15th of Planting 579 CY
The party leaves the crypt tunnels and makes plans to search more of the surrounding passages. Pinkertin hears a noise. We investigate and discover it is coming from above. Fennec and the halflings express fear that the sound of numerous birds are an ill omen. Dugal states that we should investigate the cawing of many birds. We ascend the shaft, and travel up the stairs to the keep interior. When we reach the ruined kitchen we find dozens of crows and ravens flocked together perched upon the jagged broken walls and beams of the room. Suddenly the 60 birds cease their calls and they look at us. One raven speaks in the voice of the druid of Hommlet. He says, “ Heroes of Hommlet, you are needed. Come quickly!” The rook of black birds erupt into flight and take wing back to the West.
We travel with haste not knowing what Jaroo might need us for. Pinkertin spontaneously comments that he wonders why the druid needs us. Fennec, Dugal and I look at the halfling who claimed he didn’t speak in the human common tongue. The rogue looks at all of us sheepishly and weakly smiles. Fennec comments that a honest soul would always speak truth with an honest tongue. The sun is setting as we reach the settlement. Light smoke is rising from the West side of the village. Merric calls out to guards at Burne’s keep tower who have torches lit and seem on edge. He asks what has happened. A guard answers that there was an attack. Elmo appears worried, and I realize the area of smoke is near his home.
We travel through the village and see the farm that was attacked. Fire has destroyed the pens and farm buildings of Elmo’s neighbor. Dead livestock lay on the ground with their throats cut. Elmo finds his mother who tells Elmo that monsters led by a man attacked the Woodcutter’s farm. She says that they took Hale’s three children, 2 boys and a girl. Elmo’s mother tells us that all of the leaders are at Elder Virgen Lorgathan’s manor.
We go to the manor to talk to Jaroo and the others. Elmo pushes past the servants and makes his way straight to Evard Green, his father. He is in conference with the Elder, Rufus, Mytch the Miller, Jaroo, and Ostler Gundigoot and a man we have not met before. The stranger is wearing the vestments of St. Cuthbert. Jaroo speaks and thanks us for receiving his message and returning to the village with haste.
Jaroo introduces us to Canon Terjon of the Church of St. Cuthbert. Jaroo informs us that the attack occurred the previous night at Hale’s homestead. He says that fires were set and the woodcutter’s few cattle were slaughtered as a ruse. During the fire, Hale and others tried to combat the fire. That is when a man dressed in red, leading a band of gnolls entered Hale’s home and snatched the children while leaving his wife unconscious but alive. Jaroo goes on to tell us that a note was left behind. The note refers to our group as Hounds of Hommlet and tells the villagers that the child are gone forever, but further delving into the moathouse would result in even more attacks as punishment.
We briefly talk to each other before telling the assembly that we plan to pursue the kidnappers and attempt a rescue. Canon Terjon tells Fennec that he appreciates our efforts at fighting evil at the moathouse. Evard tells Elmo that the tracks cross the western bridge before heading off into the wilderness in a westerly direction. We ask about the number of attackers and Evard tells us that the raiders numbered 10 to 12 gnolls and one man based on the prints.
I ask if the village can aid use with food and equipment for the rescue mission. Rufus shares that his armory has no better armor than suits of chain. Fennec suggests leaving immediately, but I caution that the trail will be hard to find in the dark of the forest. We gather the food and supplies from Rufus and he assures us the village militia will be posting guard to prevent further raids. We go to the inn. Ostler Gundigoot puts us up for free and serves us a late dinner as well. We eat and go to sleep.
16th of Planting 579 CY
We wake before dawn and thank Goodwife Gundigoot for the fresh food for the road. Elmo leads us across the bridge and into the woods outside the village. The big warrior keeps an eye on the sky and he comments to Fennec that he hopes that the rain holds off so he can follow the trail left by the gnolls. We follow a definite trail left by the hurrying gnolls. Even I can follow the trail they left through the woods.
