We find out that the fish (silver eels) from the special lake are the fishy equivalent of goodberries.
Cleansing of Candlemere – consecration done, Will-o-the-wisps have buggered off.
Going along road through pass through mountains, towards fort for Varnhold. Near river, we find ford across river, as we approach there are signs from a distance of carrion birds circling.
We stop the wagon a way away and approach on foot.
Stones and boulders are very black, almost hexagonal. Not flat but easy enough to get a wagon over it. Rope guidelines across river have been downed, there’s a wagon with 2 corpses in. Look to have probably been attacked with bladed weapons, they look like traders. Wagon looks to have been torn apart and scattered. We go to investigate. We get closer, looks like they were attacked when they were making camp. Bodies show sign of constriction and blunt damage as well as slashing damage, also poison and possibly magic missile damage! Wow, someone really went to town on these guys, and horse had totally panicked. Numerous tracks away from this, up towards mountains, 6 distinct different types – large as a person but leaving almost snakelike track, human sized track, large humanoid tracks in boots. Wagon has not been completely stripped of its contents. We bury the bodies and note the merchant’s mark, also pick up what’s left of the valuables and mend the wagon and take it with us. Probably all happened about 4 days ago. We move on, but will bear this in mind for the way back.
We head up into the pass, which is only way through, single watchtower on top of pass at its highest point. No sound from the watchtower. Tower has an entry door that we can see to access. Door still intact. Aria takes a while but picks the lock and opens the door. Entrance is a double door. Cade and Amina advance in. Nobody home. Things left in working order, rotting food on a plate near an outlook slit, spear leaning against wall. Space for 6 people here. 4 rumpled beds, boots at feet of beds, as if people went to bed, cold remains of a brazier on top floor lookout point. No orderly abandonment, disappeared/left mid watch. Nothing to indicate what happened. From top of watchtower we can look down to Varnhold, across the farms to the town of Varnhold itself. Place looks as if nothing has been tended for a couple of weeks, there seems to be movement in Varnhold, but no people, can’t see pigs moving at Tannery pig pens.
We “look for clues” in tower. We find the log of the sergeant in charge of the tower. 3 weeks ago, this group arrived here, week after they arrived they stopped seeing normal activity in Varnhold, sent 2 men down to the town, they didn’t return, and after that there is no entry in the log. This does not make sense.
Heard in past of one or two people going missing like this, but never heard of a whole community going missing. Previous examples have been teleported to other planes. Normally combat involved but there are magics to make people disappear. All buildings and other creatures are still here, it’s just the ‘people’ who seem to have vanished, but no sign of violence. Magic = targeted disintegrate, but might leave dust; teleport; disappearing into ground. Not enough evidence to narrow it down, but all possibilities are high level magic and individually targeted. Or you kill everyone and disappear the bodies. Could this be the work of the centaurs magic users?
We run through possibilities of how to avoid being caught out by this if there is some sort of area effect in place still active that targets creatures over a certain size (since birds are still here but we can’t see the pigs). Cade calls his contact to try and find out if that is the case. The answer comes back that we will NOT automatically disappear if we go down there.
We will have to take the horses as no-one with us to tend them. Come in to North of town, first building we come to is a fairly new building, it’s the pigs pen, not very well constructed, emanating smell of decay and filth from it and behind it. We tether horses and go take a look. Head for the sty, it smells terrible, fighting bouts of nausea. A feral hog charges us and breaks through the poorly made fence. We kill it. It had escaped its own pen and got in and eaten the other pigs, which are now rotted and covered in flies. Rena casts purify food and drink so they are now edible and less stinky.
Then we go look in the house. There’s a lot of half eaten food on plates, more than a day’s worth of food lying around, sink is full of dirty dishes, clothing lying around – whoever lived here was a slob. Book on taming wild animals, very battered and scribbled in.
