Session 17: A Gathering of Outcasts

In The Minor Book Pub, in Neverwinter, Valeria sat with her brother Olaern, discussing her plans to start an adventuring party.

"So this is what you're gong to do sis? You're just going to head out on your own and become an adventurer? You think you're going to be successful?" Olaern asked.

"I think I'll be able to manage on my own." Valeria replied. "And if things don't work out, I can always come back home."

"If you're lucky you'll be able to come back home. Most unsuccessful adventurers don't have that luxury..." Olaern warned. "You know your good lucks and charming wit won't get you out of every bad situation. It's not like you're a strong fighter or a competent mage, like the rest of us.

"But if you insist on seeking adventurer, perhaps you should head to Phandalin. I hear big things are just starting to happen there."

"Hey!" shouted a burly man at the other end of the taproom. "Where's my money pouch?!?" he continued, as he jumped out of his chair at the end of the bar, and looked around the room, while he felt around his belt."

He looked around, exchanging glances with his companions, and continued to scan the room. One of his companions nodded his head toward a particularly plump halfling sitting happily by himself in the center of the room, enjoying his meal.

The burly man sauntered over to the halfling. "Give it back!" the man ordered him.

"I don't have anything of yours to give-" the halfling started to reply.

"Don't play games with me half-man."

His two friends turn from the bar to watch the scene. "He might be half man in height, but his waist is twice a man," one of them mumbles, eliciting chuckles from the others at the bar.

"That's very funny, but look, I don't have-" the halfling tried to explain.

"No you look! Hand it over. I'm not going to warn you again," said the burly man, getting more aggravated.

"As I was saying," the halfling continued. "I don't have anything of yours."

"You're obviously a thief. I can see your thieves' tools sticking out of your pack," the man accuses. "Don't make me hang you by your ankles."

From the bar, one of the burly man's companions joked to the other that their friend might not be able to lift the portly halfling.

At this Valeria rose and placed herself in between the halfling and his accuser. "What if he doesn't have your money?"

"Who are you?" the burly man asked, surprised. "Look at him. He's obviously a thief. And you can see his thieve's tools sticking out of his pack right there."

At this the halfling reached into the side of his pack, removed the soft leather satchel, and unrolled it across his table revealing a spatula, ladle, small rolling pin, and other cooking utensils.

"You see?" Valeria challenged.

"Well," the burly man retorted. "Just because he's got some cooking supplies doesn't mean he's not a thief. I say we should shake him upside down just to be certain."

"One is innocent until proven guilty." Valeria responded.

"What's your name?" the halfling inquired of the burly man."

"Olaf!" the man replied, irate. "Now get out of my way wench. Stand aside."

"Hold on, hold on." the halfling pleaded. "Calm down everyone. If it would make you happier, there's no need for *you* to try to turn me upside down. I can do it myself." And with that, the portly halfling placed his hands on the floor and lifted his hairy feet into the air, and proceeded to walk around the room on his hands.

Gasps of surprise erupted from the patrons of the inn, including Olaf's companions at the bar, with one of them chiming, "You better sit down Olaf, before he walks on your head." And with that Olaf waved them away, disgruntled, and returned to his place at the bar.

At this time Valeria noticed that her brother was no longer at their table, leaving only two empty mugs and some coins to pay for them. Turning to the halfling, she asked, "My I sit here, seeing as my companion has disappeared?"

"Of course," he replied. "My name is Philip. Philip Ladless. It is my pleasure to meet you."

And the two would be adventurers shared stories of the past and hopes for the future. They agreed to leave together in the morning and head for Phandalin.

***

After traveling south on the High Road for the better part of the day, Valeria and Philip stopped for a break in the hamlet of Evermist, almost 20 miles from Neverwinter.

On the right they saw a cylindrical stone watchtower looming behind a wooden palisade. To the left, grey, smoky wisps rose from smoldering remains of various structures. Beyond they saw a general store connected to a pavilion that served as an outdoor tavern. Beyond they saw a general store, and further, a smithy. A muddy trail led off to a large granary set back from the road.

They headed for the pavilion, labeled, the Dewdrop Tavern.