We travel all day though the rough terrain. The forested land is also rocky with twisting ravines and broken cliffs slowing travel. Elmo says at sundown that we have traveled 7 miles from Hommlet. Fennec and Dugal are determined to pursue the gnoll band and demand we push on at dark using torches to stay on the trail. We travel all night and add another 4 miles to our chase by dawn.
17th of Planting 579 CY
I convince the party we must stop and rest for several hours. We all eat food prepared by the goodwife and taking turns napping. After 3 hours, we set out at a forced march after the gnolls and their master. We travel the rest of the day. We are all weary, it is not just the halflings. Rain starts and soon it is pouring. We move forward looking for a place of shelter away from the heavy rain. Elmo leads us all into a ravine that immediately is noticed as odd. Instead of dense tangled trees, much of the ravine is barren. The rough stone walls of the valley rise 100 feet above us. The dark streaked rock ravine is over 400’ in length and with rain subsiding for a few minutes we can see more of our surroundings.
The area is eerie. There is an oppressive feel to the dark muddy swale. Bare dead trees and a few clumps of tangled trees dot the ravine. A vulture sits in dead tree nearby eyeing Pinkertin with a baleful gaze. Elmo says that he thinks this ravine is where the gnolls went, but the rain has washed away any sign. Fennec says we should go in and look around for any sign of the gnolls or the children.
The Paladin pulls his sword and leads the way into the valley. As he approaches a tangled copse of trees, several crows take flight and leave the area. Merric spots some bits of ivory in the mud ahead. As we move to inspect, we find the area is littered with the mixed bones of forest creatures and several skulls and bones of humans. Fennec spots some cave openings along the ravine. Clearly, we have found something here in this eerie spot in the forest.
Fennec channels the power of his god and searches for evil. The paladin informs us that he can sense evil from a cave off to our left, that lies closest to the mouth of the ravine. We make our way up slope and check the opening in the rock. Elmo examines the entrance and tells Fennec that the muddy tracks inside the cave mouth do not belong to the gnolls we tracked. We decide not to plunge into that cave, since our mission is one of rescue, not exploration. Elmo and Fennec steer the party back across the ravine to another cavern opening that lies below a copse of rotted and diseased trees. As we near the cave face, we are suddenly surprised by a ferocious band of kobolds. The shrieking creatures come jumping out of cover of the trees above the cave and attack. We dispatch all eight of the little beasts. We search the corpses and decide to check another cave nearby since there is no signs of gnolls at the cavern before us.
Dugal leads our party to a different cavern complex. We see heads and skulls of men and elves in various stages of decay. The dwarf and paladin agree to lead a foray into this cave. We enter and are swiftly attacked by a band of orcs with spears. We are flanked and another group of orcs attacks us from another passage. I push towards the second group and battle them with my sword to prevent their getting to us in the room and getting a chance to surround us. Luck is with us, and I am able to hold the flank with Elmo with use of both of my sleep spells. We take one orc as a prisoner. In orc, he tells us that Greelax will makes us pay! I interrogate the ugly orc. He tells us that Greelax is their chief. The orc is uncooperative so I drag his bound body outside to work on putting fear into his thick skull. Dugal and Fennec follow me concerned that I will execute him on the spot. Despite my hatred, I need information and I can control my utter contempt in an effort to help rescue the poor innocent children.
I kick the orc several times and pull a dagger. I ask him about a human dressed in red. The dull-witted orc says he doesn’t know any humans. I kick him once more and demand to know where the gnolls are. The orc quickly states that he will tells us about the gnolls if I give my word to free him. I look at Dugal and Fennec and tell the orc that if he speaks the truth and does not try to trick us into an ambush that he will be freed but he should leave the area or face certain death. Fennec helps the captive to his feet. The orcs leads the paladin to another cave. Fennec, Dugal, Pinkertin, and Elmo enter the cave to check for signs of gnolls. Almost immediately, the four encounter gnolls.
After a brief but fierce battle, Dugal returns and informs Merric and I that they encountered 3 gnoll guards. He states that they killed two, but one ran sounding an alarm along the way. The others join us and are suggesting that we leave the area to rest. Outside the caverns Fennec releases the orc and tells him to flee and not to return to the caves. We leave the cave complex and travel North.
