Saturday, July 13, 2019

[Modron Campaign] Adventure Log #4: Murderhobos of Scrubvale

Fourth Adventure: Murderhobos of Scrubvale
Source: Original
Judge: James M.
Dates: 6/13/19; 7/12/19
Location: Northern Brushwood (Region 01: 3910, Modron 4520, 4522)

Characters & Players
Preacher William Winchester (male Human 3rd level Cleric) [Will P.]
Initiate Tsun (male Human 2nd level Monk) [Will P.]
Veteran-Prestidigitator Balule the Elf (male 1st level Elf) [Dan P.]
Gary, Balule’s War-Dog [Dan P.]
Veteran Yarlag the Hideous (male Half-Orc 1st level Fighter) [Dan P.]
Dave, Yarlag’s War-Dog [Dan P.]
Veteran-Prestidigitator Ayers the Elf (male 1st level Elf) [Lew E.]
Warrior “Mighty” Konkeror (male Half-Elf 2nd level Fighter) [Lew E.]
Robber Bernie “The Bounder” Brushwood-Baggins (male Halfling 3rd level Thief) [NPC]

Tales of Adventure
The members of the party were having lunch at Somethin’s Cookin’ when their friend, Bernie “The Bounder,” stopped by and told them about another ogre-hunting opportunity near his hometown of Brushwood. “The Sheriff of Brushwood has offered a 100 gp reward for the head of an ogre that is raiding the countryside near Scrubvale,” he told them. “This one is working with some hobgoblins, which is odd, as hobgoblins aren’t usually found in the area.” After discussing this and other opportunities, the party decided to head out to Scrubvale.

After the great success of Balule’s war-dog on the last adventure, Yarlag decided to also buy one, and they both kitted out their dogs with savage-looking leather armor. As the group was readying for their trip to Scrubvale, Ayres and Konkeror returned from their trip home to the Adderwood and rejoined the party.

The party took the Difring Trace across the Gasconfold Plain to Scrubvale. Slow travel across the near-trackless plain meant they camped halfway there, just north of an area of rugged, broken lands. Ere the sun set they thought they could make out tall, ruined towers in the distance in the midst of the badlands and felt this might be worth looking into at a later date.

Shortly after dawn before the others awoke, Balule and his dog were on watch and espied a hippogriff in the distance, heading right their way! He awoke the others and they loosed volleys of arrows at the hippogriff, who suffered enough damage such that he felt there would be easier prey on the plain than the party’s horses.

The party travelled the rest of the way to Scrubvale without incident and made it in time to join the locals at the local tavern, the “Basilisk & Cockatrice,” for an evening meal and drinks. When the locals found out they were there to hunt the ogre and the hobgoblins they were feted and had not to pay for their meals or drinks.

The locals provided such details as they could about the inhuman bandits. They knew from chance encounters that the ogre did not reside with the hobgoblins; the ogre lived in a cave near the ruined Tower of the Basilisk, while the hobgoblins laired somewhere further south in the Brushwood. They operated by raiding steadings south of the Difring River; they had started out further away from the hamlet but had now worked their way to the steadings nearly within sight of the river, and so the locals had finally been able to get the sheriff of Brushwood to offer a reward, before the monsters started raiding across the river in the hamlet itself!

There was then much grumbling about how they had had to go to the sheriff in Brushwood, for their own bailiff, Malagig, was quite useless, not even calling together a militia to help defend the steadings. “He takes all the taxes, and gives nothing in return,” they complained. “Useless,” others said, “All he does is stay in his manor and party with his cronies and such maidens as he can seduce to his chambers!” When a deputation of elders from the hamlet went to him to beg assistance, he had his men strip them, beat them with sticks, and hied them away covered in horse dung.

As the party listened to the complaints of the peasants, they asked why they didn’t do anything about the less-than-useless bailiff. Sheepishly, the peasants respondent, “Well, the problem is that Malagig is the younger brother of Gakatig, the seneschal of the Duke, and so little if anything could be done!” It had been heard that, being a complete wastrel, he had been given this post as a sinecure, and treated it as such.

As the complaints continued, Yarlag noticed that a figure in the corner, in the shadows by the fireplace, suddenly got up and made his way to the door. Suspicious, Yarlag followed him out and watched as he tried to melt into the shadows of the houses and shrubs as he made his way west, toward the manor of the bailiff. Yarlag quickly followed and ambushed the fellow, smacking his hooded head with the flat of his blade; down he went with a thump. Upon removing the hood Yarlag discovered he was face to face with another half-orc! He quickly patted him down, took his weapons and his pouch, and gagged him and tied him to a nearby tree just outside the hamlet.

