Session 8 – 04/06/17
Campaign Day 4 – 19th Eleasis – Evening
The party are having dinner together in the common room of the inn. It is the evening of the fourth day of their adventure, the 19th of Eleasis (Highsun).
After dinner Silas wants to find the Zhentarim commander. He goes to find one of the Zhentarim scouts, asks him where Althad is and gets an evasive answer.
Scout: "Well… I might be able to think about where he is… except it's slipped my mind right now…"
Silas: "Is this a money thing? This is a money thing, isn't it."
Silas doesn't have any money right now, because he spent all of it on commissioning his new splint mail. Unable to pay the bribe, he returns to the inn instead. Morak has reserved one of the less-damaged rooms in the inn for the party, and they're able to all fit, barely. Siero sleeps in a dresser drawer.
The night passes uneventfully. The next day the party awake and get themselves ready for an expedition. As they head downstairs into the common room they can hear the sounds of bustling activity coming from the kitchen, and several of the Zhentarim are in the common room waiting for breakfast.
Captain Morgan goes into the pantry looking for rum. He finds Althad cooking there… it's a very impressive spread being prepared, he seems to be an expert cook.
Captain Morgan: "Good morning, Commander … may I call you Commander?"
Althad: "Certainly, if you wish, but we don't really stand on titles amongst comrades."
Captain Morgan notices that there seems to be a small green flying snake curled around Althad Dram's arm. In fact, it looks like the same kind that Kella had.
Morgan: "I notice you have a little friend there."
Althad: (distractedly, while cooking) "Ah yes, I've had that since I was a new recruit into the Zhentarim. We use them to send messages."
"You know, Kella had one of those as well."
"Oh, did she? Interesting."
"Yes indeed. If you see her, say hello from me!"
"Ah yes… she mentioned she had a little different opinion of you."
"Oh you know, sometimes you make friends, sometimes you don't.
"Well, I've found she can be a person who holds a grudge."
"Ah… that can happen from time to time. I've always found it's possible to smooth things over. Speaking of smooth, do you have any rum here in the kitchen?"
"No, I don't believe so."
"No rum! What kind of operation are you running here? Where do you get your supplies from?"
"We mostly live off the land when we're away on mission. But we're going to be based in Nightstone now, keeping the town safe. We should be getting a supply caravan soon."
Morgan is quite suspicious of the fact that the Zhentarim are moving in to town and making themselves at home so quickly… and there seem to be more of them every day…
Back in the common room, all of the party have come down and everyone is getting ready for breakfast. Althad and Morgan bring out the plates, it's a big spread, and Althad invites everyone to eat. The Zhentarim soldiers come in and eat as well, in shifts. They are fairly quiet, as soldiers would be in kind of a combat environment. Captain Morgan tries to engage them with some storytelling and there are a few smiles but nobody is super friendly. The food is exceptionally good. After ten or fifteen minutes Althad is done cooking, and he comes out and joins the party for breakfast.
Tom: "Thanks for breakfast, Commander. The bacon's great – it's really crispy, I like it. I'm not a big fan of the vegetables though."
Althad: "Well, I do the best I can with what I have … obviously some of the ingredients aren't the highest quality, given the condition of the town."
Silas: "Actually, this is the best breakfast I've ever had. It was wonderful."
Tom: "We'd like to repay your generosity by helping to chase down some more trouble in the area. We ran across a hobgoblin who seemed to be practicing necromancy. Do you know what a necromancer is? Have you seen one?"
Althad: "I do. We've been running patrols around the area. We know Hark and his crew are in the hills to the north somewhere. We haven't seen much else notable."
Tom: "What do you know about the forest elves?"
Althad: "We've been trying to avoid them, mostly. There was quite a bit of tension historically between them and the town of Nightstone. I feel it's best not to rock the boat too much."
Silas: "What do you know about Hark's lair?"
Althad: "We haven't seen the lair itself, but we know roughly where it is. We've seen a lot of torn-up game carcasses near there, and we usually turn back when we get close. Some of my patrols have had a few run-ins with small warbands, mostly goblins, some bugbears."
Silas: "Do you think the elves would be able to help us with the goblins?"
Althad: "Well, I don't know. Elves are tricky… you can't really trust them…"
Tom: "Thanks a lot for everything you're doing. Try not to die in the next couple of days. Just hold out, we'll be back."
Althad and the Zhentarim all clear out to start their work for the day. The party gets together and talk about their concerns about the Zhentarim. Are they moving in on the town and trying to take it over as their base of operations? It seems pretty clear they are, which Captain Morgan does not like at all. However, there doesn't seem to be very much that the party can do about it.
