Call to Arms

Rogues, part 2
The bo'sun or the wain

Anders and Anselmo talk to Rosanna, the leader of the caravan, who offers 50gp each if they join her caravan as guards, plus a large bounty if they deliver the bandit leader alive to Queensport. She has a ship waiting for them 20 miles away and will take them. (She works for Gwynneth Havar, noble of Estaria.) She also invites them to camp and break bread with the caravan, whatever they decide.

Dorn is securing their prisoner a short distance away. Suddenly he smells orc. A brand new buck-naked orc appears right where the attackers had gathered to charge. When discovered, the orc flees. Otter runs it down and runs it through. Dorn checks its tracks and confirms it did not sneak into the area, it appeared there as if by magic. But the bandits don’t seem capable of magic, so what’s going on? Dorn draws parallels to the goblins they fought at the barn last month and urges Anselmo to consecrate the site against evil. (He does, if only to make Dorn feel better. Anselmo doesn’t expect it to have any real effect.)

Returning to look over the prisoner, they notice his clothes are common but his armor is too expensive for a bandit. He’s wearing the signet ring of the Bloodwick clan. They decide to get the bandit’s side of the story before they give Rosanna an answer and wake him with a splash of wine in his face.

He explains that he’s Lord Kalen Rustheart of Felleg’Avin. He and his picked men have been harassing these caravans for months now trying to shut down slave trade from Dellenshire to Estaria. Otter sneak off and finds a dozen hobbits in chains, with sacks over their heads in the back of a wagon.

Kalen is acting on his own, the noble families of Felleg’Avin know about the slavers but choose to ignore it, sacrificing their allies in Dellenshire to avoid conflict with the much more powerful state of Estaria. So Kalen took it on himself to do something about it, and disguised his men as bandits so his family wouldn’t intervene and wouldn’t be seen as going against the wishes of the other nobles.

Anders, a fellow noble (though from a less prestigious family), sides with Kalen. They agree to help Kalen, and discuss whether they should kill the slavers.

As they speak, Rosanna approaches and invites them again to eat and camp with the caravan tonight. Anselmo confronts her with the slaves, she asks, “is that a problem?” (Slavery is illegal in Felleg’Avin, but not everyone opposes it.) “We are at your mercy,” she declares and surrenders her caravan. After the previous battle the slavers have no fight left in them.

Anselmo speaks to some of the hobbits and learns they were sold into slavery by their own people.

In the end they free the hobbits and send them home in two of the wagons, with Kalen and his remaining men as guards. Rosanna and the he slavers go on their way alone, with their gold and the rest of their good intact.

After a good rest the PCs set out again for Eghal. The forest is still a dangerous place though, and a few days later they are attacked by giant wasps. Otter puts three of them to sleep and they dispatch the rest without taking a single hit.

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Rogues, part 1
A raven, and Raven's kin

Knox, a raven from Rookhaven, encounters the party outside Peat, cawing “mail! mail!” But the waterproof cylinder on his leg is empty.

Otter talks to him he learns the Knox is seeking Lonzo, but by then Lonzo is long gone. The raven fled from Rookhaven when it was attacked by “flocks and flocks of orcs and goblins.” But Otter has little patience for the bird or for any notion of helping Rookhaven, (“we could go count the bodies” he offers) so he gives Knox directions to where they left Lonzo and sends him off.

The PCs go south toward Eghal, and on the second day Dorn notices obvious tracks of several wagons on the road from only yesterday and subtle human tracks shadowing them, as if scouts or bandits were tailing a caravan.

Indeed, the scouts are from a larger force, and another day’s travel down the road they find the caravan has literally circled the wagons and is under attack. On one side a group with crossbows is keeping the caravan guards pinned down while a second group of attackers prepares to charge in form the other side.

Otter sneaks in among the archers, silently backstabbing and killing seven of them. The confused archers eventually break and run.

Dorn, Anselmo and Anders intercept the swordsmen on the other side. These are fairly skilled fighters (4 Thugs with a Veteran leader) but they kill two and Dorn knocks their leader unconscious.

Victorious, the people from the caravan celebrate and thank their saviors.

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Crossroads, part 4
Three Heresies

The PC’s arrive in the Hobbit hamlet of Peat, where Raphael Lonzo is enjoying a fine spring day (which he made with Control Weather ) molding some clay from the river and passing the time with his friends Whistler (hobbit) and Haggis (a talking goat).

