Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), Coby (Warin), Chris (Malag), Jeff (Amathar the Grey), and Norsk (Brian) are returning cast members.
As we left the party, they had returned to town after determining that, yes, the quarry was linked to an underground cavern, the cavern had slaves held captive, and there was at least some involvement between the quarry leadership and the slave trading operation. They had determined to rest, train, and prepare to return to the quarry to arrest those involved, including the leadership.
The training time provided some interesting experiences, as Barron studied Amathar's training process carefully, and copied most of it. When Amathar cast his Find Familiar spell, Barron copied most of his motions. Though there was no visible result, Barron appears to believe a dog appeared. He named it Steve. Amathar got a kitten, which he keeps in his belt pouch. Being a magical kitten, it does not complain during adventures, but does cherish those moments of freedom when in safe locations.
On the first night of their training, rapid hoofbeats were heard passing through Darkshelf without stopping.
After some discussion over their plans, the party got a written warrant from Mayor Nielor, and borrowed a cart and horse from the Bawdy Wench. They loaded Pyro, Barron, Leah, Warin, Malag, and Amathar into the cart. Norsk, whose skills gave him the ability to disguise himself reliable, drove. After some initial questioning by the guard Jim, the cart was allowed to pass down into the quarry despite Glyrthiel not knowing about it ahead of time. They pulled up to one of the lower entrances, which was locked, but talked the orc in charge there into opening the door despite the keep being on lockdown. Behind the door were a squad of goblins (4 slings, 4 swords) and a group of four human slaves in shackles, along with Uzgrod the orc. The goblins were sent to look over the cart, but before they arrived, Norsk stabbed Uzgrod from behind and killed him with a single blow from his bastard sword. They took a keyring from his body and tossed it to the slaves, who began to unlock their shackles and ran off while the goblins returned at a run.
Leah rose from the cart and put an arrow through two goblins in a single shot (natural 20 with max damage roll). Her second arrow took out another, and she ordered Pyro to attack! Barron's daggers took out the rest of the row closer to the cart. The front row ran into the entrance area, which provided some natural cover from Leah, but their entrance was blocked by Norsk and Malag with the party approaching from behind. Two of the remaining three goblins died rapidly.
The one remaining goblin was a special-ops guy. A worg-rider. And Pyro was right there. He leaped on Pyro's back, which confused the hell out of the poor animal, and rode him out towards freedom -- Pyro trying to escape the goblin on his back as much as following directions. Leah stamped her foot from all the way back by the cart, drew her sword, and said, "Oh, hell no!" Meanwhile, the rest of the party stood back and laughed.
Finally, Leah sharply called out the command to sit -- and Pyro sat abruptly, skidding to a halt in full scooby style. The goblin went flying forward over his head, and the highly trained attack dog ripped its face off and brought it to Leah, wagging his tail the whole time. Good dog! Ewwww... (Natural 20 for Pyro on the command to attack)
The party explored the stables and brought their cart inside, closing and locking the door behind them. They found stalls for horses, most empty, and a small smithy at the back. It looked empty at first, but as they approached, a bugbear and two goblin assistants leaped up and attacked with thrown tools from the forge area. They were quickly dispatched, but not before the bugbear smith set off a stink bomb. Most of the party managed to step out of the cloud of stench in time.
The stables had one other visible exit, a door towards the back. Barron sent Steve, his imaginary pet dog, to investigate. Steve reported back that the door lead to a pool of clean water with a hanging bucket, clearly the bottom part of a well. Looking above, a trapdoor presumably led to the upper levels. When Warin explored it moments later, he was amazed to report that "Steve" was right... once he managed to recover from tripping into the well water due to the steep drop at the entrance and the very dark conditions. After briefly discussing how to climb up ("Should I throw my bow and ask Pyro to fetch it again?"), Malag gave Warin a boost that was enough to put his head through the trapdoor. They had found a true treasure, an amazing reward... the wine cellar! Barron took a bottle, just in case.
From there they found the kitchen. It was dark and cold, the four human cooks complaining their overseer, a lovely half-orc lady with a wicked rolling pin, had gone missing after a trip to town. They presented no threat and were left alive.
