Slaughtergarde 4e

Part 8 - The Sewers of Sumberton

As our heroes kick away the last of the bugs, the sound of the sewer grate can be heard and a dark silhouette approaches from the access tunnel they had come by.  A small figure ominously approaches swathed in a deep black cloak.  He stops at the tunnel entrance to the chamber, and throws back his hood.  A familiar face grins smugly back – Hef's, or one mostly like it: a face-cracking smile, a pug nose and impish eyes light up an otherwise bald head.  Two bare, hairy legs can be seen beneath the hem of the cloak – and one is clearly devoid of pigmentation, a pale white foot against the sewer muck. 

Hef stares slack-jawed, and quickly hides his cigar behind his back.  "Hap!"

The halfling in black grins, looking about.  "Hef!  It figgers, I'd track you here."

"I thought you were still in hiding!  Don't the tieflings still have a contract on yer head?"

Hap chuckled.  "Naw, not no more.  Ma settled with 'em.  She promised 'em my next born son, only they don't know about the ol' snip-snip."

"Ha, nice!  Yeah I gotta get me that done sometime."

"Yeah, about that.  Jenny Bowlegged…"

"Jenny Boughlayer!"

"...says ya knocked her up.  Again.  She just had triplets."

"Jenny?  I ain't seen her in over a year!  Howja figger they're mine?"

"A year is what it takes, dope!  And they got the White Foot.  They ain't been bleached white, neither, we checked."

Hef squirms.  "Triplets, huh.  Eh, think the tieflings'd be innerested?"

"Nope, Ma asked, no dice.  In fact, Ma thinks on account of this being the third nice hobbit girl ya knocked up, and the second time at that, that its time fer ya to come home and be a father to all the little runts."

Hef looks thunderstruck.  "W-What?  R-r-really?  I'm pretty busy, ay, right guys?   I'm on a Druidic Council mission!  An official one!  I ain't got time fer no fatherin'!  Well, least not the after-part of fatherin'..."

"All the Whitefoot brothers tooka vote, too.  Ma says ya gotta come home.  So does we.  Yer runts are really gettin' outta control.  The Burrow's a real mess.  Every night there's been random slingfire incidents, yer auntie Hoz got hit in her bed while she slept!  Took us days to shut her yappin' gob up.  Anyways, Ma says I gotta take over yer obligations to make up fer what she did fer me, and send ya home.  Like, pront-o."

"Whaddayamean, all the Whitefoot brothers?  When was the last time all the Whitefoot brothers got together.  Ha, never!"

"Huh, let's see, all the Whitefoot bros got together fer Pa's 100th birthday.  'cept the one called Hef, who was too busy rollin' around in the bushes with some druid chick."

"Aw, screw that, the old man woulda understood, that chick was…", Hef's hand gesturing to describe an impossibly curvy woman.  "Wait, Pa's outta the slammer?  Since when?"

"Since some of us busted him out, ya nob!  Mebbe if ya didn't live in the damn woods like a godsdamned elv… er I mean, elv.. ephant… haha… ya'd be a little more up on family events!  Like fer instance, you reaching double digits in mini-Hefs!"

"I ain't goin' back to the Burrows!  Naw way!"

Hap sniffs the air.  "Ay, is yer back on fire or somethin'?  Izzat a cigar?  I thought I smelled cigar smoke."

Hef's face drains of color.  He shakes his head quickly.

Hap gets in Hef's face.  "You know what Ma says about cigar smoking!  It killed yer sister Hal!  Mebbe I should tell her yer smoking again, eh?  She'll tie off ye ol' dicing pouch fer that!"

"Naw… I smoke'm just on special occasions, naw, naw, ya don't have to do that… crap man, she'd rip my liver out fer the Raven Queen if she knew… don't you dare, bro!"

"Ya got over a dozen whelps now Hef.  It's time you man down and dig yerself a good hole in the Burrows.  Whitefoot blood is special, ya can't just let em play in the gutters without a proper pa, or they'll start gangs!  Raise yer runts all proper-like.  Chuck those cigars, go home, be a good pa and get them kids offa the streets and them slings locked up, and I won't say nothin' about the smokin'."

Hef kicks the wall, his face screwing up with anger and frustration.  After a long moment his shoulders slump.  "Well, fine, screw you!  I'm going home!"  Hef tears off his leather jerkin, and tosses down his box of cigars into the muck.  With a sullen wave of goodbye, he stomps off down the tunnel, his white foot the last to be seen disappearing into the gloom.

"Don't let the sewer grate hit ya in the ass on yer way out!" shouts Hap after him, cackling. 

Hap waits until he hears the sewer grate shut, snatches up Hef's cigar box before it soaks up too much of the muck, and lights up a cigar with a smug look of satisfaction.  "So… a sewer adventure.  What fun!  Sounds like a job fer a Whitefoot, eh?  Ahahahaha!  Count me in, but I ain't been in the Sumberton sewers in a long time, meself, so don't ask me fer directions… hey, who the heck is making all that screaming racket?  Mebbe we should check it out instead of standin' around here, jawing…"

It was now so clear.  Grigori now understood why the Eladrin left this world and went to Fey world.

Justinian, knowing his mother's side of the family only (having been raised by her), now began to doubt if his other half was indeed human after all. After all, this Halfling seems to have sprayed his seed over half of the known continent!  sigh

Hap surveys the bug carnage with a smug look, a brightly stoked cigar lending a reddish hue to his face.  Shaking his head with wry amusement at Justinian's proffering of a used bandage, he thoroughly dusts off pieces of smoking, hacked bug parts from his person.  "That was a good bug-stomping, reminds me of baby-sitting the kids back home.  Too bad that devilish lurker twerp got away though, that was a rotten piece'o'luck.  Anyway, Hap Whitefoot's my name, dragon-sorcerer, pleasedtameetcha." 

