As Endwinter approaches, a coughing sickness has entered into the pastoral town of Laston. Even the town’s healer, Ione Harborough, has taken ill. Brother Simon, the local priest, has asked some of the older children in town to go talk to Auntie Elspeth, a wise woman who lives off by herself on the far side of the Sun King. We also got to meet Mayor Corliss, who likes Valeran (of course) and Gwil, but probably thinks the town would be better off without the rest of you rapscallions.
Leaving their home behind, our intrepid and resourceful heroes set out. Thanks to the guidance of the goliath Krehir and some good old-fashioned teamwork, they have made good time in reaching Auntie Elspeth’s valley. Their journey was not without peril, though.
First, Kore and Gwil each developed a bit of a cough that drew some concerns. However, both have since rebounded nicely and seem recovered. As long as they don’t relapse, as has been the concern with many of the townsfolk who’ve gotten ill with this coughing sickness, they should be fine.
A mysterious stream presented a bit of a mystery. Krehir and Kore both found themselves unable to stop drinking from its ice-cold waters, but Gwil could see no magic at play here. What could drive them to drink so much of the water?
As evening approached, the heroes searched out a cave to shelter them overnight against the cold winter weather. Their cave proved to be inhabited, though, by cave fishers, who tried to snare young Valeran for a meal later, but the group was able to kill the insects.
They awoke the next morning to find boggarts in their cave, trying to sneak away with their provisions. Two boggarts were subdued while two others were easily driven off. After a brief conversation on the definition and application of the word “sharing”, and perhaps some crying on the part of the boggart Skipjot, the fey goblins were sent on their way.
The next challenge was found at a ford on a small river. While crossing, Skekrad the river troll appeared and demanded payment for passage. After a couple of quick attempts to negotiate yielded no results, our heroes were forced to drive off the troll through combat. Although they succeeded in crossing the river this time, they may still have to contend with that troll on the trip back home…
October 21, 2010 18:00
Having reached Auntie Elspeth’s valley, our heroes learn that she’s recently treated a boggart who lives south of Laston of the same coughing sickness that holds their fair village in its grasp. They put together various bits of information – the common sickness of the villages and the boggart, the alluring freshness of the mountain stream they passed the day before, and the fact that those tended to in the church (fed by Brother Simon’s well) recover until they leave – and determine that the source of the sickness must lie in the Gwynedd River. For the change to have come upon the town so quickly, there must be something upstream of Laston polluting their life-giving river. The party helps Auntie Elspeth out with hunting and odd jobs before staying the night for a much-needed rest and then setting out early in the morning. Auntie Elspeth gifts them each with a thick honey potion with healing properties for their upcoming journey.
Our heroes travel west, turning north of the Sun King and hoping to catch the Gwynedd River upstream of Laston and locate the source of the pollution quickly before returning home. Although they’re miles from the area where their previous encountered took place, they run into Skekrad the River Troll again. After a very brief encounter, the river troll finds himself in a terrible position and has to choice but to surrender to our heroes. In return for a handful of gold, Skekrad promises to no longer trouble those who travel his river.
Continuing their journey, the party reaches a clearing where they hear the sounds of a river nearby. As they make their way through the clearing, they are waylaid by a trio of boggarts who drop nooses from the trees while other boggarts race from the woods. During the ensuing battle, the boggarts claim our heroes are trappers. After a difficult battle, the heroes finds themselves victorious, having slain most of the boggarts and taken one prisoner. Questioning the survivor, a hangman boggart named Noggin, they learn that the boggarts’ food supply has been threatened by trappers. They see the traps the boggarts have collected and notice that they bear the crafter’s mark of Harvel Hardek, the dwarven smith in Laston. They warn Noggin against further attacks but spare him. In return, he directs the heroes to a small stream that carries a foul, oily substance into the Gwynedd River – the apparent carrier of the pollution. Now our heroes turn their gaze upstream. What could be the cause of the Gwynedd’s befoulment?
