|02/19/2004||04/01/1374 DR - 04/27/1374 DR|
The party spent time in Silverymoon. While they were going about their individual business around town, they learned about a spring faire being held in the town of Berlingford at the end of the month. (Berlingford was a small town located along the river to the northeast of the Moonwood.) There was talk of various contests held there each year, in particular a bards' contest and an open archery contest held on the last day of the faire, Greengrass, which drew contestants from all over the Silver Marches. The party resolved to attend the faire.
Kartoffl met a group of 4 dwarves who talked about the celebrations that the Sunites in town held each year on Greengrass. They wanted to avoid it at all cost, especially since a new cleric had just arrived -- their festivities would, no doubt, be evven more extravagant and disgusting.
Daria had a dinner meeting at Helmer's Wall with Dominique's brother, Tremayne, to catch up on things. He apologized for losing the note (about the party's search for Kathkallen's stolen contracts and missing journeyman) that she had sent a little while ago. He hoped that it was not important. She told him that the matter had been taken care of. When Daria told him of the party's plans to go to the Berlingford Spring Faire, he warned her to be careful of lycanthropes as he had heard that they had been causing trouble up there.
Kartoffl decided to leave for the fair early. He convinced his four new dwarven friends to leave with him and journey to visit Romai along the way. He arranged to meet the rest of the party near the Ash Temple in time to arrive the day before the fair started, 27 Tarsakh. At the mine, Kartoffl spent two weeks with Romai, now in charge of the guard. He also learned that Akara was now Romai's trusted captain of the guard.
The party was re-united at the crossroads near the Ash Temple. Together once again, they traveled to Berlingford for the fair. While on the road, Kartoffl's dwarven companions spoke of participating in the rock rocking contests on the third day of the fair. Their main objective really was the unofficial rock bowling contest where they tried to disturb as many log rollers in the river as possible with boulders that "managed to escape."
The dwarves also spoke of heckling the bards during their competition on Greengrass. They began heckling Daria for practice. Instead of getting upset, Daria regaled them with dwarven drinking songs in dwarven! This impressed the dwarves so much that they vowed not to heckle Daria, and counted her as an honorary dwarf. Of course, they still needed someone to practice their heckling on... Yassel volunteered, doing tumbling and stunts to entertain the dwarves.
The party arrived in Berlingford on 27 Tarsakh, the day before the fair was to start. They got rooms at the Boar's Head Inn. They then walked around town, getting acquainted with Berlingford and its inhabitants.
The people were talking about a "night stalker" who was preying upon women of ill repute in the town. The only reason all the prostitutes have not left was because the Spring Faire would be such a lucrative time for them. All the murdered women supposedly had been found at the edge of the forest covered with savage bites and claw marks, their mouths stuffed with mistletoe. There was also a rumor that claimed that a demon had been possessing local animals, causing them to attack their owners and others.
Yassel took it upon himself to speak to the mayor about the stories he had been hearing. While the mayor discounted the rumor about the demon, he did admit that there have been a series of murders in Berlingford. Yassel then offered the party's services to discreetly investigate the murders, an offer that the mayor accepted with Yassel's promise not to disrupt the fair. He offered the group 500 gp if they could uncover the culprit(s). If they stopped the attacks, he offered another 500 gp. Bringing in the head of the culprit(s) would earn the party still another 500 gp. In addition, he mentioned that there was a standing bounty on bandits and brigands at 25 gp per head.
The mayor did provide more information about the murders. There have been six murders so far with the first body being discovered 7 days ago. The last body was discovered 3 days ago. All of the bodies have been buried, but they were all examined by the High Cleric, Sebastian, at the shrine of Silvanus outside of town. The mayor volunteered to take the party to the locations where the bodies had been found when they were ready.
The party got back together and discussed what they knew about lycanthropy. They knew that lycanthropes change on the 3 days of the full moon. Some might be able to change at other times. Karotffl was able to recall that the use of a heal, wish, limited wish, or a miracle spell during the time of the full moon could cure a were-creature. Daria remembered hearing stories of belladonna being used to cure the malady if administered within a few hours of infection. Naturally, they knew that lycanthropes were vulnerable to silver.
The group then went to search for silver weapons amongst the merchants who had already set up shop for the faire. They were able to find 8 silver arrows and a silver short sword., which they purchased.
As they walked amongst the vendors, they met an old half-elven woman (a local) by the name of Lariya the Witch who sold herbs and potions at a small stall. She had a ready supply of belladonna for purchase. Kartoffl spoke with her about belladonna as a potential cure for lycanthropy. She was able to tell him details on how to administer the remedy. Kartoffl bought a supply of the herb as a precaution.