Lonzo is evidently mad and spends half their conversation standing on his head. He tells Anselmo, “You and Kendal have a lot in common. She spent years studying divination of all things, and still can’t see what’s right in front of her face.” Holding up the figurine he fashioned, he asks “What is this?” and nods when Otter answers “a lump of clay.”

Indeed. Learn to see a thing for what it truly is, not what you want it to be, and certainly not what others tell you it is.

He tells Dorn that he grappled with the curse of Hammerfall five years ago, but it bested him. He wishes him well, but warns against false hope.

Anselmo is frustrated by Lonzo’s evasiveness. The wizard acts as if the cult is nothing new, noting that ten years ago orcs were burning villages on the coast near Felleg’Avin, nothing has really changed. He agrees that fighting the orcs is necessary, but there will always be more. Lonzo expects that the Purge force which went to Rookhaven would meet a bad end. He chides that Anselmo doesn’t understand the problem, so how can he be part of the solution?

Just before he leaves, Lonzo gives Anselmo three heresies to investigate. “Answer these and you will know what you must do.”

1. How many races of man are there?
2. Where do goblins come from?
3. Whatever happened to Ephistea?

Dorn takes Lonzo seriously but the rest dismiss him as a lunatic. After some deliberation the PCs decide to visit Anneth Tarryn and ask Aethelred Graymantle about the spell which could save Hammerfall.

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Crossroads, part 3
Into the Woods

Kendal bids farewell to Anders and asks him to tell Otter she will help find his missing memories whenever he feels ready.

The PCs gather and set off to find Lonzo at the hamlet of Peat in Dellenshire. After they travel a few days deep into the wild wooded hills between northern Felleg’Avin and southern Dellenshire, they cross paths with the goddess Vesta and Dorn pursues her, following the trail of spring flowers that sprout wherever she steps. Otter refuses to leave the path they were following but Anselmo and Anders go after Dorn.

The goddess leads them to a thicket which has ensnared a cockatrice. Dorn cuts off its talon and now has two of the twelve components needed for the spell which he hopes will save his people. Vesta has vanished but he gives thanks to her anyway.

Anders considers the trapped cockatrice and decides to kill it with his crossbow. (Why?)

The next night an owlbear attacks while the group is getting ready to bed down. Dorn takes a powerful blow but together they slay it before it can do too much damage.

Dorn ponders why an owlbear would be in this part of the country when they are usually found close to the mountains. Two days later Dorn helps them avoid three giant boars which also seem out of place.

After getting directions from a friendly Hobbit tinker, the group finally arrives at the tiny hamlet of Peat and looks for Lonzo.

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Crossroads, part 2
Kendal

Kendal finds Otter and the girls in the Purge camp and tells them she is looking for a fugitive lady of noble birth who fled Felleg’Avin after murdering her brother Raven and cousin Ellesh. Kendal is investigating the crime as a member of the Adepts.

Kendal is fascinated by Otter and delighted to meet a gnome in person, but Otter puts her off, no wanting to share too much about his past or the things he can’t remember.

Dorn, Anders and Anselmo return. Anders is welcoming, hoping to learn what Kendal knows about Sova Tyron and the murders in Felleg’Avign. We learn Sova is Anders’ cousin.

Anselmo, perhaps sticking up for Anders’ absent cousin, makes Kendal feel unwelcome and she leaves them, striking out on her own at night from the Purge camp.

The next morning the group leaves for Glenmorrow, where the villagers are elated to have Sophie back. They refit the party and promise to find a place for Nessa and the others.

Setting out for Eghal the PCs are met by LooLaa who has news from the Faerie Queen. They believe the witch Folga made a pact with a powerful dark fey named Lilith the Shadow-weaver, who gave Folga the power to corrupt Hammerfall. The elves know a spell which could heal the land, and Dorn should seek out Aethelred Graymantle — the archmage of Anneth Tarryn — when Dorn has acquired more of the components for the spell and proved he is worthy and able to save Hammerfall.

The PC’s arrive in the logging town of Eghal, ancestral home of the Zollis and Tyron clans. Anselmo visits the Shrine of Caetar and makes an offering of the battle tokens he’s collected. Dorn asks the local smiths for news of the Fellhammers, but it has been many years since they have seen a dwarf. Anders visits the local mercenary hall and learns Kendal has arrived before them and is in the noble’s tower in the center of town.