October 28, 2010 18:00
Following the polluted stream north, the group came across a number of tracks. Although they at first took them for boggart tracks, Gwil realized that there were the mark of not boggarts, but their malicious goblin kin. While stopping to rest overnight in a clearing not far from the polluted stream, the group’s rest was disturbed when a goblin hunting party attacked well before dawn. Taking cover behind the rocks and other obstructions, the goblins used their ranged attacks to their benefit but still proved unable to defeat our heroes. As they surrounded the final goblin several heroes realized they had once more exposed themselves to the polluted water. Sure enough, within a few hours, both Kore and Valeran would begin to cough, having succumbed to the foul water.
Questioning the lone surviving goblin, our heroes learned that the goblins were brought here by their leader, a crafty goblin named Prak. Promising a fortune in abandoned dwarven gold, he lead a number of goblins up into the High Valleys in search of the derelict dwarven fortress.
Since arriving, the goblins were forced to repair pipes in the stronghold, then sent out to gather food for those who remained inside. The prisoner bargained for his life, offering up the only bit of remaining information he had that he thought the party could use – the path the second goblin hunting party would take. After letting him flee to the South, the party set out to the spot their prisoner had described, to set an ambush for the second hunting party where they would cross the stream.
The dawn ambush proved fruitful, and the smaller hunting party proved no match for our well-prepared heroes. Continuing along the stream, they shortly thereafter came to the dwarven stronghold – a stone edifice jutting from the side of one of the countless mountains, whose entrance was guarded by two goblin sentries. Despite their efforts, he group’s attempt at a stealthy approach was heard by the sentries, who spring into action. Badly outnumbered and responding to this new threat instinctively, the sentries failed to raise an alarm (an old cowbell placed inside the door of the stronghold) before they were defeated. Thus our heroes were able to enter the abandoned dwarven fortress without those inside aware of the approach.
Once inside the fortress, the party realized that the goblins have explored the stronghold only fleetingly. A couple of rooms off the main hallway of the fortress serve as their sleeping chamber, but many of the rooms show little sign of having been searched recently. Throughout the fortress, a low noise can be heard, echoing through the stone walls and floors.
Following the torches that light the main hallway, as well as the signs of the goblins’ recent travel, our heroes came to an elevator. Showing signs of recent repair, the elevator leads both up and down. Light could be faintly seen from down below, and the noise is louder here, so our heroes descended on the elevator to the floor some sixty feet below. Reaching the bottom of the elevator shaft, they discovered what appears to have been the results of the first to test the newly-repaired elevator – an unsuccessful test, based on the size of the recent stain on the floor. Ahead of them stood a set of closed doors, and inscribed above the doorway in dwarven letters the phase, “Beware, for Herein Lies the Furnace”.
Opening the doors revealed a large room where a quartet of goblin furnace-workers toil to keep a large contraption working. Unlike Brother Simon’s well-cared for decanting apparatus, this contraption seems cobbled together hastily and shows numerous leaks. A large wooden platform, with pipes snaking through it, sits atop stilts built around a corral. Inside the corral is the source of the furnace’s heat, a pair of fire beetles. On the far side of the platform stood a goblin fire-slinger, carrying a number of small clay jars surely filled with some incendiary compound. The ensuing battle proved difficult, with our heroes suffering a number of serious injuries before they were able to overcome the fire beetles and the furnace’s operators.
November 4, 2010 18:00
Having defeated the furnace workers, our heroes took a moment to catch their breath and assess their situation. After some discussion, they decided to disable the waterworks that run through the furnace room. After turning several valves to disrupt the flow, they heard some slight change in the grinding noise that permated the fortress.