We march some distance to the North and then West. We cross over a forested ridge before skirting an area where we hear creatures that Elmo says are bears. In a small sheltered depression surrounded by thick growth we make camp. We change bandages on our wounds, clean our blades, and eat some rations before turning in except for our guard rotations.
18th of Planting 579 CY
We pass through the night without any troubles. Elmo uses his rangering skills to lead us to the caverns without following the trail back that we left from. We carefully move through the woods keeping our talk to low conversation and only if needed. We return to the swale, this time during the day. We move slowly to the gnoll cavern keeping watch for ambushes from the other caverns and copses of dying trees.
Elmo and Fennec lead our group into the rough passage. The gnoll guard room is empty but for dried blood from our last foray. We travel down a passage and can hear gnolls yipping and chittering in a chamber ahead. In an effort to quell as many as I can, I slip up to the edge of room and prepare to cast a sleep spell into the adjacent corner hidden from my view. As I ease forward, one of my companions accidentally bumps me and I stagger and step forward to regain my balance. The nine gnolls look right at me and howl in anger and attack me. I suffer several wounds and my spell is ruined. I fight off the gnolls who swarm me. My companions join battle against the other gnolls and I fear I may fall in battle in this chamber. Blood trickles into my eyes partially blinding me. Elmo moves up along with Fennec and Dugal. One of my foes falls, and I quickly step back trying to close ranks back with my friends.
I manage to cast a spell quickly, and three of the attacking females collapse, evening up the odds in our favor slightly. The battle surges around and as Merric uses a healing prayer on my worst wound, the paladin is struck by a gnoll blade and collapses onto the cave floor! I pull my bow and fire arrow after arrow until the remaining gnolls have been defeated. We bind one sleeping gnoll female and wake her after a quick search turns up some coins and a nice sable fur.
The gnoll captive, Yurp, tells us about her tribe when questioned. She tells us that her chief is Floregg and that he has 4 wives and 2 sons. The tribe numbers around 17 adults and 18 young. We ask Yurp about the door off the chamber and she tells us that it is the armory. We make entry after Pinkertin jimmies the lock. We find some weapons and armor and a barrel. The wooden barrel is leaking and the odor of good ale fills the chamber. Elmo and the halflings decide to pull draughts despite my comments about being in harm’s way. Their actions would never happen in any unit of the Queen’s Army!
The paladin stands in the room weakly urging the trio to stop drinking ale in the middle of the gnoll cave. I get Dugal’s aid and he helps me by smacking the barrel once with an axe and I quickly pour the ale out since I do not trust Pinkertin, Merric, or Elmo to just walk away sober. They all shoot me angry looks and I tell them in elven that fools get the most wise killed with their folly! We decide that with our healing drained and the paladin wobbling around like a newborn fawn and unable to fight that we should leave. We take Yurp with us. Dugal tries to reason with her and suggest she tell us about the human children. Yurp tells us that she knows nothing about human children. We eventually learn that a number of the warriors returned from a raid days ago. Dugal asks her about men dressed in red and she does indicate the cave of the men to us. We again leave the valley. This time we make a fake camp east of the ravine before releasing Yurp.
We set out from our fake campsite and march nearly 3 miles away to the North and West. I ask Elmo to try and cover our passage so that any gnolls or other raiders are not led to our actual planned campsite. The light rain stops and we find a small meadow with a small stream nearby. Elmo tells Fennec that he wants to go off and hunt. He later returns with 3 rabbits for the party to eat. I skip the rabbits as normal and eat a meal of bread, cheese, and berries. We set up our watches without the wounded young paladin. Nothing disturbs us during the night.
19th of Planting 579 CY
We travel West in order to throw off any pursuit. We find a nice hollow a few hours before dark and set up camp. Dugal and Merric tend to Fennec’s wrist wound. The holy warrior looks much better after their ministrations. We light a small fire and set our watches with plans to seek out the cavern of the men that the gnoll female showed Dugal.
