Frontier Songs

Into the Wilderness
Session 1

Alward  Waggoner (the local blacksmith) comes running in to the tavern covered in blood from a head wound, says "goblins" have taken Aubri (kid of the blacksmith) Crea takes off for the forge to investigate, finds that a party of ~ 4 goblins executed a coordinated attack on the forge, scuffled with Al, and carried off the kid. Taking a toy of Aubri's, Crea invokes Krom the Seeker to find a trail—Cael and Issana find an actual trail. Either way, we head northeast deep into the forest. 

Where we encounter a zombie ogre! And kill it. Crea takes a ton of damage and rages. 
We take a long rest, wake up in the morning, re-find the trail, and follow it through the hill country further from Grasmere than maybe we've ever been. 

After about a day of following the trail—it looks like the goblins never stopped for the night—we come across a crypt looking structure guarded by goblins at the top of a hill. We attempt to sneak up but fail to be sneaky and the goblin guard attacks. Fighty fight! As the guard goblins get the worst of it, they run back into the crypt crying for reinforcements—but Talheir kills the last one. 

The mausoleum was built sometime before the fall of the Veridyyan Empire (800-1000 years ago), an empire that was very militaristic and conquered huge swaths of land, at one point it covered the area that is now split into provinces, baronies, and city-states. The Last Imperator had a wildly successful military campaign but died in the final battle, then the empire collapsed within a few decades because he had no heir and the generals and politicians squabbled to seize power. What followed has since been known as The Pandemonium, which lasted for over a century. Even after the events of Pandemonium, war, famine, and plague were common. 

There is something about the Ashen Order trying to battle the chaos worm, maybe that is who the tomb belongs to.

Investigating the entrance to the crypt, we see stairs leading down and, more ominously, evidence that the door to the crypt has been broken open by something large. 

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The Offering Room
Session 2

Before we head down the stairs—Crea will go over to one of the dead goblins, and wipe some of their blood over the blade of her axe and dip the tips of her javelins in as well. She says a little prayer to Krom The Blade, Edge of Justice, Drinker of Blood and Devourer of Enemies; then she holds her hands out in front of her in two fists and says another prayer to Krom The Accurate, Way of Truth, Guide of All Hands. Then she says a little prayer to Krom The Mother, Defender of Children, Maker of Homes, Keeper of the Hearth that they find Aubri safe and eats a crust of bread. All this is done in Orcish, which no one speaks bc Kain isn't here. And by now, Issana has seen Crea do this kind of thing a lot. 

As my rituals happen, others notice some rustling in the bushes. Out walks a tiny gnome. With a cane. And maybe a pimp strut? It's Nila. She's tracking some goblins. Our goblins. She's also blind. This is problematic. 

We hear sounds of goblins winding themselves up, so we head down the mausoleum stairs. Issana-Crea-Talhier in front. Issana sneaks up and sees a small group of goblins, including an in-charge looking guy. So she shoots him in the neck. Fight! Crea bisects a goblin. Crea, as it turns out, bisects a lot of goblins. Unfortunately, from there, we get our asses handed to us. Lots of almost death. A mutant dog thing comes in with more goblins and nearly eats Issana. Crea bisects a dog. 

Talhier goes chasing after a goblin down another hall, cleverly finds a wall-swinging blade trap. 

We eventually kill all the goblins, take a short rest and look around. There's a relief on one wall of a small circle of Roman-looking soldiers facing off against hordes of enemies. On their tabards there is a stylized AO symbol, indicating that they were members the Ashen Order, a militant religious order that had been active during the decline of the Veridyyan Empire. There's carved letters on the other wall: an oath of allegiance from Septus Vardis to the Ashen Order, swearing to fight the "chaos wyrm and her children". 

Cael and Bingo loot the bodies and find some coins. Bingo finds a loose stone in the floor, Issana is pretty sure there's no traps. It sounds hollow—so Bingo (amazingly) hoists the stone up and finds a cache of 210 gold and…a vial. Medicine check—it's a healing potion. Crea hands it to Issana so we can save it for later. 

Issana disarms Talhier's swinging blade trap, but while that happens we all hear, from the unexplored room: crying, drums, and chanting.

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The Lonesome Cage of Aubri Waggoner
Session 3

Blind Gnome makes friends with a mouse. Issana sneaks down the hall, and sees a crude altar in front of a raised dais. In front of that, there's a goblin high priest thing chanting with an unknown number of other guys. Issana shoots him in the neck with an arrow, because she's cool like that. He ded. Crea comes charging. We get a surprise round but don't do much with it. Crea hits a big guy with a javelin and he doesn't like that much. Issana kills another goblin. We're gonna start calling her Issana Goblinbane. Talhier bisects a goblin of his own. Bingo about dies. Issana recognizes the big guy as a bugbear. Crea rages, ineffectively, while everyone else gangs up on the big guy. Issana puts an arrow through his neck, because that's how she rolls. Nila breaks open the cage holding Aubri, who runs out and hugs her. Crea, still in a rage, disassembles the remaining goblin. 

