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2008-06-14

Page history last edited by Azeari 11 years, 10 months ago

The arcane spellcasters needed their beauty sleep, so Elsa & Emilth woke Martok up to do the last watch by himself. They had camped on the shore of the lake, only thirty yards from the edge of the village of Sweetmead.

Shortly after dawn, a rhythmic metallic clanging began. Since he had nothing better to do, Martok decided to investigate. Using the ring of self-changing, he disguised himself as a typical peasant.

On the outskirts of the village he found a smithy where a half-elven man was hammering away at a lump of metal. The man smiled and stopped work for a moment to have a chat.

The disguised Lord Atronan enquired how things stood in the village, to which the smith replied that many villagers feared for their lives. There had been several unexplained disappearances during the night in recent months.

Martok asked if the new lords were likely to put things right, but the smith thought that would be expecting a bit much. Nobles, in his opinion, are primarily concerned with their own affairs. When they interfere in the lives of the peasantry, it is rarely for the better.

And what of Lord Atronan, who once inhabited the manor on the lake? The blacksmith refused to speak of the "incident" of two moons past. He was clearly nervous at even the slightest mention of such matters.

Thanking him, Martok continued along the road, past a chapel from where he could hear chanting, to the village square. Two guardsmen stood watch outside the inn beside the causeway, but there was no sign of the numbers of troops from the previous night. He returned back to camp before his magical disguise expired.

An eagle swooped into the campsite and changed shape into Methris. He cast a spell that woke everyone up instantly, so that they could all hear what he had to say.

The local druids had witnessed what happened to House Atronan and how the manor came to fall into ruin. However, they convinced Methris that he must remain neutral and not interfere in this matter. Methris refused to tell Martok what he had learned, instead returning to the druids' grove to observe events from afar.

Thoroughly unimpressed with Methris' conflicting loyalties, the rest of the party broke camp and headed into the village.

The village hall was closed and boarded up, so they went into the temple of Apollo across the street. The priestess, a young halfling named Temperance, recognized Martok and offered him healing. However, she was unwilling to explain what had happened to his family.

Benedictus Fitzulmar, the old priest of Apollo whom Martok remembered, was dead. So was Edmund Snayth, the former mayor. Temperance recommended that Martok should go and see the acting mayor, Bernard Lowth. He would be at the Frog & Crane.

Before that, Elsa decided that she would go and meet with Lord Branwhait face to face. The guardsmen at the front of the inn were reluctant to let her past, but she intimidated them into standing aside. Captain Simeon escorted her and Lukwind upstairs to a sitting room where Lords Branwhait, Buslingthorpe and Lady Dygenys were having breakfast.

Lady Elsa Mielet attempted to ascertain what the nobles were doing in Sweetmead, but she didn't get any straight answers. Lukwind performed for them, as did their own bard. Although it was an entertaining distraction, neither artist was outstanding.

Meanwhile, outside, the guardsmen were vigilant in preventing Martok, Emilth or Garyn from getting too close to the inn. Martok even tried another disguise, but was still unsuccessful.

Instead, they decided to pass the time with a visit to the general store and weapons shop. Garyn purchased some alchemists' arrows, which have a hollow shaft filled with a chemical compound that ignites on impact with its target. They also bought silver-tipped arrows and cloves of garlic, since it seemed likely that the batlike creatures they had seen were some form of vampire.

Elsa & Lukwind emerged from the inn and they all strolled down the street to the Frog & Crane. This was a much smaller inn than the one occupied by the nobility, situated alongside one of the roads leading out of the village. A pair of unusual fellows sat at a table in the corner, the only customers. Bernard Lowth, supposedly the mayor, was working behind the bar.

Martok stepped forth, "I believe that you owe me some answers, Bernard. I was studying at the bond college in Helsmuth when I received word that my father had died. Since then I have been striving to make my way here. However, I was shocked beyond belief by what I discovered at the manor on the lake."

"I can confirm that your father is dead," Bernard sadly admitted, "but I don't know what happened to your mother, or your brother or sisters."

One of the strangers stood up, a tall man with long, platinum hair and a scar across one eye. "Excuse me for interrupting, but did you say that you had visited the manor house?"

"Yes indeed," Martok replied, "for those dragons you saw in the sky at dusk belonged to me. But what business is it of yours?"

"I am Gerald of Rokugan, renowned monster slayer, and this is my sidekick Rohit."

"Sidekick?" Rohit muttered, "I thought that you were my sidekick."

"A considerable bounty has been offered for ridding the manor of the monsters that infest it," Gerald continued. "My associate and I are here to collect."

