Frontier Songs

Elks & Ettins
Session 18

We follow wolf-Nila north and she and Cael lead the party north-ish. While crossing a river, Nessie falls in, but Crea fishes her out. After an hour or two, things start to get a little soggy. Not full-on marsh yet, but kinda damp, compared to the rest of the forest.

We start to realize that this herb that was found in Vora’s daughter’s backpack is everywhere. Crea explains that it’s actually a well-known fertility cure (it’s totally not). Weird that an unmarried girl would be interested in fertility business, but whatever, all families are beautiful in the eyes of Krom. Cael trips and falls into the dirt…it’s a body. Oh my.

It’s a half-elf, from the looks of things. Dead for 5-10 days, she guesses. Issana rifles through his pockets. Both Talhier and Crea think this is gross. Nessie guesses that the guy died of blood loss and exposure, probably from that gaping hole in his side, and that maybe that wound was incurred elsewhere. He appears to have some defensive wounds. Issana finds a wax package in the guy’s pockets that contains lute strings. No cash or supplies to speak of.

Issana notices that a …bird? keeps coming towards us and keeps getting bigger. It’s a blue dragon. “Hey guys. Hey, everyone. GET IN THE TREES.” We don’t follow directions. EAR SPLITTING DRAGON ROAR. We run for the woods, as it wheels and roars overhead. Eventually it lands to drink from the creek. It rises up again and then heads off almost entirely due east. We breathe a sigh of relief. Back to the corpse! Crea takes note of some distinguishing features so she can report back to the village in case anyone is missing him. Cael notices a tattoo on his back of a circle made of chain links. Issana recognizes it as the icon of a criminal organization called The Chain that has cells in most large cities. In fact, it’s the mark of someone who is indentured to The Chain. Nila, with some inspiration help from Nessie, begins to follow the trail of where the dead guy came from. Before leaving, Crea sprinkles dirt on the dead guy and prays that he sleeps in the arms of Krom the Endless and will arise again with Krom the Dawn to celebrate the last day.

We follow the trail and come to a crude campsite, likely belonging to Dead Guy. There’s no obvious signs of struggle or attack, but it does appear that Dead Guy rested here while he was wounded. The tinies set up camp while Crea scouts around for signs of large predators (dragon poop). We’re on the lea side of a hill, no caves or burrows or bugbear tracks or whatever.

During watch, Cael hears rustling. It starts to rain lightly. Nessie casts light onto an arrow, which Cael launches towards the rustling. When it lands, they see figures, multiple, scatter. They seem like deer….really fuckin’ big deer. Not moose-big, but bigger than deer big. No other excitement.

We pick up the trail again in the morning, it heads towards the hills. As we take a break at the bottom of the hills, we hear a sound coming from a couple hundred feet away. Around there, we see a dilapidated tower, the ruins of a stone watchtower. Listening closely, the sound of a woman singing accompanied by a harp…the voice is beautiful but the harp playing is riiiiiiiilllllllll bad. Herm can’t detect any magic or ill intent behind the music. We boldly march into the face of bad pitch. As we get closer, music gets louder. It doesn’t get any better. We sometimes hear another, deeper voice. As we approach, the tower looks like the walls have been basically sheared off. There’s a woman, tall, light-brown hair, maybe a half-elf, and a big, two-headed dirty-looking creature playing a delicate tiny lap harp. She notices us, and begins singing, in elvish still, lyrics about “run back down the hill, back into the forest, etc.”

Issana notices that the, of the two heads, one is focused on the harp but the other is asleep. Scattered around it are bodies and parts of bodies. There’s evidence of…nibbling. Talhier gestures to his sword at the woman, like, “We can…kill it?” She keeps singing, getting strained, and shakes her head. But she seems terrified. The harp music stops. A voice goes “WELCOME AND WELL MET GOOD TRAVELERS” as the two-headed guy stands up to his full 12 feet. He bows to us. The harp-playing head is wearing a barrel-sized helmet. The sleeping head is sleeping. “TO WHAT DO I OWE THE HONOR OF SUCH ILLUSTRIOUS VISITORS?”

We send Sebastian out to try his little performance thing. He goes “Vorpal FRAK-SHON” and spits. It’s not a smoke bomb, but we’re working on it. Talhier introduces himself. “MAY WE HONOR YOU WITH A SONG” —she starts singing again, and she’s clearly panicking. Ariela seems to be chained to the wall. Issana realizes that this is an ettin, which is a kind of giant thing. Herm wonders if Gurgulburg has considered touring? Grunglybug hasn’t considered it. Talhier asks if Gurgin can give us a tour of the hills. “YES.” He starts walking down the hill. “THIS IS TREE. THIS IS…TALLER TREE.” Where’s your favorite tree? “FAVORITE TREE IS THIS WAY. RIGHT NEXT TO ROCK, WHICH IS GREAT.”

Crea follows Talhier, Issana picks the locks on Ariela’s chain. She grabs a canteen and bag of rations that she’s stashed and encourages us to leave LIKE NOW. She thinks Grungleburt won’t go too far from the tower and we should go NOW and go FAR. She basically takes off.

Off on the tour, Talhier is remarkably good at entertaining Glurgalurg. Herm thinks we should leave Talhier behind, Issana and Crea are appalled. We catch up to Talhier and Glooborrgoo. Sleeping Head starts to wake up, and as it turns out, Sleeping Head is the cranky one. Other head drifts away and seems to no longer be driving. Talhier tries to distract him, but it doesn’t work and it takes a swing at Talhier. Talhier blocks with his shield and is able to move out of the way.

The Purple Faction arrives to start dealing damage. Crea rides in on Buttons swinging her badass new axe and hamstrings the guy, knocking him down to the ground. Herm casts a fire spell that glances off of Glagarog. Issana gets stabby with the rapier. Nila turns into a naked bear again and takes a bit of a chunk out of him. He eventually gets back on his feet and swings at Crea. Buttons spooks and bolts, but Crea at least lands on her feet. Buttons takes off, though. Nessie inflicts some more fire damage. Talhier inflicts some more rapier damage. Crea inflicts a lot of axe damage. Nessie tries to command Glurgyblurgy to HALT, but he doesn’t listen, "NO!". Herm tries firebolt again, doing more damage this time. Cael gets a good gut-shot in with an arrow. Issana finds success with a rapier. Nila the Naked Bear gets a good swipe in, too. Heads Georg gets up and swing at (misses) Issana and (hits) Nila. Herm’s firebolt hits the grumpy face dead-center and incinerates the grumpy head. As the creature dies, friendly head wakes briefly and cries out for Favorite Tree as it dies.

Luckily, Buttons didn’t go far, and Crea is able to entice him back with a tasty apple.

We head back to the tower. Talhier goes looking for Ariela while the rest of us search the pile of body parts and assorted craps. Some coins (130 gold total). Adventurer’s packs. Inside the tower is broken furniture, the remains of a kitchen, some broken crockery. Around back, there’s a door to a root cellar. Down there, a small open chest holds a big piece of fabric, a green and gold banner that Crea doesn’t recognize. Herm does, he says it’s a standard he has never seen before and he thinks it’s the kind of standard that would be carried by an army in battle and this pattern might actually be from very long ago. Crea thinks it’s pretty.

Talhier uses prestidigitation to magically yell, because actually yelling is for peasants and eventually catches up with Ariela.

Everybody Loves Raiment
Session 17

We have a few days to loiter in Sodor while Talhier signs paperwork or whatever. The Baroness wants to recognize us for our good works and asks if we have a name. We, uh, haven’t given that a thought. We immediately veto “Lord Talhier’s Company.” Someone forgot to babysit Herm, who asks the Baroness if he can visit with an “Albino Thrift”. He can, so he asks that she visit at Riverr Run Inn. Crea suggests “Crea and the Figurines.” That also gets shot down. As does “The Harvesters.” Nessie makes a strong suggestion of “The Harvest House Gang.” Picking a name is harder than it seems like it should be. After like, a lot of conversation we settle on….

THE PURPLE FACTION! Picture it, Sebastian enters a room. He’s dressed in a little cape. “Ladeeees and Gentlemon! Zeeeee PURPLE FAC-SHON” and then smoke bomb, we all enter. Nice, yeah?

The next morning, at breakfast we overhear someone with a low voice speaking to Corby at the bar looking for Herm. Crea looks up, it’s the half-orc monk from Grassmere, Cane! Crea invites him to join us for pancakes. We’re in temple square, in a relatively fancy place. Herm possibly tries to not admit he’s the Herm in question, but Crea kills that plan. Cane says his employer is looking for Herm, who says “Yes, of course, let’s go!” and then walks off. He comes back because he doesn’t know where to go. Cane is confused. “Welcome to Herm,” we all say. Cane asks what we’ve been up to, and Crea gives a recap.

Cane had a complicated situation after Grassmere, then hired on with a merchant company for a while. Issana asks if he gets dental, then we mention that the Purple Faction is hiring. A town crier moves through and announces the great deeds of the Purple Faction, Heroes of Orlane! Herm and Cane head out to whatever business they have going on.

Up towards the citadel part of town, at an inn, Herm meets up with Albena in a private room. Albena’s an older dwarven woman, probably hundreds of years old. She’s very polite to Cane, too. Herm pulls out a binder of maps and ledgers and says he has a business proposition! He is aware of certain mineral deposits to the south, in particular, a copper deposit—he shows off a map. He has first-hand knowledge of some of these, but not all. She wants to know what he wants out of this. Something about trading posts and partnering with his company. She’s interested in hiring us out for prospecting out towards the northern deposits on his map. He starts talking about drawing up a contract, but she’s not ready to sign on the dotted line yet. Throughout all of this, Herm is serious and sharp, but when it’s time to go, he whackies it up for Cane again.

Talhier has more paperwork, including transferring administration of the inn. He gets to hang out with bureaucrats! Being an administrator sounds fun! Herm wanders off to the citadel a few more times. Eventually, a contract comes to the inn for prospecting services, accompanied by Cane! Issana: “What the ACTUAL FUCK, Herm?!?” This is not a popular idea. (Talhier: “That sounds like the sort of thing I’d hire someone to do.”) After reading through, Issana allows that this isn’t the WORST contract Herm could have stumbled into. Talhier has questions. Crea and Cael are actually heading in this direction…though Issana and Bingo are not. Talhier suggests we escort Herm there, and possibly Herm can do his own damn digging.

