The Realm of Atlos

Interlude - Meanwhile, Back in Tumbledale... (Part 2)
The Cleric

One should be bold, for to be bold is to live.

A brave heart and willingness to take risks beat out carefully wrought plans nine times out of ten.

Place yourself in the hands of fate and trust to your own luck.

Bear and conduct yourselves as your own masters, showing your good or bad fortune as confidence in the Lady.

Chase your own unique goals, and the Lady aids the chase.

Without direction or goals, you soon know the embrace of Beshaba, for those on no set course are at the mercy of misfortune, which has no mercy at all.

-Dogma of Tymora

The Luck of Sister Lia
As Torbjorn pulled Gremmer away from her doorstep by his elbow, Sister Lia shut the door and peered out the window after them. She watched them head in the direction of Qelline Alderleaf’s farm before they turned a corner and disappeared from sight.

Tensions in town had been growing every day for the last two months, ever since the Redbrands showed up and started harassing local businesses. Things got worse a week ago, after they cut down Thel Dendrar in the street, but since Rask’s funeral this morning it seemed like the situation had reached a breaking point.

She rushed from the foyer to the room that served as her personal shrine. It was little more than a walk-in closet used to store her armor and religious effects, but it was her favorite room in the house. She knelt on a pillow placed on the floor in front of a small bench and muttered quietly, “Place yourself in the hands of fate and trust to your own luck.”

Sister Lia reached for the golden coin she kept on a necklace and found it dangling between her collarbones. She clutched it tight and began to cast her spell, when she paused.

Her eyes landed on the two copper pieces Rask had left at her shrine the previous two mornings. The halfling hadn’t struck her as a truly religious person, and on first appearances she had been willing to wager he was more interested in drumming up some good luck in any way possible than paying tribute to the actual deity behind the shrine. However, she knew from one of her contacts in Silverwilde that Rask had grown up very poor, and even these meager offerings were likely difficult for him to part with.

“One should be bold…” she muttered to herself.

Sister Lia let go of her golden coin and reached out to grasp the two copper pieces instead, one in each hand. Normally she had to be holding her arcane focus to cast spells properly, but something told her that these artifacts would get the job done nonetheless.

Sure enough, as she focused on the spell, the palms of her hand began to grow warm. She let her mind open, thinking about the questions she had and the course of action she was planning to take, and then letting go of her consciousness.

I should follow the adventurers into the Redbrand base, she thought. I will go with them. Help them. Heal them. And drive the criminals from this town.

She gasped sharply as the divine presence of Tymora touched her mind.

She was no longer kneeling on the floor within her home in Tumbledale; she was floating. She could feel no sensations, and had no corporeal body to move. She had become a disembodied consciousness, pulled from her body and given a glimpse of the future. However, nothing she saw was certain. This was just one of many potential futures, centered around one of the many potential courses of action she could take.

Of course, she couldn’t actually see anything. Augury doesn’t give you a literal interpretation of the outcome of your decision, it merely gives you omens, visions, and metaphors.

In this case, Sister Lia felt a cold wave of dismay wash over her; she heard fighting and killing, but the victims were merely commonfolk, not adventurers; she smelt smoke, and felt the heat of a raging inferno; and she saw the destroyed remains of Tumbledale sink into the ruins of the ancient town it was built upon, growing unused and forgotten with the passing of years.

She snapped back to her body, and was thankful to be seeing through her own eyes once more. However, she was a little surprised to find herself crying.

She unfurled her clenched fists and stared down at the two copper pieces radiating inside them. Visibly, they were exactly the same as the day Rask left them on her shrine, but anyone sensitive to divine energy could probably locate these two coins in a pitch black room. Residual radiant energy was coursing through the very fiber of these coins, imbued with the power of Tymora after being used as an arcane conduit by one of her clerics.

Sister Lia placed the coins down upon her alter and wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes. She reached up to touch the gold coin around her neck once more, hoping to be reassured by it. However, she was more confused now than before she had cast the spell. It was not her place to question the way of Tymora, but Sister Lia hated when her guidance was so vague and unsettling.

Despite her hesitation, she believed she knew what was required of her. She nodded curtly to herself and stood, already reaching for her armor.

She was out the door as soon as her armor was donned. She carried her mace, but had left the shield back in her house. She wanted to make sure she always had a free casting hand, just in case.

No sooner had she started across the town square than a large boom echoed from the Stonehill Inn. As she hurried in that direction she passed the Townmaster’s Hall, and was surprised to her the clash of steel on steel emanating from within.

SIster Lia bounded up the steps and pushed her way through the entrance, only to be greeted by the sight of three Redbrands locked in combat with an outnumbered Sildar Hallwinter. The old warrior was holding them at bay, but was clearly doing no more than buying himself time.

She closed her eyes and bowed her head, using her free hand to grasp the coin around her neck once more. She felt a surge of power assault her mind, but she focused and channeled it, concentrating on the Redbrand currently nearest to Sildar.

As the goon raised his sword to bring it crashing down on Sildar again, he froze. His arms were locked in place above his head, and his face was contorted into a ferocious expression. He was entirely under the influence of Sister Lia’s hold person spell.

Sildar seized the opportunity and drove his sword into the gut of one of his other attackers, and as the third Redbrand moved forward in an attempt to flank Sildar, Lia came up from behind and smashed her mace into the side of his skull. Blindsided by being attacked from the rear, he crumpled with the impact.

Sildar and Sister Lia were able to restrain the remaining Redbrand and lock him in the jail cell located in the basement of the building.

“Thank the gods you came along when you did, Sister,” Sildar said once they were alone. “I’m not sure how much longer I would have lasted.”

“Well, I fear that you are far from finished fighting tonight, Mr. Hallwinter,” Sister Lia replied.

“Please, call me Sildar,” he said. He had already begun to don his armor as well. “I’m inclined to believe you, Sister. But tell me how you know.”

“Because of my god, Sildar. She has shown me a future where this town is destroyed. But I believe we can prevent it, if we make the right choices.”

Sildar nodded and picked up his sword once more. Without another word, he headed for the door.

As the two of them entered the Stonehill Inn, they saw bodies and debris strewn about the room. They found the owner, Toblen, injured and bleeding on the floor behind the bar, being tended to by Dominique. She rushed to Toblen’s side and began asking Dominique what happened while Sildar stood guard in the doorway.

Toblen was in rough shape, but stable. His stab wounds were deep, but they seemed to miss all of his vital internal organs. Regardless, Dominique’s cure wounds spell had stitched up the worst of the lacerations, and Sister Lia could detect a faint trace of arcane energy in the blood around the wounds.

“We’ve got company,” Sildar called from the porch of the inn. Lia hurried to his side and saw two more figures in dirty scarlet cloaks making their way from house to house, and they would soon come upon the inn. She listened for a moment, and heard the sounds of fighting nearby. She could smell the acrid stench of smoke, and knew that, somewhere, a building was on fire.

She was struck by a moment of helplessness. Her original plan was to go into the Redbrand hideout after the adventurers, but when her augury spell showed the town burning as a consequence she knew that she must stay here to protect it. Now she was here, and ready to defend Tumbledale, but her visions were coming to pass anyways.

“Hold on a minute,” Sildar said. “What wagon is still driving this late at night?”

Confused by this, Sister Lia followed Sildar’s gaze. Indeed, there was a lone wagon coming in from the Duskendown Trail. At first, nothing about this was remarkable. But then she felt the divine presence of Tymora’s guiding hand, and a smile spread across her face.

Like the two copper pieces earlier, a being in the back of that wagon was radiating divine energy. Sister Lia could tell right away that the being was not a follower of her own god, but whichever god it was, she could feel the inherent goodness in the energy that had been bestowed upon this person. She had no way of knowing whether these people would help them or not, but she had no doubt that they had been guided here by the luck of Tymora.

Sildar looked at her smiling face disapprovingly.

“Why don’t you get back inside and help the bard with Toblen, he looked to be in rough shape. I’ll take care of these two scoundrels once they wander close enough.”

Sister Lia stepped into him and placed a gentle hand on the small of his back. She cast bless, and said, “Place yourself in the hands of fate, Sildar, and trust to your own luck.”

She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and hurried back inside the inn, while a very confused Sildar set about preparing his ambush.

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Interlude - Meanwhile, Back in Tumbledale... (Part 1)
The Bard

“Afterlife for a Halfling”
by Domino the Bard

Underbough went under, how?
Trying to pick a fight.
A beggar, but he’s wealthy now,
in the Afterlife.
A long way from home, he perished alone, when he only wanted a drink.
He stood tall for his type but was cut to the bone, if only he had stopped to think.
Underbough went under, how?
Being braver than I’d like.
A beggar, but he’s wealthy now,
in the Afterlife.

The Courage of Toblen
Dominique had spent all day trying to compose a ballad in memory of Rask Underbough, and as he finished playing it for the first time he felt an incredible sadness.

It was hard to call this group of adventurers his friends, as he had only met them a few days ago, and even that wasn’t exactly with their consent. However, they seemed to be good people (even the bristly dwarf, Torbjorn), and it was a damn shame that their scuffle with the Redbrands ended up costing Rask his life.

