. At first, the skeletons appeared to have the advantage, as the wall moved a few feet towards the party, loose earth crumbling on their heads. The next round, the party moved the wall back a few feet, and more of the wall crumbled. The third round seemed to be a draw—the wall stood still.

On the fourth round, the party succeeded in knocking the damaged wall down, in a spectacular show of force. As the dust settled, Asa noted that only half of the undead army was standing (including their giant leader), the rest buried underneath the remains of the earthen wall. The remaining skeletons closed in, and battle began.

Gydion hit one with his quarterstaff, Asa hit one with his longsword, and Jane fired arrows into another. Toboe and Kingsley worked together to flank one of the skeletons, bringing it down in one round! Silaqui slowly but surely picked off a few other skeletons. The giant skeleton started attacking Draken with its great sword, and the two traded blows for awhile. Hoping that the rest of the skeletons may halt if their giant leader was defeated, Asa decided to end the battle quickly, and activated his Smite Evil ability—slicing into the marrow of the giant leader’s huge tibia with his longsword. The giant wheeled around then, focusing its eyes once again on the halfling—Asa felt that cold stare boring into him once more. He attacked Asa with his giant longsword, but could not penetrate Asa’s defense.

Draken took full advantage of the giant skeleton’s distraction, cleaving into his other tibia with his great axe. That was its undoing—and as it fell to the ground, it exploded in a huge cloud of bony shrapnel, injuring everybody in a 10-foot radius. Luckily, the other skeletons in its army dropped to the ground motionless, to the party’s relief! Searching through the wreckage, the party recovered the treasure listed below. They left the Plague House, heading home to rest for the night, but resolving to return the following night to continue their investigations.

1 magic short sword +1, +2 against undead; hums when undead are within 20 feet of the wielder (given to Silaqui)
1 ring of protection +1 (given to Draken)
1 potion of Blur (given to Draken)
1 potion of Cure Serious Wounds (given to Asa)
1 potion of Gaseous Form (given to Silaqui)
1 potion of Haste (given to Asa)
1 potions of Cure Light Wounds (one each to Jane and Gydion)
1 chest with 200 gp (to be divided up among the party)
1 golden crown, beset with gems, worth 800 gp (to be sold and the gold divided among the party)

Experience: 920xp each.

NB: Asa and Silaqui told their friends that they didn’t want any part of the treasure taken from the upstairs level of the Plague House, because they felt that treasure belonged rightfully to the Church of Iomedae. Jane, however, convinced them to allow the party to spend some of that treasure on goods to help cleanse the rest of the burned church of evil; they were OK with that.

Next: The Plague House, Part III!

Episode 4: The Plague House, Part I

It was now 5am, and the party was exhausted after receiving a hero’s welcome for rescuing the Trunauan farmers from orc raiders. Gydion stayed awake long enough to purchase a potion of Cure Light Wounds from the town magic shop, the House of Wonders, but the others took to their beds. Soon after Gydion returned to the Ramblehouse and fell asleep, the distaff members of the party, Silaqui and Janekfan—both elves—woke from their trance. (Elves only have to trance for four hours to be completely rested). Jane promptly went to That N’ Such and sold the beryl gem they had found on their would-be assassins, receiving 50 gp for it—which she then spent on a potion of Cure Light Wounds at the House of Wonders. [Our heroes knew the next stop in their investigation of Rodrik Grath’s death would be the haunted Plague House, and they wanted to be prepared with as many Cure Light Wounds potions as possible, to aid them against whatever evil may dwell there].

The elf maidens next walked over to the Hopespring to check whether the graffiti there marked a possible cavern entrance—Silaqui suspected that the strange, white sword graffiti throughout Trunau marked places where cunning orc raiders might try to tunnel into the city. Finding no signs of a cavern or other tunnel at the Hopespring, Silaqui left Jane to find Jagrin Grath. Jane stayed at the Hopespring to speak to her grandfather, Silvermane. The mysterious, old, silver-haired druid listened to her, but offered no help; he only repeated the words “solve this mystery” with his quarterstaff.

Silaqui found Jagrin and explained what they had uncovered so far, with regards to his son’s death. Jagrin listened carefully and intently, and then asked to see his son’s journal. Silaqui handed it over. Thumbing through the pages of drawings and writings, Jagrin’s nose wrinkled when he came across a sketch of Brinya Kelver. Then, reading about Rodrik’s encounter with a flood troll at the Plague House, he told Silaqui they should investigate as soon as possible. Silaqui questioned him about the Plague House, asking whether it was truly haunted—Jagrin answered that he didn’t know, but there were many stories about strange lights and sounds coming from the old, burned church in the middle of the night. She asked where exactly the church was, and he pointed in the direction of the Plague House, telling her she could see it from atop the town’s wall. Climbing the stairs up on top of the town wall, Silaqui peered over the edge and spotted the eerie, half-burned structure below, flush against a giant boulder on its northeast side. She considered climbing down the wall and investigating herself, but decided it was beyond her ranger skills. Frustrated, she shot an arrow at the charred building, shattering the highest window above the front door. She then went to meet Jane, and helped her bring the armor and weapons they confiscated from their would-be assassins to the Longhouse, where they donated them to the Trunauan militia.

