Caves

The Bridge
by Dianne Cooper

Why can't I just live a normal life like every other traveling bard in the world? I found myself sitting along the side of the road, everyone one is around and fine. I make my standard inquiries and nobody says much of anything. Lightbrew gives me some story about Countess being overthown and Sage ascending to the throne before he starts laughing. Finally I start getting pieces of the story as we ride.

The collector sent us somewhere south of Waterdeep where there are a bunch of elemental cults fighting for power. It sounds like our 'friend' is behind a lot of this trying to reclaim his lost power. The group has met with a group called the Feathergale knights who are assoicated with the air cultists, some river pirates associated with the water cultists, and have seen a dead earth cultist during a random investigation. I piece together most of what happened and make a few assumptions based on what I know about everybody, and get a general idea of what's going on. Brahm says I may as well wait for tonight for details.

About that time we arrive at Stonebridge, a massive two mile long piece of magnificent dwarven engineering that spans the river. It rises 400 feet over the water and connects the road from Redlarch to Belard on the other side. Unfortunately it's only about six paces across and has no railings. We rode single file, or we did until three people swooped down from the sky and landed in front of us and began to cast magic in our general direction.

We hopped off the horses and charged in. Well, D did anyway. He also nearly got pushed off the side of the bridge in the process. We subdued them and finished off two of the three. I had a thought on the third. Frosty and I charmed him and we got some good information out of him before we had to end his miserable existence.

We learned that Torsk the Lorne, apparently the wagon maker of Redlarch, is a spy for them and informed them where we would be. Also that they don't have many  more prisoners from the delegation. They usually meet up in the craig near the Feathergale tower. The earth cult monetary is just upriver a bit from Grimjaw's keep, and Renwick is their leader. He's a powerful fellow as well.

With that, we rode into Belard and it only occured to me later that we should have asked him what he knew about this group of adventurers that were trying to mess up their plans. Oh well, maybe next time.

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On the Road Again
by Sage Cooper

At dawn we assaulted Grimjaw's keep. It went better and worse than I'd expected. Our entry into the fort was uncontested. Jinney spotted one guard that may have seen us and put him to sleep. Brahm's water walking made entry through the docks a breeze, but I doubt it will work a second time. We decided to take the large ship first since that was where Jinney had heard the most conversation.

I may have tripped over a few items on the dock while climbing up and the guards on the boat were looking for the cause of the ruckus. Ardin charged and cut one down before he could move. Jinney, Brahm and I silenced the second. He yielded under my blade. Two, still below decks appeared and joined the fray. One was a halfling that Jinney had overheard the night before, the other was  a blue man with barnacles for hair. He was a magic user. Three bugbears started raining spears down on us from the cliff inside the fort. I ducked into the ship to engage the two below deck after shielding Ardin.

The blue man teleported past me and escaped, but we captured and questioned the Halfling. He was just in it for the money, but had a little information. A very little. The people at the fort had captured and robbed the Mirimbar members we had found as well as the one the air cultists captured. They had been taken out to the farmer's field to be traded to the earth cult. He figured that after the trade was made, the Feathergale struck and took their captive.

He also told us the barnacle'd man's name was Shalar Quanderil. The cultists also come and go through the keep's gated water cave. It is guarded by some type of undead things. He witnessed a boatload of pirates get dragged under by them for exploring.

We lost a lot of time, and had to leave. The alarm had sounded and I wasn't sure we'd be up for taking on the entire fort and the cultists. Next time. We got out under the cover of Jinney's fog illusion as Grimjaw and his men watched.

After that we headed back to Redlarch. I reported in to Constable Harburk and let him know our plans. We were heading to Belard to investigate before heading south into the moutains, following the delegation's trail.