There was also a debilitating sense of guilt weighing on Dominique, since he had been here, at the Stonehill Inn, during the fight, drinking ale, playing music, and flirting with the barmaid. He was blissfully unaware that the kindhearted halfling was being murdered just down the road until they carried his body into the inn.

He could have helped. He might have been able to save Rask’s life, if he had only known…

He turned to the smithy’s daughter, a cute little blonde who had been by his side all night listening to him play and compose.

“I was thinking of changing my name to something with a little more flair,” he said. There was no sadness in his voice, and he was wearing a cheeky smile. “How do you feel about Domino?”

She gave a little giggle, but before she could reply the door to the inn burst open, and four Redbrands stormed in and began speaking to Toblen Stonehill, the tavern’s owner.

“Good evening, Toblen!” said the one leading the gang. “How’s business? I’ve heard you’ve been doing well these past few days thanks to all these adventurers showing up and needing rooms, yeah?” His tone was less than conversational, and almost had a sarcastic tone to it.

My business is none of your business, Brennan,” Toblen replied. In contrast, he was attempting to keep his voice even and conversational, but his nerves were betraying him. Dominique could tell that he was anxious. If the tone of voice weren’t evidence enough, Toblen was also furiously toweling an already dry mug.

“Don’t kid yourself, Stonehill,” another Redbrand said. “Your business has always been our business. And especially so when ‘your business’ starts poking around the woods near our hideout. Or when they show up at The Sleeping Giant and pick a fight, getting four of our guys killed.”

The leader approached Toblen, stepping up to the bar. “Which is actually why we stopped by this evening. We want to talk to these…” He paused for a moment as he pretended to search for the appropriate term, but the quick grin he flashed at his comrades made it obvious he was poking fun at the whole situation. “These patrons of yours,” he continued. “We just have a few questions concerning the, uh…liability in this incident.”

Two of the Redbrands started to make themselves at home, helping themselves to people’s food and drink, intimidating anyone who protested.

Dominique pat the smithy’s daughter on her knee, and stood up. His rapier was hanging on a nearby hook, but the gang members were watching him too closely to go for it. He simply strummed his lute and walked a little closer, trying to seem inconspicuous. The Redbrands gave him a few annoyed looks, but otherwise paid no attention.

“Look,” Toblen spoke up. “They ain’t here. But…” He put down the glass he had been shining and ran a nervous hand over his bald head. “But even if they was, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“Oh ho ho!” the Redbrand leader cried out. “That’s big talk from a man who usually shits his pants when we walk in the door. What changed, Toblen? Did you decide you don’t love your wife and kid anymore? Huh? You saw what happened to Thel, didn’t you?”

At the mention of Thel Dendrar, Toblen visibly winced. He had told Dominique many times that the only reason he never stood up to the Redbrands was because he feared for the safety of his wife and child. This concern was validated a week ago when Thel was slain in the street by Redbrands and, later that night, his wife and children disappeared from their family home.

“What you lot did to Thel was straight-up, cold-blooded murder,” Toblen said. “And after the killings last night, we decided that we’re done tolerating your crimes. We’re sick of your bloody stranglehold on this town.” His voice sounded more confident, more sure of itself, but he was still obviously terrified.

“Did you say ‘we’, Toblen?” the Redbrand leader said. Despite Toblen’s best efforts, the ruffian was clearly not intimidated, and continued to mock the innkeep. “Who is this ‘we’? Your wife and kid? Did Tumbledale have a town meeting and not invite us? Or maybe you just have a mouse in your pocket, like that weird halfling fucker that got gutted!” He and his cronies began to roar with laughter, but they stopped abruptly when Toblen pulled out a crossbow from behind the bar.

“We…this town…is done with you,” Toblen said. “The Redbrands can leave on their own or we will drive them out, but we will shelter you cowards and criminals no longer.” He looked menacing holding the weapon, but Dominique could tell that his aim was shaky.

“Toblen, really, what are you going to do with that?” the leader said, almost pitifully. “There are four of us, and only one of you.” The Redbrand took out a dagger and began to absentmindedly turn it over in his hand. “Even if you managed to kill one of us with your only shot, there would still be three of us alive to kill you and then take your wife on the floor next to your cooling body.”

Toblen shook with anger and raised the crossbow. “You shut the fuck up.”

“Come now, stop this nonsense.” The Redbrand leaned against the bar and brandished his dagger before him. “Tell you what. Give me a mug of ale, on the house, and I’ll promise we won’t sell your son into slavery.” He turned, slightly, towards his friends. “Didn’t Glasstaff just say we could use a few younger members?” And they began to laugh once more.

Toblen pulled the trigger and sent a crossbow bolt slamming into the leader’s shoulder. Dominique rushed forward, but wasn’t in time to prevent the Redbrand reaching over the counter and burying his dagger into Toblen’s stomach in retaliation.

Dominique slid to a stop when the other three Redbrands tried to block his path with weapons drawn.

He plucked a chord on his lute, hummed a snatch of a melody under his breath, and thrust his hand forward, palm out and fingers splayed.

It only took an instant, but he could feel the magical elements of the Weave coalesce around his hand, drawn to him by the vibrating strings and vocal chords that had agitated invisible arcane elements in the air of the bar. It felt like multiple streams of water flowing into a cup, building and building towards the rim where it will overflow. Just as it reached that breaking point, Dominique let go, and a wall of force unleashed from his hand with a thunderous clap.

All three Redbrands were sent flying as the thunderwave washed over them. Their bodies crumpled over different tables and chairs as they landed unconscious, their skin crackling with tiny remnants of arcane lightning.

In the time it had taken to cast the spell, the Redbrand leader had retracted his dagger and stabbed Toblen once more. Dominique dropped his lute, and as the Redbrand pulled back for another strike he grabbed the man’s wrist with his left hand and twisted it at an awkward angle. The leader cried out in pain and dropped the dagger, which Dominique caught in midair using his other hand, and effortlessly inserted it into the soft skin beneath the man’s chin.

The Redbrand opened his mouth to speak, revealing the blade that now connected the floor and roof of his mouth, but the only sound that came out was a wet gurgle.

“The halfing fucker,” Dominique said, unbridled rage in his voice. “His name was Rask Underbough.” And he rushed around the bar to stabilize Toblen.

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Session 9 - Into the Crypts
Or, When Planning an Ambush Goes Horribly Right

Locating the Slaves
After quietly dispatching the lone remaining Redbrand hostage, the party followed Glasstaff’s directions and made its way to the secret door on the other side of the room. They made a quick stop at the armory to see if there was anything of use. Mendes snagged an extra quiver of crossbow bolts, while Gremmer and Torbjorn each took a spear of questionable craftsmanship.

As Torbjorn opened the door to the crypts, the party laid eyes on a small chamber bearing three sarcophagi, and slumped over on the floor next to each one was a skeleton wearing rusty scraps of metal armor.

Daphina was overcome with excitement, and pushed past Torbjorn to get a better look. She ran up to the nearest skeleton and started scribbling down notes in her notebook. As Torbjorn came up behind to try and warn her about getting too close, the skeletons all began to stir and get to their feet.

The small crypt erupted into combat, with Faldryn scaling one of the stone caskets to get to the skeleton in front of Daphina and smashing it over the head with his druid’s staff.

Gremmer attempted to use his new spear, but his attack slipped through the skeleton’s rib cage and smashed against the wall behind his target, snapping the wooden shaft. Adeline stepped up and drove an arrow into the same enemy’s skull.

Torbjorn and Faldryn teamed up to take down another skeleton, before finishing off the one that Adeline had injured.

The skeleton in front of Daphina managed to cut her slightly with its longsword, but she only giggled before reaching out and grabbing a metal bracer on its forearm. She cast shocking grasp, amplifying it through the conductive metal, and effectively turned the skeleton into dust.

The party rummaged around the crypt for anything useful, and was able to find a platinum signet ring in each sarcophagus. The symbol upon them had faded, almost to the point of being unrecognizable, but they were undoubtedly worth some gold, even just for the metal they were crafted from.

The adventurers approached and began to inspect two large iron doors at the opposite end of the room. As they were examining for traps or signs of danger, three Redbrands that had been waiting behind the other door in the room — which they would later learn was the entrance to the slave pens — burst forth and launched a surprise attack.

Not expecting trouble from the rear, most of the durable members were near the large iron doors and the smaller, more vulnerable, types were now standing between their friends and the Redbrands.

With their swift attacks and the opportunity to strike first, the Redbrands dealt a massive first blow, and looked poised to cut through the entire party. However, their damage output was no match for the party. Even though Torbjorn also snapped his spear with an errant attack, he managed to use his greataxe to eviscerate one ruffian, and the whole party was able to avoid taking too much damage thanks to Daphina, who used acid splash to cover the remaining two attackers and dissolve enough of their flesh to kill them.

She celebrated by casting prestidigitation and making glitter rain from the ceiling. Torbjorn, who had opened his mouth to congratulate her, changed his mind and audibly snapped his jaw shut.

