Trouble in Larchwood, Part III

Dramatis Personae: Gil, Keluak, Keth, Tasklar
Source: “Alarums and Excursions” (Princes of the Apocalypse), homebrew

A Thorny Proposition
On the way back to Larchwood from Tricklerock Cave, the PCs heard the sounds of a scuffle coming from just off the road. Someone was calling for help! Being the fearless heroes that they are, the PCs rushed through the trees to the site of a ruined farmhouse, inside which they discovered a colorfully-dressed halfling peddler caught up in a mass of writhing vines. Catching sight of them, the halfling called out: “Please make haste and free me from this place!”

As they moved to rescue the merchant, several clumps of dead twigs knitted themselves into humanoid shapes and leapt to attack. Two larger humanoid shapes, covered in sharp needles, shuffled out of the trees. Blights everywhere!

Tasklar turned two of the twig blights and one of the needle blights into kindling with his wand of magic missiles, while Keluak smashed up the other two twig blights with his warhammer. Keth ran through the mass of vines to assist the halfling, grabbing him by the feet and trying to pull him free as the vine blight continued to constrict tighter and tighter.

Gil got caught up by the vines himself as he went to chuck a flask of oil on the vine blight. He was then attacked by one of the needle blights, but he managed to free himself just before his cousin Tasklar could do it for him. (Tasklar was intending to cut the vines with his rapier, and Gil was worried that his cuz would end up cutting him instead, which gave him added incentive to get free on his own!)

Keth managed to pull the halfling free and then Keluak walloped the vine blight with his hammer, only to have the thing wrench his weapon out of his hand and grab him for good measure. Keth lit the oil on fire and watched the vine blight start to burn before it was finished off for good.

Out of danger, the halfling brushed himself off, straightened his clothes, and said, “My thanks you have, good sirs, for saving me from those miserable curs.” As he began the arduous task of gathering up his things, he introduced himself as “Bruce the Goose” and asked the PCs if they would like some “juice” (as he brandished a wine skin). He informed them that he was a “peddler of various sundries” who travelled “all over the country.”

Out of gratitude for the rescue, Bruce the Goose gave the PCs a small leather bag with six small beans inside it. As he handed it over, he warned them: “Be careful not to spill this on the ground, if you still want to be around. Plant them one by one and then you shall have some fun.” With that, the eccentric halfling merchant went on his way.

The PCs decided to plant a bean to see what it did. After a minute, a nest grew up out of the ground with six marzipan eggs in it. The PCs each tried an egg, and through a combination of luck, inspiration, and divine blessings, they *all* made their DC 20 Constitution saves and gained a permanent +1 bonus to their lowest ability scores. They even gave one to Keth’s protégé, Elia, who got a natural 20 on her save. She’s now slightly more charismatic. They’ve saved the last egg for Calla the sorceress.

The Tomb of Moving Stones
As the PCs headed back into Larchwood, another tremor shook the ground. A sinkhole opened up at the crossroads in front of them, swallowing up a cart and the children playing on it (one of whom looked like Pell). A woman ran out of the house and fell into the pit when the edge crumbled away below her. As more people came running, the PCs knotted their ropes together, tied one end around a fence post and dashed to the edge of the hole.

Despite the protests of several town elders, including quarry owner Albaeri Mellikho, the PCs and townsfolk made quick work of rescuing the frightened but unhurt children and the housewife. The PCs then decided to explore the exposed underground area, especially after Keluak recognized the stone door as being of dwarven construction. Their suspicions and curiosity were also piqued by a) the cloaks left by the door and b) the elders’ comments about not disturbing the “delvers” or “moving the stones”.

They opened the door and descended down a dwarf-made tunnel until they arrived at two stone sentinels set out from the wall aways. Keluak recognized them as symbolic guardians and also doorways. One guarded a tunnel that led to an ancient dwarven long drop. The other led to a makeshift charnel house, in which several giant rats feasted on the corpses of three murdered humans. The PCs made short work of the rats and inspected what was left of the bodies. The humans were all dressed in traveling outfits but were no one any of the PCs recognized. They all had a strange occult symbol cut into their foreheads as well.

Moving on, the PCs came to a room with a large black rock levitating in the center. Keth accidentally-on-purpose bumped into Gil, who took a dive under the rock so as not to crash into it. As he came out the other side, he was astonished to find some of the coins from his pocket were left hovering in the air beneath the rock. [Later they came back and found out that the rock wasn’t magical but that there was a magical cylinder of air in the middle of the room that allowed inanimate objects to levitate within it.]

From there, they discovered a large room with the broken, petrified remains of an ancient dwarf held together by a wooden frame. Around the frame, at a respectful distance, was a circle of fine gravel, inside which had been placed a number of coins and gems and a fancy dagger with a night-blue leather grip (and bloodstains on the blade).

