TSM Update: Pleased to Meet You

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes made friends with some dwarves led by Uddar, priest of Berronar Truesilver. The dwarves had been trying for some time to get through the door leading to the Vault of the Throne. So far they have been unsuccessful. Uddar helped the heroes to identify the creatures heard the previous night clomping through the hallway: kor!

Uddar and crew had helped the heroes up in to the space above the hallway, and participated in the fight against the flameskull. The heroes had hoped to perhaps use the kor’s ability to teleport to pass through the door.

Their other new friend, Jermiah, who they had freed from the previously-explored vampire spawn lair, seemed to feel that the militiamen had it within themselves to open the door. Once the attempt to use the kor’s teleport ability seemed infeasible (or would take too long), the militimen, accompanied by their Segurian dwarf allies Strom and Throm, Jeremiah, Uddar and his three associates, the centaur Alamein and his ranger friend Attickus, the heroes all pushed on the door together…

“You strain, your party members sweating alongside. Dust and plaster fall into your hair. Your muscles burn, tendons stretch and threaten to snap. Your breath is hot and increasingly ragged against the cold stone of the door. Through gritted teeth you urge your allies on for one last push, and the door begins to creak and then with an audible crack and a rush of air, the door gives.

You find yourself blinking in the dim but seemingly omnipresent light of a great stone hall, in the grandest dwarven fashion. The themes that you have seen previously in Dol Seguria — on the forest door; in the spectacular entrance beyond the drawbridge; at the base of the stairs where the orc drummers pounded out their mysterious message — are all represented in this space. The stonework is exquisite, the carvings perfectly in tune with the natural color gradations of the marble, slate, granite and sandstone. The minutely intricate art of the stonemason’s craft converges through the walls and ceilings of the space on two enormous doors. Your back and shoulders still aching from prying open this far more modest door all but groan at the sight of this new obstacle.

Despite all of this grandeur, your eyes quickly settle on the floor before the colossal doors. A hundred, perhaps a thousand corpses repose in an angry and dismaying pile, at places five or six bodies high. Most are skeletal, though bits of dry flesh and desiccated clothing remain here and there. Some have been clearly dragged from the main mass and been gnawed clean. The majority, though, seem to still lie as they fell, in some forgotten day long past, in some horrible conflict or holocaust. Glancing along this dismal collection, you quickly realize that with only a handful of exceptions, while the skeletons seem to represent a great variety of races, dwarven corpses are glaringly absent.

The scene is simultaneously spectacular and spectacularly gruesome. As your brain attempts to take it all in, Strom beside you lets out a heart-rending groan of misery at this tableau, and, simultaneously Throm draws the longsword provided to him by Dmitrov from its well-oiled sheath, and in a single, effortless gesture,slices it through the neck of his brother, such that Strom’s head momentarily hovers in mid-air as his body, now beginning to fountain blood, slides sideways and collapses with a crunch to the flagstones, before the severed head itself thuds wetly alongside.
Throm now turns the shining sword, slick with the blood of his fellow inward. His intent is clear: he means to disembowel himself.
A scant instant before he can complete that task of self-mutilation, there is a flash and a pop and an odor of brimstone, and near the great doors, a foot or so before that hellish pile of deceased, two forms blink into view. One lavishly dressed, his longe blonde hair uncharacteristically unkempt, a smirk on his unshaven face, the other dressed in black robes, white paint on his face, his dark eyes red and manic. “Too late,” Segur says with some cheer to Throm.”

And that’s where we left our heroes.

TSM Update: That’s the Spirit!

IN OUR LAST SESSION…
… our hero Tovlakov, separated from the rest of the milita due to clumsiness and gravity, sought to find his way back to his militia friends. After tumbling into darkness, he had arrived at a wide passage with options to head back towards what seemed to be the orc drumming line the heroes had seen from Segur’s entrance to the lost mine,and another heading into darkness.

As he moved, Tovlakov ran into the wererat members of the local thieves group. Tovlakov met up with a stout holy warrior named Dmitrov, and together they vanquished some of the wererat menace, and following a hallway with many doors, they freed the priestess of Gond, Pearl who had been held captive here, as had Dmitrov.

Together they continued and eventually the hallway led through a heavy door spiked open and another wererat who the party dealt with. Beyond, a wide passage swept downwards, and a scaffolding, mounted to the near wall, led in a similar direction, but at a consistent height. Tovlakov and his new friends mounted the scaffold and followed it.