Issana pours a healing potion down Bingo and he recovers a bit. Crea goes to see if Aubri's okay. He's hysterical but (apparently) unharmed. As an offering to Krom the Wrathful, Crea takes the bugbear's hand. 

Examining the room, the statue is of one of the figures from the outer room fresco (leader guy, probs). Around the bottom of the dais is some writing: "If you are to keep this, you must first give it me" in an old dialect of common. Nesse investigates around the statue but doesn't find anything—solid construction, no holes, etc. In the back of the room is a pile of stuff: sack with a lot coins, a cylindrical tube, some glass vials (thick red potion, probably healing again; striated brown-silver-tan, for walking up walls apparently?). The tube holds a scroll of "poison spray" cantrip. Unfortunately, the bag is suuuuuper heavy. Attempts to place the bag on the dais or the statue don't make it lighter. 

The Ashen Order was known to be one that took vows of poverty, so this treasure is out of place. The goblins all wore generally squalid goblin stuff, not like they were spending treasure or something. Issana discovers a section of wall that seems different, she checks for airflow weirdness with a tinderbox and finds that along the corner there's a crack that indicates a hidden passage. Crea burns the bugbear hand and explains to Aubri about Krom the Wrathful, etc. Nesse manages to crack the wall, but not much else. Talhier tries some business with giving specific coins to the statue. Nesse finally breaks open a bit of the wall. So she casts light on an old chicken bone and tosses it through the crack in the wall—revealing about 10' of a hallway and another room. 

In the next room, behind the wall, there's a larger room with 10' long-ish crypt-looking thing. Issana figures out the riddle ("Your Word!") and the broken door slides open. She takes the remaining healing potion bc we're dumb but not stupid. We head in, and there's a bunch of sarcophagi. We decide that the goblins were trying to profane the place (there were some dead goblins in that fresco…). We pack up, Nesse tries to fix the door a bit. We make the decision to head out and find a temple of Bior (the Ashen Order's god) to fix it up. We note the names. 

Septus Vardis – front big one 
Decius Varias 
Quintus Sugestus 
Lucilius Sinicis 
Lucius Spurious 
Sextus Clavicus 
Caius Pilus 

On the way out, Crea piles up some rocks and says a quick prayer to Krom The Door, that he protects this place and keeps out all the would do it harm. 

We head back village-ward and camp out overnight. About mid-afternoon the next day we get to the outskirts of town. We've been gone 3-4 days at this point. Joyful reunion with Aubri and his dad. 

At the inn, we divvy up the giant bag o'loot. It ends up to 171 in gold (value) most of it in silver. At this point, its weight is a concern. Most of it is in silver pieces. We discuss buying horses (ponies) with it. At the tavern, Issana gets a pile of mail. She's kinda cagey about it, but Crea can't read so…?

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The Road to Orlane - *LVL2*
Session 4

We have horses and level up to 2nd level. Hooray! We get a long rest, a shopping expedition in. Bingo gets a recommendation for an inn in Sodor, Crea gets a contact (Levi the Farmer) from the blacksmith guy, whose barn we can sleep in overnight. We head out in the morning.

We take a cart path to the Sovereign’s Way road, a large, clean, safe, white-paved road that cuts through the provinces. Grassmere is pretty far out in the eastern boonies, so there’s not a ton of traffic. We spend the night with Levi, help out around the farm, etc. He’s seen one other halfling recently, which is notable. Weirdest thing he’s seen on the road? The leader of a bandit horde being paraded back to Sodor for execution. Uneventful night, we head out towards Sodor, turning at the crossroads off the Sovereign’s Way onto the road to Sodor and traveling through the farmland that feeds the city.

About dinnertime, we pass through a clump of trees, turn a corner, and there’s the big walled city rising in front of us. Mostly cleared of trees heading to the wall and some outside-the-gates settlements. Guards are posted around an open gate, but we are able to ride in freely. We head to the Songful Rest, recommended by the bartender back in Grassmere, up in the NE end of the city. Bingo offers to pay in performance and split the proceeds. Barkeep is unimpressed. We get rooms and dinner and directions to the temple of Bior. Apparently, there’s one more set of devotions for the night! Crea thanks Krom The Abundant for dinner.

We head out to the temple, taking in the many roads of Sodor. Sodor’s big—we pass through a bunch of squares and little parks with statues or whatever, merchants, etc. We head towards the central keep, and to a statue in the plaza in front of the keep—looks like the Trafalgar monument. It’s a monument to the Last Imperator (who was known to travel with his troops for a day—then build a quick but sturdy encampment before moving on. Sodor is built on the site of one of those encampments).

The Temple Of Illumination is in the temple district west of the keep. It’s a soaring structure with spires rising 100’ tall, festooned with lanterns all along the walls and roof. People are flowing in for evening service. We sit through about an hour-long service with several priests and acolytes and whatnot. After the service breaks up, we send Talhier to talk to one of the priests (Crea is vaguely disgusted by this entire display. Krom is infinite and all, but there’s limits.)