Saving the Slaves
As they entered the makeshift jail the Redbrands had been hiding in, they were shocked to find two of the prisoners were actually children. Daphina and Mendes ran to the bars and began to comfort the obviously terrified family. The woman introduced herself as Mirna Dendrar, the wife of Thel Dendrar, and told the party that they had been kidnapped the night that her husband was murdered by Redbrands. They had been kept there for over a week, and were to be sold into slavery as soon as the gang had a buyer.

Daphina used prestidigitation to clean them up a little, making the dust, dirt, and grime of a week spent in captivity vanish in an instant, while Torbjorn, Faldryn, and Gremmer set about hiding Redbrand bodies in the sarcophagi. Afterwards, in preparation for ambushing Glasstaff, the group decided to move the young boy, who was in a separate cell, across the room into the cell with his mother and sister.

Gremmer headed back to the armory to see if there was any sturdier spears they could take, when he heard the secret door across the hall open, and a set of footsteps proceed towards the crypt.

Torbjorn was crossing the crypt to join Gremmer in the armory when the door swung open, and Glasstaff stood in the doorway. They stared at each other, confused, for just a moment before Gremmer came charging down the hallway, tackling Glasstaff to the ground and holding his hands behind his back.

They restrained the mage, who they now suspected might be Iarno Albrek, Sildar Hallwinter‘s companion from the Lords’ Alliance, and proceeded to lead the Dendrar’s out of the hideout.

They tried to exit down the hallway near the crypt, but Torbjorn triggered a pit trap, falling twenty feet into a hole that encompassed almost the width of the hall. Instead, they decided to lead the family on the longer, but safer, path through the cavern.

Mendes stayed with the prisoner, now tied up in one of his own jail cells, Faldryn explored the rest of the hideout for loot, and the rest of the group escorted the Dendrar’s back to town. Daphina managed to keep the children entertained with prestidigitation and other minor tricks.

Back at her home, Mirna thanked Daphina for rescuing them, and told her about an emerald amulet that her family kept hidden in their shop, an apothecary in the now destroyed town of Thundercliff.

The rest of the party proceeded to the Townmaster’s Hall where they found Sildar dealing with the chaos caused by the previous night’s revolt. At first he dismissed them, claiming that he was far too busy. But as soon as they mentioned Iarno, he told Harbin Wester to take over. He had to handle the processing of his former ally personally…

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Session 8 - A Night in the Dungeon
Or, The New Girl Lies Her Ass Off...

Small Scale Rebellion
Mendes Maeasseth and Turalyon Lightbringer had no way of knowing what they were involving themselves in when they pulled into Tumbledale as the sun started to go down. The rest they were seeking, the supplies they were hoping for, and any other motivation they might have for coming to the city, went right out the window upon turned down the main street.

There were a pair of men engaged in hand-to-hand combat directly in front of the Stonehill Inn, and the sounds of nearby fighting drifted over the rooftops. There was some obviously distressed shouting as well, mixing and mingling with the ringing of steel on steel as the men fought in the middle of the road.

Mendes called out, and the man wearing a ragged scarlet cloak looked up just long enough to provide an opportunity to his opponent. The distracted ruffian sprouted the point of a sword from his back before being tossed to the ground in a lifeless pile.

The remaining male strode over to the wagon and introduced himself as Sildar Hallwinter, urging the two newcomers to follow him to the inn. Mendes and Turalyon were a bit taken aback by the man’s commanding tone, but it was obvious that the situation was dire, so they hopped down from the wagon and hurried into the tavern.

The scene inside was a mess. Tables were overturned, chairs were in splinters, a few dead bodies wearing scarlet cloaks had been left where they fell, and two elven individuals were tending to an injured man by the bar. It was to them that Sildar hurried.

One of them was actually a half-elf, and he introduced himself as Dominique as he worked, hurriedly and under his breath. His companion, the female elf in scale mail, seemed delighted to see Sildar, and surprised that he had brought company. She inquired about them, but Sildar only said “they just arrived.”

The man (whom Sildar called Toblen) appeared to be in a lot of pain, but stable. Dominique nodded at the elf, then went back to healing the man’s wounds.

She walked over to Mendes and Turalyon, and introduced herself as Sister Lia. She explained that the town of Tumbledale had come under the thumb of a local gang of ruffians calling themselves the Redbrands, and that the situation had recently come to a head with the arrival of another party of adventurers. After the murder of one of their members, they had decided to take the fight to the gang, assaulting their hideout via a secret tunnel just an hour ago.

Shortly after the group entered the hideout, the Redbrands decided to storm the inn, probably hoping to catch the adventurers unaware and put a stop to their interference. They injured the innkeep, Toblen, who finally stood up to the bullies, but Dominique and Sildar put them down before they could finish the job or hurt anyone else. Unfortunately, their act of self-defense was seen as an act of aggression, and the Redbrands began to attack and loot the other establishments in town, kicking off a bit of a riot or rebellion.

She explained that most of the Redbrands harassing the town had been driven back, thanks to Sildar, Sister Lia, Dominique, Daran Edermath, and a few others, but she was worried they would regroup and attack again. Also, she was concerned about the adventurers down in the hideout, unaware of the uprising happening in the streets.

“I know you have just arrived,” she said. “And I know that this battle of ours is not necessarily your concern, but still, I must ask. Would you aid us, newcomers?”

Seeing as how they would not be getting any sleep with the inn currently closed for business, Mendes and Turalyon agreed.

Drunk and Disorderly
Meanwhile, within the Redbrand hideout, Torbjorn had just finishing squishing Droop’s head against the barracks wall when a knock came at the door.

It appears his screaming, and potentially the pitched battle just moments before, had attracted a group of Redbrands who were enjoying a few downtime drinks in the next room. They came knocking at the door, demanding to know what the bugbears were up to. After trying the door and realizing it was stuck (due to the pile of bugbear bodies stacked against the other side), they began trying to force their way into the room. Torbjorn took a swipe at one with his handaxe, but the Redbrand managed to pull back his hand, and all it did was alert the ruffians that something was wrong.

Attempting to take the Redbrands by surprise, Torbjorn attemped to smash down the door, hoping it would land on top of them. However, he misjudged the size of the pile and lost his footing, slamming into the door awkwardly. Gremmer attempted the same feat, but also failed. Just as the Redbrands looked like they were going to shove the door open, Torbjorn tried again, this time succeeding and knocking the Redbrands back down the hallway.

Torbjorn and Gremmer held the doorway against the four enemies trying to get inside with relative ease, while the other party members tried to inflict some damage with ranged attacks from behind their living shields.

It was at this point that Sister Lia, Mendes, and Turalyon arrived in the large cavern where the party had previously fought the nothic, it’s severed head and purple body still lying on the floor to their left. As they approached to investigate they heard the sounds of scuffling, and were able to see Gremmer and Torbjorn engaged with a few enemies down a narrow hallway. Sister Lia pointed out the adventurers to Mendes and asked her to assist them. She then asked Turalyon to help her with the wounded back in town, and the two left down the hidden path they came in through.

Seeing Mendes with Sister Lia, the party knew that she was on their side, and when the fight was finished, with one Redbrand still alive and surrendering, they introduced themselves.

They interrogated the Redbrand, asking specifically about the secret doors Droop had mentioned before his head was crushed against a wall. They tied up their hostage and had him lead them back across the cavern to a hallway on the opposite side. The hall appeared to be a dead end, but the Redbrand found a stone on the left hand side, pulled it, and the dead end swung open to reveal a basement storeroom with a deep pool against one wall.

As they investigated the room, the Redbrand let them know that one of the doors in the room led to another small barracks. Torbjorn approached the door and was ambushed by three more ruffians. They dispatched these enemies swiftly and with relative ease, and upon investigating the room, decided to spend the night and rest up before continuing to explore the hideout.

Deception and Persuasion
They began to discuss who would stand watch on guard duty, but Mendes volunteered. She had been travelling all day, but was otherwise uninjured or spent. Torbjorn was skeptical, and agreed on the condition that they lock the barracks door and she stand outside. Mendes balked at the dwarf’s mistrust, but ultimately agreed to his terms as a show of faith. She grabbed a Redbrand cloak that was hanging up in the barracks, put up the hood, tucked her slightly elven ears beneath her hair, and posted up outside of the door. The rest of the party, including the captured and restrained Redbrand, settled into the barracks for the night.

About halfway through the watch, a flustered Redbrand came into the storeroom from the stairs on the opposite side and, seeing Mendes, ran over and started asking questions. He wanted to know where Glasstaff was, because the attempt to capture or kill the adventurers in town had backfired, and they were being attacked by the townsfolk. Tumbledale had rallied around Sildar and Sister Lia, emboldened by the adventurer’s assault on the hideout, and now there was a paladin who had arrived and was helping to slay their comrades. Mendes managed to deceive the Redbrand by saying she was a new recruit, and that the man would likely find Glasstaff in his quarters. The flustered Redbrand ran off, and the rest of the watch passed uneventfully.

As everyone else was resting, Adeline retreated to one corner, took out a number of fine herbs and rare ingredients, and began to concentrate, barely moving for the whole eight hours. Once the rest was declared over, she sprung up and ran to the door. As soon as she flung it open, a loud knocking began across the room where the Redbrand had come down earlier. She bounded up the steps and heaved open the door, revealing the source of the noise: a pygmy elk standing in the passageway. It entered the storeroom and Adeline gracefully hopped up on its back and the two of them maneuvered down the steps to where the rest of the party was standing, awestruck.

