Monday, 9 April 2012

3.X s.2: ...and very bad eggs.

After having cleared out the ancient tomb, the scholars of fortune chose to head north towards the Greenvale. Though this meant they'd have to brave the dangers of the Witchfell for longer, by their reckoning the benefits of not having to pay loot tax to the Legion outweighed this. Despite the difficult terrain, they made good time, and day by day the Wyvernscrown Mountains drew nearer. The Mother must have smiled on them, and for days nothing untoward befell them.

Then Ria found the stone bunny. At first they weren't sure what to make of the perfectly lifelike rodent statue, but when Mirriam revealed that the most likely cause for it's presence in this location -- the feared cockatrice -- the mood turned more sombre. The bunny, they figured, was most likely a territorial marker, but they had no way of knowing whether or not that meant they were leaving or entering the area. In the end, they decided to take their chances and press on. Eadwaccer, as he is wont to do, put the bunny in his pack, figuring it might fetch a few coins.

After a few watchful hours, the henchman Rallabund, probably due to the vantage point offered by his gnomish stature, was the one to spot a large nest hidden in a thorny thicket. The abominable avian was not far away, and when it spotted the trespassers it set to shrieking and beating it's leathery wings. With Eadwaccer covering the rear, the four withdrew carefully. This precarious balance was disturbed when Mirriam attempted to cast a spell of invisibility on the four. Her voice and hand movements must have provoked the monster, as it attacked.

With beating wings and lowered head, the foul bird charged through the undergrowth with such a speed and abandon that it was upon Eadwaccer before anyone could act. The ensuing fight was short and chaotic, but short thanks to the warrior's calm;  in no small way to the spiked ball of his flail. When the travellers continued their journey, he had five eggs in his satchel -- they'd probably fetch a few coins if offered to the right buyer.

After a few more nights in the woods, they now came upon a river. By their map, this should be the Tumblestone. If so, the stories said it was impossible to cross. Though only a few yards wide, its said that none who falls in survives. Not wanting to put this to the test, and still not wanting to risk the Legion's taxmen, our heroes turned upstream, into the foothills. That this too carried with it some risks was underlined quick enough, as they came upon a skeleton tied to a rock. The rock was covered in goblin scrawl conveying a multitude of rude warnings to anyone dumb enough to enter their territory. Still, the threat of taxes seemed more certain than that of death by goblin hands, so they decided to take their chances upriver. Though not during the night if they could avoid it.

That night they were kept awake by drums up in the hills, beating a sinister tattoo from nightfall to daybreak. Even so, at the crack of dawn the adventurers put their packs on, and set out to find a crossing point.

In the early afternoon they found a treacherous looking rope bridge spanning a deep chasm. Somewhere below, between the jagged cliffs, the sinister Tumblestone lay waiting for anyone who should fall. At this point our adventurous tax evaders had come too far into goblin lands to hope making it back down before dark. They hunkered down behind a rock while they decided on how to proceed. Several strategies were discussed, but the choice was to be made for them.

When movement was spotted behind some rocks up ahead, Mirriam stepped out towards the bridge, preparing to cast a spell. The spell didn't work, but now the goblin lookout had seen her. He blew his horn, and the heroes took this to be their cue. Letting plans be plans, they ran across. Again Eadwaccer made up the rear, and as goblins came running towards him, he deployed their secret weapon. While they'd been hiding behind the rock, Mirriam had placed some harmless but spectacular enchantments on the petrified bunny. With great care the fighting man now unwrapped the statue, now covered with glowing glyphs, and placed it carefully on the ground between himself and the attacking dark-spawn. Then he ran.

The primitives dared not approach the hexed hare, but they did not let this stop them from pelting the man with missiles as he made his way to the other side. Though their marksmanship stood to gain more than a little, and his armour stopped the majority of the hits, one arrow still bit through. Had it not been for the gnome's prowess with the crossbow, more would have found their mark, and he might not have made it. As it was, he reached the far side just as more important looking goblins started beating their more superstitious underlings toward the bridge. To avoid any unpleasantness that would follow should the enemy cross in numbers, our heroes cut the ropes on their side and ran.

The rest of the journey, though not without it's complications, went well, and nothing that transpired during these days makes for a thrilling tale, so therefore I will not bore you with details of wound-care, camping, and border crossings. Instead I will tell you about the events that took place in Windgard.

Ria and her husband Eadwaccer spent their last coins putting together the tomb raid, and now they had swag to fence. Their most discrete enquiries first led them to the house of the half elf Lynard Wex. Once they left him, they had exchanged a few millennia old pieces of jewellery for a nice purse of coin. The next thing they needed was to find someone to identify the magical items they'd retrieved. Let me now bore you with a short    account of magical services in the Dominion of Langrim: As the dominant, indeed the only magical order, on the islands, the Arcane Order of Mercere has instituted a tariff on such services. The standard cost of having a spellcaster identify an item is 75 Golden Stallions per item. And they're not shy about leaning on anyone trying to underbid them in the market.

As it happened, Ria took their loot to Master Parwoux's tower, and forked out the coin for the job. Everything was properly identified, except for a crystal amulet. This item did not reveal any discernible magical function, despite it's clear and strong aura. As a favour, and as because of it's research value, the Mercerian offered a thousand gold for the amulet. The deal was sweet, and thus it was made.

That night our three heroes were awoken by a thunderous blast that had plaster raining from the ceilings of their rooms. The cause of the commotion was soon revealed, the wizard's tower had somehow exploded. Nothing but a large crater was left of the structure, and most of an entire city block had been levelled by the blast. What's more, Mirriam could detect a faint magical aura, almost like an echo, clinging to the area. The resonance was eerily similar to the one she'd sensed in the ancient tomb.

Over the course of the following day, several of the townspeople were asking them questions about the tower, seeing as they had visited the wizard only hours before the catastrophe. Lynard Wex even sent them a warning, saying that they aught to be aware that the Order of Merecere took any possibility of an attack on them most seriously, and that they'd be sure to send someone to look into it shortly.

Not wanting to appear guilty by fleeing the town, the three stayed put, and that evening they were visited by Master Thimothæus Ironhand, Justicar of the Order. In the interview that followed, the Justicar reluctantly cleared the party of any direct involvement in the explosion. However, he also insisted on purchasing one of the other items from the delve -- a magical bronze axe with some unknown qualities -- at a price far below what they'd hoped to get.

Later that night, a stranger named Cobb approached the disenchanted trio. He spoke to them at length, revealing several things about the crystal amulet, and the cat-like people that built the tomb. These details I will reserve for a later post, and for now I will only tell you that the very next day our heroes headed south to visit Consul Janor's Library in Legion's Rest.

What they find there, and where that information takes them, is in a story not yet told.

For those of you wondering what happened to Rallbund, the gnomish henchman, he was paid his self-negotiated fee of 100 gp, plus a 50 gold bonus, and he left the party in Windgard.

[Picture source: Lukasz Jaskolski]

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