Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Wilds - Dangerous Wall of Text!
Lots of details in this turn, including some info-dump on the various things found by the party on their last trip to the Cold Caves.
tldr: Left the Caves. Went back to Auslaug. Told their story. Got paid. Learned some stuff about their treasure. Split up loot.
Start Date: June 23, Year of the Badger, late morning
Start Status: To Highcliff
Start Location: The Cold Caves
It is a grim group that exits the Caves and stands blinking in the late morning sun. The stench of the dead hangs on your clothes like... the stench of the dead. Everyone is quiet, shaken by the horrors of the death-pit. The final checks and examinations carried out by the party revealed nothing new. Durego and Rawon closed the door and barred it once again, jamming the crosspiece in place with a few scraps from the broken tables and chairs to prevent casual access to the space beyond.
On the way out, Urúvion and Rawon make an attempt to track whoever or whatever escaped before, but neither expects to find much. Too many people have walked across the trail, and too much time as passed. Both are quite surprised when Urúvion actually finds a scuffed trail leading away from the cave entrance and into the woods. The group follows along as the elves attempt to mark the trail. Luck fails, and the trail is lost when it crosses a rocky, open stretch of ground, but not before the group can determine the general course of the fleeing thing: west.
With no trail to follow, it's back to camp, a hasty midday meal, and then on the road back to Auslaug. Dagmarten eyes the lowering skies with unease "Going to rain soon," he says, words that are soon proven true, as a light drizzle begins to fall late that afternoon. By nightfall the group has covered a fair stretch. The rain continues as they set up camp, examine their loot and the map; and discuss their plans for the future. Everyone seems intent on getting back to town, reporting in, finding out more about the map, and the strange items found in the old kettle.
The next morning brings more rain, along with a side-order of wind. It's miserable traveling weather, but the group, hardened by their experiences in the wilds, presses on. They make slow but steady progress, and end the day half a day from Auslaug. That night Durego casts a spell upon the new loot to see if he can determine what's magical. The results are surprising [notes will follow].
After a cold, wet night, the party gets up early and spends some time bathing and washing the stench of death from their gear and clothing in the nearby river. By the time they start moving the skies are clearing. They reach Auslaug in the late morning and head straight for the gates of Highcliff Keep. Captain Vargen is waiting, no doubt warned of the party's arrival by the gang of kids that's followed them to the keep gates.
He brings the group through the gates and into the guard house, then chases off the gawkers and bystanders. Once inside he says "Thambar the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale would like to hear a full report of your recent activities. I'm sure you're tired from your journey, so let's get the details cleared up, then the servants can show you to your rooms." Apparently you're going to be staying at the keep tonight.
Vargen listens to your report and pays the bounty on the kobold head. He's disturbed by the fact that something escaped the Caves, and saddened by the party's descriptions of the seven dead commoners. He sheds no light on what "for the west", "from the west", "frozen waste", or "farther west" might mean. So far as he knows, there's nothing but wilderness beyond the Westwalk. Wilderness and a few roving bandits and brigands (at this he gives Dagmarten, Rawon, and Ingvild a hard look). He suggests showing the map to Thambar the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale, and the priest Solig Farston, who will no doubt be present at tonight's gathering.
With the administrative details out of the way, Vargen calls in servants, who lead the party into the keep where they are given rooms in the guest wing. Baths are drawn (much warmer than the river). Laundry is done (because... stench of the dead). Food is eaten (second breakfast). Sleep is slept. By nightfall the party is cleaner, neater, and better-rested than they've been in weeks. The dinner bell sounds and they join the rest of the castle inhabitants in the great hall, where they are seated at the first table (below the lord's table, but above the guards and lesser officials of the court).
The dinner is long and, truth be told, rather boring. The courtiers ignore you, the guards throw hostile glances your way, and Thambar the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale and his guests at the high table are caught up in their own affairs. At least the food and drink are good. And plentiful. Even voracious Locky eats his fill (and if you've ever seen a halfling eat his fill, you know just what that means).
Finally the feast is done. The servants begin to clear the plates, the guards filter to the rear of the hall, and the courtiers gather in small groups, discussing who-knows-what. There is a sudden look of surprise on all their faces when Thambar the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale rises from his place at the high table and calls out "Leave us!"