The party then sought out the mayor to tour the locations where the murder victims were found. They visited each site, but found nothing that was useful. The militia had trampled over the sites too much for any clues to be left.
had finished with the mayor, they journeyed out to the shrine of Silvanus
to see the high cleric, Sebastian. They introduced
themselves and explained their assignment from the mayor. They then
questioned him about the murders and what he had found on the victims bodies. He
confirmed that the bodies looked as if they had been attacked by wild animals. Their
mouths had indeed been stuffed with mistletoe. He also mentioned
that wolves were about the only predators native to the area except for
the occasional wild cat.
|02/26/2004||04/27/1374 DR - 04/28/1374 DR|
The party returned to Berlingford, and decided to search the walls of the town for wolf tracks. After inspecting the southern wall, they were unable to find any signs of them.
They next decided to split up and look into separate matters. Setara simply went shopping. Daria spent her time wandering throughout the town to get a feel for what shops were in the town, and which vendors setting up for the faire were local.
Eltairin spent his time trying to seek out information from the locals, and visited the permanent shops that were open. He saw many locals going about their business, buying staple/essential items. Unfortunately whenever he got close, they seemed to notice his presence (his being an outsider and most of the shoppers being female) and stop talking.
Yassel went back to see the mayor, but learned that he was dealing with merchants on the green, and that he could find him there. Instead of going to the green,Yassel went around speaking to locals about packs of wolves or wild dogs. No one seemed to think that they had been much of a problem until possibly these new attacks.
He also asked at the local tavern about prostitutes around town. He was told that (it being mid-afternoon the day before the faire) none were currently around. He should try again in the evening or tomorrow during the first day of the faire. They would surely be around then as those times would be very lucrative for them.
Kartoffl went back to Sebastian at the shrine of Silvanus to speak to him about lycanthropes. He told Kartoffl that lycanthropes were common in the Moonwood, but they did not usually have problems with them in Berlingford. The most common type that would be around would be a were-wolf. He also confirmed that the bite and claw wounds on the victims could have been made by a were-beast, in particular a were-wolf. He did reiterate that this did not prove that a were-creature was causing the attacks, nor was the any evidence of were-creatures operating around Berlingford.
Sebastian also told Kartoffl a little about a were-creature's transformation. They transform on the 3 nights of the full moon each month. Some were-beasts can change shape at will independent of the moon's cycle. This would require practice and the knowledge that they are were-creatures -- Many were-creatures do not realize that they change for several months if not years.
Thistle continued to inspect the walls and observe the traffic over them. He noted many regular routes used by locals, even the militia. He then searched areas away from those traffic areas where wild beasts might enter the town,centering mostly on the southeastern and northwestern sections as those were closest to the thickest forests. He was able to locate one area that had signs of wolf tracks, but track the animal very far.
That evening, the party regrouped to discuss what they had uncovered. After some discussion, they decided to use Daria as a decoy to try to lure the stalker into exposing itself in a section of the town likely to be vulnerable to attacks.
She disguised herself, with Setara's help, and then went out to walk the night. Both Thistle's and Setara's familiars stayed close by to communicate with the party. Yassel tailed her, maintaining visual contact throughout the night. Setara maintained a lone vigil by the window in one of the party's second floor room. The rest of the party waited at a table by the door in the Boar's Head Inn. Even though Daria patrolled for several hours, nothing happened that night (although she did get a few propositions when she was too near the Boar's Head). There were no attacks that evening in town.
The party slept in late (except for Kartoffl who awoke at his normal time to pray), joining the first day of the faire (28 Tarsakh) around lunch time. Many of the group immediately signed up for various contests that they wished to enter during the faire. Yassel signed up for the tart eating contest to be held that day, the pie eating contest to be held on the second day, and the log rolling contest on the third day. Kartoffl enrolled in the axe throwing contest and the stone rolling contest (which caused some uneasy looks from the attendant at the booth given the reputed conduct of many dwarves in that event in previous years). Eltairin and Thistle both signed up for the open and the restricted archery contests. Thistle also enrolled in the axe throwing contest. Daria entered the Battle of the Bards on Greengrass.
The party began to wander through the faire. Several hundred people crowded the green in the center of town. Many more booths were open with vendors of various types. Many of the permanent local shops were closed for the day as their workers were out enjoying the festivities. Street performers of all types could be found amongst the shoppers and merchants. Children got their faces painted while their mothers browsed the wares of traveling merchants from as far away as Athkatla. Several different stands and carts sold food and drink. Most operated under the sign of the Boar's Head Inn.
Yassel found one stand that was empty. A handsome young man was apologizing to the crowd, explaining that he was already sold out and that he'd have more items tomorrow. He promised that they would be as good as the druids had ever made. Yassel, not wanting to miss out, put down 10 gp pre-payment to be the first in line in the morning for an item. Surprisingly, Yassel never even bothered to inquire as to what he had purchased!
Kartoffl, Setara, and Daria encountered a ragged old man, preaching on the green. Only a few scattered people were listening to him at all. He waved about his arms and proclaimed loudly, "Repent! Nature's allies have turned against you! The woods are creeping closer! The weeping caverns are forgetful! It is cold and wet here!"
Kartoffl tried for a while to make sense out of what the preacher was saying to no avail. To Kartoffl's repeated questions, he only repeated his proclamation. The only thing of interest was that the preacher had black teeth.