Flamekeeper Bors introduces himself. Talhier makes sure he is familiar with Septus Vardis and mentions that we found his tomb. This pulls Bors up a bit and invites over Flamewarden Draga. Talhier gives him the rundown on the Aubri chasing adventure. Cael offers to draw a map, Draga thanks us all profusely and basically takes off at a run to go find the tomb. Bors shakes everyone’s hands and we all introduce ourselves. On the way out, Nesse leaves a couple gold coins to apologize for breaking the door. Nila makes a hash of offering up something. Crea makes a note to send a shaman of Krom by to tell them everything they are doing wrong….it’s a lot.

Bingo busks at back at the Songful Rest and is a hit. Nesse gets laid. Nila makes friends with lots of cats and at least one not-cat. Cael and Crea head for some botanical gardens. Talhier goes to a wine bar in the elf district. Issana tries to pick some pockets and gets busted. She charms the cops and is told to get out of town. On the way out, she runs into Cael and Crea and lets them know she’ll be spending the night outside the gates and to meet her in the morning with Lovely Tigress and all her stuff. Crea thinks Issana is gonna get jumped outside the walls, so they both camp.

Night comes, morning follows: the third day. Talhier and Cael pick up some more armor. We convert our giant piles of silver into actual gold. Crea picks up a nice blanket for Buttons.

We head back out and get nearly to the crossroads by nightfall. There are settlements—collections of farmhouses—around, but nothing like a village. We talk to a brickmaker guy who is willing to put us up in the shop for the night. It’s nice enough to camp, so we settle down for the night.

Night comes, morning follows: the fourth day. Crea greets the day with some thanks to Krom The Moon for watching over us. We make it to the crossroads by mid-day, cross the Sovereign’s Way and head towards Orlane.  We’re in some rolling hills heading downhill-ish into some bogland. A wagon heads towards us, with two people on it, completely loaded with stuff—someone is moving. Looks like two dudes, probably related. As they approach, we realize that the road isn’t really wide enough for all of us and they pull off to the side to get out of our way. Some of us notice also that their body language is very timid—no eye contact, etc.

Issana asks if they are coming from Orlane, the older man says they are, they are leaving, in fact. He’s pretty nervous about it. She mentions Ailla, the blacksmith’s wife. Guy knows her, and her husband Aelric. Guy is super nervous about the whole interaction and finally admits that they are leaving, as others have before, the town is cursed! "People aren’t “acting right”. He gets emotional about it, he’s a lifelong resident and people he’s known all his life are starting to act like they don’t recognize him. Friendly people are getting angry, aggressive. The place is cursed, he’s getting out before. Bingo gives him a pile of gold coins, Crea gives him the full “Krom the Protector watch over you and protect you” routine.

Issana tells us that there’s two inns. The Golden Grain is the heart of the weirdness—people go there and come back changed. The Slumbering Serpent is the good one. Orlane is on a high spot in the midst of some bogland, slightly larger than Grassmere. We meet a friendly local who, again, tells us the place is cursed. Talhier is confused about the whole situation—was this one of the weird ones? We get to the forge, it’s cold. Issana knocks on the door. There’s no answer for a while, then a ragged-looking woman answers the door. She doesn’t remember Issana, or writing letters, or much of anything. She seems like she comes back a bit, “I know how to juggle? Issana?” and stumbles back. Issana grabs her, and helps her up.

We make sure Talhier knows she’s a weird one. We head to the Slumbering Serpent to set up a home base.

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The Cursed Town
Session 5

Issana gives Talhier the letters from zombie lady to read. Because Crea can’t read. AS IF THAT’S IMPORTANT. We head over to the Slumbering Serpent. As we wander through town, we realize that many buildings/farms/homesteads look abandoned…and some that appear abandoned actually have people in them. We see a hill with a large temple that seems fairly active (closing up for the night) with a walled inner courtyard. It appears to be dedicated to some not-Krom-of- the-harvest-god. There’s a lake in between us (where the inns are) and the area around the temple. We can see that the Golden Grain (creepy one) is shut, seems quiet; the Slumbering Serpent is clearly more active.

We head to the Serpent. We see a small path that leads into a large grove of elm trees that seems healthier and stronger than the rest of the area. There’s light and laughter coming from the Serpent, the landlady is welcoming. I don’t even know people would go to the other crappy inn. (Katrina does an insight check, everything seems sincere). Everyone orders food and drink (which is suspiciously good). Issana asks about her friend Ailla, and the barmaid says that the husband had “gone away” and “came back changed” and that the stress had clearly worn on Ayla. Issana mentions that others have been acting strange, which the barmaid agrees with. She doesn’t know where the husband went. Issana mentions that the other inn doesn’t seem to be doing as well as Serpent—which the barmaid ascribes to the hard work they put in, but she’s not going to tell anyone else how to run their business. The place appears to be about half full of pockets of people eating together and a few people sitting alone: older woman getting up to leave, nervous looking guy.

Cael sneaks out to follow the older woman and/or the nervous looking guy as they leave. NLG is moving with purpose towards town…then turns east and heads toward the temple and enters a small shop: Tweed’s Tweed, which is apparently a tailor shop. He hustles in and closes the window shutters. Cael returns. Issana mentions wanting a new cloak, barmaid says we just missed Myron Tweed, the local tailor. We get rooms for the night. Talhier and Issana plot—we’ll talk to the temple about a guy? looking for a gnoll temple? and a new priest? and some lady? and the creepy trees? Apparently, it came up in the letters that Crea can’t read. Because reading is dumb anyway.