They headed back the way they came and discovered another room, this one occupied by a boy held in place by stones. He protested when they went to help him, telling them this was his punishment for not delivering a message to Ilmeth Waelvur, the wainwright, from his father. At this point, they noticed that the half-orc village simpleton, Grund, was also here, staring at them in astonishment from the other side of the room. He told them they had to go, and when they wouldn’t, he levelled a heavy crossbow at them. They rushed him and banged on his head enough times to knock him out, then tied him up. Keth was adamant that Grund wasn’t evil and therefore shouldn’t be punished more than necessary.

They questioned the boy a little more, learning about the existence of the town’s secret society, the Believers, who interpreted the portents of the moving stones in the tomb of the Delvers. The boy also told them that the tomb was guarded by an old man named Baragustas.

Feeling a bit worn out and weary after a long day, the PCs decided to take a rest before pushing further into the tomb. Unfortunately, after only a few minutes, their rest was disturbed by a gang of six thugs in stone masks, who announced themselves to be the “Bringers of Woe” and who had come to “reward” the PCs’ curiosity. Whoa indeed.

Fortunately for the PCs, the Bringers of Woe turned out to be more bark than bite. Before pressing on to meet Baragustas, they donned the cultists’ masks and tricked Baragustas into thinking they were the cultists. They informed him that they’d “taken care of” the nosy adventurers, and he told them to put the bodies with the others. Keth then rushed him and knocked him out with a swift blow of his mace. The old man was tied up and left with Grund and the boy.

The PCs then ventured into the vast chamber of the Delvers’ tomb. Here they found a random assortment of menhirs and trilithons, as well as the bodies of six humanoids placed on stone biers around the edges of the room. Here they also found Larrakh, the stone priest. He saw through their disguise right away, considering that he knew that none of his accomplices were short and squat like a dwarf.

Larrakh opened with the slow spell, which caught up Keluak and Gil. Keth rushed into the room and got behind a standing stone. Tasklar fired the last magic missiles from his wand (which fortunately did *not* crumble into dust), but Larrakh countered them with a shield spell. He then tried to knock Keth prone with an earth tremor, but the half-orc would not be moved. To the PCs’ astonishment, however, all the massive standing stones in the room proceeded to rise up a few inches off the ground.

Larrakh then used shatter on Tasklar and Keth. Keth managed to hang in there with his orcish endurance, but Tasklar went down, one of his eyeballs exploding due to the magical vibrations. Ouch! Keth broke off his attack to save Tasklar from death, while Gil, shaking off his slowness, pressed in to attack with his sword. He got a crit on Larrakh, who cast expeditious retreat and ran to the back of the room, where he opened a secret door in the wall. Gil dashed after him, but the dastardly cultist wrenched a support beam out from the wall as he made his way up the tunnel, causing it to collapse behind him.

The Aftermath
The townsfolk were most grateful for the PCs’ assistance. Constable Harburk found the murdered travellers and launched an investigation. The Believers were all exposed and shunned and ended up turning on each other. Albaeri Mellikho and Ilmeth Waelvur were found guilty of murder and hanged. Marlandro Gaelkur, the village barber, was also found guilty but he managed to skip town. Several of the other Believers, including their leader Elak Dornen, also fled town. Grund was cleared of wrongdoing, since he was just doing what the elders had told him to do. Baragustas knew about the murders but hadn’t committed them himself, so he was thrown out of town.

In the end, the townsfolk of Larchwood opted to elect their first mayor. Their first choice was Constable Harburk, but he politely declined, so they chose his partner and the town’s butcher, Jalessa Ornra, instead.

Kaylessa, the half-elf proprietor of the Swinging Sword Inn, also revealed herself to be something of a sorceress and offered to mentor the PCs as they sought to become Big Damn Heroes.

Trouble in Larchwood, Part II

Dramatis Personae: Gil, Keluak, Keth, Tasklar
Source: “Alarums and Excursions” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

The Necromancer’s Cave, continued
Upon returning to Larchwood from their foray to Lance Rock, the PCs discovered that Gil’s cousin, Tasklar, had wandered into town. And there was much rejoicing. Except from Keluak, who didn’t appreciate being the butt of the bard’s numerous jokes.

Reunion complete, the PCs gave Kaylessa the down-low: There was no plague as such down by Lance Rock, but there was a necromancer. They just needed to rest up for the night and then they’d go back and close the case. Permanently.

In the night, Keth experienced his nightmare with the skull again.

