The Speaker in Dreams

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhara (and some others)
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

NB. I only had two of my regular players for this session. My wife joined us and played Ser Alein.

The Guild Safely ensconced at the Reality Wrinkle, the Starflower siblings and Ser Alein rested and discussed their options going forward. They had no way of knowing if Karth had survived his heroic gesture, or where their friends Gil and Tasklar were. Nevertheless, they decided they’d try heading for the thieves’ guild again in hopes of making contact with some of their friends. From there, they would seek help in infiltrating the baron’s manor so they could investigate the hooded figure Bhára saw lurking in the shadows during the proclamation. After that, they’d deal with the hellish portal in the septry. [Their reasoning being that if they shut that off first, the hooded figure seemingly in charge of things might just open it up again. Better to strike at the head of the snake first, then take care of the body as it writhed about in its death throes.]

This time, they stuck to the back alleys and managed to keep out of sight of both the militia and their fiendish overlords. That is, until they were getting ready to cross Southspur Street. As they approached the mouth of an alley, a familiar voice called out from around the corner: “O wand of wonder! Please will you conjure something frightening, like a bolt of lightning!”

Sure enough, as Berrian popped his head around the corner and looked out into the street, he saw the familiar form of Bruce the Goose, pointing his wand at a horrid-looking fiend with a wicked glaive in its hands and a beard consisting of what appeared to be barbed tentacles. As the elf watched, a beam of light shot out from Bruce’s wand and caused the fiend to glow with purple faerie fire, marking him as an easy target.

Berrian and Ser Alein dashed out into the street, swords in hand, while Bhára moved to where she could see the foul creature and readied her magic. Although Bruce’s wand hadn’t given him the result he’d wanted, the effect nevertheless assisted his rescuers in making short work of the devil before it could harm the halfling. As Ser Alein landed the killing blow, the creature disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Seeing her companions exchange worried glances, Ser Alein told them not worry: “That fiend has gone back to where he came from. We won’t be seeing him again any time soon.”

Grabbing Bruce before he could finish thanking them for rescuing him, they dashed across the street into another alley and continued on their way to Brindinford’s thieves’ guild, using the directions Karth had given them before he’d disappeared. They arrived at the Gold Tabard Merchant Company building in Eastgate without further ado and found themselves being welcomed by an amiable human named Thos, who explained to the heroes that, while their companions had been and gone, they were welcome to make themselves at home in the warehouse.

Partaking of the guildmaster’s hospitality, the heroes soon learned that a hooded figure had been approaching various merchants in the Eastgate district with offers of large sums of money. When the thieves’ guild looked into it, they discovered that the figure was seeing to expand the influence of a diabolical cult – the one now in possession of the septry across town – to other towns and cities in the vicinity. One merchant had even accepted the offer.

Upon learning that the heroes had spied a hooded figure lurking behind the baron, Thos suggested they could be one and the same. He offered to have a scout around the baron’s manor, if the heroes were willing to wait overnight. They readily agreed and settled down to get more rest. Before leaving, Thos joked to Ser Alein that now that she knew where the guild was located, they’d have to move … once the fiends had been dealt with, of course.

Thos and his spies returned an hour or so before daybreak. They informed the heroes that a mysterious hooded figure was indeed hanging around with the baron. They hadn’t spotted the baron’s regular bodyguards either. Lady Eriana and her family appeared to be all right, though; they weren’t being kept hostage or anything like that. Giving a description of the manor layout, Thos added that there was a trapdoor on the roof of the tower.

The Manor
Following directions from the thieves, the heroes made their way across town without encountering any wandering fiends or militia patrols. They scaled the walls of the keep without any trouble and made their way to the baron’s manor.

Climbing up to the top of the tower, they found that Thos had even oiled the hinges of the trapdoor for them. It turned out to be a piece of cake to get into the tower. Creeping down the spiral stairs, they first passed a room in which Lady Eriana and her family were sleeping. Seeing that they appeared to be all right, they continued down to the next floor, where they found Baron Euphemes II snoring away in his large, ornate bed.

While the others waited in the stairwell, Berrian crept into the baron’s room and then eased open the door that led out onto the balcony overlooking the main hall. He spied two comfortable chairs positioned in front of a roaring fire. Two figures were sitting in the chairs, one wearing a dark robe stitched with arcane symbols, the other wearing hide armor and fondling an axe. The latter pricked up her ears and turned her sightless gaze toward Berrian. A grimlock! Probably the one that got away from the abandoned warehouse. Berrian quickly closed the door and went back to report what he’d seen.

