[Note: the cleric was still working on a name at the time of this session, hence the references to “TBD”]
Having eliminated the rodent threat to the community of Fairweather, our intrepid adventurers settled into the business of enjoying the spoils of becoming local celebrities. Unfortunately, Bran the halfling fell ill soon after the Fairweather incident and eventually succumbed to a severe case of Rat Fever. [DM note: Bran’s player opted to create a new PC rather than continue using a pre-gen] Before he died, he passed on the Eye of Night into the bard Fletcher’s safe keeping. Having exhausted the supply of free drinks in Taggart’s End, Fletcher and Trog the barbarian moved on in search of new adventures and more grateful peasants.
A few weeks later they arrived in the somewhat larger frontier town of Hadler’s Gap. Trog celebrated their arrival by going on an unusually fierce bender and disappearing entirely. [DM note: Trog’s player was absent for the last session] Fletcher, having run out of both coins and companions, inquired with the local leadership about the possibility of employment. After a few days, he was called to the home of Amzel the Sage, one of the town elders. There he was introduced to Keaton (a human mage) and [TBD] (an elf cleric of the God of Light). Amzel had summoned them together to ask them to investigate some strange occurrences in the area.
Over the last few months, the residents of Hadler’s Gap had noticed an unusual change in some of the area’s creatures. It was well known to them that a community of kobolds as well as a large ogre lived in the hills to the east of town. Other than the occasional stolen sheep or keg of beer, for the most part they lived in harmony with the town. Lately the acts of theft and violence had begun to escalate and people were reporting that the creatures had undergone bizarre physical changes. The reports varied from the fairly mundane (patches of red scales) to the highly unlikely (six arms, breathing fire, etc.) The ogre had recently destroyed a wagon full of beer heading for the town, but luckily none of the guards had been hurt. Amzel charged the adventurers with destroying the ogre, disrupting the kobold tribe, and identifying the source of the physical and behavioral changes.
Before leaving town, the party stopped briefly at the caravan office to get more information. They were told that the ogre exhibited unusual behavior, even for an ogre. He was talking to himself and experiencing random violent outbursts. Despite his known affinity for beer, he opted to destroy the shipment rather than steal it like usual. It was also noted that his skin had strange dark patches on it.
The general location of the kobolds and the ogres was well known to the townsfolk, so the party had no problem with locating a large cave leading into the nearby mountains. As they approached, clouds gathered overhead. The clouds rotated counter to the prevailing wind pattern and bore a slight purplish hue. Despite this ill omen, the heroes pressed on into the cave where it was immediately obvious that they had found the lair of the ogre. The creature was in fact at home and the party could overhear it talking to itself as they approached. “Logbrag STRONG! Not weak! He not listen to voices! Not go with you!” As they approached they observed that the ogre’s skin had turned black and he was covered in bleeding pustules.
As the party began to converse with Logbrag, Keaton demonstrated his mastery of the enchanting arts and successfully charmed the creature. Logbrag told them that the voices had come to him a few weeks ago and wanted to make him a slave. After a brief and confusion conversation that was interrupted many times by the voices in Logbrag’s head, Keaton came to the conclusion that his charm spell might not hold much longer. The group convinced Logbrag that were some good targets for smashing outside his cave and sent him on his way before things could get ugly.
Continuing further into the cave complex, the group entered a large natural cavern dotted with stalagmites and stalactites. They fought off a flock of stirges after sacrificing a few pints of blood and moved along through a passage leading farther into the mountain. The stirges that they killed seemed to be suffering from the same physical corruption as the ogre. The party then entered another chamber and eliminated a nest full of massive glowing beetles without much incident before continuing on to another corridor.
Worried about more fire beetles, they dimmed their lights for a moment to see if any more glowing beetles would reveal. This played perfectly into the hands of the darkmantle who had been seeking to ambush them from above. When the lights came back on, [TBD] and Fletcher could only see a sphere of darkness where their companion Keaton had been a moment earlier. Strangling sounds emerged from the darkness. The mage was eventually able to free himself from the darkmantle’s stranglehold and defeat the creature, but it was too close of a call for his tastes.
Shortly after the darkmantle attack, the party entered a very low cramped chamber and stumbled upon a kobold skeleton grasping a small chest. They extracted the chest from the low room and found it to be unlocked. Inside there were numerous coins, ropes and grapping hooks, and four finely crafted dolls. Suspecting trouble, Keaton wisely sat down to perform a detect magic ritual before proceeding. As he conducted the ritual, the dolls animated and leaped upon the poor wizard. They managed to get in a few good punches before being reduced to splinters.
Having exhausted all of the obvious ways forward, the party backtracked and investigated the ceilings of the previous caverns for someplace where a grappling hook might come in handy. It wasn’t long before they found one and began climbing up into a hole of the ceiling of one of the earlier caves. Reaching the upper corridor, the group was quickly ambushed by a group of kobold guards who were wiped out almost immediately by a burning hands spell. The kobolds were observed to have physical corruption as well, with all of the kobolds having unusual red patches of scales covering parts of their bodies. Additionally, each one carried a gold pendant in the shape of a three-fingered hand.
The guard post turned out to be stationed next to a quickly flowing underground river. There were many stalactites that could be used as handholds to cross the river, but it turned out to be a challenge nonetheless with the cleric nearly drowning in the process. Eventually all three heroes managed to cross the river and found a small chest of coins (clutched in the hands of a submerged and very dead human) along the way.
After taking a quick break on the far side of the river to dry their clothes and bandage their wounds, the group continued forward down one of two passages. Their keen eyes identified a tripwire connected to a net trap before they could set it off. They decided to turn the tables on the trap-setter and coated the ground under the net with oil, set off the trap intentionally (by hurling the body from the river into the room), and waited for guards to arrive. The net came down with a loud clatter and sure enough several guards arrived to investigate. They were soon immolated in the oil. The remaining guards, along with their trained dire rats, were also dispatched soon after. The corridor turned out to lead to what seemed to be a training facility for the rats but did not continue further.
Heading down the only remaining passage, the party found themselves in the kobold’s main residence on this level. The kobolds defended their home fiercely and appeared to be better equipped than the previous guards. The leader proved to be some sort of spellcaster and severely damaged the heroes with a blast of flame as well as a series of magic missiles. It was a difficult fight that could’ve gone either way, but the kobolds were eventually defeated. Keaton took possession of the creature’s wand.
Several interesting items were found in the kobold leader’s chamber. First, a rare and probably valuable (but non-magical) book written in an ancient tongue. Second, a courier bag covered in magical writings. After some examination, Keaton and Fletcher agreed that whatever magical protections had once guarded the bag’s contents had probably been disabled. Inside they found a piece of a broken sword wrapped in cloth and a scroll tube containing the following note:
[TBD] the cleric sensed a vague aura of evil coming from the piece of blade but nothing more specific could be learned about it. Investigating the far end of the kobolds’ home, the group found a small raft that could be used to further explorer the underground river. Since the area seemed secure at the moment, they decided that this would be as good of a place as any to get some rest and recuperate before continuing further into the mountain.