Finally, at dusk, Draken and Gydion awoke and went down to the Ramblehouse Common Room, where Silaqui and Jane were waiting for them by the fireplace. Asa joined them, because the paladin of Iomedae wanted to see for himself what was inside the Plague House, it being the former church of Iomedae in Trunau. The five ate a dinner of salmon and talked about whether to attempt a visit to the Plague House that night, or wait until the next day. In the end, they decided to set off immediately after dinner, because while it might be more dangerous at night (due to all the strange nocturnal goings-on there), it also meant they might be able to catch someone on the premises. So, after a side trip to the Sanctuary to get fully healed by Tyari Varvatos and her colleagues, they set out for Trunau’s Front Gate. The militia gladly unlocked it for them, telling them: “Anything for you folk! You have the run of the place, by order of Halgra of the Blackened Blades!”

The group quickly and quietly followed the town wall around the west side of the city, where the sky was brighter. They spotted the Plague House and started heading for it, but before they could reach it, Gydion and Jane heard the sounds of tramping feet behind them. They alerted the others, but were too late—the party was under attack! First, a greenish arrow flew over their heads, missing them and hitting the door of the burned church, burning a small hole in it. This was followed by a volley of arrows, flying amidst a chorus of orc hoots and warcries. It was getting dark, but the non-human members of the party could count 10 orcs in the gloaming. Silaqui acted first, killing an orc with her trusty bow and arrow.

Battle was engaged quickly and efficiently:

First, Jane injures an orc with an arrow, while Gydion casts Shillelalagh on his quarterstaff. Kingsley and Toboe then close in, injuring two orcs, and Draken and Asa do the same, landing crushing blows with battleaxe and longsword, respectively. Another round of combat occurs, in which Gydion casts Produce Flame, killing an orc who is attacking his lion friend. Meanwhile, Asa finishes off one of his orc opponents.

During the next round, Draken (the only party member with darkvision) spots two large humanoid figures running towards them. It was two flood trolls! The hideous beasts pounce on the druids, pinning them with their hindquarters while raking them with their front claws. While Silaqui shoots two arrows at Jane’s troll attacker, Jane tries to blind it with a Flare spell. Unfortunately, she fails her concentration check, and loses the orison. Meanwhile, Gydion unsuccessfully tries to break free of his troll’s grip on him. Kingsley injures another orc, while a seriously injured Draken cleaves through two orcs with his axe, killing one of them. Asa fails to cut down any orcs for many a round, but finally kills the three orcs surrounding him, landing a critical hit on the final one.

The orcs were all defeated at that point, but the battle raged on for another couple of rounds while the party focused on the two flood trolls. Kingsley and Toboe rallied to their masters’ sides, and attacked the trolls on top of them with tooth and claw. Again, Jane lost another misfired Flare, while Gydion unsuccessfully tried to escape from his troll’s grasp. And all the while, the trolls kept raking their helpless opponent, tearing into them round after round. Finally, Gydion escaped, but Jane fell into unconsciousness from her wounds, and started to bleed out. Just then, Asa reached her, laying on healing hands and stabilizing her. Quickly, Draken drew close and sized up his sister’s attacker. If the little dwarf was afraid of the hulking flood troll, he did not show it, and he charged in to attack! He struck down the injured troll with one swing from his mighty battle-axe, while at the same time, Silaqui took down the other flood troll with an arrow at point-blank range.

Shaken and wounded but safe for the moment, the party regrouped and discussed retreating back inside the town walls, but decided against it. “We’ve come this far!” argued Jane; she further assured them that they could always leave the Plague House if the horrors inside were too much for them to handle in their injured states. As they approached the burned church, Asa asked everyone to stop and join hands, and offer a prayer to the gods to protect them from whatever was inside the haunted building. He then took the lead and opened the church’s front door, revealing a dark, barren, ashen foyer.

Inside the foyer, a set of double doors presented themselves immediately to the right; after some discussion, Jane opened them. The party entered the room and cautiously fanned out. The room had a high, cathedral ceiling and was full of old, scorched hospital beds, and a fire-blackened altar. Visages of celestial figures stared down from the stained glass windows above, seemingly watching our heroes as they explored the room.