In the morning, Calla refused to come out of her room, so the boys took Tasklar along instead. They headed back to Lance Rock and fought their way through more zombies, including one that had until recently been a little farm girl. That made them really mad. They chased that crazy necromancer all the way into his lair, where they found a grotesque stand made of hacked-off arms holding a glowing orb with a creepy eye inside it. The necromancer leaped out from a niche hidden behind a curtain and screamed “Do you see the eye?!” as he shot magical force missiles at them from his wand. The PCs gritted their teeth and stepped forward and the necromancer was no more, vanishing in a puff of black smoke.

They took his wand and what little treasure he had beside. The orb, despite the eye having faded with the death of the necromancer, was maneuvered into a bag. They then spent an hour or two cleansing the cave, including burning all the bodies and miscellaneous parts they could find.

Back in Larchwood, they gave the orb to Kaylessa in hopes that she might know something about it. She seemed a bit miffed about that but took it off them anyway. That night, the PCs were wined and dined at the tavern by grateful townsfolk … until a slight tremor shook the town. People started to freak out a bit. Some town elders insisted that everyone stay calm and that they would deal with it. Some of them, looking a bit worried, hurried out of the tavern. Suspicious, the PCs followed them down the road to Waelvur’s Wagonworks. Barging in on the elders, the PCs attempted to ascertain what was going on. The elders were having none of it, though. While they were grateful that the PCs had helped out the town with various external threats, this was private town business and they weren’t welcome here. To reinforce the point, some of Waelvur’s wainwrights brandished their tools menacingly.

Recognizing the lead elder as Elak Dornen, owner of the marble quarry down the road, the PCs decided to take a peek at his place while no one was around. Fetching some meat and some pepper from the inn, they distracted Dornen’s guard dogs for long enough to get a good look around his quarry and through the windows of his office. They found nothing out of the ordinary, though. They remembered that there was another quarry at the north end of town and wandered up there. They disturbed the owner, a pot-bellied whirlwind of a woman named Albaeri Mellikho, who politely but firmly told them to come back in the morning.

Bloody Treasure
In the morning, Albaeri came to them and kindly told them about a treasure rumored to be hidden away in a place called Tricklerock Cave up in the hills. The PCs suspected a trap but decided to look into it anyway. The cave turned out to be a bit of a red herring, with nothing but some stirges and a hungry ghoul hiding in a pool. No treasure at all. Unless you consider an old boot treasure.

Trouble in Larchwood, Part I

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Gil, Keluak, Keth
Source: “Alarums and Excursions” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

Bears & Bows
The PCs had spent the better part of a day searching along the Cairn Road for bandits. The Larchwood constable had suggested a number of likely spots but so far they’d all been dead-ends in more ways than one. Footsore and mosquito-bitten, the would-be adventurers were just about to give up and head back to town when they caught a whiff of roast boar emanating from the trees to the side of the road.

Spotting a trail that a wagon had recently been taken down, the PCs approached cautiously. Sure enough, in a little dell in the woods were some bandits, making merry around a campfire. There was also a black bear in a cage atop a wagon. And some crossbows within easy reach of the bandits. A quick huddle and the PCs decided that Calla the sorceress would stumble into the dell, looking for all the world like a lost and helpless maiden in hopes of drawing at least one of the bandits out onto the trail so Keth and Keluak could ambush him, while Gil circled around to take the bandits from behind.

This plan would’ve worked if Kel and Keth had done a better job hiding in the brush. Calla managed to get the bandits’ leader to come towards her, his intentions plain upon his face and in the hungry tone of his voice, but he spotted his would-be assailants as soon as he came within view of the trail. The game was up!

As soon as the fighting started, the black bear started banging against the bars of the cage and soon broke free! It immediately turned on the bandits and began mauling them. The PCs made short work of the leader, though they accidentally killed him in the process. They knocked out two of the other bandits and then rescued the fourth from the bear after she agreed to surrender if they got it off her.

The female bandit, a young human woman named Elia, pleaded with the PCs to have mercy on her. When she discovered that Keth was a true cleric blessed by the goddess Freya (which he inadvertently revealed when he healed one of his comrades), she professed to be a fellow believer. She gave Keth a big sob story about how she’d been forced into banditry by poverty and her big brother (the now-deceased bandit leader) and so on and so forth. Keth believed her and agreed to save her from the hangman’s noose if she swore never to resort to banditry again. Elia promised, and so when the PCs returned to town, they only handed over the two surviving male bandits to Constable Harburk, as well as the body of their leader, but made no mention of Elia. Instead, Keth took her to the boarding house he was staying at, where he asked the proprietor, a pipe-smoking prune of an old lady known as Mother Yolantha, to take her on as a chambermaid. Mother Yolantha, who also happened to be a secret adherent of the Old Faith, agreed to the deal, much to Elia’s and Keth’s relief.