Nila interrogates a mouse, he gives some information but not much. Mostly he wants cheese.

Bingo plays for his supper/lodging, and meets (is tipped generously by) Zacharias Ormond, Town Alderman. Bingo asks what’s up in town, and Zach warns him that there’s something going on around Orlane, and suspects a secret order is behind the mysterious changes. Bingo pokes at the conspiracy theory a bit and the councilman talks about “disappearances”—people go missing in the night, then come back about a week later and they are different. He suspects the clerics at the temple in particular and mentions a hermit, gesturing towards the grove of trees.

Night falls, morning follows. We wake up to a beautiful spring day. And decide to split up a bit to gather some information:

  • Cael, Nila & Crea will go investigate the hermit in the grove of elm trees

I mean, he’s a hermit in the middle of a town. Anyway, the grove is fairly thick and there’s a path winding into its depths and to a small open clearing with a very small, very humble house. Cael notices immediately a mallorn tree—sacred to her order and her people. She stops dead in her tracks, Crea pulls out her axe but Cael tells her to chill, it’s a sacred tree! Praise to Krom the Gardner, who grows all beautiful things! There’s a small shrine at the base of the tree. On the shrine is a blessing from Serrorax , and runic drawings of plants, trees, fish, natural things. There’s an offering bowl with a hole that leads into the roots of the tree, as if offerings were made to the tree. We knock, with no answer; we peep into a window, and Crea sees that the place looks like it has been trashed. Jars are smashed open, a table is overturned, the chair is broken. The back door frame shows fire damage but the back door does not (as if the door were open when fire damage occurred). We find a very well made gold ewer with fancy water inside. Cael pours some of the fancy water into the offering bowl while singing a bit of a song she sort of remembers from childhood. The tree says nothing. We look for tracks, and Cael sees all: a path around the tree, a set of at least two other boot prints aside from the (presumed) hermit.

  • Talhier & Bingo will go talk to the Constable

Heading to the Constable, they do notice that there is some activity in the town, but not as much as there should be. They see a shifty character on a front porch. Bingo puts on full HAIL GOOD SIR MIGHT YOU BE THE CONSTABLE greeting and gets not much of a response. They go inside: open office with a desk, a couple of drunk tank cells. The constable wants to know how long they’ll be in town and what their business is (“meeting up with a friend of a friend, can’t remember her name, we’ll be here a month”). Constable reacts to “a month”. Talhier asks about buying one of the abandoned properties, constable points them to an alderman. Talhier asks about people getting more forgetful than usual, and the constable blames it all on superstitious townspeople.

  • Issana and Nesse will go talk to Myron Tweed

Nesse and Issana head to Tweed’s Tweeds, your typical store on the bottom-apartment on top style building. It looks all very shop-like. Issana goes to open the door, but it stops as if it’s bolted. From inside: “What? Who’s there?” Issana: “Customers!” The sound of many MANY locks being undone and the man from last night opens the door. Older guy, slim, suspicious, interrogates them on their intentions. He insists that he’ll only let one of them in at a time. Issana thinks he’s rude af, but Nessie realizes he’s terrified and convinces him that SHE should buy a cloak and to let them both in. It’s a very nice shop with quality stuff but everything is covered in dust. They try some stuff on, he seems to relax as he does the sales pitch. He mentions that the midwinter festival was surprisingly cancelled by a priest at the temple. Nesse manages to charm the tailor a bit, and he warns her to stay away from the Golden Grain and away from the temple, and to stay in after dark. They leave on good terms, Nesse ordered some fancy unmentionables and Issana bought a cloak WITH POCKETS.

They stop by Ayla’s house again, but she’s still foggy. Issana juggles in front of her and Ayla’s breaks out of it a little bit, and seems surprised to see Issana. Ayla starts to remember writing to her, then falls over in a faint. She’s able to say that she thinks there’s something wrong with her. She went into the woods…underground…they took her there…she thinks her husband was there, but she hasn’t seen him in weeks? It seems like she’s realizing all these things. She’s in her jammie jams, she realizes, and tries to head inside. Issana instead goes to get shoes, a cloak, etc. Nessie does a medicine check, and can realize that Ayla’s showing symptoms of being heavily drugged. Nessie grabs some smelling salts in her kit and tries to revive her from that. Inside, Issana realizes that the house looks run-down, like it’s not been cleaned or cared for. There’s a candle burning on the table. Issana blows out the candle, but the smoke smells strange as it gutters out, there’s another one in the bedroom, and Issana snuffs that one out, too. As Issana is digging out clothes and whatnot, her vision goes blurry and feels overwhelmed by the scent of the candle so she grabs Nessie and books out of the house. As they walk Ayla out of town, they both feel as if they are being watched, but they don’t catch anyone obviously staring. On the way back to the inn, they pass the carpenter, the constable, the village shopkeep.

