‹Recap for Session #4 (played [remotely] 4/11/20)›
Aching from the poison still in his system and the wounds he’s suffered, Thron Greenman is finally ready to agree with Martinique, suggesting the party try to leave the exploded tower’s catacombs. Everyone else concurs. They’d found the girl. They’d acquired lots of treasure (including the 400 seemingly worthless lead coins which they split among themselves). There is nothing left to do. Their only worry is if the stone blocking egress is still in place (the noise Thron had heard the night before seemed to suggest it isn’t) and that Zotzpotz might badger their attempt to leave. While the imp has so far been unable to defeat them, the reverse is also true.
Half of their worries are well-founded. As Rollo Snow leads the way toward the entrance, he enters the main antechamber to see the block has indeed receded. However, before the rest of the team can join him and Nora Darhk in that room, they all hear the tell-tale high-pitched laughter of the imp. “I won’t let you steal the prize for my infernal masters!” he chides. Alston, ever the heroic gnome, steps in front of Erilyn and draws the magic dagger they’d found. The imp appears nearly in the bard’s face, its tail’s stinger flicking out and catching gnome in the cheek. Momentarily able to ignore the burning poison that flushes his face, the gnome strikes out with the fine dagger, and between skill and luck and some magic at work in the dagger, Alston feels the creature’s flesh give way like warm butter before his blade. Zotzpotz shrieks in an ear-splitting register and starts to reel back. Meanwhile, Erilyn hurries away from the fracas, dropping one of the necromancer’s journals she insisted on keeping, as she juggles the books and a torch at the same time. Nora decides this is her moment to grab the book back, ducking out of the doorway to do it and allowing Thron to run past her into the antechamber. For a moment, Alston fears his companions are abandoning him, even as he gritting his teeth and shaking off the poison’s effects, but then Rollo comes barreling through the door. In one quick motion, the barbarian catches up to the reeling imp and sinks his axe into the tiny creature. It shrieks again, “What a world! What a world! I just wanted to foster wickedness! Is that so bad?”
Zotzpotz tumbles out of the air and slams into the wall, melting into a goopy tar and disintegrating into black acrid smoke. Its howling diminishes to a squeak and then a whisper until all that is left is stain on stone wall. Before their eyes, something falls from where the imp had been, tinkling on the floor as it grows from a tiny glint into a large two-finger ring sized for a human. The gold ring is stylized to look like an unfurled scroll rolling back on itself and is etched with arcane runes. Alston snatches it up. Erilyn says she recognizes it as one of Elzid’s prized possessions and that he sometimes whispered to it.
The party takes a moment to be amazed at their success against the imp. “We didn’t even have to bring it to the banishing circle,” Nora says. Between Alston’s magic dagger and Rollo’s brute strength (with a little luck on top), they had finally destroyed the foul creature responsible for Elzid’s death and presumably the tower’s explosion. Eventually, the journals would help them put the story together. In the meantime, they make their way out of the dungeon level of the blasted tower (the block sealing closed behind them once again) and emerge at the top of the hill. It is late in the day, but it is hard to tell how late because the sky is so grey and a constant misty rain whips across the fens. The four adventures and the young woman they’d rescued hurry over to where their camp and they find Lertol breaking it down. As they had never discussed how long he should wait, and they’d been gone a day and a half, he’d decided it was too dangerous to wait any longer. Nevertheless, the guide is happy to see them alive and that they had rescued Erilyn as well. He starts setting up camp again so the party can rest before they head back to the village at the crossroads and report their findings to Loren the Sage.
Grateful for his show of loyalty, Thron decides to tip their guide using one of the lead coins they’d found. As he hands the coin to the man, the druid notices how it glints differently now. Lertol’s eyes light up with a glint of their own as he takes a gold piece from Thron’s hand. It turns out that all of the lead coins they found were now made of gold! Whatever illusion was on them had faded away as they were taken from the grounds. What would appear to robbers like weight not worth carrying off was rather a worldly prize!
Early the next morning they set off—their spoils packed atop Muffin the Ox—but progress is slowed by waves of cold rain and deep mud in places they had walked easily just a few days earlier. Finally, Lertol lead them to a higher elevation, climbing a steep brush covered hill in search of a drier spot to make camp and in hopes of getting a better view of the mist-covered landscape. As they near the crest of the hill by following an old hunter’s track, however, they can hear the approach of multiple booted feet in hurried march up the hill from the other direction. They can not see who is making the sound, but whoever it is moving pretty fast and is wearing armor. Rather than be caught out on the trail, the party split up. Alston, Erilyn, and Lertol pull Muffin behind a large bush, while Rollo takes point behind some brush further down on the same side of the path. Nora and Thron hide behind piles of rocks on the other side.
