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 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.