When Yarlag brought back the party, they found him awake and trying to break from his bonds, to no avail. They questioned him, and discovered his name was Krann, and that he worked for the bailiff as a “minister without portfolio,” but yes, that included spying on the locals. After sterner questioning with both carrot and stick (coin and blade), he admitted that he was the one who had hired the ogre and hobgoblins (having recruited them from the clans of the Gilring Wilds to the south), at the behest of his master, Bailiff Malagig. To what end he was not sure, but he had overheard discussion with a messenger from the north that if Malagig were to cause chaos in the region, he would be well rewarded.

Having gotten all the information they felt they needed out of him, they let him go with a purse of coins, and watched him flee east, out of the hamlet toward Brushwood, with the promise that if they ever saw him again they would kill him. They then returned to the tavern, where they flopped on the floor for the night.

The next morning a local lad led them to the cave where they believed the ogre slept by day, “for before the arrival of the ogre, there were no sounds from the cave, but now by day there has been a terrible sound of snoring and at times, roaring!” The cave was about a mile south of the ruined Tower of the Basilisk, of which the local reminded them, “Go not to the ruined tower, as you value your lives! Though it is said that great treasure can be found there, it is guarded by the basilisk, and said to be encircled by the stone forms of all who sought his treasure!” And with that the lad hurried back home, not eager to personally witness the defeat of the ogre… or the destruction of the party!

Initiate Tsun was sent to scout out the cave, as he was the most stealthy of the group (not the first time the party missed their good friend, Bernie, nor the last!) When he entered the cave, he discovered it quickly branched into three tunnels, one each north, east, and west, and at their crossway he discovered, to his terror, two statues, perfect of form, one of a human and the other of a halfling, both with a look of terror on their face, looking toward the northern tunnel! He also found a midden pile at the entrance to the western tunnel, and evidence of passage to both the east and west. But he heard no snoring, nor noises of any kind.

He returned to the party and explained that the cave may very well connect to the ruined tower of which they were warned, and that there was activity toward both the east and west. They decided to check out the eastern tunnel first. There they discovered a sleeping cave bear, which awoke upon their approach! The bear raised up its head, snuffled and whuffled at them, and growled… they quickly backed away and hurried to the cross way. They decided that perhaps the bear was the pet of the ogre, and used to trespass by the hobgoblins, and so not interested in bothering them if they did not bother it, which seemed like a very good plan!

They then decided to check out the other cave, and after a short walk they found the cave ended in a handsome new door, very large and of stout oak, complete with a shiny new lock! Curiouser and curiouser! Listening at the door, Tsun heard a terrible snoring within; thus, the answer to the lack of noise in the caves! Tsun picked the lock, and they quietly filed into the large room, where they found the ogre sleeping on a large, rough-hewn bed of timbers and furs, with a chest in one corner and various detritus piled in another corner.
The best ogres are sleeping ogres...
Not believing their luck, they motioned for Tsun to go up and slit the ogres throat… which he did without incident. And the terrible ogre died with even less trouble than Hegrash before, and they knew not even his name. They then looted the room, finding gold and silver and a bag of gems – a bag of eight zircons, the same bluish-purple as they found in Hegrash’s hoard! And so now conspiracy theories began to whirl wildly in the talk of the party as they counted out the loot.

In the end they decided that, since the hobgoblins lived deeper in the Brushwood, in all likelihood they would meet up with the ogre at his lair to go on their raids, and they decided to try to pull off a long con – they would represent themselves as the “new bosses,” sent by the “big boss” to take out the ogre and “take over the operation.” And so, they beheaded the ogre and dumped the body in the cross way, then napped and ate as they waited for night, and the hobgoblins to arrive.

Not too long after dusk the hobgoblins arrived, as expected; speaking to them in Goblin, the party explained the “new arrangements,” and passed out several gold coins, which mollified any questions the hobgoblins had about being led by humans, elves, and a half-orc. They then told them they were going for a “big score,” the leader of the humans of Scrubvale, the bailiff’s manor! And so, the party, with 16 hobgoblins in tow, marched back to Scrubvale, quietly forded the river, and snuck to the manor house. They discovered it was well fortified, with only one visible entrance, and that up a stair, with the wooden bridge pulled away; no real windows only arrow slits, and all of stone until the third floor, which was of stone and wood and wattle and daub.

Fortunately, it was apparent that no guards had been placed outside, for the bailiff was either too secure or too cheap. But how to gain entrance? “Do not despair my friends,” said the cleric. “All places like this have an escape tunnel or three. We just need to find the other end and then we are easily in!” They spread out and searched the area, eventually finding an odd trap door in the floor of the stable. Upon opening it, they saw it led down into a tunnel that headed straight toward the manor house. They filed into the tunnel and made their way slowly and carefully. Tsun, in the lead, discovered a tripwire, meant to warn those within against this very kind of assault. He disarmed it simply by placing bales of hay to either side and everyone carefully crossed over.

