Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
We gathered up the rest of the bodies from the torture room for proper burial. Ezekiel finally decided that he didn’t have the time or resources to bring them all back, maybe especially after seeing the scarring on that one guy. I figure, if they went to the happy rest of their Food deity – why disturb them? And if not…is that our business, either? Might be why I’m not a cleric…
Lydia got us back to Homlette just fine. It’s still standing. Sir Rufus has finished the fort, and it looks like they could hold off quite a force, if they used the defenses properly.
Ezekiel and Raven want to check on their disciples, so they’ll have Lydia scry them…but Heiron and I have an appointment at the inn.
Elmo and I snuck down to the Temple of Elemental Evil…bold, I know, but it’s kinda his job to keep an eye on things. The only tracks we found were probably a bandit group, and they didn’t actually enter the grounds. It’s not the kind of place you want to go, even if you need shelter temporarily. And the rats say they haven’t seen any traffic, either (I got Ehlonna’s permission to ask).
I also showed Elmo the journal we found, and we tried the trick for speaking to each other in bird-calls, but I don’t think we did it right. Obviously, you can use bird imitations as signals, but to send more complicated messages is going to be harder. And you can only practice if you have a partner.
More thinking required…
Returned to our quarters to find Ezekiel there with Dree, just returned from a shopping trip with Mikael. Lydia dropped them in Mitrik, so they’re loaded up on magic items – including some bracers for Raven, who’s still wherever Keom and Ronhass are, giving them a hand. Apparently they have the dragons in a swamp somewhere south of Greyhawk. Bornthene is also keeping an eye on things, and Ez says he seems in a positively upbeat mood. I’m sure knowing Miffly is safe here, helping Madam Osler, takes a load off his mind.
Something about Ezekiel needing money…didn’t realize he was getting short, but the subject changed before I learned more.
Heiron and Usin are at the fort, drilling with the men there. Learning opportunities all around, I suppose.
Asked Dree how she was getting on as Team Mom, and she says everyone is working together well, and even the dragons are sweethearts in their own way. Said she still can’t cast spells, but she’s starting to understand this whole “God of gods” thing better.
Mikael says Father Geru has sent for an “arm specialist”…apparently the clergy of Obed-Hai have conferred or something, and there is someone who can help. He was evasive about details, though.
When Dree went back to the others, I sent the magic short sword I’ve been carrying as a back-up to Bornthene. We all agreed the chances are low that I’ll need it…and I really don’t want to start breaking weapons or having them stolen again.
Finally got the report on some of the things Ezekiel left in Mitrik to be identified.
Two of the rings are interesting – one lets you walk on water, the other lets you see in the dark like an elf, dwarf, or orc. We’ve forwarded the first to Bornthene – should come in handy while living in a swamp. Everyone decided I should wear the second, at least for the time being, since Raven has all the magical items he feels comfortable using at the moment (monks have weird ideas about keeping things fair and depending more on their deity or something, which I guess I can’t argue with).
As for the amulets – the one from the magic circle does indeed cast Protection from Good, upon command, a few times a day. I asked Ez, and he didn’t think it would strangle us or anything if we happened to wear it…but he left it in the care of the Temple of Rao for “disposal.”
The second one (from the treasure room)…that one was quite weird. The amber stuff surrounding it inside the bottle was actually a jelly monster of some kind…but Marquessa had altered it, apparently, so it could survive in that state until exposed to the air – then, presumably, it would behave like a normal jelly. (Heiron can deal with that with his flaming sword.) The amulet inside has something to do with a power word…the sage thought it was “Pain,” but naturally it’s hard to read through a jelly slime. Probably needs to be used by someone who understands the arcane, so that means Lydia (Ez and Mikael also bought her a new robe in Mitrik…it has little cut-out pictures of items stitched all over it).
