- Having defeated Cidum, the heroes create a pyre for their fallen friend, Krehir. Kore also chops up Cidum’s body into very small pieces.
- They explored the ruins. It appears to have been a holy site for worshippers of the primordials. From what they could tell of the remaining artwork, it depicted the Dawn War (where the Gods overthrew the Primordials). They rested there overnight and went to visit the hags the next morning.
- As they arrived at the hags’ camp two hags, Hiarn and Gwyddwen, were busy preparing a ritual. The third hag, Trilleste, arrived with a young girl in tow. The girl matched the description of Morwen. Upon seeing Morwen, the two hags became upset. It looked like Trilleste planned to replace one of the coven members with Morwen. Hiarn and Gwyddwen yelled and argued with Trilleste, but when it looked like they wouldn’t be able to sway her they resorted to violence, attacking Morwen. Seeing the young girl in danger, the heroes joined in the fight. Hiarn and Gwyddwen both called for help from their lizardfolk and an ogre in the nearby tents.
- Trilleste watched for a few moments, then said she’d had enough. She conjured a portal in a nearby tree and departed.
- Hiarn and Gwyddwen were finally forced to surrender once all their allies were defeated. They claimed Trilleste was behind their allegiance to Cidum. They’ve been making potions for him, using his blood as one of the ingredients.
- Morwen, the young girl from Celaneddog, whose town has been destroyed.
- A coven of hags
- Trilleste, the Crone. She has been training Morwen in the arcane arts for seven weeks, ever since Cidum gave the girl to her.
- Hiarn, the Maiden. She’s an Iron Hag, able to change people into animals.
- Gwyddwen, the Mother. She’s a Briar Hag, able to bend plants to her will.
A chance encounter
- After getting the potions from the two hags and warning them against crossing their path again, the heroes set out to Blackfork. Once there, they rested overnight at the home of Selu.
- In the morning, they departed for The Slumbering King, one of the Four Kings, to see what they could learn there. The trip should take three or four days in each direction, depending on the travel conditions.
- Two days later, they came across a small workcamp. It appeared that human soldiers in the livery of Blackfork were directing slaves in clearing trees from an area. Most of the slaves were human, but there was a half-orc among them, as well as an ogre. It wasn’t clear whether the ogre was a slave.
- Kore was spotted by one crossbowman, and his attempts to look inconspicuous failed. The soldier alerted the others, including the ogre. Combat ensued, with a second ogre and a few more soldiers arriving once they heard the commotion. The battle proved difficult for several of the heroes – Gwil found herself on the receiving end of an ogre’s attention, and Beld spent much of the fight entangled in a barbed net – but eventually the heroes prevailed.
- Most of the slaves had run off during the fracas. In questioning the two who had stayed, one claimed to have previously been at a workcamp similar to this one. There, they had cleared a large area and build a log building, a long, low structure of uncertain purpose. When asked, he also said that he had seen a few goliath slaves at that camp, but he did not know what had become of them. These two slaves had been taken by soldiers of the Baron Coluddyn near Meadowbrook; one was snatched up on claims that he was trespassing on the Baron’s estate while the other was arrested after he bested a soldier at cards and the soldier claimed he was a cheat. After speaking with the heroes, the two slaves departed for their homes, thanking the heroes for their rescue.
- Throck, the half-orc slave, proved a valuable ally in the fight against the soldiers and ogres. His urgrosh seems little worse for wear after having been pressed into service as a woodman’s axe.
- Morwen seemed reluctant to directly engage the soldiers. After the fight, as they lay near death, she went up and quietly spoke to a couple of them before dispatching them.
- The group continued their travel toward the Slumbering King. The following afternoon, fierce winds and threatening clouds heralded the approach of a great thunderstorm. Sensing its impending arrival, Beld and Gwil guided the group to a large cave. After Valeran inspected the cave, particularly its ceiling, and declared it safe the group took refuge inside. Throughout the remainder of the afternoon and into the night, the storm raged outside.