Where Hef was thin and sinewy, Hap is more like a solid little bowling ball, all bulging muscles and veins.  He extends one meaty hand to shake, and you see that his beefy forearms are covered in bright tattoos - entwined dragons of all colors are shown in various acts – sacking towns, pulling the heads off demons, doing questionable acts with maidens, etc.  As his right hand clasps yours you see it is colored to resemble the head of a red dragon; tattooed yellow teeth on his index finger and thumb chomp down on your hand with a glaring eye looking back.  Even his bare white foot is lightly tattooed into the form of Bahamut, reclining comfortably (if a bit incongruously) against the squalor of the tunnel, his great silver wings outstretched on either side of Hap's lower leg.  

"If there's one thing I can't stand its vandalism," he says pointing back at the obelisk with a sarcastic look on his face.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Hap.  I think we are both happy to have another Whitefoot around.  While we will miss Hef, I'm sure his paternity responsibilities are of equal importance, and we are just glad you have offered to aid us in his place."

"Concerted attack?  These vandals have got to be stopped, if that obelisk falls its going to take out at least a few houses!  Of course, that's why a man should dig himself a proper house below ground, so yer insulated against falling monuments - plus a good burrow don't catch fire, neither!  They can get a little muddy though in the spring, but if ya dug it in good dirt, there ain't nothing more relaxin' than a fine mud between yer toes, knowhaddahmean?  Har har har.  Mud in the dining room sure beats a monument falling in yer dining room, I'll tell ya what."

"Paternal responsibilities?  Har, naw, that was just a practical joke, Jenny's been all around the Burrow, y'know?  They ain't his kids, hahaha, they're mine, haha!  It'll take him awhile to figger that one out, prolly once one of em gets old enough to start barfing dragonfire.  If they got some of the dragonblood anyway, no telling.  That's why Ma made me get the ol' snip-aroo, she figgered one dragonblood was causing the clan enough problems.  Say, yer a doc aincha… is that reversible?"

"Uh… umm… Oh my.  Errr… let me check." (Pretends to consult with Melora through prayer)

"Uh huh… yes… really? Okay. Thank you, oh generous and wise one.  I'm so sorry, she says that the procedure is sadly not reversible.  One's body is a temple you know, so once you go around altering things…"

"I am…Grigori.  Eladrin warrior.  Liberator of the Vlaathwood Forest. " Bows his head  "Welcome.  Your arcane skills are great little one.  I believe they will improve our chances of completing our quest."  Grigori, not understanding sarcasm, inquires in a confused but serious tone.  "If you do not like vandalism, then how did you let someone paint all over your body little one?" 

"Well met.  Haha, yeah, these tattoos, never walk into a tattoo parlor with a full purse and a belly full of whiskey, har har.  As fer arcane skills, well, yeah, sorta.  Most of its in me blood though – I may not lookit, but the Whitefoots are direct descendants of Bahamut hisself, I ain't kidding ya.  So all this fire and poison and thunder'n'such, it mostly comes natural to me, on account of having a bit more of that dragon blood than yer average Whitefoot."

He holds up his red dragon hand and liquid fire quickly wells up in the palm and drips sizzling from it – the source of the burning spray you had seen him scorch the krithiks with earlier.

"One's body is a temple you know, so once you go around altering things…"

"Ha, yeah… a temple to what is the question," he mumbles underbreath.  "Well that's ok, I gotta wipe out a tiefling clan before I can have any more runts, anyway.  Thanks fer checking."

The militiaman thanks you profusely for saving him and says he will do as Justinian asks.

After the group finishes up and returns to the rain soaked streets of Sumberton, there are several Sumberton militia waiting, discussing whether or not to go into the sewers.  They seem a little startled by the party as they climb up from below but they quickly help the group climb up.  They explain that a call has gone out and other soldiers should be arriving.

The area around the Obelisk soon is crawling with soldiers. The Sumberton militia and the Crimson Guard both have come, along with Sir Falston Tordell, a Luminous Order Sunwatch Knight. A permanent guard around the obelisk is quickly set up and a couple of Sumberton militiamen are dispatched to request help from the temples of Pelor and Bahamut.

Several soldiers enter the sewers to inspect the damage.

To your surprise Naryalla also shows up.  "Well, well, the three of you look like you're in the middle of something … something larger than was expected.  What has happened here?"

Most of the soldiers give her and her black robes a cautious look while Sir Tordell scowls at her presence.

Hap smiles charmingly at Naryalla.  "Why madam, there is no need to fear.  We put a right stop to these vandalous little bugs, and they won't be snacking on any more of your lovely town's civic monuments anytime soon."  He frowns and looks back at Grigori and Justinian.  "It was just vandalism, right?"  Turning back he whispers quickly to Naryalla, "Ay, Ebon Cabal, right?  I know where I can get you an Everfresh Stewpot – y'know, the sort that keeps guts and meat fresh fer blood rituals or a good stew for the family?  Cheap, but ya gotta hurry before the guards cart it off… make us an offer!"

"I'm afraid he knows of no such thing. If there ever was such a device down there, I'm afraid it had an unfortunate mishap – most likely due to my praying over it and desecrating the foul contraption least it be used for such evil again!"

Hap glares at Justinian incredulously.  "One, I'm whispering here – that means reel yer rude little elfy ears in, I'm tryin' ta make a deal!  Two, that thing was valuable (Hap waggles his eyebrows here) evidence of these crimes that I am sure a Cabalist would find important for researchin' the horrific origins of these vandalous insects!  Three, research isn't evil, it is vitally necessary to understand the arcane workings of the cosmos 'n stuff, which is what these Cabalists are all about!  Or, are you judging a wizard by the color of her robe, eh?"   Hap holds up the edge of his own muddy black cloak, waving it in Justinian's face.

"You look familiar but you are not the halfling I have talked to before," Naryalla brings back her hood slightly to get a better glance at Hap. "There is something different … yes, you possess some arcane power don't you?"

"Bugs? But I see no destruction of this obelisk," she glances up at the Obelisk and then wanders over to inspect it.

It is then that some of the soldiers begin bringing up some of the carcasses of the kruthiks and they tell of the structural damage to the obelisk below.

