Icewind Dale 18-20: The Missing Fishermen

After searching the duergar and Dinev's Rest, and telling Rourke about the Duergar, we decided to return to Easthaven, where Erling wanted to help find the missing fisherman.

On the way I broached my concerns about Oosi’s story. “Oosi, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and what you told us when you first joined us. You are no doubt a formidable ally, but some of what you told us seems questionable and I’m hoping you can straighten this out for me.

“It seems unlikely that the Bearclaw Clan is so concerned about the actions of these outcast rogue berserkers and yet can only spare one warrior to track them down. Are the Bearclaw Clan so few that they cannot afford to confront this threat directly?”

“My clan is actually quite small,” Oosi clarified. “There’s only a maximum of forty people in the whole clan, and a lot of our warriors were decimated by this harsh, cold winter that’s been upon us recently, so our warriors have been thinned out. I, as the hero of the clan, was sent out as the representative to try and sort this on behalf of the clan, because we could not afford to send out any more warriors, because we’re a nomadic tribe and we need the warriors to protect the clan.”

“For whatever it’s worth,” I replied, “my goal is to end this winter and endless night.”

“Right. I think our goals are the same, in that,” Oosi agreed, “because it’s ravaging my people and it’s making it very difficult for us to find food and there’s some crazy thing attacking us in the plains where we’re wandering about and it’s making life exceptionally difficult for us, so our goals are crossing paths together. But that goes without saying. I still need to find those renegade barbarians and find a way to bring them to justice.”

“You mentioned that you’ve been tracking them through the tundra,” I questioned, “and managed to track them far beyond here, but yet you have no idea where they are. How is that?”

“Through rumors, and through other means of tracking,” Oosi explained, “I managed to get as far as Good Mead, but I was never explicitly tracking them. I was sent from my clan, and there was the druid over in Good Mead, who I knew was there that could possibly help me, and that’s who I sought, and perhaps some other adventurers who would be willing to sign on and help me sort this out.”

“Okay, so you were never actually tracking them through the tundra like you said?” I confirmed. “Okay.

“You had also mentioned that they’re supposed to be in a town west of Good Mead, called Dougan’s Hole,” I inquired.

“No,” Oosi replied. “What I said was, I heard a rumor that no one heard form Dougan’s Hole in quite some time, and I made a possible connection that they may have gone there, meaning that they were raiding and sacking and killing random tribes and different people that it wasn’t so out of the question that they went to Dougan’s Hole.”

“Okay, so that was an inference you were making,” I confirmed, as opposed to what you said. Okay.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” Oosi insisted.

“You said that they’re supposed to be in a town west of here called Dougan’s Hole,” I maintained.

“I said no one’s heard from the town in a while,” Oosi argued, “and I thought perhaps they may have gone there. Make of that what you will.”

“You also said that your tribe roamed the vicinity west of Good Mead,” I interrogated, “and then later said that they were to the east.”

“No, my tribe never roams west of Good Mead,” Oosi corrected. “We’re usually out in the eastern plains.”

After a long pause, Oosi added, “They were last seen by the Western Wind tribes, perhaps, but that tribe’s long since been wiped out by them.”

“What makes you think that the tribe succumbed to some kind of corruption?” I asked.

“These outcasts don’t usually act in this way,” Oosi explained. “This is an unusual event that they’ve been banding together to do these acts of cruelty and to commit these crimes, and the seers and the elders determined that there may be some demonic influence on them.”

“Okay, it was something that your elders and seers said?” I sought, which Oosi readily confirmed. “Why were they outcasts in the first place?”

“They committed crimes or affront to the tribes and they were cast out,” Oosi answered.

“What kind of crimes are barbarians committing that they’re getting cast out from their tribe?” I contested. “I’m thinking they would have to be pretty bad.”

“I don’t know these individuals specifically, but yeah, it would be pretty bad to get kicked out of the tribe. You’d have to kill someone, or steal from your tribe, or show cowardice in front of the enemy, or do something pretty terrible in order for the tribe council to determine that you had to be banished.”

“Right, so these people are already people who are doing really bad things,” I challenged. “It seems like a jump to assume that there’s some sort of demonic influence, just because they’re doing bad things.”

“Maybe, but it’s not for me to question the elders of the tribe,” Oosi defended, “if that’s what they determine.”

“Okay. How much do you believe what Selma told you?” I questioned.

“I have no reason to believe that Selma is not truthful,” Oosi responded.

“So she wants to take you to this Jarlmoot—'' I began.

“Right,” Oosi confirmed. “You heard her tell you directly.”