Mendes relayed the information she had gathered from the nervous Redbrand, and the party agreed that they should try and locate Glasstaff’s quarters next. Once again, they leaned on their hostage, and had him lead them back into the cavern before turning north and walking the length of the room and into another storeroom. The Redbrand opened another secret door and told them that another secret door at the bottom of the stairs would lead them into Glasstaff’s chambers.

Mendes took the lead, disguising herself as a Redbrand once more and proceeding to the bottom of the steps. The secret door opened effortlessly, and Mendes was looking into a lavishly decorated room with a large writing desk directly in front of her. The bearded mage in grey robes looked up from his scribbling and gave her a worried look. He began to expound upon the troubles that the Redbrands were running into, and seemed to be expecting Mendes to report or deliver some sort of news.

Before she could answer, he realized that one of his gang members had entered his chambers through his secret exit, and demanded to know what she was thinking using the secret door without his permission.

Her reply was just, “I’m new.”

This response left him angry at her perceived incompetence, but ultimately clueless as to her real identity.

He continued to tell her all that had gone wrong over the last eight hours, and commanded her to round up the remaining members and gather them in the slave pens. He would meet them there in ten minutes and inform them of their next move.

Mendes rejoined the group at the top of the stairs and filled them in on what Glasstaff had said. He had given her directions to the pens, so everyone agreed that they no longer needed their Redbrand hostage.

Gremmer took out a pristine beaver pelt, one of thirty they had found in the supplies here, and used it to muffle the man’s screams while he snapped his neck. They left his body in the barrel they had previously stuffed it, and proceeded to the door that led to the slave pens.

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Session 7 - Revenge For Rask
Into the Redbrand Hideout...

An Urchin’s Funeral
The morning after the battle in front of The Sleeping Giant, everyone was up early to prepare for Rask’s funeral.

The night before, Sister Lia and Sildar Hallwinter had spoken with the group and come up with a funeral service they felt would befit the halfling street urchin. Sildar and Daran led the party to gather sticks and wood for a funeral pyre, and Sister Lia prepared to give his eulogy.

They piled the materials five or six feet high on the town green, and Sildar brought Rask’s body over from the inn and placed it on top. Everyone gathered a good distance from the pyre, standing roughly in a line at the crest of a small, sloping hill on the edge of the green.

Sister Lia said a few words, noting that his two small contributions to Tymora, the goddess of luck, had not gone unnoticed. It was unfortunate, however, that his luck still managed to run out when he needed it most, but such is the will of the gods.

Adeline and Torbjorn also spoke of their fallen comrade, but having only spent a little more than a week with him, their additions were brief.

When everyone was done speaking, Adeline raised her halfling longbow, already nocked with an arrow wrapped in flammable rags. Daran raised his hand and cast prestidigitation, setting the rags on fire, and Adeline loosed the arrow at the funeral pyre. The dry wood caught quickly, and within moments a column of fire over ten feet tall was roaring in the center of the town green.

After the fire had died down, a few townsfolk set about cleaning up while Toblen Stonehill invited everyone back to the inn for a drink and a celebration of life. He passed out flagons of ale to everyone in attendance, and raised his own cup high, proclaiming “To Rask!”

Most people stayed for the one drink, quietly mingling and speaking of their limited interactions with Rask, before leaving the inn to open their own businesses for the day. A few hung around longer, using the occasion as an excuse to start drinking early and heavily.

Torbjorn was one of these people.

By early afternoon, most of the crowd had filtered out of the inn. Torbjorn was drunk, Adeline was somber, and Dominique was trying, with little luck, to compose a song in Rask’s memory.

An Elf of Few Words
It was at this time that the mysterious wood elf woke up from his coma, and exited the room where he had been unconscious for almost two days. Torbjorn drunkenly tried to greet him, but the elf pushed past the intoxicated dwarf with little effort and exited the inn.

After a few moments of stunned silence, Torbjorn barreled out of the room after him.

The elf was already well up the road, heading back towards the Duskendown Trail. As Torbjorn tried to catch up, Daran Edermath managed to beat him to it. The half-elf thanked the mysterious newcomer, first of all, and then implored him to stay. The druid explained that he had to return to the forest, for he had been tracking a great disturbance in his land for many days, and needed to get to the bottom of it before the natural balance was thrown off any further.

Daran understood the elf’s concerns, having known a fair amount of druids in his adventuring days, but insisted that the town needed his help, especially after this latest murder.

The druid was hesitant, clearly more concerned with his obligation to the land, but he could indeed see that the local gang were an issue that might eventually affect the natural balance if left unchecked. He absentmindedly spoke aloud, claiming that the adventurers might actually be of some use in tracking down this threat, and Daran readily agreed, essentially volunteering Adeline and Torbjorn for the task.

Torbjorn walked up just at the end of this conversation, and loudly agreed (even though he was unaware of what he was agreeing to), as long as he got to kill some things. Adeline exited the inn, saw the group having a discussion at the edge of town, and started making her way over to them.

The elf finally introduced himself as Faldryn Renferal, and asked to be brought up to speed on the situation with the Redbrands. Torbjorn took Faldryn by the wrist and started to lead him back to the inn, talking at length but saying little in response to the elf’s question.

They walked right past Adeline, who had to turn and immediately start making her way back the way she came.

The Addition of an Unlikely Pair
By the time they reached the tavern, a carriage had made its way into town and stopped in front of the Townmaster’s Hall. The back of the wagon was loaded with supplies, as well as a male half-orc and a female gnome. The two human drivers hopped down and headed back up the road, towards the inn. The half-orc proceeded to exit the wagon as well, before turning back and helping the female gnome safely to the ground.

Faldryn addressed what Daran had said about the state of the town, claiming that the arrival of such a formidable looking half-orc was not a good sign.

Sildar appeared at the door to the Townmaster’s Hall and demanded to know what the two newcomers were doing in town. The half-orc introduced himself as Gremmer, and explained that he was hired by another member of the Lords’ Alliance, Bruce Winterun, to assist in dealing with the Redbrands and apprehending the ones responsible for the death of Thel Dendrar a tenday earlier. His gnome companion was Daphina Sparklegem, however she was not affiliated with the Lords’ Alliance and had instead purchased a spot of the wagon from Silverwilde as part of a personal endeavor. Daphina spoke up and claimed it was because she hadn’t seen many half-orcs before, and was curious enough to hitch a ride.

Sildar said he would need to make arrangements to confirm these claims, as he was unaware of additional forces being sent, but would gladly render the promised payment once the Redbrands were dealt with. He saw the party near the inn and instructed Gremmer to speak with them, as they had the most recent and personal experience in dealing with the gang.

The whole group, which now consisted of Torbjorn, Adeline, Faldryn, Gremmer, and Daphina, sat in the inn to discuss the current situation. Torbjorn was, again, less than helpful, and after a quick conversation with Gremmer over their mutual hate of goblins, he retired to his room to pass out and sleep off the drink.

While Torbjorn slept, Dominique informed the newcomers of all that had transpired so far. Gremmer and Daphina enjoyed their first good meal in a few days, and settled in to their rooms in the inn, which was now almost at capacity with out-of-town adventurers. Daphina spent a large amount of time speaking to the townsfolk that were present, getting to know everyone, gathering rumors, learning who lived where, and recording everything in her trusty notebook.

Once Torbjorn woke up, it was past six in the afternoon. Everyone was adequately rested and prepared, so talk began to turn to the plan for the evening.

The group was aware that the Redbrands hung out at The Sleeping Giant, but Rask had learned from Daran that their hideout was actually beneath Tresendar Manor located at the top of the hill east of town. On his last night, after the attack in the orchard and the arrival of Faldryn, he had relayed this to the group. He had also reminded them that Carp, the young son of Qelline Alderleaf, had seen men in the woods south of the manor, possibly Redbrands or bandits, and claimed that there was a hidden tunnel in that area. Rask had even tried, unsuccessfully, to explore those woods south of the hill the next morning.

The group agreed that Rask was correct in gathering this information, and that a secret entrance was better than a frontal assault. Everyone but Torbjorn thought it might be worth talking to Carp, to see if he could lead them to the hidden tunnel.

Before they left, Faldryn asked if there might be anyone in town with knowledge of the great disturbance he had been tracking lately. Daphina adjusted her glasses and consulted her notebook, then said that Qelline was actually friends with another druid in the area who might have more information. Upon confirming that this was the same halfling with the son they needed to speak to, Faldryn got up and headed for the door.

Torbjorn was unhappy with a plan that hinged on the word of a child, but pretty much everyone else was in agreeance, and so it was decided.

While everyone else headed for Alderleaf Farm, Gremmer stopped at Sister Lia’s house. He told her of the plan to take on the Redbrands, and requested that she might be prepared to provide assistance if necessary. As she was agreeing, Torbjorn walked up, told Sister Lia they didn’t need her, grabbed Gremmer by the arm, and dragged him away.

Sister Lia closed the door, but decided to don her armor anyway. Just in case.

