THE KNIGHTS OF GRIFFTON
Still reeling with excitement at defeating a monstrous beast and heartsore with grief for lost comrades, the party begins to gather loot and consider the predicament of Rand. Among the more curious goods is an Ioun Stone, Ivory Wand of Curing, Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, an iron Ring of Maniacal Devices, a knight’s pennon of parley, a Cowardly Crouching Cloak and fur-lined Boots of the Winterlands. During this inventory, the group also takes the opportunity to explore the room more completely. Gfedcba peered through the keyhole of the only unopened and presently locked door in the room, noticing a series of jail cells. While searching the coinage strewn about the room, Fraas and Sentinel notice that a corner of the room feels curiously cold compared to the rest of the chamber. Aven, swift swimmer that he is, plunges into the central pool and comes up with a key and a very magical copper Ring of Sustenance. Zinnaerris uses the key to open the way to the jail cell room, but all she and Gfedcba find are frozen corpses, tattered clothes and pick axes. Aven spends ample time examining the clockwork aspects of the trap on the main door. Fraas, with Zinnaerris’ and her sword’s help, begins collecting pieces of the dragon corpse, included several teeth, ribs, femurs, blood from its heart and bits of brain. Tahgen rides his griffon up into the hole into the ceiling reporting back a very large chamber with very large tunnels, presumably a whole second series of dungeons for the dragons to roam about.
Using Zinn’s Dragonsbane Longsword’s ability to speak to the recently dead, the party questions the dragon: “Who made the clockwork trap on the main chamber door?” “Zorian, a gnomish woman” “What is causing the cold spot in the corner of the room?” “It became that way five years ago” “Where does the hole in the ceiling lead?” “More chambers and to the mountains, to the mountains”
At Tahgen and Colwyn’s request, Aven collects Gareth’s body from the icy pool and the group takes their leave; the order of the griffon returns to their lodge to bury Gareth, the rest returning to town with the ice-encased Rand.
The party returns to Archibald’s through the portal, and after discussing with Archibald, decides to simply cover Rand in blankets and scuttle him to Quinnia’s temple. Shah and Aven head off to take care of their own business and the ever perceptive Bork, who was remaining in town, notices the swaddled body and rejoins the group in their solemn march to the temple. The cleric makes a sad shriek upon seeing Rand’s body, but promises to use her skills to keep him from growing rot. She also promised to send word to anyone who may be able to help, and mentioned there are druids in the woods that may have at least reincarnation abilities. The group ponders the possibilities of Rand coming back as other than he was: a dwarf perhaps, a kobold, maybe a talking airship?
While heading back to the tavern, the group notices citizens stopping to bow and watch. Bork tells the group to just ignore it and keep moving. On the way up to the suite, Bork hands each member of the group a scroll sealed with the mark of Lord Garland. “The dragon has played us.” Everyone hastily opened their scrolls, fearing the worst, but were stunned to find that they have all been bestowed upon the title of Knights of Griffton. Draugarlond had heard of their defeat of “one of his enemies,” the White Dragon and had honored them with titles for the effort. Only Sentinel’s scroll differed from the rest, wherein his parchment entitled him to farmlands north of Griffton, hereafter known as the barony of Sentinel’s Reach, which would be presided over by Baron Sentinel — “The Iron Baron.” Further, Sentinel alone was now allowed to venture into the North townships. The scroll addressed to Rand remained unopened, suggesting that Lord Garland did not yet know of Rand’s demise.
Desiring more answers the group went to the room at the inn where the Wyrm’s emissary was staying. Not finding him there, the group looked around town, eventually ending up at the magistrate’s where the emissary was just finishing up a meeting. The emissary confirmed that the White Wyrm our heroes defeated was indeed an enemy of Lord Garland’s, and that they had been monitoring it, yet unable to discover where its nest lay. Although, he thanked us for our duty, he did not seem particularly pleased with Sentinel’s newly allowed access to the North. When pressed about the Wyrm’s whereabouts he told the group that Draugarlond was actually in some kind of competition for a mate, but if not successful may never return to the mote. Finally, the group also asked the emissary about possible avenues for helping Sir Rand. He mentioned that the Elven Druids and that they now reside in the west woods, and that he would contact his people to see if a resurrection spell could be prepared and let the party know the next morning. The group took their leave and spent the rest of the evening debating the finer points of “the resurrection” versus “the reincarnation” of Rand.