Not knowing if there was any other way to flank these foes, the heroes decided to charge right in. Berrian went first and found that the grimlock was waiting. She tossed a handaxe at him as he came through the door. The figure in the robes, however, was now floating near the ceiling. He could see that the creature had tentacles on its face and its eyes were milky white, as was its skin.

Chaos ensued. Bhára cast thunderwave, which pushed the grimlock towards the balcony’s edge and woke up everyone in the manor. As the baron rose from his bed, seemingly in a trance, and reached for his sword, Bruce stepped forward and cast Tasha’s hideous laughter on him, causing him to fall back onto his bed in a fit. Ser Alein rushed in to assist Berrian with the grimock. As she did so, the heroes’s minds were pummelled with a blast of psychic energy. Ser Alein and Bhára were both stunned but Berrian managed to shake it off.

The grimlock soon fell to sword and spell, her dead body toppling off the balcony into the hall. The heroes were rather surprised to see that it floated down gently. They vowed to look into that more closely later. There was still the tentacle-faced mage to deal with! It attempted to take control of Berrian’s mind, but he was again able to resist. Then one of Bhára’s spells broke its concentration, and, as it floated back down to the ground, Berrian and Set Alein leapt forward with their blades. Just as Berrian thought he was about to land the killing blow, the creature vanished into thin air! It hadn’t merely turned invisible either. One moment it was there, the next it was simply as if it had never been there at all!

Perplexed, the heroes returned to the baron. As Bruce released him from the spell, he came to his senses. As the heroes explained to him what had happened, Euphemes was most remorseful. He told them that he felt like he’d been living a dream and couldn’t fully remember what it was he’d said or done over the past few days. He was most shocked to learn that he had invited fiends into his beloved town! When his thoughts turned to the welfare of his sister and her family, the heroes assured him that they were quite all right and suggested that he take them somewhere safe while they dealt with the fiends. Euphemes agreed to take them down into the dungeons beneath the manor house.

Berrian went and checked on the dead body of the grimlock. A quick search revealed a metallic ring in the shape of a twisted feather on one finger. Pocketing the ring, he later discovered that it was magical and conferred upon its wearer a feather fall effect. He offered it to his sister, but Bhára replied that she didn’t need it as she could already reproduce the effect with her own magic, so he decided to keep it for himself.

The Grove
After ensuring that the baron and his family were as safe as could be, the elf siblings and their companions set off for the druid grove in the woods across the river in hopes that they might be able to help them close the portal in the septry. Cutting across the Chatterstreet Market district to avoid having to pass the septry, they scaled the outer walls and headed across the open fields towards the northern bridge. They soon found themselves being approached by three hell hounds, though they were able to dispatch them without too much trouble.

They also discovered that the druids’ grove was not too difficult to locate either. The circle tending the grove was led by an elderly woman named Enselle, who was only too happy to provide what healing she could to the heroes. She was also able to provide them with a scroll of dispel magic inscribed on a strip of bark, though she warned them that she could not guarantee it would work. Successfully closing a gate was a difficult thing.

For some reason, Berrian then brought up their friend, Iriandel the unicorn, lamenting that he was too far away to be able to help them in their current predicament. At the mention of unicorns, both Ser Alein and Enselle perked up. It just so happened that this forest had its own unicorn, one who went by the name Dawnstrider! Berrian was able to convince Enselle to summon the unicorn. It took a few hours for him to arrive, but when the majestic beast strode into the grove, the heroes set about asking him for his assistance. Convincing a unicorn to enter a walled city and assist with driving out some powerful fiends was never going to be easy, but Berrian and Bhára proved to be up to the task. They even managed to convince Enselle to accompany them. [DM note: I went with the default DC 20 Persuasion check to get a friendly creature to take a significant risk to help, and they nailed both checks! I think they even rolled a natural 20 for one of them.]

After a quick pow-wow to discuss strategy, Enselle magicked up a view of the burning septry in the grove’s pond so that Dawnstrider could teleport himself, Ser Alein, and the elves to the back door, while Enselle shapeshifted into a large owl and flew Bruce across the river in her talons.

The Septry
Without Gil there to help them break in, Berrian decided to just smash a window. Luckily for him, it opened into a closed stairway. He climbed through and entered the hallway with great caution, but there was no one about so he went and unbarred the door to the outside so the unicorn could get in.

At that moment, a door across the hall opened and one of the diabolists stepped out … and died a swift death for his troubles. Berrian then had to fend off a pesky imp that came out of the kitchen it had been trashing to investigate the noise. The heroes could also hear scratching and pawing coming from the other side of another door.