During the first watch, while standing guard, Fennec and Merric are startled by a large beast that lumbers into camp. They shout urgent alarms waking all from slumber and reverie. The beast attacking Fennec is a troll! The paladin stands fearlessly against the hideous green-skinned beast. In the next moments the claws of the foul thing slice Fennec along his face and neck and the shiny armored human staggers and collapses at the troll’s feet. Dugal and Elmo charge at the troll while the halflings and I pepper his hide with arrows, daggers and darts. The troll cannot stand up to our combined assault and falls to the dwarf’s mighty axe. Elmo demands we burn the troll corpse, stating they are undying without flames to consume their flesh and bones. I assist the ranger moving the body while the priests tend to Fennec. Pinkertin helps gather wood for a fire for the troll. We burn his nasty smelling carcass some distance from our camp and keep watch for other trolls wandering the area.
20th of Planting 579 CY
We do nothing but rest and allow Fennec to regain his strength after being clawed the night before by the intruding troll. Dugal changes bandages and makes sure the warrior drinks plenty of water to help him regain his strength.
21st of Planting 579 CY
Before dawn we break camp and make our way back to the valley. We approach the cave tunnel that Yurp directed us to. We pass a growth of twisted trees and find ourselves before opening. Fennec grasps his symbol of Heironious and informs us that he detects the strong presence of evil from the cave. Pinkertin cautiously listens at the opening before slipping into the darkness to scout for us. He returns and tells us to follow.
As I enter the darkness of the cave, I can feel the evil. It surrounds us. It is part of the stone. We find a wide passage lit by the light of numerous torches. The floor is worn smooth by the tread of countless feet. This cave is old and has seen many visitors in its time. As we chose a direction we quickly learn that our very footfalls echo noisily and any words seem to carry and amplify. Dugal and Fennec wrap their hard boots with cloth to help quell the heaviness of the footfalls. We decide to enter a side chamber and quickly encounter four humans in robes and chain armor.
I use sleep magic and three of the men fall into a heavy slumber. The remaining acolyte tries to stand against the blades of the ranger, dwarf, and paladin but he is not as skilled and dies after a short but bloody struggle. We bind the three men and strip them of weapons and valuables. We attempt to question them about the missing children but each tries to chant or cast some hostile magic at us instead. They have to be given a quick death since they are zealots and worship some foul god.
We find stairs and decide to travel down. We end up battling a band of eight zombies. It is unfortunate that neither priest is granted the ability to repel the undead. I am used to the elven clerics who can repel them with a holy word. We defeat the slow moving zombies. Further exploration leads us to a cell door. Fennec discovers that the cell is occupied by a woman named Sharna. He can see her shapely legs through the iron bars on the door and the bones of several other unlucky prisoners who have succumbed during their captivity. Pinkertin attempts to pick the iron door’s lock but luck is not in his favor and his picks break trying to open the door. Sharna pleads with Fennec to free her, but he tells her that without the key we cannot aid her. Fennec tells her that we shall return as soon as we can find the key.
We search several passages near the prison. We find a bolted door and discover it leads down to a crypt with coffins. Fennec wishes to investigate the crypt because he believes that they may be a door on the chamber that leads to another chamber where the children are. I point out that a darkened crypt that is bolted on the outside is unlikely going to lead to a chamber full of kids. We chose another passage and find a store room. While we check for valuables, we spot a weird image. Slowly moving down the hall is a slumped skeleton and a small cache of coins. By the time we figure out the reason, the creature has blocked the tunnel off and trapped us in the store room. The glistening creature fills the entire passage and I can make out the edges now and see that is is roughly shaped as a cube. The monster strikes out at Elmo with a tentacle of fluid from its body. I fire several arrows into the creature while Elmo and Dugal hack at its face. We manage to destroy the gelatinous thing. Pinkertin and Merric find some coins and a wand of metal inside the leaking remains.
