Last week on the Thursday game...
After a day of following their quarry's tracks, the party - beaten up, drained, and exhausted from tracking the mimics - decided to break camp about a half hour away from the entrance of an ominous cave. This proved to be a disastrous decision when a group of troglodytes came across the party's camp on their nightly patrol.
Thankfully, Trinity was awake, and the elven ranger quickly woke the rest of the party. Although Mordai and Borock were still suffering from the ill-effects of the disease they had picked up a day ago, they quickly rallied and, with the help of Cariel, managed to kill the chameleon-skinned savages.
After some well-deserved uninterrupted sleep, the party decided that it was time to breach the cave. Arming themselves with a torch and a sturdy branch, they went down a straight, narrow passageway adorned with crude troglodyte cave paintings. As the only person who understood Primordial (of which Troglodyte was a distant dialect of), Trinity spent some time trying to figure out what the paintings meant, but all she could make out was that the cave was somehow sacred to the troglodytes, and that they regularly conducted votive and blood sacrifices to ensure that the "ancient one" stayed asleep.
After about ten minutes or so, the party eventually found themselves before a spiral set of stone stairs crudely carved into the walls. Although they were wary, there was little they could do but head further down, whereupon they found themselves standing in about an inch of saltwater: a fact made evident by the salt-stained steps near the bottom. Before them was a wooden door, left suspiciously unlocked, and more cave paintings that indicated that the large stone chamber before them was the chamber used by the troglodytes for blood sacrifices.
The moment the party stepped into the chamber, the chamber came alive. With a loud click, the door locked itself, and ochre oozes began squeezing themselves out of random holes in the walls. Although they could split into smaller clones of themselves whenever the party tried to slash them, the slow speed of the jellies meant that they were of little threat; what was more immediately dangerous was the acid that was slowly bubbling up from the central dais in the middle of the room.
Desperate, the party fled from both ooze and acid whilst trying to find a way out. By sheer chance, Borock - while running his greatsword along the wall - discovered that certain parts of the wall were softer than others. Emboldened by this discovery, he yelled at the others to help him hack away at this particular part of the wall, and after a great deal of effort, they eventually managed to carve out a small passageway that they all squeezed through.
This makeshift passageway led them to what appeared to be a sewer, except that instead of carrying sewage, it carried what appeared to be a slow-moving river of acid in which a few skeletons bobbed (from whom Mordai managed to snag a golden bracelet). Following the passageway, they came to a bend that led to what appeared to be a treasure room of some kind: seven chests, each filled to the brim with large gold sovereign coins, lay against the wall, their lids moving gently as they lay in silent slumber. Wisely, the party decided to let sleeping mimics lie, and they returned to the main passageway.
A small eternity later, they came to yet another bend in the road, except this time it led to an art gallery of some kind. Although the paintings did not appear to be anything other than ordinary paintings, the party was clearly shaken by their previous encounter, and they collectively decided to ignore the room and return yet again to the main passageway.
Finally, the party arrived at what was clearly a lavishly-decorated throne room. A large stained glass window - complete with early morning sunlight shining through it - back-lit a gilded wooden throne, and pastoral tapestries hung above each of the four doors heading out of the room. Nothing seemed out of place at all... except for the fact that this audience chamber was located several miles underground.
The throne, the party quickly determined, was the seat of all evil, and after carefully circling it for several seconds, Trinity had enough and decided to try and burn the runner carpet that led up to the seat. This caused the carpet and throne to immediately come to life and, as the former tried to smother Trinity, inky-black tentacles grew out of the latter. This was the living, beating heart of the entire dungeon, and it was not about to go down without a fight.
It proved to be a tough and protracted battle, but finally, the party managed to slay the ur-mimic... an act which, of course, triggered the slow death of the entire dungeon. With nothing more than their wits and the ability to run really, really fast, the party managed to get the hell out of dodge, and not a moment too soon: in dead silence, the cave entrance collapsed upon itself like a deflating pastry, leaving nothing more than half-stone, half-organic mush covering a massive hole in the ground.
Searching the rubble, Borock recovered a sealed carpet case from the squirming body of a mimic and, with the help of a large rock, knocked the mimic unconscious. Bringing this and a few gold sovereigns back to Sir Gareth Oremaul, the party claimed their reward of 2000gp (1000gp less than what they were promised, since they failed to return the Guild's gold) and decided to return to Northreach for some well-deserved rest.
Downtime Action #1
Before leaving Islington, Mordai meets up with his agent provocateur and tells her to check in with his Thieves Guild contact at the Duke's Head every day in the event that he has messages for her. He also takes some time to learn some rumours from his fellow thieves, and learns that with the mimics gone, a severe plague of rats has started reclaiming the city. He also hears some whispered rumours about the Marquis Ald and the Baroness Andmar, but they peter out before he can follow it back to its source.
Trinity searches for new portals and finds only two more: a crumbling stone archway, located right before a small waterfall about 5 days from Northreach, that is a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water during the new moon; and a decrepit crypt about 4 days from Northreach that is a portal to the Shadowfell that requires a small blood sacrifice to open. Trinity has the feeling that there are more portals to find, but they require her to travel deeper into the untamed wild, where deadlier threats await: and that's something she's not quite prepared to do just yet.