After some distance, the heroes observed that the scaffold led to a rough hole in a wall, with just the plank extended a few feet through the opening. Beyond suspended by ropes attached to pitons in the stone ceiling was a small crew of four of these curious grey dwarves, a member of which, it seemed, Dementia Lancaster had been, toiled, attempting to open a hole in the naked stone.

Far below, presumably at the base of the downward sloping passage the team had eschewed, was a small force of various races, urging the dwarves on.

Very quickly a shout arose and the dwarves attempted to surge back onto the scaffolding, chased, as it turned out, by a young adult dragon. The wyrm snatched up one of the dwarves, then quickly returned and made off with a second.

Tovlakov’s crew questioned these dwarves, who only spoke an ancient variant of the dwarven tongue. They indicated that they did this work because Zanzibar demanded it of them. They understood that they were supposed to cut an opening in the ceiling here that would lead to something known as the Vault of the Throne. That this Vault (or, more likely, the Throne) was what Zanzibar and his master or masters were truly seeking down here.

Tovlakov and crew, now with two dwarven additions, retreated. They deduced that the force at the foot of the sloping path would certainly send someone to encourage the dwarves to return to their work. Tovlakov and team set an ambush for this messenger, and managed to nab him, a runner, as it turned out.
Tovlakov just wanted to find his way back to his militiaman party. Through threats and intimidation, they convinced the runner to lead them to another hole that had been cut by the dwarves. This route lead, via an arching passage up a very steep staircase to a hole guarded by elven archers. The party overwhelmed the archers and then descended through the hole to a great dwarven promenade that the militia had previously navigated, lead at that time by the dwarven ghost Mudron Voon.

The party now was lead through this landscape by the grey dwarves, who by a direct passage delivered the party to the Guardian, the great, snake-like Naga who secured the massive doors leading to the bridge from which Tovlakov had stumbled.

The Naga healed the injured among the party and ultimately allowed them to pass:  all except Pearl and Dmitrov. “Only the living may pass,” the Naga pronounced, halting the progress of Tovlakov’s new friends. Tovlakov and the grey dwarves continued on.

The militiamen, having retreated to a previously expolored room as a temporary sanctuary, rested. During his watch, Norm heard a clumsy banging of several creatures passing through the outer hallway.

Once fully rested, as the militiamen emerged into the hallway once more, they discovered the sound of heavy chains moving. Attickus was asked to investigate. He proceed back down the passage towards the bridge, guessing that the sound was of the great chains that raised and lowered the drawbridge leading to this place. Attickus, then, came face-to-face with Tovlakov and his new grey dwarf friends.

TSM Update: How do you defeat a Centaur?

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes headed out for the lost Dwarven mine of Dol Seguria.  They were lead by Attickus, Lord Segur’s chosen guide.  They left Rankford on horseback, heading west into the King’s Wood.  Attickus indicated that he had been given a map by Segur, but that he didn’t know the exact location otherwise.  He was, he said, familiar with the King’s Wood and often works as a guide in that area.

The first day’s travel was fairly uneventful.  Near dark, Attickus led the militia into the wood north of the Road, and along a little-used trail to a forest cabin situated facing a cliff dropping off into the valley below.  A stout ladder had been firmly attached to the cliff face leading to an outcropping below, and a series of ladders leading, presumably, to the valley floor.

The heroes encamped.  Near midnight, the watch, Tovlakov and Norm’s familiar discovered that there seemed to be a man on the ladder, yelling that he had somehow become stuck.  His chest plate was stuck on a rung, he claimed.  After rousting the camp, and dismissing Attickus’ objections, Tovlakov descended the ladder, to discover that the creature stuck on the ladder was actually a centaur.

After helping the centaur, named Alamein free from the ladder, the party invited him to stay the night.  Alamein mentioned that he was an outcast from the resident centaur tribe.   The centaur was quite loquacious, and inquisitive.

Travelling on the next day, permitting Alamein to accompany the party, despite Attickus’ protestations, the party passed Fort Midway and Lord Segur’s residence.  Later, Attickus led the party on a meandering trail north into the woods, and eventually to a location with a precarious slope.

