Session 11 – 09/20/17
Campaign Day 6 – 21st Eleasis – Midnight
The party has just completed a lengthy multi-wave combat to clear a den infested with goblins, hobgoblins and ogres.
Silas and Wiero were badly hurt in the combat, while Wilson is critically injured and lying on the ground panting. Captain Morgan goes over to heal Silas, saying "That was some impressive fighting, my friend. They say fortune favors the bold… but that was a bit bold even for me, charging in there like that!"
The hobgoblins are wearing splint mail, with crude shields and swords. The leader was carrying a glowing blue sword that he used to significant effect. Other than that, the humanoids don't have significant loot. The party moves onward to investigate the chamber where the hobgoblins came from, and the prisoner who's tied up. As they pass by, Silas notices what appears to be a small side chamber that's walled up with a large rock.
In the hobgoblins' room there are four crude beds, and it's obviously a barracks of some kind where the chieftain and his soldiers slept. There is a prisoner shackled to the wall and gagged, wearing durable traveling clothing that is stained and torn. Silas takes his gag off, but the prisoner is too weak to talk. His shackles are locked and the party hasn't found a key for them yet, so Nivah tries to unlock them using her thieves' tools. Captain Morgan cheers her on using Bardic Inspiration, but she isn't trained enough yet to be able to open the lock. Silas tries to break the shackles using raw strength, but fails. Captain Morgan helps the prisoner to drink some water and asks his name, and he says "I am Altamont, of Waterdeep. I joined a group to investigate peculiar happenings in this area, but we were ambushed by goblins." He's a human of northern stock, in his 20s. Old Tom comes up with the idea of using a Ray of Frost to freeze the shackles, and Silas is able to shatter the frozen lock, which opens one shackle! It is still attached by its chain to the other manacle, so Altamont will need to carry it for the time being. He says he is well enough to walk, as long as they don't travel too fast or too far.
Wiero has been sniffing around and he goes on point – he's found something that smells like Altamont, in the small side chamber that is walled up. Silas and Morgan work together and they roll the large rock to the side easily. Behind is revealed a small treasure room, with a chest and some other possessions scattered around crudely, much as you'd expect from a hobgoblin lair. Inside the chest are 46 copper pieces, 85 silver, and 408 gold. There's also a small pouch containing 15 pieces of moss agate and blue quartz (15x 10gp each), and two polished jade gems (2x 100gp). Also in the room there is a walking staff, a backpack and a leather-bound book. Examining the book, Captain Morgan quickly realizes that it is a wizard's spellbook. He asks if it belongs to Altamont, who says it does. The party figure that any enemy of the hobgoblins must be a good ally, so they return Altamont's possessions to him. He asks if he can travel with the party as they make their way back to the safety of Nightstone.
Returning to the hobgoblins' barracks, the party searches for more loot, and Altamont finds a small hidden area under the chieftain's bed. There are two potions; one containing red liquid that looks like it might be a healing potion, and one filled with pale yellow liquid that has something floating within it. Peering closely at the potion, Altamont declares that the floating object is a sliver of a relatively large toenail (!!). Silas gives one of the party's smaller healing potions that they found previously to Altamont, who is very grateful. At this point the party is feeling relatively safe on their cleanup duty, so Captain Morgan uses his last healing spell on Wilson. They continue down the passage past the hobgoblins' area and hear the sound of water. There's a small cavern with a central pillar, and the air is damp. At the back of this cavern an underground spring emerges from the wall and rushes away through a hole. There are splashes of water and a few crude buckets and water scoops lying on the ground, but nothing else of interest.
The party heads back to the main cavern and examines the southern passage, which branches off into a warren of small tunnels with dirty piles of clothes and crude beds scattered about. In a corner of a tunnel there is a halfling woman crouched protectively over her two children and brandishing a stick. Captain Morgan sheathes his weapons and walks over to reassure her.
Captain Morgan: "Hello there… it's ok, you're safe, the goblins have all fled."
Halfling woman: "What happened? We heard fighting. Did you kill Hark?"
Morgan: "Hmm… maybe. Is this his sword? <points at Silas>"
Halfling: "Yes, thank you! Oh, we are safe now. Have you seen Godric? (she describes a middle-aged human man)"
Morgan: "Yes, we've seen him in the mushroom farms. He is free, and waiting safely outside."
The halfling woman introduces herself as Taela Sunrock, a resident of Nighstone. Her children are called Barley and Dollop. Seeing that the situation is peaceful, other prisoners gradually emerge from the other tunnels. There is a tiefling mother named Destiny and her son Grin, a Zhentarim scout, and a human girl (Johanna, age 12, the daughter of Godric). Seeing the civilians emerge, Silas strikes a heroic pose, brandishes his new sword, and proclaims "Hark is dead! You are all safe."