Daria had wandered off from the preacher, and encountered a storyteller nearby. He told many tales which Daria was familiar with. In particular, he told the tale of Mollie McTynker, a legendary bandit that preyed on the region near Nesme almost 100 years ago. She always wore a black veil to hide her identity. The story spoke of her daring escapades and her narrow escapes from justice. It is said that her stronghold was at the site of an old abbey within the Evermoors close to that town. When the authorities finally caught up to her and overtook her stronghold, only a small fraction of her treasure was recovered. Legend has it that her lost treasure is still someplace in the abbey, waiting to be recovered.
Soon it was time for the tart eating contest. Yassel started strong, but after 10 tarts, he ran into trouble. Knowing that he would soon be eliminated, he tried to slip some tarts into his pack. Unfortunately, the judges caught him, and disqualified him. To be fair, no one was able to find the tarts within his pack (not surprising given its magical nature), but he was still disqualified. In the end, a halfling by the name of Brandle was able to defeat the heavy favorite, a rotund dwarf who went by the name Big Bernie.
Daria did not watch the contests. Instead, she sought out the trappers at the faire to listen for rumors. It was their belief that the recent attacks were the result of the druids punishing the town for some unknown offense. They noted that the druids had not shown up at all this year as they had on previous years.
After the remains
of the tart contest was cleaned away, it was time for the Restricted Archery
Contest. It was a close, hard fought
contest. In the end, both Thistle and Eltairin were narrowly edged out
by a dwarf of all creatures! Eltairin came in a close second, followed
by Thistle in third. There were loud cheers all around for the contestants.
Daria decided to entertain the crowds with her music. She found a spot near the Boar's Head Inn where she could perform. While playing, she tried to listen to conversations to see if she could get any new information, but mostly people were talking about things she already knew.
Suddenly, a pack of 6 large wolves began attacking near where Daria was playing. The wolves appeared to be feral and perhaps even diseased. The party quickly responded, and fought the wolves. Several townsfolk were attacked, and had to be saved; other townsfolk got in the way. Because of the party's quick action, only 2 townsfolk were killed, and many more were saved.
Baeran, the innkeeper of the Boar's Head, and Renaldo, the blacksmith, arrived just before the militia did. Both thanked the party for their quick action. Baeran offered the group free room and board for the remainder of their stay in Berlingford as thanks. Renaldo took care of speaking to the militia and dealt with the bodies.
Kartoffl examined the bodies of the wolves, and found that their teeth were black just like the deranged preacher they had seen on the green. He was able to discover that the wolves had been poisoned, but none of the poison seemed to remain in their bodies. He could not determine the nature of the poison, however.
Realizing that the party would need help in their investigations, Daria went to speak with Lariya. She discussed the situation and mentioned a possible connection between the wolves and the preacher. At first Lariya was reluctant to leave her stall on the first day of the faire, but Daria explained that she would only be missing an hour or so at the slowest time of the day and offered to compensate her for her time, which Lariya refused.
Lariya mentioned that it was too bad that the druids were not attending the fair this year. She always enjoyed trading with them and hearing news of the forest. She has not had contact with the Council of the Pines in several months, but suggested that Renaldo the blacksmith might have.
As for the animal attacks, she has not had any problems despite living in her forest home. The attacks seem to be centered on the town itself.
Daria next talked to Renaldo, and discussed their investigation. He answered some questions about the problems around town. He said that the faire is not the same this year without the druids. It always cheers the people to know that they have allies in the forest. He promptly dismissed rumors that the Council of Pines have abandoned the town.
The last he heard about the Council is that they had been investigating rumors of lycanthropes in the area. He has not been able to talk to them about it, but the attacks on travelers along the road and bodies found at the edge of the forest certainly point to something strange in the wilderness. Without the strong presence of the druids in the forest, the woods have likely become a haven for such enemies.
The group decided that the preacher was somehow involved, and he should be taken somewhere where he could be examined. They agreed that taking him to the shrine might be the best course of action. Thistle tried to sleep him, but the preacher was able to resist the spell. While Yassel was preparing a makeshift sap just in case, Eltairin walked up and commanded him to die. When the preacher fell over, the group promptly gagged him, tied him up, and carried him away to the applause of the nearby crowd.
They arrived at the shrine with the preacher and Lariya who accompanied the party. Sebastian and Lariya examined the preacher with help from Kartoffl and Setara. After almost an hour, they were able to identify blacktooth fungus as the cause of the poisoning.
Blacktooth fungus is a white shelf fungus with blackened edges that give it the appearance of having been scorched. The discs cling to cavern walls or trees in wet areas, and they smell like wet animal fur. If eaten, it produces nausea. It normally would not cause insanity. It was theorized by the party that the fungus were somehow purified or concentrated to cause such an effect.
When the group mentioned the weeping caverns that the preacher ranted about, Sebastian stated that if they found the cavern, they would find the fungus. Neither knew of any cavern nearby,much less one that would contain the fungus. They suggested that closer to the mountains one might be able to find such a cave.