Lydia also mentioned she tried to scry Marquessa… She’s not sure if she really found her, or found the body double instead, but either way…apparently she’s in a bad place. They say virtue is its own reward, and it seems crime also has its own reward.
Lydia dropped us at the outside of the stockade, where the stream runs out of the hill. Raven checked, and says the blacksmith and his people have cleared out. So I think that means the whole stockade is empty.
On to Suderheim!
Minor heart-attack tonight. I was on guard with Agnar, and we banked the fire since we could both “see” in the dark (such a weird sensation; in daylight, everything is normal, but in darkness the colors fade, and the clearest shapes I can see are the flares of heat sources, like fires and living bodies; getting side-tracked).
Maybe halfway through the watch, the ground started to tremble. I scanned the area with my bow, and spotted the huge head of a stone giant lumbering through the trees. They can see fine in the dark, and he was headed on a course directly past us. I did some frantic thinking – after all, I haven’t always had problems with stone giants, and on average I’ve heard that if you leave them alone, they won’t care about you. But would camping above the track be considered “leaving them alone”?
Just as he was getting close, I kicked Ezekiel awake, since he’s the one who knows how to speak diplomatically.
The giant came right up to us – and didn’t attack. Instead, he said he represented the Brotherhood of Granite, and there were forces on the move in the area. He warned us to be careful, and stomped off – waking a few more of the party with his footfalls.
Who’s moving? Are the giants against the Slave Lords, or with them?
Ezekiel decided to throw up the instant fortress, so the Brotherhood wouldn’t think we were trying to sneak up on them or something…and also so we’d have a more defensible position. I think Lydia is happy.
Aaand we’re back in Homlette tonight. We have a good excuse, though.
We followed the track away from Marquessa’s stockade, all morning and into the afternoon. Air was brisk, and clouds threatening, but no precipitation yet.
Then, about mid-afternoon, I heard a group coming from up ahead of us. We got off the track and hid among the trees…and sure enough, a huge caravan came up the track below us. There must have been a hundred men or more, with over a dozen wagons. The leader wore fancy armor, and there also seemed to be a man in robes, riding one of the carts.
Lydia made Raven invisible, and he snuck off after them to try and hear what the deal was.
Shortly, he coughed to let us know he was back, and told us what he overheard between the armored leader and the robed man. Apparently they were originally heading to the stockade, but Marquessa sent word that it had been seized (which either means she’s still alive, or that she got a message out before she died).
Raven’s biggest concern was that they had a half-dozen or so slaves chained together in one of the wagons. This launched quite a discussion, and I was really getting afraid that Ezekiel expected Heiron, Lydia, and me to massacre over a hundred men that afternoon (slaves and slavery do something funny to his head).
I reminded everyone we had a literal Mirror of Magic Portaling – and suddenly the subject switched from how we could kill the entire caravan, to how we could sneak the prisoners out through the mirror unobserved. Much better! I remember the flind battle, and that wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.
In the end, we trailed them quietly until nightfall. Lydia got as good a look as she could before dark, then took Raven with her back to her room at the tower. She locked on to the prisoners, Raven slipped through (still invisible), and got their attention quietly (which removed his invisibility, but fortunately none of the guards noticed him).
The slaves were chained to each other, but not to the wagon, so once he had their attention, it was a simple matter of walking them through the air into Lydia’s room.
We couldn’t really see any of it from where we were, of course. The wagons were all circled in the middle, with the men-at-arms bivouacked around them, and a patrolling guard around that.
Before too long, though, Lydia stuck her face out of the air and invited us to join them in Homlette. She and Raven had decided, as entertaining as it might be to watch the changing of the guard, we would be more prudent to be a safe distance away from the caravan by then.
So – another night of real roof and real floor around us.
The prisoners claim the century-guard was for the merchants being escorted, not because they’re particularly exciting slaves. They did come from Suderheim, so we know we’re on the right track.
