The Journey begins
It was an unseasonably cold day in Bardivik when a pair of unlikely companions came through the main gate. Urgblatt Ropebelt, who spent his formative years in the region, had been contracted by the mysterious swordhand and bounty hunter, known only as Hastur, to guide him into this untamed area of southern Ergoth. Hastur, a monster hunter by trade, came seeking to take advantage of the dark developments in the Slumber Hills. The locals will embrace this cleansing force, as the hills surrounding Bardivik are not safe, but will they welcome him as his condition progresses? It has only been a few weeks since his battle in the swamps of the Evermoors. A darkness grows in him unbeknownst to his companions.
Using his guide, Urgblatt and Hastur made contact with an agent of The Silent Rain in the Swinging Sword Inn. Kaylessa Irkell, the most beautiful maiden in the region, has successfully ran one of the premier Inns in the area and fought off countless suitors in the process. She has heard of many tales about fogs that persist in the Slumber Hills even in bright sunlight, and sudden gusts of hot wind sweeping east out of the hills where breezes have always been cold. There have been far more violent sights as well she says. Stabs of lightning from the hills into the clear sky. She calls it Fell Magic.
Kaylessa points the adventurers towards the Master Stone Mason, Gaelkur Stonefist down in the quarry and the local constable, Harburk Tuthmarillar at the town center as people who could possibly give capable people lucrative tasks.
As the pair neared the quarry outside of town there was a labor strike halting process on weeks of backed up orders. As Hastur and Urgblatt walked up, they called out to Gaelkur for some of his time. This incited some of the workers that felt as if they weren’t being heard and tensions began to rise. Three of the labor organizers began to take an aggressive posture towards our pair of heroes. This was quickly brought to an abrupt end by a passing glance from the lumbering barbarian. Gaelkur recounted the dark tidings of mysterious masked figures that could be seen watching the workers shape stone by night, and tools used in the quarry dulling out long before they should. “Every new vein that we try to cut has been the same. The tools would last 5-8weeks before needing a good sharpening. Now they last a couple of hours,” the mason complained.
Because of this the Bardivik Stoneworks was weeks behind schedule and bleeding away gold daily. Gaelkur went on to tell the companions that supply trains haven’t been coming down the Long road from the north. He needs fresh tools and fresh meat from these caravans to push forward.
Reports have been mixed as to the cause of the issues, but Gaelkur recounts a few rumors. Several Bardivik shepherds have seen strange figures watching them from distant hillsides in the fields northwest of town. Shallow graves were seen on a hillside next to a lone oak tree. On the trunk of the tree there was an old weathered skull affixed by a long black arrow through one of the eye sockets.
Gaelkur asks if they can help reestablish the trade routes and get something or some one to fix the tools in the quarry. He had heard that there was a monk from the fabled Order of Silent Fury in Bardivik and hoped maybe he could help with the degraded metal of his tools. He was unable to contact the monk but asked if the two would help him get in contact with the monk, he would give them the location of the Bloody Treasure of Sleepy Hole.
The Good Constable
The pair headed to the town center to track down the constable for additional jobs. Upon arrival they met the busiest man in Bardivik. With the hallmark stoicism and guarded nature inherent to his office, Harburk greeted the companions and got down to business. He spoke of bandit assaults along the road south of town. He could point to a few bends in the road where they are likely launching attacks, but he had been unable to venture outside the walls due to the issues within the walls that held his attention. Harburk is the city butcher, judge, and police force. He works fairly cooperatively with the Elder Council of Bardivik, the legislative body that drafts trade rules and laws for the region. He reported that many caravans that have been arriving with guards looking like porcupines or pin cushions based on the arrow wounds they received on the southern Long Road. His concern was building as a prominent regional noble, who lives in Wyley, had purchased a champion boar from Caerphy and was expecting delivery soon. According to local trade laws, Nobles, who patronize regional law enforcement, can expect recompense if their goods are sacked by bandits under the watch of local sheriffs and constables. The wagon with the boar was due to Bardivik over 5 days ago.
When asked about some of the rumors around town, the Constable laughed off hokey religious fools needing to use magic to explain what goes bump in the night. It was clear that until the pair could prove themselves, Harburk wouldn’t air the dirty laundry of Bardivik. Urgblatt and Hastur took their leave and headed to the Swinging Sword Inn.
The Party Grows
As they entered the Inn for a quick refreshing drink and to validate some rumors with Kaylessa, Urgblatt and Hastur approached a pair of monks that was still seated in the common area. Ślepy Zemsta and Filbertina Fizzlebits couldn’t have personified two more drastically different approaches to monastic disciplines. Filbertina’s vocal evangelization was balanced by Ślepy’s measured attunement to his environment. The pair sat alone at a table being well taken care of by Kaylessa who had a soft spot for any adventurer that could bring stability to the area.