The preacher's insanity could only be cured with a heal, wish, limited wish, or miracle spell. All of these were beyond Sebastian's ability to cast. The party had no choice but to leave the preacher in Sebastian's care when they returned to town.
The party used Yassel's dog, Rusty, to track the wolves back to their den in the woods. They searched the site, and found a few humanoid tracks nearby that were fairly fresh. Rusty was able to follow those tracks a short distance into the woods where he lost them. Much to the rest of the party's dismay, Yassel fed Rusty bits of wolf flesh and fur, and Rusty seemed to develop a taste for it.
The party returned to town, stopping off at Lariya's house to make sure that she was OK on the way. They arrived at the Boar's Head where Baeran promptly gave them a table despite the inn being crowded. (The 2 halflings who were displaced were given a table in the kitchen, much to their delight.)
While they ate, several people came and went. Yassel noticed that Charne arrived with 2 women. One of the women was a barmaid whom the party had seen the night before. The other was an acolyte at the shrine of Silvanus whom they'd seen at the shrine during their last visit there. They left together while the party was still eating.
The barmaid returned alone just as the group was finishing up. Tears were coming down her cheeks, and she looked disheveled. She worked her way over to Baeran with whom she had a brief private conversation.
Baeran summoned the group to a small private room where he and the barmaid could meet with them. Once they were assembled, Baeran asked Lucinda, the barmaid, to explain to the group what had happened, and asked the party for their aid in capturing her attackers..
She told them that she had left the inn with Charne and Shella, the acolyte of Silvanus. They were going to Charne's house where he said he had gifts for them. they were walking down a side road near his house when several cloaked men attacked them. Charne and Shella were dragged off into an alley. Lucinda managed to escape by biting the hand of a man who was choking her and running away. The party immediately agreed to help, and asked Lucinda to lead them back to the alley.
Once at the alley, the party searched the area thoroughly. They found signs of a recent struggle: some fresh blood and bits of ripped pieces of cloth. Yassel managed to find some scuffmarks of orange clay on the ground. They recalled seeing mud of similar color near the river. After they had finished searching, they sent Lucinda back to the inn.
As they started heading towards the river, Yassel noticed some motion about a about a block away. When the approached, they saw Charne nervously hauling a bag into his house. The party confronted him, and found him to be a shriveling, sniveling wreck. Daria, with Thistle's help intimidated him, forcing him to answer their questions. Setara silently cast a detect thoughts spell to make sure that he was no consciously hiding anything.
Charne tried to explain what had happened. They had been walking back to his house when they were attacked. He tried valiantly to fight back, but was overpowered and held fast. Charne did not know what happened to Lucinda as she was not dragged into the alley with the rest. Shella was dragged away, and then he was released. He ran home, not knowing what else to do.
The bag that he was hauling into the house was filled with wooden items from the druids. They had made arrangements with him to sell their stuff. He claimed that they were the finest quality.
The party then opened the bag to reveal several wooden items/tools. Most were made of cheap,soft wood such as pine and birch. They seemed to be solid, so the party detected magic on them. The items were magical, and Setara was able to identify the magic as transmutation. With a bit of thought, they realized that whoever cast the spell must have cast an ironwood spell on them. Charne would not believe any of this claiming that the tools were the finest, druid-made items, very high quality.
The party quickly realized that the magic would last only for a couple of days. These tools,bought in good faith by townsfolk, would then break. The townsfolk would then blame the druids. They realized that Charne was being used by whoever someone trying to discredit the druids.
response to questions, Charne revealed how he had come to be selling these
items. He had not spoken to a druid until two weeks
ago. One of them came and offered to let him sell their goods at the
faire this year. Now, he finds bags of various products left at his door
whenever he runs out. He is not sure how they know that he is out, but
Charne does not ask questions as the business is good. Every for days,
a man by the name of Darrus visits, and Charne gives him half of his take. Charne
noted that the man must live by the river as he leaves muddy prints of orange
clay on Charne's floor.
Daria continued to intimidate Charne. She forced him to refund Yassel's money that he had paid to be first in line tomorrow. They then left Charne with instructions to report what had happened to the authorities.
Once again, the party started heading towards the river. They only got a few blocks before they were attacked by a band of thugs. They were led by a pair of dashing duelist-wannabe's whose taunts and calls for surrender caused the party a great deal of amusement. In the end, 2 thugs were killed, a leader and 2 thugs had run away, and 2 thugs and the other leader were captured.
The party then questioned the leader. He said that his name was Garial, and he had been instructed to waylay anyone who attempted to follow the band who had kidnapped Shella. Their leader was a rough man by the name of Remus. Their hideout was an abandoned fisherman's cabin located along a hunter's path by the river.
The party found the trail by the river and followed it. A little ways down the trail, Yassel, Thistle, and Daria heard a faint call for help coming from slightly off the path. Yassel went to investigate, trailed by Daria and Eltairin.