Setting up an ambush, they had Ser Alein open the door so they could get at the hell hounds inside. Bruce’s magic wand turned one of them to stone and sword and spell made short work of the other one. Enselle and Dawnstrider provided the heroes with some healing and then they proceeded up the stairs rather than heading straight into the septry’s main hall. Upstairs they found what had once been the chamber of Ser Marith, the septry’s champion. A gory scene greeted them inside. They weren’t sure if the remains were those of Ser Marith herself or someone else, but they decided to leave the room be for now and headed over to a door leading onto a balcony overlooking the septry’s main hall.

Berrian pushed the door open quietly and then crept out onto the balcony. The roar of the flames rising up through the hole in the domed roof helped cover his movements. Peering over the railing, he saw the bone devil lurking amidst the wreckage below, talking to a blond warrior woman who appeared to carry some authority. The woman soon turned and walked out the door on the far side of the hall, and the bone devil resumed its watch over the portal. Berrian crept back to report his findings.

As the group headed back down the stairs, Dawnstrider used his magic to suppress the sound of their movements. This even enabled him to creep up on the bone devil without it being aware of him so that he could banish it back to its home plane with a touch of his horn. The devil never even knew what had hit it! Bhára then whipped out the bark scroll and intoned the words to dispel the magic holding the portal open. Her will was strong and as she read the last words, the portal closed with a strange sucking noise, and the fire dissipated. [DM note: With gate being a 9th level spell, the DC was 19. Bhára got a high roll on the check. If she had failed, though, she had been (jokingly?) intending to use Ser Alein as a sacrifice …]

With that done, the heroes decided to sweep through the rest of the septry complex. They encountered the blond woman and another diabolist underling in the library. A fierce battle ensued, in which Berrian fell not once but twice and wound up with partial amnesia, Bruce finally got his wand to cast lightning bolt, and the diabolist immolated himself and all the books in the room with a fireball. The blond woman did not last long under the combined might of the heroes and their allies either.

As Berrian wondered aloud where he was and who all these strange people were, the others patched up their wounds and set about searching the rest of the septry. They found another hell hound that had taken up residence in the vestry and quickly slew it. And that was it. No sign of any other fiends or diabolists.

Epilogue
As the heroes emerged from the still-smoking wreckage of the septry and headed back towards the keep at the top of the hill, a crowd of followers quickly grew behind them. Everyone wanted to know what had happened. The crowd’s curiosity quickly turned to elation as the heroes told their tale, and all of a sudden the heroes found themselves in the middle of a street party as vendors began handing out free food and drink and minstrels retold their story in song as the townsfolk danced in the streets. Brindinford was saved! All hail the mighty heroes!

After taking their fill of the festivities, Bhára and Berrian went in search of their missing companions. Those scoundrels had some explaining to do …

The Fair Streets of Brindinford

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhára, Gil (and Bruce the Goose)
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

Dragonmarked
Over the winter, Kaylessa approached the Starflower siblings and invited them to receive the gift of the Platinum Dragon. Although they were somewhat dubious of the religious implications, they had no issues with swearing an oath to do good and oppose evildoers and the like in exchange for more magical powers! They both stuck their hands in the silver fire. Berrian received the mark of healing, which allowed him to heal with a touch, while Bhára received the mark of the storm, granting her the ability to rebuke attackers with stormy energy. (The late Keluak Frostbeard had the same mark.)

The Return of Bruce
In the spring, the rhyme-loving halfling peddler, Bruce the Goose, arrived in Larchwood in search of the brave heroes who had rescued him from the plant monsters many months before. He was somewhat disappointed to find that only Gil was in town, though he took an instant liking to the elf siblings. Bruce was hoping for some companionship on his way to Brindinford for the town’s annual street fair.

Kaylessa had earlier explained to the heroes that it was about time they took their talents into the wider world, so she urged them now to accompany the halfling. She promised to let the others know where they’d gone.

Brindinford
Some weeks later, the heroes arrived at Brindinford, a walled town of roughly 5,000 people situated on the banks of the Brinding River. The fair had spilled out onto the open ground outside the walls. As the heroes made their way toward the main gate, they came across an old beggar woman. Bruce nicked a copper from her bowl. Noticing this, Bhára and Gil both donated several coins. She thanked them kindly, then stared shrewdly at Bruce for a few moments. Berrian gave her some more money, at which point she turned to look at him, and in a harsh whisper, “Beware those who hear the whispers in their dreams! They sleep fitfully now, awaiting the Speaker’s plans!” With that, she turned to the next group of travellers.

The heroes made their way slowly to the front of the line, where they found four guards in red livery peace-bonding everyone’s weapons. Swords were secured in scabbards, leather sacks placed over axe and spear blades, and so on. Anyone who looked like they might be a spellcaster were politely asked to tie leather strips around their middle and ring fingers and tie their component pouches closed. The heroes grumbled a bit under their breath but acquiesced, knowing that this was fairly standard practice in more civilized parts.