They all go to the tower of the wizard Raphael Lonzo, but his servant Gervais informs them the master is not at home and may not be for a month or longer.

Anders visits the noble’s tower and arranges lunch with Kendal. They get along well and while Anders pleads Sova’s innocence Kendal is receptive. She reads Ellesh’s love letter to Sova and declares,

I need to know what happened. He wrote this for her and she killed him. The world can’t really be that … broken.

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Crossroads, part 1
Promises and Regrets

Standing over the chest of 1000 silver pieces, Nessa quips, “I suppose that’s how much Ayia’s life was worth.”

The PCs gather the treasure from the stronghold into one chest and strap it to Dorn’s back, then they all set out for Greendale (Nessa’s village) 12 miles to the south.

A few miles north of Greendale they find the party of Dunsarro captives they liberated. They were clearly overtaken by orcs, tortured and crucified on the trees lining the road. The PCs gather and burn the bodies, and Anselmo recalls the vision he had as he watched Ennis’ face wrapped in flames.

Arriving at Greendale they are confronted by a young farmer names Rius, who speak to Nessa. He feels she betrayed the village by joining the cult along with Tobin; she is not welcome here.

Nessa and Ruis had been in love, but Tobin slipped her a philter of love and Tobin took her with him when he joined the cult. The potion came from the cult, of course, and some of the other Olivetti girls had similar stories.

Anselmo promises he will send these villages some protection once they reach the Purge camp; Rius promises to die defending his home.

Two days later they arrive at the Purge camp. Otter finds a fence and buy gems with most of their gold and silver coins.

Waiting outside the Captain’s tent Anselmo and Anders overhear Kendal Bloodwick push Sunath to resurrect someone, but the cleric claims he can’t help anyone who has already been dead for weeks. Kendal delivers a letter to Anselmo: the Vanguard wants him to ask Loremaster Rafael Lonzo about the cult of the Bloody Hand.

Anders and Anselmo make their report, including their failure to protect the Dunsaro prisoners, which earns Holbrook’s ire. Anders deeply regrets his decision to send them off on their own.

Meanwhile, Dorn finds a place to rest alone a short distance outside the camp, leaving Otter to guard the Olivetti girls.

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The Bloody Hand, part 5
Shield of Valor

Following the battle with the bugbear, Anselmo is hit with a powerful vision.

You are a young boy again, watching your hero, the Champion of Caetar, work at a familiar altar. The alter is light gray stone, triangular, with tall pylons at the corners. He seems to be forging something on the alter, shaping it with a large, simple hammer.

He notices you and nods. “Go on.”

You try to lift another hammer lying against the alter. “It’s heavy!”

He smiles and replies, “you are strong enough. Try again.”

And so you join him in shaping the metal on the forge. You wonder what it will become.

“This is the Shield of Valor,” he explains.

Wiping the sweat pouring from your brow you ask, “when will it be finished?”

Still hammering, he answers, “you will spend your whole life forging it. You must carry the hammer till you take your last breath. Do not despair. I would not have called you if you were not able. And who knows better than you the terrible cost if the Shield of Valor fails?”

His hammer strikes a shower of sparks and suddenly you are in your village, where raging flames mingle with cries of terror. A girl from your village lies dying at your feet. You look closer, and realize she is the Dunsaro girl, Ennis

He breaks from his vision to hear Sophie screaming. The PC’s rush to save the Olivetti girls and slay the 6 orcs attacking them, but one of the girls is killed.

After they bury her and have a short rest, they insist Nessa and the remaining 6 girls follow them back into the stronghold. Seeing no safer alternative, Nessa concedes.

The group quick finishes exploring the stronghold. They find the lair of the orcs and bugbear, but no monsters remain. They load up the treasure they found and prepare to return to Purge base camp.

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The Bloody Hand, part 4
Shadow of a Lie

Dorn keeps watch while the others sleep. Some of the Dunsaro captives plot to take revenge on Nessa, an Olivetti girl who collaborated with the cultists. On one occasion the cult had Nessa choose who would be sacrificed (Ennis) and on another occasion Nessa’s actions led to an old Dunsaro man being whipped.

With Dorn faithfully at his post they don’t try anything, but when the other PCs wake up and head to another room to discuss their plans, the Dunsaro seize the opportunity and try to drag Nessa to the upper level, intent on throwing her in the pit. During his watch Dorn coated the stone stairs with oil, so the conspirators slip on the stairs and the PCs intervene in time to save Nessa.