When Yassel got close enough, he saw a man, lying on the ground and holding an animal collar in one of his hands. He had been savaged by claw and bite marks. He stirred and mumbled, "C-c-captain Remus, izzat you? I wasn't able to collar them... One ran into the woods..."
He passed out, and even Yassel could tell that the man was dying. Eltairin and Kartoffl ran over to aid the man. While Kartoffl checked the severity of his wounds, Eltairin cast a cure minor wounds to stabilize him. Kartoffl then healed him back to consciousness.
The party questioned the man as to what he was doing in the woods. After a short time, he admitted to being part of Remus' band. He had been sent out to find 2 escaped wolves and bring them back to their hideout. When he found the wolves, they attacked, and he would have died if the party had not found him. He did not know why Remus was hunting wolves, but knew that they were trying to collect all that were in the area. Reluctantly, he gave them more detailed directions to the cabin, and was forced to accompany the party back.
They had only traveled a short distance when they saw several shapes moving in the woods. A voice called out demanding that they be given the man whom the party had just saved. Daria began negotiating, and soon found herself talking with a wolf who was leading a band of wolves. Soon, they found that they had a common enemy.
The talking wolf, whose name was Felinal, was the companion of a druid named Dravin. His master, he explained, was kidnapped and taken to an unknown location by a rival druid with a cougar companion. Felinal has been leading his band of wolves ever since, hoping to sniff out clues that would lead him to his missing master. He would have happily taken revenge on the brigands himself, but he thinks that it is too dangerous for his band because of their number and the collars. The collars allow the brigands to control animals.
Felinal led the party directly to the cabin. The wolves agreed to watch the lone thug, but were still reluctant to advance on the cabin, even with the party's help.
The cabin was a small, one-story building, made of graying logs, sitting in the center of a clearing almost 50 yards from the river. The roof had been patched recently with a mixture of mud and sticks. The inner portion of the clearing around the cabin was devoid of vegetation and covered in thick, muddy dirt -- orange dirt. Two large boars occupied a pen built on one side of the cabin.
Setara cast a fly spell on Yassel, and he scouted out the cabin. He found 6 thugs, 3 half-orcs, and 3 humans in the cabin along with a large, rough-looking, unarmed human. He quickly realized that the large man was Remus. Yassel then flew back to the party to report his finds.
The party made a plan of attack. Setara, Daria, and Kartoffl circled around toward the front door of the cabin. Eltairin and Thistle stayed at the edge of the woods in positions where they could cover the cabin with the arrows. Yassel flew back to the cabin.
Once everyone was in place, Yassel flew down to one of the windows, taunted the thugs, and tossed a thunderstone into the cabin. Two half-orc thugs and Remus came out of the cabin immediately. Kartoffl and Daria charged up to the cabin. Thistle and Eltairin exchanged arrows with the 3 human thugs inside the cabin.
As many of the party advanced on the cabin, they tripped traps that had been set in the field surrounding the dirt clearing. Fortunately, each was able to escape any harm by running quickly through the area.
The battle progressed quickly. The
third half-orc thug soon came out of the cabin
to join the fight. Daria challenged Remus who
returned the challenge by turning into a large
a while, one of the human thugs released the large
boars, and they joined the battle. All
of the half-orcs fell quickly, along with one of
the humans thugs. Eventually,
Remus and one of the boars were killed, but not
before Daria was struck multiple times.
|03/18/2004||04/28/1374 DR - 04/29/1374 DR|
The battle continued. Thistle grappled the thug who was hiding in the boar pen. The remaining archer inside the cabin was shot multiple times by Eltairin, after which he too surrendered. The final boar was eventually killed by the party.
Kartoffl immediately administered belladonna to Daria to try to prevent lycanthropy. The only visible effect that the belladonna had was to weaken Daria. Kartoffl tended her closely to minimize any other detrimental side effects due to the treatment. After the treatment was finished, Eltairin gave Daria a potion of lesser restoration to negate the weaken that had accompanied the treatment. Now, the party must wait until the next full moon to see how effective the treatment was.
After a preliminary search of the cabin revealed 9 wolves kept in a pen in the basement, Thistle went out to bring Felinal back. It was hoped that he would talk to the wolves and make it easier to free them.
While the party was waiting for Felinal, Daria tried to question the thug that Thistle had captured. All he would tell her was his name, Zeke.
She next turned her attention to the other captive. With Felinal's help, he having just arrived at the cabin, he was a lot more cooperative than the first. He told them the location of the druid's cave, several miles to the north. Along tunnel about a hundred yards from the cabin leads to within a hundred yards of the cave. Zeke, now willing to talk and not be fed to Felinal, verified everything that the other captive had said.
Felinal spoke to the wolves downstairs, and told them that the party was going to free them. After they were convinced that the wolves would not eat them, Daria, Thistle, and Kartoffl went downstairs and freed the wolves. The wolves promptly devoured the provisions stored in the basement, then left via the escape tunnel. Felinal met them at the other end, and they rejoined his pack.