We head back to Orlane for a couple weeks to hire staff for the Bountiful Harvest and tell the alderman that Talhier’s in charge now. Alderman seems okay with that. We set Teagen up as town guard, with a salary including room and board. Town can approve a raise in the future. We show Cane around, he thinks we’ve gotten very fancy since last we all met. After a week or so of continued meditation at the Mallorn tree, Cael senses someone nearby. It’s the dryad again. She has something for Cael: a small package wrapped in leaves that contains a large acorn. “Is it a Mallorn seed?” Cael asks. “In a way. It’s a weapon—a way to summon the Nemarien.” (The Nemarien is the enclave’s version of siege weapon. You plant this seed and it grows quickly, destroying things around it the way a large tree would, growing through and busting apart stone and whatever.) Cael’s gonna meditate on what this means. Everyone buys garish matching purple garments so that everyone is on brand with the new organizational restructure.

Bingo breaks out the magic book and reads us back to Grassmere, then from there, we take the Sovereign's way to Fairhill. Crea heads over to introduce herself to the blacksmith. The forge, weirdly, is cold, and everything appears shut down. Off to the north, there’s some small houses, maybe guardhouses or shrines, and to the east is what looks like a main temple. Crea knocks on the door, but there’s no answer. Peeking in a window, the shop seems orderly, but there’s no person. She approaches a farmer (buys some carrots for Buttons) then asks if he knows where to find Vora the Blacksmith. The farmer kind of makes a face and says that Vora is maybe not in today? Maybe come back… some vamping a bit is happening. Crea explains that she’s here to study with Vora and all of a sudden the farmer has a laundry list of blacksmithing tasks that have gone undone lately. Turns out, about a month ago, Vora's daughter went missing, having taken off with a group of mercenaries and now Vora’s depressed. The daughter hasn’t been heard from since and they fear the worst.

In Fairhill, there’s an inn called The Cockatrice and a pub called The Flask and Flagon. Crea suggests Issana ask around about Vora’s daughter—did she take off for adventure, get kidnapped, what’s the gos? At the F&F, Issana asks about Vora. Apparently, Ariella, the daughter, left town with some unsavory types and hasn’t been back. Vora went looking, didn’t find her, came back and hasn’t lifted a hammer since. Issana asks, one adventurer to another, what barkeep thinks happened. He says, well, you know, things are safe in town, but less so once you head out, especially north which is the way they were headed. The group she left with seemed honest enough, barkeep thinks they were just kinda naive.

Back at the forge, Crea tries knocking on the door again—the back, house door this time. After a long silence, Vora opens the door. They’re a dwarf, apparently drunk, probably for a while. Crea mentions Aelric, and that we’ve heard of her troubles and would like to help. Vora says they spent 4 days looking for any sign and all they found was a backpack with a big rip and big bloodstain. It wasn’t Ariel’s, but it was one of her parties. They appreciate our attempt to help, but the party is all dead. Vora closes the door.

Nila picks up the abandoned backpack and investigates and realizes that, yeah, there’s something like a bloodstain, but there’s also the scent of a local herb that grows near water. The plan: we’ll head into the northern hills a bit, Nila will turn into a “wolf” and we’ll try to track where the adventurers or what remains of them.

Duel in the Castle
Session 16

The gang goes to Sodor! It’s an uneventful trip. The remnants of the city’s Pinnacle festival are all over the place still. We’re in the crafter’s district, near the north gate of the city. Herm, dressed like a tiny, foppish George Washington, is flipping coppers to kids and stuff.

The boulevard opens up to a plaza that’s used as a market. The market is busy enough, and the square is dominated by the temple we came to after our adventure with the Tomb of the Ashen Order – the Temple of Illumination. There’s also a big column with a statue of the Imperator, the last emperor of the Viridian Empire. The boulevard continues beyond that, and then there’s another wall, and the castle on a hill beyond. The lord inside is Lord Filbert Trunket.

The party decides to visit a tavern to get some intelligence on Lord Filbert before we go banging on his door. There’s the River Run, which is near the temple, Nesse goes behind her horse to change into her sundress and fancy underpants.

Inside the inn, a male halfling is behind the bar. There are halfling sized chairs and stuff for the patrons. The bartender is named Corby. We order. Corby knows of Lord Filbert, but he doesn’t come in much. He doesn’t spend much time in the marketplace at all – mostly he’s in the keep or in his town house. Corby suggests that like most nobility, Filbert can be a little stuffy, and we should feed his ego. The inn seems to be doing well; nothing here is cheap.

Issana goes to a dive bar and gets some talk going about the lord. He’s been absent a long time, it seems. The old guy she gets talking has family up in Orlane, and he never went there; just sent the taxman. Issana reports back. Maybe they can not mention that we’re the heroes of Orlane, or even mention that Orlane had heroes at all, and we can get a great deal on an inn!

Talhier suggests that we drag the lord through the mud, embarrass him, get him tossed into the street, and then get a deal on an inn from whomever is granted Trunket’s lands in his stead. Seems like a lot of work. But Baroness Falken Vacona is kind of Trunket’s boss, and Talhier wishes to speak to his manager.

We have a writ from Alderman Zacharias that is a petition to see the baroness. Talhier casts prestidigitation to get the dirt off of everyone Herm is like, “I’ll lead us!” and Talhier points out that it’s illegal to pose as a noble in many city-states. “What do you mean, ‘pose?’”

We approach the gates of the inner city. Herm does some nonsense with Minor Illusion to make trumpet and announcement sounds. Issana follows it up with a big fart noise. We present ourselves and our writ to the guards. They let us into the castle.

There are smithies and stables and towers and guards and all kinds of castle stuff. We get to the main gates of the citadel, where a runner has told them we’re coming. The steward makes a hand motion and the big doors open on a scene that’s like a fancy cocktail party. The caller announces us as “Lord Talhier Gladespring, Honored Eldest Blah Blah Blah…and retinue.” Then the people start schmoozing us.

We see someone we recognize: Flamewarden Draga, who was one of the clergy at the Temple of Illumination. Bingo is drawn to a small group of musicians. There are between eight and a dozen representatives of each power base: Church, merchants, nobles, etc. and they all have their own people. Their people are the ones approaching the party.

Talhier goes over to the Flamewarden, who recognizes him, even if he doesn’t remember his name. He’s wearing a familiar-looking sword, but Talhier can’t place where he’s seen it before. The Flamewarden reiterates that he’s in our debt. Talhier asks which one is Lord Trunket. The Flamewarden kind of pulls a face really quickly, but he points him out: He’s a young man of unremarkable looks, but extravagantly, expensively dressed. Big entourage, but they’re not mingling. Talhier asks how in favor Filbert is. The Flamewarden says Filbert is not much in favor, saying the family is on the decline. The baroness is good and fair as well, apparently.

There’s an older dwarf woman with a smaller retinue – Albina Thrift, a fairly prominent merchant who oversees commerce between here and points east. She probably has quite a network of information. She seems sharp, but she uses a cane, and her people wait on her carefully. She and Nesse hit it off.

We hear from around the room that there’s a lot of activity to the north, though there’s not a lot of talk about specifically what happened in Orlane. Herm talks to a gnome traveling with Albina about how everything east of Nineveh is fine, but if the trouble spreads into the plains and comes west, there could be trouble. There’s some kind of issue in the mountains with some kind of native population.

Talhier hears a similar story when talking to some of the nobles. There have been reports that there is some kind of tribal war going on in the Warwood mountains near Forum far to the east. For the last several months, there have been fewer reports of raids, but there have still been reports of fighting in the mountains. Some count it as a blessing, but others worry about some kind of consolidation of the savage races.

Trunket wanders into the conversation with Talhier. He’s ill-mannered and blustery. Talhier excuses himself. Bingo tries for gossip among the musicians. He hears bits of the same stuff. One of the musicians had just passed through Orlane during the festival. None of them is affiliated with Trunket. The harpist says that family hasn’t kept a bard in years and that Lord Filbert doesn’t look like he’ll change that tradition.

Talhier greets the baroness. She nails the bow – all the nuances are there. Talhier says, “We’ve come from Orlane. We hoped to come in time to rescue the Lord Trunket.” The baroness is confused. Talhier feigns surprise. We’ve come from Orlane where we’ve saved the town from a cult that’s been in charge more than a year. And since only a coward would have allowed this to go on for so long, we assumed he must have been abducted.

The baroness asks what Filbert has to say. Trunket is livid. He says the people had not reached out to him. But he hasn’t visited his lands in more than a year? What the hell? The baroness says she has a writ from the alderman of Orlane backing up everything Talhier is saying, and that we are badasses who put Orlane to rights. We must drink to the nobility of the Silveroak Regency!

Trunket is soooooo mad. People come around and want to hear about our great adventure. Bingo has some songs – basically a concept album about us being awesome. There’s huge applause when he’s done. Trunket is still fuming and getting his people together to get the hell out.

Talhier: Leaving so soon? You don’t want to hear how these heroes saved your lands? You seem more angry than shocked.

Trunket says it should have been him and his companions who rid the town of the evil. Talhier’s like, so we agree. They get snippy about serving the people some more. Trunket is getting ready to challenge Talhier to a — Bingo: “You mean like a duel?” Yes. Just like that. Talhier gets really aggressive. Bluff called, Trunket has to fight now. The baroness is into it.

An area clears, and the rules of engagement are read. The parties’ retinues are not to be involved. There’s betting going on. The captain of the guard starts the fight, and initiative is rolled. Talhier kind of accidentally mostly kills him in two hits. Trunket’s retinue bum-rushes Talhier, and the rest of the party is now in initiative. Issana picks up Trunket’s rapier and holds the biggest one at rapier-point under the chin. He tries to attack her anyway and misses. Two guys dogpile Talhier. Another one flails at Nesse. Issana gets an attack on the guy who flailed at her, and she skewers his neck, because she tried to play nice and he declined. Bingo tries to cast suggestion, but fails, but the guy thinks getting out of town is pretty good advice anyway, He is tackled by four guards as he tries to leave. Nesse focuses Scorching Ray on the two guys who are left. As quickly as it began, it’s over.