From the kitchen, they moved into the great hall, which was also dark and unused. The next room was a large storeroom, with a small barracks on one side and an armory on the other. They started with the armory, Barron entering first. He didn't notice the sergeant behind a translucent privacy screen, who immediately upbraided him for being out of uniform: Barron was in his guard tabard with normal clothing underneath. Barron claimed to be drunk and have lost his armor, giving a false name, which the sergeant dutifully wrote down for later discipline. Norsk entered behind Barron, keeping out of sight, and when Barron lured the sergeant out, Norsk grappled with him from behind and choked him into unconsciousness.
The party discussed interrogating the sergeant, while Warin knelt to make sure he was ok. While checking his neck for injuries, he snapped it. Oops. (natural 1 on healing proficiency check). Amathar took careful notes of this.
The party searched the armory, but besides a few more daggers for Barron, nothing of note was found.
The barracks on the other side of the storage room was next. While Amathar moved to keep an eye on the spiral staircase next door, six guards sat around a table playing a card game inside their barracks. The room was filled with bunks, tables, and all manner of bits and pieces in mostly poor condition. Norsk and Barron led the way, with Barron pretending to be drunk and Norsk helping him to his bunk ("Let's do 'Get Help!'"). Barron had carefully hidden his sahuagin shock dagger. After some confusion over which bunk to use, Norsk tossed Barron onto the table where the guards were playing, smashing it to bits. On his way to the floor, Barron whipped his shock dagger into the forehead of one of the guards. The shock from the weapon left sizzling scars on the guard's face, dealing a serious wound. He would be known for the rest of his life as Tazerface. It was destined to be a short life.
The rest of the party rushed into the room as Norsk cut one of the guards in half from behind with his bastard sword. The guards yelled in terror and fury at having their game dumped into their lap, but thought at first it was a brawl among soldiers. Tazerface brutally pummeled Barron, stunning him. Leah and Malag each cut down a guard, Malag taking a minor wound in exchange. Tazerface stood up, and the guard closest to Norsk drew his sword. Barron threw his shock dagger and hit Tazerface right in his genetic legacy, incapacitating him.
After showing the warrant and threatening indictments (Guard: "But I don't know what that means!" Amathar: "It means bad things!" Barron (pointing to Tazerface): "He was indicted!"), the party proceeded upstairs. Amathar took a moment to consult the map and point out that the staircase also led downwards, meaning there was more to the first level than they had explored. Perhaps a secret door they had missed?
At the top of the stairs, they found an interior corridor with a set of double doors to their right, and immediately proceeded towards those doors to wedge them shut. Unfortunately they forgot to check to their left first, where Bazili and Glyrthiel were waiting, several ranks of human guards standing behind them. Bazili gave a short monologue, while Glyrthiel began to cast a spell (both rolled a 12 on their initiative checks). The party used the time well; Warin and Malag charged the pair while Amathar began his own spellcasting. Amathar's sleep spell landed in the middle of the human guards, and although Glyrthiel and Bazili were unaffected, his sharp hearing picked up more victims falling to the floor. Many more. Malag missed Glyrthiel, but Warin's morning star hit her directly in the face, ruining her looks and sending her flying backwards into the pile of sleeping guards. She wasn't dead, but definitely headed in that direction without healing. Enraged, Bazili swung at Warin and missed. Clearly his friend's injury and potential death had disturbed his swordsmanship.
Meanwhile, Warin and Malag had caught site of the rest of the forces arrayed against them. A pile of sleeping human guards, at least ten plus two sergeants, were immediately behind Bazili (and under Glyrthiel). Behind them were two forces of goblins, over a dozen at least. They were already waking the human guards again. Malag swung hard at Bazili, and his bastard sword penetrated even the plate mail Bazili wore. Bazili swung twice more at Warin, missing both times, but by the tiniest of margins. Seeing the goblins waking people up, Warin grabbed for the sergeant's broadsword and picked it up, briefly tossing it away when he realized holding it made him feel vaguely dirty (swords are a prohibited weapon for clerics).
