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.