- By morning the storm had subsided to a constant drizzle. Seeing no prospect of better weather on the horizon, the group wrapped themselves in their cloaks for warmth and headed out to continue their long walk to the mountain. By late afternoon they could vaguely sight the Slumbering King off in the distance, its peak shrouded as always in dark clouds. They soon spied a small village that lay on their path, and they went to see what information they could learn from the people there.
- Arriving in the village they quickly realized it had been hastily abandoned, or had befallen some abrupt demise. Vendors’ stalls stood in the town square, boxes of rotted vegetables sitting on top. The incessant rain caused the fountain to overflow, and water troughs held growths of algae. A large wagon had been abandoned in the middle of its unloading; stacks of boxes strewn at its base. As Gwil and Throck approached, the ambush was sprung as orcs leapt from hiding behind the wagon. A surprisingly fierce battle ensued, but the orcs were unprepared for the party’s might and soon fell.
- Kore climbed atop the wagon and noticed a lone orc darting into the mill. Following it, he entered the doorway of the building and quickly realized that there were far more orcs here in the village than just those already dealt with. Retreating, the orcs following Kore and a pitched battle occurred on the street in front of the mill. Orc archers in the mill’s loft opened doors used to load the mill’s products into wagons and rained down arrows from above, only to Valeran’s Lightning Lure pull them out. Beld and Morwen stayed further back, taking cover and using ranged attacks against the archers. Throck, Kore, and Gwil the orcs directly, eventually bringing them down save for a lone archer who made a run for a small stairwell in the back of the mill. Following him, they found him struggling with a half-opened secret door. Throck dispatched him, and a quick peek into the passage behind the door revealed that it lead downwards to a tunnel, eventually disappearing into darkness.
- Interrogating the lone surviving orc proved a little difficult as only Throck spoke their native tongue (Giant). He was able to ascertain that the orcs were from the Meadowlands far to the south, and were led here by their leader, Curoch, who is the chief warlord of the barbarian horde that is fighting the King’s Army. He claimed that there are 200 orcs at the Slumbering King, many of them with potent magics. He also claimed that Curoch was a god, perhaps Jukuru reborn in flesh, who was leading the orcs to reclaim lands that were theirs long ago. Once they reached the end of the interrogation, the group had little choice but to dispatch the orc.
To the Slumbering King
- After some discussion the heroes decided to explore the tunnel beneath the mill. It led beneath the streets of the town for a few hundred yards until it ended at a north-south passage. Not far to the south, a cave-in had closed off the passage. The passage to the north, in the direction of the Slumbering King, showed signs of recent reinforcement and use. The heroes turned in that direction, walking for several miles, before they came to a large storage room.
- The storage room was a natural chamber that had long ago been enlarged and whose ceiling had been reinforced with wooden beams, now dilapidated and crumbling. The heroes searched the barrels, finding a large quantity of cured meats and potable water stored here – well more than would have been needed to sustain the handful of orcs they had so far encountered. As their search neared completion, a group of orcs crept to the other side of the door on the far side of the chamber. The orcs attempted to ambush the heroes, but hearing their approach the heroes were able to prepare. After a difficult battle largely fought in the narrow confines of the hallway just behind the heavy doors, the orcs and the ogre berserker accompanying them were defeated.
- Glia continued to frustrate Valeran, quickly pocketing the few coins they came across on the bodies of the orcs.
- At the culmination of the battle, when the orcs were down to their last combatant, Morwen passed up the opportunity to capture the orc and allow Throck the chance to interrogate the orc.
- After the battle, the heroes completed their search of the chamber and continued down the corridor. After walking another couple of hours they came across a small side passage. After seeing that it continued on for some distance, they eschewed it in favor of continuing along the main corridor. Although the passage was blocked by a heavy barred door, Glia made short work of it. Shortly after the passage ended in a small stairwell leading upwards.