It’s clear the Dunsaro and Olivetti, even though they all have been brutalized by the cult, can’t be trusted to travel together. Anselmo sends the Dunsarro ahead now, keeping the Olivetti girls at the stronghold for now.

One of the girls (Clara) is so traumatized she will only follow direct orders from the PCs. She acts like she is still a prisoner and will not speak.

They plan on escorting the girls back to the Purge base camp once they end the orc threat. After giving the Dunsaro a good head start, the PCs find a nearby dell where the Olivetti girls can hide while the PCs finish exploring the stronghold. Nessa comments, “at least we’ll die in the sunshine.”

Back inside, the party explores the upper level, which is now mostly abandoned. They find another entrance to the stronghold, guarded by 2 gargoyles, which they destroy.

They also find a corridor with strange grooves on the ceiling and a very different looking door at the end. It is much older, possibly original to the stronghold, carved with grape vines and nymphs. When Otter tries to open the door it triggers a trap in the ceiling, and a huge beam of stone swings down like a pendulum, sweeping the corridor. Anselmo can’t get out of the way and is badly injured. Worse, the steel pipes on which the stone beam swings are rusty and make an awful racket that can be heard all over the stronghold.

Not long after, the party hears wolves howling outside the back entrance. They set an ambush just inside the entryway. A bugbear and 3 death dogs enter and give battle. When the PCs put up a decent fight, the bugbear tries to retreat but they cut him down.

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The Bloody Hand, part 3
Eye of the Basilisk

Ennis, the Dunsaro girl who was nearly sacrificed in the pit, leads the PCs to the cells where the other prisoners are kept. They free 21 more Dunsaro captives, mostly old men and young women. On the way they kill 3 orcs, the first orcs they have seen inside the stronghold. The captives were all kidnapped in orc raids within about 30 miles of the stronghold.

The captives go upstairs to scrounge up food and water for the journey home, while the PCs finish exploring the lower level. They find the area beneath the privy is cleaned by an ochre jelly and decide to leave it alone. In the room beneath the pit trap they find a basilisk, which they destroy without anyone else being turned to stone.

Dorn claims the eye of the basilisk for his quest, but in a hidden room they find a more surprising treasure: a Fellhammer! The vault also holds a suit of mithril chainmail and a +1 dagger.

The PCs go back upstairs and get everyone organized for a long rest, intending to send them home during daylight.

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The Bloody Hand, part 2
The shape of evil

After a short rest, the PCs go looking for trouble. They hear rhythmic chanting coming from the level above.

In a nearby bedroom they find Sophie, the missing girl from Glenmorrow. She’s a pretty Olivetti teenager currently very pregnant and in the early throws of labor. Anselmo is suspicious because the villagers never said she was pregnant and she’d only been missing a couple of weeks. He suspects the pregnancy is unnatural and connected to the chanting.

While the PCs argue over whether to attack the cultists or flee with the girl, an old cultist arrives with fresh water to ten the pregnant Sophie. He is unshakably fanatic, fearless, and sure of the cult’s ultimate victory. He does not resist when the PCs kill him.

While Anders stays to help Sophie the rest set off to interrupt whatever blasphemous rite is taking place upstairs.

They go up a spiral staircase that opens into the temple room on the upper level. The cult leader and 8 cultists are mid-ceremony, about to throw a Dunsaro girl named Ennis into a sacrificial well. The PCs are battered but slay all of the cultists and rescue the Ennis. (Eh-neess) Dorn takes the leader’s holy symbol, purse and keys.

Meanwhile, Sophie births a Quasit, which Anders kills and conceals. He tells Sophie that magic helped create the baby and sometimes that doesn’t work out. “Was it a girl?” She asks. “Yes.”

Reunited, Anselmo casts prayer of healing on everyone, including the girls. This probably saves Sophie’s life, as she was still bleeding.

The girls describe two groups of captives: beautiful young Olivetti girls are held upstairs and used for sex while everyone else is locked up on the lower level and used for labor and sacrifice. The PCs split up to rescue both groups. Dorn and Anselmo reunite Sophie with her friends while Dorn and Anders start exploring downstairs.

Anselmo tells Sophie and her friends to stay put while they go to rescue Ennis’ people.

Anders and Otter stumble onto a nest of 6 giant centipedes. Dorn and Anselmo find them and help finish off the bugs. They have Ennis with them.

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