Yassel thoroughly searched the cabin. He found a locked chest that he easily opened. It contained 2 matching ivory statuettes, both depicting a woman in a flowing dress with her hands raised to the sky; a masterwork hand axe; 2 potions; a magical spoon; and a note. The note read as follows:
I've kept the druid as a plaything and captured another of Sylvanus' cattle. It is she whom I plan to sacrifice to bring the beast to me. Her blood will bring Berlingford to its knees, and with that we shall have the power and influence within the Hunt that we have desired.
After casting healing spells, the party left via the escape tunnel to find the tunnel to the cave. With the captives' help, they were able to find the passage without problem. The entire group, including the captives who went after Yassel, and the wolves who pulled up the rear, walked 2 1/2 hours through the black tunnel. In the middle, Yassel found a lone trap that he easily disabled.
Only a hundred yards further north following exiting the tunnel, the group finally spotted the druid's cave. The forest receded somewhat to provide a barren clearing. In the center stood the cave entrance rising out of the ground... a black maw that dominated the clearing.
Despite being low on spells, the party decided to continue into the cave. Yassel scouted out the mouth of the cave, and found it to be deserted. After returning to the party, they approached the entrance with Yassel in the lead. Felinal and the wolves would not enter the clearing, but remained in the woods, as they felt that the cave was evil.
Suddenly, 5 large dogs appeared out of nowhere, attacking Yassel and Setara. Both struck their victims before the party had a chance to react. Yassel, fortunately, was able to react in time, escaping behind party members, barely alive. Setara was not that fortunate, the dogs killed her before she ever had the chance to react. The rest of the party recognized these as large blink dogs, but like the wolves who had attacked the town, these too had black teeth!
A hard fought battle began with the party slowly retreating to the cover of the trees. Thistle and Kartoffl were rear guard for the party. Daria was struck several times, and was forced to retreat to where Yassel was standing before she collapsed with a healing potion in hand. Eltairin scooped up Setara's body, and secured it safely up a tree before commencing missile fire.
The wolves, seeing the party in dire straits, attacked targets along the sides. First, they surprised a pair of druids in the process of casting, and made short work of them. They then bravely advanced to the cave mouth where they attacked 3 thugs hiding there.
After some tense moments, the party and the wolves defeated the dogs and their allies. The leader of the thugs in the cave was none other than the duelist wannabe from town who had escaped earlier that evening. The party retreated to the woods to heal up once again and rest. They spent the night amongst the wolves, and were thankfully undisturbed.
In the morning
(29 Tarsakh), Yassel with Thistle trailing, scouted out the cave entrance. When
he stepped in the entrance, spikes
sprang up from the ground, stabbing him in the foot. Before he stepped
forward again, he checked for traps. Finding none, he took another step
and was rewarded by another spike springing forth into his foot! Thistle
then decided to check for magic. He found that the first 20 ft. into
the cave was magical. Upon hearing this, Yassel climbed the wall to what
he hoped was safety.
Yassel climbed along the wall, and then dropped down into the entrance chamber. He circled around the right wall to the passage on the opposite end of the room. He was about to started searching when Thistle called him back. Yassel climbed back out and reported to the rest of the party still waiting by the edge of the woods.
After some discussion, the party arrived at a plan to get past the spikes. Yassel and Eltairin crossed over via the wall. Eltairin's slippers were then passed back by rope to the next person who used them to cross into the chamber. In this way, each was able to enter the chamber without stepping on the floor.
Yassel spent some time searching the chamber before the party continued on. He found a pouch near the entrance. Inside, he found 3 (magical) vials, a green oak leaf, and 32 gp. Both Eltairin and Kartoffl recognized the leaf as the holy symbol of Sylvanus, and the party quickly realized that this must belong to the cleric who was recently abducted. They stored it away for when they rescued her.
The party continued on with Yassel scouting ahead (after he had drank a potion of darkvision). They eventually came to a chamber that was filled from floor to ceiling with blacktooth fungus. Only a narrow path crossed the chamber. The stench of mold, feces, and wet animal fur filled the air.
After taking precautions to cover their noses, the party crossed the chamber one by one. Yassel, Daria, and Kartoffl each managed to brush up against the fungus, which left a mark where it had touched them. They were shown up by Eltairin who easily passed through. Thistle barely made it through without touching the fungus. Those that touched the fungus, quickly washed themselves off, and there did not seem to be any ill effects from their brief contact.
The party then traversed a maze-like area. To keep from getting lost, they constantly turned left when there was a choice of direction. After some time in the maze, Kartoffl heard footsteps approaching from the right. The party paused in a small chamber, preparing for possible combat.
Suddenly, a minotaur, wielding a large greataxe, attacked the party from the rear. (Evidently, it had circled around while the party had waited.) After a short, but intense fight, it was dispatched.
The party continued in the maze. Eventually, they came to a spot that the minotaur had used as its lair. Amongst its food and waste, they found a sack containing a magical buckler and 220 gp. Yassel searched the area more thoroughly, and found a ring of gold worth 350 gp.