Suddenly, burnt corpses of plague victims appeared on the bedframes, sitting straight up and screaming! Horrified, Gydion, Draken, Toboe and Kingsley run from the haunted room and left the Plague House, finally stopping 120 feet away on the plains outside. Jane followed them and convinced them to return, but not before they had thoroughly looted their fallen orc and troll opponents of 10 gp and 63sp. The party regrouped in the foyer once more, closing those double doors tightly as the spectres screamed on.

Next, the party heads further down the hall and finds another, single door at the far end, on the left. Entering cautiously, they round a corner and find a room where the western wall is completely collapsed in a heap of rubble. As the party searches through the rubble, they are surprised by giant centipedes. Luckily, the vermin are no match for them, and quickly put down. Gydion is injured but luckily makes his Fortitude save against the centipede’s poison.

After defeating these multi-legged horrors, Silaqui and Jane follow a rickety set of stairs and find a roofless chamber completely exposed to the elements, its only furnishing a soot-covered brass statue of a woman with a longsword in one hand and a kite shield in the other. No-one can identify the statue, although Asa suspects it depicts Iomedae herself.

Our heroes quickly left the room to explore the remainder of the house—the northeast section, against the giant boulder that Silaqui had spotted earlier that day. They noticed a bookshelf, and went to investigate. Above the bookshelf they spotted “R+B” carved in a support beam, and interpreted it to mean “Rodrik & Brinya”. Next, Jane found a hopeknife on a shelf of the bookcase, bearing the inscription “For Rodrik, my love”. They discussed their find, and Silaqui wondered out loud, “Could this be Brinya’s original hopeknife, lost by Rodrik in the Plague House?” The others muttered in agreement; it certainly made sense.

Suddenly, the intrepid group of investigators found themselves surrounded by giant spiders, crawling down from the beams above. They dispatched the hateful arachnids one by one, with Asa narrowly avoiding being poisoned by one of them. Silaqui ran out of the room back into the foyer, completely avoiding the fight, because (unbeknownst to the rest of the party) she is terribly arachnophobic.

After the battle, diligent investigation of the bookshelf by Jane and Gydion uncovered an empty, gem-studded coffer behind a loose back panel. Next, Draken and Asa investigated the other piece of furniture in the room—the cabinet—and discovered a stash of magic items: oil of Magic Weapon; a potion of Shield of Faith; three magic scrolls; and two vials of Holy Water. Asa cautiously went to investigate the northwest end of the room they were in, but was stopped short by a big, black hole in the wall and floor—the entire wall had apparently collapsed long ago, and left a deep hole in the ground. Looking down, he saw nothing but blackness. He quickly backed away.

The only way they hadn’t yet investigated was a single iron door next to the cabinet, in the southeast part of the house. Draken took the lead ,and cautiously opened the door, revealing a stairwell with a large, steel lockbox in one corner. He tried to open the lockbox, but it was sealed shut, so, as dwarves are oft wont to do, he started beating it with the handle of his axe. After much noise and much frustration, Draken was finally able to open the box. To everyone’s delight, he pulled out another stash of magic items: a potion of Darkvision, and two magic scrolls. Underneath these, under a false wooden bottom, lay a masterwork crossbow, and a case containing 10 normal bolts, 10 cold iron bolds, and 10 silver bolts.

Laying the crossbow and bolts aside for the time being, the party steeled themselves and headed down the dark staircase.

Experience: 1184xp for each character


10 gp
63 sp
One masterwork Hopeknife (Brinya’s, given to Rodrik)
One Oil of Magic Weapon.
One Potion of Shield of Faith.
Five magic scrolls.
Two vials of Holy Water.
One Potion of Darkvision.
One masterwork crossbow, with a case containing 10 normal bolts, 10 cold iron bolds, and 10 silver bolts.

Next: A Nasty Surprise!

Silaqui is worried.

We’ve seen evidence of a nefarious conspiracy to destroy Trunau. There’s been murders, assassination attempts, and vandalism. It’s very difficult to discover what really happened to Rodrik Grath, definitely not suicide, though. We’re not getting much help from the Trunauans with the investigation; meanwhile, disturbing incidents happen with more frequency and violence.

I’ve been thinking about what these incidents all mean. Our band is being attacked, and pulled into rescues that pull us away from what is really happening behind the scenes, what may be happening underground. Are the attacks a diversion?

I have seen it happen many times in attacks of walled cities — the two most effective ways to breach the walls is by internal conspiracy and undermining. We have plenty of evidence of the conspiracy, but what if this is only secondary to undermining? Roderick was investigating the Plague House, and now Roderick is dead. We’ve been diverted away from going there by assassination attempts and rescues.

I believe that the enemies of Trunau, whoever they are, have begun to undermine Trunau’s defenses and have started at the Burned Church. This may be the site of a tunnel entrance and digging operation. It’s close enough to the town’s defensive wall, and we heard that Roderick saw a Troll out there. There’s plenty of spooky ghost stories that keep the timid from going there, and we already have word of a missing Trunauan teenager.