Ezekiel shilled for his temple a bit, and got all curious when the slaves said one of the merchants was from the Scarlet Brotherhood, like an emissary or something. Ez dug through his notes, and found that someone in the Temple of Elememtal Evil was worried about the Scarlet Brotherhood, but we weren’t sure why. Maybe they’re competitors or something.
Another useful thing the rescued slaves clarified – Suderheim isn’t just a base for the Slave Lords…it’s an entire town. Most of the inhabitants own slaves, but the ones for sale (especially high-value ones) are kept in the fortress there. So Ezekiel has to decide if he wants to slaughter an entire town, or if he’d be satisfied just making a surgical strike on the slavers’ fortress.
We also asked about giants, and they said they saw four hill giants moving in the direction of Suderheim, but it’s hard to say what their object is. With hill giants, they could just be looking for a small caravan to rob.
Well, we found the hill giants today. Lydia returned us roughly to the trail in the hills, though it took me a minute to find where we’d been. We kept following the trail, though the clouds were lowering and we watched for snow all morning.
Then, about noon, we spotted four hill giants climbing down toward us. Ezekiel tried talking to them (typical), but they made rude comments (according to Mikael) and reached for boulders.
Agnar whined that Lydia, Heiron and I didn’t leave enough for him to do. Lydia must have been bored, as she threw a lightening bolt into the middle of them.
Found something strange on them. Hill giants usually have trash for clothes, and not much else, but one of them had a fine leather pouch with a design worked into it. Inside the pouch was a note in fancy writing – talk of a “great plan,” and addressed to Edralve – the same Slave Lord or Lady who was sending all the mysterious notes to Bluecolts.
Much theorizing among the party. Raven started spelling everything backward and trying to uncover some kind of conspiracy that way. Query: maybe his brain doesn’t deal well with repeated invisibility?
Camped under an overhang of rock (fortress too conspicuous) and woke up to deep snow – up to Agnar’s waist!
The trail was getting harder to spot, what with the rocky terrain, and now it’ll be impossible! Even if this melts quickly, that will likely wash away any tracks there were…it hasn’t been a carved path like a road or anything like that.
Ezekiel brainstorming; Lydia damp and crabby; Mikael enjoying himself.
Started raining about mid-afternoon. Spirits briefly revived by a band of ogres stupid enough to attack us. Agnar got a couple hits in, which mollified him. Lulu now chomping on dead ogre and making Raven sick to his stomach.
Ezekiel has decided to try scouting from the air. He’ll have us tie him to one of the magic ebony flies, and see if any kind of structure or settlement shows up when he can get a feel for the land.
Zip, nada, nothing. The rain didn’t help, I’m sure, and he didn’t stray too far for fear of losing sight of us – but he didn’t see any sign of our slaver city.
Speaking of getting a feel for the land, though, Mikael has been sitting in a corner with his eyes closed, ignoring us. He says he was trying to become one with the natural forces of the area in hopes he could sense which direction civilization might be…but he only got a sense of a very big, very old, minimally aware “being” somewhere in the area. He got all druidy, and a little nervous, and hunkered down to try to puzzle out what kind of creature or power of nature it might be.
Ezekiel did say that, since the rain obstructs vision at a distance anyway, we might as well set up the fortress. Popularly adopted.
Creepy development this morning. The rain seems to have broken (that’s not what’s creepy), but when we got up this morning, something (that is, someone!) had left pebbles arranged in an arrow outside our door.
An arrow pointing in roughly the direction we were heading until we lost all tracks.
If Ezekiel is right and there is maneuvering within the Slave Lords, this could be the work of one of their agents. Whoever it was, I find it disturbing that no one on watch last night saw them or heard them…we need to step up our game, people!
All that said, it’s not like we have any other lead to pursue. Raven suggested scattering the pebbles after taking bearings, so it’s harder for anyone to follow us.
With invisible stalkers leaving ambiguous notes in the night, it might be too late to be worrying about that…
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