Naryalla kneels down next to one of the dead bugs.  "Kruthiks. Born of demonic magic, a union of insect and reptile.  These insidious creatures first were seen during the Battle of Slaughtergarde and were thought to have been eradicated in the years afterward.  They have been digging away at the obelisk? Then it must be true. Someone is systematically looking to destroy them.  Yet, the curious question remains … why?  The obelisks hold no power that we know of."

"From what I have been told, the Obelisks served to destroy the Abyssal Mountain during the Slaughterguarde invasion. If you were a Demon with a mind to try again years later, what is the one thing you would make sure was destroyed before trying a second attempt? "

Naryalla stands with the help of her staff, her black robes soaked with rain.

"Too obvious and the amount of effort it took was enormous. Demons are cunning and there must be something else that is going on.  I was told by your other companion that one among you carried a shard from the goblin warren.  If I could take a look at it I may be able to gather more information about what is going on.  Do you have it?"

 

View
Part 7 - Justinian Jailed

Captain Donellgan was surprised to see a cleric brought in under charges of attacking a noble.

Donellgan was a stern looking man but at this point he seemed more curious about why a cleric had attacked Ellistan Surrinak.

 Justinian did not flinch from his story and told the captain that it was Melora's will.  The captain just shook his head, "I think you let your own righteousness get caught up with this.  Since when is Melora protective of Kord?  Kord will provide his own judgement and certainly he would not have Melora doing it for him. Besides, while we are beholden to the gods, striking out at the Surrinaks is foolishness.  Ellistan's father is dying and a black cloud hangs over his thoughts these days.  He is an angry man right now, it is best you no longer provoke him. I fear he will try to exact a steep monetary punishment from you when he comes later tonight."

"Captain, you seem like a wise enough man.  So let me point out a few things to you.  First off, if I ever took it into my mind to actually attack Mr. Surrinak, he would have fared FAR worse than a little mud on his tabard.  cracks knuckles for effect  Second, forgive me if I am wrong, but I don't see a holy symbol on your person.  So unless I am mistaken, I am quite confused how a layman could even presume to know the whims and wishes of the gods.  What Melora chooses to do or not do is not for you to interpret.  So unless you are secretly communing with Kord and She, you may wish to rethink your stance on knowing exactly what they would or would not do.  

"And lastly and far more importantly—Ellistan has no right to assault people or threaten their lives than any other man, lordship or not.  He drew blood on his own cousin, and threatened the lives of myself and my friends.  I'm sorry his father is ill, and I would certainly minister healing to him if asked, but for ME to be accosted and brought before you when that fool is the one who actually is guilty of assaulting people today is a farce."

"That holy symbol that you wear does not absolve you of your actions no matter how much you protest. I may not be as blessed as you with the power of the gods but I am a faithful man.  Maybe I shall send for the head of the church of Kord and the two of you can have a discussion?" Captain Dongellgan was clearly becoming a little riled.

"Melora has certainly instilled a wildness and stubbornness in you but while in this city and under my watch you will not be attacking nobles.  What happened between Ellistan and Mallik is something they will have to figure out.  It is not your place, unless you wish to join the city militia, to enforce the laws of this city."

He turned to the two militiamen, "Take him to one of the tower cells." The crimson cloak he wore fluttered in the wind.

"I do not want trouble with the Surrinaks, cleric. I know I'll find them more trouble than you'll be to me.  In the meantime you will be treated well while in the keep.  Have a little patience, if you do not, I can make things uncomfortable.  I will talk to Ellistan before he sees you and advocate for a  lighter penalty.  But I am giving you fair warning not to be so bullheaded or he will exact a greater price from you."

Justinian sat in the cell within Sumberton Keep.  His "diplomatic" ways had managed to get him a cell that at least had a view.  Looking westward out over the city he could see the Great Obelisk and he could hear the bustle of the daytime city beginning to settle down to the almost quiet of the night.

As like a caged animal he broods over this outcome but Melora takes a hold of him.  A calming sense comes to Justinian.

In his mind he can see the peaceful forest, a light wind rustling the trees.  His mind settles and he begins to understand that, right now, he has  more important things to do than to fight this noble.  What you have discovered recently needs more investigation, get out of the city and find what you can. Something evil is growing and it threatens the forests, the rivers, the mountains and the grasslands.  Find what you can and make sure that the wilds are not corrupted by this malignant growth.

Before night had truly fallen Justinian had a surprise visitor.  Mallik, the cousin of Ellistan, showed up with a cloaked woman, her stark white hair a true contrast to the midnight blue cloak.  Her face was hidden and she remained behind Mallik the whole time, never saying a word.

 Mallik was still sporting a swollen upper lip, "I do not have long to talk to you because my cousin will be along shortly.  You and your companions are brave and a bit foolhardy for standing up to Ellistan.  However, I like that.  I suggest you pay your dues to Ellistan for now but I may be able to repay you for your troubles in the near future."

"Mallik, is it?  I am sorry for any trouble I may have caused you.  You seem a just and good man.  I do not take kindly to people abusing others in front of me, and was not aware of your uncle's declining health- for that you have my sincere sympathies and hope for a strong recovery.  I will heed your advice and thank you for it.  A darkness is threatening the land and you are right in that I have more important things to do than squabble with your cousin.  I am appreciative of any intervention you can provide on my behalf and will do as you counsel.  

May I inquire as to who your guest is?"

Mallik did not even turn around to acknowledge her, "She is just a … friend."

He seemed more interested in what Justinian mentioned, "A darkness you say.  What is this you speak of? I know the troubles on the eastern border have been concerning but the Luminant Order and the Crimson Guard are keeping a close watch.  The gnolls were fought off at Kel's Rise and the dragons that destroyed Andrushel Keep have not returned in more than a year."

Even though Mallik seems personable there is something within Justinian that does not like the cocky smile. The confidence that he projects feels more like someone who knows how to get away with something.