After struggling to descend the slope, the heroes arrived at a narrow stone stair leading to the quarry below.  The entrance to the mine, per the map, was located inside a stone structure near the foot of the stair.

Tovlakov, who had previously spotted some wordless communication between Attickus and Alamein.  At this point, he spotted it again and called them out on it.  Reluctantly, they agreed that they knew each other.  That they are friends, and that they had arranged to have Alamein “randomly” run into the party, both as a gauge of what kind of people these militia were (would they help a creature in need?) and as backup for Attickus should the party turn against him out in the wild.  Attickus had determined that the party seemed legitimately lawful and good-aligned.  He and Alamein would continue to accompany the party at least some distance into the mine.  Alamein, then transformed into a normal-seeming bipedal man in order to descend the stairs.  Asked if perhaps the centaur aspect had been an illusion all along, he claimed that he was a centaur, but one who could assume human form.  He hinted that it was this ability (perhaps passed down from his parents) that had caused he and his family to be cast out of the centaur herd — er, tribe.

The party navigated the stairs, and after Tovlakov defeated a stout lock on the blockhouse, entered it, and camped briefly while Alamein repaired his chest plate which had been severed at the leather joints when he had been “trapped” on the stairs.

Sounds of drumming, and perhaps more fell things came to the ears of our heroes, perched at this secret portal to a lost world.

TSM Update: Grand Opening

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes met, somewhat unexpectedly, with Lord Segur. He wanted to know if the militia intended to pursue the path they had previously discussed, back into the underground depths of Dol Seguria; the lost dwarven stronghold. He had brought with him a human ranger-type named Attickus who he proposed as a guide for the PCs.

Tovlakov showed Segur a remnant of baby clothing he’d diligently carried around with him since the first run-in with Dementia, the sight of which caused the count to break down in tears. He apparently had lost a son, Lukas, in child birth, approximately 18 years ago.

In preparation of heading out to the underground complex, a few things had to be wrapped up. Tim-Tom was left at the Warden’s Office, protected by the newly-restored defenses. Arrangements were made via Carly for food to be delivered to Tim-Tom daily.

Also, in an attempt to aid Seamus Finney and his men’s efforts to decipher the messages coming out of the War Wizards tower, Tia prepared a “message” to her superior for Kazuo to send out, via “secure means.” That same, unmodified message was to be brought via courier to the old farmhouse where the heroes had met Finney.

The gifted, then borrowed, then re-used draft horse that had been rescued from Dementia was returned.

Upon returning to Rankford proper, the heroes discovered that a new building had been constructed on the site of the former house of ill repute that Rekar had been given as the location to build his Wizard’s Tower. Instead, they found a local franchise of the Waterdeep stores Balthor’s Rare and Wonderous Treasurers. Apparently Rekar had been just an agent/advance scout who was paid to secure a location with appropriate rights for the franchise to be constructed.

While investigating the Balthor’s , the heroes were able to trade their mithril bars for some goods. Norm was able to purchase a Robe of Protection. As an afterthought, they purchased a Scroll of Resurrection, which included a bonus Scroll of Detect Magic. The Resurrection scroll was used to return life to the scattered remains of Dain.

Thus prepared, the heroes were to set out towards Dol Seguria, once again.

TSM Update: Some new friends, and one old one

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… Our heroes “fell” into the brigands’ trap, striding forthrightly into the old farmhouse to confront these highwaymen. Only to discover that they were waiting for the heroes, yes, but with the intention of making an arrangement. They met with Seamus Finney and his merry band. Seamus invited them to drinks and to discuss their proposal.

Finney suggested that he and his men would leave Rankford completely alone (his men would not enter the Warden’s jurisdiction) if they would likewise leave the north-south road (Calantar’s Way) to the brigands. Finney said that they required that rich merchants who travel on that road to pay a “tax” which he claimed that they then shared with the underrepresented people of his community.

Finney also said that he had information of interest to the heroes: the current whereabouts of Dementia Lancaster, the notorious Midwife. In return, he wanted help from the militia in that the new sage, Kazuo, was sending a number of official messages via courier, but they were somehow written in a script that the brigands could not decode. Could the heroes help? They agreed to try.

The evening proceeded with good food and a good deal of wine. The heroes were put up in a room in the old farmhouse for the night. In the morning there was coffee and bread and bacon, then they met up with their guide, the elf Eskin who had “warned” them at the Flailing Chicken of the dangers of the highwaymen ahead.