The baroness orders everything cleaned up and finds in favor of Talhier Longtitle Blah Blah and suggests everyone adjourn for the day. The people begin streaming out. The baroness asks for a word with the party in a back study. She enjoyed seeing Trunket knocked out, but it was more excitement than she was expecting. But they were the ones who broke the code – it’s on them. She agrees that the people of Orlane deserve better. The Trunket line has gone to seed and new leadership is needed to administer the lands.

She would offer the lands to Talhier if he weren’t a foreign lord. She will take over the lands, and appoint Talhier as administrator. The money from the lands around Orlane will mostly go to the barony, but Talhier is acting steward of the town of Orlane and its surrounds.

He will be even more insufferable after this.

Everyone Loves A Festival
Session 15

As the gallows and the unfortunates burn, Herm notices that it starts to burn hotter and faster than expected. He investigates, but there’s nothing particularly arcane about the fire. 

Talhier picks up a sword and hears a voice in his head. “oooohey. Are you my new daddy?" It’s basically the guy from My Cousin Vinnie. He wants to stab things. Those people downstairs. That guy over there. The sword has a name! It’s “Penetrator.” It invites Talhier to do some penetrating. Talhier has bound the sword to himself and would very much like the sword to stop talking. Penetrator thinks that guy across the street, with the limp, would great to stab. Talhier attempts to un-attune  from the sword. Penetrator want to penetrate that goat. 

Herm notices that Talhier appears to be talking to himself and runs over to say, “Oh, you too!” They compare “voices in my head” experiences. 

Talhier unattunes. He has a moment of blessed silence and then…”do you think it worked?” 

Talhier heads to the forge, where Ayla and Assana are day drinking. Crea is helping out Aelric catch up on work. Talhier tries to get them to melt the sword. After some argument, Aelric finally does so. He fires up the forge and gets it hot with the plan to fold it over a bunch into scrap. He brings over the tongs and hammer but attempts to fold it over itself just…don’t work. It pops back into place. Now its a battle of wills between Talhier and Penetrator. 

Crea asks Aelric if he’s familiar with Vora of Fairhill. Aelric has, they are the best blacksmith in the area. She asks if they’d be willing to take on a journeyman, Aelric is unsure, but thinks it’s likely. Crea will have to spend a year and a half or so learning under an Artisan, then again a set number of years and create a Masterpiece, to get to Master Blacksmith. Crea asks some questions about Fairhill, which is back east past Grassmere by about 5 days/100 miles. She also makes a few discrete inquiries about purchasing the Golden Grain. The alderman tells her that, if we are interested in taking over the lease (it all belongs to the local Lord), we’d have to go to Sodor to talk to the liege lord there and go through political channels. He’s ball parking it to be a couple thousand gold. 

Cael has been meditating in the grove and reflecting on the guy she recognized in the fight in the caves. She hears a voice from the side and behind say, “Greetings, Mother.” (apparently, all women are referred to as “mother” in her culture) She turns to see a feminine figure, a fae of some kind, standing near the Mallorn tree. “Does the war still rage?” she asks. “The war against the great enemy, the killer who decimated our people.” Cael drops the symbol that that man she recognized carried and asks if that’s what the fae is talking about. The fae never stops touching the tree as she leans over and says, “Yes, the hated one.” Cael says that she continues to search. The fae says, “then I shall keep my watch” and spider-climbs up the tree. Cael erases the symbol and heads back into her day. 

After the night of the execution, a fairly intense storm rolls through. We transition now to longer down time tracking. 

Everyone seems like they are on board with Project Clubhouse. Bingo still wants to raise an army, or possibly call a meteor strike, onto Terelle to get his magic horn back. Cael is thinking about returning to the woods, possibly with Nyla, to find out more about what happened to that guy. Crea is sending to Vora to see if they can take on a journeyman. Nyla tries to build her relationship with Red so he can either be chill about her going to Sodor for a while, or becoming a pet. He’s very adverse to coming close to any kind of civilization. 

After some discussion, Nyla comes up with the idea that we should teach Red to hunt, since he never got that on his own. It took some doing, but he started to catch on kinda. After a few weeks, he is finally able to bring down a deer. 

Nessie has her own training montage with Sebastian. She learns his favorite foods, trains him to climb into her beard to ride around, etc. 

On the way to Sodor, Cael and Bingo drop some coins in certain hands to create a bit of an information network of their own. Bingo wants to find out as much as he can about the merchant (Krynt Stavenger) who had the magic trumpet last. He also talks to Issana about her breaking and entering experience. Between them, they find out he’s got a reputation as a legit business man, not very mobbed up at all, generally well regarded. It’s unclear how devoted he is to The Anointed and how much is him going along with the prevailing winds. He is also known to collect ancient artifacts and in particular musical instruments. His business dealings are pretty clean and there’s slight rumors of an affair, but mostly he seems clean. Issana and Bingo are thinking heist. 


Cael, with Issana’s help again, hears things from Fairhill and points east. Stories of people matching descriptions of Snake Elf Guy coming through the Green Sea, heading this way. People found him unsettling. She hears something I didn’t catch about an inn called The Yellow Hammer in Nineveh. She considers heading towards Niniveh, but she’d like some help. So she’s not going yet. Crea, however, is heading east for Fairhill and might be willing to accompany her. 

There’s a summer festival surrounding the summer solstice coming up, and everyone in town is insistent that we either stay through or return for Pinnacle. Each day of this festival has a ritual and a theme. First they clear the area near the temple for the festival.  On the second and third days, the women of the town make long, thick strips of leather with seeds pressed into them. Eventually these get tied to the top of a giant maypole looking thing. Over the next few days, the seeds start to sprout and the strips grow a fuzzy, mossy, lightly flowered strips. Village children to an elaborate dance, weaving the strips together and around. By the end of the festival, the entire pole is covered in greenery and flowers. The villagers explain that this is all an offering to Iyana, Goddess of the Harvest. This is super emotional for people, bc the cult wouldn’t let them do it last year. 

Crea thoroughly investigates the whole festival meat-on-a-stick situation, and also providing every passing child with whatever candy is on hand. Issana and Ayla get the band back together and do their old juggling-and-tumbling routine. Cael enters a sharp-shooter contest but doesn’t actually win. Herm…is muttering to himself and taking notes. Even people here, who love us, think he’s weird. Nessie found herself a nice quiet place to greet the sunrise and has made herself a nice little rock alter, but this whole festival is making her miss her own patron. She enters a drinking contest and makes it to the finals against Darius the local tank. Final round: Lier, a clearish goats-milk based stuff that Crea recognizes from back home. Darius passes out and Nessie wins…and then passes out herself. Nyla joins in the animal judging and awards Best Chicken to a random cat. Bingo networks with the local and visiting bards, then spends his evenings drunk and screwing up the new songs he’s learned. Bingo invents a mashup. Bingo meets a Dwarven bard, who calls himself a Skald even, who refuses to teach him the songs of his people—and ends up in a kind of battle of the bands with the skald…who somehow ends up being kinda terrible. 

After the trial, Teagan lays low for a few days, then starts pitching in with rebuilding and repair efforts. By the time the festival rolls around, he’s taking part in all the pre-festival events. Crea buys him a turkey leg. 

As the festival comes to a close, Herm runs up to Bingo, papers flying everywhere. He slams them down in front of Bingo and yells “I’VE DONE IT! I HAVE THE PERFECT PLAN.” He shows Bingo an elaborate map and table and lines and basic gibberish. “I’TS THE HIEST!” I cannot possibly convey the actual plan Kolt came up with, it was brilliant. It will definitely help Bingo get back his sacred viola/french horn/tuba/piccolo. 

Dragons and Deliberations
Session 14

All the people of Orlane are out partying in the street. Hey, there are a lot of people in this town! The townsfolk we brought back are grateful to us. Moved to tears, in fact. We’re getting a lot of attention as the heroes of Orlane. We make our way back to the Slumbering Serpent, and the exhaustion starts to kick in. The alderman cuts in and sends everybody home to have their reunions after like 20 minutes of overwhelming hugging and stuff.

After sleeping in, Issana and Herm opt to spend a lot of time in the common room letting people buy them drinks and gambling with the locals. Nesse gets lucky as much as possible and hangs out with Myron Tweed, who was nice to her before. People come to us and try to give us money, but it’s like, no money at all. The cult has bled the town dry. We don’t take the money.

On the second day, the alderman comes to the Slumbering Serpent with a small chest. He goes to the private dining room. We join him there. Bingo’s still in his room, though – no one’s seen him since we got back. The alderman unlocks the chest; it’s got three bags inside, 1000 gold each. We start to argue about whether or not we should take the money or not. Cael and Nila are team No Bags. Nesse says we should take two; Herm wants to take all three but can be negotiated down to two. Issana says take all three but will grudgingly take two. Crea and Talhier are very quiet, but as though from a great distance, Talhier eventually says that he would give his cut back to the town.

We agree that Alderman Zacharias should keep one of the sacks of gold. Nesse hands it to him, and he cries a little in a tough-guy way. He says he’ll put the money back into the town and that after the year the town has had, it’s hard to believe people like us exist. Herm and Issana agree with him that it wouldn’t be right to keep all the money; it’s just the right thing to do. Nesse asks that he capture the fullness of her beard properly in the monument he builds to us. Everyone laughs.

Zacharias says that in a few days, the town will be deciding what to do with the prisoners, if we want to be involved with that. Normally those matters would be handled by the sitting lord, but petitions to Sodor have been ignored, so they’ll handle it locally. Herm offers to be an impartial party. The alderman takes off.

Herm gets a bird familiar! It’s a fey hawk. We divvy up all the sick loot from the cult’s hideout. Talhier takes the rapier; he gives it a weird look when he takes it from its scabbard and looks around kind of shifty-like.