Amathar shouted at the goblins in their own language, loudly proclaiming that they would be killed if they did not surrender immediately. They chose to flee instead.
Malag managed to whittle Bazili down to size, the stocky dwarf (or short half-orc?) collapsing from accumulated blood loss. He was obviously still shaken by the loss of his friend and business partner Glyrthiel. The rest of the party were trapped behind Pyro, still trying to get up the stairs.
Seeing their leader fall, the human guards looked at each other uncertainly. Amathar shouted commands at them, insisting they surrender, and brandishing a warrant. They shouted back "We can't read!" but looked concerned. (They made their morale check, but Amathar won the opposed Charisma check, increasing their doubts) Norsk followed that up with growled threats, and the human guards realized they were likely facing execution or conscription whether they knew about the slave ring or not. Their spines stiffened and they chose to resist. (Norsk lost the oppossed charisma check)
With room to move at the front line now available, Leah pointed at the still-armed sergeant and commanded Pyro to attack! Pyro looked at the sergeant she was pointing at, and then back at Leah. He was confused. The man was covered in metal. How could you bite into metal? His teeth would break. And there had been so many new commands lately. And that goblin rider, that was really confusing! Could she really mean to attack and break his teeth? No. It must be one of the new commands. Pyro ran up to the sergeant, lifted his leg, and peed on his boots. (Natural 1 on Pyro's attack roll)
Then Leah stepped forwards into the spot where Bazili had been and the slaughter began. Arrows flew at the one sergeant still armed, cutting him down, and the bulk of the human guards fell like wheat to a flying half-elven scythe. As she looked out on the field of the dead and dying, with Mariel looking happily on the line of candy she had acquired and feeling all was right with the world, Leah whispered to herself, "I am become Death, destroyer of worlds." Or at least of candy.
The disarmed sergeant took a swing at Warin, but the punch bounced off the cleric's armor. Warin replied with his morningstar, feeling vaguely sickened by an unconscious revulsion, and the sergeant fell unconscious again. This time, it would be a longer term basis.
There were two human guards still alive towards the back. They grabbed Glyrthiel's unconscious body and ran, but only made it about 30 feet before one of them tripped and dropped her. Barron was determined not to let them escape, however, and launched himself at the guard blocking his way in an attempt to overbear his opponent. Barron's attempt to overbear missed (perhaps next time he should bring an actual bear?), and he somehow ended up on the other side of the guard, lying prone on the ground. Seeing this, and the fact that all of his friends had run, the remaining guard thought over his options. After a moment, he screamed "You'll never take me alive!" as he fell on his sword. (Natural 20 on morale check, natural 1 on attack roll)
Warin gave chase, and caught up with the one who had tripped. The fight was brief, but the last of the human guards had disappeared into the distance. Leah chose not to track him right away as the party took stock of the situation. Amathar stabilized those of the guards who were still alive, including the sergeant Warin had disarmed. When he examined Glyrthiel, he was able to save her life, but her face was a smashed ruin that would not heal normally without magical aid. He called to Warin, who used his last Cure Light Wounds spell to save her beauty as well as her life.
Barron and the rest of the party stripped Bazili to search him, noting while they did so that a few telltale marks of orcish heritage were apparent on close examination. His tusks had been filed down to nubs, his ears clipped to resemble rounded dwarven ears. His huge dwarven beard was a fake.
Eager to prove that his skills were now sufficient to cast two first-level spells per day, Amathar made his way back to Bazili's unconscious body. With a brief incantation and magical gestures, the unconscious dwarf become his fast friend for at least two weeks. Then Amathar bound his wounds and woke him up.
Bazili seemed confused about why he felt such strong friendship with a man he couldn't remember ever meeting before. Slowly, his head cleared, and gently prompting from Amathar got his story out. "I tried to be Bazili, I really tried! I wanted to fit in!" he said, almost breaking down now that a sympathetic ear was there to listen. "But I have to be true to my father's heritage. I am a half-orc! My inner orc is strong. My orc name is Bubgruk." This resolved the mystery of the ledgers below, where Bazili's name never appeared, and the mysterious Bubgruk was known to all as the half-orc in charge.