Urgblatt bluntly asked the monks if they were up for a job. Hastur providing some color to the arrangement proposal explained the happenings in the area and what they were seeking to accomplish. The monks had their interest piqued, Filbertina for the altruistic opportunity to help the town and Ślepy for chance to journey into the wilderness for more knowledge. As the four collected themselves, they made preparations and departed as the town was winding down from a hard days labor.
Bear and Bows
The party took position on a hillside that evening where they had clear observation of the southern approach to Bardivik. After the sun had set they saw the slight flicker of light against a stone outcropping. As they moved closer to investigate, randy songs of maidens losing their virtue, feasts fit for kings, and the promises of riches filled the air. The smell of succulent salted pork filled the nostrils of the adventurers. They saw a well appointed wagon with a cell atop it. The heroes had found the caravan, but there was no prized boar. There were four individuals seated around the fire in front of a shallow cave entrance singing and performing maintenance on their equipment.
Almost defying all logic the blind monk, Ślepy Zemsta, deftly and silently bounded through the woods to flank the bandits. Filbertina, new to adventuring, saw what the other monk was doing and tried to mirror his movements on the other end of the clearing. As she made her way through the brush she got caught up in some shrubs. As she wrenched her way free, the stealth they enjoyed was shattered. The songs stopped and the bandits looked around trying to locate the disturbance. Luckily for Filbertina, her dimmunitive stature hid her in the brush.
Hastur felt prompted to action and entered the clearing with his arms held wide. As the bandits armed themselves and knocked arrows, Ślepy scaled the wagon and noticed that there was no boar in the cell, but rather it contained a large black bear. The bear was voraciously hungry and fought to free itself to get ahold of the fresh cooked meat around the fire. Arrows were launched at Hastur and the combat began. Hastur, Urgblatt, and Filbertina surged forth into the scamble. Deftly Ślepy unlatched the cell containing the bear, unleashing it on the unsuspecting bandit line. A firesoul genasi, the bandit leader, was trying to organize a counter attack when through the campfire a whirling hand axe, deftly thrown by Urgblatt, logged itself in the now dead leader’s skull. The bear began to savage the bandits breaking their resolve and throwing their defense into confusion, Sensing the turmoil, Ślepy pounced down from the wagon and using his three part chain staff wrapped the weapon around the neck of the bandit and kicked, with an unworldly power, popping the head off the ruffian with measured precision.
As the bandits fell, the party then had to focus their attention on the black bear, now eyeing them as part threat and part dinner. Bravely, Filbertina launched towards the bear inspiring the rest of the company to follow. In the end the bear was felled into the fire and Filbertina, lay motionless on the ground. The party was able to care for their companion and search the premises. They found the pedigree papers for the boar and the cache of various spoils from the bandits’ month of marauding. Of note a pair of extremely ancient coins were present. Urgblatt correctly identified the origin of the coins as being dwarven, but the writing looked extremely primitive and ancient.
Never one to think of herself, Filbertina passed by coins, gems, and weapons to claim her share of the haul, two bags of grain. She then quoted, or misquoted, the party wasn’t sure, a passage from her monastic measure about helping others, grabbed the bags, and began the arduous trek back to Bardivik. After the group consolidated the bodies of the bandits they hastily buried them and followed Filbertina back.
Upon the return to Bardivik, the party was relieved to be in the safe embrace of civilization. They went their separate ways to rest and conduct their affairs. Urgblatt and Hastur retired to rest and prepare their next move. Ślepy, smelling the soot and grease in the kitchen, quickly understood why the menu in the common area of the Swinging Sword Inn was so basic. What Kaylessa had in looks she didn’t have in basic culinary knowledge or even firefighting skill. Bardivik’s volunteer fire brigade didn’t seem to mind however, as each one would fight to rush in and smother her kitchen fires in the hopes of winning her favor. For the price of a kiss on the cheek and the hope of something more, these men would put the fires out and help rebuild. Ślepy was able to teach her how to smother out the grease fires and even showed her some basic dishes she could prepare with local supplies. Filbertina, without medical attention or rest, took her grains down to the All Faiths Shrine to find some poor households in need of charity. She found a house where two sisters lived with their families. Both their husbands had ventured forth to escort a supply caravan from Maycey Tower in the northwest back home to Bardivik. The grain was well received and Filbertina was welcomed to stay for rest and a meager meal.