- Glia and Kore crept up the stairs while the others lagged slightly behind. They arrived in a large room where they discovered a sleeping orc. Glia gestured Kore closer. Arriving at the sleeping orc he delivered it a quick blow that quieted its snoring. A few minutes later they realized the orc was dead. They searched the room to discover that it was also a large storeroom full of food and weak wines. On the far side of the room was a stairwell leading up, which the heroes took. The next floor up was divided into several large rooms, each full of sleeping orcs. Glia and Kore made their way around the rooms, dispatching the orcs. One room contained a heavy door, barred from this side, which Glia opened with great difficulty.
- The door led outside, where a quickly-setting sun cast long shadows across a number of tents nearby. Before she could see more, a large troll turned and looked into the building the heroes occupied. Seeing the halfling and recognizing she clearly didn’t belong there, the troll charged. A few minutes later, the troll lay dead on the floor. The heroes quickly closed and re-barred the door to prevent the discovery of their intrusion by those outside, and continued up to the next floor.
- The stairs led to a dining hall full of tables, occupied by orcs playing at cards and dice. Seeing the multitude of foes in the room, the heroes struck quickly before they were discovered and the orcs could react. As soon as he realized what was happening, one of the orcish leaders yelled for someone to alert the seer and light the beacon, but as orcs ran to follow those instructions they were cut down by the heroes. Just as the battle in the dining hall winding down, one of the orcs made it into the adjoining kitchen. Following him, the heroes reached the kitchen just as the tumult drew the attention of the remaining inhabitants of the tower – the last few orcs and their apparent leader, a beholder gauth.
- The battle against the beholder proved challenging, as he repeatedly dominated several of the heroes. Meanwhile, Glia was struck by one of his eye stalks’ death rays, in danger of succumbing, even as Throck was in danger of bleeding out from the numerous wounds he had suffered at the hands of the orcs and the beholder. But Gwil was able to aid Throck while Beld tended to Glia, and eventually the tide of battle turned against the beholder gauth. Finally, Morwen was able to bring it down with an eldritch bolt.
- The heroes took a moment to catch their breath, then continued upstairs to what proved to be the roof of the tower. Outside, in the cool night air, they saw a large number of campfires. Taking a quick count, Valeran and Kore estimated that there must be at least 500 orcs camped in the vicinity of the tower, with the possibility of many more concealed by the surrounding hills.
- Morwen seemed very pleased with herself at felling the beholder, much to the annoyance of Throck and perhaps others.
- Upon seeing the massive number of orcs in their camps at the base of the Slumbering King, our heroes decided they needed to leave, both quickly and quietly. The underground passage from the recently abandoned town that led northward to the basement of this tower seemed the safest option, and so they returned to that passage. They secured the door that led to the small side passage and continued on to the abandoned tower. Before reaching the storage room where they had previously fought, they came across a small patrol of two orcs. Dousing their own lights, they waited for the orcs to near and then dispatched them.
- Reaching the storage room, they topped off their own provisions and then moved to collapse the room. Stacking the barrels around the deteriorating wooden support beams for the ceiling and dousing them with oil, they left the room save for Gwil, the fastest among them. She set fire to the two stacks, then ran to rejoin the others. The continued on their way, double time, intent of getting as far away from the passage as possible before they could be discovered. A short time later they heard the deafening reverberations of the roof collapse behind them.
- Upon reaching the end of the underground passage, just as the sun peaked above the hills to the east, they decided that it was unsafe to stay in the town lest they risk discovery and so they continued walking while they discussed their destination. With the difficulty of moving so many orcs north of the Gwynedd River without discovery, they decided the Baron Coluddyn was most likely complicit in the orcs’ presence and they should expect no aid from him. Farmington, the capital of the kingdom and the property of the king, was the next closest city but they knew no one there. The Baron Greenspire would be far more likely to be receptive to their warning, and so the decided they would return to Stoneroad and speak to their own Baron. Eager to avoid attention, they decided to forego warning Blackfork and to catch the Gwynedd River just east of Millston. This would take them back through the twisting maze of valleys, further reducing the chance they would be detected.
- In the late afternoon, our heroes finally decided they were far enough away to risk sleep. Sheltering in a cramped cave they set watch order and finally took a much-needed rest after having been active for a day and a half straight. The next morning they continued their journey. While passing through one of the valleys, they were set upon by a group of manticores. Although they were able to kill almost all of the manticores and drive off the few survivors, the events of the past few days have left our heroes utterly exhausted.