"It is just a troubling feeling I have. I have of late been having dark dreams of the forest and an encroaching shadow over it. Perhaps it is nothing but the over-active imagination of a tired man.  The Council has asked us to investigate. If we find out anything concrete, certainly I shall share it.  The Goblin raiders have grown more bold of late, and that is cause for concern."

Mallik briefly seemed to think things over.  "I'm sure it is certainly something that the local militias can handle.  You say that the Council has asked you to investigate.  What council is this? I have heard of no actions within the councils here in Sumberton, though I did overhear during the Marrilach Council today that the Riverstone Guild was working on getting their spices back from a recent goblin raid."

#############################################

The solid thump of boots echoed down the hall and came to rest in front of Justinians cell.  Ellistan peered in, unsmiling, "I hope this day has taught an unwise priest a wise lesson."

The night sky had clouded over and a light rain had begun to fall in Sumberton.  The torches on the wall flickered and caused the shadows to sway as the wind kicked up.

"For your foolishness and your lack of respect for a noble I have requested and been granted 100gp in fines.  Lucky for you, I am not bitter man because I could have easily taken 1000gp.  I have told the captain to send for your friends, when they pay the 100gp you will be freed."

"Lord Surrinak, again, I apologize for today's events.  You are most gracious.  If you will forgive the intrusion—I heard about your father being ill, and if I can be of any help with my healing arts I would be happy to place myself at your disposal. "

Ellistan seems taken aback by Justinians response.

"I am afraid there is nothing you can do.  His disease has been looked at by our own priests and there is nothing to be done. It is only a short matter of time before he passes on.  He is an old man anyway and he wishes to move on now.  I … I only wish it wasn't in this way."

Ellistan composes himself and returns to the hardened look he was trying to maintain.  However, the stress of recent events line his face and his eyes look as if they have seen little sleep.

"I hope this is our last meeting in this way Justinian.  This is not how I want to spend my time and certainly this is not where you want to spend your time.  Maybe it is a lesson for us both."

##############################################

As you bail out Justinian, Captain Donellgan inquires about what you discovered. 

"Hmm, so the goblins in the Stonemantle Hills have been dispatched. That is good to know. Do you expect any more trouble from them?"

Grigori explains to the Captain that the goblins were tougher than normal, well organized and working with the dark arts.  There is more happening up there than just a rag-tag group of goblins.

"Dark arts, you say?" the captain looks concerned.  "Well, it sounds as if you did well by dispatching those foul creatures.  I hope it was worth the trouble. We'll be sure to increase the patrols on the roads and inform the merchants to increase their guards along Sumber's Road.  You may also want to discuss this with the Luminous Order." 

"Ay, Cap, they mentioned something about destroying an "obelisk" thingy – any idea what they might be talking about?"

Captain Donellgan looked confused, "I'm sorry druid, are you not from the valley?  This is the Valley of Obelisks. Scattered throughout the area, small and large, are hundreds of them,  though they are relics of a bygone age.  I believe they were built around the same time the Slaughterscar happened.  In fact, the city of Sumberton has one of the larger ones but many of the citizens consider it an eyesore."

"Oh yeah, yeah, those obelisks, of course.  So who'd know about them?  Any professors of antiquities around these parts that can mebbe tell us something about them?  I doubt our ancestors went around building those things just for kicks, y'know?  Anyway… ay, you ain't seen no bird or something, with a message for me?  Mebbe a skunk?  Yeah, that'd be like them, to send a gods damn skunk.  Well, if ya see a skunk, just be careful, sometimes they get rabies'n such when they're carrying messages back'n'forth, that's why birds are better.  Well, if ya see a skunk, corner it with dogs first so they run out of stink spray, and then pin it down with a stick so it don't bite ya… then ya can safely interrogate it.  Better yet, give me a yell, I'll take care of it!  Animals respond better to druids, we got good woodland empathy and stuff."

As he fastens the last few buckles on the donkey's harness Grigori can't help but smirk.  "I was wary of going to see the Luminous Order on the subject of local security when the Captain of the city guard had instructed us too.  But now that a little birdie told us, there is no question that is the path we must take!" said Grigori, dripping with sarcasm.  Using a more serious tone, "We should go speak with Sir Falston Tordell.  He is a knight of the Luminous Order.  I have spoken with him previously."

"Ay, ay, watch yer mouth with that 'little' crap!   Technically, cardinals are decently large birds, and they've got good ears and sneaky tendencies towards subtle violence when ya got yer back turned.  Besides, you rather hear it from a skunk?"   

"We ever get that sword back to that lady?  Or that amulet?  Mebbe I can go tie up some loose ends while you guys go play Knights and Scholars."

"Very well.  I shall go speak with the Luminous Order and inform them of what we have found. Justinian can seek out the Sages of the Azure Eye and Hef, you take the heirlooms back to their owners.  Shall we meet that the tavern at sundown? "

"Sounds like a plan… Waitaminnit, the Council says we need to talk to the Sages of the Azure Eye, but the captain mentioned the Scholars of Arken and Chendra the White.  Now I know you guys just think I'm some hick hobbit from the hills, but I think its fair to say this is the Big City and we gotta be careful about what we tell to who, because politics can kill a lot quicker than a Goblin Dreadgoober.  The Cap seems like a nice guy but I say we follow the Council's advice and just talk to the Sages fer now… Justinian, mebbe see how them Sages feel about the Arken scholars and whether or not they're a trusty source of info.  Oh!  And mebbe we should ask about these Surrinaks, I think we might want to see what kind of doo-doo we stepped in there…"  Hef pokes Justinian with a sly gleam in his eye.   "Oh hey, Just, I saved ya a muffin, since ya probably been living on thin gruel since we got back… where'd I put it… I thought Big Red left some… gods damn cardinals…"

"My guidance does not come from your council, little one." , bowing slightly to illustrate he means no disrespect.  "My guidance and instructions come from the Eladrin High Council.  I am to trust the Luminous Order, gain their trust and help them rid this land of whatever evil is slowing taking hold.  Those are my orders, therefore… I must go speak with Sir Falston." 