“—so that we could learn the location of them, but only if we defeat the champion of the jarl of jarls at this mystical place where the spirit of Reggaryarva resides and you’re confident that you could kill this champion?” I contested. “Is that right?”

“Well,” Oosi replied, “I’m certainly going to try.”

“Okay, I guess that’s all I have,” I conceded. “That’s all I wanted to bring up.”

“Do you have your answers now?” Oosi inquired.

“I guess I’ve learned as much as I’m going to learn,” I acknowledged.

Easthaven shield
It was midafternoon when we arrived at Easthaven.

Erling asked around looking for where we could find the watch captain, which led us to the town hall. In front of the town hall we saw a large ash pile of what was once a bonfire and a charred corpse chained to a post.

“Yes, can I help you?” we were greeted upon entering the constable’s office.

Erling asked about the fisherman and the constable went to fetch the captain.

Soon we were approached by Captain Imdra Arlaggath. “What can I do for you,” she asked with narrowed eyes.

“Well howdy, captain,” Erling greeted. “We’re here to help find the fisherman.”

“That’s great,” the captain replied. “Can I ask, why the change of heart?”

“It’s the right thing to do,” Erling explained, appeasing the captain.

"Four fishers went missing on Lac Dinneshere a few days ago,” the captain explained. “The coastline is hard to sail along because of all the ice floes, and general frozenness of it, but savvy anglers prefer it as there are fewer competing fishers from the other lake towns there. I need someone to scout the coastline and search for them."

“Any chance you might know where they were last seen?” Erling inquired. “Or known to have gone?”

The captain shook her head no.

The captain offered to requisition a boat for us, but we agreed to start by scouting the shore. She asked that, if some terrible fate had befallen the fishers and we weren’t able to return them, that we return their bodies, and promised that the previous reward of a spell scroll of fireball or a bag of tricks still stood. She gave us a slip of paper, in case we change our mind about getting a boat, and instructed us to give it to the dockmaster.

We decided to visit the dockmaster and acquire the boat after all, and were soon dragging an eight man rowboat across the lake toward the water.

After rowing for about a mile and a half, I noticed scuff marks on some ice flows, which we followed for another hour. We began to see debris that looked like it could have been discarded fisher gear.

Eventually we saw an untethered rowboat bobbing in the water amid some small ice floes, not far from the eighty-foot-high cliffs that abutted the shoreline. The mouths of four caves dotted the snowy cliffside. One of these caves was at water level, and the others were elevated twenty to thirty feet above the frozen lake. The wind tearing through these icy caves sounded like moaning.

We anchored our boat and explored the shore.

Searching the abandoned rowboat, we found four oars, four sets of fishing tackle, and a dozen empty rum bottles lying in it. We also found faint tracks on the ice leading from the boat to the southernmost cave.

As we made our way toward the caves, the howling began to sound like singing, and we were soon confronted by two harpies. Fortunately we were unaffected by their charms. After a brief melee, I eventually dropped one, and Ossi put down the other.

I examined the lower, and southernmost, cave entrance, where the water apparently used to flow out of the tunnel and feed the lake. That water was now frozen solid, creating a floor of ice several feet thick. I found four sets of human-sized tracks in the snow leading into the tunnel, disappearing beyond my vision.

Looking for a safe place to rest, we climbed the icy cliffs to the lowest and closest of the three northernmost caves. An abundance of handholds and footholds on the cliffs made the climbing easy.

Listening and smelling the cave entrance, I detected the presence of a beast within. From the tracks, it appeared to be a large wolf.

I tried to climb to the next cave, but it was too slippery, so I lowered a rope to the others, securing it to the ledge with a piton.

Just as Oosi was climbing up, we were attacked by a hungry dire wolf. It managed to bite me, but I held my ground. Blaze hit it with scorching rays, before Bran finished it using his bow.

Everyone climbed up and we explored the wolf’s cave, which was an empty deadend.

After securing the area, we cooked the wolf and ate it for dinner.

While we were resting, Bran woke everyone up, alerting us to a disturbance on the shore, which was apparently being caused by a crazed and frostbite-covered nomad. It was beginning to bash the boats with its flail.

Bran, Erling, and I began shooting arrows at it, which drew it towards us and away from the boats before it could cause too much harm. It tried to climb up to us, but Bran knocked it down with a thunderwave. Blaze attacked it with a guiding bolt and his spiritual weapon, the latter eventually finishing it.

We recovered our arrows and took the nomad’s weapons, which appeared to be covered with chardalyn. I took two of its javelins.