After traveling some 5 hours north of the farmhouse, the group came to the predicted intersection of a logging road and the Way. Eskin told the party to continue up the road and he would travel a ways north to see if anyone was following them. As the heroes turned west onto the logging road, they quickly ran into a horse-drawn wagon bearing down on them, driven by the dwarf Midwife herself.

The heroes scattered and attempted to attack Lancaster as she rushed past. Only Norm had any real success — his Sleep spell affected one of the horses, causing the wagon to careen out of control and smash into the trees lining the road, fully overturning.

The battle then ensued between the heroes and Lancaster, who immediately emerged from the dust roiled into a cloud around the site of the crash in the form of a stone giant. With one great plow of her massive club, she killed Dain, sending him (or at least some of his parts) thudding into a tree trunk 30 feet away.

Tovlakov, Norm and Tia then went toe-to-huge-toe with Dementia. Well, Norm never got that close, actually. Dementia rained a surprising number of those devastating club attacks on the heroes, dropping Tovlakov before long. After a bit, Eskin arrived, firing at Dementia with his longbow. Eventually, the significant damage that the Midwife incurred resulting from the crash, as well as blow and blast raining down on her from the heroes terminated her life.

Next session:

What’s in the wagon? What awaits our heroes in Dementia’s Hideout?

TSM Update: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Orcs and a little Sage

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

…Our heroes continued their march into the long-unexplored (?) depths of Dol Seguria. The defenses at the first, great intersection of passages were determined to be stout, indeed. As the heroes took out a second hobgoblin guard, he was able to send a general alarm. More alarms and organizing horn calls rained down on the militia.

The heroes began to descend the stairs. Norm threw a Sleep spell towards the gathered force of goblins and hobgoblins at the lower level, just as a hail of javelins came from that unit. A force of orcs (?) stomped forward, and in perfect unison slammed their interconnected shield to the stones; forming an impassable wall before the heroes.

Far more quickly than the militia could account, additional hobgoblin and goblin foes swarmed like blackbirds to the scene. Determining that a frontal assault on this joint force would not be successful, the heroes retreated. A gauntlet of zombies awaited them as they made for the great door. Dain attempted to scatter them, backed by the power of Ilmater, but the zombies seemed unaffected. The heroes, however, still managed to escape.

Upon arriving back in Rankford (escorted safely out of the King’s Wood to the Old Mill by the rangers of Azan), the heroes were told that the elves watching the town in their absence had been a bit… strict.

After a night’s rest, it was reported that a new sage had arrived at the War Wizards tower. Dain and Tia started off to meet this new individual while Tovlakov and Norm remained on duty.

TSM Update: Feed My Dog!

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… Our heroes delved further into the lost dwarven kingdom of Dol Seguria. Tovlakov sought to confirm that the elven ranger Jacoba “Jake” Marius was still waiting outside the entrance to the dwarven site. He was. After informing Jake that the fugitive (“Diedrich”) that Azan and his rangers had chased into the dwarven underground was dead, he agreed to leave the body somewhere that they could fetch it. Tovlakov returned to the inner sanctum of the dwarven complex, and the heroes searched the fugitive Diedrich. On him, they discovered that he had, among his weapons, a shiny metal ring and a leather item on a chain around his neck that Norm was able to determine had a faint Evocation magic about it. The heroes dragged Diedrich’s body through the entrance to the dwarven complex and closed the door.

The heroes then moved forward, deeper into the dwarven complex. The already wide, high-ceilinged passage widened further and the ceiling stretched even higher away. Stairs carved into the bare rock led up. The heroes climbed the stairs. They searched the first “apartment.” Dain smashed the door open. Inside he heard a weeping sound. He moved further in, down a short hallway to a front room, leading to a hallway which continued into a bedroom. Two balconies extended into the main hallway. Dain followed the sound of the weeping into the hallway leading to the bedroom.

A dwarven woman, glowing like an apparition, sat in a wooden chair, weeping about her “Baby,” her “pet.” When Dain approached, she complained that there was nothing to feed her dog. The dwarven woman looked up at Dain and he could see that half of her face had been gnawed away. A rumbling growl had been growing in the back room. Now the creature, an enormous, horse-sized dog with two heads charged. It was emaciated. Some of its flesh was missing from its limbs and belly. The dwarven ghost faded and disappeared.