"Aw man, too many Councils!  I didn't mean not to trust yer Knights, I assume you've got good reason to trust them and wasn't suggesting a change of plan there.  Of course anyone with a 'Sir' before their name is utterly trustworthy… har har har…  I was referring to my Council, the Council of Seven, and their directions to seek out the Sages of the Azure Eye, as opposed to the Captain's suggestion of Chendra at the Scholars of Arken.  There's a lot of interests involved here, and I was just suggesting we be really careful on who we seek for help – if there's evil afoot in the Valley, you can bet its here in the city just as much as it is in little caves in the hills!"

Bowing slightly out of respect, "I shall return in two days." 

Grigori spends the rest of the day at the trade market preparing for the next task that is set before him.  As the shadows of the rooftops begin to stretch further across the streets, Grigori begins to make his way back to the tavern to meet his companions.

Grigiori agrees with Hef about being careful.  However, during the conversation, Hef and Justinian can't help but get the feeling that Grigori is somewhat naive when it comes to politics and personal agendas.  He seems to follow his orders almost "blindly", which, in the right circumstances, could be dangerous.

 

Hef's visit to Hala:

The sword looked much too big for the halfling to carry and he got a few curious looks as he wandered through the streets of Sumberton.  After finding Hala, she gave him a big hug and told him that one day that she would try to repay him and this companions.

#############################################

Hef's visit to Naryalla:

Hef had to wait at the Sly Wink for Naryalla to arrive later that night. 

In a fairly dispassionate way Naryalla says, "It is unfortunate what has happened to Zehil.  I am curious though, what did you find in this goblin warren?  How was Zehil killed?"

Hef's arches an eyebrow and chomps at his cigar with a sly look on his face.  "Heh, ya ain't the only curious one at this table, lady.  Payment first, sister.  Then, if yer feeling talkative, I might share a good story or two about this so-called 'warren'.  Mebbe you can tell me what's so important about this chain, and what sorts of research this Zehil was involved in."

Hef polishes the chain's obsidian stone with a smirk.

Naryalla eyes narrow as she takes a long look at Hef.

"The chain is of importance to the Black Masters. If you want that information you'll have to travel to the Black Tower. However, for the return of the chain I have for you two potions, one will aid you in resisting fire (Potion of Fire Resistance) and the other is a curative potion (Potion of Healing)."

"Now, what is it you are holding back halfling?  I sense that you hold something back, something that was … significant."

"Yes, it is quite significant, how shrewd of you.  And yet you haven't told me anything significant in return.  It's curious this chain has a chunk of obsidian on it, don't see much of that around here… except aren't those obelisks made of it?  Just what sort of research was your Zehil involved in?"

"Zehil is … was part of the Ebon Cabal.  What he was doing is what the Ebon Cabal asks of him. The chain is given to all initiates, it provides a link to the Ebon Cabal, it was a symbol of his status and it grants a few small gifts to the wearer if they understand how to use the arcane arts."

"I ain't asking what the Ebon Cabal is researching, I asked about what Zehil was researching, and what's so special about the chain.  You've told me pretty much squat about either, and I think I'm gonna return the favor, lady.  Mebbe there's other people might be more innerested in what we found."

 "If you must badger me about his research, I will only tell you that he was doing research on the obelisks. I'm sure, if you look into the history of the obelisks you'll find out that they played a large part in the Battle of Slaughtergarde.  Most people do not take the time to look back at history and in time the reality becomes story, story becomes legend and then the legend is forgotten."

"Have I given you enough?" Naryalla says sarcastically.  "If not then we will go our separate ways.  Which would be a shame since there may have been more we could have discovered working together than working alone."

"Well that's a little more like it.  See, yer Zehil wasn't exactly dead when we ran across him – the gobbos were doing some demonic ritual and had just returned him to life.  We had to put him down again, and also the little demonic cult they had going there.  Our priest got a little enthusiastic, trashing all the demonic altars and what not.  Dunno if they were just making another zombie outta Zehil, or intended to question him." 

"Well Naryalla, tell me, what is it you think we can discover working together?  I know for our part, we'd like to track down and eliminate whomever might be guiding the destruction of these things, demonic or otherwise."

"More research needs to be done.  If there are physical things that you can get that we could study it may tell us more about what is going on.  Was there any items that you picked up that I could see?"

"Yeah, a shard from some mirror that was showing some strange images innit, was pretty wacky stuff.  Seemed demonic, the people it showed.  I don't got it though, we were going to have the Arken scholars or Luminous fellas look at it I think."  Hef waves his cigar hand nonchalantly, smoke eddying around the table, but he keeps a careful eye on Naryalla to see her reaction to the names of those two groups.  Oh, and I got these ritual candles, they were used in Zehil's brief foray into unlife… I figgered I could use em in some of my rituals, but I'd be happy to trade ya for some cleaner ritual doodads if yer innerested in 'em."

##########################################

Justinian heads to see the Blue eye'd sages but on the way wants to stop by and take a closer look at the Big Obliesk in the center of Sumberton.

Justinian stopped by the Obelisk in the center of Sumberton and tried to see if he could garner information by studying it.   He did not have any luck.  So he began to ask around about the Sages of the Azure Eye.  He also did not have any luck as most of the commoners did not know about the sages.  He was directed towards the Scholars of Arken and the guildmaster there, Chendra the White.

Justinian stood amazed at the site of stacks and stacks of books. He could not remember seeing so many books in one place and this was only a small portion of the guild.  When he entered into the guild a scribe took his name and any other information he could get from Justinian.

Justinian had to wait for a little while and the whole time he did the scribe did not stop writing.  When Chendra entered Justinian was pleased to see that they had something in common, she was half-elven.  Chendra was older but it was hard to tell except that Justinian could really see this in her eyes.

"I was told you wish to speak to me.  What do you want?" Chendra says rather bluntly.