We finished our rest without further interruption.

In the morning, Erling dumped the crystals he had collected into the lake, and we climbed up to the next ledge and explored the nearest cave.

After about sixty feet, the tunnel split, with one passage leading straight ahead to the east, and another on the left veering north.

Scouting ahead, I explored the passage heading east which, after winding for about sixty feet, became a natural stone bridge spanning a frozen river twenty feet below. The top of the bridge was covered with a slippery, icy glaze. I returned to the group.

We took the northern passage, where the winding tunnel soon opened up into a cave. It was empty except for three ice-covered pillars and another tunnel winding roughly northwest.

That tunnel soon opened into another cave with ancient, stick-figure drawings carved into its northern wall. As we were exploring the cave, we were attacked by three more harpies.

Blaze used his guiding bolt and scorching rays. Bran used a thunderwave and vicious mockery. Eventually they were all defeated.

On the northern wall of the harpies’ chamber, we found a flayed and half-eaten corpse and a prisoner being held for later. He introduced himself as Mendel, explaining that he was a mage and the lone survivor of an adventuring party that went looking for the fishers. He explained that the last thing he remembered before waking up where we found him was rowing on the lake and hearing some singing in the distance. Mourning his slain companion, Bruce, he agreed to join us.

Blaze suggested that Erling was under some kind of influence, explaining that, “I think Erling’s under some kind of influence. He’s been acting off all morning, and while we were fighting, he mentally communicated to me that we should abandon Bran to the harpies.”

“Nonsense,” Erling insisted. “That’s not what I said. I didn’t say that. I suggested backing off so that we could draw them into this narrow corner to better manage them there.”

Erling refused to be searched and became antagonistic when questioned.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook while we explored the ledges of the harpies’ chamber in search for any treasure. I lassoed a stalactite on the forty foot high ledge and climbed up, where I found four gems, two potions of healing, another potion, and a scroll.

Mendel indicated that all the potions were magical, as was the scroll. He nervously stated that Erling carried an additional magic potion and a chain around his neck.

Bran’s blue boots were not magical, nor were the evil mage’s robe and staff.

We gave Mendel the scroll. We gave the potions of healing to Bran and Baze.

Mendel tasted the third potion and determined that it was a potion of climbing, which Erling claimed.

After a short rest, we returned to the icy bridge, where Mendel suggested that he could melt a path in the ice, but that it would take three minutes.

Not wanting to spend the time, Bran crossed with one end of a rope. After spiking the rope to both sides of the bridge with pitons, we all carefully crossed the bridge and safely reached the opposite side.

Once across the bridge, the tunnel soon opened into a cave containing the remains of an abandoned campsite.

Searching the charred remains of the campfire, we found a burned journal that Bran recognized as written in Dwarvish from three torn-out pages that were only partially burned, and included a couple of noteworthy passages:

"These caves are sacred to the frost giants. The carvings on the wall suggest that the giants came here to drown themselves. Did they use the hot spring as a sacrificial pool?"

"The wind truly sounds like a wailing woman. One could easily go mad in this place."

"I think there's someone living in these caves. Shortly after discovering the hot spring, I heard what sounded like a granny singing. When the song ended with a shrill laugh, dread sunk its teeth in me. Ye gods, that horrible cackle! I shall leave these caves in the morning and never return."

The dwarven campsite seemed to be at least a year old.

Bran placed the parchment in his pack.

We returned across the bridge and back to the shore to follow the tracks into the lowest and southernmost cave.

We continued to follow the footprints onto the twenty-foot-wide frozen stream, which curved slightly for 120 feet before ending where the river used to tumble over a small waterfall, following the current west toward Lac Dinneshere. The waterfall formed a ten-foot-tall sheet of ice that we were all able to climb fairly easily.

Giving each other boosts and lending hands, we all made it to the top of the waterfall.

Erling found footprints continuing beyond the frozen waterfall. There was a tunnel immediately to the right, and up ahead we could see the icy bridge we had crossed, now twenty feet above us.

Leaving the frozen stream, we entered the tunnel and followed it for about sixty feet before reaching a ten foot long set of crudely carved stairs.

The stairs opened up into a cave where fresh blood painted the icy floor, indicating that one or more creatures were butchered here recently. More obvious than the blood were all the bones strewn across the floor, along with scraps of clothing and armor and a few rusty weapons.

Sitting among the bones in the middle of the cave was a gigantic skeleton, its lower half encased in ice, so that its torso and above were exposed, but inanimate.
Sitting among the bones in the middle of the cave was a gigantic skeleton, its lower half encased in ice, so that its torso and above were exposed, but inanimate.