I hope I’m wrong. But, it needs to be looked into. The graffitti — it’s specific symbols, repetitive markings, even if we don’t understand them. It has to be a part of the conspiracy. And, it marks very strategic spots within Trunau’s walls, most especially the Hopespring. What if these markings are pointing out where the tunnels are opening? If breeched this way, the upper town could be taken before the lower town, and with no water supply and assault from both sides, the lower town wouldn’t last long.

Like I said, I hope I’m wrong. But we should look into this, even if we can’t get the Trunauans to listen. We could go to the Hopespring again and examine the area around the graffitti. We might not find a tunnel entrance, but maybe it’s worth a look. When we go out to the Burned Church, we need to examine the cellar and other possible sites for undermining.

What do you think? Maybe I’m giving Trunau’s enemies too much credit for implementing such a sophisticated operation, but it’s worth checking into. They’ve had plenty of time before we arrived at Trunau to work at a violent scheme.


Episode 3: The Burning Farmhouse

After the would-be assassins were dispatched, and their belongings confiscated, Janekfan checked the bodies—but there were no signs of life. She had been hoping to interrogate one of them, but no such luck. Cham Laringfass meets them and is horrified at more deaths taking place in her inn! Then, Gydion shows up in great need of healing; and remembering Tyari Varvatos’ promise of healing them, the group quickly headed to the Sanctuary.

Meanwhile, Silaqui has been awoken by the militia, and decides to go to the Ivory House and wake Ruby Red. With Ruby’s assistance, she is granted a late-night audience with Halgra of the Blackened Blades. Silaqui tells her that she thinks an attack on Trunau is imminent, and may be staged from the inside by saboteurs; for a summary of her arguments, see her post: [[ Silaqui is worried. | Silaqui is worried.]] During their conversation, she tells Halgra about Rodrik Grath‘s journal entries stating that he saw a flood troll in the Plague House, and that she suspects that saboteurs may be using the House as a base, perhaps tunneling into Trunau through the basement. Halgra says she will consider Silaqui’s words, and in the meantime, she wants to see Rodrik’s journal.

The rest of the party is greeted by a sleepy Tyari, the Sanctuary’s High Priestess, who takes them inside and begins healing their wounds. Within the hour, Jane and Gydion notice that the curious, blue, alchemically-produced blades they had confiscated from the assassins’ bodies completely dissolved, leaving only the hilts.

Just then, Asa Del Ray bursts in and reports that his patrol was attacked outside town, and Cham’s niece was taken hostage. He asks the group to come with him to find her. The party heads north, following orc tracks. After an hour or so, they spot plumes of smoke coming from a nearby farm. They follow orc tracks, and the plumes, and find a farmhouse on fire. Asa tells them it’s Innes’ Aunt’s farm! There are screams coming from inside the farmhouse, and orcs are there, standing around laughing as they feed the flames with kindling and refuse.

The orcs are surprised, so the party catches them flat-footed. Silaqui fires the first shot, gravely wounding an orc. Gydion fires his sling, Jane and Draken use their bows, and Asa uses his sling-staff. The heroes land a surprising number of critical hits, taking out two orcs. The orcs close in on them, and more orcs come out of the darkness and join their ranks. Melee is engaged.

Draken makes a few clean swipes at his orc opponents, dropping one. Gydion casts Shillelagh on his quarterstaff and closes in on a group of orcs, but misses. His lion, Kingsley, claims a few orcs’ lives. Asa finds himself against two orcs, and eventually kills one of them with his long sword. Silaqui and Jane hang back, mostly firing arrows at orcs which aren’t engaged in melee.

After a few rounds, Gydion and Kingsley find themselves surrounded by four orcs, and Gydion is seriously wounded. However, the Druid manages to land a critical hit on one orc with his magicked staff, killing it instantly. Meanwhile, Silaqui finds herself possessed of unnatural speed and fires off two arrows, one of which connects. Toboe is there at her side, backing her up with his fangs. Draken and Asa are both seriously wounded before the orcs begin to pull back, and flee.

After the orcs retreat, our heroes regroup and break down the door of the farmhouse, freeing the farmers trapped inside, including Innes’ Aunt Agatha, who owns the farm. Cham’s niece is among them, too. The group returns to Trunau at daybreak to the cheers of the Trunau militia. The town wakes early to celebrate Cham’s niece’s return.

Experience: 665xp

Treasure: -

Next: The Plague House!

Episode 2: Frustrating Foils... and Ambush Assassins!