The tunnel ended in a door, locked of course, but picked easily enough. They found it entered a “panic room,” filled with go-bag supplies and such, with a door on the other side, obviously of secret sort to the outside. They opened this door and found it entered a well room, with another door on the other side. They passed through this door and found it opened into a long corridor which hugged the outside walls to the left, for they were in the cellar level on the ground floor. They followed the corridor and found three doors before the corridor turned left and ended in a stair up. They listened at the doors; two were silent, but behind the third they heard some sort of chanting.

One of the other doors was easily opened and found to be a supply room; the other was locked, as was the door behind which they heard the chanting (loud enough that no one heard them test the door). Tsun and William went up with some hobgoblins and scouted upstairs, while the others remained below and had the hobgoblins break down the door behind which they heard chanting… and then all Hell broke loose!

The Sorceress is still at large...
For they had burst in on the bailiff and his fellow cultists performing a ritual sacrifice to Set, the ancient enemy of Mitra! There were four cultists – a priest with a snake staff, a warrior-woman, a sorceress, the bailiff (obvious from his description from the peasants), and a maiden sacrifice, all standing before a statue of Set with great gem-stone eyes.

The hobgoblins charged the cultists and engaged with the bailiff, the priest, and the warrior-woman; sadly, for them, they could not get to the sorceress, and after the first engagement she caused many of them to fall into slumber with a spell. But more hobgoblins piled in, as did the party members, and their dogs; Tsun and William quickly returned when the cry of “Setites! Setites!” was shouted up the stairwell. Apprised of the dangers of a priest of Set and the sorceress, William quickly cast silence 10’radius on a stone and cast it into the room, quashing any enemy spell casting.

It then became a whirling grind of blades and staff against blades and teeth; but the party prevailed in the end, with the loss of two hobgoblins and both of the dogs (the last to the poisoned blade of the bailiff). The sorceress had disappeared, though whether she had used an undiscovered secret door or gone invisible during the melee, none were sure. The party was busy looting the bodies and about to check out the statue and altar when the hobgoblins who had been left upstairs ran in…

“Uh, boss! BOSS!”

“What, what?”

“We killed some guys up there!” the hobgoblins smiled, then frowned.

“Yes, and?”

“Uh, well, one of them was holding a lantern…”

“And?”

“Uhm and… and it fell when we killed him.” They nodded.

Uh oh… “It fell?”

“Yeah, it fell… and, uh… blew up…”

“BWOOSH!” the other hobgoblin exclaimed, happily, waving his arms to show how big the explosion had been.

“And… the upstairs is on fire, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, that’s it! The upstairs is on fire!” they both nodded, smiling.

The party looked up as one at the rafters above, and through the floorboards they could see smoke slowly drifting down… and in the dead silence hear the crackling of the floorboards burning merrily above.

Yup
“Out! Out! Everyone out!” they cried, as everyone rushed to the corridor, and then to the well room, and through the panic room, and into the tunnel to the stables. They peeked out of the stable doors and saw the local peasants gathering at the manor on the other side, trying and failing to put together a bucket brigade to the nearest well. Their attention wholly on the burning manor, the party and hobgoblins snuck out the back of the stables into the nearby forest. They had brought with them the bodies of the cultists and the living, walking form of the erstwhile sacrifice, a lovely maiden named Daniena of Brushwood, who had been enticed hither by the warrior woman with promises of joining an adventuring group. They had given her the warrior-woman’s plate mail and long sword, but they had kept the shield, which they had discovered was magical (as was, obviously, the staff, which nearly bit William when he tried to pick it up, but left Konkeror unmolested).

They decided to send the hobgoblins home (they had hoped more would die in the battle and they could finish them off after, but to no avail); they gave them each some coins or a gem from the treasure they found on the warrior-woman but kept the ring and necklace they found on the bailiff. After the hobgoblins left (with the bodies of the priest and warrior-woman “for their victory feast,” the party started bickering about what to do now?

After much debate, it was decided the safest course was to bury the body of the bailiff in two parts so he could not be raised. They would collect their horses and wagon in the morning and go to Brushwood to collect the reward for the ogre’s head. A simple plan. But then, most plans go awry…

They hunker down and sleep, awakened at the roar of the manor house as the burning top stores collapsed into the cellar below; a great ball of fire shot up, visible even from the woods, in the form of a dancing snake. Mere coincidence, of course…

The next morning when they awake they discover that the snake-headed staff now looks like a normal walking staff/quarter staff. Curious, they all think. They then go back in circuitous route to appear to come up from the south to allay any suspicions. They arrive at the tavern and are welcomed halfheartedly. “You have slain the ogre!” people say, but then also lament that they had not found and slain the hobgoblins, for that night they had attacked and burned the bailiff’s manor (feelings were a bit mixed on this, of course).