Soon after, the party found a passage leading out of the maze. They found a large chamber lit by phosphorescent lichen. The chamber was divided in two by a gorge in the center. A narrow stone bridge connected the two sections.
On the other side of the bridge was a tall, balding man, dressing in druidic robes and wearing the holy symbol of Malar. He had just finished painting arcane symbols upon the body of Shella, who was restrained by numerous vines along the far wall. The druid's cougar companion guarded the stone bridge.
The party attacked. Yassel drank a potion of jumping and leaped across the chasm to confront the druid. Daria and Eltairin were promptly hit with a flame strike, and the cougar attacked. Daria jumped across the chasm to attack the druid. Yassel was struck twice by the druid's scimitar, and fled back across the chasm in terror!
Eltairin shot the druid with a specially prepared arrow that Kartoffl had cast silence upon. He sank it deep into the druid, and he was unable to cast any more spells. The cougar responded by charging Eltairin!
Eventually, the party killed both the cougar and the druid. They freed Shella from the vines, and found her to be drugged and semi-conscious. Otherwise,she was not hurt seriously.
In a small chamber off the main one, they found Dravic, the druid master of Felinal. His blackened teeth were sure signs of blacktooth fungus poisoning. Although weak and disoriented, he had not fully succumbed to the effects of the poison. He was able to recognize Felinal's name and ask if he was there.
After the application
of a scroll of lesser restoration, he was able to answer some questions. He
revealed that the other druid had been administering doses of an oily, black
paste. When asked if he knew
a cure for the poisoning, he only mentioned the name, "Lariya." Dravic
only recalled seeing the druid and his cougar but no one else in the caves. He
did not know how long he had been there, and did not know about Shella at all.
|03/31/2004||04/29/1374 DR - Greengrass, 1374 DR|
The party took Shella and Dravic outside to Felinal and his wolves. Felinal promised to protect both of them while the party finished exploring the cavern. The party then proceeded to map out the rest of the maze, before finding nothing they returned to the wolves.
The group returned to Berlingford with Felinal assisting Dravic. Eltairin carried Setara in a litter that he fashioned from materials he found nearby.
Daria went into Berlingford to retrieve Lariya while the rest returned to the Shrine outside of town. Since is it was late in the afternoon, she was easily able to convince Lariya to accompany her back to the shrine.
The party received a warm reception from Sebastian. He was very happy that his acolyte was brought back safe, and that Dravic had been found. He offered to cast raise dead on Setara for free if the component for the spell, a 5000 gp diamond, could be located; he did not have one at the shrine.
Since the party did not recall seeing a gem of that worth in Berlingford, they discussed the alternatives. After weighing the alternatives, they agreed that returning to Silverymoon was their best course of action. Sebastian offered to cast a gentle repose spell on Setara before the party left, so that her body would be preserved until they reached their destination. Kartoffl suggested that Sebastian use his aquamarine of spell extending to double the duration of the spell.
After noting that the spell would then last 18 days and that they still did not know the fate of the Council of Pines, they decided to remain in the area for a few days more until after the festival and until they knew the fate of the Council. Lariya mentioned that her daughter was a new associate member of the Council, and that she would be in town for the festival on Greengrass. The party asked to meet her when she had the chance.
Sebastian and Lariya then examined Dravic. They found that he was not insane yet although he had suffered draining of both his intelligence and wisdom due to the blacktooth poisoning he had endured. His condition was treatable and he should fully recover within a few weeks.
Lariya agreed to test the potions that the party had recently recovered but not identified. After a short while, she was able to recognized 7 out of the 9 potions that they had.
Leaving Setara at the shrine for Sebastian to care for, the party returned to Berlingford. They stopped to see the mayor where they turned in their prisoners. All told, they had captured or killed 16 thugs, so he paid them 400 gp. Since they had not only discovered who was behind the attacks, but had killed him and turned in his head, they were paid the full 1500 gp.
The party returned to the inn for the evening. There, Yassel played with the collars of animal control to see if he could get them to work. He managed to get the collar to work on Max over the objections of a few party members. At the inn, Daria and Yassel spread the rumors of what they had done and that the town was now safe.
After many evening of disturbed sleep, the party finally got a decent night's rest. They woke up early on 30 Tarsakh, day 3 of the spring festival.
The party decided to see if they could identify a few of the magic items that they had found. Since Thistle had the spell in this spellbook and could cast it, Yassel went around town to see if he could find any pearls to use in the spell. He was able to purchase 4 of the appropriate worth. Thistle then identified the cloak as a +2 cloak of resistance and the wand as a wand of knock with 23 charges left.
They then decided to sell the +1 heavy metal shield that they had been carrying around. When Lariya heard about this, she offered the party potions for it as she was interested in giving it to her daughter. They finally agreed to take 2 Eagles Splendor potions, 2 cure light wound potions, and a sanctuary potion as payment.