Our heroes looked up and saw Silvermane standing before them. Who else could it be, but the elven druid they’d heard so much about? Janekfan approached him and said “I’m Jane, your granddaughter!” The silver-haired elf looked at her quizzically and took a tarnished silver locket, and handed it to her. Jane opened it and found a portrait of her mother. “That’s her! My mother” Ayashree!” She exclaimed. Silvermane then embraced her. A grey-haired wolf then climbed out of the small cave Silvermane had emerged from, and licked Toboe on the nose.

Silvermane cast a silent spell, and held his quarterstaff with one hand, spelled out elvish words that glowed like silvery clouds in the air: “Wolf Walker Clan”. He then looked over at the dead wolves whom our heroes had killed in self-defense, and a tear rolled down his cheek. The old elf walked over and stooped to examine them. After a minute, he stood up and wrote, with his magically-imbued staff, “Poison”, and shook his head sadly. He then beckoned for Jane to enter his cave, and invited her to talk about herself. After a few minutes, Jane told him how she and her friends were investigating Rodrik Grath’s death. He wrote, again with his staff, “Solve this mystery”. Then he walked her outside, and pointed to the strange, white cross painted on a rocky ledge above the Hopespring. “They’re coming”, he wrote in the air with his staff, and, answering none of their questions, turned away from them. Jane took a vial of saliva from one of the wolves’ mouths, and the group left.

From there, our heroes decided to go to the local pub, the Killing Ground, in upper Trunau. The owner greeted them personally, remembering them from the night before. They asked him if he knew of any strange half-orcs that had recently arrived in Trunau, but he couldn’t recall anyone of note. “Lots of folks come through this town”, he answered. They ordered dinner from him (Jane ordered cake) and then retired to the Ramblehouse for the night.

The next morning, the group found and interviewed Rodrik’s half-orc girlfriend, Brinya Kelver, the town weaver. Through her tears, she was very happy to learn that they were investigating Rodrik’s death, which she insisted was not a suicide. She told them that they’d only recently been engaged, and that Rodrik had given her his mother’s ring; but, when his father Jagrin found out about it a few days ago, the two had argued, and Rodrik had been living at the Ramblehouse ever since. She also told them that they had even exchanged hopeknives, which was a tradition for Trunau couples. However, a few days ago, Rodrik had lost her hopeknife (during some sort of investigation he was doing for the militia); and, on the day of Ruby Red’s hopeknife ceremony, Brinya got so angry at him that she said she didn’t want to see him until he’d found it—or had set things right somehow. Oh, how she regretted that those were her very last words to her love! They told her that they had the hopeknife, and showed her the one found on his body. Examining the knife, Brinya suddenly grew very sober, and said: “This isn’t my hopeknife. This isn’t the knife I grew up with!” The group looked at each other, thoroughly confused—what was going on?

Upon further questioning, Brinya waxed on about what a great writer Rodrik was, and showed them a poem he’d written for her. When questioned further about his writing, Brinya told the group that he had kept a journal, and that lately, he’d been going to the Sanctuary to do much of his writing—but she had no idea why. They asked her where this journal might be, but Brinya didn’t know—but she added that, if they could somehow locate it, it might provide clues to his death. Silaqui then asked if she could buy a woven green blanket from her—and Brinya said, yes, let me go in the back and fetch one. While she was gone, the group searched her front room for Rodrik’s journal, but didn’t find anything. After selling Silaqui the blanket, Brinya thanked them for calling, and told them that if they needed anything else, her door was open.

Our heroes next went to the Ivory House, where Chief Defender Halgra of the Blackened Blades lives. They asked if she had received their message from the day before, but the man at the door only said, Halgra is very busy: they’d have to come back tomorrow and make an appointment.

Frustrated again, the group decided to split up: Jane and Draken went to That ‘n’ Such, and had the strange penny (which they’d found in Rodrik’s room) appraised: Crazy Jess Meeson (the proprietress) told them it was quite rare, and worth around 100 gp. They then went next door to the Apothecary, run by Jess’ husband, Gorkis. Jane handed him the vial of wolf saliva and he examined it with a lens, and added some reagents to it, watching their reaction. “The animal who produced this saliva was definitely poisoned” he told them, but could not elaborate on what sort of poison it was.

Meanwhile, Silaqui and Gydion went to the Sanctuary, where they interviewed High Priestess Tyari Varvatos and Paladin Asa Del Ray. They learned that Rodrik had indeed been coming there, and meeting with the church’s resident oracle, the strange, old half-orc known as Katrezra. Asa told them that Ketrezra had acquired his precognitive abilities when he was with the Empty Hand orc tribe: they’d taken him to a sulfur hotspring, where he exposed himself to toxic fumes—and, in addition to his divination abilities, he’d also been inflicted with weeping sores, and a limp. Asa knew that he and Rodrik had become friends, and had overheard them speaking about “white crosses, the Burned Church, and other such things”, but he hadn’t eavesdropped enough to know what they were discussing. Asa reminded them that Ketrezra had disappeared suddenly, early in the morning before this one—the morning Rodrik’s body was found. He told them that he’d be surprised if he’d gotten far, given his physical frailty. They then asked him about his journal, and he just shrugged, saying he didn’t know where it was. The pair then searched Ketrezra’s room, but turned up nothing. Next, they checked the church’s library—where Turin helped them—but found nothing. Turin confirmed that he hadn’t run across any sort of journal or diary in the few days he’d been studying there.