"First, I have been tasked with finding and speaking with the Sages of the Azure Eye. If anyone would know how to find and contact them, I assume it would be you.  Also, I request all information you have on the Obliesks- their creation and use in the Slaughterscar war.  Even legends and unfounded theory books will be useful. Something evil is afoot in the valley, and I believe we will need all the knowledge at our disposal to identify and combat it.  And lastly, I happened upon an odd device that perhaps you may have some information about. A mirror that acts as a window to another place or time. Images that are not reflections of the here and now shown in it. Have you heard of such things or have any books that might describe them?"

"The Sages of the Azure Eye are a secretive group.  It is interesting that you search for them and wish to learn about the Battle of Slaughtergarde.  These sages are the true keepers of the knowledge of that time but I do have some of the information you seek," she seems intrigued.

"I may be able to help you but it may be difficult.  You may not have heard but one of the Sages was murdered here recently."

"The Battle of Slaughtergarde happened nearly 800 years ago.  The people of the valley were called upon by the dwarves and the Eladrin visionaries of the time to construct the obelisks in preparation for an invasion.  And sure enough the invasion came. A great demonic mountain was transposed from the Abyss to this plane. We called upon the aid of the gods and the angels and a massive battle was engaged."

"As the day wore on, the obelisks did their job and slowly siphoned away the power of the mountain.  The demonic minions, enraged and revealing in battle ignored their commands to destroy the obelisks.  As the magic that held the mountain to this plane weakened it began to break apart and crumble.  In the end the mountain exploded in vengeance and all that was left is what is now known as the Slaughterscar.  Rumors had it that demons had fought among themselves in the end and that there may have been a great betrayer in their ranks."

"Many lingering demons and their ilk were hunted down over the next several decades.  And to this day the Slaughterscar is still a reminder, to those who care enough about history, of the nightmare of those times."

"If you care to leave the mirror with me I can do some research on it for a price."

"The people of the valley constructed them? out of what material—they seem unnatural.  Of the 10 largest, only 6 still stand—the others having been apparently targeted for destruction one by one in my opinion.  Please, if you know how I can get in contact with the Sages, it is urgent that you tell me.  I did not hear that one was murdered. What were the events surrounding the death, and how did it occur?  There seems to be a concerted effort at work here, and if we do not pool our information and discover it, we may find out after it is too late to stop whatever is going on.

"I do not have the mirrors with me, they were large framed units attached to a wall in a cavern my group investigated. I was merely hoping that in your studies you had come upon mention of such devices and what they might be. Do you have ink and quill? I would sketch you a drawing of demonic faces we found carved into the walls. Perhaps they have meaning to you?"

"Thank you Chendra.  You're information has been very helpful. My colleagues and I will return tomorrow then.  I have one last question—does one of the final 6 Obliesks reside near Castle Surrinak by any chance?"

"Yes, within Surrinak Castle resides one of the greater obelisks.  Why do you ask?"

"Hmm….And the castle lies on the edge of Wyrmwood forest… If my theory becomes more concrete I will share my hunch with you, but at this time it is little more than a wild theory and I don't want to voice mere nagging suspicions that aren't based on facts.  I thank you for your time and information, mi'lady."

View
Part 6 - A Mesage Returned

The rain had come to an end, at least briefly, and shafts of sunlight were now piercing the thick cloud cover over Sumberton during the late morning.

Hef, almost through with his morning cigar, looked up to see a cardinal perched on the rooftop above him.  The colorful, bright red bird swiftly flew down to his shoulder and the message was relayed.

"Whitefoot, we are glad to hear from you but your news is most disturbing.  If what you say is true about demonic activity then we ask you to seek council with the Luminous Order and to find the Sages of the Azure Eye.  The Luminous Order may give you some help and they may have the authority to intervene.  The Sages of the Azure Eye are the best known historians in the valley and they could have some vital information about the Battle of Slaughtergarde.  We believe what you have uncovered may have something to do with that battle. Please keep us informed of future discoveries."

The Conclave of Seven

View
Part 5 - Returning to Sumberton

(Hef uses the ritual spell Animal Messenger to contact the Conclave.)

"Dear Conclave, stop.   Caravan threat investigated.  Stop.  Large underground infestation of goblins, zombies, bugs detected and exterminated in the Stonemantle Hills.  Stop.  Demonic activity, references to destroying an obelisk, collection of demonic sigils, map to 2nd location found, please advise on further action required.  Stop.  Reach me in Sumberton.  Stop.  Yer dedicated servant, Hef Whitefoot.  Stop.  PS Tell Grove Mistress her snuggle-bunny still misses her.  Stop." 

Hef squints up from his Animal Messenger ritual offerings at the little robin.  "Hey, ya got that?  Hey, what are you eating there, are you even paying attention?  No, not the Thorngrove schmucks, I said deliver that to the Conclave of Seven, didn't you listen!  What, are you on break or something, go!  Shoo!  Shoo ya birdbrain!  Fly like the wind!  And if you get captured, ya better not squeal!  Shoo now!" 

With a disgusted snarl, Hef runs over and begins shaking the small tree the robin is perched in.

Luckily, when you exit the goblin den, you find the mule and cart untouched. 

Your travel back to Sumberton was uneventful.  At the gates to Sumberton you are inspected by the local militia and then allowed to pass without any further harassment. It is a comfortable late summer day and one of the main squares you pass through is packed with citizens and vendors selling their wares.  It is so full you momentarily are stuck in throng of people: 

The day is busy on the streets of Sumberton and you are distracted by such a large crowd. Pushing your way through the bustle you find yourselves suddenly face to face with the chest of a horse and its rider.

An angry shout comes from the rider, "Out of my way! Damn you all, OUT OF MY WAY! I swear by Kord I will cut you down where you stand if you do not move."

GUARDS! Make a way for me, I will not be late for the meeting!

With a slight smirk on his face another man with similar features but a bit younger begins to push through you, "Forgive my cousin, time is short and we are expected at the Marrilach Council. If you will please step aside we will be on our way."

Turning back the younger one says in a condesending tone, "Ellistan, really, you must calm down. Your blood boils too hot. When your father soon passes, if you don't have patience, you may be soon following him to the grave."