Issana goes up to Bingo’s room and talks her way in. He says he’s totally fine and will just need some of the money from the party’s fee to hire a small army. Ah. So she gets out of him that he needs to get the Heirhorn, or the Canticle of the Dawn, without which he’s not really a Hornblower, and if he goes home without it, he’ll be disowned. There was information about it in the letter he got from Petunia. It’s being held by a rich merchant in the Silver Hill district of T’rell, which is a powerful city-state to the west whence Issana fled before the start of our adventure. It’s a theocracy run by the Annointed, religious fanatics who worship the god of Light in a hardcore way.

Issana allows that she knows T’rell very well, though they don’t necessarily love her there. She will help Bingo with his search if he gets some goddamn sleep and takes down the wall of serial killer papers and maps he’s put up on the wall.

A summer festival is coming up! It’s about a week away, and it lasts 14 days. It’s called Pinnacle. The people of Orlane are like, “You have to stay to celebrate Pinnacle with us!” The town is starting to come back to life, and it’s becoming clear exactly how fucked up the town was. There are more and more people everywhere from the surrounding countryside every day.

Cael goes to check out the mallorn tree out at the hermit’s place. She leaves the pin she took from the hermit’s body in the offering area and says a prayer over it for him. She also spends some time meditating under it every day.

Herm wanders around the town and its surrounds, and on the third or fourth day he sees some work going on outside town. He sees the alderman working with some people on a construction project. It’s a gallows. Zacharias says they have to decide what’s to be done, and Herm tells him to keep up the good work. He later tells the rest of the party about the structure. Nila is confused.

Nesse investigates the town’s temple situation. She offers counseling via Zone of Truth, which seems excessive. But she also knows Lesser Restoration, which might help. There’s no clergy left in town, but there’s a grassroots effort to clean up the temple in town. Nesse mends the big holy book that had been profaned and pitches in to helping clean out the storehouse-cum-torture chamber and Abramo’s chambers.

During that time, Nesse gets a brown paper package at the Slumbering Serpent from Tweed’s Tweed. It’s a scandalously frilly set of underclothes! Just as requested! Mr. Tweed hopes she’ll stop by before she leaves town, and the note also says “Thank you for returning Bertram to me.” Awwww. She goes to the store and buys some more stuff there – a floral summer dress. Bingo is there also and buys a feathered hat – a royal blue beret with a paste stone and a cockade of feathers. Tweed initially won’t take money from Nesse and Bingo, but they insist.

Nesse and Bingo decide to check out the Other Tavern, and it’s boarded up. Zacharias sees them and says it’s closed down because the innkeeper is in custody. “I’m sad to see it go,” says Bingo. “No, I’m not,” he continues. Bingo offers Nesse’s Zone of Truth when it comes time to determine whether the townsfolk were working for the cult under their own volition. The alderman is thoughtful.

Nila talks to farmers as they come into the inn to see if they have injured animals. Eventually a man comes in at lunchtime and says he doesn’t have any sick animals but that something is spooking his livestock at night. He has sheep, cows and a plowhorse. Nila talks to the sheepdog, who says something has come near in the past few nights that smells wrong. It smells like wet earth and fire and something that should not be. She camps out at the farm, which is several miles from town.

Late at night, the livestock get restless and NIla hears something moving at the north edge of the pasture. She walks toward it, staying close to the treeline. She hears a loud snuffling sound and can tell that whatever it is at least the size of a horse. It scuttles back. It makes a low sound that’s not a growl; it sounds familiar. Nila throws out some meat and never hears it hit the ground; there’s a snap and a swallowing sound.

She casts Speak With Animals and tells it she’s a friend. But the spell doesn’t really work, indicating that the thing isn’t a beast. But she sort of touches its mind, and it feels like the “dragon.” It purrs, and Nila throws more meat. It comes closer. It’s still skittish. She keeps feeding it and talking calmly to it. Over the course of the night, she’s able to get close enough to touch the animal. It stays for another hour or so, until dawn gets closer and the “dragon” scurries off to the north.

The farmer asks what’s up. Nila says the creature was good when she was there and that she doesn’t think a party to hunt is necessary. She tells the rest of the group she found Red.

Nesse: “It was definitely Red?”

Nila: “Yes.”

Nesse: “Oops.”

Nila says she doesn’t think Red knows how to hunt and that he needs us. Herm says he doesn’t think we need him. Issana suggests a traveling show could take him in or something.

Later that day, a runner arrives at the Slumbering Serpent to ask that we all come to the town square. Herm goes to his room first and says he’ll meet us there. When we all get there, the alderman, Sigrid and the town elders are standing on the gallows with Decius the Cleric, Tristan the Archer (both from the dungeon), the former innkeeper of the Golden Grain, the keeper of the mercantile and the carpenter all with them in manacles. The shopkeeper is still showing evidence of the beating Zacharias gave him before we left for the temple. It’s trial time, and public opinion is pretty well decided.

Each prisoner gets a chance to speak on their own behalf. The cleric’s mind seems to have shattered and he goes on a tirade. The archer begs for his life. The innkeeper, the shopkeeper and the carpenter all say they’ll leave and never come back, and swear that the cult said they’d kill them if they didn’t help. The crowd doesn’t buy it.

The crowd makes way as we arrive. Someone from the back of the crowd asks about Teagan and says he should pay. The party vouches for Teagan, saying that he did as much to rescue the town’s loved ones as anyone. Issana says he paid in blood, pointing out his gnarly scars from the lightning bolt. Teagan gets the chance to speak for himself. He says he doesn’t have a defense for the things he did, but says we gave him a second chance, and he took it. He’s sorry for what he did – he didn’t kill anyone, but he knows that’s cold comfort. He’ll abide by whatever decision is made and won’t fight it.

Zacharias asks Herm what he thinks. Herm arrived a little late wearing patchwork courtroom dress, declaring it a beautiful day for the administration of justice. Zacharias asks us what we think about the people up on the scaffold. We’ve earned a say, he says.

Nesse casts Zone! Of! Truth! on the people on the scaffold. Bingo and Herm are up on the scaffold as well. The Cleric is still ranting crazy – “I was made to rule at my mistress’ side!” The archer took the job for the money. He learned to kill people in the military and has no conscience, so why not? The shopkeeper was abducted early on and fell under the sway of the reptile god, and the longer he was under her control, the more natural it started to feel, until he couldn’t tell who was making the decisions. Carpenter, same. They didn’t kill anyone. The innkeeper did it for money, but he didn’t kill anyone. He facilitated many abductions.

Nesse asks those who didn’t kill why we should let them live. How will they atone? What good will they do? The shopkeeper and the carpenter say that, around the time we killed the naga, they felt a cloud lift from their minds. They realize what they’ve been doing, and they want to make it up. The innkeeper seems remorseful, but it’s kind of an “I’m sorry I got caught? I won’t do it again?”

The alderman suggests we break for lunch. The prisoners will go back in their cells and we’ll decide what to do with them at lunch. Herm is like, “Kill ‘em all.” The consensus of the others is that the cleric, the archer and the innkeeper should die. The shopkeeper and the carpenter should have their assets liquidated for the good of the town and be exiled for life. Herm is pissed off; Bingo suggests that maybe the town will let Herm pull the lever on the gallows.

Nila decides not to go back to the scaffold. She buys a bunch of meat and heads back into the woods. Everyone else returns to the scaffold. The alderman asks us what we think. Issana explains what we decided. Part of the crowd wants blood from everybody, but the alderman nods and Sigrid starts fitting them with nooses and hoods. The cleric rants. The archer fights a little. The innkeeper cries like a baby. The shopkeeper and the carpenter stay on the platform.

There’s no lever, which pisses Herm right off. Sigrid stands the prisoners on stools and kicks the stools out from under them. The drop isn’t very far, so they suffocate instead of breaking their necks. The other two have to watch. The crowd chants and throws rocks. After everyone stops kicking, the other two prisoners are escorted back to the jail. Teagan is there and watches the whole thing.

As the crowd disperses, a man and a woman are on their knees holding each other, sobbing. A woman is by herself not far away with her face pressed into the dirt. There are others around the field who stay staring at the bodies. Nesse says a prayer and burns the gallows with the bodies still hanging. Some of the people stay and watch. Some people look sickened that everything has come to this and leave.

Issana follows Ailla and her husband back to their house. Aelric is inside crying, and Ailla is comforting him. Issana opts not to knock and returns to the Slumbering Serpent.

Everyone else except Nila heads back to the inn.

Nila makes it back to the farm by the time it’s full dark. She goes to the clearing and tries to call Red there. She makes calls that Red might respond to, and after about half an hour, she hears footsteps that she’s pretty sure are Red. She feeds him the meat she bought. Red moves into the clearing, and it takes less time for him to let her touch him. It’s clear that taming him will take lots of time and patience. She tries to check him over for injuries. He seems to be in good shape considering what he’s been through. Nila spends the night trying to gain his trust.

A Festival of Phobias - *LVL4*
Session number 13! Snakes! Caves! Open water! Spiders!

Okay so spiders scream now, that’s cool. Luckily, Bingo speaks spider, apparently, and calls back to the it. We joke around about Bingo hooking up with a spider, which distracts us long enough for Bingo to get snatched by something and disappear. Then two (more?) giant spiders skitter silently down the walls towards us. Initiative! Right out the gate, Herm gets snared in some webbing and Crea dodges a similar fate. Issana hits the spider holding Herm with an arrow. Bingo wiggles around and breaks out of his spider’s grasp. Luckily, he casts FeatherFall and lands somewhat gracefully. Crea hates spiders quite a lot and would rather not deal with Krom The Web if she can help it, so she rages! And discovers that her axe now gets really shiny and does more damage than previous. That’s neat. Cael hits the spider with some lot of business that gives her extra attacks. That’s also neat. A spider-dude-person-looking-thing drops from the ceiling and tries to enter the fight by attacking Issana. Issana remains un-attacked, rapiering spider guy for his temerity. One of the spiders hits Crea and she lets out a Barbaric Yawp of rage, Frightening one of the spiders and the spider guy. She then swings her axe and damn near cleaves the one spider’s head in half. Sadly, this doesn’t kill it. Herm gets a good hit in on the spider guy as he tries to flee the fight. Issana arrows the remaining spider in of it’s too many eyeballs, killing it messily. As spider guy flees up the wall, Crea flings a javelin, hitting it for a bunch of shiny damage. Bingo and Herm attack as well, Bingo hits the dude and Herm sets the webbing along the wall on fire. The spider dude tries to book it away, but Issana does some arrow magic freakin’ move that finally kills it. As its dying, we hear it’s death wails. Above us, we see the fire webs incinerate an egg sack. Ugh. Gross. 