House opposite is a farm house, much tidier. Chicken coops but no birds in them, just feathers. No eggs. Abandoned in middle of early morning activities, small family probably. Rena casts spell – Discovery torch. Other building next to it is the tannery. The tanner was Tristan Beservar, journeyman, here to help Maegar Varn, wanted to experiment with tanning process so moved on to his own business to improve his craft rather than following traditional methods. Something not quite right about shape of hide here – oh ffs these are centaur hides!
We move on. 2 houses across the way are farm houses again. 1st one normal activities interrupted, 4 adults probably, all male, 2nd house 1 woman and 3 men in this one.
Big house on waterfront is the Brewery. Wagons here near loading bays. Brewery has been doing well, make a dark stout that is popular with folk in Haven too. Barrels ready to be shipped, interrupted mid loading. Run by a gnome with a couple of dwarves working for him. Notes on wall suggest there was a shipment going to Restov and one to us. There’s a loose floorboard under one of the brewing vats. Cade and Aria check for traps. Don;t find any. Pull floorboard up, and find a lockbox. Aria opens it, money and a unique recipe for their stout. Replace it as we found it. We stable the horses and the cart. We move down to the ford and try to cross, we notice in water in deep pool to side of ford, there is a tunnel of some sort heading down towards main town itself. Aria suddenly makes us stop moving. She feels there is danger in the road. Rena pokes with his spear where she points. There is a camouflaged spiked pit trap. Which suggests whatever made everyone disappear, stayed behind and made a trap. Aria says its well made. We go round. We head for the big house to the south west of the ford. Blacksmith’s. Livestock here had been left behind. All dead, being feasted on by crows. Attacked by a murder of crows (swarm). We acid and fireball them into oblivion. Troughs are empty, so they died of thirst not hunger as there is grass here.
Now head up the hill to the fort where Maegar Varn and co live. There is a fire smoking in the stockade’s compound. We walk round to the gate. Helmets visible over wall. The sharp eyed in the party notice that the ‘people on watch’ haven’t moved, so they are probably just helmets. Rena asks them to open the gate (which is partially) , a creature (see picture) throws a dagger out at us, then runs away into one of the buildings. Amina runs after it. We fey type humanoid called a Spriggen, chaotic evil, live in tribes. Can change size, can be small or large, this one is large. We beat him and manage not to kill him, just, and tie him up against a post, unconscious and badly hurt but not bleeding out. We move on to Hallit Gurney’s place. Cold and abandoned. We stop and listen to see if there is anyone else in here with us. We hear something from the corral shed building to the south. 2 more spriggens appear from being invisible. We fight. We hear a wolf howl. A bunch of wolves join the fight after we kills spriggens. Everybody’s dead, Dave.
There are sounds from inside the main block house, as if someone is locking and barring doors. We avoid the pit trap outside and break the door down. Inside is a murder alley with arrow slits. They shoot at Aria and miss. Then they target Tallis’s shield which takes damage. Rena mends it. We break down the next big tough door. We check in the well room before we move on. Aria searches the room, notices a concealed hidey hole at the top of the well which contains 6 potions. Well is deep and dark, but dont think theres anyone hiding down there.
We go through the next door, 3 rooms plus staircase: armoury, lots of weapons and armour, they’ve been rifled through. No magic in here. Next room is Hallit Gurney’s room. Has been thoroughly searched and trashed. Final room (bottom of stairs) is the bunkhouse for 6 guards. Aria checks for traps on door, let’s us know there are people inside. There’s snoring. 2 spriggens pretending to snore. 2 crossbow bolts. Oops, they’re dead.
We go upstairs. Stephan Lorentis’s dovecote. Cages have been opened, feathers everywhere, no birds left alive. Next room is guardroom. Ambush! Trapdoor in ceiling, well used ladder. Governor’s quarters empty. There is a partially destroyed map which we take. Master of despatches quarters, nothing of note. general destruction. Kitchen and stores final room this floor. Much bigger and meaner looking spriggen in here. Club and crossbow. Looks lean and trained. Tougher fight than the rest, but got him. This has been ruined as well.