Emptyhanded, the group met for lunch, and then went to the local bank, the Trunau Countinghouse, to find out more information about the strange penny they’d found. Owner Lessie Crumkin confirmed that it was a rare coin, probably worth about 100 gp, and that it may be Giant in origin. She’d never seen anything like it. She then talked with them about the investigation, and she suggested that, now that they had the murder weapon (the hopeknife found on Rodrik’s body), they should show it to Head Metalsmith Sara Morninghawk at Clamor. They took their leave of her, and on the way to Clamor, they ran across a drunk man cleaning some of the white graffiti off of one of the towers in the Upper Town. Jane went up the tower to talk to him, and he said he was so sad about Rodrik’s death—that he’d been the man’s godfather, charged with looking out for him. He felt guilty because he hadn’t been able to protect Rodrik. The half-orc drunk, Inez Grenell, was with him, trying to help him clean off the graffiti—and the two just broke out into insane laughter after that point. The group left them, again frustrated.

When the group showed the hopeknife to Sara Morninghawk, she shook her head and said that she’d never have let anyone buy a hopeknife as unfinished as this. “It doesn’t even have the inscription that Rodrik ordered”, she added. She told them that the half-orc woman, Ursultz, who’d been working on the knife—a recently hired apprentice—hadn’t showed up for work that morning, either (just like yesterday). They discussed the investigation a bit, and inquired whether Sara knew the whereabouts of Rodrik’s journal. Just then, a half-orc appeared from the back room of the smithy. He introduced himself as Ketrezra, and explained that he’d been hiding out ever since he learned of Rodrik’s death—fearing for his own life because he and Rodrik had become such good friends of late. Ketrezra told them that Rodrik had originally come to him for advice about his relationship with Brinya (another half-orc), and more recently, about a “flood troll” that he’s run across at the Plague House (aka the Burned Church) while on patrol. Ketrezra thought this was a very odd occurrence, as flood trolls don’t usually venture “this far south of the river”. The group took the journal from him and read it on their way back to the Ramblehouse. They learned that Rodrik had been investigating the troll appearance, and was meaning to visit the Plague House again, the day after Ruby’s hopeknife ceremony—unfortunately, that was the last page of his journal; the entry was never completed. And now, Rodrik was dead.

That night, our heroes were attacked by deadly assassins as they slept in their beds! Jane, Toboe and Draken (assisted by a mite and a stirge, magically summoned by Jane) fought off three of them in their Ramblehouse room. Just outside, Gydion barely escaped with his life in the inn’s stable, where he’d been staying with Kingsley, who efficiently finished off the two assassins who attacked them there. Silaqui, meanwhile, slept soundly at the Longhouse, where she had been staying since arriving in town.

Clearly, someone didn’t want our heroes uncovering the truth about Rodrik’s death. But who?

Experience: 1250 xp
Treasure (looted from the assassins): Beryl worth 50 gp, 20 gp, 5 potions of Cure Light Wounds, 5 applications of antitoxin, four short swords, and four suits of leather armor.

Next: The Burning Farmhouse!

Episode One: The Beginning

Silaqui and her elven ranger troop were wandering in circles before they finally located the famed dwarf city of Highhelm, hidden safely away in the snowy Five Kings Mountains. They had come there on a diplomatic mission from Kyonin. Upon entering the underground city, they were shocked to meet another she-elf named Janekfan living among the dwarves. Jane explained that she’d been lost in the mountains as a young girl, but was saved from certain death by Yeti, who eventually delivered her to Highhelm. The dwarves had been raising her as one of their own for many years. During that time she became a Druidic initiate, and rescued her wolf companion, Toboe.

Jane revealed to Silaqui that she originally hailed from the Elven Kingdom of Kyonin—the same country Silaqui and her troop were from. Silaqui offered to take her back to her homeland and reunite her with her family, and Jane accepted. It was then that Jane’s protective, adopted dwarven brother, Draken—a fighter—announced he would accompany them.