"What reward?" Elsa asked. Rohit unfurled a scroll that proclaimed that Lord Osmundus Branwhait has offered twenty thousand gold coins for ridding Atronan Manor of monsters and then delivering possession of the vacant property to House Branwhait.

"It appears that there is something of a bidding war," he commented, displaying a second scroll that offered twenty-five thousand for performing the same service for House Dygenys.

"This is an outrage!" Martok exclaimed. "I am the rightful heir of House Atronan, not these vultures. Will you join me in restoring my family home and punishing the nobles for their affrontery?"

"If there are monsters to be slain then you can count us in," Gerald replied. "But as for the aristocracy, you need to handle them yourself."

"What reward might we expect?" Rohit asked.

"If you join forces with us, you will be given an equal share of the treasure, just like any other party member."

On face value, it seemed like a poor deal in comparison to what Lady Dygenys was offering. However, Gerald & Rohit wanted no part of a plot to usurp Martok's inheritance. It was unlikely that such a nest of rattlesnakes could be trusted to honour their bargain, in any case. The multiple notices of bounty seemed very suspicious, in light of what they now knew.

"Very well," Rohit reluctantly consented. "When do we start?"

The Frog & Crane was clearly too small to serve as a base of operations. They asked the mayor whether, since the village hall stood vacant, they might make use of it? He supplied them with the keys, glad of a temporary reprieve from Martok's questioning.

The windows of the village hall were all boarded up, but there was plenty of room inside for all of the possessions that had been carried by the dragons. Rohit slung his hammock between two columns, while Elsa & Emilth set themselves up in one of the side rooms. Since their sleep had been interrupted, Lukwind & Garyn were eager to get some rest and memorise their spells.

Concerned about her mother, Emilth headed out to seek any news of events back in Helsmuth. She managed to find some travellers who painted a dire picture of her former home. Martial law was still in force and the mayor had become even more autocratic. A curfew had been imposed and citizens must carry identification papers with them at all times. There were rumours the mayor was raising an army of mercenaries, goblinoids and undead. Some were wondering how long it would be before the Immortal Emperor Drakus Coaltongue might send his legions to intervene.

Emilth decided that she must return home as soon as possible. She planned to take a carriage to Fernquay in the morning and seek passage upriver. She promised to send word once she discovers whether the rumours are true.

That night, the adventurers went outside to see if they could find any evidence of the flying creatures they had spotted the evening before. It seemed almost certain that they were responsible for the disappearances of the peasants.

Rohit climbed onto a nearby rooftop to gain a better vantage point, while Martok sprouted wings and took off into the air. They could see torches in the village, perhaps a patrol. Then Rohit spotted three dark shapes flapping in Martok's direction. He fired a signal arrow at them in warning, but before Martok could react he was attacked.

Martok flew back to his companions as they fired arrows at the batlike creatures. Lukwind conjured a light so that they could spot their targets more easily. Gerald identified them as dire bats, although they could just as easily be polymorphed vampires or even demons.

As the bats swooped low, Rohit ran across one rooftop and leapt through the air, tossing a flask of oil over one of them. Those heroes who managed to observe this in the darkness wondered how he had managed such an impressive feat of agility.

Gerald held out his holy symbol of Perseus and uttered an incantation as the bats fled. Garyn notched one of his alchemists' arrows and let fly. Martok took to the sky in pursuit, just in time to see one of the bats burst into flame. He fired his eldritch blast and was satisfied to see the bat spiral into the lake and disappear beneath the waters.

Just then, they heard the sound of boots running in their direction. A handful of armored men entered the village square, but fortunately it was too dark for them to notice Martok flying in to land. One of them held out his holy symbol, evidently trying to detect evil. Apparently satisfied, he demanded to know what they were doing wandering about in the middle of the night.

"I am Gerald, monster hunter extraordinaire, and these are my companions. Fear not, simple peasants, for your troubles will soon be over. We have just slain one of the creatures that fly through the village in the night. In the morning, we will cross the causeway and finish the job."

The villagers thanked the adventurers profusely for coming to their aid, then headed off to resume their patrol.

In the morning, Emilth said her farewells and then boarded a carriage headed for Fernquay.

Martok visited the temple of Apollo again, to find out if Temperance could tell them anything about these batlike creatures. He also wanted to know if she had any magical equipment that she might lend the party to aid in their quest. She offered to heal him again, but that was really the only help she could give. She advised that Martok should visit Willelmus Papley, leader of the night watch, who might know more about the creatures.

Sir Papley was a paladin of Athena who lived down the street, near the chapel. Martok had to bash on his door for several minutes before he heard an answer from inside. A bleary-eyed young man opened the door and welcomed him in. Willelmus warned Martok that, if the creatures turned out to be vampires, then killing them would not be easy. The vampires' coffins needed to be dragged out into the sunlight and destroyed. Otherwise, when a vampire was slain, it would just return to its coffin to recuperate and then come back the following night for revenge. Martok didn't like the sound of that, and hoped that the creature that they set on fire and drowned in the lake wouldn't hold any grudges. Willelmus also gave him 4 potions of cure light wounds to assist with the battle ahead.