The next morning we headed out, it was a peaceful ride and it gave me some time to think. I came to the decision to give Dianne a chance at the reigns again. It has been nearly a week now since we came here, and she hadn't seen it at all. If I keep her out of the loop any more, things will get ugly when it eventually happens. There shouldn't be anything to dangerous for the next day or two. The ride so far had been peaceful and no one should be actively hunting us yet. She may do better at gathering information in Belard than I would, and we are in desperate need of information at this point.

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Beginning the Investigation
by Sage Cooper

We traveled back to Redlarch and I decided to report our findings to the local constabulary. He was a straight-forward man, I liked him. He took my report and was willing to accept any aid we could give the area. He has quite a few problems on his plate at the moment, one of the bigger ones being the disappearance of the Merabar Delegation. They were a group of 15 people, mostly scholars, but guards as well. The scholars were archeologists, interested in Dwarven ruins in the area. Their caravan traveled out of Redlarch to Belgard to resupply. From there they backtracked across the Stonebridge and headed south through the mountains along the river. They were supposed to arrive in Womford two 10 days past, but never arrived. I told the constable that we were going out in the morning with one of the farmers to investigate some 'graves' that had just appeared in his one field. Once that was completed we'd see if we could find anything about the delegation.

I then traveled back to the inn to meet the rest of the group. It turns out the inn's kitchen had suffered a fire and we had to go to the tavern across the street for supper. We sat, ate and discussed the information we had and made what plans we could. Then it was time to retire early.

In the morning, we met with the farmer and he led us out of Redlarch. It was about half a days travel to his farm, almost halfway to Womford. True to his story, his field did have four graves. Shallow things, a thin layer of dirt and then some rocks placed on top. It smelled bad and the vultures were circling. We exhumed them one at a time.

The first grave held a male dwarf in artisan's robes. He had a signet ring with the sign of Merabar upon it. He had been killed by multiple arrow wounds.

The second grave held a human woman. She had a black tabard with the Merabar emblem upon it. She had been crushed by some terrific force. A sword lie in the grave with her, it had the emblem as well, but it was chipped as though she had been swinging it at a mountain and twisted and bent as though it had been crushed along with her.

The third grave held a human man. He had a black coat and stone armor. He had been killed with arrows.

The fourth grave held another human man. He wore a white robe with feathers, the attire of the Feathergale Knights. He had also been crushed. The arrows that were recovered were similar to the ones used by the Feathergale.

Jinney examined the field while we looked at the bodies. She found the whole area had been a battlefield. Broken arrows, lances, torn fabric lay scattered about. Footprints were everywhere, however only four sets walked into the area, and none left. It seems we had found out what happened to at least two of the delegation. We decided to follow the footprints entering the area and see where they had come from.

The farmer allowed us to stable our horses and make camp in his fields for the night. So we set out and followed the tracks as far as we could before we needed to turn back. This area was starting to get close to the Feathergale territory, we could see their spire on the horizon.

We made camp at the farm for the night and set out early the next morning. We took the horses this time to move a little faster. The tracks were in two sets of two. The leading set held the dwarf's prints. The others were difficult to differentiate. They led us back to the river, more specifically, a keep along the river.

The keep looked old and in disrepair, but someone was working to repair it. Jinney snuck up close and checked things out. The footprints went right up to the front gate of the keep, there were bandit-looking guards about and a white banner with a blue gauntlet hung from the battlements.

Brahm, Mandrak, and I rode up to the main gate while Jinney and Arden watched from the shadows. We talked a little with someone hiding behind an arrowslit. We introduced ourselves and told him we were working on an investigation for the constable of Redlarch. He claimed not to have seen anyone in the area recently. They were Grimjaw's men, a military unit set to fight the piracy taking place on the river. Womford was nearly overrun with river pirates.

We continued on our way and met up with the others further up river. He was lying. We decided Jinney should attempt to gain access and see what she could find under the cover of darkness. So she spent the rest of the day watching their guards and figuring their patterns.

She made a successful infiltration and recovered some papers from the now desecrated chapel inside the fort. She also overheard some talking about dwarven texts selling for 30 gold, and the cultists paying well for their cooperation.