Inside the gates, they found the town’s main thoroughfare crowded with people. Taking in the various wares and entertainments to be had, they noticed that everything got noticeably nicer and more expensive the closer they got to the hill on the west side of town, on top of which was a walled compound. Berrian decided he wanted to find a new jacket (and a dress for his sister), while Gil went in search of healing potions.

The Fair Gets Foul
As the heroes reconvened near the bell tower at the center of town, shouts from nearby signalled a disturbance. The shouts turned to screams, and the heroes soon found themselves up against a press of people trying to get away from the source of the commotion. Berrian used his lordly presence to clear a path, parting the crowd as if by magic. Within moments, the companions found themselves facing four rat-men with a bunch of giant rats busily trashing market stalls and harassing merchants and so on.

The heroes had all had the foresight to dispose of their peace-bonding devices on their way through the crowd, and with no town guards in sight, the heroes decided to take matters into their own hands. Berrian charged forward, swinging his moonblade at the leader of the rat-men, a particularly wily fellow who seemed to moving around a lot faster than ought to be possible.

Gil took aim at one of the rat-men with his bow, only to discover that his mundane arrows were of no use against these cursed creatures. He then attempted to put the rat-men to sleep with his magic but only succeeded in dropping two of the rats.

Bhára hung back, using her magic, while Bruce darted in and activated his magic wand, which turned him invisible. He turned this to his own advantage by surprise attacking one of the rat-men as it ran past him to deal with Bhára. Unfortunately, Bruce’s nonmagical dagger was as ineffectual as Gil’s arrow had been, and the rat-man just grinned at the little halfling.

Berrian soon found himself surrounded by rats and rat-men. As the leader stabbed furiously away, Bhára went to her brother’s aid by casting a shatter spell. The spell killed one of the rats and ruined some of the merchandise strewn about the road, drawing the ire of one of the merchants cowering behind an overturned cart.

When Berrian succumbed to his wounds and fell to the ground, Bhára cast a twinned ray of sickness, harming one of the wererats and slaying their leader! The surviving rat-men turned tail and fled. While Bruce chased after one of them, Gil and Bhára ran to help Berrian.

Once away from the main street, the rat-man Bruce was chasing shifted back into his human form and then proceeded to take a roundabout route back to the center of town, where he calmly entered the nearby bell tower. Bruce then ran back to his companions to tell them what he’d seen.

By this time, a contingent of guards had arrived. They thanked the group for their assistance in dealing with the rat-men and told them that they could keep their weapons un-bound from here on out.

Crime Scene Investigations
Bhára mollified the angry merchant by repairing some of his broken wares with her mending spell while her companions paused to catch their breath. Shortly after, another contingent of guards, this one led by a stocky woman, arrived to begin a proper investigation. As the woman was clearly some kind of officer, the heroes approached and attempted to share their own information with her. She made it clear she didn’t think much of adventurers, but she thanked them for their help just the same.

The officer, introducing herself as Lt Shella, told the group that she suspected the rat-men might be behind a series of grisly murders in Southspur, the city’s slums district. At that, a street urchin piped up with more detail: several people had disappeared off the streets of Southspur in recent times. No bodies had been found, but there was plenty of blood left behind!

Shella accepted the heroes’ offer to investigate the bell tower, although she almost instantly regretted doing so, for they proceeded to march over and bang on the door until the old caretaker, Turvin, appeared. Berrian tried to convince him to let them in so they could discuss some elvish methods that might enhance the sound of his bells. The old man was insulted and attempted to shut the door on the heroes, but Bruce got in the way and found himself wedged in the crack. As the heroes tried to overpower the old man, Lt Shella arrived and furiously told them to stop what they were doing, reminding them that this was the city and that they couldn’t just go barging into someone’s home like that! Bhára angrily snapped back at her and stormed off.

Gathering Information
Things didn’t appear to be going so well at this point, so the heroes decided to back off. Gil decided to see if there was a thieves’ guild in town. After greasing a few palms and wetting a few throats, he managed to locate the guild, based in a merchant company’s office. The head of the guild, a friendly human named Thos, was pleased to meet Gil and gave him a few tips. He suggested that Gil go and visit old Shoomma, an ancient dwarven smith who was well-liked by everyone in the city and knew just about everything there was to know about anything.

Gathering up his companions, Gil went in search of the dwarf. On their way to Shoomma’s smithy, Bruce and Bhára both noticed someone following them. The guy looked to be a thug, with long, slicked-back hair and a crossbow with a weird contraption on it. They suspected he wasn’t alone.