Back at the inn, Issana conveys that a) this cloak HAS POCKETS b) the bad candles are bad and c) Ayla is feeling better. We dispatch Ayla to go take a bath or something. We begin plotting next steps: talk to the store owner and maybe buy some candles, get more details from Ayla, maybe try to intimidate the constable, probably should go find the hermit.

Suddenly, we hear the sound of shattering glass and a scream. AND SCENE.

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At the Inn of the Golden Grain
Session 6

The broken glass and screams came from the third floor. Nila and Issana hear it; Issana jumps from the table and runs upstairs; Talhier and Bingo follow. Nila takes Nesse outside; Cael follows.

Once the door is unlocked, Ailla is laid out on the bedroom floor in a pool of blood. Issana and Talhier see that Ailla is breathing, but things are bad. The window is shattered inward, with a small hole. There is a crossbow bolt in Ailla's chest. Bingo uses a healer’s kit to stabilize Ailla; Talhier closes the curtains.

Outside, Cael sees Kain coming up the road. There’s nothing else out of the ordinary here. Cael and Nesse check around the building. At the back of the inn, there’s a window facing the lake on the top floor that’s broken with a small hole. There aren’t any buildings that tall nearby, but there are some trees. Cael and Nesse head for the trees.

Issana finds nothing interesting out the window, and there’s nothing noteworthy about the crossbow bolt. Bingo tells the Belba innkeeper there’s been an attempted murder. The innkeeper sends for the constable; Bingo makes a “Whoops!” face. Belba comes upstairs and is motherly.

Cael finds tracks in the stand of trees that move from the northeast to one of the taller trees at the western edge of the grove. There are scuffs to indicate someone climbed it recently. There are also tracks leading away. They head northeast, which is not the same direction as the tracks that were leading from the hermit’s house. The tracks all seem to be headed to and from the temple.

Nila asks her cat if it sees any tracks or anything. He smells that someone climbed the tree.

Issana calls Nesse upstairs to give Aila some healing. Nesse sees two adults and a kid coming up the road to the inn. Inside the inn, Bingo and Kain see the constable coming into the common room with the little boy the innkeeper sent to get him. Bingo stalls the constable and his half-orc companion in the common room for a minute.

Nesse goes into Talhier’s room, she heals Ailla a little. Ailla wakes up, and the constable comes in. He asks simple questions, and Talhier, Nesse goes into as he cases the room. He sends the half-orc outside to check the scene there. The constable notes that the shot could only have come from the trees, but it would be a hell of a shot. He says no one is town is that good.

Cael asks what’s going on; he says “Killin’” like Billy Bob Thorton or something and walks away. The cat says the Cael see someone poking around the back of the inn. They head inside. As they pass, Nila and Cael. Back outside, half-orc is not the person who climbed the tree.

Everyone is now in Talhier’s room. Cael reports in. Ailla says she came upstairs and took a bath, and heard the glass break as she walked into the bedroom. This was about 45 minutes after she got to the inn with Issana and Nesse. Cael. Belba leaves, and Ailla starts to cry, like she just realized someone tried to kill her.

After she calms down, Ailla tells the group that the temple has been strange for nine months to a year. The priests haven’t been active in the community, and they’ve become more closed off. People used to be allowed in whenever they wanted, and there were festivals, but Father Abramo hasn’t been around much and very few people have been allowed in the temple, and their movements have been restricted. There’s a new woman named Misha who arrived about six months ago after things started to change.

The party still needs to talk to the general store owner about the gnoll temple and about the temple in town. And there’s the other inn. Aila says she’s sticking with the party. The party goes downstairs and sees Belba talking to Zacharias the alderman. Bingo eavesdrops; Zacharias says Belba should have sent for him before she sent for the constable. Zacharias takes the party into a private room and says attacks in broad daylight are new, but that the tension in town has been going on for a while. He says he thinks the constable is involved.

Zacharias says he’ll hire the party to figure out what’s going on. He suggests checking on Turathi the Hermit as part of the conspiracy. Cael reports out; the fireball through the door is news to Zacharias, so that kills that theory. He says Aila knows as much as anyone at this point and indicates the temple is involved, though he has nothing to make an accusation with.

 

Talhier asks if he remembers a scholar coming through asking about a gnoll temple. It sounds familiar, but he can’t say for sure. Bingo asks about the candles. Zacharias says the people who disappeared and came back had personalities that were almost irrevocably changed. He says Aila was gone about a month ago and came back different. Ailla doesn’t remember anything, and it upsets her.

Misha is a priestess of Iyanna who arrived last year. She said Abramo had asked for someone to share his duties. The constable went north after he came back inside, Belba said, per Zacharias.

Zacharias says the party can trust Farmer Hewitt, Myron Tweed, Killian the Stablehand and Belba and the others at the inn. He offers to keep Ailla at his house and keep her safe. The party gets the impression that Zacharias is an old dude but he can throw down if he needs to. Issana gives Aila a dagger and tells her to stay safe at the alderman’s house.