The one called Ellistan rides up quickly, his face burning red. A quick back of the hand strikes the younger mans cheek.

"Another word out of you Mallik and I'll have you hung off the castle walls when we get home."

Mallik lets out a slight smile, his lower lip is starting to swell and a small crimson stain wets a corner of his mouth. As his cousin moves forward through the crowd his smile turns to a quick snear. Mallik dabs the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand, "Again, my apologies."

Hef mutters, "Heh, back in the burrows I came from, if a relation got all uppity like that we'd chuck a starving bear in his burrow in the dead o' the night, and nail shut all the boltholes, har har har… poor Uncle Onefoot… hee, good times.  Y'know kid, I bet that horse is scared of wolves…"

Justinian responds and at that moment spreads his arms and trembles as he lifts his face to the sky and calls upon Melora's Divine Rage.

Ellistan is struck off his horse and into the mud.

He turns away from the rider and says to what appears to be the air, "I'm sorry my Goddess. I shall relay your message at once."

Justinian walks over to Ellistan and bows, "Forgive me sir. Melora the wise did not take kindly to you taking Kord's name in vain.  They do look out for each other on occasion and consider a slight to one of them a slight to all of them.  She asks that you not do so again.  Here, let me help you back up and on your way", he reaches down and offers a hand with a look of innocent piety on his face.

Ellistan angrily slaps Justinians hand away.  His face a rage of embarrassment and contempt for Justinian.

"You dare attack a noble?! Goddess or not you have made a grave mistake. Guards, fetch one of the militia.  This priest will be arrested for an unprovoked attack against me!  I will have your hide for this and I will be talking to your superiors as well," Ellistan brushes himself off but is so frustrated with the ordeal he gives up and quickly comes face to face with Justinian.

Many people have gathered around, several with their mouths agape.

Mallik looks as if he is about to bust out in laughter.

Soon, the local militia arrives.  "You are all my witnesses," shouts Ellistan.  "This was an unprovoked attack by a priest who clearly doesn't understand his place in this land."

One of the local militiamen asks if this is true.  One of the guards that serve House Surrinak nods in agreement as do several bystanders. 

The local militiamen close in around Justinian and ask for his weapons.

"You will come with us."

Ellistan steps close to Justinian, "I will deal with you later, priest.  I will find the appropriate punishment for such an offense to me and my house."  

Hef yells out, "Ay, waitaminnit, how do we know that guy's a noble?  He's got MUD all over him, ain't that a peasant thing?  Looks a little like a troglodyte to me!  Guards, arrest that trog!  I saw him also strike this young guy right here, unprovoked!  Who else saw it?  C'mon, raise yer hands, y'saw it!  Look, he's bleeding!  Someone get some first aid!"

Ellistan turns to Hef, "Stay out of this half-wit." Turning back to the militiamen Ellistan then states, "By order of House Surrinak you will take this poor excuse for a priest and jail him in Sumberton Castle.  If you do not I will be talking with the captain of the guard.  As soon as my meeting is done I will expect to find the priest properly detained.  If he is not then it will be your hides that I will come after next."

Mallik, still on his horse, moves forward and says with calm voice  "Come Ellistan, we have no time for this.  Clearly Melora did take offense and your boiling blood is the thing that caused the trouble here.  Let the priest go and let us be on our way.  If you continue on like this you will be late and miss your proper seat on the council."

Hef looks around for friendly faces and seems to see a few who are willing to step forward but a vast majority are now turning away or are saying that the priest attacked the nobleman.

Ellistan is still seething and attempting to get Justinian to understand the gravity of the situation.  Mallik on horseback behind Ellistan catches Justinians eyes.  Justinian can see the subtle movement of Mallik head as if he is saying "no, don't fight this, you will not win." 

Justinian turns to Hef and Grigori after they ride off, "You know, that actually hurts my feelings. I'm not a poor excuse for a priest. I'm a fairly good one I think. I'm quite pious, I pray twice daily- thrice on the holy days and the solstice—I give to the poor, and I offer healing to those in need.  Hmmmph!"

"Yeah, but asking for advice all the time on wenching, that don't show up so good on the ol' holy resume, I don't think.  Ain't you guys supposed to be uh, whatizzit, celebrant?  Or don't some of you guys get the ol' snip-snip-eroo?  Or mebbe into choir boys or something?  Mebbe that's what he meant, all that wenching talk.  Tsk, tsk."

"No, no, no.  You are confusing us with those that worship Pelor. Melora prefers we remain true to our natural state, and finds no wrong in expressions of love – or..umm.. as you term it – wenching. Besides I gain brownie points with her as I tend to proselytize after the event while they are still bathing in the "afterglow"."

"Huh, you use them proselyactic thingies after the event?  I thought them sheep-skin things only worked before the event."

Justinian opens his mouth to respond, looks over at Grigori for some sign of support, thinks better of it as anything he says will probably make this even more ridiculous, and closes his mouth without speaking.

Justinian is taken away by the guards.

View
Part 4 - Finishing the Laboratory

Returning to the other side of this complex was slow.  You dragged the last two Riverstone crates to the first room you entered.  To your dismay the crates that you piled in the first room seemed to have been looked through and one is in bad enough shape that the crate and the spices inside are no longer any good.  It looks like there may have been a group of goblins that were out on a raid and then returned.  It has been nearly a day and a half since you started the exploration of the area.

Cautiously you return to the room that you had piled the beds and crates to block the doorway in.  That doorway is now cleared and all that remains are splinters of wood.  Most of the crates that had contained supplies have been ransacked.

View
Part 3 - Tough Goblins

Once again the goblins seemed tougher and craftier than was thought.  In a place like this maybe the goblins weren't simple raiders or bandits.

Exploring the now empty rooms you discover a few things you have been looking for.  The sword of Hala's husband lies tossed aside like trash in the room that looks like a torture chamber.

Further examination of the area reveals one hundred arrows scattered on the floor.  These are most likely from the table that was tipped over by the goblin. On the walls are strange instruments, three scalpels, four daggers, two forceps and three light hammers.  All are of masterwork quality.  Streaks of fresh blood run down the walls at the spots of where each of the instruments hang.