In the corner, a half-orc sat quietly at the end of the bar, eating his meal. A sailor, by the looks of his outfit, got up from his table and walked over to the half-orc, and said "See my friends over there? They don't like you."

Barely looking up, the half orc mumbled, "May I eat my food peace?"

"I don't like you either! You just watch yourself! We're wanted men. I have the death sentence in twelve cities."

"I don't want to fight." the half-orc replied. "If you want to fight, then tell me you want to fight. But otherwise I would rather find a peaceful option."

"I bet you would." the sailor replied. "You don't want to fight, so you'll be dead!"

At this Valeria interjected herself again, asking, "Why do you want to fight this man so?"

"We don't like his kind around here," the man griped. "They've been terrorizing the whole area."

"I am not their kind." the half-orc uttered, calmly.

"Look at you! Just because you're some sort of half-breed." the man argued. "And we all know what that means."

"Looks may be deceiving." the half-orc suggested. "You should think about that before you make your next move."

"Think about..." the man grumbled. "Enough of this talk out of you, you half monster. Get out of here!"

"May I take my meal?" the half-orc asked, solemnly.

"Yeah!" the man replied. "Leave us good folk to eat in peace."

The half-orc settled his bill, picked up his food and left.

"Orc lover!" the man spat at Valeria as he turned to sit back down again.

"Why do you enjoy violence?" She asked. "He was causing you no harm."

"His kind are always causing harm." he retorted.

"Not every is the same." she answered. "Not everyone of every race is the same. Just like not all humans are so violent."

"Whatever for you." he grumbled. "Orc lover."

Valeria and Philip walked over to the half-orc. "I'm sorry about that." she proclaimed.

"No worries," the half-orc responded. "It's not the worst I've heard."

They introduced themselves, and briefly acquainted themselves with Prynhawn Haddway, the half-orc squire of Bore Takahashi, sharing their mutual desire for a just adventure.

Their conversation was interrupted by an argument that had broken out under the pavilion between the three sailor types, until one of them broke off and stormed away, disappearing behind the supply store.

Then the man behind the bar spoke harshly with the two remaining sailor types until they also left. The barman then approach the three acquaintances, politely interrupting, "Pardon me, but you're all welcome to come back in and sit down. There was no reason for that. People around here are a bit distrustful, because of the recent events in Evermist."

"What happened?" Philip inquired as they returned to a table under the pavilion.

"Evermist has been attacked in the darkness three times since the new moon. The first two attacks were repulsed by the watchtower garrison. The third attack happened during godswake this very day, leaving some establishments sacked, and the blacksmith's daughter was carried off!"

"Well that certainly sounds like an adventure." Prynhawn declared his intentions.

"Well, there may be a bounty," the barman declared. "Check with the blacksmith before you go, as it was his daughter. I'm Nort, by the way, and you're all welcome here."

They arrived at the Noble Forge, a larger smithy than they expected in such a small hamlet, with a stables and living quarters attached. A muscular, middle-aged man with a full, dark beard greeted them somberly, introducing himself as Ferrus Stryker, and asking them quietly how he can be of service.

Valeria immediately asked about his daughter's abduction, and the smith confirmed it to be true. "She was taken by goblins only 12 hours ago. She was only seven years old, my little Remi. I know some garrison soldiers went in search of them, but with no luck. You may want to check with the watchtower."

They heard sobs coming from the back room.

"If your daughter is not found then I will certainly lay down my life to bring her back." Prynhawn swore.

"I appreciate anything you can do," Ferrus replied, "but we half nae riches tuh offer an' she's certain kilt benow."

"Riches are not what we're interested in." Prynhawn confirmed.

A young woman burst out from the back room, clearly distraught, and fell to her knees before them, clasping her hand together. "Please find our little girl!" she pleaded.

Prynhawn knelled down, and pledged, "by my word we will bring her back."

Valeria barely noticed the slight disgust in her quick glance as Prynhawn put his hand on her shoulder.

With that, the three would be adventurers headed to the watchtower. Passing the granary they saw some workers begin throwing small sacks and roughage at a robed man. "Get out of here! What are you, freak!" they shouted, clearly frightened. "What kind of monster are you? Are you going to burn down the entire town?"

Looking closer they noticed that the robed man's skin was covered in patches of red scales.