A MESSAGE IN THE NIGHT
That night the group took turns sleeping in their suite, yet on the final watch of the early morning, a knock at the door. A hooded Colwyn in the roughspun brown garb of a woodsman, quickly enters and presents Sentinel, Fraas & Shah with a letter:
I apologize for not having written in quite some time. Things here have taken a turn for the worse, and the dread curse which has afflicted me for these five long years draws nigh to claiming me. Durri and Archie seem to have avoided the worst of it, and Jack, well.. you know The Amazing Jackmerius Stringfellow laughs at curses.
Though you have no reason to trust or help me, I must beg of you a favor. It involves my son and the Wyrm which names himself King of this mote. As you are well aware, Draugarlond is sworn to protect Griffton. What you may not know are the terms we agreed upon. When I first encountered him, and we negotiated, he offered to guard the town for the duration of my life. I sensed that this deal might not be so favorable, so I asked that he extend his protection through the end of my infant son’s life. He agreed, and added one more term, a secret one, on top of the agreed-upon tribute of livestock and gold. He asked that I venture into the caverns and tunnels below the surface of the mote and find a passage to what he called ‘the heart.’ It seemed very important to him. The adventures the six of us experienced here were born of that agreement I made, and I offer my belated apology for the deception.
Lord Garland visited me in my bedchamber last night, and he was wroth. He called me craven for not keeping up my end of the bargain. He described in great detail how he would slay every adult in Griffton the very moment my son passed from this mortal coil, and there was a menace in his voice which led me to believe that this would happen sooner rather than later.
I realize that you have your own life to live, and your own family to watch over. All I ask is that this letter finds its way to an order of knights errant I once encountered, well-known on the motes o f Certh, called the Fellowship of the Crow. They owe me a favor, and will send knights to take down the green menace. With Tahgen’s help, they have a good chance of success. Ask that they swear vows never to reveal this secret arrangement I made with the Wyrm — I do not believe Tahgen deserves that burden. And please do not risk the folk of Griffton in this matter. Keep this secret safe.
Lastly, for what it’s worth, we are still very sorry. You will have my unending gratitude, if only from beyond the grave. And Jack still owes you that favor.
Thank you for everything, my captain.
Ober 1, 394 A.R."
Colwyn makes a quick exit while Sentinel, Fraas & Shah awake the rest of the party and head down to their most immediate potential source of answers, Archibald Bush. Archibald starts by admitting to knowing more about the tunnels and begins to relay to the group a bit more context. Years ago Thellan had led himself, Sieffre, Jackmerius, Durri and a woman named Elin into the mote’s tunnels, where they had traveled down a spiral staircase into an underground mausoleum through a cursed gate. All he remembered from there is a magical darkness, screaming, and Elin not making it out. Archibald suggested that Thellan’s poor leadership was to blame: “You don’t charge blindly into a dark place demanding to know what’s there,” he stated, solemnly. Lastly, he mentioned that the tunnels had closed to him five years before, as the group noted, the same time the cold spot appeared and that Zidan had taken Taghen’s son from the north.
THE REAL JACKMERIUS
That morning the group checks in with the emissary and he states that a resurrection spell is possible but that his people would need some time and some not so trivial financial compensation. The group left him with a deposit and then decided to make their way to Jack’s tower, to see if he had further information about what this letter contained.
Smoke plumed from Jack’s chimney, and the group was relieved to see that he was home and in high spirits, something they had come to not expect from Stringfellow of late. After some typical confusing banter, Fraas hinted at what the group had uncovered and Jackmerius immediately led the group up a magical rope into a lavish extra dimensional parlor room. Jack began with an apology for his intentionally confusing “help” recently and the group began to hear from the real Jackmerius for the first time. After the explorers showed him the letter from Colwyn, what followed was an unbelievable amount of information:
- He mentioned that several years ago, his adventuring posse, led by Thellan had explored the beach caves, which led them to the tunnels. He, as solemnly as Archibald, told the group of Elin, how she was a mage, and Sieffre’s lover, which made it now clear what Thellan’s betrayal to Sieffre had meant. Thellan had been overeager, and Elin was dragged away into the magical darkness by whatever foul creature resided across the cursed gate. He confirmed that the tunnels had started changing five years ago and also mentioned that the portals connecting the passages to various locations on the mote where crafted by Gaëlle Nolwenn, a powerful wizard known to the old adventuring band.
- Letting Zinnaerris be his apprentice was the favor Sieffre had eventually asked of Jack, although what it was in exchange for “was private.”
- Fraas asked him to help with the mapping of the dungeons. Jack made one major correction; the path Zidan had told the group that led to the north actually led to dungeons of fire. He amended the map to reflect the correct route north.
- He did not seem to know anything more about the clockwork nor the writings that Aven had found in the submerged clockwork lab.
- The emissary in town is named Galerion, and is definitely Lord Garland’s son. Jack believes he is the one under Garland acting with extra initiative against the group.
