”You are only as strong as the alcohol you drink, the tables you dance on, and the friends that hold you together.”
Synopsis : A tale wherein the adventurers visit a friendly clan of the Old Faith to celebrate the new ciders of their orchards, but uncover another effort of agents of Kurse, the Corruptor to despoil the lands. They undertake a quest into the northern lands in an effort to bring these hooligan’s efforts to an end.
21st – 27th of Savor, TR 1049 : Taking some time to recover from their ordeals, and get their home and personal tasks better organized, the group took a few days of downtime.
Dame Kahli of Whiterock spent a day dragging the group’s treasures to town and convincing Mistress Nessa Greenfoot to give them top coin. She then divided the group coin and made certain everyne got a share. Most of her remaining time was spent examining and helping clean-out the Fallen Tower Vaults.
Bresal Darkharrow spent some time helping Iliara Starcloak around the guild headquarters, though admittedly most of that was working with her apprentice on fairly mundane matters. He gained some Renown among the local mages. Eventually, he summoned his new familiar, Callum.
Roland “Scales” Bywater arranged with the local mason, Torra Stoneweaver, to visit the farm and size out a cage for his pair of “Rusties”. She suggested a stone-lined pit, and drew up a quick blueprint for his approval. He agreed. She offered to do the job for 300 gps, and he paid half up front. She had a couple of her people dig the pit and its drains, and then arranged to have the appropriate stone cut and the wooden lid and winch commissioned from the town carpenter. Completion would be in two ten-days, when the balance wold be due.
The rest of his time was spent excavating the lower tower ruins, but despite careful dredging of the mud and old webs, nothing else of note was recovered.
Siusaidh “Sweet Thang” Ironhand spent her time helping excavate the ruins, and spent a few days cleaning out the Fallen Tower Vaults of general debris.
Seumas “Shiv” Keeper spent his time in town, engaged in various personal efforts.
Ricard “Ricochet” of Clan Shearwater spent a few days in town at the Green Forest Inn, carousing, but otherwise spent a few days with Vesina “Ironstone” and Mistress Firlan Brooks, helping in small ways and enjoying some virtual domestic bliss.
28th of Savor, TR 1049 : Starting out late, the group gathered and made the couple hour journey into Thornkeep, to visit Firestone Orchard and enjoy the clan’s celebration of the Festival of the Vines. Stopping in the town commons, the group waited while Scales went to visit the alchemist, Brishtargera Greenbottle, inquiring after diamond chips, of which she had none. The group then made their way to ask Mistress Idara about what to expect from the evening. She replied that she was not of the Old Faith, and not invited, but that the Firestones held the event ech year, inviting other members of their faith to celebrate the new products of their orchards, and that a priest of some sort visited the festival at the highlight of events, to bless the orchard and all assembled. She was not certain of the identity of the priest or priestess.
Upon arrival at the orchard, the group found preparations were undergoing for the feast, with lanterns in the trees, tables arrayed around a large bonfire being stacked with firewood, and a couple locals playing music on one end of the tables. Barrels of cider were being rolled into the spot next to the tables. The group were greeted and told to refresh themselves, and Scales took the opportunity to “hang” with the musicians, playing his hand-drums in accompaniment.
As the day drew down to darkness, more people arrived, including Mistress Firlan Brooks and her cottagers, several local small cottagers, and (surprisingly), Master Scar Thunderfist*, the local blacksmith and his four sons. He introduced himself to the adventurers, a dour man, and observed his third-oldest son Connull talking to Adelinda, the Firestone’s eldest daughter, and the one the adventurers rescued from the spider lair some days ago. When asked if she often went “…mushroom hunting…”, he replied “That one? She is always wandering about the countryside on odd adventures. But she’s the only hope I have for my son to get married, so all we can do is keep an eye on her and hope she stays alive until they’re old enough to settle…”.
That’s when the scream echoed across the orchard.