The Zhentarim scout introduces himself, saying "My name is Cylidric. Thank you so much." He is badly hurt and having trouble moving, but the party is almost out of healing magic. Old Tom decides to take the opportunity to bluff the Zhentarim and maybe gain some new information.
Tom: "Hey, Sid… we met your boss back in Nightstone, and we're good friends with him. I just want to make sure we're on the same page. I'm just curious, why did you guys accept the contract to protect Nightstone? It's kind of out of the way here."
Cylidric: "You met Althad, or Kella?"
Tom: "Both of them, actually. We're good friends … her flying snake is pretty cool."
Cylidric: "Yes, the snakes are powerful allies for us Zhentarim."
Tom: <rolls a natural 1 on Deception> <loud stage whisper to the party> "Guys … he's pretty dumb! I think it's working!"
(Everybody in the room is pretty embarrassed at the ham-handed nature of the deception that Tom just pulled off. But Cylidric doesn't seem too concerned)
Morgan: "Will you be able to walk back to Nightstone, Cylidric?"
Cylidric tests his weight a bit, and replies that thinks that he should be able to. The wound isn't too bad for an experienced soldier.
Silas asks the prisoners to gather up their possessions, so that the party can escort them to safety before they continue clearing out the cave network. Before they can leave, Nivah tries to disable the bell and net trap at the entrance, but she ends up setting it off semi-deliberately. No enemies come to investigate, so everyone marches out of the cave. Tom tries to interrogate some of the rescued prisoners about who else is unaccounted-for, and he makes Taela cry by reminding her of those prisoners that were taken by the ogres and not seen again. Silas takes charge of the prisoners and leads them back to the mushroom cave where Godric and the first group of rescued prisoners are waiting. There is a joyful reunion with much hugging and crying. In total the party have rescued nine civilians (Godric, his daughter Johanna, and two other humans; the halfling Taela Sunrock and her children Barley and Dollop; the tiefling Destiny and her son Grin) and one Zhentarim (Cylidric). Silas gathers up some weapons from the ambushed goblin patrol and distributes them to Cylidric and the other able-bodied prisoners, and they set up a defensible position in the mushroom farm.
Silas returns to the party, and they continue their exploration of the caves. Wiero has been sniffing down the abandoned passage to see what's going on. There are no tracks going in or out, and the air is quiet and still. The passageway is totally dark, but he can see a big stalactite that appears to be decaying or eaten away by acid. It smells weird, like something he's never smelled before. He lets out a howl and the rest of the party comes down the passageway to join him. Just as they do, a black ooze of some kind detaches from the wall and extrudes a tentacle that tries to attack Wiero!
Nivah shoots the ooze monster, and rolls a critical, striking the extruded tentacle for 10 points and severing it. As the arrow strikes the monster, its shaft and fletching completely dissolve away, eaten up by its acidic secretions! Wiero leaps on the monster and bites it for 8 points. The ooze tastes like a foul acid that burns his mouth for 1 point; Silas yells "Wiero, be careful!". Wilson also leaps on the monster, biting it for 6 points, but he gets acidic ooze all over his mouth and face that burns him for 5 points of damage, and he's badly injured! Captain Morgan throws a flask of oil at the monster, which shatters on impact, dousing it in oil. Simultaneously, Tom casts Produce Flame and throws it at the monster, igniting it for 13 points. The monster goes up in flame, and the air is filled with a hideous squealing sound and a pall of greasy black smoke. Silas pulls out his crossbow to take a shot, but it's been a long time since he's used it and his bolt goes wild. Disgusted, he throws his crossbow to the ground and stomps on it, smashing it into fragments. Meanwhile, Altamont uses Chill Touch to conjure a ghostly hand that deals 5 points of necrotic damage. The pudding monster, still on fire, rears up and towers over Wilson. The giant weasel is too badly injured to dodge away, and the monster smashes down to engulf him completely, dissolving the flesh from his bones and killing him instantly! ! !