In the balcony area you find the last of the Riverstone Spice crates.  Also here are four footlockers, all locked.

The balcony also looks over another large area to the north and west.  This, at first was not noticeable because various shields and boards had either been stacked up or nailed to the balcony.  The stairs leading down to the northern area have a handmade sign on it written in goblin.  Justinian reads it as "Beware of large devil puppy".

Catching a glimpse of the room you see something familiar. Strange purple lines glow lightly and etch out an odd pattern on the floor.

Justinian relieves himself on the glowing pattern on the floor.

"Let's take the hammers to the hinges on those crates and see what's in them!"

Hef watches from the balcony, taking partial cover behind a handy shield as Justinian saunters down the stairs past the 'Beware of large devil puppy' sign and on into the unexplored northern room towards the glowing pattern.  Hef wondered if an elf could really piss hard enough to actually disrupt a circle of protection; it should at least be interesting.

Waving his cigar vaguely at Justinian, Hef turns to Grigori.  "Hey, c'mere, I think Just just failed a reading comprehension check."

Grigori shakes the crate stuffing off his hand and back onto the meaningless items the crate was holding and then walks over to stand by Hef.  Peering over the balcony, he watches Justinian carelessly walks down the stairs fiddling with the fly in his trousers. 

"Hmm… what is it with him and peeing on stuff? I bet you ten gold he's dead before he can pinch it off"

View
Part 2 - This Strange Den

The initial onslaught into this strange den of goblins has finally forced you to rest.  It was time to take stock of what you had gone through and what might lie ahead.

The guards in the first two rooms proved tougher than they looked and Grigori took the brunt of their reckless fighting.  Hef struggled with getting his fire seeds to light and gruffly figured they were "bad seeds" ... or maybe there was something more sinister to this unnatural place that caused them to misfire.

The first room seemed typical except for the burnished cooper doors against the north wall.  When you went through those doors you quickly discovered the floor, walls and ceiling was worked stone. 

There was more here than just a goblin warren. The pervading sense of evil of the entire hillside and now worked stone, possibly a long lost stronghold of some type.

Three of the Riverstone crates you had been tasked to get back for the guild were in the second room. Chains hung from the walls and made the room feel like it was more of a holding area.  The exits to the west and east were arches carved in the faces of demons. 

Carved arches? Demons?  What had this group of goblins stumbled onto?

After dispatching some more goblins, finding a few more Riverstone crates and staying away from the chittering and hissing sounds in a cavern with a raised pathway you moved east through this forbidding place.  A dug out room with a muddy floor and a ceiling reinforced with wood timbers proved to be a challenge when two large lizards attacked.  

Once beyond the lizard room a library was found.  Within the library was a nasty surprise in the form of a Lloth worshipping goblin and his two pet spiders.  By the time the fight was done Grigori was exhausted and even Justinian was beginning to feel the drain from the battles that the group had endured.

Once the entrances to the library were effectively blocked the party had decided to rest and could only hope that communication between the goblins in this stronghold was something that didn't happen often. This also allowed the group to discover that the Lloth goblin was wearing leather armor of fine make.  With a crimson tinge to it the leather was in good condition and with a few adjustments would fit Hef just right.

The library is large but had been ransacked of most of its books.  Those books that did remain and were in good condition are in a language that no one in the group can read.  One more crate of spices was found here as well.

Questions began to arise among the group. 

Is this some lost demon worshipping stronghold?  Who are these disorganized goblin bandits?

And then, after having rested, you pull out some food to eat only to notice you're not hungry.  Not even remotely hungry or thirsty.  Some lingering magic is at play within this place.

But what is this magic from?

 

View
Part 1 - How the characters met

Hef and Justinion have been asked by the Druidic Council of Seven in the Andrall Forest to meet with Vintra, a Riverstone Guild member in Sumberton.  She has recently asked for help from the druids because no one else has been willing to do so.  The problem is that a group of goblins attacked a Riverstone caravan, traveling between Tulvercross and Sumberton, several days ago. There are some items that guild needs recovered.  With so many other problems going on at the edges of the valley no one wants to deal with a small band of goblins right away.

The Council of Seven has talked to Hef about this request.  They feel even a small band of goblins in the heart of the valley is a bad sign and the druids feel it is worth investigation.  They have been worried recently and have told Hef that … "old wounds have re-opened, a vile growth once thought purged is reemerging." What exactly it is they cannot say, a dark veil weakens their communication with the land.

Justinion had been in the Andrall Forest at the request of the council several months ago.  They wanted to know if the gods have been able to penetrate the dark veil and discern what the cause is.  To Justinion's frustration Melora has not given him or any of his fellow clerics the vision to break through the dark clouds.  There was also hope that combining their efforts would make a difference but that has not been the case.

Over the last several months Justinion and Hef have come to know each other.  Justinian moved on nearly a month ago with a few acolytes to help flush out any stragglers that managed to get through Kel's Rise but it did not go very well.  He returned to Sumberton and was soon contacted by the Council of Seven that Hef would soon be in Sumberton to investigate a recent goblin attack. 

Grigori has traveled to Sumberton from the Vaathwood to learn more about the Luminous Order. While in Sumberton, Grigori has been slow to adjust to the city. However, he has made contact with a Luminous Order Knight of the Sunwatch , Sir Falston Tordell.  Sir Tordell says that are in desperate need of new recruits but they are an order who take experience over eagerness. 

"Come back to me with some experience and proof that you wish to battle evil.  Actions speak louder than words Grigori." 

He then gives Grigori the name of Vintra.  Vintra asked for help but the Knights Luminious are stretched thin across the valley. 

"Go to Vintra of the Riverstone Guild and see what you can do to help her.  Then maybe our discussions can go further."

Seeking more muscle to help their investigation of the goblins, Hef and Justinion find a kindred soul in Grigori. It seems kismet has brought the three together, Vintra doesn't seem convinced but she is willing to work with what she is being given.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.