So we head upstairs. On top of watchtower, watch post, view of whole town and surrounding area. The spriggens have not been up here. We can’t see anything moving, apart from that pesky raven watching us again. We go back downstairs all the way and go to question the surviving spriggen. Cade casts a spell so Rena can question the spriggen. It says they found out they could get into empty human place, better than cave. Sense motive says he genuinely has no idea what happened to humans. All gone when they came here. They’ve not been in the tunnel that comes in from the river, doesn’t know about it. Doesn’t know anything about the raven either. Fire on tower not lit, so they came to investigate, and claimed it for themselves. So we put him at the front and go back to explore the town.
Notable buildings/contents: Common where there is a well, decaying spriggen body is bottom. Our spriggen tries not to let us see it. We don;t want to drink from that. Cade fetches it out. Near river on way to get cart, spriggen gets really nervous. Pool water has big monster in, will eat you! We decide to pick a fight with river monster. Amina bathes in the river to get spriggen blood off and tempt the monster.
It’s a chuulk! Big crabby arms. Aquatic aberration. 8 feet tall, weight 650 lbs, armoured crustaceans, pincers, can paralyse victims. It attacks Amina and grapples her. It gets thumped.
It’s an escape tunnel from the well inside the stockade, and the potions are waterbreathing potions. The monster must have moved in quite recently. There are spriggen corpses in the tunnel.
Cottage neat and pretty curtains. Been thoroughly looted by the spriggens.
Potter’s house has had its magic front door kicked in, remains in garden of several clay vessels and statues. As we search house, we notice there is a chest behind a hidden door, inside it is set of flagons and platters hand detailed in platinum. Has symbols of House Surtova in design. Is very valuable and has been a commissioned job. Small placard saying its been commissioned for Eldest daughter’s wedding. we’ve not been invited sulk.
House built into hill – open door hangs askew. Old man part of original group. Been looted. There is a handaxe on table as if someone was mending it when they left. There’s a journal hidden here. It’s written in Skald, Aria casts spell to read it. Badly damaged, records descriptions of skirmishes they’ve had here with centaurs, against idea of an alliance with them, last entry about 2 weeks ago, and page torn out, 2 months ago there’s an entry that says found bracelet by river, pages torn out, there’s a symbol that Cade thinks is a warding off bad luck. we also find a folding boat.
Next place is the Waterhorse pub where we stayed. Scratched into inn door is the word Nomen in common. In the main common room, there is a giant sized spriggen standing perfectly still, holding a book. Back of his head is totally stoved in, but his face betrays no sign of his dreadful wound. Basically frozen in time, no blood etc from wound. It’s under a magical effect (detect magic). Likely to be released from stasis in near future, he was frozen, then someone stoved his head in. Looks like the book was read and was magically trapped. Was a one shot spell. Rena takes the book. Find some research materials, some downstairs and some in the occupied guest room. Lots of history books. Magic type books. So there was a research mage here.
Looks like there is a room that was recently occupied (as in up to 2 weeks ago). Belongings seem strangely familiar. We think it might be the historian type Restov we met. Letter from Maeghar Varn describing a jade bracelet he wanted him to come and study. The bracelet isn;t here though. Notes in his handwriting ’Vordecai, perhaps a notification sent to your god" next to passage in book about the Isle of Vordecai.
One of guest rooms has a very expensive viola in it, we take it for safekeeping.
Then church of Erastil. There’s also a parsonage and a cemetery with 14 wooden grave markers. Hasn’t been desecrated. Wooden box on altar with scrolls. Magic scrolls. 3 cure serious, 3 remove paralysis, 1 restoration, 1 break enchantment, 1 breath of life, 1 raise dead. We take them too.
Weavers cottage. Abandoned toys in front garden. Family with 4 kids. We spot a very starved looking calico cat. Collar with name on it. Bloody raven is still watching too. Rena charms and feeds it. It’s called Dragon. Bet the kids named it. We take it with us.
The Grange. Cargo place. Barley and grain. Overrun with rats.
Gem cutter’s house. Demolished the house, walls have been torn apart.