At the general store, the party meets a smiling man behind the counter. He says there’s talk of a drowned pagan temple out in the swamps, and that’s what he told the scholar about. It’s five or six days out into the bog. He doesn’t know anything about the candles, or so it seems along Bingo’s line of questioning. Issana asks about a gift for her friend Aila; he suggests a bundle of aromatic herbs. Nila sniffs them – they are just nice smelly herbs. Rats.

The party goes into the Golden Grain for dinner. It’s dark. There’s a haze of acrid smoke – it’s that smoke, from the candles. There are a few people there, mostly sitting apart from each other. Only a couple look up when the party comes in, and the bartender barely acknowledges them. They try to blow out the candles and open the windows; the bartender gets mad. Talhier stares him down. The bartender says the candles come from a doctor in Fairhill. While Talhier talks to the bartender, the rest of the party blows out the candles and opens the windows.

Bingo runs upstairs while the bartender is in the kitchen getting bread. It’s a shithole.

 

Talhier bullies the innkeeper into cleaning upstairs so the party can stay. While the innkeeper is upstairs, Bingo, Nesse, Cael and Issana go into the kitchen and down some creepy stairs into an empty, musty room full of broken furniture and stuff. It is not the gnoll temple Bingo was expecting. Issana finds a trail in the dust that comes from the wall opposite the stairs that goes toward a blank wall. Huh. On investigation, the wall appears to be false. Bingo hits a sconce and the wall slides open.

The rest of the party is fetched. There appear to be no traps, so a light source is acquired and the party proceeds. There’s a meeting room inside with some tables and a ladder in the far wall that leads up to a trap door in the ceiling. There’s a door all the way on the other end of the room that’s barred from this side.

Issana opens the barred door and finds a hastily excavated tunnel that goes off in a couple of different directions: straight and left, so sort of under the road. Talhier puts out the torches in the cellar and closes the secret sliding door behind the party. They enter the tunnels and take the fork that they believe heads toward the temple. Always choosing the left fork. The path angles down as it goes.

The path opens up into a room. Issana leads the marching order and steps on something crunchy. It’s a human skull. The whole floor is bones. Yay! A dark, gray leathery humanoid shape comes out of the corner and attacks, getting a surprise round. No, wait, there’s more than one. THREE OF THEM attack. Two more are coming. Jesus Christ (whoever that is), ghouls!

Ghouls dispatched, the room is full of bones of all kinds and all species. There’s some gold. The room’s a goddamn dead end. Did we find anything that could belong to the missing? Tune in next time!

 

 

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A Snake A Snake Snake
Session 7

We rejoin our heroes immediately post-fight. 

Digging in the muck like a serious weirdo, Nila finds a ring that is unique enough looking that we suspect someone might recognize. We decide to head off in the other direction and see what the rest of this place holds. We come to another intersection and open area and Crea looks both directions down the right and left halls. The Path ahead and to the right seem to open into a larger room and the one to the left slopes down and stops at a door. Issana goes to investigate the door situation and then opens the door. The hallway past the door slopes further down and we decide to head in that direction. Some people notice that the air has gotten decidedly colder and damper. Once the tunnel levels off, we notice that the walls change from earth to hewn rock. Fewer people notice that the walls seem strangely clean. Talhier and Cael notice that the path is turning further left (E/NNE). 

 

Eventually, the tunnel opens out into another irregular large room. At one side there’s a leak/small waterfall (the room isn’t flooding, so it’s going somewhere) with a little bit of pooling towards the middle of the room. Cael sees a strange shape in the water, goes to investigate and then gets…smacked in the face. Initiative! A giant goo rises up out of the puddle or possibly was the puddle. It smacks out at Cael, but misses. Crea takes a swing and does some damage, but not much. Nessa does the holy symbol bell thing. Nyla starts chanting, and then sprouts fur, then horns, then an elongated maw with sharp teeth. She’s a chupacabra basically? Bingo casts some bravery and extra hp onto Talhier. Issana gets an arrow off and hits it. It’s like hitting a giant jello with an arrow. Crea gets engulfed in ooze, being paralyzed and suffocated by this thing. Understandably, she freaks the fuck out and calls upon Krom the Defender From Goo to go into a rage. She breaks free of the goo and stumbles away. Nila-The-Chupacabra charges at the thing and pushes it back. Issana shoots it with an arrow. She plays to her strengths. She does some damage, but also encourages us to try fire and throw a torch at it. Talhier and Crea deal some significant damage. Cael deals the death blow, and it explodes out all over Talhier. 

 

Issana tries to set a bit of the goo on fire, and Crea does a little prayer of “Krom the Gross…this is gross…and it probably doesn’t belong to you, but you can have it back anyway.” Talhier tries to mop himself off. We poke around, possibly in the remains of the goo and pick up 12 gold. We realize that this guy was probably a cave roomba cleaning the cave walls and floor. Note to selves: beware of clean dungeons. 

 

We head for the hallway to go deeper into the cave. Nila poops. The tunnel begins to start arcing upward but also continues  veering left. We’re now heading north, having basically gone in a big loop. We pass back into dirt-walls and drier air and come to another door. On this side, it’s solid, flat, shut, no handle. Issana does the whole investigation routine but doesn’t find anything useful. Instead of breaking down the door, we head back through the tunnel past the waterfall and the ooze room, back to the intersection we found after leaving the room of bones. We turn left, then come into another open room that does not appear to have any other exits. 