The heroes fought the giant “dog.” Dain was able to block the hallway and absorb bite after slavering bite, while the rest of the party was able to attack with missile weapons and spells. Eventually, the party wore the creature down, and with one final blow from his war hammer, Dain dispatched the beast. It began to quickly decompose.

Searching the house, the party found a few items. Most interesting were mithril coins.

The heroes decided to rest in the house. During the rest, Tovlakov noticed a small mob of undead of various races shambling down the main corridor in the direction of the entrance used by the party.

After some recovery time, the heroes decided to continue to climb the stairs. Two more tiers of homes perched above the home they had stayed in. Above the third tier, a 10 foot wide catwalk hugged the wall, the ceiling still high above; painted to resemble some long lost night sky.

The heroes proceeded along the catwalk. After a few hundred feet, the long corridor emerged into an even wider space. The catwalk seemed to end at the point that, it seemed, a perpendicular corridor interjected the passage the heroes had so-far pursued. Stairs led down to the corridor, stairs guarded by a human-like beast — a hobgoblin. The hobgoblin fired at Tovlakov as he approached. As the heroes rushed up to engage the guardian, he continued to fire his bow. The party was able to take down the hobgoblin before he could alert others: Tia’s arrow entered the bell of the guardian’s signal horn and emerged from the back side of the hobgoblin’s skull. Perhaps he could now play a nice tune in Hell.

Other creatures seemed to be on duty at the intersection of passages. Where to go from here?

The Shining Mantle: Book Two

This evening is the Spring Equinox, Ches 19. Over 60 days have passed since the siege of Fort Midway.

The remnants of the gang of Mons Millmaster have been crushed by the militia of Rankford. Millmaster himself stood trial, with only the Druid of the Lords Wood, Ruddiger, absent and thus abstaining. Millmaster was found guilty of murder, coercion, burglary, theft, blackmail and imprisonment. He was publicly hanged. From him, you the militia have taken possession of a mysterious map.

This map has lead you to investigate unlabeled locations, including this abandoned farmhouse where you believe the notorious midwife Damentia Lancaster has holed up.

The criminal Latimer Eeger and his gang of thugs have taken up covert residence in the Wood where they harass those on the Starwater Road. The King’s Dragons, their numbers grown to ten or a dozen, try to keep the Road open and safe. They are lead by the recent arrival Gitta Lansik (hf).

The necromancer, known as Eyebite (also called Van Xeffan by Mons), is still at large. The druid Ruddiger has faded quietly into his wood.

Lord Segur, known as “The Count” by Gitta no longer routinely visits Rankford. However, the Dragons have made it clear that he is under their protection.

The great Wolf Fence now protects almost the entirety of the Collective. Ning Stagg (1/2m) is the Watchmaster in that region. Regular communication passes between the Collective and the Mitte via the Signal Tower.

In the Northern Heartland, the Signal Tower atop the Old Mill has been rekindled. Regular patrols control the road toward Mitte, captained by Watchmaster Gleamsilver.

The Ranger Azan and his wood elf clan have ruthlessly hunted and slain the elven allies of Marver.

The lumber mill has resumed business, under the leadership of Ilona Gleamsilver, Skank’s older sister.

The former Quarrymaster Mikis Lazaris (hm) has returned from retirement, now that the giant crab creatures have disappeared. The quarry once again produces tons of stone every week.

Shand’s baby was delivered safely, a health baby boy named Progress. He is known and celebrated by all of Rankford as the first child of the new era, “Prog”.

The population of the county of Seguria has swollen. The Taledo’s shipping business is non-stop. Many pass along the Starwater Road, east and west. A tall new inn is under construction. Venturer’s Vanguard is more prosperous than it has been in decades. A new bakery, The Hearthflower, purchased by Tulu Savimbi (1/2f) produces breads and baked goods unlike anything seen locally. Amos Boyce (hm) runs a moneylending shop of sudden prosperity built on the ruins of the old Ulric Scroll Foundry.

Dirac has returned to the War Wizards tower, but attends Rankford functions.

The former Temple of Gond is being rebuilt as a house of Ilmater. When Dain Skullcrusher is not available, it is staffed by a young priest freed from being held by Mons at the Saw Mill, Fujio Izumi.