As Gil got down to business with the old lady dwarf, Bhára and Bruce kept an eye on the square outside. They could see the thug wandering around in the square, pretending to mind his own business. Another guy with much the same look came along shortly. Bruce decided to try and spy on them from closer up and attempted to sneak behind a statue but the thugs spotted him and headed towards him. They proceeded to get into a bizarre conversation (which Bhára was able to follow thanks to her ability to read lips) that started with the thugs attempting to lure Bruce into an alley so they could show him where the wererats were hiding and ended with Bruce attempting to convince the thugs that he was leading them into an alley to show them something.

Meanwhile, the others were able to glean some valuable information from the straight-talking Shoomma. She told them that she’d heard rumors that rats were crawling all over the old bell tower. The tower had been looked after by members of the same family ever since it had been built. Shoomma had known the previous caretaker quite well but didn’t really know the man’s son, Turvin, that well, since he mostly kept to himself.

She added that, over the past few weeks, a number of her fellow artisans and shopkeepers had reported being approached for protection money. Those who refused were frequently burgled shortly afterwards. She suspected that the wererats might be behind it, since it would be easy for them to escape detection via their shapechanging abilities.

Rats in the Alley
At this point, the rest of the gang noticed what was going on out in the square. Thanking Shoomma for her help, they followed Bruce as the thugs attempted to lead him (or was Bruce leading them?) into a narrow alley. There, they revealed themselves to be wererats themselves and proceeded to pump Bruce full of bolts using what turned out to be repeating crossbows!

Hearing Bruce cry out in pain, the others raced to the entrance. Berrian shot bolts of fire at the wererats, while Gil acrobatically bounced around the alley to get in behind the far wererat, which had succumbed to a fit of laughter brought on by Bruce’s magic powers. He was able to stab the downed rat-man several times with Reszur, his magic dagger, before it shook off the charm. Bruce pulled out his magic wand, but this time all he managed to do was read the surface thoughts of one of the rat-men (who was beginning to think about trying to escape, as well as wondering what would happen to “the plan” now that Squim was dead). Meanwhile, both rat-men were able to resist Bhára’s hold person. With both wererats quite hurt by now, though, Gil risked another sleep spell and was pleasantly surprised when one of them dropped to the ground unconscious.

At that, the one on the ground got to his feet, muscled his way past Gil, and disappeared into a maze of alleyways. Content with one prisoner, the heroes stripped the rat-man and tied him up. Along with the repeating crossbow and a spare cartridge, and some money, they found a small bag containing a strange white powdery substance. Suspecting that this may have been how the wererat leader had been able to move so quickly, they decided not to touch it for now.

They dragged the bound wererat into a backroom behind Shoomma’s forge. When he woke up, Berrian intimidated him into talking. The wererat told them that his gang did indeed live in the bell tower. No, there weren’t any tunnels underneath it. There were about ten wererats, including Turvin, and maybe a dozen giant rats in the tower. The tower had five floors. Turvin lived on the ground floor, while the rest of them lived on the second floor. The rats mostly lived on the third floor. The fourth floor was full of gears and pulleys and things. The top floor housed the bells.

Given how tough a time they’d had assaulting Feathergale Spire, the heroes were wary about trying to clear the bell tower. When their talk turned to setting the place on fire to smoke the rats out, Shoomma piped up that they’d be lucky to be run out of town on a rail if they tried a stunt like that. The bell tower was a believed landmark in the town, and wererats or no, the citizens of Brindinford would not appreciate it being damaged.

When Bruce got all up in the wererat’s face, he decided he’d had enough of the interrogation and shifted into rat form so he could escape his bonds. Bruce was too fast, though, and grabbed him by his tail and stuffed him into his handy haversack. Announcing to the rest of the crew that they had ten minutes, they hurried out to find a contingent of guards. They grabbed a large sack and wrangled the rat-man thug into the sack then handed it over to the guards with a hasty explanation that they’d caught one of the guys who had either taken part in the attack on the fair or was at least associated with those that had. The guards thanked them and then commandeered a cart to carry the wriggling sack back to their barracks.

At this point, it was late afternoon, the fair was winding down, and the heroes decided it was time to look for somewhere to stay. Suspecting that the town’s taverns would be overcrowded with fair-goers, the two Starflowers used their noble privileges to secure lodging with an aristocratic family living in the prestigious Keep neighborhood. They were able to vouch for Gil, as well, despite his rustic folk hero appearance. Bruce, however, opted to go and find lodgings with his friends in the town’s halfling camp, situated on the river just outside the north gate.

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.