- He confirmed the existence of his daughter who is living in the north. She is a simple craftsmen of wooden artwork, married to a gentle man, with whom she bore a son (and is pregnant with another child.)
- Yannick is Archibald’s brother, and they are both part devil — tieflings. Bork and Zinnaerris seemed to already know this fact. He said that Archibald is trustworthy, but Yannick should be approached with caution, as he is resourceful, but often at great cost. He also hinted that Archibald’s missing hand, eye and leg was due to the dread curse they encountered in the tunnels.
- Jack thought that the Elven druids and the blight in the west woods are somehow linked. He also noted that Varian, the person Sentinel is seeking, was not actually with them, but was last seen leaving Belheim, heading south into the tunnels and is possibly still somewhere on the mote.
- He remarked that an evacuation plan for Griffton citizens was a reasonable response to Draugarlond’s threat, although he suspected the Wyrm would not sit idly by.
- Jack seemed troubled by our victory over the White Dragon. He said her name was Noreth and that her mate was indeed a foe of the Green Wyrm, and had recently been escalating attacks against Belheim. The White Wyrms live in the mountains and had an army of minions including frost giants, orcs, drakes, winter wolves and direwolves. Jack did think, however, that the White Wyrm was taking orders from higher up.
- Jack knew of Lord Garland’s departure from the mote and told that his fight for a mate was much more than just that. It was a fight with his brothers for influence with a leadership council of dragons. It was also remarked with curiosity that Draugarlond prefers his elven form, not an ability evil dragons typically possess, instead, typically the ability of goodly worms.
- The group discovered that Tahgen’s son, the boy presently encased in stone, is in fact Garland’s grandson. Tahgen is unaware of this, and further is unaware that his “widow,” the elf Triwathien Twinblade (who still lives in town) is the Wyrm’s daughter. This is particularly interesting because the mothers of Draugarlond’s children never survive childbearing, for unknown reasons.
- Jack didn’t seem to have any further insight into Zinnaerris’ book, however when he was told of the circumstances surrounding the death of the tunnel-dwelling giant, he noted that the tower Zinnaerris described seemed a lot like a tower in Belheim. The dark tower of Belheim is a monument to the great father of the dragon deities, Orburos, who is, not coincidently, the same diety of the erinyes they had battled. Jack also told the inquisitive Fraas that the runes on the spyglass where similar to markings on the tower.
- Jack explained a little more about the dragon belief system, that they believe all life was created from a single dragon family, and of an alternative dragon god, Gavareth, who had behavior similar to that of the Green Wyrm, and was undoubtedly less capricious than Orburos, though still undoubtedly evil. If good dragon deities are worshipped, it is not done so openly in Belgein. When Jack told them of the similarity between the two insignias of Orburos and Gavareth, the group feared that they had given the giant the wrong token and were even more responsible for his death than they had previously thought. However, upon reflection, it is unlikely that the Oracle worshipped any evil dragon at all.
- Within the tower of Belheim, exists the other portal like the one in the griffin tower, but much more massive, and vertical. Emissaries enter, and return with children who speak common tongue but with a peculiar accent. They also return at times with adult slaves and raw materials.
- Slavery and human sacrifice are common practices in the north, as are gladiator battles.
- Zidan is now held captive somewhere in the North.
- The prophecy about Rand, and his implication in the destruction of the mote, was given to Zidan from Rand’s mother, the Ghaele of the North, who guards of the other side of the portal that is in the tower of Belheim. Rand has a dual heritage, and Jack tells the group about Rand’s father.
After it seemed Jack could reveal no more, the group implored him to attempt to speak with Rand from beyond the grave. Jack began casting his spell and relayed that he saw Rand in a field of green, happy, and then on his way to bathe in a nearby stream he (gasp) began to disrobe. Jack tried to speak to him, but the ‘message’ spell did not work. He promised to try again tomorrow.
After what had become quite an overwhelming afternoon, Jack invited the group down the rope for a dinner of capon, gravy, leek mashed potatoes, dungeon juice, pig butter, and fresh pastries. The group spent the night in his tower, possibly with dreams of the troubles that await.
BROKEN HEARTS AND PROMISES
The next day, the adventurers head back into town with Jack. The group heads over to check on Rand’s body, with the exception of Fraas & Bork, who quickly go to work in Bork’s lab. While toiling away, they are interrupted by Baz, who tells Bork of a woodsman looking for potion elements while he was out: Rhum, a floral sedative, and a plant that works as a fatal poison. The man Baz describes seems to be Colwyn, and Bork and Fraas immediately dash off to find the rest of the group in a panicked fear for Tahgen’s safety.