Because Trust is for Suckers
The group arrived at Qelline’s door very late in the evening, and asked to speak with Carp. The young boy was very excited, yet nervous, to be speaking with so many adults, especially adventurers such as these. He managed to confirm he could probably lead them to the spot in the woods where he had heard the men and seen the tunnel.

Qelline was reluctant to let Carp out of the house so late, especially when the task could potentially be dangerous, but she desperately wanted to assist the group in taking out the Redbrands. And so she donned a cloak, dressed Carp in a warm jacket, and had the boy lead them into the woods.

Carp was true to his word, and led them directly to the tunnel. They approached very quietly, but it was unnecessary as no one else appeared to be in the area at this time of night. Qelline told the adventurers that this was as far as they would go, and the party agreed. Gremmer asked Carp for one more favor, to run and let Sister Lia know where they were. However, Torbjorn told the kid to forget it and not seek her out, before he, once again, dragged Gremmer by the arm into the tunnel.

The dark tunnel went on for roughly one hundred feet, before it opened into a relatively well lit underground cavern, with a large fifteen-foot crevasse running down the middle. Two wooden bridges spanned the gap, and the party could see hallways to either side them, as well as what appeared to be an exit at the far end of the cave.

The group started toward the left hallway, when Adeline’s mind was filled with a voice; a whisper that sounded loud and very clear, yet didn’t come from her ears. It said, “Come for vengeance, yes, hehe. Come to seek out the red cloaked ones for killing their friend, yes they have, hehehe.” She stopped the group, and told them what she had “heard.”

After a quick look around, Torbjorn spotted a large yellowish eye poking out from behind a nearby pillar. The group then understood what Adeline was talking about, because the creature began transmitting its thoughts to everyone, reaching into their minds and forcing them to think the words.

It introduced itself, albeit in a very disconnected and creepy manner, and said that it had been living under the manor long before the Redbrands moved in. The leader of the Redbrands, Glasstaff, struck a deal with the creature, promising it a steady supply of flesh for food, but the creature made it clear that it had no allegiance to the gang.

Daphina piped up and let the group know that this was a nothic. A psychic aberration that was once a powerful wizard, these creatures are the cursed remnants of the first arcane spellcasters. These wizards led the intellectual charge in unlocking the secrets of magic, but they also accidentally opened a portal to another plane, letting in Tiamat and unleashing gods upon the realm of Atlos. They were forever cursed for their arrogance and foolishness, locked in this form, but with no memory of their past life.

The nothic explained that it could tell they were there for blood, but it had no quarrel with the party. As long as they agreed to provide it food, such as the bodies of the Redbrands they might kill, perhaps, it would leave them alone and just continue to live in the crevasse.

The group was very mistrusting, and Torbjorn actually took out his handaxe and pointed it at each member of the group in turn, polling them as to what they should do. When he got to the last member, it became clear that a confrontation was inevitable.

As soon as Torbjorn made up his mind to attack, the nothic was aware of his intentions. The whole room tensed as everyone launched into combat.

Panicked and unsure what to do, Daphina cast prestidigitation and made a shower of flowers fall from the sky. Faldryn turned into a direwolf, and used the animals quick reflexes to lunge at the nothic. Adeline took off running across the closest wooden bridge, but it was rigged to collapse and so it crumpled under her weight, leaving her at the bottom of the crevasse. Gremmer moved into range and attacked it with his sword which, between him and the direwolf, effectively blocked the way through for the rest of the party. To make his attack, Torbjorn jumped on top of the direwolf, hoping to launch off of its back towards the creature. However, Faldryn heard him coming and turned at the last second, sending Torbjorn flying as he slipped sideways from the wolf’s back.

The nothic used an unusual, piercing gaze at Torbjorn, and he could feel his life essence wane, just a little, as the creature dealt necrotic damage to his form. However, Torbjorn countered by using his momentum as he got to his feet to heave his greataxe skyward and bring it down upon the creature, delivering the final blow. He cut the nothic’s head clean off as it stuck out its neck to attack.

The Wrath of Goblinsbane
As the party gathered itself and continued down the left hallway, they began to hear shouting and laughing. The words being spoken were in Goblin, so only a few of the party members could understand. However, the voices didn’t belong to goblins, because the timbre was lower which indicated that the creatures were much larger, but it didn’t matter to Torbjorn.

Torbjorn pushed his way to the front of the party and located the source of the voices: a room located on their left as the hallway turned a corner to the right. He kicked open the door, and found himself staring at the furry back of a bugbear.

There were actually three bugbears standing around the room, as well as a familiar looking goblin standing in the center. As soon as the goblin saw Torbjorn, he fainted.

The party killed the bugbear in the doorway before entering and systematically dispatching the rest. Even Daphina did some damage, as she repeatedly grabbed bugbears by the ankle to cast shocking grasp, electrocuting one to death.

The bugbear leader, a beast slightly larger than the other two who wore a jeweled eye patch over one eye, was the last one left standing. Gremmer stepped up, dodged a swing from its mace, got within its defenses, and buried his sword in its chest up to the hilt. He released the sword, snatched the eye patch from the bugbear’s face, and then retrieved the sword using the same hand.

When the room had been cleared, the party gathered in the room and piled the bodies in front of the door. Daphina quickly cast prestidigitation on Gremmer’s new eye patch, cleaning up all of the blood and leaving it in pristine condition. Torbjorn tied the goblin up and secured him to the pile of corpses, lighting a pipe as he wait for the goblin to come to.

It was only a minute or so before he did, whereupon he freaked out at the sight of Torbjorn.

He apologized profusely for things he hadn’t even done, and tried to explain to the party that when he chewed through his ropes outside of the Cragmaw Hideout he tried to run away, but the bugbears captured him and dragged him to the Redbrand hideout where they had been torturing and humiliating him.

His name was Droop, he said. And he never wanted to offend Torbjorn, and he wanted to leave like he said he would, but he couldn’t. And he didn’t want Torbjorn to kill him, like he had to many of Droop’s friends, and he would do anything to prove his worth and ensure that the party would spare his life.

Torbjorn questioned him a little, asking about how many Redbrands were in the hideout (no more than a dozen or so), what kind of traps or surprises they could expect (such as the nothic they had already encountered), and if there was anything else useful that Droop could provide them.

He mentioned secret doors. That there were many secret doors. And he asked if they had found any yet.

Torbjorn said no.

Then Torbjorn pressed the goblin’s head against the wall, and applied pressure.

Droop screamed in agonizing pain and awful fear, until eventually his head popped like a ripe grape beneath Torbjorn’s palm…

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Session 6 - More Than They Can Chew
"Wanna pick a fight?"

A Not-So-Stealthy Reconnaissance
In the morning, the elf had still not woken up by the time everyone else was awake.

Rask started the day by visiting the Shrine of Luck once more, and leaving another copper piece. Sister Lia was up and tending to her gardens, and was very pleased to see the reverent little halfling again.

After this, Rask decided to check out the forests south of the Tresendar Manor, where he had heard rumors of a secret tunnel at the inn. However, he was not familiar with the type of brush and foliage, and ended up making a great deal of noise. He was stomping through the undergrowth when he heard a couple of voices ahead of him. The speakers had clearly heard his approach, and were now coming through the woods to try and find him. He beat feet, and was able to get away before the voices caught up with him.

Torbjorn headed to the smithy once more, but this time he bought fine materials and began to work on a battleaxe. The smithy watched him work all day, and was impressed by the fluidity of Torbjorn’s forging. His years in isolation had made him extremely proficient, possibly even artful, in his craft. It would be a long few weeks worth of work before there was anything to show, but Torbjorn took all of the knowledge he gained in his time in seclusion and began to apply it to this weapon.

Adeline spent a good part of the day foraging for supplies in the surrounding wilderness and, with a few coins worth of supplemental materials, concocted a nutritious batch of granola bars. The taste was pretty terrible, as Adeline was unfamiliar with the local fauna, but they were edible and would sustain her or her party for multiple days, if times ever got tough.

As evening approached, the party began to turn its thoughts to the Redbrands. They had discussed checking out The Sleeping Giant, the local Redbrand hideout, the day before, but the events of the afternoon managed to derail any further investigation.

Torbjorn sought out his companions, finding Rask first, sitting on the town green and feeding his pet mouse a chunk of cheese. “Wanna pick a fight?” he asked.

Rask seemed to think it was a good idea, but Adeline agreed only to come observe. They thought of asking Dominique, or perhaps Sister Lia, to join them for extra support, just in case things got hairy, but ultimately decided against it. Torbjorn was very vocal about being able to take care of things themselves.

Rask and Torbjorn approached The Sleeping Giant, and found four ruffians on the porch, lounging about in their dirty scarlet cloaks. Upon seeing the party, they rose from their seats and stood at the edge of the stoop.

The Redbrands made it clear that the party wasn’t welcome, not only at the tavern, but in Tumbledale as well.

“Is there beer in there?” Torbjorn asked the leader of the Redbrand outfit.

“Not for you,” he replied.

At this point, Torbjorn drew his handaxe from his belt. His intentions weren’t immediately threatening, but it caused the Redbrands to also draw their weapons, and their reaction made Rask pull out his daggers.