Soon the time for the day's contests drew near. Eltairin and Yassel entered the log rolling competition while Kartoffl entered the stone throwing contest. Before the start of the competition, Yassel paid out some bribes to the dwarves in the stone throwing contest so that they would not aim any rocks his way. The entire party had heard rumors of some dwarves tossing rocks in the direction of the river (where the log rolling was taking place) in an effort to get more distance for their throws.
The stone throwing competition was a thrilling match. Several dwarves were able to get tosses as far as the river, disturbing some of the log rollers. A few even tried to place rocks along the line drawn for the accuracy competition.
On his last throw, Kartoffl skillfully formed his stone into a disk, and he was able to get his rock across the river! This throw allowed him to win the distance competition for which he was awarded a golden stone with wings pendent. In the accuracy contest, he managed to place third.
Yassel and Eltairin managed to stay clear of tossed rocks, and remained on their logs while opponents fell around them. Finally Eltairin slipped from his log while Yassel remained. In the end, Yassel was the last one standing! He won the log rolling competition for which he was awarded a silver log.
There was much partying after the competitions well into the night. Yassel was given tons of free food by admirers. Kartoffl was given tankard after tankard of free ale by celebratory dwarves.
Daria and Thistle, for their parts, noted the large increase in people around the town. That evening, the party spilled out into the green. Several bards had arrived for the Battle of the Bards the next day. A number of archers, many elves, had also arrived for the Open Archery Competition.
Eventually, everyone retired for the evening. They awoke the next morning -- day 4 of the festival, Greengrass.
|04/07/2004||Greengrass, 1374 DR - Mirtul 15, 1374 DR|
The party woke up on the morning of Greengrass. By the time they had breakfast, the streets were already crowded with fairgoers. Soon, they joined the festivities.
Around noon, Daria met with Lariya's daughter, Rowena. Daria informed her about what had done on in Berlingford and the unknown situation with the druids. Rowena told her that some of the druids had left to assist the regrowth of Humphgrumgh's forest, but there should still be some around and present at the faire. The fact that none were present at the faire this year was very disturbing.
The first competition of the day was the Battle of the Bards. Each competitor gave 3 performances to a panel of esteemed judges and an eager audience of fairgoers. In the end, Daria finished 3rd. The winner was a gnome who went simply by the name of Fred the Bard.
Shortly after the bard's competition started, the Open Archery Contest commenced. Yassel, Eltairin, and Thistle all entered. Yassel had a respectable showing, being eliminated in the 3rd round of the competition. Eltairin finished 5th in the contest, being eliminated in the 6th round, just before the finals. Thistle made it into the finals and finished 4th.
In the evening, Rowena dined with the party at the invitation of Daria. The party discussed what had been going on in the area, and it was agreed that the party should check out the druids' grove. Rowena told the party where it was located and volunteered to lead them there. She assured them that the trip there should only take about a day.
In the morning (1 Mirtul), the party met Rowena and started off to the Council's grove. They arrived at the grove in the late afternoon. Just outside of the grove, the party was attacked by a band of 5 werewolves. They seemed to be guarding the area. After a short battle, the band was destroyed. Daria was struck twice by a werewolf, but did not seem to need treatment with wolfbane.
The party then searched the outer hedge that surrounded the Council's grove. On the far side of the hedge, there was a large, gaping hole in it. Several tracks entered and exited the grove through that hole.
Inside, the party found no one. The huts had been emptied and cleaned of possessions. The stones of the druids' circle had all been toppled. Only after a thorough search did the party find remains of four humanoids. There were only fragments of bodies left, and those bones had gnaw marks on them. Kartoffl noted that they had been dead at least a month. They could have been human, elven,or half-elven, but there was too little to tell for sure or have any hope of identifying the remains.
Rowena searched around the grove, and found tracks from around a dozen werecreatures heading back towards the Moonwood. She then talked to a squirrel who told her of a battle between the druids and a group of invaders. The invaders eventually won, and cut the hole in the hedge so that some of them could enter the grove. They later left without prisoners.
The group camped outside of the grove. In the morning (2 Mirtul), Kartoffl tried, but failed, to locate a holy symbol of Miliekki nearby. The party followed the werecreatures' trail for a short distance, but turned around when another of Rowena's conversations with an animal revealed once again that no captives were taken. Feeling that they had done all that they could and not wishing a confrontation in the Moonwood with a large group of lycanthropes, the party returned to the Shrine of Silvanus on the outskirts of Berlingford.
The party explained to Sebastian all that they had uncovered. Feeling that they had done all that they could do, they told him that they would return to Silverymoon in the morning. Rowena and Sebastian, for their part, would try to contact the remaining druids who were presumably still with Humphgrough to try to reform the Council. The party promised to return if their services were needed again.
In the morning (3 Mirtul), Sebastian
cast an extended gentle repose spell upon Setara's body, and the party set
out for Silverymoon. They
arrived without incident on 15 Mirtul in Silverymoon.
© Copyright Maryrita Steinhour, 2002, 2004.