He also passed on a little bit of Glyrthiel's story. She had come to him for work after an incident with her instructor in magic, something involving a fellow student who deserved most of the blame. By her telling, Glyrthiel had had little to do with it, but the instructors weren't willing to listen to her. They didnt' ahve the evidence to punish her formally, but her schooling in magic came to a premature end, at least from that teacger. Bazili was happy to put her skills to use capturing and subduing large groups of slaves, and Glyrthiel had sufficient moral flexibility to accept the work since she could get little else in her elven community.
With Bazili's guidance they searched the rest of the keep's top level. Bazili's chamber was bare of furniture, containing only a pile of furs to sleep on and a simple fireplace. Hidden within the furs they found a chest containing 350 pp and 10 small carnelian gems (50gp each). Bazili did not object much to it being taken; he knew he had been a bad, bad orc and was lucky to be alive. Glyrthiel's was elegant and tasteful, with a magical chandelier, a fancy bed and desk, and much nice clothing. Working in the slave trade was lucrative, it seems. Amathar looked at the desk with a knowing smile, opened the main drawer, felt around for a moment, and removed a small spellbook from a hidden compartment. The more experienced members of the party waited expectantly for his death from the poison in the trap he must have set off, along with Glyrthiel's glaring eyes above her gag, but they were all disappointed.
The party chose to rest briefly there, with Glyrthiel tied up and gagged and Bazili friendly for the moment. They had visited Bazili's quarters, as well as Glyrthiel's, but two rooms on that level remained unexplored, as well as whereever the staircase led.
With time to rest, the remainer of Bazili's story came out...
Not all of the slaves freed from the stables were captured at sea. Two of them were taken from a nearby village. They share a horrifying tale of a midnight raid with orcs and goblins. Dozens of men, women and children were captured. The old and weak were executed on the spot and left in their homes, which were then emptied of valuables and burned. Crude quarantine signs were placed near the burned homes, suggesting the village was lost to the plague and the survivors abandoned it.
It is not the first such abandoned village to appear in rumors and bar talk, but until now, the plague was blamed for it.
Confronted with the story, Bazili admits he led the raids to supplement his profits from passing on the captured sailors from the sahuagin. From the quarry, slaves were sent to Highport, another port in the Bandit Kingdoms, specifically to an apparently abandoned temple on the outskirts of town. Highport itself was a bustling center of trade and commerce, but the ravages of the plague have left many of the outlying towns poorly defended, and increasing raids from a variety of uncivilized humanoids have left many such areas in ruins. Perhaps these raids, too, have been taking slaves rather than simply executing those they find.
Bazili speculates that, from Highport, slaves are sent to various other ports all over Oerth. Cargo-carrying ships are searched (and taxed) on the way in, not the way out. But he says this is only speculation. What actually happens to the slaves after they are delivered is unknown to him. Normally, Glyrthiel would handle the deliveries. He said he loved the raids, and the extra profits made him look good, but could never quite settle his conscience about selling the captives. It didn't seem to bother Glyrthiel, and she was the one with the contacts to sell the slaves to Highport, not to mention arranging for the sahuagin to deliver their captives to the quarry.
According to Bazili, General Perniti knows nothing of the arrangement. Bazili claims to have earned the generals' trust as a military officer, leading to this position in charge of the quarry. Perniti was demanding more resources -- more profits, more stone for his own building projects. The added pressure for results from Perniti is what drove Bazili over the edge, and when Glyrthiel suggested a way to bring in more income, he grasped at it like a drowning man.
To be continued...
For reference: 200 cp = 20 sp = 2 ep = 1 gp = 1/5 pp
|Player||Character||Race||Class||Level||Experience Total||Next Level|
|Dean||Thic Duc||Human (mostly)||Monk||5th||26,412xp||47,500xp|
|Matt||Barron||Hobgoblin (by polymorph)||Thief / Magic-User||5th/2nd||3,857xp||5,000xp|