The militia has uncovered and partially explored a tunnel network that criss-crosses the county. It extends in a ring around Mitte, with exits beneath the Watchtower, the former Madame Rolland’s brothel, Taledo’s and an incomplete tunnel connecting the ring to the Grey Wolf Inn. It is caved-in at various points, or incomplete, or made all but impassable due to the underground extent of Froggy Brook which feeds the fountain. It extends to the holding cells beneath the Warden’s Office to the east, to north of the Smokeworks and west to the quarry. A northwestern leg of the ankheg-dug tunnel stretches to unexplored reaches beneath the King’s Wood.

TSM Update: New Foes, Old Threats

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes, pursuing a clue from a crude map taken from Mons Millmaster, prior to his trial and execution, had arrived at an old abandoned farmstead, thinking that perhaps the runaway midwife Damentia Lancaster was holed up inside. The house and detached barn most recently belonged to the Albarado family, who once raised wheat and corn and ran a small distillery. The structures have fallen into significant disrepair. However, the heroes found that a twist of smoke rose from the chimney of the supposedly deserted house.

Having left Dain to stand watch, Norm, Tia and Tovlakov had arrived via horse. They dismounted and surrounded the house. Tia took the direct approach and pounded on the front door. There was the sound of movement inside, but not response. She shouldered the door open and found the dwarven midwife inside a room of decay and squalor. Dementia wore a long leather apron, splashed with fresh blood. Blood covered much of the floor. With a shriek, Dementia fled down the hallway, away from Tia, and, presumably towards Norm and Tovlakov perched outside the rear door.

However, the midwife turned right at the end of the hallway, eschewing the door. When Tia rounded the same corner in hot pursuit, she was met by a blow from an almost comically oversized wooden club wielded by Dementia. The fight, then was on.

Tovlakov battered down the back door. He and Tia faced the midwife head-on, while Norm kept a careful distance.

The midwife let out a great roar and grew until her head scraped the shabby ceiling. She had transformed into a giantess. The once oversized club was now wielded with great power. She moved nimbly as to be able to reach all three combatants. Dementia took repeated blows from Tia, from Tovlakov and enchanted missile attacks from Norm, but kept up the fight. Her great power was too much for Tovlakov, and even eventually took down Tia.

Faced with this seemingly unstoppable foe, Norm deployed his kruthik familiar, Fluffy, to try to draw her away while he used invisibility to avoid detection. Norm was able to drag his allies to safety and, meeting up with Fluffy on the road, they made their way back to Rankford Mitte.

Dain was able to restore the fallen camerades. The heroes discovered that they had returned with a somewhat cryptic log from the midwife’s lair. It listed familiar surnames, with dates, some followed by “boy”, some by “girl”, some by both words. Some of these were crossed out. Over drinks at Hugo Brewer’s place, they deduced that perhaps these were dates of baby deliveries, which indicated that some of the children, perhaps, had not survived. But maybe some of those declared dead… lived still?

A representative of Azan’s rangers arrived and reported that Azan hoped to meet with the heroes at the Old Mill in the Heartland. They assented.

Traveling to the Old Mill the following day, the heroes reflected on how relatively safe the roads around Rankford had become.

At the Old Mill, Azan informed the heroes that in their efforts to hunt down any surviving elven allies of Marver and Eeger, they had chased their quarry into an underground passage that led to what Azan believed to be an ancient entrance to the fabled lost dwarven kingdom

Azan agreed to provide some security in Rankford if the heroes would hunt down this escaped elven traitor. He asked that the elf be brought back alive.

The heroes were led to the wood’s edge and given instructions on how to proceed. They eventually met up with Azan’s sentry at the site of the recently discovered tunnel. A door was concealed in the earth behind a huge boulder.

The heroes made their way down the passage, beyond the disarmed traps about which they had been warned. And at the end of it, they discovered a seemingly ancient, ornate dwarven door. It contained runes of an ancient dwarven script, but the phrase “Dol Segur” was prominent.

Beyond the door, which opened easily with the Warden’s key in Tia’s possession, were a group of a half dozen shambling undead. The heroes were able to make fairly quick work of the zombies. In the dimness beyond the great door, they discovered the partially consumed body of an elf. Likely Azan’s quarry.

TSM Update: Hey, let’s leave town, what say?

