Tales of the Nentir Vale

The Rebirth of Dobby
It's hard being half the elf you were..

Back in Orlane, preparations were underway for the visit of Leopold Winward, High Priest of Pelor who had come to rededicate Orlane’s Temple of Pelor. It was rumoured that High Priest Leopold was from the far off city of Sarthel and had been touring the Nentir Vale with his entourage when he was asked to cleanse and sanctify the Temple. In preparation the Temple of Pelor had been scrubbed clean of all blood and dirt, bodies removed and all broken items repaired.

Dobby’s body lay buried in a coffin in a shallow grave until the High Priest arrived in a few days time. “It was what he would have wanted,” said Elisar. “And he’s not smelling up the place,” added Reaver.

The Golden Grain Inn, the larger of the two Inns, had been bought by Olwin and Belba Cralloon, who previously owned the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent. The inn was cleaned and scrubbed, damage repaired and was ready for business. They decided to give the entire Inn of the Slumbering Serpent over to the High Priest and his entourage for the length of their stay.

The villagers lined the streets for the arrival of Leopold Winward. He was an elderly man with a grey close cropped beard and a rather large beer belly, mostly hidden by his fine clothes. He arrived by horse and carriage, and had an entourage of about 20 people of all ages.

They day after their arrival the Mayor and the party broached the idea of a resurrection spell cast on Dobby. After hearing about the exploits of the party Leopold Winward agreed graciously and sent for the body.
“We have a problem,” he said. His voice had a slight accent. “Master Dobby appears to be an elf. Elves do not have souls, but rather a spirit, which is resistant to the call of the resurrection spell.”
Seeing the crestfallen faces of the party, one of the High Priest’s entourage stepped forward. He was in his 30’s, with a thin but long plaited beard on just his chin and a shaved head. Most remarkable of all were the multiple blue lighting bolt tattoos adorning his body. Lady Elizabeth recognised the man, obviously a spellcaster of some kind, having visited Ramme the old mage in his hut the night before.
“Perhaps I can be of assistance,” he said, in a similar accent to the High Priest. “I have a spell in my book which will transform the body and call the spirit back to it.”
“Your pardon..” Lady Elizabeth waited.
“Erik, just Erik please,” said the spellcaster.
“Your pardon Erik,” Lady Elizabeth continued. “But what will he transform into.”
“Ah, well that is the tricky part,” smiled Erik. “I can guide the transformation somewhat, so he won’t become and animal or a slug for example, but he will be a humanoid of some type.”
“Could he come back as an elf?” asked Neaves? “Or maybe a dwarf?” She had a twinkle in her eye.
“Those are both possibilities,” smiled Erik. “But he could also come back as a gnome, a goblin or a bugbear.”
“I’m not sure he’d like that,” said Lady Elizabeth, thoughtfully.
Erik“Some of the randomness is influenced by what kind of a person he was. If he was very pious and good person he will not come back as something inherently evil.”
“Let’s give it a go,” said Elisar. “It’s what he would have wanted.”
Lady Elizabeth nodded, and Erik made preparations.
The spell took about ten minutes to cast. Dobby’s body shone brightly and when the glow dulled down, he had been transformed into a half elf. His eyes fluttered open and he took a deep breath.

The next few days where difficult for Dobby. He had to come to terms with his human side. He was bad tempered for a while until he learned how to regulate emotions that seemed to come and go at a whim. He also had to come to terms with the fact he would probably be no longer welcome in his home village. However time was an issue, and it was not long before the party were heading back to the ruins in the swamp.

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The Ruins in the Swamp
The first foray into the cult's lair

Elisar had returned with Alan Clayborn, the ranger. They had tracked the cultists back to some ruins in the nearby Rushmoors, a swamp with an evil reputation. These ruins were no doubt the same that the rescued captive Cirilli Moist had told the party about.

The party made preparations to take the fight to the cultists – a raid on the swamp ruins. They went to see Ramme the old wizard, who gave the party a short stick inscribed with runes.
“Now that we know Explicita is a naga, you can expect her to have some nasty spells,” he said. “Snapping this stick will release a minor globe of invulnerability spell around the person breaking it. The magic released by this stick will protect you from all but the most powerful spells. Use it when you first encounter the naga, or any other powerful wizard. It obviously can only be used once.” The old magic user also gave the party a healing potion and a gnarled wand. “A wand of wonder,” he said. “Built with chaos magic. It only has a bit of power left in it. Last time I used it the thing nearly killed me – a lightning bolt flew out of it, killed the orcs in front of me but brought most of the cave down on my head as well. I get the impression you, Dobby, would make use of this, but I suggest using it only in dire need.”

The party thanked Ramme, and Dobby took both the wand of wonder and the rune engraved stick. They took their horses, and David Williams, Lady Elizabeth’s squire. He was dressed in the studded leather armour and shield of the Orlane militia, and weilded a club. David looked longingly at Lady Elizabeth’s magic sword, and then back at his plain club. Lady Elizabeth noticed the look, but said nothing.