Crea sacrifices a bit of one of the spiders to Krom The Web And All That She Weaves and also, y’know, Krom The Fluffy Puppy can wag his tail in our direction aaaaaaaaany time now. 

Herm, during all this, has realized that he recognizes this place, particularly one corner which he proceeds to inspect. He warns us that arcane shit is about to go down and then….hits the wall with a stick. Crea calls bullshit. He tries again, then explains that magic is mysterious and hard to comprehend and moves on. Investigating the rest of the room, Talhier finds a chained up giant crocodile in an alcove. We discuss what to do, with Talhier in favor of ignoring it but the rest of us concerned about animal cruelty. We promise to come back and handle it once we deal with the rest of this situation. 

Further down, we find another underground lake. Still water, a boat on the shore. On Issana’s suggestion, Crea and Issana chuck the spider guy’s carcass into the water to see what happens. Crea thinks everything’s cool, but Issana notices that the body is jerked a bit, then a bit more, then she shines a torch and sees a large school of small, slightly bioluminescent fish nibbling at the body. We pile into the boat. Crea shoves off and hops in. It’s super creepy quiet in this cave. All we hear is water noises—slapping against the boat, the splash of the oars. Until…we all hear a raspy, dry voice echoing off the cavern walls. Something is laughing. Something that is not particularly good at laughing. 

Herm stands up on the boat, holds up his ring, casts an illusion of a snake coming out of the ring, and announces that he’s bringing forth the ornament of the snake goddess. As we drift into the center of the lake, we see an island sand bar with a black slab and some people around it. There’s a dude wearing armor off to the side, a bunch of peasants (15-20) with hands joined around the altar, a humanoid in the back with a snake head. They're holding a crossbow. Also, there’s an armored dwarf. In a shadowy bit, there’s a pile something that resolves itself into a giant snake with an elaborate headdress on a human head. This giant snake says to Herm, “Your offering pleassssssssessssss me. Bring it here.” 

Herm recognizes PersonFace SnakeThing, and it is the source of all his terrors. He feels an overwhelming urge to worship. Crea says that now would be a good time for a fireball, which was maybe not a wise thing to say, but Crea’s gonna Crea. Herm tries to save the situation (“Yes! A fiery balloon in tribute to your greatness!”) Issana notes that the dwarf is Ayla’s husband, and the rest of the peasants are drugged. The torches are burning the hypnotic candle business and the peasants are acting drugged. The other armored guy and the other snake-person seem in control of their faculties. 

PFST says, “In all the vassssst yearsssss, I’ve never been able to work out—perhapsssss you can help me—isssss it foolisssshhhh bravery or hubrissssss that bringssss you here? You are not the firsssssst, you likely won’t be the lassssst. But often enough, thessssse bugsssss, thessssse inssssectssss come to my door in sssssome comical attempt at a challenge. If I’m honessssst, I don’t even mind. Asssss you can ssssee, I have a great many children here who mussssssst eat.” And she draws her head back and lightening crackles across her mouth. Roll for initiative! 

PFST shoots a line of lightening down the side of the boat, knocking out Teagan, Bingo, and Nila entirely. Herm tries sending a message with his illusion, telling armor dude that he comes with the true goddess and this imposter must be defeated. Armor Dude recognizes Herm and sasses him about it, so that went well. Herm ducks behind a stalagmite. The altar pulses and shoots electric current up over the peasants, who all collapse. Issana jumps out of the boat and misses an attempt to shoot at the snake goddess. The dwarf hucks a spear at Herm and it is unpleasant. The snake-faced guy comes after Talhier who manages to deflect a crossbow bolt to the midsection. Crea rages, and does some damage on the snake goddess, but probably not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Nila manages to make a death save and so is not dead. Issana gets some kind of whammy, but shakes it off only to realize that she had started to aim at Crea. Talhier gets a solid hit in. 

Herm’s ring protects him against mental attacks! That’s great. Except now he’s got voices? In his head? And it’s Misha, who starts ranting in a language he doesn’t understand. Which is annoying, I’m sure. Herm flees towards Issana and the snake goddess. 

The black altar pulses again, and five of the peasants stand up and move to crowd around the snake goddess to protect her. Issana takes a shot at the snake goddess and one of the peasants dives in the way to block the arrow. The snake-faced guy hops up, takes a shot, then hides again, less well than he hid before. Cael is hit, but Kolt grabs one of the dice on the party sheet to do a cool thing—so Herm calls out a warning that allows Cael to twist out of the way and take less damage. One of the minions sneaks up the snake goddess and heals some of her wounds. Luckily, Crea is there to reopen them. Having been healed by Nesse, Nila drops some healing on Bingo, lifting him off death’s doorstep. She also drops into a wild shape of a strangely naked bear. 

Bingo pulls himself together and tries his hand at hitting the snake goddess as well. It works! He’s doing great for having been mostly dead for a few seconds there. He also plays a little snake-charmer song to inspire Talhier. Nesse heals Teagan, who calls her his hairy angel. Bingo falls asleep (it’s a spell, he’s not lazy), and Herm firmly but gently kicks him in the side to wake him up. This round, the black altar pulses again and this time the minions go feral and try attacking the party with their bare hands which, you know, happens. They try, bless their hearts. Issana does arrow things and then disengages to move around towards the snake goddess. Cael gets hit again, and she’s in a bad way. Crea moves around the snake goddess to flank her, but misses on her attack swing while she’s moving. Hits the fancy headdress and makes a mess of that, though. So there. 

Nila The Nakee Bear goes in on the armored dwarf, who Issana has neglected to tell us is her friend. Bingo gets up again and goes after snake goddess again. Herm tries to learn something about the altar and seems to grok that the pulses are building towards some kind of dramatic climax.  We’re pretty much all in on the giant snake at this point. There’s, like, peasants in the way and whatever. It looks like we’re getting somewhere are the snake goddess is bloodied and snarling. The healer dude moves in closer to her and lays on hands again, healing her a bit. Bastard. 

Snakeface takes a shot at Cael, who sees him coming—and also notices that he’s wearing a pendant. She recognizes it! It looks like very fancy coffee cup stains! Their eyes meet! They have a moment! He recognizes her! Swelling music! Actually, he seems afraid! Because he drops his crossbow a bit after he fires! DRAMATIC MOMENT

The minions…it’s a great effort. They are really trying hard, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on here. Tegan enters the fray, eyeing the priest. He’s new at good-guying, he’s not ready to face the big bad yet. Crea swings at the cleric, but misses so dramatically that she hits the snake goddess instead! Krom the Fortunate rains blessings upon the chosen. Nila flanks the snake goddess and gets to do more damage because flanking is a good idea. Now the snake goddess has to deal with a naked bear attacking her. She’s still up, but she’s wavering and clearly beginning to panic. Nesse heals Bingo a bit more. Teagan goes after the priest, but priest is armored. We’re still proud of Tegan, though, he’s come a long way. The snake goddess bites at Crea, who spent a lot of time chasing and being bitten by snakes back on the Green Sea, and so is immune to her particular business. Talhier facepalms a peasant out of the way, distracts the snake goddess with his shield and stabs under it up through the lower jaw and through the top of her skull. 

A horrifying scream echoes off the walls as all the peasants collapse. The entire body of the snake goddess writhes and twists, spraying blood everywhere. She lands on the altar, then goes still. The black altar pulses again, even brighter. The cleric freaks the hell out. Issana yells that we should stabilize the dwarf and she’ll explain later. The priest throws his body, weeping, across the corpse of the snake goddess, casting healing spells wildly (they don’t do anything). 

Snakeface starts to turn into an actual snake and dives down a bolthole in the back of the room. Crea throws the weeping cleric off the corpse of the snake goddess and chops her head off to sacrifice to Krom The Jealous Who Will Not Tolerate The Hubris Of Pretenders. Herm warns us to get away from the altar, Issana tries to interrogate the priest. Bingo tries to trick him into sharing these secrets with us (“there’s lots of snake cults out there! you can start your own!”) which actually works. The priest then does some magic business and the altar flares and then goes dim. After some quick discussion (Crea: “We didn’t kill Teagan and look how that turned out!”) Issana ties him and gags him just in time for Bingo’s friendship spell to wear off. 

Turns out the snake goddess was napping on a giant pile of treasure that will be described in detail later. Herm studies the altar and discovers that it’s covered in a loooooot of dried blood. Best guess, it looks like something to do with mental control, amplifying mental control, etc. The headdress seems fancy, but not necessarily magical. We wake the peasants, get them into the boat, and ferry everyone back to the other side of the lake. Aelric the Dwarf is stable but unconscious. We again argue over what to do with the crocodile thing. Crea’s in favor of putting it out his misery, Bingo assures everyone that we aren’t going to feed peasants to the crocodile (Issana: “What the fuck, Bingo? No one suggested that.”). 

Treasure includes a bearded axe, which is disappointingly not an axe with an actual beard, but Crea is making heart-eyes at it anyway. Bingo finds a book near the altar and starts reading it…and the cave fades away into the scene he is reading. Issana suggests he reads about Orlane and transport us back to town. Crea thinks reading is stupid. Bingo starts saying “We put the townsfolk in the boat and row across…” and we see that happen just as we did it “…and then several days later we pulled into Orlane…” and a bubble pops and we are standing at the edge of town. 