And, by now, there was no stopping the fight that was about to break out.

A Fight Has Been Picked
Torbjorn quickly became aware that he had found the fight they were looking for, and threw his handaxe at the Redbrand mouthpiece without a second thought. The axe took the ruffian in the shoulder and buried itself into the top of his ribcage.

Adeline had been watching the whole thing break down from across the street, and followed up Torbjorn’s opening attack with an arrow to the same enemy, catching him in the opposite shoulder. The force sent the Redbrand sprawling, leaving him unconscious and bleeding out on the steps of the tavern.

The other members stepped over their dying leader and charged the group. Two Redbrands attacked Torbjorn, trying to focus their strength on the barbarian, while a third headed straight for Rask.

Torbjorn held his own against two attackers, even with them each taking multiple slashes at him. Rask, however, was pretty badly injured by the first attack, and only barely managed to back away and get out of range of the second attack. Adeline tried to help him by engaging his pursuer, but even though the arrow she fired struck the ruffian, it was not enough to slow him down.

Torbjorn counterattacked with his greataxe, but the two Redbrands were flanking him, and he was driven back by their assault.

At about the same time, Rask was trying to evade the single charging Redbrand. He slashed at the ruffian, but missed, leaving himself open for a counterattack.

The Redbrand drove his longsword downward at the halfling, piercing Rask’s abdomen and leaving him bleeding out in the middle of the road.

Seeing this, Adeline rushed into the fray. As she approached the fighting, Torbjorn called out to her. In so many words, he insisted that Rask would be fine for the time being, but that he would not last another round facing two opponents simultaneously. Adeline rushed over to Torbjorn and quickly cast cure wounds, before turning to where Rask lay.

Her way was blocked by the Redbrand that had slain her friend. She dropped her bow, drawing her shortsword and attempting to strike, or move past, the opponent.

With a mighty heave of his greataxe, Torbjorn brought one of the Redbrands to his knees.

Adeline was able to wound the ruffian in front of her, but he still managed to strike her twice, and she was unable to get around him to Rask, dying, less than ten feet away.

Torbjorn brought his axe down on the wounded opponent and ended the man’s life, but his comrade quickly retaliated, nearly gutting the dwarf with his sword.

Another stab also left Adeline on her knees, and now both she and Torbjorn were close to falling unconscious themselves.

It was at this point, lying on his back in a pool of his own blood, far from the chaos of the city he loved, that Rask Underbough took his last breath. With a groan and a stuttering sigh, the last vestiges of his life left him forever.

Just a Moment Too Late
Things looked bad, and were about to get a whole lot worse.

Rask was dead, along with two Redbrands, and the remaining two party members with also within an inch of their life. The two opponents had also taken plenty of damage, but now had the adventurers at their mercy. Wounded and on their knees, Adeline and Torbjorn were not in a position to strike, or even fend off an attack.

The Redbrand standing over Adeline smiled, ever so slightly, and raised his sword above his head for the killing blow.

But before he could bring it down, the tip of a blade seemed to sprout from the center of his chest. He looked at it for a moment, puzzled, before blood started to stain the front of his jerkin and the life drained from his eyes.

Sildar Hallwinter had finished up his work for the day and exited the Townmaster’s Hall with plans to stop at the Stonehill Inn and grab a pint of ale. However, as he stepped into the street he heard a scuffle from down the street, and promptly charged toward The Sleeping Giant. He wasn’t wearing any armor, but did have his sword about his waist, which he drew as he approached the gruesome scene in front of the tavern.

He paused at Rask’s body to search for a sign of life, but did not linger long. It was apparent from eight feet away that Rask was no longer breathing. Instead, Sildar rushed to where Adeline was about to be struck down, and skewered the lightly armored Redbrand right in the center of his back.

Sildar barely stopped before he ran to where Torbjorn was still engaging the last ruffian. Torbjorn told him to stay out of it, and that he could handle the Redbrand, but when he swung at his attacker and missed, Sildar didn’t wait for an invitation. He delivered the killing blow to the last Redbrand, and then tried to help Torbjorn to his feet. Help which was, of course, refused.

However, the party did allow him to carry the body of their friend to the Stonehill Inn. Basic medical attention was applied to Rask, but nothing short of magical resurrection could save him now. It was made clear by Sister Lia that she was unable to perform such a ritual, and that there was neither the time nor the money to get to someone that could.

Torbjorn and Adeline had their wounds tended to before they lay down for the night. Sildar Hallwinter, Daran Edermath, and Sister Lia stayed up for another couple of hours discussing Rask’s funeral services, which were to be held in the morning…

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Session 5 - The Ordeal in the Orchard
Or, An Assault Among the Apples...

What Scares a Half-Ogre?
While Adeline was relaxing on the town green and Torbjorn was admiring his new wolf pelt cloak, Rask was approaching Daran Edermath’s home beside the orchard.

They greeted each other warmly, and spoke briefly about Rask and his companion’s business in town. The old half-elf welcomed the adventurers in Tumbledale, especially if they were willing to help with the Redbrands.

Rask mentioned that they had been told of the gang menacing store owners, and even murdering a man in the streets. Daran somberly confirmed these stories, and pleaded with Rask to make a difference. He also mentioned The Sleeping Giant, a local watering hole that the party knew was a Redbrand hangout, but went on to give Rask the location of the Redbrand hideout, under the Tresendar Manor.

As the two were saying their farewells, both paused mid-sentence as the ground began to shake beneath their feet. Daran rose from his chair and hurried around the side of his house to look upon the orchard that took up the majority of his property.

At first, there was nothing to see. But the rumbling was growing louder, and after only a minute or two, Daran and Rask were able to see a small group of humanoids cresting the horizon. The largest and loudest was a half-ogre, looking stupid and terrified, who kept looking back over his shoulder. He was accompanied by three goblins and two hobgoblins, leading the way in front of him. They were all running at almost a full sprint, and looked frightened, like they were running from something.

Daran raised a hand to the sky, and a shower of sparks shot upward nearly eighty feet. It was nearing dusk, and the signal was visible throughout the town in the waning sunlight. Rask drew his bow, and readied himself next to Daran.

Torbjorn and Adeline saw the shower of sparks, though Torbjorn was the only one to also feel the ground tremble. Even without context, Adeline knew that the signal couldn’t be good news, and both party members took off running for the orchard.

Once the party of frightened goblinoids grew close enough, Daran reached into a pouch under his robes and drew out a bit of fleece. He tossed it into the air, waving his other hand about and saying a quiet incantation. As the fleece seemed to dissolve on the wind, the image of a troll manifested itself sixty feet away, directly in the path of the goblins.

None of the smaller creatures were fooled, and continued their charge. However, the half-ogre paused, confused at the sudden appearance of the beast, and scared to approach any closer.

Rask and the goblins exchanged a few arrows before the rest of the party showed up. It was around this time that the hobgoblins charged directly through Daran’s silent image spell, causing the half-ogre to realize it was a trick, and resume his charge.

Daran dismissed his spell and turned to the adventurers. This one hundred and five year old half-elf had looked tired and feeble up until a few moments ago. Now there was the fire of battle in his eyes, and the party could see that this man was likely a force to be reckoned with back in his adventuring days.

“If you really are the kind of people you claim to be,” he said to the group, “then we need your help. I have to warn the rest of the town and start getting people to safety.” He looked at the heroes with an expression that made their task, and the consequences if they failed, crystal clear.

A Wild Druid Appeared!
As Daran hurried off, Torbjorn and Adeline stepped up to take stock of the situation. As they were watching the approaching hoard and planning their attacks, the sound of galloping hooves penetrated the cold night air. While they watched, a majestic horse emerged from the trees to the right of the goblins, taking everyone by surprise.

As this horse came into view, its form instantly began to shift: its long, thin legs bulged and ballooned; the spine seemed to lower itself closer to the ground, and the narrow back upon it seemed to broaden; and the fine horsehair covering the beast sprouted into a furry mange that covered the whole beast.

The horse had shapeshifted into a brown bear before their eyes.

Without missing a step, the bear launched itself into combat with the goblins at the front of the group, rearing up on its hind legs and swiping at them with its massive paws.

Quick, everyone, help that bear!
The party sprung into action. Rask climbed a tree for a better vantage point, and fired at the engaged goblins with his bow. Adeline sneaked off to the left side, taking cover behind the trunk of a tree, and did the same. Torbjorn rushed forward into throwing range and chucked his handaxe at the closest hobgoblin.

The group had incapacitated many of the lesser creatures by the time the half-ogre was able to make it to where its allies were fighting the bear. Rask jumped down from the tree and moved into position on the half-ogres flank, well out of its range.

As Adeline was creeping through the trees and peppering the battlefield with arrows, she heard the sound of lute strings behind her. She turned to find Dominique also creeping along behind her, eager to see what all the fussing and fighting was about.

The party could feel the ground tremble once more, but the half-ogre hadn’t moved enough to cause it. However, there was little to be done in the heat of battle.

As Adeline and Rask launched volley after volley of arrows from their hiding places, the half-ogre, now bleeding profusely and looking rather tired, made another attack on the mysterious bear in front of it. This massive hit by its greatclub sent the bear flying, and before the animal had hit the ground, it changed shape again. A wood elf, adorned in twigs, leaves, and wearing a cloak pelt that closely resembled the bear it changed from, landed on the ground, wounded and exhausted.