 

As we walk into the room, we see a statue of a weird creature carved of white bone or ivory. It’s very large, person-sized (5’-6’). It looks at first like a snake, but upon inspection the face is flat and almost humanoid, not pointy like a snake. There are fangs, and a hood like a cobra, some kind of ornate headdress. Bingo, Nessa, and Nila investigate. Bingo finds a well-made statue, Nessa may have heard a story before of a creature like this, mostly snake and only a little human. Nila picks up the smells of lots of people, not just us. There’s no writing or anything on or around it. Towards the back of the room, Cael finds a small wooden box. It’s empty. We leave this room, head back to the intersection and take the remaining hall. 

 

This hall opens into another seemingly-empty room. Nila smells and hears other creatures along the back wall of the room and starts braying-growling. Some people notice large slithering shapes around the edges of the rooms. One  or two rear up and spread hoods—BIG SNAKES. Talhier and Crea miss, but Issana hits one with an arrow. The constrictor hits Crea and the vipers spit at Cael and Bingo. Crea take a chunk out of a snake, and Cael shoots an arrow through that one’s eye and we are down one snek. Talhier and Crea team up to deal with the snake that was trying to eat Goat-Wolf-Nila, snake is bisected and lets go of GWN as it dies. Issana gets a good shot in at one of the remaining vipers. Cael catches one as it has it’s jaws open to spit and gets it right through the brain. One snake left. Nessa’s Toll The Dead does some damage to the remaining viper, as does Bingo’s crossbow. Nila tries to charge and wipes out. Talhier puts the final viper out of its misery. 

 

We investigate the remains and whatnot. Not much there. Nila turns back into a person, this snake room leads back to the door we came in. There’s one final unexamined hall, and we head down that one for about 15’ and it comes to an abrupt halt, almost as if they just stopped digging. Except very minor investigation reveals that it’s an trompe l'oeil thing hiding a small alcove with three small chests. Issana insists we don’t touch the chests until she investigates. Which she does and finds nothing alarming. Nessa kicks one, Crea picks one up and shakes it, possibly breaking something inside. Issana opens that one, it’s definitely got a broken vial of healing potion in it. Issana breaks her lock picks in the next lock. Crea promises to make her better lock picks if Ayla’s husband lets her use his forge. They’ll have invocations to Krom Who Opens That Which Is Closed imbued in them and everything. 

 

Nessa breaks open her chest, and finds 45 Gold. The last chest is still locked, but Crea cracks off the lock with the end of a javelin. Inside is a small cylindrical tube. Open the tube, there’s a scroll with squiggles on it. Crea’s got better things to do than read so she hands it to Bingo. Who confirms that it is, in fact, a scroll. Probably a magical kind. We decide to post up in the waterfall room for a short rest of about an hour and then head over to the snake statue room. 

 

Back in the snake statue room, and the face on the statue has changed. It looks like it’s snarling with wide eyes when before it had been blank faced. Issana someone say “spread out, they have to be down here somewhere” from back behind us… 

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Murder Tunnel
Session 8

Hearing the voices looking for us, we decide initially to try the Wandering Assholes Gambit, but then overhear Bertram the Innkeeper say “They have to be down here…best if they don’t leave…looks like they’ve been in the offering room…yuck…”

We head for the water room with the bad guys on our heels. Nyla is turns into a goatwolf again. The bad guys say that we’ve been poking our noses in blah blah bad guy talk, “the mistress would like a word.” Talhier and Crea mouth off at that. Fighty fight! Issana’s first shot hits the chatty one and she encourages Bingo to “aim for the motherfucker in the back.” He does, but misses. One of them gets a good hit on Talhier. Crea takes a hit but also nearly takes out one of them. Nessie cleans up the one attacking Talhier, and we decide to try and keep one alive as a hostage to go meet the “mistress”. Bingo casts hideous laughter on one guy and he’s incapacitated. Crea ties him up. The remaining guy takes off a run, as winged by Talhier’s dagger. Cael gives chase and kills him with an arrow. Issana finds 15 silver and a weird tool in the nearest dead guy’s pockets. Kinda looks like a dagger, but it’s flat, not sharp, just a long thing piece of metal with a handle.

Talhier tells GoatNyla to “go fetch the body, creature” and she tries to pee on his shoe. He dodges. Now the hallway stinks.

Back at Chuckles, we try to interrogate him. Who is “the mistress”? He doesn’t really know…he’s basically, a mercenary working for Grover the Constable. Most of the big stuff goes down in the swamp. We offer to let him go if he takes us to the swamp. The other door is to the tunnels under the temple. We try to talk Tegan into some better life choices, then take a short rest and head up through the temple. Tegan tells us that Fr. Abrama is holding some prisoners, people who were resistant to whatever swamp mojo was happening. Then he gives us the rundown on the situation under the temple: some tunnels, a maze, one or more creatures that may or may not respond to commands in orcish.