It’s twilight, and as we are standing around confused and amazed…we see someone come out the door of the Slumbering Serpent. The person screams with joy and people start streaming out of the inn and local houses and swarm the villagers we’ve saved. It seems as if four days have passed since we left the swamp. The alderman is hugging people, it’s all very happy. We hand the priest over for justice. Some people are reunited with lost loved ones (Ailla gets her husband back), but some have their worst fears confirmed. Belba the innkeeper gives great hugs! And tells Bingo that Petunia left town, leaving behind a letter for him. 

Housekeeping notes: Treasure will be described and doled out by James before next week. We’ll do one or possibly a couple wrap-up sessions as we describe what our characters get up to over the next few presumably peaceful months. If you took some sort of luck-related feat or spell or whatnot, you will need to explain and justify your luck at work each time you use it, not just say, “Bah! But I am lucky so I reroll!” 

I May Never Be Fully Dry again
Session 12

We proceed forward and take a side door and explore the living quarters and bedroom of the Misha and her followers. We find some coin and some writings from Abrahmo and Decius. After not finding much else we go back to the main hall. Pretty sure we are walking west. The next room that we come across looks familiar, it’s the lake room where we saw the glow-frog but we don’t stay. We have to climb some rubble to go on. Through the next door a stench of a thousand bogs meets us and some of us leave our previously consumed rations on the ground. Talhier sees something bobbing in the water. Herm uses mage hand to poke what we find to be a bloated body in the water. In fact, there are dozens of bodies all around. This is where they dump the bodies. Let’s go back. We are now in another lake room, boy there are a lot of lakes down here. We walk up to the lake and there is no way around it and there is no boat to be seen. Nesse picks up some dirt and throws it into the water.  Oh great, now there is some motion in the water.

Talhier decides that as he has never row, row, rowed a boat, that he is not going to go in search of the boat.  He nominates Cael to search for the boat, using the logic that a cave is just an underground forest. It doesn’t work.  The rest of the team agrees Cael should go – she is hesitant, but Nila says she can help. Nila casts Spider Climb on Cael.  Her spidey sense is tingling. She climbs up the wall and makes her way across the ceiling, and she sees the boat around the corner.  Right before she is able to alert the team, her hands slip and she almost falls into the lake, but manages an amazing save as she grabs a convenient handhold shaped root.  The falling dirt disturbs the water and a reptilian head breaks the surface, only showing slitted eyes and nostrils. She makes it to the boat, and checks out the path behind the boat.  It leads to a nondescript dirt wall. After seeing nothing, she pushes the boat into the water. She rows back to the entryway where everyone is waiting, and the crew gets into the boat.  We head back to the area where the boat was from where several of us try to check out the dirt wall. Most of us just see dirt – Nila starts feeling along the wall and since she is preoccupied, she almost walks straight into the water.  Bingo does an amazing save and catches her by the back of her cloak before she tumbles in, surely to become a snack to the giant waiting gator creature. Eventually, Herm takes a look at the dirt wall and realizes it is very straight. Almost too straight.  For a dirt wall.  After further investigation, it is revealed to be a door.  Opening the door leads to the hallway outside of the room where we fought Misha and her crew.

We decide to get back in the boat and row to the hallway that is across the lake from where we found the boat.  After long stretch of dark hallway, there is a locked door. Issana picks the lock and we enter the room. The room has a door leading to an unknown area, and the far side of the room opens into another room.  The inside of this room appears almost stable-like. There is straw for a potential feeding area in the corner, and a giant trough.

Nessie hears a low growl come from inside the farther connected chamber.  Some low squat creatures come out of the room each holding a section of chain.  The chain leads into the dark recesses of the room behind them. Out of the blackness comes a large reptilian creature.  There are several more of the small squat creatures prodding the giant creature out into sight towards us – and that’s when we notice the creature's wings.  The mystery creature is a dragon, although small – maybe 15 feet in length at most. Its scales are rusty red, though they may be caked in dirt. We prepare for battle.

While we are focused on the dragon, several bat sized mosquito creatures buzz around and join the fray.  Cael shoots and nearly kills one of the troglodytes.  Nila runs to the front and casts thornwhip – but she misses.  Talhier ruins out fun of trying to save the dragon from slavery by running up to confront the dragon and deftly slashing it.  He says nobles must kill dragons. Herm casts flaming sphere in the middle of the troglodytes. Bingo lines up the hurt troglodyte and finishes it off.  Nila, Herm, and Nessie take some punishment once the enemies move into range Nessie and Herm are latched onto by our resident bloodsuckers. Nessie retaliates by smacking the stirge into an explosion of blood on her warhammer – Cael skewers a stirge near Talhier, covering him in a misty red cloud.  Herm phases out behind Cael, and leaves behind the stirge. The frustrated bug turns toward Cael and lands a hit on her face. Another stirge attaches itself to Bingo. Cael almost stabs herself in the face in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the stirge. Herm follows this up by almost burning her face off with missed fire bolt. Bingo can’t get his stirge off of himself either.  Some heals happen to keep people alive. The flaming sphere heads towards the stirges – the one on Bingo flees, and Cael skewers it. The stirge on Cael keeps attacking (Sebastian: "Exsanguination!"), but is burned to a crisp by the flaming sphere. The dragon slashes and smashes Talheir with its tail (two attacks!) Teagan aids in the fight by helping to dispatch troglodytes.

Once the dragon is alone, Talhier determines that it may not actually be a dragon but a dragon-like creature, but we cannot tell.  It seems less intelligent than normal dragons. Since it is red, and chromatic dragons are generally evil, we decide to kill it anyway, until Nila runs up to calm it using speak with animals. She tells it its captors are gone.  It reacts by backing up to the corner and curling into a small ball. Nila continues to talk to it, and feeds it some rations. It slinks back into the larger cave area. We decide to release the chains that bind the creature – but without getting too close.  Nessie convines Issana (Sebastian: “Compassion!”) to use Mage Hand to release the dragon creature's collar from a safe distance. With the chains released, it gives itself a good neck rub on the wall, not unlike a cat. Nila feeds the dragon and it relaxes. To Herm’s dismay, we decide to short rest in the room with the dragon creature.  Talhier feeds the dragon some cheese, and Bingo sings the dragon a soothing song. The dragon wanders to the body of the dead troglodytes and has a delicious dinner while being serenaded. We give the dragon a gold and… it eats it and then spits it out. (Sebastian: “Rejection!”). Nila tries to touch it, and only succeeds for a moment – the dragon has scars around its neck.

We head out to check around the lake for anything else of interest, and we notice the dragon friend poke its head out of the hallway, and in one leap it clears the lake into the hallway that leads out.  Talhier and Herm want to give chase because they fear that there will be fields full of children for this dragon to eat – however, we’re more than several days away from a town, so the people that can (and will row, unlike Talhier) decide we are going back to the dragon stable room to check out the door and where it leads.  After checking for traps, Nesse takes the lead and the stairway slowly turns from dirt into stone.

We come upon a small area with water and stepping stones – most of us make it across dry except for our gnomish friends, who need help getting out of the chest deep water.  After following the hallway some more, we come upon a room where we all enter. As the last of us passes the threshold, the roof of the room collapses. Eeep!

Nessie, Nila, Bingo, and Teagan are all trapped under tons of dirt and suffocating!  Upon seeing her small charges trapped, Crea rages and call upon Krom the Badger Lord to lend her strength to dig them out. The rest of us who are not trapped lend Crea a hand. (Sebastian, muffled: “Excavation!”). We try to dig them out as Bingo begins losing his shit.  Luckily Herm the extremely buff gnome pulls Nila out. Crea, in her rage, plows into the dirt and pulls out Teagan, who is coughing and sputtering up dirt. Issana reaches in and catches Bingo, who attaches himself to her for dear life, and vomit dirt and bile all over her.  Nesse, with her indomitable constitution, remains fairly calm regardless of being the last one pulled out. To our dismay Sebastian is unconscious! (“Resuscitation!”, Sabastia probably). As Nesse casts as much healing magic as she can, and he slowly opens his eyes. (Sebastian: "Confusion.")

Talhier hates to admit it, but he helped do the menial chore of digging out our buried party members, but quips that he did not like it.  Bingo’s instruments are miraculously unscathed. As we look around after the aftermath, we notice some spider webs that seem very… large.

[[NOTE:  We have had two encounters, so our next encounter will be the third.]]

Fight in the Underground Temple
Session 11

The party is in the central chamber. We decide to move forward into the larger room ahead, Crea leading the way. There are five cultists and a lady in heavy armor in there. The constable is one of the cultists. Some of us notice that several of the people in the group, who are arranging themselves in a semi-circle like a college a cappella group, have the glassy-eyed stare like the people from the town, but minus the lethargy of the people from the Golden Grain. The woman in heavy armor is alert as you please. The room is lit by torches, but it’s also full of those candles.

The woman is in her late 20s and is fairly unremarkable except for her eyes, which are hard and predatory. She says, “I was wondering when we’d meet.” Apparently we’ve been causing a lot of trouble for “her mistress.” There’s some interplay with the constable, who seems stressed or ashamed. Another cultist recognizes Teagan, who says he’s done with all this and that he’s with us now. Good man. He advises the man who recognized him to walk away, as he’s seen what we can do. Deduction tells us the heavy-armor woman is Misha, the priestess.

Misha is all like, “Kill them,” and it’s on. Bingo casts Faery Fire on Misha and a random cultist. Issana shoots an arrow into Misha. Then the cultists take their turn. Misha casts Hold Person or Paralyze or some damn thing on Crea, and she can’t move and everything against her has advantage and all hits from 5 feet away are crits. The constable promptly stabs the hell out of her. Some cultists also start stabbing Nila, too. And someone with a bow decides to shoot Crea.

Teagan goes after the guy who got all pissy with him earlier and stabs him with Issana’s dagger. He cuts him up pretty well. Go Teagan! Nila casts Healing Word on herself and turns into what she thinks is a honey badger. Cael casts Hunter’s Mark on the Faery Fire cultist and shoots an arrow into him. Crea fails her wisdom saving throw and is still paralyzed. Herm casts Flaming Sphere over by Misha and the constable. (“Incantation,” says Sebastian.) Talhier risks an attack of opportunity to attack the constable. He stabs him and goes for another attack, which misses. Nesse casts Cure Wounds on Crea. Second level, even!