We’re back at the stock house. Lots of BP worth of stores here. Best gear is with the guy in the kitchen. And the map. Magical bag of holding. Pour out lots of coins and gems and jewellery. No jade bracelet. There’s a magical longsword with symbol of House Varn on it. It’s a Defending Longsword. There’s also a Centaur ancestral longbow.
Rena has some suggested questions for the ancestors:
Is Maeghar Varn still alive? No.
Is Maeghar Varn’s son still alive? Yes.
Are the majority of the people of Varnhold still alive? Yes, in a way.
Are they captured in stasis? An equivalent of.
Will investigating the Isle of Vordecai help us locate and free the missing people? Yes
Is the Isle of Vordecai in the middle of lake Silverstep? No
Is the Isle in the Nomen Heights? Yes.
Is it North of current location? No. Ask the centaurs, it’s their knowledge you need.
Was Skybolt given willingly? No.
We deal with the swarms of rats in the grain store. Purify the befouled well water as well.
We send an animal messenger to Jayana Varn at the castle, to tell her of her father’s demise and to get her to marshall 2 small armies to take over the watchtower at the pass and the fort in Varnhold itself. So leave Paladins to defend the west, Stags in Peacehold, use fey sorcerors in watchtower and rangers in the fort.
So now we’re off east to see the centaurs. Gulp! They’re nomads, we’re heading to what the map thinks is a camp. We’re not exploring we’re just travelling straight through. Next hex along, in afternoon, we find old campsites, not recently used. We keep looking, towards time we think we should pitch camp, area of grassland we are about to enter, we find strange furrows in ground, sinkholes. Camps we saw were all in rocky areas. Amina thinks its a Bulette. They are sense movement above ground. Not friendly. Rena knows about underground creatures that can burrow, see in dark, can jump out of ground to attack. Tend to be solitary and consider large swathes of territory they consider theirs.
We set up a thumper to draw it out. It comes out. We fight. We knock it down, and then we coup de gras it. Rena wants it as a trophy.
We need to pitch camp here. Rena sets up his oasis. Not many animals around, oddly enough.
Moving on looking for signs of centaurs. Well on through day, a bunch of centaurs come riding towards us in a thunderous manner. Shrill howls, aggressive, waving weapons at us, ride round our group, trying to intimidate us. Rena uses his megaphone voice to say “take us to your leader”! They’re not keen on us, but after we show them Skybolt, they agree to take us to the leader (and the rest of the tribe). Take us to a camp, what we know about them – Nomen tribe is offshoot of mighty Valshalkis, translates into Thundering Hooves. Once roamed Northern Kasamar, but migrated. Tribal tradition, guardians. Matriarchal society led by war priestess worship Desna, tribe has been in conflict with humans since Taldan explorations, to current day. Females are warrior class, males are hunters. Hide huts and tents. Heavily armed and armoured centaurs everywhere. Many start war cry when they see us, children hide when they see us. Taken to one of biggest hide huts. Not a small tribe. Tent is near fire. She tells her warriors to shut up, doesn’t want to hear why they’ve brought humans. Rena tells her what’s going on. They are the guardians who protect against Vordecai. He is a slumbering warlord of old, from very distant past. The place they may not go, the Valley of the Dead, the humans of Varnhold may have gone there and awoken something. She suggests we start there. She will give us directions. Rena asks her if we can start peace talks, begin a peaceful existence, we follow good gods as they do, no reason for us to fight, in fact it would be utterly wrong. She shows us on map where Valley of Dead is, and warns us about – on F9 on Nomen heights map that is the Valley: points out that F7 there is a landmark Linorans Grave – bones of a long a dead something on the hillside, its holy to them so must be respected. Can hunt mastodons there for food. We stay the night, will set off next morning. As we set off next morning, she takes us to one side, asks us quietly (almost embarrassed) could we look out for her daughter, strange shape lumbering in that area, and daughter went to look and has been missing several days now, hopes she has not broken the taboo, but wants her found and brought back, basically.