Siero gets bored with all of the talking and he wanders off during the conversation. It's early morning now and there are a number of villagers up and about, starting to repair the town and its buildings and fortifications. Siero wants to talk to a villager, and he picks the smallest one because he thinks a small human must be trustworthy, so he walks up to an 8-year-old boy. The boy is amazed that a real live hero is talking to him!
Siero: "What do you think of the Zhentarim?"
Boy: "My dad calls them the Zhents. He thinks they're helping us out a lot, just like you guys! We wouldn't be around if it weren't for them!"
Siero and the boy chatter for a while about their respective adventures in the forest.
The party has decided that they want to know more about the elves, as one of the major players in the area they may know more about what happened in Nightstone. They decide to go and talk to Morak Urdray at the general store to find out more.
Captain Morgan: "Good morning, Morak!"
Morak: "And to you, Captain. Say, I've been meaning to ask you, what are you a Captain of exactly?"
Morgan: "Never mind that right now. Can you tell us anything about the town's relationship with the elves? I've heard that there is bad blood. What's the nature of the dispute?"
Morak: "Well, the dispute goes a long way back… we chopped down a bunch of trees to build the town when it was first founded."
Morgan: "So you don't know if there is any specific disputed issue right now?"
Morak: "I couldn't really say. Elves, you know, they tend to hold grudges. And the Lord of the town, well, he could be stubborn. He wasn't really one to mend fences. After he died, Lady Valrosa was interested in trying to resolve things. But I try not to stick my nose into Lords' business, you know."
Tom: "Have you ever traded with the elves?"
Morak: "No, they never come into town as far as I know, certainly never to my inn."
Silas, Morgan and Siero decide that they want to go and talk to the elves. They go to the keep to try and find the map that they saw earlier. Tom stays back at the inn to pet Wilson. Approaching the keep they can see the drawbridge has been partially repaired and it's easy to get across now. There aren't any Zhentarim visible at the keep, but the main doors into the first floor are locked. Morgan climbs a tree, then vaults across through a broken hole in the wall to get inside, and he opens the doors to let the others in. They go up the stairs to the library. Attached to the wall in the library there is a large area map showing Nightstone, the surroundings, and Ardeep Forest. Captain Morgan copies down the map while the others poke around the library a bit. As they are working, Silas hears someone approaching.
Althad Dram: "Hey, what's going on?"
Silas: "We're copying this map."
Althad: "You should have asked me! We have a great map of the area. Come with me and I can give you a copy."
While the group are walking back out of the keep, Siero tries to discreetly start a conversation with the small winged snake on Althad's arm. He realizes very quickly that it's the exact same snake that Kella had, and he also realizes that Althad has a long-term relationship with this snake, like he's known it for years. Althad witnesses Siero talking to the snake, but he doesn't intervene to stop it.
Althad leads the party to the outer fortifications, where he calls over one of the Zhentarim scouts and asks for his map, which he gives to Morgan. This map shows a significantly larger area, maybe 100 miles wide, and it is very much more detailed… although it doesn't show any details inside Ardeep Forest. He says the party can keep the map and they thank him.
The party regroup at the inn and prepare to leave. As they are getting ready, Captain Morgan asks Tom if there are any magical effects on the map that Althad gave them, but Tom doesn't know.
Nivah and Wilson take the lead, and the party heads out of town towards Ardeep Forest. They find a path that heads into the forest. Tom is humming a walking song… inside everyone's head, which is very disconcerting. The forest quickly becomes thick, and not much sunlight reaches the ground. As the party travels, they are not trying to be stealthy but they are trying to be aware of their environment.
After a few hours of traveling deeper into the forest, Nivah sees a couple of elves watching them from a distance. She waves at them and they wave back. The party walks over to them.
Nivah: (in Elvish) "There has been some trouble in the area and we wanted to alert your people to the danger."
Elves: (in Elvish) "Do you mean the giants in the castle? We saw them overhead."
Nivah: "We have some news about events that we wanted to share."
Elves: "Elowae would be interested to hear that."
Captain Morgan: (in Elvish) "May we come with you to speak to her?"
Elves: "Yes, please follow us to our village."
The party follows the elves through the forest. They aren't taking what appears to be a normal path, but the elves have no problem slipping quietly through the trees.
Captain Morgan: (in Elvish) "Thank you for allowing us into your forest."
Elves: (in Common) "You know, we can speak Common."
Morgan: (in Common) "Well, we heard that the humans in the area have not always been so courteous in their dealings, so we wanted to make a good impression. What are your names?"
Elves: "I am Aegnor." "And I am Earwyn."
Morgan: "Well met! I am Captain Morgan, wandering diplomat and adventurer, and these are my companions."
(Captain Morgan does introductions all around. Tom does some prestidigitation to turn his hand into a tentacle when he waves.)