Bingo inspires Crea by singing her a little song. He also casts Suggestion on the cultist archer, telling him that if he attacks his friends, we’ll let him surrender at the end of the fight. It may have worked? Issana uses her rapier to stab the Faery Fire cultist to death, thanks to Sneak Attack damage. Ask for it by name! The constable and Misha move away from the Flaming Sphere. The constable makes another attack against Crea. He crits without even that bullshit autocrit stuff. Bingo throws in Cutting Words to lower the damage, which was considerable. The constable has an action surge in him; he swings at Nesse and misses.

Misha casts something at Talhier, probably the same thing she cast on Crea, but he shakes it off. Misha also casts Healing Word on the cultist Issana killed to death, who gets up and is ready to fight again. Two cultists attack Nila – one misses, another hits. Then another swings at her and hits as well. The archer in the corner who was Suggested at by Bingo. He shoots at Teagan anyway. Teagan goes. He stabs his guy. Nila tries a bite attack and misses. Cael shoots at the cultist that died and came back. Down he goes again. Crea saves at last, and is angry. Herm casts firebolt at Misha and misses. He moves the Flame Sphere. Talhier misses the swing he takes at the constable. Nesse casts Cure Wounds at second level on Crea.

Bingo casts Cloud of Daggers around Misha. Issana stabs the constable with her rapier, and Misha takes yet more damage from the Cloud of Daggers. The constable tries to attack Issana and misses. One of the cultists on Nila crits and does a lot of damage. She’s back in her gnome form. Another one hits her and she takes yet more damage. Teagan stabs another dude – he’s really good at this “stabbing dudes” thing. Nila casts Cure Wounds on herself. Cael moves her Hunter’s Mark to the constable and shoots him. Crea rages and carves into the constable with her greataxe. It feels great. Herm moves the Flame Sphere to follow Misha and casts Firebolt at her. It hits. Talhier misses the constable. Nesse Tolls the Dead on the constable, which kills him dead.

Bingo uses his crossbow to shoot Misha. Then Issana shoots her with an arrow right through the faceplate, and she’s dead. The archer flees the room, running through the Cloud of Daggers and taking a bunch of damage. He gets a little way down the hall. One of the remaining cultists calls the archer a coward and swings at Nila, missing. Another cultist also swings at Nila, hitting her this time. Teagan stabs at a cultist, but it glances off his armor. Nila casts Healing Word on herself and changes shape into the goat-wolf. Cael moves her Hunter’s Mark to a damaged cultist and shoots him. Crea chases after the running archer and carves into him. Herm casts firebolt at the archer for yet more damage. Tahlier kills the guy who recognized Teagan. Nesse Tolls the Dead on the archer, who refuses to die.

Bingo uses Vicious Mockery on the archer, who unfortunately resists, because it would have been awesome to have him go down like that. Issana crit fails shooting at him. The archer lays on the ground and whimpers. The other remaining cultist, who hasn’t taken any damage, provokes four attacks of opportunity trying to get away. He makes it to the hall toward the chamber we originally came from. Nila chases him to bite at his heels, but misses. Cael moves her Hunter’s Mark to the guy who’s running and shoots him and he dies.

The archer is crying and begging for his life. Issana wants to know how many more cultists there are. There is a group by the stairs down. They’re monsters, not people. There’s one more level down. There’s an underground lake through the hall – there are things in the lake, but if you use the boat, they won’t bother us. Why was Misha doing all this, Talhier wants to know. Because she serves the Mistress.

The lake is 40 or 50 feet across, and the hallway that leads down is on the other side. On the lower level, Decius and the Mistress are probably there. She has others with her – guard monsters and lieutenants. The archer hasn’t been there much – he wasn’t worthy. Herm agrees. The archer says there was a newcomer in the past few weeks, a male elf with a weird swirly symbol around his neck, like a cross with curves.

We tie up the archer, with the plan of turning him in for justice back in the town. Herm inspects Misha’s equipment and finds that she’s wearing armor of good quality, but the only magical thing he finds is a gold ring with a blue stone that looks faceted but isn’t. Herm takes the ring and does not mention it to the rest of the group. Among the cultists, we find about 300 gold and a garnet worth about 70 gold.

The Trip Through the Swamp
Session 10

Bright new day, we head to the common room. Crea orders pancakes and patiently explains to the minion we have tied up that Krom Who Forgives will light his way to a better path for his life. We arrange for a horse for Tegan the Minion and Herm The New Guy. Crea expresses concern that we are collecting so many small, fragile things.

Meta Note: We’re going to be enforcing material components of spells, e.g., “identify” will cost a pearl of 100g value, so if you want to cast identify, you better have a pearl of 100g value. James outlines some treasure that we have received thus far, it’s a lot. We buy Herm a pony with copper pieces, because we’re jerks. The pony’s name is now Penny. Crea points out to Tegan that Krom rains blessings on people of goodwill. Nesse decides Tegan is her boyfriend.

We head out into the swamp, it’s a couple day trip. The first couple days go pretty well. Nyla does okay considering she can’t see. Crea attempts to guide the horses through the swamp but it does not go well. On the last-ish day as we approach the area of the evil temple, while Isanna is out scouting ahead of the group, her horse suddenly rears up. Looking down, Isanna sees a body in the swamp!

It’s a male dragonborn, dressed in ragged-looking robes, and he’s been dead for a little while. The wounds on the corpse look pretty serious, his arm’s off, his leg is nearly gone as well. It’s possible this is the missing hermit from the grove in town. Cael notices that attached to his clothes is a small brooch, the symbol of her enclave, signifying that he has done some service to her people. Others notice that a small green lizard scuttles up the roots of  a recently upturned tree. Nesse feeds it a bit of stuff and he eats her nibbles and says “Salutation"!

No one has any idea what a talking lizard guy is all about. Krom the Wonderous brings surprises every day! Lizard guy looks at dead guy and says, “Companion.” We all have ALL THE FEELS. He tells us his name is Sebastian, the runs up Nesse’s arm. She may have made a friend. We ask where they were headed, Sebastian says, “Incarceration.” Crea is distracted by this amazing talking lizard friend, but everyone else hears a branch snap behind us. They turn around to see a hulking figure rise out of the swamp behind us. He appears to be munching on the missing arm.

Fighty fight! Herm tries fire, it sorta works. Bingo and Cael try arrows, those work better. Crea tries javelins, but her aim is bad. Talhier charges in on horseback and that works a bit better. Isanna botches an arrow shot. Big Ugly retaliates against Talhier and tries to bite him. Herm hits Ugly with another fire spell, and notices that it’s knitting itself back together where the arrows hit, but not where the fire hits. Crea finally gets a hit in, as does Isanna. The creature charges at Isanna, running over Bingo on the way, damn near killing him.

Nesse heals Bingo, bringing him back from the brink of death. Crea rages and feels the power of Krom The Wrathful flow through her into her axe. Then she feels the power of her axe cleaving into whatever the hell this thing is. Talheir and Cael surround it. Bingo’s cloud of daggers flay what’s left of the creature and it explodes into a pile of goo. All over Talhier. Crea burns a bit the creature, and realizes that it’s still moving. Not sure that this came from Krom in the first place, she decides to give it all back anyway and burns the whole mess.

Cael and Nyla find a small pouch in the troll guts. There’s other guts in the bag, along with 12 gold. We give the former hermit a formal burial, with Cael reciting what she remembers of her people’s burial rituals and Crea sending him back to the infinity of Krom. We find a reasonably solid place to camp and take a rest.

Cael takes first watch and hears something in the water. Something big is swimming out there. It gets up on a tree root and watches us and then swims away about 15 minutes later. Talhier takes second watch. Nothing of note happens.

The weather has been clear, but clouds have been gathering, and on day five (the day after the troll fight) the rain starts. Within an hour of starting travel, it’s a downpour. After a while, Teagan says we’ll get there today. A few hours past midday, we enter an area where most of the trees have been cleared and have started to grow back. In the middle, there’s a raised area of dirt that looks man-made. This, Teagan says, looking nervous, is it.

The complex is underground. There’s no need for guards unless they’re expecting someone. We ride up the mound of earth; it’s like a levee against the swamp water, so the area in the middle is the entrance. There are stairs leading down; they do not appear to be trapped. Herm volunteers to go second-to-last.

We do a bunch of rolls about gnolls and whether they build temples with traps and stuff.  Probably not, but Isanna is going to hang up front and keep an eye out for traps since the temple has probably been enhanced by the current residents. We advance down the stairs, Teagan in tow for some reason.

The stairs go for a long time, like 80-100 feet. The walls change from stone block to packed earth. Everything is wet and rotten and gross. At the bottom of the stairs, there is a 15×15 room that’s like a wet basement. There’s a hallway that leads in the direction we were headed, and another that leads to the right. We decide to go right, on the basis that we went right a bunch before.

There’s a door at the end of the right hallway. Isanna hears something…froggy-toady behind it? She has the devil’s own time unlocking the door. When the door opens, there’s a fairly large room behind it with a muddy, nasty floor. In the middle, there’s a column supporting an arched ceiling. On the right side of the room, there’s a shelf that comes out of the water. We can’t tell how deep the water is. There are frogs on the shelf and frogs in the water – they don’t seem particularly big or mean. Nesse casts light on a frog. When it dives into the water, we’re able to determine that the water is about three feet deep. On the left side of the room, there’s a threshold that leads to another hallway.

Nesse looks for footprints and sees bootprints on the shelf. There are fewer over by the doorway on the left side of the room. Herm throws some jerky in the water – the glow frog comes for it, and it is promptly swallowed by a 30-pound bullfrog.

We think, “Hey, maybe Teagan can go in the water for us first.” Nesse fails at persuasion, and  Isanna fails at intimidation. She gives him the dagger that didn’t intimidate him and they send him out in the water. He tiptoes over to the shelf. He says the bootprints are just kind of milling around, but then he starts brushing at the wall. It’s…plugging an opening? He pulls a plug out of the wall and says there’s another room on the other side.