As they scatter, they whisper to each other to remain hidden, hopefully they can let whatever it is pass without being noticed. Unfortunately, Rollo’s rotten luck striks again. Up the path come eight soldiers in tight formation, two by two. The stench of rot preceding them. They are mostly skeletal, with chunks of rotten flesh hanging from their bones and desiccated organs visible under scraps of chain armor. Some hold swords and shields, but most wield spears.
At first it seems the skeletons will go by without seeing any of them, but as Rollo tries to creep further around a bush to avoid being seen as they pass, he steps on a twig. The undead rearguard stop and turn in his direction. The barbarian’s companions do not hesitate to come to his aid, as he struggles to get out from under the clinging brush. Alston’s singing voice rings out, calling to Thron in a chant of life-affirming confidence as he rushes out at the distracted skeletons. At that same moment, one of Nora’s arrows flies out tinging uselessly off a skeleton helm, but Thron is most successful. He runs out into the center of a group of the tightly packed skeletons and calls to the divine storm with the holy words, “BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!” A wave of thunder emanates from his clapping hands and two of the skeletons are driven back, falling to the ground. Another two keep their feet and place, but their bones began to crack from the force of nature.
The ensuing battle is hard fought, but the adventurers prevail, even though once again Thron finds himself near death and on the ground. Luckily for him, he must be getting better at shaking it off because he comes to quickly and without aid. In the midst of the fight, Alston notices that the skeletons wear silver pendants with Elizid Natholin’s sigil upon them, like the other skeletons they’d fought. With a flick of his rapier, he snags the pendent off one of them and is disappointed when it seemed to have no effect on the skeleton’s murderous demeanor or animated state.
Rollo is the most impressive, however, destroying skeletons left and right with mighty swings of his great axe.
“We could have all stayed hidden and let you take care of it!” Nora quips.
They find more silver pendants on each of the skeletons, so they take them.
Lertol finds them a campsite some distance from the fight in case the sound attracts anything else’s attention, but the night goes by without incident.
Early the next afternoon, they arrive at Crossroads-Below-Agrona.
As they approach, Lertol expresses a desire to stay on as the party’s henchman and guide as long as he won’t be expected to fight. He askes if they might want to buy out his contract. The adventurers find this confusing until Lertol explains he is a slave and then they are really confused. In the Republic of Makrinos, slaves are owned by the state and contracted out for use by private individuals or public institutions. Lertol dismisses Alston’s furrowed brow as he explains that “Slavery is civilized here. It is not like chattel slavery in other parts of the world! I’m not owned by any man. I am owned by the state and can purchase my freedom whenever I want. I can own property. I can even sue a master if I am mistreated!”
We can only imagine the party members’ further confusion if he had gone on to explain that he even still gets to vote, because that would have had to include an explanation about how a representative democracy works that might have been beyond Lertol’s ability to explain or theirs to understand.
When asked why he wants to join up with them Lertol explains that he appreciated the gold they gave him and with enough he’d be able to buy his freedom and retire early. “If you’re satisfied with my service, you’ll never find a better guide for these parts.”
They say they’ll consider it, but Thron is already making the case for taking him on.
Erilyn agrees to let the Loren look at the journals and she makes her way home by herself. The bent old sage is delighted that the party has returned and insists they tell him the whole story of their travails right away. He asks countless questions but serves them a delicious meal to share while they talk. During this talk the party negotiates changes to their agreement with the sage. They will forego their reward of 60 gold pieces and he will identify any magical items they found. They also agrees that he’ll hold on to spellbook they found as none in the party could use it, but that should any of them decide to take up wizardly ways or a wizard were to join their group they can return and copy spells from it. He will also find them buyers for some of the loot they found (even though he cannot not promise the best prices given the small size of the community). Lastly, Loren will serve as a mediator between the party and the local prefect in order for them to take over Lertol’s contract. They’ll have to pay 15 gold piece a month to the state for his services and be responsible for providing him “adequate room and board.” Furthermore, they sign a formal pledge to not exploit or mistreat Lertol under penalty of law and explain that they understand that he has the right to refuse orders that would break the law or endanger himself or others.