Morgan: "We have heard that the humans in this area have caused some offense in the past, and we were wondering if there were any trouble spots or forbidden areas that we should stay away from."
Aegnor: "That was all before my time. Well, I have heard that Lord Nadar of Nightstone was never friendly to us, and would send us away. We have very little contact with humans these days."
The elves lead them to a small forest village, maybe 15-20 small wooden buildings in the elvish style. There are some small buildings in the trees, and some larger buildings on the ground. The village seems to be mostly agricultural, with small subsistence farms scattered in clearings; there is no evidence of commerce or shops or any industry.
The party's elvish guides approach an elvish woman who is farming in a field.
Earwyn: "Lady Elowae, these adventurers have come to talk to you, from the human town of Nightstone."
Lady Elowae: "Welcome to Ardeep Forest, and to our village."
Siero: (blurting out) "Do all giants till the land?"
Elowae: (smiling) "Ah, a forest gnome! We haven't had one of your kind in a while. Welcome, little one. I am not a giant, though I may seem it to you."
Silas: "We thought you should know that cloud giants attacked Nightstone two days ago, and Lady Nadar is dead."
Eloway: "We saw the giants overhead, but we didn't connect their appearance to Nightstone. I am sorry to hear of your loss."
Nivah: "What are you doing here?"
Eloway: "We live here, we till the land, and are happy."
Tom: "We are following up on the attack, of course, and trying to help the good people of Nightstone. They report trouble with goblins, and hobgoblins, raiding from the north. Have you had any trouble with a crew led by a hobgoblin called Hark?"
Elowae: "We have had more trouble recently. We've killed maybe 15-20 goblins in the last month, defending the forest."
Silas: "They have been raiding the town of Nightstone, and completely overran it after the giant attack killed most of the guards. We're worried about them posing a continuing threat to Nightstone, and we're also worried they might attack the elves."
Elowe: "Your concern is not unappreciated, but I'd be surprised if Lord Nadar wanted to treat with us. He has thrown us out of the town multiple times in the past."
Silas: "Do you send out patrols, do you send elves outside the boundaries of the forest?"
Elowae: "Very rarely."
Silas: "We found two dead bodies of elves nearby, they were killed by undead. They were wearing these cloaks." (gives her the cloaks)
Elowae: "We have lost a couple of scouts as of late… but we haven't seen any undead. We are a simple village, we don't have any soldiers or a professional fighting force."
Silas: "Are you familiar with a ruin that lies to the east of here?"
Elowae: "There is an ancient ruin… we have avoided it."
Silas: "We found it was infested by darkness, and we cleared out a necromancer and his undead minions. But there are more serious threats that remain. We believe it's in our best interest, and in your best interests as well, if we can take care of this goblin encampment."
Tom: "We have this map. Do you have any information about the area to the north? With your keen elvish eyes… perhaps you can help us scout?"
Elowae: "There are some caves in the hills to the north of Nightstone, we know of the region in general. But we don't know their location to mark it on a map."
Silas: "Would any of your elves be interested in coming with us to help deal with this threat?"
Elowae: "We mostly stick to ourselves."
At this point an elf assistant comes up and talks to Lady Elowae in in Sylvan. Silas hears a few words but can't make anything out.
Silas: "With respect (pointing at the dead scout's cloak) the problem has already come to your doorstep. You need to get involved or else more of your people will die." ::uses a Persuasion check, rolls a 23::
Lady Elowae: "I certainly appreciate your argument. However we have few people who are combat trained. And with Quedraxenor nearby, we can't really spare anyone."
Tom: "What's Quedraxenor?"
Elowae: "He is a green dragon that has been nearby in the area, in the forest. But I would implore you to please stay away from him, he is powerful and has been pushing us out of the area. If only we could find Andurshel, the spear of our people, we might have a chance – but we haven't seen it in a hundred years, since the Black Skull orcs overran our former village a hundred years ago."
Morgan: "Are you familiar with the Zhentarim mercenaries who are moving in to the area?"
Elowae: "We have almost no interaction with the humans, so we haven't heard of these Zhentarim."
Silas: "Thank you for any help you can give us."
Lady Elowae's assistant returns and bows to her, handing her a package wrapped in green cloth. She unwraps it and shows it to Silas.
Lady Elowae: "These herbs may aid you in your travels. (There are 4 packets, that can be used on a short rest to recover half of a character's hit dice.) If you do ever come across Andurshel, please let us know. It is a long spear with a curved blade at the end, I believe it was green metal."
Tom: (constructs a magical image of the spear to show her – rolling a natural 1). "Did it look like this?"
Elowae: "Yes… it looks nothing like that."