The adventurers grabbed their weapons and swiftly passed through the orchard following the sounds, to find a vaguely humanoid figure behind a tree, facing a pair of large beetles with odd, lumpy backs. The group began engaging the beetles to discover the humanoid to be a Dyrad! As she cast a thorny wall between her and the beetles, a pair of purple-skinned goblins strode out of the orchard riding large ticks, and began tossing sling stones at the group, summoning the remaining beetle to them. Both ticks were quickly cut down and their riders stayed one proving tough little warriors armed with thorn-like short swords. As they and their beetle companion fell, one tried to slip away into the darkness, but was also cut down by Ricochet. Examination of the bodies revealed them to be somewhat diseased with the now familiar Demon Bile.
The group confronted the dryad, whereupon she identified herself as Tiressia, the guest who had been sent to bless the orchard this very evening. She dismissed the thorn wall, and spoke with both Callum and the tree she had sheltered behind, and revealed that the goblins were from a somewhat distant tribe that lived in the edges of the Echo Wood, and that of late, they had become more aggressive and tainted with this strange disease. She had come to the orchard to bless it at the request of the Firestones, but had heard the cries of this poisoned tree, and had then been attacked by the beetles. The strange goblins had been gathering old fall apples from the orchard and had poisoned the tree in the process for some reason.
The adventurers vowed to end this threat, in the hopes that she and her kin might one day be as friendly with them as the dryads had been with Coinneach “Old Man” Shadow. She admitted that she would see through their actions the heart of the matter. She was unable to cure the tree of this magical blight, and suggested gathering the corpses and some firewood to burn the lot together and hopefully cleanse the orchard. She went to the Firestones, explaining the situation, and together the gathered folk cannibalized the gathered wood from the feast’s fire, piling it about the corpses and tree. Tiressia spoke many word sin Sylvan, and then began a cleansing ritual, and lit the fire. The gathered and assembled folk were somber, and looked on in what should have been a hopeful ritual, but was clouded with the bitter smell of the burning dead, and the smoldering of the diseased tree. Taking a brand from the blaze, Tiressia spread smoke among the orchard, uttering her blessing as she went, followed in procession by the gathered folk, eventually winding back to the dying blaze to complete her spell.
The feasting for the rest of the night was quiet and somber, and the music bitter-sweet. As time grew late, several members of the group noted Tiressia looked oddly at young Adelinda, and when asked about her, she responded “…there is an odd menace about her… something that I cannot identify…”. Very soon, Tiressia wished all a good harvest, and leaving a blessing with the heads of each family, disappeared into the night. The adventurers soon followed suit, and made the long trip back to Green Dagger Farm, finding rest for the night.
Only a few hours later, several members awoke to the sound of several men laughing outside their hall, and the growing realization that their thatched roof had been lit afire. A coarse voice rose above the laughter outside, and demanded the adventurers show themselves. As the group gathered their armor, weapons and personal packs, more torches were thrown onto the roof. The adventurers then began to form a plan.
While Sweet and Ricochet gathered by the front hall doors, Kahli and Scales made their way onto the roof via rope and pillars, blasting a hole in the thatch to get outside. Bresal gathered the group’s books and scrolls from the Green Dagger Archives into a sack, and then made his way towards the front, intending to follow after the group. Sweet and Ricochet swept open the doors and braved the hail of arrows to engage the bandits on the north side of the hall. Scales followed along the roof, blasting away with his spells, while Kahli helped Bresal up onto the roof. Callum slipped out the door and circled around the hall out of sight. Those on the roof began tossing burning torches off the roof when able, trying to mitigate the fire damage.
As the adventurers were sniped at by the bandits and their shortbows, the combination of spells, blades and sheer bravado quickly made short work of the lesser bandits, and attentions were drawn to the seeming leaders. The mage or priest went down in a single hail of Magic Missiles from Scales, while Ricochet kept dueling with the barbarian who was unable to land a single blow against his agile opponent. Sweet, ignoring the surviving lesser bandits, tore into the lead archer, assuming him to be the leader, and smashed him into the ground with her mallet. Bresal dropped onto the ground from the roof to assist taking down the barbarian, and one bandit remained, trying desperately to escape towards the stables. He went down from another Magic Missile, and the group captured a lone unconscious bandit.