Meanwhile at the temple, the rest of party arrives and finds Rand’s body has been taken home by his extremely mournful mother. They too dash into the streets in a panic. The party collides in the street and quickly decide to split duties. Jack, Sentinel, Zinn & Fraas teleport to the Griffin Lodge, while Bork, Gfedcba and Shah rush to the Barduks.
Upon arrival at the Griffin Lodge, they encounter a forlorn Tahgen. It is quickly put together that Colwyn has used this concoction to commit suicide as penance for breaking his oath to keep Thellan’s secret. Jack sends message to the others that there is no immediate danger and that they will return soon and explain.
Back at the Barduks, Shah, Gfed and Bork encounter a distraught Bethil Barduk crying over the body of Rand. His father stomps out angrily and a furious clanging is heard. Mrs. Barduk states very frankly that they will be burying Rand’s body. Shah explains very carefully that the group needs Rand, and that it may be possible to bring him back, and that by letting them resurrect him, Rand will be performing a noble duty. After this, Mrs. Barduk reluctantly relents, and allows Gfed and Shah to carry Rand back to the temple. Bork, however, lingers into Rand’s stepfather’s workshop where the dwarf is busy taking his sadness out on a battle axe with his hammer, reducing a beautiful work of craftsmanship into an angry hunk of misshapen metal.
After helping Tahgen bury Colwyn, Sentinel takes a moment to play some chess with a grieving friend. Sentinel, Jack, Zinnaerris and Fraas eventually teleport back into town and after meeting up with Shah, Gfedcba and Bork, they relay their ongoings. The group decides to return to Tahgen and have him read the letter, for fear his misery and loneliness would lead him to the same fate as Colwyn. Afterward, a shocked Tahgen asks to be alone. Before leaving, Fraas sets down the chess set he obtained from the White Dragon’s lair, and makes a single move, promising to return tomorrow. :’(
A BACCHANAL TURNS VILE
Back in town, Jack again attempts to speak with Rand in the nether realms. But as last night, the spell was ineffective when trying to speak to Rand. Disheartened, the group looked elsewhere for hope of answers or guidance. They asked Jack if he could contact Sieffre with a message that stated the imminent threat of the green dragon, a desire to find out more about ‘the heart’ and Zinnaerris’ past, and that there were those in Griffton who could possible save the town from the Wyrm’s wrath. Jack relayed Sieffre’s response that Jack owed him one, but he would make haste to return to the mote. “I’m too old for this shit.”
What followed next was a drastic turn in mood to say the least. Upon return to the tavern an uproarious fest was underway. The party relieved some stress over ales and raucous music. Sentinel, Fraas and Zinn decided to stay up extra late by volunteering for “first watch.” Sentinel was attempting to impress a table of ladies with recently acquired coinage, while Zinnaerris was making her moves on the dance floor. Fraas was extremely drunk and lurked in his favorite corner.
Suddenly, from the back storeroom entrance, three fast and vicious Festrog and a hideous Penanggalen emerge. The Penanggalen, an evil floating head, rips out throat of a barmaid and summons a noxious cloud in the middle of the tavern dance floor. Panic. Vomit. Screaming. Bork, Gfedcba and Shah awake from the screams and hurry down, Shah leaping from the bathtub into his armor and out the upstairs window for a fast approach. More undead emerge, while one of the Festrogs bites a helpless citizen cowering under a table, and the monster seems to bolster some immediate strength from this. Sentinel makes quick work of the slower zombies. Zinnaerris unfortunately was caught in the disgusting cloud and was struggling to get free while wretching up that night’s meal. A still extremely drunk Fraas sends a few magic missiles at the Penanggalen, whereafter, it quickly flies out of the window and up into the sky. More vomit. Screaming. A citizen torn in half. Gfedcba makes it downstairs and fells one of the Festrog with his short bow. Sentinel smashes one as it attempts to move away. A recovering Zinn slays one with her mighty spellstrike. Sentinel jumps out the window and hears receding cackles from far above.
While a shocked Archibald mourns the barmaid, Gfedcba recants a tale of strange undead that seems similar to the Penanggalen, whose head leaves their body, however when returned, it appears as if a normal person.The group assembles some of the townsfolk to erect a barricade in Archibald’s storage room. Sentinel helps the town’s guard clean up. Villagers bring in stone from the town stockpile. Shah awakens and commissions Rose to build a steel door and lock for the storeroom, and is told to come back after dawn. In lieu of a door, Fraas casts an alarm spell on the portal. The group takes watches.
The next morning the town is filled with gossip of the previous night’s horrors.