Nivah emits a scream of rage and draws her last lightning arrow, firing it at the monster. The small tunnel is filled with a thunderous sound and an actinic blue flash as the arrow detonates into a lightning bolt, blasting a big crater in the middle of the ooze monster. The remaining ooze quivers, regroups into two separate pools, and now there are two smaller monsters! Altamont is fascinated by this strange behavior and the party can see him taking mental notes. Wiero moves in between the monsters and the party, and enters a defensive stance. Captain Morgan draws his flintlock and crossbow and shoots twice at one monster, dealing 8 points of damage. Tom uses Ray of Frost, attacking the same one for 2 points of cold damage, which the monster appears to shrug off. Silas draws out a potion of heroism and quaffs it boldly, charging forward with a yell and slicing one of the monsters … splitting it into two more smaller blobs of ooze! Drawing back his sword, he can see the acidic ooze is starting to eat away its structure, and it is now -1 to damage! Altamont murmurs to himself "Fascinating… don't attack it with lightning damage or slashing weapons, that causes it to split!". He uses Chill Touch to suck the life out of one of the smallest blobs, which turns grey, and stops moving. The two remaining monsters (one small, one medium-sized) attack Silas and Wiero. The larger of the two wraps itself around Silas' midsection. He screams out in pain as the acidic ooze eats away his armor, dealing 20 points of damage to him and reducing his armor's AC by 1 pemanently!
Nivah uses her Inspiration to aid her aim, hitting the small ooze dead center for 11 points of damage and splattering it across the tunnel. Wiero pounces on the remaining medium-sized monster but it dodges away from his bite. Captain Morgan fires again at the monster, hitting with his pistol and crossbow for a total of 11 points of damage. It's still moving, but quite a bit slower now. Tom uses the Hand of Jones to flay it with a ghostly tentacle for 4 points of damage. Silas is badly wounded, so he drinks the unidentified red potion they just found, hoping it's a healing elixir. He is satisfied to see his wounds knit together as he regains 17 points of health. Altamont uses Chill Touch again to tickle the monster for 1 point of damage. Undaunted, the monster attacks Wiero, wrapping around his form and dissolving his fur all the way down to his muscular flanks! Siero is knocked out of shapechange, reverting to his gnome form, suffering from bad acid burns.
Nivah uses a Hunter's Mark to focus her aim, narrowing in on her target and striking it dead center for 9 points of damage. The monster quivers once, raises itself up, folds in on itself, and collapses into a spreading puddle of acidic goo.
Altamont uses a spell of Mending to try and repair the armor and weapons that were corroded by the ooze monster, but there's so much damage that it is ineffective. Captain Morgan searches the black pudding, trying to reclaim Wilson's remains, but the acidic juices have already partially digested his body and there isn't really enough left to bury. With a grim face, Nivah takes some of Wilson's teeth to remember him by, and also reclaims his gold necklace that she gave him.
Meanwhile, Altamont takes the empty potion vial from Silas and takes a sample of the ooze. He thinks it might have been a monster known as a "black pudding". Silas searches the stalagmite and finds some random loot that appears to have survived the pudding's acidic juices… two intertwined feathers, four glass potion vials and a tome of some kind that is mysteriously undamaged. Three of the potions appear to be healing elixirs, and the last is some kind of fiery, smoking liquid. Altamont takes a sip of the fiery liquid and declares it to be a potion of fire-breathing. Tom excitedly takes the tome, which appears to be filled with warlock readings.
The party is pretty badly hurt at this point. However, Captain Morgan doesn't want to leave yet, so against the party's better judgment he scouts around stealthily. Moving further down the tunnel where they encountered the pudding, he finds a large, dark cavern to the southeast, with some stagnant water in it, and some tunnel offshoots. He also finds another tunnel that leads to the manticores' den, where they are lounging around and chewing on dismembered pieces from a large number of bodies. They aren't chained up or anything… so the Captain decides that discretion is the better part of valor. He returns to the group and they exit the cave system. As they emerge into the night air, a white owl silently flies down and perches on Altamont's shoulder. Nivah asks what that is, and Altamont says "His name is Watson."
The party return to the mushroom farm and gather the former prisoners. As they are preparing to leave, Siero works a ritual to conceal their tracks, reasoning that they don't want to be hunted by the manticores. A veil of shadows and mist emerges from the ground to envelop the group, and they depart without a trace. The party travels through the badlands back to the remarkable hidden campsite that Nivah found the previous night. There is enough room for the whole group to shelter under the overhang, and they take a long rest overnight.
Rising later in the morning, and feeling well rested, the party reviews the loot they have collected. There are a lot of remarkable items, starting with a potion of hill giant strength (the yellow liquid with the toenail), a potion of gaseous form, and three potions of healing. Silas spends some time examining the magical glowing sword that they took from Hark. This longsword has a deep grey blade covered in etched runes, and an aquamarine set into the pommel. When it is drawn, the blade ignites with a cool blue light. The runes say that its name is "Shriek, the weapon of warning". When worn, the sword gives off a whistling that the wielder and his friends can hear whenever danger is near. This grants advantage on all initiative rolls, and companions within 30' of the wielder cannot be surprised. If the wielder is sleeping when combat begins, they will be magically awoken.
