A dark opening in the side of a hill– clearly, adventure awaited! A few cautious steps into the darkness inside revealed a foul-smelling, dirt-walled passage, the floor of which was ripe with bat guano! Taking a cautious look up, Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger spied numerous tiny little bat faces peering down at her! Taking cautious steps forward, she snuck her way just past the bats, motioning for the rest to follow. Gavriil the Human Arcanist wasn’t nearly as sneaky though– as he took a few steps forward, his foot slipped into a large pile of guano, and he let out an involuntary ‘ewwww!’ The bats, alerted by the noise, began to swarm! With stealth no longer an option, the rest of the party hightailed it through the cavern into the room beyond, Gavriil halting the bats by throwing up numerous Webs behind them!
The circular chamber which they entered (f2) was also dark, though with their light the party made out that the room had three other openings other than where they came through; on the walls between each of these openings, large carvings of mouths featured prominently, and in the very center of the room was an old and broken skeleton. Only a few more steps were needed before Noruas the Human Gunslinger got a better look at the rooms to the left and right– burial chambers, with skeletal warriors clad in old and broken scraps of armor clambering out of their resting places, shambling towards the party!
Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier was quick to jump into action– he sang an inspiring song to encourage his fellows, positioning himself to protect Gavriil. The Arcanist, for his part, moved slightly forward and cast another Web spell, keeping the skeletons who were amassing to the north (f3) from being able to reach the party and essentially taking them out of the entire fight! The skeletons to the south (f4) advanced upwards, and a skirmish line was formed along the entrance to the circular chamber, with Noruas, Eneko, Elysia, and Elysia’s wolf Tyr providing cover for Gavriil, who wisely chose to stay far in the back of the fight this time around. The groups traded blows, before, from the back of the barrow, the dust stirred…and from an old and broken sarcophagus, a mighty undead arose to challenge the party! “You have dared wake me from Our Lady’s slumber? You will perish for this trespass!”
Eneko and Gavriil were able to identify the creature as a Wight, an undead horror with a particular fondness for draining the life energy of its victims, even going so far as to create wight spawn from those it killed. With that in mind, the group decided to stay out of its reach– until it fired a bony-white arrow rimmed in black energy at Noruas, attempting to drain away her life-force! That made him an immediate target, and the Gunslinger made him a target as he began firing arrows at Gavriil as well.
Around this time, having taken out a few of the skeletons facing them, Eneko decided to move forward– right into the middle of the room, which triggered a trap! From the mouths of the four stone faces on the walls came rays of necromantic energy, and the majority of the party suddenly found themselves to be rather fatigued! Noruas, however, was not quite as hardy as the rest and became utterly exhausted, finding it harder and harder to continue onwards. Thankfully, she was still reasonably accurate, and was able to remove the Wight’s influence in the battle with just a few short blasts from her double-barreled musket!
The fight was far from over however– Gavriil cast a third Web spell in order to keep the skeleton guards who had appeared with the Wight from reaching them, and Elysia managed to take out two more skeletons with the help of Tyr. Meanwhile Noruas suffered a critical hit– a hideously ugly wound across her shoulder, dealing her a point of Charisma damage and a point of Charisma drain! Fortunately the remaining skeletons who were of immediate threat to the party were few, and quickly dealt with. The remainder, blocked off by numerous magical sticky webs, were picked off at range by all, ending the threat in the Lonely Barrow.
Taking stock of the loot available, the party was somewhat disappointed by what was left inside…no real treasure to speak of, not much in the way of equipment, but for one exception: The fantastic, if reasonably broken, longbow which the Wight had been using! After a bit of focus and a slight amount of magic, it was determined to be a +2 Fey Bane longbow– much to Elysia’s delight, who had a particularly rocky relationship with Fey in general and Griggs specifically since her time spent in the Narlmarshes being pranked. The bats having dispersed themselves into the sky outside, the party was free to leave, though instead they opted to camp out in the barrow for the night in order to rest themselves from their fatigued condition.