The wood elf used its gnarled tree branch of a staff to climb to its feet, but in its current state it would not last long against the half-ogre. Adeline saw the injured newcomer and rushed forward from her cover. She reached out and grabbed the wood elf’s shoulder, casting cure wounds and putting the elf back into fighting condition. He said nothing, but gave her a short nod of thanks.

With another sneak attack from the trees, Rask put the half-ogre down. It stumbled, trying to keep its footing, but the life soon left its eyes and it came crashing to the ground with a mighty thud.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Mandibles
There was only a moment of silent celebration before the ground trembled again, this time much closer. The party had just enough time to look at each other, worried, before the nearby ground erupted, and a monstrous arthropod with six legs burst through.

This beast was ten feet long, and must have weighed upwards of eight hundred pounds. It had a many-segmented body, covered in a brown chitinous exoskeleton. Its mandibles looked capable of snapping a tree in half, if necessary.

It attacked the nearest thing it could, the wood elf, and managed to find purchase with one of its jaws. However, the recently healed elf was able to survive and move out of the way, casting a spell on his gnarled staff, and causing it to glow with an arcane green energy.

The party worked together with the mysterious newcomer to damage the armored insect, using mostly ranged attacks to stay out of range of its mandibles. However, they found out the hard way that the creature was capable of spitting acid as well.

When the beast was looking pretty bloodied, it stepped up to attack the wood elf again, but Dominique managed to get in the way. He cast thunderwave, dealing a massive blow to the creature and pushing it ten feet backwards, where it slammed into the trunk of a tree. Dominique looked to Torbjorn for approval, and even got a little nod in return.

The elf wasted no time taking advantage of the situation, and charged the monstrosity while it was weakened and had its back against a tree. He took his magically imbued staff and forced it into the beast’s maw, forcing its head back against the bark of the tree. Then, using all of his strength, he pushed it through the back of the thing’s head and wrenched the staff upward, splitting the skull open down the middle. The arthropod slumped over, dead, its head now divided down the middle with thick, black ichor pouring out.

The party ran over to the wood elf where he stood next to the body, but as they approached, he collapsed.

Daran Edermath hurried over to the group, and it was at this point they noticed the crowd that had formed at the edge of town. Everyone must have witnessed the last moments of the fight, and therefore seen the heroes’ bravery.

Daran urged the party to take the elf, who was clearly exhausted and had fallen into a coma, back to the inn. The sun had set, and the group was worn out, so they readily agreed.

However, as they sat around the inn enjoying a few drinks and the praise of the townspeople, they couldn’t take their minds off of the elf passed out in one of the rooms.

Who was he? Why had he come to Tumbledale? What did he know about that group of goblinoids? Or the giant insectoid, for that matter? All troubling questions, with no answers…at least, not until he woke up…

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Session 4 - Killing the Cragmaw
Lighting a Fire Under His Ass!

If It Wasn’t for the Wolf, That Would Have Worked
Leaving the others at the entrance to Klarg’s chambers without saying a word, Rask began to sneak into the room, hoping to get to the back unnoticed where he might have a useful vantage point.

None of the goblinoids in the room had a clue he was even there…Until Klarg’s pet wolf, Ripper, began to growl. Following its gaze, Klarg noticed the halfling attempting to creep through the room, and immediately called out.

Seeing that the whole plan (if you could call what was carried out a plan) was going to Hell, the rest of the party charged into the room, getting the drop on Klarg, a massive bugbear, and the goblins.

Torbjorn and Adeline immediately engaged the goblins, hoping to thin the numbers before the battle began in earnest, but with limited success.

The wolf was able respond to the new arrivals, and launched itself at the foe who was now closest, Torbjorn. It was able to sink its teeth into his flesh, but the dwarf cast off the wolf with little effort, and was not dragged to the ground by its vicious jaws.

Aurora tried to stay out of the fray, but entered the room enough to cast firebolt at Klarg, singing his skin and causing him to roar in pain. Dominique also decided to remain outside of the room, and instead played an inspiring battle song on his lute for support.

The two goblins were dispatched without too much trouble, but it took both Torbjorn’s greataxe and Adeline’s longbow to take down the wolf. By this time, Klarg had set his sights on the spellcaster, and was approaching Aurora with his enormous mace held high.

Damsel in Distress
His first blow missed, striking the cave wall above Aurora’s head and causing a shower of rock and gravel to rain down on her. Terrified, she fired back with another firebolt, striking him at close range and slowing his approach, just slightly.

By now, the other members of the group had finished with the rest of the enemies and were turning on Klarg, but they were not fast enough. Klarg’s second swing struck true, slamming into Aurora and knocking her unconscious.

Seeing a pretty lady in trouble, Dominique ran into the fight and cast cure wounds, healing her and bring her back to consciousness.

As Aurora rose to her feet, she saw that Klarg’s back was to her as he was locked in single combat with Torbjorn. She fought through exhaustion and fear, mustering all of her arcane strength into one last firebolt.

The ball of fire found its mark, striking the bugbear directly in the rump and causing him to crumple forward in pain. As his ass set fire, Klarg let out a giant sigh before passing away.

The Spoils of War
The adventurers looted the chamber, finding a decent haul in Klarg’s personal stash. They also stumbled upon numerous crates of supplies, clearly stolen from a caravan and marked with the symbol of the Lionshield Coster. Torbjorn replenished his supply of rope from the stolen goods, and crudely hacked off the pelt of Ripper, Klarg’s pet wolf, before everyone returned to the chamber where they had left Sildar Hallwinter.

Sildar was beginning to come around, and the party wasted no time extracting information from him. He verified that he and Gundren were ambushed on the road by goblins, and also confirmed what Yeemik said: that Gundren had been taken to some place named Cragmaw Castle, but he did not know where it was located.

Badly in need of medical attention, Sildar urged the party to escort him to Tumbledale, promising to secure a loan and pay them 10GP a piece upon arrival.

As they made their way out of the cave, the party noticed that the goblin hostage they tied up earlier had managed to chew through his ropes and escape. The group wasn’t concerned at all, though Torbjorn was a little upset that a goblin got away before he could murder it…

And so the party made their way back to the wagon of supplies and continued on to Tumbledale.

Arriving close to sunset, most businesses were in the process of closing by the time the adventurers got to Tumbledale. However, Rask and Torbjorn stopped at Barthen’s Provisions to deliver the wagonload of supplies while the rest of the party continued on to Stonehill Inn to secure lodging for the night.

After a brief, halfhearted attempt to convince Elmar Barthen to pay them more than the agreed upon amount, Rask and Torbjorn collected their payment and joined up with their companions at Stonehill Inn. The rest of the night was spent having a few flagons of ale, talking with the local townspeople, and listening to Dominique compose his new song, “The Wrath of Torbjorn Goblinsbane.”

New in Town
Aurora was the first to wake up, and managed to catch the first eastbound wagon out of town. She had let the party know of her intentions to leave the night before. Her close brush with death in the Cragmaw Hideout made her realize that the life of an adventurer was too perilous, and that he only real desire was to be with her lover, the heir to a rival kingdom. She set out to continue her journey to him.

The rest of the party spent most of the next day running errands around town.

Rask woke up early and stopped at the Shrine of Luck. He spoke briefly with Sister Lia and left a small, but appreciated, offering to Tymora.

Adeline visited Alderleaf Farm and spoke with its owner, Qelline Alderleaf. They shared a brief, but friendly, exchange before Adeline took her leave. Qelline noted that nothing was asked of her, and that Adeline had come to the farm for nothing more than a good-natured chat. She offered her assistance anyway, and welcomed Adeline back anytime.

When Torbjorn finally woke up, he found Rask and they started about town.

The first stop was at the Lionshield Coster, the trading outpost they had learned was the only place in town to buy weapons. Their transaction with Linene Graywind was much more amicable than the one from the previous night, and they ended up selling some goods they had found, as well as replenishing their supply of arrows.

Rask and Torbjorn also made mention of Linene’s stolen goods, currently sitting in Cragmaw hideout a half day’s ride away. There was some brief teasing of the information, but when Torbjorn and Rask learned that she was willing to pay for the information they gave her the approximate location, and even drew a crude map.

They also spoke of the Redbrands, a local gang of ruffians that were the talk of the tavern last night, and the trouble they had been causing around town. Linene told the two adventurers that a man named Thel Dendrar was murdered in the streets by the Redbrands, not even a tenday ago. They were making advances on his wife and he stood up to them, so they slay him where he stood. The body was taken away, and later that night his wife and two children went missing as well.

After receiving this harrowing news, Rask and Torbjorn left the shop and continued on to the Townmaster’s Hall. There they ran into Harbin Wester, the current townmaster, who questioned them about their business in town. Rask and Torbjorn could tell Harbin was a pompous fool, and decided to not even pay him the respect of an answer. If he wasn’t such a coward he may have been offended, but instead he just retreated to his office, claiming there was work to do.

They found Sildar in an office near the front of the building. It was being used as a storeroom, but he had already set about making some young employees clear the place out for his use.