When the party inquired how they knew it had been the hobgoblins, they discover that though the flames had burned almost everything from the upper levels, the cellar level was mostly spared, and they had discovered the bodies of two hobgoblins therein…

They took the bodies of the cultists but left the two dead hobgoblins! Drat!

The party decided they’d better check out the ruin before any other evidence they left behind showed up. When they got there, they discovered most of the fire was out, having blown itself out when the upper levels collapsed. The found that the two hobgoblin bodies, somewhat charred, had been dumped unceremoniously off to the side, while the peasants were still pulling out bodies and remnants from the cellar, whose walls still stood. There were several partial-bodies, covered with blankets, off to the side, and various items of potential reclaimable value piled nearby.

They climbed the ladder and looked down into the cellar; where they thought to find a statue of Set they found instead… a statue of Mitra! “Set is the Great Deceiver,” Will comments to all, “Obviously, the enchantment I saw upon the statue earlier allows it to appear in different forms. This will not go well for us, if we are discovered!”

They climb down to the cellar and start helping the peasants sift through the ruins. “Any sign of the bailiff?” they ask. “None yet,” the peasants say, “but with that fire, he may have been reduced to ash.”

The espy the poisoned blade of the bailiff, where they left it, too worried of poisoning themselves. Even as a few of them discuss what to do with that, Konkeror looks to his staff, then to the statue; then back at his staff, and again to the statue. Smiling, he steps over and touches the staff to the statue… and immediately the statue of Mitra turns into the statue of Set, and the quarterstaff turns to the snake-headed staff!

The other party members notice this even as the peasants do… “Setites!” the peasants call out. “You are all Setites!” they cry as they run to the ladder and climb out.

“No!” William and Tsun cry out. We are followers of Mitra! It is the statue and staff that are evil!” William and Tsun follow the peasants, with Yarlag and Balule close behind. Now angered beyond reason, Konkeror lassos the statue and tries to pull it down… whereupon it turns into a giant rattlesnake!

The rattlesnake lunges at Konkeror and bites him twice; on the second bit, venom courses into his body, and the half-elf begins convulsing and crying out terribly. His half-brother, Ayres, engages the snake in melee; Yarlag and Balule, on the wall, loose arrows at it. Balule’s arrow strikes it between the eyes; it shakes, hisses, then collapses into stone kin the form of a dead serpent.

Ayers kneels by his brother and attempts to help him with a scroll potent against poison, but to no avail; it is obvious that Konkeror is dying and will very shortly breathe his last. Yarlag sees that William and Tsun have given up following the peasants; he turns to look down at the others and tells them that they are going to have to flee.

“But my brother!” Ayers cries out, “What about him?”

They look down at him, turning black and blue and shuddering, and shake their heads. “If we stay, we may die as well, accused of being a cultist like him.” Weeping tears of anger and sorrow, Ayers says a few elven prayers over his dying brother as the others strip him of his weapons and valuable equipment, then they flee, with Ayers promising vengeance on Set and his minions. His last sight of his brother is of him shuddering in a painful death amidst the ruins of the manor, beside the shattered statue of Set and next to the snake-headed staff…

They sneak into the forest and around to the blacksmith where they had left their horses and wagon. Finding there only a young boy, they pay and tip him generously, the swiftly fell down the road to Brushwood.

They arrive several hours later, hopefully long before any strange rumors (for they had not been passed on the trail), and quickly seek out the sheriff, from whom they receive their 100 gp reward for the head of the ogre. Yarlag and Balule each give Daniena 5 gp of the reward, to help her “get started as an adventurer, especially if you are going to be sticking with us.” She thanks them both, and gives Balule a meaningful smile…

Unsure of what exactly to do next, they stop for lunch at the Tipsy Troll Tavern, on the Difring Trail west from Brushwood, just outside the palisade wall, to decide what to do next… and to keep an eye out for anyone from Scrubvale who might call them out as Setites…

They shall learn why they fear the night...
Treasure Gained
Ogre treasure 1,000 sp, 1,000 gp, eight zircons worth 50 gp each.
Set necklace worth 1,500 gp; signet ring worth 500 gp.
Magical +1 shield from the Warrior Woman.
Warrior Woman treasure 10 zircons worth 50 gp each (given to surviving hobgoblins).
Ayers gets his brother’s magical +1 broadsword and potion of water breathing.
Poisoned blade of the Bailiff abandoned in ruined manor house.
Snake staff abandoned in the cellar.

Opponents Slain or Defeated
Hippogriff of Gasconfold Plain
Nameless Ogre
Malagig the Bailiff
Nameless Priest of Set
Nameless Warrior-Woman of Set
Nameless Sorceress of Set (no body found, still alive?)

Companions Lost
“The Mighty” Konkeror
Dave the War-Dog
Gary the War-Dog
Two hobgoblins

Level-Ups
Yarlag the Hideous advances to 2nd level.

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