The next few days were spent exploring more territory, heading again to the east where they stopped at Lake Silverstep below Talon Peak, before moving slightly south and looping back to the west, following the Gudrin River until it met up with the Tuskwater, the northern shore of which was not too far from Elbat Dnuor. Around here, traveling beside a stretch of land which formed forty-foot cliffs down to the lake below, the party came across a man in a straw hat, fishing lures dangling from the brim, by the name of Arven. Arven, after making the proper greetings to such fine and highly esteemed peoples as the leaders of Tolemac, timidly told them his troubles– a giant monster named Old Crackjaw (a legendary hookjaw turtle) had decided to make Arven’s secret fishing hole his new home!
Old Crackjaw was quite the legend among fishers of the Tuskwater– whenever he made his home in a new area of water, any fishermen who attempted to come near were attacked viciously! There were even five boats confirmed sunk by the turtle, whose strong jaws were enough to crack through wood! Noruas, eager to get a look at this turtle, moved through the hidden trail down the cliff that Arven had pointed out, while the rest of the group debated upon whether or not they wanted to try and capture Old Crackjaw to take back to the capital for…some reason or another? While they debated, the Gunslinger poked at the water, making ripples and attracting the turtle’s attention. The debate raged on as the turtle continued to get closer, until eventually it lept out of the water at Noruas, who reflexively shot it before jerking her gun out of the reach of its snapping jaws! Tired of its antics, she shot the creature again, ending its threat.
Arven, being the happy and generous sort, gave the PC’s a gift to thank them for their help– a magical ring he found in a fish a few weeks back! Gavriil identified it as a Ring of Feather Fall, and also attempted to again identify the magical properties of the mysterious ring which he had taken off the body of the Stag Lord a year or so back, but to no avail. Shrugging, the party moved back to Elbat Dnuor in order to retrieve the boat they had previously cobbled together for exploration on the lake. When they arrived, Chief Sootscale tracked them down– Mikmek, the Kobold who was in charge of the Sootscale Kobolds while the chief was away in the capital, had contacted the kingdom to let them know that in five days time, the tribe was to hold a feast for a diplomatic party of a certain ‘Lord Hargulka.’
Mikmek had also impressed upon chief Sootscale that Lord Hargulka’s delegation wished to enter discussions about the tribe joining Hargulka’s kingdom– “But wait, we claimed their territory– they’re part of our kingdom!” Eneko’s player exclaimed! Clearly this called for the party to visit the feast and speak with this ‘Lord Hargulka’ themselves! So they planned for just that– after, of course, they took their boat out and explored the rest of Tuskwater Lake. The next day was spent doing just that, and after retiring (and Noruas getting Belis Sallal to Restore her body to pre-ugly-wound condition), the group set out for the Sootscale Caverns!
The party arrived at the caverns at the right time– just an hour or so before the feast was to begin. They met with Mikmek, who was engrossed in the preparations. Mikmek, it seemed, had taken up reading while acting as chief of the Sootscales, and as such wished for everything to be properly and diplomatically appropriate for the feast. There were several questions, and what they got was this: Hargulka wanted to make a proposal for joining his kingdom, and Mikmek was afraid that the short-sighted and less-educated Kobolds of the tribe would be in full support of his offer. While he could refuse to listen to the opinions of the tribe, he felt that it would not be good for his health to do so– and thus wished for the PC’s to be there to listen to the talks, and perhaps offer some advice on what to do.
Not long afterwards, a Kobold ran into the dining area where most of the group was gathered, and announced the arrival of the delegation– Lord Hargulka was there! From around an outcropping in the cave, came the lumbering form of a large, shaggy…troll! Lord Hargulka moved into the feast hall, followed by another troll, and a final, hideous two-headed monstrosity of a troll that seemed in a particularly foul mood, scowling with both heads and looking generally sullen. Hargulka, in all his troll-y glory, pronounced that the feast was ready to begin, and the Kobolds started bringing out the food!