The documents were from the Cult of the Crushing Wave. They believe in the 'awesome power of water' and all living things should have their trapped water freed. Their leader is a Gar Shatterkeel and he has some special 'holy' weapon that is tied to something called the Alhydra.

We began planning our next assault on the keep. Clearly something was going on in there, and it wasn't good. At the very least the cultist need to be stopped, and the pirates need to stop pirating. There are more people in the fort than we were comfortable assaulting at night. During the day most of them head out on boats leaving the fort much more vulnerable. However, then we don't have the cover of night to hide our approach. Brahm has an excellent plan to with his Water Walking spell, we can just stroll in the boat dock area. The cultists will be put on alert as soon as they discover their documents missing, so we need to go in before that happens.

Our best bet looks like a raid at first light. The pirates were drinking and celebrating last night, we'll need to use the aftereffects of that to our advantage.

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Trouble at Redlarch
by Sage Cooper

Redlarch is not a large town, but it has all the necessities. On the way to the town we tried to figure out our next move. We knew both the knights and the black earth cult were fighting over some noble woman. The knights were taking to Queen crazy, but we didn't know where she was. We debated looking for information at the monastery, but we weren't sure what we could find there. We decided to gather some news at Redlarch before deciding on a course of action. Jinney and I stopped in at the blacksmith to pick up some new armor, she tried to haggle, but the blacksmith's daughter was quite the negotiator. While we were doing that, Brahm went to get a haircut at the barbershop, Mandrake checked out the inn while Ardin watched over the horses.

Brahm picked up a strange tale in the barbershop/tavern/oddities store. It seems one of the local farmers has had four stone graves appear in the middle of one of his sheep pastures overnight a few days ago. He's doesn't know what happened, who did it, or anything and he is really worried about it. No one else in town gives it much regard. Brahm offered his and our services in investigating. The farmer's land is a day's ride out so he agreed to meet us in the morning. At the tavern, Mandrake was talking to the innkeeper. She was offering 50 gold for someone to investigate a 'dark presence' at Lance Rock, a large out of place stone about 5 miles from town. Since we were going to help the farmer in the morning, we decided to check out Lance Rock tonight. I debate about Dianne again for a moment, but this might turn out to be Blade work. She would have to wait until afterwords.

We mounted up and rode out to Lance Rock. The local story claims that a green dragon tore the rock from the Sword Mountains and dropped it on a rival red dragon to kill it. Once we arrived I called upon the power of the light to reveal darkness in the area, and there was an undead presence not far. A cave system, with a painted sign outside some sort of 'Beware the Lord of Lance Rock' message. It sounded like he was afflicted with some sort of disease, if he was some kind of undead that was trying to sequester himself away as to not hurt others, he may be able to be reasoned with. We might be able to come to some accord. That was not the case. The caves were filled with zombies and skeletons… some just… weird. I began to doubt my initial assessment of the 'Lord of Lance Rock'

Eventually we cornered him in a cavern that also held what he called 'the eye'. It was a cylindrical floating rock, glowing with a purple light and a slit that resembled a cat's eye. He had built some sort of pedestal/fence around it, as he was paranoid about it watching him. The guy was a crazy megalomaniac, building up his court. We gave him multiple chances to repent and turn himself in, but he would refused and so he was destroyed and sent to final judgement. His body was actually consumed in a black flame and a wail of lament. That usually isn't a good sign. Blade business accomplished. We looked through his belongings, and Jinney found his treasure stash, Brahm found his books on his 'craft'. We burned those. Mandrake found a glowing orb and Jinney picked up the guy's wand of magic missiles.

We tried to figure out what this eye thing was that he was so scared of, but didn't have much luck. The Lord of Lance Rock claimed it couldn't be moved. When I touched it, the eye slit vanished and it was just an ordinary floating rock. Brahm tried to move it with his hammer, nothing happened.

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