For the next few days, the adventurers enjoy some relaxation. They spend time drinking in the common room of Sarruh’s Rest while availing the patrons with tales of their heroism and rescuing Erilyn. Alston makes some tips from performing his songs and everyone gets to know some of the regulars along with the family that runs the inn. They were also invite to dinner by Erilyn’s family who are as grateful to have her back as they are still angry with her for courting a necromancer. They are also condescending to the gnome, scared of the barbarian, freaked out by the tiefling, and unsuccessfully pretending to not react to the druid’s smell. Erilyn’s parents offer the party their lifesavings, 25 gold pieces, as a reward, but the party politely turn them down.
On the night before they are to continue onward for Saltmarsh, Nora, Rollo, Alston and Thron (who, as it turned out is on his way there too) gathered at Loren’s house. The sage explains to them what the various magical items they found did and what they were. The magic dagger is called “Swatter” and had been forged by a gnomish wizard 900 years before. One wand casts shocking grasp, but another is a fraud, covered in a false dweomer. Thron decides to keep it anyway. The two-finger ring is one of the fabled Rings of the Pretender, but it is nearly exhausted of the magic power stored within. Loren speculates that this ring is how Zotzpotz was able to do things like charm Nora and make the statue appear to come to life, since those powers were not typical for an imp (as far as he knew). Unfortunately, they will need to find a wizard to refill the spells before the ring can be put to best use.
The silver pendants found on the undead are enchanted to re-animate Elizid’s minions, but it only work for undead the necromancer made himself. If the adventurers had not taken the pendants from those skeletons, for example, in 24 hours they would have slowly reknitted their bones and continued to prowl the swamp.
The party arranges for the sale of a few of the objects they found, including the pendants, and pay for half of Lertol’s contract upfront, promising to send the rest at year’s end.
Loren also explains that in looking through the journals he did find evidence for Elzid Natholin’s change of heart because of his love for Erilyn, but also plenty of evidence of his evil ways. He says thast some of the more recent entries point towards the necromancer’s increased paranoia about his own familiar, his dissatisfaction with the untrustworthy creature, and concern that Zotzpotz had been messing with his experiments. It is this final point that leads them to conclude that the imp had orchestrated the explosion that killed his master. Loren also says the books are full of blackmail material about local families, and he wants to hold on to them for safekeeping so the information could not be put to evil use. The group agrees. As with the spellbook, Loren promised to share any more useful information he gleans from the journals as he examins them more closely. He also explains other things, like the brooch they found (and that is worth too much to properly sell in a small town) could be one said to have been worn by the legendary Bride of the Lich, and the tapestry warriors who guarded the treasure room were long dead warrior cursed by the necromancer to serve his will.
The next day the party sets off, finally able to arrange for a ferry that brings them across the flooded regions before marching another three and a half days through nearly constant rain to Saltmarsh.
The town of Saltmarsh sits on the bluff-like shores of the Shimmaré, an inland sea, fed in part by an estuary. Lertol tells them more about the place during their travel. The town itself is home to about 2000 people, not including the homesteads or dwarven community to the north and east of it. Its primary resources are fishing and lumber, but it also serves as a hub for trade for places further south or inland.
They approach in dimming afternoon light. The rain had stopped, but a gray gloom is spread out across the Shimmaré with small breaks of dying sunlight stabbing through to the surface of the slate colored water and revealing swirling blue-green where it touched. The road down to the town gate allows them to get a decent view of the town and how it is spread out at different levels of the bluffs in clusters of mostly wooden buildings. The gate is in a western wall built between two bluffs to limit access to the town by armies or monsters. The wall is crumbly, old, and weather stained, however, and Rollo mentions how he doubts it could stand up to a concentrated assault.
As they approach the gate two guards in studded leather and helmets cross their halberds to block passage through.
“Hail and well-met! Who approaches Saltmarsh at this late hour?” one of them calls out, looking at them with suspicion. After announcing themselves (Nora being sure to keep her tail tucked beneath her cloak and her horns beneath her hood) and explaining what they were in town for— Rollo for work, Nora to meet a business associate, Thron looking for an old friend, and Alston just coming along to learn about the world—it is clear that the guards were looking to have their palms greased to let them by. Alston is able to use his charm to persuade the guards to let them in, explaining how he is collecting stories for use in his tales and songs and he is sure these guards had lots of stories to share. Flattered, the guards offer to meet up with him later—recommending the party stay at an inn/tavern called The Snapping Line—and regale him with their stories if he bbuys them some drinks. The gnome agrees enthusiastically. The guards also say they are often at the Wicker Goat, a tavern patronized by the townguard, so he can find them there as well. Reminded that weapons are to be kept put away (or peace-knotted) while in town, the party enter and walked the half mile from the gate to The Snapping Line.
From outside tavern they can hear the revelry of fisherman celebrating the bountiful catches of the last few days.