IN OUR LAST SESSION…

… our heroes headed to the Warden’s Office, presumably so that the recently-minted Warden, Tia Berenger could examine her holdings. The trip out of town was uneventful. When the heroes arrived at the Warden’s building, a tall, single-story structure with exterior doors, north and south and south-facing windows, hewed from the native pine, they first established that there were no obvious traps within.

Having tied the horses up at the bridge just 100′ away, they ventured inside. The large brass key that they had taken from Marver, in fact opened the door (and every other locked door that they encountered), but clearly operated in a magical way. These locks, and the key, are not simply mechanical devices.

The ground floor contained Marver’s office space, a small waiting room, a kitchen, a map (?) room and stairs leading down. It seemed clear that the space had been recently ransacked, but presumably by someone or someones who knew where to look and what to grab. It did not appear that the place had been randomly sacked, more likely it had been carefully separated from its most valuable contents.

The basement contained the Warden’s bedroom, a privy, a stoutly-fortified armory, and stairs leading further down. After having searched these rooms and mostly discovered that the likely most valuable items had already been removed, including identifying the residue of magical items (weapons?) that had been, until recently, housed in the armory, the party considered the stairs leading down. Two things served to dissuade them from further investigation: Norm began to seem unfit in some way, and an odd skritching sound seemed to emerge from below. The party felt that the noise perhaps indicated that kruthiks might be found there. Norm was experiencing a splitting headache, and one eye turned red with blood.

Also on the basement level was a moldering pile of clothing and odd items. They seemed to be decaying clothes and artifacts of children, including those of very young children.

Returning to the first floor, the heroes effected a more thorough search, which turned up several letters between Cormyrean officials and Marver over recent months and years. Marver was, it seems, not held in high regard, and the area around Rankford (County Seguria, apparently) seemed notable mostly for suspicious happenings: high rates of infant death, disappearances of those on the Starwater Road and reports of burglary.

While combing through the disarray of the Warden’s Office, Norm wavered then collapsed. His head split open and an…. armored slug emerged. It slithered under his clothes, and when the heroes sought to capture or kill it, it pushed back into Norm via his navel.

Combining the pile of children’s belongings and the notes about infant mortality seemed to indicate that… something bad had been happening in the Rankford area for some years.

Avoiding the noises from the sub-basement, our heroes felt it was perhaps time to head back to town. As they approached, a concerning pillar of smoke was discovered to be emerging from the Mitte.

Arriving in town, the heroes found near-panic. Mons Millmaster and his minions had, it seems, waited for the heroes to leave town, then had started a fire at the Grey Wolf Inn, perhaps as a distraction, then emerged from within the Watchtower. The fought and killed Pearl and Stem, hanging their bodies, by way of threat, from the upper windows of the Watchtower. Lex Walters was injured but not killed. The Temple of Gond was burned down its bare structure. No hint of what may have happened to Fatbeak.

The fires were extinguished. Eventually, the heroes secured the entrances to the subterranean passes they were aware of in Mitte, at the Watchtower and at the Taledo’s.

Asking around, Carly was aware that there had been a number of infant deaths. She seemed to think that was normal. That the frontier was a dangerous place, and there had always been a high percentage of infant deaths. She named a half-dozen or so families who had lost infant children over the past 24 months.

Norm, after a full rest awakened. He reported that he understood that there was this creature inside him, and that was just fine. The creature was a hatchling kruthik, and would serve as his new familiar. And that, perhaps, he now might be able to communicate with other kruthiks, based on his bond with this one, which had presumably been implanted in him by the large adult kruthik that had confronted the party at Fort Midway.

The heroes seemed angered by the actions of Millmaster, and wanted revenge. However, they sought to shore up local defenses, and realized that there had been traditionally a method for the northern reaches of the Rankford environs, the Commune and Mitte all to communicate: via signal towers. They helped to refurbish the tower atop the Grey Wolf Inn. Two party members were sent to the Collective, to check-in and to re-establish the signal tower there. A protocol of watching and responding to “keep alive” messages was determined; at sunup, midday and sundown an “All OK” message would be sent. A few basic types of messages were agreed upon, including “Are you OK?”, “We need help,” “All OK,” and “Stay Away.”

The next step would be to reinstate the signal tower that used to exist atop the Old Mill. And perhaps, simultaneously, signal Azan the ranger to see what help he might provide.