Our heroes then opened the doors leading east from the furnace room to discover a cavernous chamber. The grinding sound dominated the chamber, so loud that even normal conversation was difficult. Metal platforms lined the walls, slowly spiraling they way down to a central platform with an eight-foot diameter hole in its center some fifty feet below. Just below that platform lay a pool of dark, oily water, its stench nauseatingly strong. On that platform was Prak, Goblin Mechanic, and two goblin assistants, all tending to a strange mechanism. A winch wound with chain sat on each of the platform’s four corners, with each chain leading up along a metal pole mounted on the platform next to it. After passing through a loop affixed to the top of its pole, the chains passed down into the large hole cut in the platform. The entire room is lit by two large sunstones, incredibly bright, resting on pedestals on the central platform.
The heroes attempted to move stealthily around the ramps and platforms to reach Prak and his assistants. Luckily, the sound of the grinding machine drowned out the noise they made as they approached and the steep angle of the light source hid them from view. They encountered two goblins making repairs on leaking pipes and dispatched them quickly, followed by two more who were busy making repairs on one of the ramps between platforms.
As they reached a lower platform, several of our heroes burst into action. Glia nimbly jumped from her platform to the central platform some ten feet away and twenty feet below. Rolling to cushion her fall, and letting her momentum propel her into Prak, she struck the first blow in what would prove to be a difficult battle. Following in her lead, Krehir also made the jump to the central platform while our other heroes continued making their way around the platforms to close the distance to the goblins who are apparently behind this foul pollution that threatens Laston.
As the goblins and Prak worked to defend themselves they also activated some device laying in a heap next to them. A few seconds later, a rusty golem rose from the pile. Although of unknown manufacture, the golem showed signs of recent repair by the goblins. While the goblin assistants tried their best, they were unable to withstand the blows of the heroes and quickly fell before them. More goblins arrived to swell their ranks, but these too were unable to stand against our valiant heroes. Prak and his golem proved much more capable, with both dealing a good deal of damage. But the healing powers of Beld and Gwil helped mend those injuries, and eventually Prak was struck down, leaving only the rusty golem to hold the field of battle. Despite its prowess, the rusty golem would eventually succumb to the massed might of our heroes after being pushed off the platform into the water and making its way back to the platform.
After the battle, the heroes turned the winches to raise the device from the water, discovering that a strange drilling contraption hung from the four chains. The drill stopped automatically when raised from the water, and a minute later the water began to recede from the room. After a few minutes, the group could see into the drill hole. On the east side of the bore, a brick wall collapsed as water trapped on the other side pushed its way out, revealing a long-lost passage. Deciding they needed to rest and recuperate after their long day, our heroes disable the drill but lowered it back into its hole, then secured a room where they could rest for the night. They also found a book, written in dwarven, on the body of Prak. The book talks about the history of dwarves in this region and mentions the rapid exodus of the dwarves from this stronghold. Apparently Prak believed that they must have abandoned treasure during their departure, and discovering this drilling chamber thought they had perhaps buried it here, leading to the goblin’s attempted excavation.
The next morning out heroes set out, refreshed, to explore the tunnel that goes east from the bore. Lowering the drill and using it to reach the tunnel, the entered the small passageway. The tunnel continued east for some distance and then branched, although both branches appeared to continue mostly eastward. Taking the branch that went slightly north, our heroes found a large chamber. They entered the chamber only to realize that it held a large presence atop a ledge above the passage they entered from. As soon as someone made movement back towards the passage, the large figure erupted into action. With a mighty bellow she brought a massive foreleg down on the ledge, collapsing it and closing off the heroes’ escape route from the chamber. As the ledge beneath her fell she flew from her perch to land near the surprised heroes. A mighty dragon, her scarlet scales glinting in the light of the party’s sunrod, she turned to our heroes and bellowed a challenge:
“Who dares to disturb the resting place of Minrath, the Furnace?”