You look at each other, unsure, as the courtiers and guards begin to leave, but a gesture from Vargen, who was seated at the high table, reassures you, and Maro can't resist smirking at the departing guests, earning more than a few scowls. Thambar mutters a few words to his wife Vela, who leaves with their three children in tow, leaving the high lord, Solig, Vargen, and Huginu Frand the lord's councilor. They descend from the high table and everyone gathers around the fire. For the second time in a day you begin to tell the tale of your trips to the Cold Caves. Thambar listens intently and Solig scribbles notes as you speak. Maro has not quite gotten the story worked into song, but he tells the tale well, playing up your heroics while side-stepping the uncomfortable bits.
Thambar seems impressed, and once the tale is told, he asks many questions about the kobolds, the ogres, the thing in the pool, the dead, and the clues left behind. He and Solig ask to see the map, and the magical items, you've found, examining and discussing each in excruciating detail. [what you learn follows] Meanwhile Vargen and Huginu listen from the fringes. By the time you are done, it is late. Very late. Thambar tells you he will speak with you again in the morning, bids you all a good night, and returns to his private chambers. Servants show you to your rooms.
The next morning dawns clear and bright, and Thambar meets you in the outer yard (Vargen mentioned that you'll be on your own for lodging tonight). The good news: Thambar pays you a reward in gold and silver for your efforts thus far. The bad: he cannot, at this time, fund an expedition beyond the borders. With the trouble at the Caves mostly settled he's resolved to expand his guard patrols along the Westwalk and to dispatch a guard- and work-party to the Caves to bury the dead and permanently seal off the lower levels. That should at least reduce the chances the Caves being used for nefarious purposes again. With that he bids you goodbye, and returns to the keep.
Vargen sees you to the gate. As you leave he hands a bag of coin and a complex steel medallion bearing the emblem of Highcliff to Maro. "The high lord cannot pay you to continue your investigations, but he can ease the way. This emblem will allow you lodging in any guardhouse or barracks within the Hembard Wilds. You're each authorized for up to five days a month lodgings. Use it wisely. And watch your backs. Some of the guards are not so happy with the new patrol schedules. You're not exactly going to be popular in the ranks."
With that, you're out the gate and into town, wiser, richer and fatter. Time to plan!
OOC - The things you learn:
The Map - Old Solig believes the standing stone on the map is very likely Stonefinger, and if that's true, the markings further west *may* be Blackpool Maze. He cannot tell the provenance of the map itself. Based on the paper and ink he suggests it is at least 25 years old, possibly older, depending on how it was stored. It bears a passing resemblance to one of Jorund Hembard's maps that Solig saw during his tenure in East Gorsebonn. He would very much like to make a copy of the map for Thambar's library [Let me know if you'll allow it. It is likely beneficial to let him keep the original and produce a clean and sturdy copy for you in exchange.]
The stinky blue paste - Solig suggests, and Vargen agrees, that this is likely Burning Ichor, a magical substance that can be applied to weapons. Once applied contact with metal causes it to burst into flame, inflicting fire damage on anyone struck (1d6 fire damage, 10 rounds duration). Vargen warns that weapons so treated are often destroyed by the intense heat produced.
The silver arrowheads - Solig produces a text on ancient weapons that pictures similar designs. They are the work of a long dead magician named Sigmonst the Frail. He cannot tell exactly what they might do, but Sigmonst was an authority on all things demonic and necromantic. He created many weapons to fight such foes.
The odd amulet - The only information anyone can produce about this is that the symbols and signs inscribed on its surface are written in an ancient and unreadable form of Ssarasssian (the language of lizardmen and their ilk).
The iron kettle, brass ring, and Raúguey's sword (all identified by Durego as magical) are unknowns. Using a weird forked wand, Thambar himself is able to tell you that none of the items in your collection bear any malignant enchantment (at least nothing major...)
I'm going to follow-up with a revised treasure list and XP distribution in a separate message.
End Date: June 26, Year of the Badger, morning
End Status: Anyone have a Tums?
End Location: Auslaug