Silas: "Do you want the bodies of your scouts returned to you?"
Elowae: "Perhaps if you just show us where they are?"
Silas: "Have you had any dealings with giants?"
Elowae: "We never speak to giants, and we have had very few sightings recently."
Captain Morgain: "Does the word Ordning mean anything to you, in relation to giants?"
Elowae: "It's how the giants determine who is more powerful than each other."
(Captain Morgan now remembers… it is the social hierarchy, where storm giants are above hill giants, etc. He also remembers something vaguely about the god of giants, who imposed a social order on them, and now they don’t fight any more.)
Captain Morgan: "Thank you for your hospitality and generosity. It is greatly appreciated. We will bring you further news as we find it."
The party is given a friendly escort out of the forest by the elves, who point them north into the hill country. It's a long walk, and the sun is heading towards the hills in the west as they move up into the foothills, passing through light forest. Suddenly, the party is ambushed by a group of four goblins wielding shortbows, and led by two bugbears with hide armor, morningstar and shield. Fortunately, Nivah spots the goblins just before they attack, so their ambush is spoiled.
Nivah uses a Hunter's Mark on the nearest bugbear, and shoots it with an arrow for 7 damage. Tom attacks one of the goblins with his tentacle for 5 points; the goblin squeals and shies back behind a tree. Siero runs forward, transforming into a dire wolf as he goes, standing in between Nivah and Morgan ready to defend them.
The bugbears run up and Wiero reacts, pouncing at one which fends him off with its shield. The bugbear swings back at him, but the blow is deflected by his heavy fur. The other bugbear moves to flank and strikes Nivah brutally in the shoulder with its morningstar, for a crushing 12 points of damage. The goblins open fire with a volley from their shortbows – an arrow flies at Tom but misses, Wiero is struck twice for 15 points of damage, and an arrow critically hits Wilson for 10 points.
Captain Morgan steps back from combat, holding his nose. He casts Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter, saying "What's that smell? It must be bugbears!!" The bugbear must find this extremely funny because it falls to the ground laughing uncontrollably, dropping its morningstar. Captain Morgan hides behind a tree and takes aim with his new flintlock pistol. Wilson is super enraged at everything, and tries to bite the other bugbear but misses. Silas is slowly charging uphill in his heavy armor but hasn't reached the combat yet.
Nivah takes a step back out of melee range, and takes a point-blank shot, punching through the bugbear's armor and striking him in the chest for 13 points. Tom then uses Dissonant Whispers to instill terror on the bugbear, causing 7 points of psychic damage. It turns to run and collapses from sheer fright. Now that the bugbears are incapacitated by laughter and terror respectively, Wiero is free to lope over to the goblins and pounces on one, knocking it to the ground and ripping out its throat instantly. Morgan moves forward to take cover behind a new tree, and takes aim with his pistol, shooting a goblin with a loud BANG and a shower of sparks, for 4 points of damage. Wilson charges into the line goblin archers and tries to bite one, but misses. Silas decides to finish off the incapacitated bugbear and stabs him for 10 points, but he still keeps laughing.
Nivah takes aim on a goblin archer peeking out from behind a tree, and her arrow takes him through the eye for 10 points, sending him flying back! Tom takes aim at the prone bugbear with a Ray of Frost and misses, freezing a patch of ground. Wiero pounces on a goblin archer, grabs him and shakes him for 23 points. Little pieces of goblin archer rain down around. Seeing this, the bugbear stops laughing and stands up – just in time for Captain Morgan to engage him with rapier and pistol, striking him with a slash for 8 points. The last goblin drops his shortbow and runs away as fast as he can, but Wilson is pursuing right behind him.
Nivah takes aim at the fleeing goblin and strikes him in the back of the head for 9 points; he flops to the ground, killed instantly. Tom summons a Witchbolt, and a fountain of lightning arcs out from his hand towards the bugbear, but he takes it on his shield, deflecting it. Wiero runs into the fray, but he trips and falls. The bugbear growls and brings his morningstar down with a mighty blow, smashing down on Morgan's pirate hat for 17 points, badly injuring him. Captain Morgan is badly fazed, and takes a step back, firing his pistol wildly but missing.
Nivah shoots at the bugbear but misses. Tom uses the Hand of Jones but also misses. Finally, Wiero picks himself up off the ground and leaps on the bugbear from behind, bites him in the neck for 15 points and bringing him to the ground dead.
The party gathers up and loots the bodies, finding some poor-quality goblin armor that isn't worth taking, and a total of 87cp and 15sp in their pouches. Also, one of the bugbears has a scrap of paper in his pouch that appears to be a wanted poster for the party, drawn crudely by some humanoid! The party have a good laugh about this while they take a short rest to heal.