Returning to Kyonin answered many questions for Jane, and reunited her with family. Unfortunately, however, her parents were not there, which was very disappointing. Jane recalled that her parents had spoken of her grandfather, Silvermane, an elven Druid who lived in Trunau, whom they had expected her to train with. When Jane spoke of this, Silaqui’s wizard brother, Turin, took notice. Turin had been fascinated with artifacts ever since he was a young elf, and his research had uncovered the whereabouts of clues to powerful artifacts within Trunau’s borders. It was then that the four of them—Jane, Toboe, Draken, Silaqui and Turin—decided to journey together to Trunau.

Trunau is a human oasis in the southern part of the orc-dominated Hold of Belkzen, an oft-besieged place of rough-hewned morality. Our heroes knew the going would be tough. After weeks of grueling travel through the dangerous lands of Ramziran and Ustalav, they finally made it to the gates of Trunau. Along the way, in Ustalev, they met the mysterious, human Druid, Gydion, and his lion companion, Kingsley.

The company of seven (including the lion and wolf animal companions) arrived on an auspicious day: the Hopeknife Ceremony of Trunau’s leader’s youngest daugher, Ruby Red. In this “coming of age” ceremony, an adolescent Trunau native is given their hopeknife—a masterwork dagger with which they terminate their own life (and/or the lives of their mortally wounded loved ones) on the occasion of a deadly orc invasion. Ruby’s first order of business was to choose teammates for a tug-of-war, and she chose our heroes, who dutifully won the day. Ruby’s mother, Trunau’s leader, Halgra of the Blackened Blades, was overjoyed. Afterwards, Turin visited the Sanctuary, Trunau’s Iomedaean temple, where he consulted the temple’s library until the wee hours.

During the festivities after the ceremony, our remaining heroes (Jane, Draken, Silaqui and Gydion) were approached by twin brothers Rodrik Grath and Kurst Grath, Trunau’s two Patrol Captains, who (along with other Trunau militia members) had opposed them in the tug-of-war. The two took them to Trunau’s most popular watering hole, The Killing Ground, where they learned about the history of Trunau and the Hold of Belkzen. There, they met the twins’ father, Patrol Leader Jagrin Grath, who revealed that his wife (the twins’ mother) had been killed by orcs. They also learned that the city had recently been defiled by strange, indelible, white-cross graffiti. A half-orc drunk named Inez Grenell told the party that she had even attempted cleaning it with a solution of three-parts whiskey (her favorite cleaning solution), but it still wouldn’t come off! She also mentioned that Rodrik was a poet of some repute, and that he had penned her favorite poem, entitled “The Other Side of Contempt”. While at the pub, they also met the town banker, Lessie Crumkin,who attempted to convert them to Abadarnism. Finally, they asked about the “white graffiti” around town, and who was responsible; no-one at the pub knew anything about it, although it was a hot topic of conversation in Trunau for the past week, since the markings first appeared. Jagrin took the party to the nearest example, on the floor of the Commons (which was now almost empty of people), and the heroes examined it.

Upon returning to the pub, Silaqui asked Jagrin if he had maps of the surrounding lands, and he said yes—at the barracks, in Trunau’s Longhouse. Eventually, as the night drew to a close, he and Kurst took her there, where she stayed for the night. There, Silaqui met Ruby Red (who had just won a porridge-eating contest) and gave her 5gp for her birthday, which Ruby gratefully accepted. Silaqui then fell asleep perusing the maps. Soon afterwards, Rodrik retired to the Ramblehouse (the halfling-run inn where he was staying), taking the rest of the party with him. Rodrik took to his bed early while Jane, Draken, and Gydion partied on, in the Ramblehouse’s common room.

Our heroes were wakened by shouts, and the heavy footsteps of militia members canvassing the inn. Patrol Captain Rodrik Grath had been murdered in his sleep!! A crowd had gathered around the inn, and Silaqui (who had been awakened early at the Longhouse on account of the emergency) pushed her way into the building. Kurst was there as well, noticeably shaken, and he asked the group to investigate his brother’s death. He explained that he was too deeply involved, and that he needed to attend to his brother’s affairs, and our heroes reluctantly agreed. “This is not a suicide, I’m sure”, said Kurst, “because my brother had so much to live for.” He told them about Rodrik’s girflfriend, a half-orc weaver named Brinya Kelver, and how they desperately tried to keep their father, Jagrin, from knowing about it, because Jagrin detests orcs. Unfortunately, Kurst told them, Jagrin found out just a few days ago, and reacted badly, which is why Rodrik had been staying at the Ramblehouse recently instead of the Longhouse, where most of the militiamen lived. Kurst then left, saying he had business to attend to, but told our heroes that they should go see Brinyar, and to give her his condolences and best wishes.