"There's no need to fight with him." Pryhawn proclaimed.

"We don't want to fight him," the small crowd pleaded. "We just want him to get out of here."

"There is no need to be afraid." Prynhawn told them. "We can deal with him."

"What are *you" going to do?" they screamed, and ran away.

"Have you burned anything?" Prynhawn asked the robed man?

"I have not." the robed man replied, and he introduced himself as Lawrence Kerman. He explained that he is a sorcerer, and that his affliction often yields this unfortunate result in common folk.

Valeria introduced herself and Philip and shared their plans with him, and Lawrence was eager to accompany them.

Just then, three soldiers approached them from the 12 ' high open gate of the watchtower, and ancient stone, six story structure, built on high ground, with a commanding view of the countryside.

"What seems to be going on here?" the soldier in the lead inquired. "What's the ruckus?"

"Were you directed by the three who were just here?" Prynhawn asked in return.

"No I just overheard. There seemed to be a ruckus. We have enough trouble of late. Anyone here causing any trouble?"

"No," they all nodded. "Just a little bit of confusion." Prynhawn added.

"Well," the tall soldier answered, seemingly appeased. "Make sure it stays that way. There's more soldiers now than ever. This is not the time to be causing trouble in Evermist."

The newly formed companions asked about the additional garrison.

"I'm Thorne," the lead soldier introduced himself. "And my men and I were sent by the Lords' Alliance, of which the hamlet is under the protection."

Thorne went out to explain that he and his men overtook the raiders near a pond about five miles to the east, encountering a dozen goblins, a hobgoblin, and a worg. "We managed to kill the worg and three goblins, but lost one of our own in the fight." He gestured towards a funeral pyre being built by three guards in the center of the yard outside the tower. "I suspect their aim was to snatch the blacksmith's daughter all along, and the fires were just a diversion. I mighty shame. That Remi was a sweet child. Are you planning on picking up the search?"

They all nodded their intention.

"Very well." Thorne replied. "Best of luck to you. The tracks are a bit cold already, and it's dark, so they will be hard to find."

From behind the granary, not particularly hidden, stepped a hooded man with a leather mask wrapped around most of his face.

"Perhaps I can help you," the man announced, quietly. "You see I am a ranger, and I specialize in tracking in the dark."

The man introduced himself as Yanliz Hayat, and they agreed to help each other.

The setting sun reminded them that time was wasting, and they set off.

Heading east, Yanliz was easily able to find the tracks and follow them by the light of the full moon. The farmlands gradually gave way to meadowlands as they left Evermist behind them.

Five miles to the east of Evermist they discovered the bodies of two headless goblins and a worg lying at the edge of a pond.

After traveling eight more miles, they crossed a wide, shallow stream, and lost the tracks on the other side. They could see the edges of Neverwinter Wood in the distance to the east.

The group decided to rest while Yanliz searched for the tracks upstream, to the southeast. After searching for almost a mile, he rediscovered the tracks and returned to gather the party, who were finishing the surprisingly satisfying meal Philip had prepared for them all.

Marching on, they group soon followed the tracks into Neverwinter Woods.

After traveling about a mile into the woods, Yanliz spotted two goblins up ahead, standing guard in front of a granite archway leading into the hillside. One of the goblin sentries was scraping flesh from a pair of skulls, and they did not seem to notice the group hiding in the shadows.

Prynhawn instructed everyone to put their weapons away, and approached the goblins. Prynhawn tried to communicate with them in Orcish. The goblins looked at each other and one of them screeched as they both turned to run into the archway.

Immediately Prynhawn and Philip and Valeria were upon them. Prynhawn and Valeria both slashed at the goblin on the left with their longswords. Prynhawn made a deep gash in the goblin's thigh, and it dropped low, but still held its shield high. Valeria's swing went over the goblin's head as it dropped, and the goblin stuck its scimitar into Prynhawn's leg in return. Lawrence urged the goblins to lay down their weapons, but the goblins only grunted what Yanliz recognized as "Die humans!" back at him. Philip hit the goblin on the right in the side of his head with his staff, and the goblin's head bounced off the granite archway and it fell, motionless. Yanliz jumped into the fray, thrusting his shortsword into last sentry, silencing it for good.