Day Two: Troubles in Bardivik
The party spent their morning relaxing, and soon assembled to go report to Constable Harburk. On the walk over there was a hot wind gusting from the northwest that seemed to demoralize the town and keep many indoors. Upon arrival at the constables office, pleasantries were exchanged and the party began to report. His reaction to them bringing the pedigree papers to him, but no priceless boar, wasn’t at all what they expected. Harburk questioned the adventurers at length to ascertain if they gave a trustworthy account or if they had taken the boar for themselves. Hastur, was able to recount the furious melee from the night before, enrapturing the constable in the tale he wove. The party could see the tipping point with the lawman/butcher when he fully trusted them and knew them to be assets to his struggle for law and order in Bardivik. The constable told them that if they needed to unload some of the wears they pick up from the slain bandits that they should go see the blacksmith of Bardivik, Eldras Tantur. A well respected member of the community, Eldras was known for his knowledge of rare metals and kept to the ancient ways of smithing. The party took their leave and headed to the smith.
Upon reaching the smith, the party made introductions and told Eldras about the referral from the constable. Eldras said he wouldn’t be sad to know the bandit threat to the south was taken care of, but he didn’t mind the surplus of arrowheads he was getting from the wagons that came in for repair. Seeing that the assembled group was of quality, Eldras chose to disclose some information about an old tomb to the west of town during the business dealings. His two daughters were out picking berries in the lowlands near the tombs. In the old days the druids of the Emerald Circle would got out and sing magical songs to honor the fallen heroes and lush plants and trees were a living reminder of the beauty of life tempered with the starkness of death. While the girls were playing and collecting near the stone door of the Tomb of Cormanth Orishaar, a hero of the moon elves that ended the Kinslayer Wars, a ghostly spectre surged forth from the back of the tomb towards them. Needless to say the girls came back empty handed and out of breath. Eldras asked the companions to investigate on his behalf and in return he would give them better prices on his services.
As the companions expanded the conversation to include the troubles outside of town they saw the weight of the subject pull Eldras down. They asked about why the constable was so worried about the south and didn’t seem to take heed to the troubles up north, specifically the lonely oak and the menacing token that was affixed to the trunk. Eldras told them that the constable believed only in the steel in his grasp, and anything remotely supernatural was scoffed off by the lawman/butcher. Eldras’ son told the party about coming across the graves north of town and seeing the masked men on the outskirts of town just watching as dusk fell. He spoke of seeing the skull affixed to the lonely oak. His courage had abandoned him as he sought to scale the hill top where the lonely oak took root. “Dark times,” was all he would repeat staring off into nothing.
Eldras offered a price break on the adventures’ gear if they would be willing to investigate and clean the area up. The companions seemed open to the idea and asked about healing wares to prepare them for the perilous trek into the wilderness. Eldras informed them of his wife Luruth who dabbled in alchemy. She had some medical kits for sale and the party took advantage of the deal.
Ghosts, Skulls, and Empty Caves
That evening after refitting the party left the gates headed north from Bardivik. A dense fog filled the lower areas and began to rise as they traveled. After a few hours the companions found themselves at the lonely oak. they lay in wait at the base of the hill in the treeline to investigate the travel patterns in the immediate vicinity. After a spell of time there was no activity so Ślepy quickly scaled the hill and reached the top. Using his hands as eyes, he found a very weathered smooth skull attached to the trunk. The rest of the party joined him up top and beheld the evil sight. Hastur pulled the arrow loose from the tree and felt a foreboding sense of unease wash over him. Just below the fletching of the arrow, which based on the black shaft and angled arrowhead was clearly Galdronian, was a dark colored parchment tied on. Hastur untied the missive and read aloud,
“A green skin’s mother leave me lie,
No rescue, not even a try,
The sins of the mother warrant this sign,
I will track you down,
Vengeance will be mine!
Urgblatt squinted in deep thought and pieced together that this dark omen must be meant for him. So much he didn’t know about his mother, and depending on who you spoke to was the version you would get. The dwarves of the Three Peaks considered Wax Ropebelt to be royalty and a hero that fought back the Blood Horde from the gates of the capital. In Eastern Galdron Wax was reviled as a murderous outlaw that turned on the Army of Galdron when the war against the Blood Horde was reaching its most taxing point. Then there was a third camp of witnesses that saw her astride the great dragon Tiamat as she sundered Ergoth. Who was right? Who could say for certain? Urgblatt knew how he felt in his heart and knew with the stubborn conviction of his dwarven foster family what the truth was.
With an unease that was hard to place, the party ventured forth to find the Bloody Treasure of Sleepy Hole. Again following their caution, the party crept up to conduct a reconnaissance of the cave. There they found a lone rock jutting over the hills. Within the rock face there was a cave on the inside that was about 3 feet wide and 15 feet tall. Water trickled down the front of the entrance and formed a very muddy landing in front. There were several sets of unique boot prints in the mud that walk all over the mud and some go in the cave.
As the party moved in the cave they could perceive a gentle pulsing of airflows, almost as if the cave the breathing. Fearing they had been misled into the cave of a great dragon, the cautiously turned the corner and found a collection of chests and trunks. Ślepy ventured forth trying to reach into the darkness with his attuned senses. As the party made their way forward to the center of the cave, a fluttering sound began to rapidly build. Ślepy began to face it as four stirges flew from the top of the cave down at the party. Urgblatt and Ślepy soon had stirges attached to them. The party counterattacked and soon the stirges were popping like flying blood bags.