Next, the group asked the innkeeper, a female halfling called Cham Laringfass, to let them see Rodrik’s room. They searched the blood-stained mattress, where they found a receipt for a new hopeknife, ordered by Rodrik himself; the party thought this very strange, indeed! The receipt indicated that the blade was to be inscribed with “To Rodrik, my love”. They group also found a hidden drawer in the desk, the only other piece of furniture in the room. The drawer contained a penny with a strange, monstrous symbol on it. Next, they questioned Cham herself, who tearfully revealed that a mysterious stranger (a human) had booked a room the same night they had arrived—and had given her “a fistful of gold” in return for her allowing him to check into the inn anonymously. She remarked that normally she wouldn’t have let someone check in without giving a name; but, he’s offered her so much money…..and she had no idea the night would end like this!

The party then asked Cham to show her the mysterious stranger’s room. She led them down the hall, and let them into another room—and she cried out in shock! She said that she had opened the wrong room—but the room they were viewing had been vandalized, most notably with white graffiti on the walls. Surveying the damage, she mumbled that she never should have let the room to “thuggish tall-folk from out of town”. When questioned, she told the party that she had rented the room to a half-orc—one of many who had come in from out of town during the past week.

Cham then took the party to the correct room, down the hall, which she had let to the mysterious human stranger the night before. The room was apparently untouched—no-one had even stayed in the bed, from what they could see. A search of the room revealed a hidden compartment within the room’s desk, which contained a letter to someone named “Melira”. Pocketing the letter, the party had breakfast in the inn’s Common Room, where they were joined by Trunau’s resident half-orc drunk, Innes. Over breakfast, our heroes formulated a plan: Gydion and Silaqui would examine Rodrik’s body, which was being held at the Sanctuary, while Draken and Jane would question the town smithy (Morninghawk’s Fine Steel, affectionately called “Clamor” by the townsfolk) about the mysterious hopeknife receipt.

Draken and Jane were greeted by Sara Morninghawk, the imposing, half-orc proprietress of Morninghawk’s Fine Steel. She examined the receipt and revealed to them that the hopeknife had indeed been ordered by Rodrik; it had had recently been forged by a new, half-orc apprentice of hers named Ursultz, who inexplicably hadn’t yet shown up for work this morning. Jane and Draken asked to see the blade; but, despite minutes of searching, Sara couldn’t locate it.

Meanwhile, Silaqui and Gydion met up with Tyari Varvatos, the person in charge of Trunau’s Sanctuary—and High Priestess of the goddess Iomedae. Silaqui immediately asked for Tyari to send word to Halgra, Chief Defender of Trunau, that Trunau is in danger of being attacked. (Silaqui and the others had deduced this by the letter to “Melira” which they had found in a desk at the inn). Tyari assigned her paladin Brantos to this task. Then, Gydion asked her about the white-cross graffiti on the rock above the Sanctuary, and Tyari denied that her church had anything to do with it. Silaqui asked why she hadn’t washed off the graffiti, and she replied, “We’ve tried. It won’t come off!”. The cleric then brought them to Turin, deeply engaged in study in the Sanctuary’s library. After chatting for a few minutes, Silaqui and Gydion took their leave of him.

The pair then asked Tyari to show them Rodrik’s body. The cleric introduced them to her halfling paladin Asa Del Ray, who dutifully took them to the Sanctuary’s basement, where the body was being prepared. “Here he is”, said Asa. “Bless you for taking on this investigation,” he added. Gydion and Silaqui noted that both of Rodrik’s wrists had been slashed with a bladed weapon, and they asked if the hopeknife was at the Sanctuary. Asa gave it to them, and the pair noted that the inscription (“To Rodrik, my love”)—as indicated on the receipt they’d found—was not on the knife. They examined the body further but found nothing. They questioned Asa further, and he told them that Rodrik had been coming to the Sanctuary recently to meet with its resident half-orc seer, Katrezra—a venerable, slightly crazy visionary who was in poor health. Asa said he didn’t know what the two had been discussing, but he said that strangely enough, Katrezra had disappeared that very morning, when news of Rodrik’s death reached the Sanctuary. Gydion and Silaqui then left the church to rendevous with Jane and Draken at the Hopespring, where Jane was hoping to meet up with her grandfather, Silvermane.

It was late afternoon when Silaqui, Gydion, Jane and Draken met at Trunau’s Hopespring. The group had just begun to compare notes when they were interrupted by growling noises from behind them. They turned around just in time to see four wolves with gaping, foaming jaws approaching them. The party made quick work of the wolves, but not without a casualty: Jane was bitten and tripped before Toboe came to her rescue.

As the battle came to a close, an ancient, silver-haired elf appeared from behind a rock, his form outlined in gold by the setting sun. Although she’d never met him, Jane knew him on sight: it was none other than her grandfather, the steward of the Hopespring, the Druid Silvermane himself!

Treasure: 0gp
Experience: 550xp

NEXT: Frustrating Foils… and Ambush Assassins!

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