Fennec leads the band down another set of stairs. We enter a smoky chamber that is lit from several flickering torches. A large human with an axe challenges us, claiming we are trespassing. The torture chamber we find ourselves in becomes the scene of a battle. The torturer cannot stand long against our band. The man collapses into a bloody heap and we find a set of keys on his corpse while stripping him of treasure. While searching the torture room for some makeshift lockpicks from the bits of torture equipment, the halfling points out the row of lavish chairs along the far wall. Some sick and twisted person has viewing parties here watching poor souls being slowly tortured as entertainment. I see the paladin tense up at the thought, and I think we all want to find those responsible right now for some justice bringing.
Fennec leads all back to the cell to free Sharna from her cell. He speaks to her as he is unlocking the door and she tells him she is shackled to the wall too. The paladin rushes in to free her followed by Dugal. Fennec sees Sharna and is transformed to stone! Dugal, son of Eadan avoids the same fate and manages to shout alarm while he slams his eyes shut. Sharna demands to be freed. Dugal tries negotiating with the imprisoned medusa. Sharna tells the dwarf that she can restore our companion but only if she is freed from her bonds and allowed to go free. Elmo, Pinkertin, Merric and I stand in the hallway and we quietly debate whether not we can trust her should she be freed. Sharna tells us that she will keep her word if freed and will return the paladin to normal and leave us all unharmed.
I do not think we can trust her to walk away and not try to kill our party. I am very unsure if she can even aid Fennec. I suspect that it is a lie designed to earn her her freedom. I am more in favor of an assault with missiles while she is still bound to the wall. Eventually we would hit her enough that she would die, even as we fire blindly with our eyes covered to prevent seeing her visage. I tell each of my comrades this and we vote. Merric sides with me. Dugal and Elmo want to free her and trust that she speaks without a forked tongue. It comes down to the rogue. The halfling makes his decision based on a coin toss! What kind of nonsense! I never want my fate decided by his hand and random decision making. He chooses to free the medusa and allow her to help the paladin.
Dugal tells the medusa that we will free her under the condition that she cover her face with a cloth sack so we can all be safe. Sharna the medusa agrees to the sack. Dugal moves forward and places the sack on her head before unlocking her shackles. The medusa reaches into her bodice and removes small bottle and sprinkles an oil over the stony remains of the warrior. Fennec is transformed and is momentarily disoriented. Dugal supports the holy warrior and Sharna moves out into the hallway we have vacated for her. As she passes the spur the remaining party has gathered in, she quickly pivots and rapidly moves on me and snatches off the sack from her head. I believe that I will die! I look away and she approaches me and whispers into my ear. She tells me that she could have easily killed our entire group had we not agreed to freeing her as we did. She tells me that we are weak and she will let us live this time since she gave her word. She turns and stalks off. I finally breathe again and sheathe my sword once the tremor in my hand subsides.
After waiting some time so we do not accidentally run into the medusa making her way to an exit, we climb the stairs and go off seeking Hale’s children, if they are still alive. We find an altar in a pillared chamber decorated in red and black stone. The large altar is stained with blood. We find 4 bronze vessels with symbols upon them at the back of the altar stone. Fennec informs us that the vessels are tainted with evil. We leave them alone.
We walk down a passage and check a portal. Pinkertin checks the door and we enter the chamber and find four men engaged in an evil religious ceremony. The bald headed priests all begin calling evil prayers down upon us. We engage the dark priests in battle. Dugal is blinded by one evil priest casting a blinding light on his eyes. We hack and toss daggers and darts at the robed priests. We dispatch three of the four underpriests of this dark temple. The last priest tries to flee out another passage that leads back out to the hall. I step out and sight the fleeing man and fire two arrows into his back and he collapses dead. Our healers say prayers over our wounded and the paladin uses his healing touch in order to undo the wounds upon our party. The halflings gather up the valuables of the priests into sacks. We observe a number of books on the shelf and a quick look into them and it is my opinion the writings are all treatises on evil worship and dark gods and demons. I suggest we leave them and perhaps we consider a camp and rest to regain our spells and a chance to sleep.
(End of Session 3)