The group moved through the archway and into a small foyer with stairs going down to the right. This was no natural cave.

The room below was barely lit by a brazier containing the crackling embers of a dying fire. The air reeked of goblin filth. Three goblins sat in the middle of the room, playing a knife game. A fourth goblin lay resting in the corner.

The goblins appeared surprised. Valeria stepped forward and tried to question the goblins in Orcish.

"Grupo! Grupo!" the goblins started shouting.

Lawrence tried to calm the goblins, but they appeared frightened and cowered in a corner of the room. One of them pointed to the archway leading further into the complex.

Looking around by the light of the brazier, the group saw that carved into the stone walls were an intricate bas-relief murals depicting elves and orcs locked in fierce combat. An archway in the opposite wall led into the darkness.

Valeria cast light on a coin in her hand and led the way into a ten foot wide corridor. After 15 feet she noticed a cog-shaped hole in the wall to the left, and a flight of stairs going down. She descended the short flight of stairs. The platform at the bottom of the stairs was covered in a flagstone. As Valeria crossed over it they all heard a loud click as three scythes dropped down through slits in the ceiling. The blades passed over Valeria head and scraped across Prynhawn, who was on the steps behind her. Then the scythes dropped back into a vertical position, blocking the steps from the lower passage, trapping Valeria and Prynhawn in the passage and the other three on the stairs.

Philip climbed up the blades to investigate the holes in the ceiling. Meanwhile the goblins from the room with the murals threw their knives at Lawrence. One of the knives sunk into his shoulder. Lawrence responded with a fire bolt that hit that goblin square in the chest and burst up into its face. It clutched at its scorched face. Yanliz stabbed another goblin through the chest, killing it instantly. Philip flung himself from the top of the scythes, but tumbled sloppily onto the landing, swinging wildly and missing.

At the bottom of the steps Valeria and Prynhawn moved around the corner to the left, beyond the flagstone. Twenty feet down the corridor they saw a heavy iron-banded oak door. They also saw that there was another cog-shaped hole in the wall around the corner. In this hole they found a removable crank. Prynhawn placed the crank into the cog-shaped hole and began turn. Immediately the scythes began to retract.

At the top of the stairs, Yanliz stabbed the third goblin in the shoulder with his shortsword. Philip rose, swinging his staff at the same goblin, who bobbed beneath the staff, but Philip followed up with a back-fist that crashed its nose into its skull. The scorched goblin swung its scimitar at Lawrence, but the blade scraped across his scales harmlessly. Lawrence responded with a chill touch that froze its previously burned fleshed, killing it.

Prynhawn finished cranking the the scythe back into the ceiling. Lawrence and Yanliz investigated the room with the murals, noting that the fourth goblin, who had been resting, was nowhere to be found.

The group gathered by the door at the end of the passage. Valeria opened the iron-banded oak door and slowly peaked into the room beyond. An arrow thudded against the door an another clanged off the wall next to her face. A goblin leaped out from behind the altar, screeching and dancing around, and pointed a wand at Valeria, shooting a bolt of concussive force into her.


Valeria threw her dagger at the crazed goblin with the wand, and it landed in its shoulder. Lawrence rushed into the center of the room, past the altar and cast burning hands at the goblin and hobgoblin archers that were hiding behind it, toasting both of them instantly. Philip pushed into the room and smacked the dancing goblin with his staff, doubling it over. Then he kicked it in the face and it fell, motionless.

A pair of torches illuminated the makeshift altar in the center of a chamber. Marble columns to the left and right cast dancing shadows along the walls. Against the far wall an oversized statue of an elf in plate armor stands atop a rectangular dais. A small iron cage to the right of the statue held a small girl. The high ceiling was lost in a hazy cloud of pungent incense.

They searched the bodies, confirming they were all dead. They took the wand from the dancing goblin, and also found a key. Prynhawn approached the cage, and noticed that the young girl looked terrified of him. He handed the key to Valeria. Valeria opened the cage and tried to assure her that she was safe. She rushed into Valeria's arms and clung to her.