Once the combat had subsided they found the treasure to be missing, but on the air the faint smell of jasmine cologne hung for only the most perceptive noses. Urgblatt knew that nobles from the south east around Kytson Castle wore the scent as a proof of station. The party tracked the scent and the tracks out of the cave and to the northwest seemingly going away from the scent’s origin. Ślepy and Hastur talked over the evidence and figured that the pilferers were likely a well dressed noble wearing the cologne and some well constructed boots along with several others of varying size in a type of sandals. They had likely removed the treasure a week or so ago and taken it northwest.
Undaunted, the party began to swing back towards Bardivik as the moon rose to its zenith. Early in the morning predawn hours, they finally made it to the lowlands to the west of town and found the area that Eldras had described. In a clearing around a sacred tomb two baskets of berries were strewn about. They closed in on the opening of the tomb to find the stone door ajar. After carefully examining the front face of the door they pushed it open. After the door budged for a few inches some metallic caps for wagon wheel axle rods crashed to the ground with a loud clang. Unbeknownst to the adventurers, In the tree line near by a pair of raiders trying to exhume to contents of the tomb were alerted to the transgression and readied themselves to investigate.
Once in the tomb Filbertina stayed back, not wanting to disturb the rest of any remains within. The rest of the party pushed forward deeper into the tomb. Hearing a harmonic humming inside his head, Ślepy was drawn forward to the other side of a large stone altar to some metallic candle stick holders. Hastur looking over the monk’s shoulder saw a metal that was brilliantly shinning, but still covered in layers of dust and cobwebs. Curious by nature when it comes to exotic metals, Ślepy reached out and grabbed the metal. In an instant a distant ding of a hammer and voices whispering became louder and more vibrant in the blind monk’s mind. As a reaction, Ślepy pulled back from the metal but then immediately grabbed it again. It was as if he was seeing the birth of the torch holder in his mind. He was captivated by the sight of the Elven blacksmith hammering and singing to the metal. The forge located high in the mountains overlooking a valley was well apportioned but clearly ancient.
Once free of the vision, Ślepy touched a large rusted steel door at the back of the tomb. A spectre then materialized before the party and bade them leave or die. This undead apparition seemed aggravated by Hastur’s presence. Could it be his affiliation with the Silent Rain? Perhaps something left over from his failed hunt of Belial? Or was it the result of disturbing the skull? Either way the focus of the spirit was squarely at Hastur. Filbertina backed away from the exchange and wanted nothing to do with the disturbance of the departed. The swordsman spectre spoke of being unable to protect his master in life, and he wouldn’t suffer any trespassers in death. The ghost then detected the presence of more living outside the tomb and asked the companions to go and address the issue. When they wouldn’t, he surged forth to the door, slamming the tomb closed. As the moonlight outside was shutout, the spectre cast a spell of holding on Filbertina for being innocent of the transgression and began his attack.
Filbertina locked in stasis was powerless to fight back. Hastur saw the ghost targeting him and rushed to the attack. Urgblatt and Ślepy forced the rusted door off its hinges and rushed into the burial chamber of Cormanth Orishaar. His tomb lay undisturbed for thousands of years, but that was about to change. The pair muscled the lid off as the sounds of combat resonated behind them. As the lid opened a magical blade sprang to life and attacked the two newly minted graverobbers. The pair were able to wrestle the blade back into the tomb and shut it in while they took care of the original threat. Once the spectre was dispatched, Filbertina was freed from her bonds and they huddled around the tomb trying to decide what to do with the magical blade. It was decided they would free it, grapple the blade, and then rush it outside the threshold of the tomb to try and render it inert. After a few perilous moments Urgblatt was able to grab the blade and run it outside the threshold. As it crossed the blade crumbled to dust before a visibly amazed Urgblatt and Filbertina.
That surprise was compounded when Filbertina was struck by surprise by a half-ogre’s giant club. She was rendered unconscious and on death’s doorstep with the savage blow. With a roar that seemed to shake the entire tomb, Urgblatt went on the attack. Hastur and Ślepy quickly came to aid the defense, but Urgblatt’s bloodlust knew no end. Before the party realized it, the pulpy remains of the two attackers piled on the ground and Urgblatt was bathing in their blood. The group nursed their fallen comrade back to consciousness and took this as a signal that they should return to Bardivik.
The dazed adventurers trudged their way back to Bardivik a little worse for the wear. For a second morning in a row the morning watch had to witness the battered and bloodied party triumphantly limp through the city gate. From that morning on tales began to percolate throughout the town that a group of quality was present, and perhaps that life around here could return to normal.