In thanks for their efforts, Constable Harburk treated the PCs to a round of free drinks at the local tavern. Keluak politely declined any alcohol, asking for spring water instead. Keth, meanwhile, spent a bit of time getting to know the other two half-orcs in town: the older, retired mercenary Feng Ironhead, proprietor of the local arms and armor shop (who, Keth learned, had a great eye for gear but no head for business) and Grund, the village simpleton who lived by the market square, happily letting everyone pilfer his pickles. Keth vowed to ensure that some of his own coin found its way into their pockets.

The Haunted Tomb
The next morning, a bold young girl named Pell marched up to the PCs and proudly informed them that she’d seen a ghost. They asked her where, and she told them up in the hills. They were able to corroborate her story by talking to the local baker, a surprisingly thin halfling named Mangobarl Lorren, and promptly headed up into the hills in search of the old haunted tomb. There they discovered that there was indeed a ghost, but they also learned that they weren’t the only ones who’d been in the tomb – as the ghost couldn’t possibly have propped up that bucket of wagonwheel parts that fell on Gil’s head when he pushed open the tomb door.

The ghost kept asking them to leave and because they didn’t do so quickly enough, it attacked them. Despite the fact that their weapons went through it, they eventually managed to reduce it to a few thin wisps of ether. Gil then set about opening the inner door and discovered a sarcophagus and a chest. Letting their curiosity get the better of them, the PCs opened the coffin only to be attacking by a flying sword! Recovering quickly, they battered it into submission, then put it back in the coffin and shut the lid. Gil investigated the chest and found a secret compartment hidden under some rotten books and cloth.

The PCs took what little treasure was in the chest and left, only to be accosted by a goblin riding on the shoulders of a half-ogre who were waiting for them on the path outside the tomb. The PCs were certainly not about to let a pair of uneducated scum rob them of their ill-gotten gains! Inexperienced though they were, the adventurers proved more than a match for the would-be robbers and left them to rot on the path.

The Last Laugh
On the way back to Larchwood, the PCs came across an odd sight: a human skull stuck to a tree with a black arrow wrapped with what appeared to be parchment. Calla used mage hand to retrieve the parchment, which on close inspection appeared to be made from human skin. Written on it was a vague comment about being marked for the last laugh by someone named Valklondar. Nothing further would have come of it had not Keth stepped forward and pulled the arrow out of the tree by hand. He wanted to take it back to the village to see if anyone recognized it. That night, he experienced a nightmare consisting of the skull that had been stuck to the tree rushing at him hungrily.

Although Keth insisted on staying at Mother Yolantha’s, the other PCs had set themselves up at Larchwood’s only inn, the Swinging Sword. Keluak in particular was quite taken with the inn’s proprietor, Kaylessa, whom he swore must be an elf queen, despite her protestations to the contrary. She was, in fact, only half-elven, but she was nevertheless flattered by the dwarf’s attention. She was most keen to have Keluak and his companions in town, as she felt that the more monsters the adventurers slew, the safer the town would be!

Calla asked Kaylessa if she knew anything about the tomb they’d explored, and she said that it was one of many old tombs in the hills dating back to the days of the old empires. No one in Larchwood today was descended from those nobles, but nevertheless none would like the idea of goblins and other monsters getting their hands on whatever was in those tombs, so she thanked the PCs for their work in that regard.

The Necromancer’s Cave
Kaylessa also took the PCs aside later on and told them she’d heard of another source of trouble. The children of the town’s clothiers had been warned away from playing near Lance Rock because of plague! The PCs went to talk to the children and their parents and were duly informed that a gruff dwarf prospector (who didn’t live in town and therefore couldn’t be questioned directly) had warned the children about the plague. The PCs promptly volunteered to go and investigate. They soon found a sign warning of plague but decided to ignore it and pressed on. Next they found a cave with an identical sign posted outside it. Again they ignored it and went into the cave.

In the cave, the PCs found zombies. Lots of zombies. Including some zombies dressed rather strangely: one in a bear costume, another in a jester’s outfit, and a third in the get-up of a high-court lady. These three zombies danced an oddly mesmerizing dance that allowed them to get close enough to the PCs to attack them, though this proved to be a fatal move on their part. The PCs pressed deeper into the cave and found a mad necromancer and some freakish disembodied hands that crawled all over them, punching and slashing with their dirty undead nails.

Keluak succumbed to his injuries, and soon after the necromancer bewitched Keth and forced him to strike his downed comrade. Luckily, Keth pulled himself together and shook off the madness before he murdered his friend. As the necromancer’s skeletal guardians advanced on the PCs, Keth revived Keluak and the four adventurers decided now would be a good time to withdraw. And back to Larchwood they went!