The group began gathering the bandits into a pile, and tried to halt the flaming roof, when Mistress Firlan Brooks and her cottagers arrived with farm tools in hand, having been drawn to the noise and light of the fires. They helped pull down the thatch and put out the flames with water from the wells, and searched the manor buildings for other damage, reporting that there were five new horses in the stables; three with riding saddles and two with packs, holding food, a large supply of torches and four sets of ancient bronze manacles. The farm workers were then granted leave to go home for the rest of the evening, obviously impressed by the prowess of the adventurers to take apart a large group of bandits.
The adventurers stripped the corpses, storing their arms and armor in one corner of the hall, finding some coins and a pair of Flasks of Alchemist’s Fire, along with the keys to the manacles, and an odd silver brooch of a stag skull, on the corpse of the supposed leader. They dragged the surviving bandit into the barn’s enclosed area, with healing him conscious, and then cursing his Wisdom with a Hex, before giving him the stink-eye and allowing Scales to play “good cop” alone with him. Scales cast Charm Person, and proceeded to promise him that he would be let go, if he could tell them something, because otherwise his friend Kahli was going to come back in here and eat his liver. Raw.
Scales quickly learned their prisoner was named Crow, and that the leader was the archer with the keys, and had been named Happs. Their band was called the “Dragon’s Breath Gang”, because they all liked fire as a terror weapon. He said they were ruled by a Stag Lord, but that only Happs knew who to contact or report to. He did know there was a password, but again, only Happs knew what to say. Word was out, apparently to take the adventurers out, and the Stag Lord wanted them dead or captured. Having run out of thoughts on the subject, he left the man, and allowed Kahli to have her way with him. She was apparently rather swift in the slaying, based on Crow’s screams.
29th of Savor, TR 1049 : Tired from a long day previously, plus today’s fight, the group curled back up in their hall for a long rest, that went well through the morning. While everyone prepared their brunches, Bresal spent his time acquiring Happ’s personal gear from the armory, and familiarizing himself with the corpse, to best copy the man if they needed to infiltrate or otherwise pretend to be the fallen bandit leader. Then, while Firlan’s husband worked on doing some basic repairs to the hall’s thatch in the daylight, the adventurers hauled the corpses off to the western approaches to the Fallen Tower, digging a pit and burying the corpses in a large communal funeral mound. They took the rest of the day to do repair work on the hall roof, though it needed some serious repairs before winter. There was talk about replacing it with slate at some point, to keep it fireproof.
30th of Savor, TR 1049 : The group headed out early, intending to follow Tiressia’s directions to reach the purple goblin lair and make it back home before nightfall. They travelled north along the ridge road to Wolfram Farm, taking the side trail that dropped back off the ridge to the west for a few miles. Suddenly, Sweet smelled goblins. Thus prepared, the group cautiously travelled forward along the over-grown trail, until a band of large, brutish goblins charged from the underbrush, attacking the handful of horses the group had.
The brutal beasts proved tough and their repeated strong blows slew Scales horse and hurt Kahli’s. While the group attacked them, Sweet was singled out, as the largest member present, apparently, to suffer numerous hard (and critical) strikes, eventually wearing her down enough to take her down. The four (later identified) bugbears proved tough opponents, but they were eventually slain. From their corpses, they looted some coins and noted that the shields they had born were emblazoned with a symbol of a black, withered tree wrapped in a vine. The battered adventurers took some time to use every healing resource they could muster, and after a short rest (and Scales roasting some horse flesh for lunch), they headed onwards.
The adventurers soon encountered the crossroads that might lead to the stone bridge east, but headed north-east for another few miles, until the old trail climbed back up the ridge, and led to the ruins of Stonecliff. The adventurers took some time to observe the ruins, and then made their way to the east edge of the ruins, looking for and spotting the landmark Old Sycamore a couple miles east of them on the edge of the ridge.
Their target was in sight, and it wasn’t even noon.