Crea scoops up a gnome under each arm and Talhier lets Bingo ride piggyback. The rest wade over to the shelf. Herm the buff wizard is nominated to go through the narrow tunnel to the secret room. There’s a drop of several feet on the other side, and there’s a foot locker. He tries to open it. Something is finally goddamn trapped – he’s stabbed with a needle, and he takes some poison damage.

Isanna climbs through the hole. It’s very graceful. She unlocks the box; it’s double trapped, but she avoids the needle. The box is full of coins. On top of the coins are some bracers, a necklace and a rapier. The rapier is very bright silver, and the pommel guard is rounded like a crescent moon. There’s filigree that implies a crescent moon. The necklace is a torc made of reddish gold metal with tassel-like terminals. The bracers are more substantial on the inside, and the straps on the back are very delicate, with flowing, natural patterns of vines growing around an arrow.

Herm and Isanna climb out of the room after scooping out a bunch of money and gems (three pearls that can be used for Identify) and grabbing the items. They give the bracers to Cael. She straps them on easily; they’re totally for an archer and also magic. Herm does an arcana check on the torc and it’s super magical. No details. The rapier glows when unsheathed. It’s proooooobably magic, then. Talhier will probably wind up with it.

We put the plug back in the wall and decide to backtrack to the central chamber. What will happen next? We’ll see!

Showdown in the Torture Room - *LVL3*
Session 9

As it turns out, there were TWO people in the cage in Father Abrahmo’s chuckle hut! One of them said, “Bingo?” And then the curtain rises on tonight’s session. Bingo recognizes the voice: “Petunia?” He ugly-cries. 

The skeletons take up defensive positions around Father Abramo and the goblins raise their shortbows. Abrahmo’s mind is clearly gone – his clothes are dirty and unwashed, he’s covered in dried blood, and he’s got a crazy Joker grin. Roll for initiative!

Nila uses Thunderwave to explode a skeleton, but then there’s a lair action and a new skeleton forms out of all the crap on the floor. Boo! That’s not what we wanted at all! Cael remembers to cast Hunter’s Mark on Abrahmo but misses his armor class. The bound and gagged captive attempts to have the other captive (Petunia, we assume.) help him undo his bindings through the cage wall dividing them. Doesn’t go well. Various other shots and hits are dealt to the baddies. Then Abrahmo starts chanting and the skeletons and goblins start attacking and everything is kind of screwed up. Nila goes to zero hit points when a skeleton runs her through. But Nesse comes in with a clutch Cure Wounds a moment later.

Nila turns into a honey badger that’s sort of a messed-up kangaroo weasel with a cat face. The lair action generates so many fucking skeletons that James runs out of minis. Now the ranged fighters are at disadvantage because of the goddamn crowd, which is super great. Bingo gives Petunia a dagger to cut the other captive’s bindings. This mysterious person casts Mage Hand to get the key to the cages off the wall. Abrahmo goes crazy-go-nuts when he sees we’re interfering with the prisoners, as though he’s gearing up for something. Eventually there’s a shitstorm of skeleton and goblin attacks, and Abrahmo casts something on Bingo; it appears to be Toll the Dead. It knocks him right the fuck out. But here comes Nesse with Healing Word.

There’s another lair action. More skeletons. Yay. But we whack away at them, trying to do crowd control so someone can hit the evil cleric again. The mysterious caged stranger lets himself out of the cage with the keys, Then that dick Abrahmo casts something that paralyzes Isanna completely and incapacitates her and everything against her has advantage and is a crit. It’s amazing, because all these advatanged attacks keep missing. 

More lair actions, but the skeleton that forms is kind of wobbly. The lair’s heart just isn’t in it. Bingo casts Faerie Fire , so now some attacks have advantage, which we like and appreciate, thanks Bingo. The mysterious caged stranger passes the keys to Petunia and casts Firebolt, so now everyone knows he’s got magic. Yay magic! Isanna is still fucking paralyzed. The mysterious magical stranger gets fucked right up by skeletons and goes to zero. Isanna takes some hurting. Nesse Tolls the Dead on a skeleton. 

The lair craps out on its action entirely this round. What a relief. Bingo takes a shot at Abrahmo and misses. The mysterious magical stranger fails a death save. Isanna saves from the paralysis at last. Abrahmo Tolls the Dead on Crea, who got all up in his business on her turn. One of the skeletons does some damage to Petunia, who has come out of her cage and tried to kick the skeleton’s ass. Talhier goes to zero fighting gerblins.

The lair spits out a single janky skeleton. Cael takes a shot at Abrahmo and misses. Bingo shoots at him, too, and hits. The mysterious magical stranger fails another death save. This is comedy gold, because Kolt notes that his character hasn’t even spoken a word in this game and he’s going to fucking die. Crea chops Abrahmo’s head off (woot!) and the skeletons all die in response. The goblins are super not into this scene now. Isanna shoots one in the gut, and the gerblins surrender. Cael and Isanna slit the goblins’ throats over Bingo’s lily-livered protests. 

We’re out of combat, and everyone levels up. While goblin blood is shed, Nesse sprints over to the mysterious stranger and stabilizes him with a healer’s kit. (For funsies, Kolt actually makes and fails his last death saving throw.) Nila goes to Talhier and casts Cure Wounds. Talhier, who assumes he must have slipped in goblin blood, casts Prestidigitation to clean himself up. 

Cael finds a foot locker behind the shitty statue Abrahmo was making. Isanna picks the lock and finds some bags and some items. The bags are full of money. There are a pair of boots, a shield, a cylinder and a small sickle-like weapon on a chain that would be great for a monk, probably, we guess. The boots look like heavy winter climbing boots, and the shield is emblazoned with an eye. The cylinder contains a scroll.

We take a short rest. Petunia starts sobbing and throws herself into Bingo’s arms. It takes her a long time to start making sense again. Cael looks over Abrahmo’s body and finds that he had a human skull that he was using as some kind of magical focus.

Talhier puts the magical stranger on the bed in the other room. He revives and notes that for most of his captivity, he was pretty much dead, and then we showed up and he was pretty much dead again. His name is Herm. Bingo introduces himself, “You’ve probably heard of me.” Herm has heard of him, from Petunia. 

Herm came to town some time ago — he doesn’t remember how long — and he doesn’t remember how he came to be locked away. He has a faint memory of snake-like images similar to the shitty statue in the corner. Bingo give him the scroll we found earlier, since he seems like a magic-y kind of guy. 

The looters find another bag of coins on Abrahmo. They also find that he’s wearing a chain under his armor and there are four horseshoes attached to the chain. Petunia tells Bingo that she was certainly going to die in the cage.

After about 40 minutes, Petunia gets up and walks back into the secret room. Bingo stops playing and follows her. Petunia is moving in a dreamlike way, toward the cage. She picks up the dagger from the fight and goes over the Abrahmo and starts stabbing the hell out of him. She goes nuts. When Bingo tries to stop her, she lashes out at him, but she comes to herself and apologizes. She’s traumatized. 

We decide to leave through the front door of the temple, send Petunia to the Alderman’s house for safety and have Teagan take us to the swamp to clean house. As we leave the temple, we run into the Alderman, the woman he met when he took in Aila (Sigrid), and Aila. They’re armed, and they’re surprised we’re alive. It’s been a while – we forgot about that.

The Alderman recognizes Herm and Petunia. He realizes they’ve been missing for months. Herm can’t believe it’s been three months. The Alderman says that after we disappeared from the Golden Grain, people came to his house to try to take Aila. They’ve been locked up, along with everyone who was at the Golden Grain. Sigrid goes back into the temple. 

Everyone goes back to the Alderman’s house. Isanna runs all the stuff from the priestess’ room by him; it doesn’t ring a bell. Herm DOES recognize it. He recalls a journey northeast of town. Teagan says yeah, the swamp temple is northeast of town. Herm remembers seeing snakes or a snake, but it might have been visions. Petunia has fuzzy memories of the trip as well, and her visions match up. They remember an ominous figure with terrible eyes. People kept talking about feeding them to something, then Abrahmo came and secured their release into his custody. 

The Alderman is good and pissed off that he was working hard for this town and this was all going on under his nose. Sigrid comes back about an hour later, pulling a cart piled with bodies from the temple and below it. The Alderman takes off for the constable’s office; Talhier follows.

At the constable’s office, the people we were told not to trust are all locked up. The people from the common room of the Golden Grain are just hanging around the porch there. Inside, the Alderman has a cell open and is beating the shit out of the shopkeeper. It’s sort of a questioning, but it’s mostly a shit-beating. Talhier clears his throat and the beating stops. There are some more frustrated words, and Talhier returns to the house. 

Eventually the Alderman returns and sees us hanging around, Herm and Petunia snoozing away. He goes to another room and comes back with a chest, which he unlocks. He says he and Sigrid used to be mercenaries and did well for themselves. He puts three bags of coin on the table. 3000 gold in exchange for purging the swamp temple. If someone can be saved, save them. Kill all threats to the town. 

We say we’ll set out in the morning after we outfit Herm with some actual clothes and some armor. Petunia says she’s not going and Bingo shouldn’t either. Bingo says he has to go – someone has to stop these terrible things. But Petunia can stay with the Alderman. 

We return to our original inn, where Belba is happy to see us. She’s all aflutter over the recent doings. She tells Isanna that she had an out-of-town visitor while she was gone. The visitor rented the private dining room until they could speak. Isanna says she’ll just go to his room.

She knocks. A man’s voice answers, and she recognizes his accent, if not his voice. He’s from Torelle (pronounced t’rell), whence Isanna fled not so long ago. She goes inside. The man is the spymaster for the city-state of Torelle. Does she have a moment to talk? Oh, of course. 

The Duchess is missing, ever since the night of her honeymoon. His lordship has people scouring the countryside. Does Isanna know where she is? She doesn’t. The spymaster is worried, and not in his professional capacity. He’s known the duchess all her life. They trade barbs – the upshot is, if Isanna has word of Duchess Alexandra, she should leave word for Guildsman Kerrek at the Riverstone Inn in Sodor.  

The party beds down for the first bit of restful sleep they've had in a couple of days. 




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