Elsa & Lukwind returned to the nobles' inn. This time, in addition to the three aristocrats they had already met, Lady Elisa Martiese & Lord Arthurus le Saltonstall were seated at the breakfast table. Standing near the back of the room, along with the bard, was an elven wizard.

Elsa was glad that she hadn't brought Garyn along. The last time they had encountered Lady Martiese was at a roadside inn in the foothills of the Alps called the Sun & Moon. On that occasion, Garyn got very drunk and somehow managed to pick the Lady Martiese's pockets from across the common room. Soon after, Garyn passed out and left his companions to deal with the mess. Needless to say, he didn't exactly make a good impression.

The nobles denied any knowledge of the bounty offered for Atronan Manor and acted noncommittal when Elsa offered an alliance. Lukwind and the other bard performed once again, but neither of them were particularly impressive. Lady Martiese mentioned that she had heard rumours of Lord Martok Atronan's return to Sweetmead. She requested that, if Elsa should happen to run into him, she should extend an invitation to breakfast at the inn.

With the morning's business concluded, the six adventurers set forth across the causeway to the manor. To avoid the wolf pack in the courtyard, they decided to climb the stairs onto the battlements. However, as Gerald approached the stairs, a large pseudopod extruded itself from a nearby hut and clobbered him. Gerald recognized the monster as a Mimic that had disguised itself as a building. The pseudopod was coated in strong adhesive and Gerald was unable to move. He tried reasoning with it but there was no way that Garyn was going to bribe the creature to leave them be. He fired an arrow into its flank, while Lukwind dashed forward to heal Gerald's injuries. Elsa fired another arrow and Martok launched himself into the air, attacking with his eldritch blast.

 

the adventurers in action

 

Gerald tried to cast a spell, but was unable to concentrate while the Mimic was crushing him. Rohit caught Lukwind's attention and threw him a flask of acid. The bard managed to catch it safely, spin around and throw it over the pseudopod, dissolving the adhesive and releasing Rohit from the Mimic's grasp. This was fortunate, because Martok's next shot missed the Mimic completely and almost skewered Gerald. However, Gerald was able to use his acrobatics to somersault out of reach of the Mimic's attacks. Lukwind was now the only hero within range, so the Mimic extruded another pseudopod and attacked him.

"Back off, or I'll squish your bard like a bug," the aberration threatened. The adventurers treated its bargaining as a sign of weakness and continued to attack.

Martok flew in and fed Lukwind a healing potion to keep him alive. Gerald charged in as well, delivering a damaging touch spell to the Mimic even as he adhered himself to it once more. Rohit, Garyn & Elsa continued to fire arrows from close range and Gerald delivered the killing blow with his harpe.

Searching through the disgusting remains, they found several gold pieces and gemstones as well as a magical greatsword, which Elsa added to her expanding arsenal.

Surprised to be involved in such a pitched battle when they had barely crossed the threshold, the adventurers became far more cautious. Elsa led the way up the stairs, while Martok provided cover from the air and Rohit balanced nimbly on the parapets, throwing stones at any nearby buildings to make sure there were no more Mimics.

After determining that the door to the tower was not trapped, Rohit picked the lock so that Elsa could enter. Meanwhile, Martok flew in through a hole in the ceiling. The top floor of the tower was just as Martok had seen it on the afternoon before last: there was an intricate pattern carved into the floor, covered in places by debris from the collapsed roof. Gerald identified the diagram as a kind of magical trap such as those that are used to imprison extraplanar creatures. It didn't eminate magic, indicating that it was currently inactive.

Rohit continued to search for tripwires and pressure plates as he moved downstairs into the dimly-lit lower level. Lukwind cast Detect Secret Doors again to try and locate the hidden entrance. It seemed quite likely that the creatures, be they vampires or otherwise, had located their lair in such a place. Gerald cast light to provide some illumination as Lukwind moved closer to the door. Six spears shot out of the wall at him, four of them injuring him but not too seriously. Rohit carefully searched the area around Lukwind for the trap and determined that it was no longer a threat. He found the secret passageway underneath the stairs, but refrained from opening it just yet.

Gerald and Martok examined the contents of the room. It was clearly a wizard's laboratory, but it looked as though someone had smashed every shelf and container in sight. The floor was littered with broken glass, torn pages and pieces of armor. Martok identified the armor as likely to be the remains of his father's Shield Guardian.

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