Tom has been up all night reading his new tome, which is entitled "Netherbane, the Tome of the Pact-keeper". When held it will give him a bonus of +1 to all spell attack rolls, and +1 to spell DC difficulty. Once per long rest, the wielder can regain 1 warlock spell slot as an action. There is also a ceramic flask with a skull and cross-bones on it, which turns out to be a magical Alchemy flask. This container can be used to hold 16 oz of liquid. However, once per day the owner may use an action to name a liquid which will magically refill the flask. It can generate 8oz of a strong acid acid, 0.5oz of poison (1d8 damage, DC11 Con save for half), 0.5oz of sleeping poison (DC11 con save or sleep for 1 hr), 1 pint of whiskey, 1 pint of rum, 1 quart of wine, 1 quart of oil, 1 gallon of vinegar, 4 gallons of fresh water, or 6 gallons of salt water. Captain Morgan is very excited at the prospect of this flask, and the party let him hold onto it. He immediately switches its contents to rum, and takes a long swig, proclaiming it to be "quite satisfactory grog".
Lastly, there is the feather charm that the party found, which consists of several feathers bound by wax strands and smelling deeply of earth. Siero identifies them as the Feathers of Fiaqura, which may be used by a druid up to 2 times to allow their wild shape to become the form of a flying beast.
The party take their time breaking camp in the morning. Captain Morgan strikes up a conversation with Cylidric about life in the Zhentarim. As they are chatting he slips a Charm Person spell into the dialogue and successfully charms the scout, and then changes the subject to be more of an interrogation.
Morgan: "So how long have you been with your unit?"
Cylidric: "Oh, about a year and a half."
"You said both Althad and Kella were commanders?"
"Yes, Kella sometimes commands the unit, although Althad runs all of our combat operations."
"So is she a spy then?"
"No… we're mercenaries! She's um… our information officer…"
"So what's up with that flying snake?"
"Many Zhentarim use the snakes to send messages back and forth across long distances. Mostly commanders have them. I don't have one."
"I may have gotten on Kella's bad side at some point. Any suggestions for how I could repair that?"
"Well… she and Althad have been working together for a long time, many years. I'm sure that if you and Althad were on good terms that she wouldn't have a problem. But she never forgets anything."
"Why did you guys come to Nightstone anyway? And how did you personally get caught by the hobgoblins?"
"There were only three of us in Nightstone before the attack, myself, another scout named Dodric, and Kella. The rest were going to arrive a few days later. We were to investigate the shard and report back."
"Really… so what do the Zhentarim want with the shard?
"They don't really tell me those things, but I think they think it might be important somehow."
"Excellent! Well I'm very glad to meet you. Let's have some rum… a lot of rum…"
(At this point Captain Morgan tries to get Cylidric so drunk that he'll forget the Charm Person spell and the interrogation.)
While Morgan is talking with Cylidric, the party decide that they should head back to the caverns and try to retrieve any remaining prisoners, or at least their remains. Specifically, Destiny the tiefling tells them that her daughter Sylda was taken by the ogres two days ago and is still missing, and Cylidric hasn't seen his Zhentarim friend Dodric since they were brought to the caves. Nivah and Siero forage for food and are able to find enough that the townsfolk can have something to eat during the day. As the adventurers are preparing to leave, Dollop the 6-year-old halfling runs up and clings to Nivah's leg, pleading with them, "Don't go! Stay here!" Captain Morgan uses a Minor Illusion to conjure some fireworks for her, but she's not impressed.
The party returns to the cave system, cautiously keeping their eyes on the sky, but their trek is uneventful. Wiero is tracking Sylda's scent from a bedroll that her mother gave them. The scent trail leads him to the cave and directly to the passage that leads to the manticore pit. Altamont whispers to his owl familiar Watson and sends him ahead to scout; he is able to see through Watson's eyes up to a fairly long distance. Watson is able to see the manticores sleeping at the bottom of the pit, but there are no other signs of motion.
The party huddle up to talk tactics, and Altamont raises the idea of using the net from the net trap to tangle up the manticores. Captain Morgan advocates using flaming oil as well, saying "Why not both?". Morgan returns to the secret passage where Nivah had set the trap upon their last excursion, and retrieves both the oil flasks and the alchemist's fire. The party prepare a flaming surprise for the manticores…