While they explore the wilderness for portals, Borock tries to find out what he can about the Feywild from Trinity. He learns that there are two main ways one accesses the Feywild: one can either walk a Road, which is a straight path from one point on the Prime Material Plane, through the Feywild, to another point on the Prime Material Plane; or one can find a portal that leads to a particular location within the Feywild proper.
There are four main directions within the Feywild: Summer and Winter, and Dawn and Dusk. If one were to walk all the way Summerwise or Winterwise, one would simply end up within the respective Courts; if one were to walk all the way Dawnwards or Duskwards, one would end up within the Free Marches, an area of the Feywild free from the rules and influence of the Courts. The Free Marches are an extremely dangerous place, each ruled by powerful self-styled sidhe Marquises, but bashing a path through the Free Marches can allow one free access to almost any Feywild portal within the plane.
Cariel tries her hardest to use her healing powers to cure Borock and Mordai of the disease infecting them, but nothing works: it has progressed too far, and is no longer a simple disease that mortal magic can easily remove. Their best bet for recovery would probably be a wizard or planar specialist.
As Robert rides back to Northreach, Titania visits him in a dream. She says nothing, and merely gives him a look that eloquently conveys the immense weight of her disappointment regarding the progress he has made on the puzzle box in his possession. He wakes up in a start, cold sweat beading on his forehead, and realises to his slight horror that the ground has been frozen solid into what appears to be permafrost.
Spurred by his visions, he tinkers with the box and notes the different permutations that trigger or loosen the internal lock mechanism. He notes that there are 72 unique combinations that cause a peg inside the box to come loose: which, a part of his mind idly notes, happens to be the exact same number of cards in a standard Tarot deck.
Downtime Action #2
The craftsmen begin work on Tyd's forge, under the azer's careful direction. Strange components are being worked into the forge, including an arcane circle of powdered ruby burnt into a ring around the furnace; a cast-iron anvil washed with water that he had personally fetched from a mountain spring, before he started to painstakingly carve some bastardised version of Primordial, Draconic and Dwarven into its base; and three separate steel containers to hold baths of oil, water, and blood.
Tyd is asking for permission to cut down Crow's tree, that he might use the sapling's heartwood to forge his hammer's handle. "Nothing better than storm-struck heartwood for a smith's hammer," he explains to Robert. "Like knows like, and the fury of the storm will kindle the spark in my steel. Would have been better if the tree was older, but I'll make do."
Cariel tends to Eldraz and gets to know him better. She learns that Dragonborn are really no different from the other mortal races, and that their abilities are only limited by how far they are willing to push themselves. Eldraz appears to be in a slightly better mood after their chat, and seems to have recovered from the brief existential slump he was in previously.
Trinity further trains the guards in archery, but for the most part they appear to have reached the upper limits of their natural talents... all, that is, except for Halvenpaul, a middle-aged widow with ridiculously good aim and a bow-arm trained from years of doing the laundry for an entire village. Halvenpaul is a stout and plain-looking woman, but the other guards appear to respect her skill and strength.
Borock tries to engage Tyd in a discussion about designing a pair of hands for Eldraz, but without Robert's or Trinity's help, the two of them can only communicate through crude gestures better suited for insults and profanities. Annoyed at his inability to communicate with the smith, he takes Nicodemus and leaves for the fishing village, to help out with the rebuilding effort and show them that the Baron cares for his people.
The village folk warmly welcome the Baron, and Borock and Nicodemus spends the rest of the week listening to the villagers' complaints. Most of them end up being about taxes, and how they would greatly appreciate it if the Baron could exempt them for one month's worth of taxes that they may be better able to rebuild their community. Regardless, the personal visit has raised the spirit of the villagers from slightly positive to positive.
Robert talks to Tyd, on Borock's behalf, about the possibility of constructing artificial hands for Eldraz. "Ach, sure, it's simple enough to give him two stumps of dead iron for hands, but what's the point? He'll still be ascud domar ("scrap metal"), useless in a fight and useless in a forge. What we want to do is make him a pair of real hands, proper hands. Give me 300gp, manticore's hide and venom, and a chunk of fey steel, and I'll get it to you in a week."
Mordai tries to map out the paths taken by the mimics to and fro the keep but, without Trinity's superior tracking skills, he only manages a partial map of the pathways (about a day's radius from the Keep). They do not appear to conform to any pattern.
Egoveus identifies Mordai's bracelet for 150gp and tells him that although it's not magical in the way that adventurers expect things to be magical, it has a tenuous magical connection with a Lacian nobleman currently staying in Islington. Before he had left the city, Egoveus had heard that the nobleman was here to investigate the disappearance of his brother, and that he was prepared to generously reward anyone who could tell him anything about his brother.
Downtime Action #3
Cariel investigates the empty chest in the treasury and, as they had all suspected, it was indeed a mimic. Although Cariel tried to ensnare the chest and maybe use it as bait to lure the other mimics to the slaughter, the creature polymorphed itself into a shape that could slip the bonds and fled into the wilderness... through the illusion-covered hole with the bear trap. With a solid snap, the bear trap crunches into the mimic and finishes it off once and for all, leaving nothing but pseudo-organic gloop behind.