- Waking the next morning, our heroes continued their trek to the south. The next day, they encountered the welcome sound of the Gwynedd River and shortly thereafter spied the great river. A welcome sight, the road along the river would prove far easier and quicker travel than crossing over and through the winding foothills. The heroes turned west, towards Stoneroad, and hopefully, home.
- The following day, some few hours outside Millston, they heard noises coming from the nearby woods to the north. Taking caution, they soon saw a group of five halfling riders mounted on hyena. Nearing the party, the halflings charged at our heroes without provocation. As the battle was joined, several of the heroes noticed that the halflings had something odd about them, some small facet of their appearance that was not quite right. As the fight wore on, they uncovered the source of this oddity – these were no halflings, but goblins disguised by an illusionist. The goblins would prove no match for the heroes, however, and just after dusk our heroes entered the outskirts of Millston.
- Having taken one of the goblin riders prisoner, they concealed him in a blanket rather than risk exposure while still inside the barony of Coluddyn. Unfortunately, the blow to the head that had rendered him unconscious was perhaps heavier than intended, leaving hear comatose. The first guard they came to asked many questions, but Valeran was able to confuse and irritate him until they were allowed passage. Finding rooms at a local inn, they finally had the opportunity to catch some much-needed rest before departing early the following morning.
- Arriving in Stoneroad two days later, their prisoner still quiet, they quickly set about their plans. Valeran and Gwil took the goblin to the Baron Greenspire’s estate to provide a full report on what had transpired. Glia set out with Morwen on a private shopping excursion, while Kore went in search of dwarves hoping to find information on his clan.
- The Baron was not present at the estate, but his son and heir Stafford was present. After speaking to the guards and leaving the goblin in the care of the Baron’s physicians, Valeran and Gwil were granted an audience with the heir. During this audience Valeran recounted all the events that had transpired since they left Laston in the company of the druid Mwgu, but fearful of possible repercussions for their well-intended but still somewhat suspect handling of their mission to “escort the druid to Stoneroad” he altered some few minor details to make it sound like most of the decisions were his alone. Hearing of the orc army and agreeing that the Baron Coluddyn was likely complicit in their presence, Stafford asked the two heroes if they were willing to do anything to protect their homes, loved ones, and their kingdom. Upon hearing their agreement, Stafford knighted the two, swearing them into his personal service. He then swore them to secrecy, less a general alarm bring whatever conflict is coming to a head before the Greenspire Barony could lay in preparations. Stafford instructed them to leave for Laston first thing in the morning, carrying messages to be delivered to the towns they would pass through along the way. These messages would instruct the towns to quietly begin fortifying themselves for what could come next. Once back in Laston, they would do the same.
- Kore, meanwhile, was able to catch up with his old friend Goran Claysmith, another dwarf of his clan. Goran told him that the fighting had been incredibly fierce, and many warriors in the clan had been injured or killed already. Seeking to withdraw from the front lines, once their initial contract with the King expired they chose to take a different contract, one that sounded like an opportunity to nurse their wounded back to health in relative safety by virtue of being far from the front lines – a contract with the Baron Coluddyn, in which they would help secure the territory of Blackfork while the Arlain Cidum was serving on the front. Upon hearing this, Kore decided that the needs of his clan outweighed any obligations he might have to the town of Laston and his cousins there. Writing letters to his companions, he departed a few short hours later for Blackfork with Goran.
- In the morning, the heroes received the letters from Kore explaining his sudden departure and wishing them well in their travels. Valeran and Gwil also received packages from their liege, swords and badges that were signs of their newly-granted knighthood.
- Her shopping successful, Glia gifted Valeran with a small leather pouch. Embroidered on its side in dwarven script is the saying “Adversity is the forge of great men.” Opening the pouch, Valeran learned it’s a Bag of Holding. An attempt to apologize for her past teasing of the swordmage, or perhaps a sign of growing affection?