While some polite talk was exchanged between Tolemac’s rulers and the troll, most questions were deftly avoided in favor of talk later. The party did learn that Hargulka’s kingdom was to the south, he claimed to have no knowledge of the troll attack a few months earlier on the PC’s borders, and he wished to invite the tribe to his kingdom. Throughout the feast Hargulka spent much time talking with all of the Kobolds who passed by, most all of which came away with what seemed like good feelings towards the troll. Towards the end of the food-time, Mikmek was speaking with Hargulka, and motioned for the party to come over, stating, “Lord Hargulka here was telling me about his glorious opportunity for safety and profit. Why not explain it to the Baron and his friends?” Hargulka, being more than happy, obliged, launching into a likely rehearsed speech:
“I was explaining to the little Sootscales the danger of being beholden to a human empire. I am aware that you mean well by annexing the Sootscale Kobolds, but what you hope to accomplish by ‘redeeming’ them is nothing less than cultural genocide. Given enough time in your… empire, the Kobolds would lose their cultural identity. They are fierce dragons, not a mere… halfling variant. What I offer the Sootscales is a chance for Kobolds to be Kobolds. They can continue trap-laying, and mining and scheming and rather than lose their cultural identity they can be beholden to me and still retain their… draconic heritage.”
This was of course met with several cheers of approval from nearby Kobolds, and sent frowns across the faces of the PC’s. While Gavriil and Eneko began reasoning with Hargulka, letting him know how they were not in fact culturally suppressing the tribe, Noruas began whispering to the two-headed troll nearby: “Hey. It’s too bad about those trolls we faced off against. You know– cause they died a horrible, terrible death. As cowards. Yup, ugly inept cowards.” This constant ribbing from the Gunslinger grew as time went on, and, during the middle of a particularly delicate bit of negotiating, he finally had enough and snapped, roaring a wordless cry and striking out at Noruas with his claws! This had her desired affect, and she fell backwards, crying out that she’d been attacked by the monstrous brute!
Though Hargulka and his troll honor guard were able to subdue the two-headed troll after a few moments, the damage had already been done– the trolls were cast in a negative, bestial light with no remaining chance of negotiating. Hargulka offered a half-felt goodbye, and left with his retinue, giving the PC’s a victory on the diplomatic front.
The rest of the night was spent finishing a feast and reassuring the Sootscale tribe of the PC’s good intents, and they retired for the night in the caves. The next morning they left, and decided to continue their explorations further to the west, checking out the territory beside their capital. After another day’s travel, they arrived in the wilderness, following along a river that fed into the lake. About mid-day, they arrived at a shallow point of the river, and were met with the sight of several Gnomes in distress, a wagon almost to the tipping point stuck in the middle of the waters, shouting for help!
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ:
This post encompasses two sessions– the first was a reschedule later in the week to make up for our regular gaming night that I was forced to miss due to illness, but was cut radically short due to losing internet connection, and thus was only able to take care of the combat in the Lonely Barrow. The second session encompassed the exploration, fight with Old Crackjaw, and the Monster Feast– which was the result of my first inclusion of Hargulka’s Monster Kingdom, a player-made attempt to make the Rivers Run Red villain much more proactive and interesting! I’m looking forward to several of the encounters which will spawn from this as the group begins exploring the southern Narlmarshes, and though we may have missed the opportunities to roleplay with the Warg, Howl of the North Winds, there are still a bevy of new things to do with them!
Though the revelation of Hargulka as a troll was not as shocking as I’d perhaps hoped for the party, I did receive some positive feedback– ‘I wasn’t expecting it, mostly because I thought of trolls mostly as the dumb monster instead of intelligent creature, but I liked it– it was neat!’ I’m glad to hear that it went over well, and I think that my party will definitely like the rest of the Monster Kingdom’s additions.
In the Lonely Barrow, my Gunslinger had become very interested in searching the barrow for any signs of its purpose and who the Wight had used to be. Unfortunately for them, while the book gives us a good idea of its background, it also provides exactly zero ways for the players to know any of this– though it’s not too much of a stretch to allow them to figure out some stuff with knowledge checks I imagine. I opted to let them find a secret compartment in a sarcophagus which had some old tablets detailing what had happened– an ancient warlord whose brother betrayed him, back from the dead by a mysterious power, never to rest in death. His singular voice line during the beginning of his part of the fight also alluded slightly to the campaign’s Big Bad Evil Guy– er, Girl– appearing to him in his non-sleep, as I feel like he might have been another of the multiple creatures which she would have reached out to for assistance in bringing about her ultimate end-game. The party definitely picked up on his words, but from what I can tell, haven’t made a big note of it as being worthy of investigation.
Well, that’s all for now! Looking forward to the next few sessions, and will post with their story soon!