He greeted the adventurers warmly and quickly paid them the agreed upon amount for escorting him to town. They hung around and spoke for a while. Sildar urged them to continue their search for Gundren, and find someway to locate this Cragmaw Castle that the goblins had spoken of. He also asked the adventurers to keep an eye out for his companion, Iarno Albrek, a fellow Lords’ Alliance member who had come to town a few months before to set up a constabulary. Word about town was that he had gone out to explore the woods near the Tresendar Manor, and hadn’t been seen since.

The adventurers left the Townmaster’s hall and went separate ways, agreeing to meet up later and investigate the local Redbrand hangout, The Sleeping Giant.

Torbjorn headed to the smithy and paid the owner to let him use the facilities. He took the wolf pelt, which he had collected from Klarg’s pet yesterday, and began to fashion it into a wearable cloak. He had botched a lot of the pelt when he sawed it from the body, but with some fabric and leather he was able to piece together a very warm-looking piece of clothing.

Adeline had spent the morning talking to the squirrels on the town green, and ended up losing track of time. She spent most of the morning communing with nature in the nearby area, becoming familiar with the terrain and its inhabitants.

Rask decided to head to the orchard on the northwestern side of town. One of the locals he spoke with the night before told him that the old half-elf who owned it, Daran Edermath, was a retired adventurer, and he was eager to hear his story. As Rask approached the house near the orchard, he could see Daran sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, enjoying the sunset.

As the two greeted one another, the ground trembled, ever so slightly.

No one was able to even percept the tremor, but it was growing closer, so they would certainly feel it before long…

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Session 3 - No Such Thing as a Trustworthy Goblin
Or, The Gang Does Diplomacy...

Tact or Tactics
After recuperating in the wolf den, the party gathered their things and proceeded to travel further into the cave.

Rather than travel up the low path that had battered them with multiple deluges of water, the adventurers scaled the walls and climbed upon the bridge overhead. They decided to explore the path on the opposite side of the cavern from where the goblins attacked, hoping to find something other than more goblins.

However, their prayers were not answered, as they stumbled upon a large room full of goblins, and one of them was holding Sildar Hallwinter hostage.

“Truce! I’m willing to negotiate for the human’s release!” the goblin said. His robes identified him as a leader of sorts, and he soon confirmed as much to the party.

He called himself Yeemik, and claimed to be the second-in-command of the goblins in Cragmaw Hideout, after Klarg. Yet, he was not satisfied with his position, and told the party that, if they killed Klarg and let him take over the tribe, he would let them leave the cave alive, and with Sildar.

The group held a quick discussion in front of the goblins, weighing the pros and cons of slaughtering the goblins versus doing what they asked. They also deliberated loudly about whether Yeemik could be trusted or not. Eventually he got fed up of listening to them bicker, and urged them to make a decision before he changed his mind.

Woman of Inaction
At this point, the adventurers went with the plan that involved killing everything in the cave, and Aurora got the jump on them by casting sleep, putting a handful of goblins, as well as Sildar, into a slumber instantly.

Yeemik tossed Sildar from his vantage point at the edge of a ten-foot ledge, knocking the man unconscious and leaving him dying in the middle of the battlefield, before engaging the party in combat.

An uncoordinated and awkward fight later, Yeemik lay dead, Sildar was stabilized, and the four goblins that weren’t killed in the fighting were alive but tied up.

Knowing that Klarg was somewhere else in the cave, Rask suggested that he take Dominique and scout ahead. Torbjorn was reluctant, as he still didn’t trust the bard, but agreed in the end.

Rask and Dominique made their way through the cave, finding the emptied pools of water that were used to make the trap they encountered earlier. In that same room, they came upon the entrance to a chamber with a small fire burning in the center. Angered voices were quietly issuing commands, and the sounds of movement and shuffling were coming from within.

Just a Spot of Goblin Murder
Rask sent Dominique back to gather the party while he stayed and continued to observe. When he arrived, Aurora and Torbjorn were mercilessly murdering the tied up goblins, using them as target practice for their spells and axes.

Once the goblins were all dead and the air smelt of charred flesh, they pinned a handwritten note to Sildar’s chest, in case he woke up while they were gone, and set out to join up with Rask.

As soon as the party was reunited outside of the lighted chamber, Rask, without saying a word to the group, brazenly attempted to sneak into the room.

The three goblinoid occupants were completely unaware of his presence…until Klarg’s pet wolf began to growl…

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Session 2 - Into Cragmaw Hideout
Now with more bard!

The Half-Elf in the Room
With the party congregated in a clearing outside of the entrance to Cragmaw Hideout, a dank and dark cave set into the side of a hill, they had to discuss what to do with the half-elf that was apparently following them. He introduced himself as Dominique Pendragon, a bard from the city of Silverwilde, and claimed that he overheard Gundren talking about his discovery and the group he hired to escort his wagon south to Tumbledale. Sensing an adventure worthy of a song, he tailed the adventurers all the way south, hoping to write great deeds of their exploits that will make him famous.

The party was understandably skeptical of the new arrival and proceeded to interrogate him, with Torbjorn doing most of the actual questioning. They determined that he was mostly harmless and kind of a little bumbling, but because he stalked them for the last few days without introducing himself they were not ready to trust him just yet.

However, all talk of trust and deception ended abruptly as the adventurers were peppered with arrows once more. A pair of goblin lookouts were hidden among the trees across the clearing, and had noticed the party while they were standing in the clearing arguing. The trees and brush provided thick cover but Adeline, the halfling ranger, had no trouble traversing the difficult terrain to line up another headshot, and both goblins were dispatched without too much trouble.

Once the scuffle was over, the party’s goblin hostage pleaded for his release, a promise that the adventurers had made in exchange for being shown the way. Knowing that leading the party to the Cragmaw Hideout would be considered a betrayal by the rest of his tribe, he begged for the party to let him go so that he could run away in time to escape any retribution. The group decided to tie him to a tree instead, and they left him there as they proceeded to enter the cave.

Darkness, My Friend
The party entered the cave cautiously, as there were no light sources within and Torbjorn was the only member with darkvision. Just within the entrance to the cave was a small room housing three wolves chained to a stalagmite. The sight of the party whipped them into a frenzy, and they started pulling at their chains in an effort to attack the strangers. As the group discussed how to best deal with the animals, the piton holding the chains to the stalagmite started to come free, loosened by the wolves’ violent attempts to get to the party. Adeline quickly entered the room and approached the alpha, calming it with a firm touch and a few soft words. The beast would not have been considered friendly, by any definition of the word, but he retreated to a corner of the cave with his two companions. They eyed the party warily, but were no longer a threat.

Continuing down the passage, Torbjorn was able to spot a goblin lookout on top of a wooden bridge that ran across the path about twenty feet up. It appeared to be slinking away, so the dwarf took out his handaxe and attempted to stop it before it could escape. However, he missed. He relayed what he saw to the rest of the party, and they stopped for a minute to talk about what their options were. Unfortunately, a huge wall of water came rushing down the shallow stream that ran along the bottom of the cave, and Aurora was not able to hold on. She was washed away down the stream, back to the cave entrance, being bludgeoned against the rocks on her way down. The rest of the party collected themselves, and then sat down and waited for her to pick herself back up and return to them. Torbjorn took this opportunity to smoke a pipe while he waited for the human.

As soon as Aurora rejoined the group, a second rush of water came down the tunnel. However, this time everyone in the party was able to hold on.

Hesitant to travel up the main causeway any further, the halflings took the time to explore a side passage that looked like a collapsed old pathway. The escarpment was not difficult to scale, but the weight of more than one halfling caused the rubble to shift, and Adeline was injured as she fell back to the rock below.

Death From Above
Torbjorn was now adamant about avoiding the side passage, and instead decided to scale the walls and climb on to the bridge where he originally saw the goblin lookout. When he got to the top and looked down the tunnel where the lookout escaped, he came face-to-face with the goblin lookout, creeping back to his position on the bridge to see if the adventurers had been defeated by their water trap.

What followed was an awkward and clumsy fight in a cramped hallway between Torbjorn, three goblins, and eventually Rask and Adeline. Aurora provided light with her dancing lights spell, but most of the party was still unable to hit anything, and were constantly pushing each other out of the way to get within attack range. Adeline and Torbjorn were eventually able to dispatch the goblins in the hall, but another had begun to charge down the main tunnel towards Aurora. Dominique was able to step in and stall the goblin with his rapier, but their attacker was still approaching.

As the goblin passed beneath the bridge, Rask vaulted off, bringing his dagger down into the base of the it’s spine, silently breaking his fall and killing it instantly.

By now the party had become quite weary. After agreeing to take a short rest and recover before pressing on into the darkened cavern, they returned to the cave that served as a kennel for the wolves, leaving the goblin bodies wherever they had fallen.

The creatures were initially not thrilled to see the adventurers again, but one look from the ranger and they went back to not caring. The party hunkered down and tended to their wounds. They tried to get some rest, but it was difficult with the sound of frantic voices drifting down the chimney shaft in this area. They couldn’t understand the words, but the urgency in these voices made the situation very clear…

The rest of the cave was now expecting them…

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