We concluded that this must be the hot springs that the frost giants used as a sacred sacrificial pool according to the dwarven journal.

As soon as we approached the skeleton, it began to move.

Mendel cast toll the dead on it and Blaze hit it with a sacred flame. Oosi and Bran engaged it while Erling and I shot at it from the bottom of the stairs.

With two quick swings, the skeleton nearly cut Oosi in half. Mendel used a suggestion to tell it to run away, but it had no effect. Blaze cast spiritual weapon. Erling tossed his light coin to Mendel and ducked before hitting it with a well-placed bolt. Oosi withdrew further into the cave. Blaze hit it with a thunderwave and withdrew to cast healing word on Oosi.

The skeleton pulled itself out of the ice. Mendel hit it with magic missiles. Blaze hit it with his spiritual weapon and scorching rays, causing it to burst into flames.

Moving beyond the sacrificial pool, the tunnel split. To the left, the tunnel continued for forty feet before dropping down ten feet to the frozen pool. To the right were stairs leading down for ten feet.

Heading down the stairs, we entered a large cavern. In the middle, was a decrepit old woman in tattered furs standing between a large cauldron and a stone block. Heaped around the block were rusty hatchets and four flayed corpses.
I hung back and hid in the shadows while most of the group confronted the lady, who introduced herself as Maud Chiselbone.

After some words, a glowing ball of light illuminated the hag’s sickly grayish-purple flesh, bulging eyes that seldom blinked, and stringy black hair interwoven with fingerbones. Bran, frightened by the hag’s horrific appearance, fired his bow and the ball of light revealed itself as a will-o'-wisp. Mendel fired magic missiles from cover in the tunnel. Blaze used his sacred flame. Erling and I shot at the hag while Oosi engaged with his flail.

The hag raked Oosi with her claws and called for backup as the will-o'-wisp flew around attacking all of us.

Mendel screamed that more harpies were attacking us from our rear. Mendel ensnared it in a web, but it disappeared from the webs and reappeared thirty feet away before we could eventually put it down.

Badly beaten, Maud tried to make a deal, agreeing to surrender the cauldron and promising us a chest filled with gold coins that lie in the muck at the bottom of Lac Dinneshere.

Before anyone could respond, Erling accepted the deal, trusting that she would keep her word.

As she departed, Maude told us to wait in the caves until midnight, then head north along the shore for a mile.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook and determined that the cauldron was enchanted. Inside the cauldron was a piping-hot stew filled with lumps of flesh and organs floating in the broth. We dumped out the stew to drag the cauldron out, though it was still heavy and awkward.

While we waited, we explored the rest of the cave and carefully crossed the frozen pool. We found some treasure beyond a frozen waterfall, including some valuable art, a pair of crystal lenses, a javelin, a potion, and a wand.

Mendel cast detect magic from his spellbook on the newly acquired treasure, revealing that the lenses, javelin, potion, and wand were enchanted.

After Retrieving the cauldron and the heads of the four flayed fishermen, we rested in the dwarf’s campsite. While we rested, we attuned to the magic items, identifying them as eyes of the eagle, a javelin of lightning, a potion of healing and a wand of magic missiles. Mendel agreed to join us and we agreed to give him the wand and the potion. Meanwhile, Oosi claimed the javelin and I claimed the crystal lenses.

Bran gave Mendel Astrix's spellbook.

I asked Blaze what was wrong with Erling. He said that Erling had been acting strange and that he was worried that something had affected his mind. I asked if it could be that crystal or the necklaces. Blaze thought that was possible, in which case Oosi and I were also in danger.

When we were done, we retrieved our ropes from the icy bridge, and exited the caves.

Following Maude’s instructions, we eventually found a waterlogged wooden chest on the icy shore, its lock broken off. We took up defensive positions around the chest while Erling opened it. Inside was a large pile of gold coins. While Erling was sifting through the coins, four crawling claws leaped out and attacked him before we could destroy them.

In the lid of the chest was a parchment with writing scrawled in blood. Mendel read the note, sharing what it said, “in order to use the cauldron, we need to make a pact with Nagor Ogolhawn.”

Mendel said he wanted to consult with Vellynne Harpell, a wizard of some repute, who took up residence in Bryn Shander a few months ago.

We returned to the boats and began to make our way back to Easthaven. Oosi and I dropped our newly acquired flail and javelins in the lake, fearing they may have some nefarious effect on us.

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