Trinity clears out the bugbear's cave singlehandedly. The fire that had raged through the forest had, evidently, spread through the cave, and although it left it smelling somewhat charred, it did clear out the remaining critters that were living in the place. After many backbreaking days of work, she finally has it in a somewhat inhabitable condition. Before leaving, she disguises the entrance with some vines and fronds, to make the cave significantly more difficult for anyone other than her to find.
Borock visits Egoveus and tells him about the party's encounter with the Red Slaad. Cracking open an old tome (whose title reads, in gold thread and Draconic, "On the Nature of Limbo"), the wizard finally comes to a conclusion after an indefinite amount of time and a significant amount of hemming and hawing: "you're pretty much screwed. At this stage, the only thing that can definitely remove a slaad infection is a trip into Limbo - all this while fighting through about a quarter million adult slaadi - and touching the Spawning Stone at the heart of elemental chaos.
"Barring that, maybe a bargain with a dragon, an archfiend, or something equally powerful might be able to take the eggs away from you. Of course, that's not saying much. If I were you, I would just jump off Suicide's Cliff and end myself so that I don't end up transforming into a monster whose very presence is a threat to this entire region. But that's just me."
Robert goes with Borock to pester Egoveus about his puzzle box, and despite the wizard's grumbling about how he "would never have taken this tower if I knew I was going to be bothered day and night", he agrees to take a look at the box and Robert's notes. The two of them spend many nights tinkering with the box, and they eventually figure out why it's near impossible for the box to be opened: because the correct combination constantly changes depending on the moon phase, the birth sign of the person handling the box, and (possibly) the astrological house currently in favour.
"In other words," Egoveus tells Robert, "this box is an extremely accurate representation of sidhe society in miniature. Take my advice: put this down, walk away from it, and pretend you've never seen this infernal thing. No good can come of messing with the fey, and only worse things will happen if you started dabbling in fey politics.
"If you insist on opening it, though, I'll tell you this for free: it's nigh impossible to open in this world. Our world is a world balanced between order and chaos, with a thousand little variables in constant flux, and the box rearranges itself faster than you can solve it. You'll need to find a static place, a realm where space and time does not move unless you will them to move. Only there would you have a chance to open this box."
Mordai further trains his thieves in the art of thievery, but they appear to have reached the upper limits of their natural talent. A young elf by the name of Gilran catches Mordai's eye; not because he has any actual thieving talent, but because he takes to logistics and leadership like a fish to water.
The thieves try to scour the forests for any signs of the mimics, but after such a long time, the creature's tracks have all but faded into obscurity. Mordai also suspects that the thieves did not look very hard, since none of them really want to face a creature as monstrous as a mimic if they could help it.
Tyd's forge is finally completed, but since the party has forbade him from chopping down Crow's tree to use for his hammer's handle, he is still unable to work on anything and is thus, in his own words, "as useless as a stick up an elf's bottom".
It is the 14th of Early Winter.
The party started off with 3,411gp on their persons and 460gp in the treasury. The Duke's tithe has been paid out of the party's purse, and 500gp was spent on hiring workmen to work on Tyd's forge. All 460gp out of Northreach's chest, along with 40gp out of Mordai's chapter funds, was spent paying the workmen working on the keep. 150gp was spent on identifying the bracelet.
The party has 1,291gp, the treasury 0gp, and Mordai's chapter 50gp.
The party owes Ankers' band 150gp.
Notable items in the Keep include:
- Bugbear Chieftain's Head: frozen in a perpetual silent scream. It has been expertly preserved by the local tanner and is now mounted on a fine piece of rough lumber, ready to be hung either in the Great Hall (where it will intimidate or disgust visitors) or in the Baron's personal quarters (where it will warm the cockles of his heart every time he looks at it).
- Sealed Carpet Case: no amount of twisting can get the bronze case open.
- Golden Bracelet: the gold of the bracelet frames a thin sheet of marble that features, in the far-eastern bas-relief style of Lacio, the scene of an archer firing a greatbow at a dryad emerging from a pond. Two symbols of Krubivax - the empty circle of the new moon, and a skull with a worm crawling out of its eye socket - appear in the corners of the scene.
Notable guests of the Keep include:
- Nicodemus, chief steward of the keep
- Eldraz, Borock's clutchmate who's missing both his hands
- Tyd, the Azer smith in the keep's forge
- Egoveus, the human wizard living in the keep's tower
- Garle, representative of Ankers & Co.
With the keep finally fully restored, the general morale of both the fishing village and the farmsteads is currently positive, with most people being happy with the Baron's rule. The roads are safe, except for a few wild mimics running around on the whole of Druss.
|Taxes - Fishing Village||1500gp|
|Taxes - Farmsteads||1500gp|
|Unskilled hirelings x20||200gp|
|Skilled hirelings x10||900gp|
|Stipiend - Wizard Egoveus||200gp|
|Patronage - Ankers & Co.||150gp|