November 11, 2010 18:00
Our heroes, confronted by Minrath, the Furnace, introduced themselves and explained that they hailed from a town whose water was being fouled by the goblins. Minrath also complained about the goblins, specifically that they had disturbed her long slumber. Gwil, realizing that dragons sleep for many reasons, including while their eggs mature, noticed tiny claw marks on the stalactites, far too small to have come from Minrath herself.
Kore made several attempts to suggest that perhaps they could help out the great dragon, but Minrath seemed disinterested in his offers. The one prospect that seemed to please her was the possibility of a hunt – since our heroes had defeated the goblins, perhaps having her children use them for hunting practice would be a good learning opportunity for the newly-hatched dragons. As they discussed this, the sounds of distant but nearing flight could be heard coming from another nearby chamber.
During this conversation, Glia remained silent. Having crept into the room, Minrath seemed unaware of her presence. Taking advantage of that situation, she searched about the room looking for another exit for the heroes. Eventually, she located an old door similar to the one they had used to enter the room and managed to open it from this side. The tunnel appeared to link up with the one they had used to gain entry into this chamber, and was far too small for Minrath to squeeze through. Signaling the others, she ran through the door, drawing the attention of the dragon with another sunrod.
Beld summoned his spirit companion on the far side of Minrath as a distraction and several heroes made a run for the door. Minrath made an effort to stop them, swinging about a great foreleg and buffeting them with a massive wing as they slipped past her. Although they all reached the door, it was not without injury – even the lightest of blows from such a great beast could to be enough to fracture ribs and break arms. As our heroes escaped out the tunnel, they paused for a second to catch their breath, confirm this tunnel led back they way they had come, and heal up from the injuries Minrath had inflicted upon them as they fled. They could not take long, though, for they heard the sounds of pursuit from Minrath’s offspring behind them.
Our heroes emerged into the drill room and began trying to raise the suspended drill to block the tunnel. However, the dragons began to emerge too quickly. A hatchling the size of large dog became wedged in between the drill and the roof of the tunnel as it crawled though, preventing the drill from rising even as it crushed the hatchling. But more hatchlings were quick to follow, accompanied by a much larger wyrmling – evidently the prize of the clutch.
Realizing that they weren’t going to be able to prevent the dragons from entering the drill chamber, several of our heroes readied attacks as they emerged. Several of the hatchlings were killed outright by Gwil’s radiant burst and Valeran’s skillful blade, but the wyrmling managed to reach the platform and breathed a great gout of flame. This was quickly followed by another fiery blast as the young dragon’s attacks proved potent. Krehir, Valeran, and Glia engaged the heroes in melee combat, while Kore, Gwil, and Beld made their way around the great spiral staircase of platforms that lined the walls of the drill chamber.
Eventually, a heavy blow was struck against the wyrmling. Where a grown dragon would have responded with another fiery blast, the wyrmling could only muster up a small response. A few seconds later, Kore landed a particularly damaging blow, causing the wyrmling to abandon the drill platform and fly up to the platform upon which Kore stood. The dragon ripped into Kore, knocking him unconscious. As the dragon turned to face Beld, the nearest threat, a javelin from Krehir managed to bring the beast crashing to the floor of the drill room, dead.
Securing the drill back in place as best they could, our heroes then left the dwarven stronghold. After searching, they determined where the fouled water was reaching the stream that ultimately fed into the Gwynedd River. The stream did seem to be clearing, which was confirmed as they began the long walk home to Laston and found the Gwynedd River itself.
Arriving in town late the next day, the group received a well-deserved heroes’ welcome when they explained their success in eliminating the goblin’s threat to Laston. Despite the death of a few of the more elderly townsfolk, the village had been spared from a dire fate by our heroes’ action. The tale of their glorious journey was told many times, until night turned to morning, and will surely be told many times again.
And as we close this first chapter in the tale of our heroes from Laston, several questions remain. Will Minrath, the Furnace turn her scaly gaze towards our fair town? Does the presence of goblins so far north portend a threat to Laston itself? And what of the War – how fare our loved ones so far removed from home?