We head to the other door, Issana takes the slim-jim-looking guy and tries to use it to open the door. The door opens up into a rough hallway that splits into a Y a bit further down. Tegan assures us that they both go to the same place. The hallway gets super muddy and slows us down considerably. Also, the mud very much smells—almost like weasels or ferrets. We eventually come to a little room off the side of the path with what looks like nests in them. There’s another about 10-15 feet away. Tegan stops suddenly to let us know that there’s a screaming mushroom up ahead. One of his buddies has some “stuff” that he’d sprinkle at the mushroom, so we go back to his dead buddy to the get that. Issana sneaks up and throws the stuff over the mushroom and James overdescribes the kinda disturbing way the mushroom reacts. Just past the mushroom, the ground firms up to stone again and then a staircase—the entrance to the maze.

Tegan assures us he can get through the maze, Crea is not convinced, but we follow him anyway. He makes a few wrong turns and then, when he finds the right way, we hear a growl and sniff from down a hallway. We try to make friendly contact and hear “Are you fighters….or are you FOOD?” We offer “friends” as an alternative, but that’s apparently not an option. An ogre charges us from down a side hallway. We do some damage out of the gate, then Crea and Talhier gets the shit kicked out of them. He’s got some troglodyte buddies, but Nila helps with them. Fighty fight, but Nesse’s Toll The Dead delivers the killing blow.

Exhausted, injured, we hole up in a barricaded room and take a long rest to reset spells, hit points, etc. We put Tegan back on the case of getting us out of the maze, which he does without further incident. We head upstairs and go through a door that leads to the actual temple basement. From there, we find a trapdoor that leads to Misha The Priestess’s room and another door that leads to a prayer room. Not hearing noise or finding traps, Issana opens the door Misha’s room. She sneaks into the room and it looks like someone has left in a hurry. On a desk there are papers, standard records for a temple to Iyana, a few letters addressed to someone named Brother Deceus. These letters appear to be status reports informing him of when the next “crop of believers” will be delivered and hopes that “ED” will find them to her liking, and also some reports on whether the alderman “suspects” anything, and her plans to cast suspicion upon “Terathi”, some reports on a woman named “Vilma, an aged crone whose faith in Iyana is too strong” and they are waiting on an opportunity to bring Myron in, but he doesn’t go out at night. Each letter closes with, “in the most holy name of Explicitica Defilius”. She also finds a second seal, this one depicting on oroboros with a human-ish face.

Issana grabs the letters and the snake seal, then heads back down to consult with Nesse. Has Nesse ever heard of Explicita Defilius? Nesse has not. We head for the door to the prayer room. Heading up to that, it’s a very small, one-person room with a door leading out covered with a bead curtain. Against the wall, there’s a shrine. It appears it was originally a pastoral scene (fruit trees, sheep in a field) but it has since been defiled with strange images, including the likeness of the snake with a human face and the weird oroboros. We decide to head out into the hall via this room.

As we head down the hall, we see 4 more rooms like this off the hall. At the end of the hall is another threshold. Beyond it we can see a long dining table. In the dining room are a bunch of doors, one to the central chamber, one to a kitchen, etc. The prisoners of Fr. Abrama are upstairs, we’ll need to cross the central chamber to get to the stairs. In the central chamber, things are much cleaner and more polished, well-tended. There’s a dais in front of a mosaic, walls are lined with fine tapestreis. All this depicts the usual images of Iyana: grains, fruits, agricultural abundance. Clearly, this part of the tempe is a front for the weird snake-worship business in the back. Through a door across from whence we came is a hallway lined with small alcoves each holding a golden statue of some kind of plant (grapes, sheaf of barley, etc.). This is a suspicious amount of gold for a town this size. Also, what the hell are these snake people up to if they aren’t looting all this shiny stuff? This hallway leads to a wide staircase that leads to the second floor.

We head upstairs, through a barracks room with two other doors. We head through the leftmost door and enter a nice sized library. On a central table is a sacred tome to Iyana that has been defaced on every page. Talhier prestidigitates a page clean. He makes a mental note to come back later if possible. The other door leads to a meeting room with another door. Through that door is what appears to have once been a storage room. Now the room is dominated by a table with leather straps and a rack. Found the torture room!

There’s of course another door, this one has a gold nameplate that says “Fr. Abrama of Her Most Bountiful Highness Iyana”. Issana knocks on the door. She hears maniacal laughter from behind the door, but even further away. She does the ritual of doors and we enter. There’s an antechamber that has been destroyed: walls scratched, bookcase destroyed, random rubble. Going in further, there’s a destroyed bedroom. Investigation reveals a wall switch behind the desk. Talhier pulls the switch and hears a mechanism in the wall make a sound. He slides the wall away and reveals a secret door. The maniacal laughter gets louder.

In the room behind the secret door, we see the floor littered with crude statutes similar to the ivory statue beneath the Golden Grain Inn. Also, we see Fr. Abramo, wearing full armor, ratty robes, a matted beard. Around him are three animated skeletons (they immediately draw weapons on us) and very far away in a corner is a trio of goblins with bows who seem not super into it. Fr. Abramo is next to a big cage with a person inside.

“…Bingo?” says the person in the cage.

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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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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!

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