Searching the room, Lawrence found a secret door beside the statue, opposite the cage. Alerting the others, he opened it and peered beyond, but could not see far into the darkness. Prynhawn entered into a passage, and after twenty feet found a fifty foot square room containing seven sarcophagi. Using his divine sense he detected the presence of undead in all the sarcophagi. He immediately returned to the others in the altar room.

The discussed whether they should confront the undead, but quickly decided that they should first return Remi to her parents in Evermist.

As they left the complex they saw goblins hiding in the brush. The goblins, seeing them, immediately fled further into the woods.

As they made their way through the woods, they heard strange, haunting, unintelligible voices carrying on the wind. Remi was dehydrated and weak. Valeria gave her some of her water to drink. Philip quickly provided some food she could eat while the traveled. Valeria convinced her to allow Prynhawn to carry her back to Evermist, and she soon fell asleep in his strong arms.

***

It was dawn by the time the group reached Evermist. The folk in the hamlet were filled with joy at the safe return of Remi. Margot Stryker ran out of the smithy and called to her girl. Prynhawn put Remi down, and she ran into her mother's arms.

Ferrus followed, and seeing his little girl, tears streamed down his cheeks and into his beard. "I cannot express in words how grateful I am. All I can say is that if you are ever in need of a smith, I am forever in your debt. As long as I live, my services are yours."

After resting in town, they decided to leave Evermist that afternoon and return to face the undead in the crypt. They reached the complex without incident and found the entrance covered with dense bramble. Prynhawn pushed it inside and they entered. They found the complex dark and, with Valeria and Lawrence casting light, empty as well. Prynhawn led the way and discovered that the scythe trap had not been reset.

They made their way to the crypt. The sarcophagus at the far end was more ornate than the others and flanked with two chests. Prynhawn used his divine sense again, and detected the same undead presence in each of the sarcophagi.

Prynhawn opened one of the sarcophagi closest to the door. Laying inside the sarcophagus was a skeleton in elven armor. Suddenly they heard grinding as the lids of the other stone coffins began to slowly open! The skeleton Prynhawn disturbed stared up at him through hollow eye sockets as it started to climb out of its sarcophagus, a longsword in one bony fist.

Prynhawn slashed at the skeleton with his longsword, breaking some of its bones. Lawrence fired an eldritch blast from his wand into the coffin, but the blast fell against the stone. Valeria swung her longsword, but could not find her mark. Philip approached the sarcophagus on the opposite wall, sticking his staff into it, crunching bones inside, and following up with a bunch that ceased all movement within. Yanliz swung his shortsword, but missed.

Moving onto the next row of sarcophagi, Philip knocked of the head off the skeleton as it rose, and then brought his fist down on its spine, snapping it into pieces like a child's toy. Lawrence tossed a fire bolt into the same coffin as before, burning it. Valerie finished it with her longsword. Drawing his bow, Yanliz fired an arrow at one of the skeletons farther away, but the arrow cracked against the stone wall.

Prynhawn moved to the next sarcophagus and slashed at the skeleton with his longsword, breaking some of its bones. Philip repeated himself with the skeleton in the last row of sarcophagi. Lawrence tossed a fire bolt into the second coffin on the right, burning it. Valerie finished it with her longsword. Yanliz fired an arrow at one the farthest skeletons on the right, and the arrow sunk in through the skull, and pinned it into the stone wall behind it.

Prynhawn advanced to the ornate sarcophagus at the far end of the room, but the skeleton, wielding an ochre glowing sword, toppled from its coffin, avoiding his swing. Philip leaped to Prynhawn's side smashing his staff into it, but it kept moving. Lawrence threw a fire bolt across the room, but exploded harmlessly into the wall. Valeria swung her sword at it, but it went harmlessly through its ribs. The skeleton swung his glowing sword into Philip, causing blood to flow from his side. Yanliz fired an arrow, but missed.

Prynhawn ran to Philip and used his lay on hands to restore him. He noticed that as he moved closer to the skeleton, the soft ochre glow of its sword began to brighten. Renewed Philip crushed the last skeleton with his staff.

They opened the chests and discovered they were both filled with sand. Valeria took some of the sand for spell components.

***

When they, once again, returned to Evermist, Ferrus approached them and insisted they take a spare pony he has in his stable.

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