The ride to the Rushmoors took a day. They camped at the edge of the swamp, taking turns to stand watch while the others slept. Apart from a couple of false alarms at strange noises coming from the swamp, they were not bothered. In the morning Nyves Shonal prayed to Moradin and received his blessing in the form of spells. Lady Elizabeth and David Williams prayed to Bahamut, and received the feeling of certainty the mission they were about to undertake was good and just.

David Williams the squire was left at the camp to mind the horses. The rest of the party looked despondently at the Rushmoors. Thick rushes, interspersed with patches of scummy water, stretched as far as the eye could see. They advanced into the swamp, which involved wading through one or two feet of water and slimy mud. The trail to the ruins was very obvious, as the rushes had been crushed out of the way to open a passage.

Giant Snapping Turtle
Several hours into the journey, a giant snapping turtle burst out of the water where it had lain in wait in a waterfilled hole. It lunged at the party, catching Reaver in it’s strong beak, crushing him. The party counter-attacked with sword, arrow and mace, and the beast was slain. Reaver coughed out some blood from a lung punctured by a broken rib and groaned. Nyves called down the power of Moradin to heal him, and he felt better although was still in pain. A sip of half the vial of healing potion donated by Ramme restored the half elf to full health.

After a wearisome trek t hrough a seemingly endless sea of rushes, the adventurers saw a low barrier in front of them. Soon thereafter, they reached this barrier – a circular dyke made from mud and wood. The dyke held the swampwater back from a small island of dry land, barely fifty feet across. A gaping hole in the ground at the centre of the dry land indicated the entrance to the swamp ruins.

“Hmmm we could break the dyke,” said Dobby. “It would flood the dungeon and we’d just have to wait for the water to subside.”
“Any prisoners there would die as well,” pointed out Nyves.
“And we don’t know how long it would take for the water to subside, if it ever does,” added Reaver. “Which means any treasure would be very hard to recover.”
“Good point,” agreed Elisar. “We don’t want to make any treasure inaccessable.”
“Or be responsible for the deaths of any captives,” added Lady Elizabeth, looking sternly at Elisar.
“Or be responsible for the deaths of any captives,” agreed Elisar. “I was just about to say that.”

Standing at the hole looking down the party could see muddy wooden stairs descending into the earth. Reaver cocked his head. “I can hear muffled voices,” he said.
The party listened but only Elisar could also hear the voices. “We’ll just go down the stairs a little and maybe we can hear what they are saying.”
The two elves descended down the stairs quietly. After a while they listened again.
There were at least three different voices.
“I ’ate this place,” one rough voice complained. “It’s nearly as dangerous to us as it is to any intruders. Which I might add, we ain’t never seen. When are we gonna go to Hookhill with the others? I’m bored with this place.”
“When Gareth tells us, I guess,” answered another, deep voice. “I if we’re gonna git any more captives. I miss ‘avin’ me way wiv some of those ladies who are brain addled after being charmed by Her.”
“Me, I prefer those that resist the charm. They fight harder,” said a third voice. “All the more because they know they’re gonna die after I’ve ’ad me fun.”

Elisar whispered to Reaver, using Thieve’s Cant language, that he was going to head down to surprise them. Reaver was to return to the others and tell them to run down when they heard fighting.

Elisar silent as an owl went down the stairs to arrive at the bottom. There were four men here, not three, dressed in leather armour and armed with spears, sitting in a circle. With the advantage of complete surprise he released arrow after arrow. Within seconds only one was alive, and he was sorely wounded with an arrow in his side. He gripped his spear and made ready to charge. The guard drew a breath to yell, but it ended only in a gurgle as yet another of Elisar’s arrows caught him in the throat.

The rest of the party arrived to find all the guards dead and Elisar looking smug. Reaver and Elisar checked the bodies, but they had no treasure.

This lair appeared to have been dug out of damp earth. Corridors were 10 foot wide and high, and supported by massive, although usually slightly rotten, timbers. The dampness was everywhere, and the air smelled of rot, mold, and swamp gas. The party followed one of the corridors out of the guard room, and found themselves in a passage with a door at the very end and a greeny mud puddle halfway down. Most wouldn’t have even noticed, but Reaver decided to be cautious.

“I don’t like the look of that greenstuff in that mud puddle,” he said. He advanced forward and pushed the tip of his longbow into the puddle.

green slime

When he withdrew it, the green slime was slowly eating away the tip of the bow. He showed Dobby.
“Don’t get any of that on you,” advised Dobby. “Green slime will eat metal and flesh much quicker than wood.” Reaver quickly scraped the green slime off the tip of his bow.

They poured lantern oil onto the slime and set it alight. There was lots of smoke which attracted another set of guards. These were also easily despatched. The party continued their explorations. The guards rooms were found, and two more groups of four guards. The first were dispatched quickly, and the second set of guards, all female, were tied up.
“We’ll take them with us when we leave. Justice will be done,” said Lady Elizabeth. She understood the rationale behind some other party members’ desire to kill the now unarmed women, but as a paladin she couldn’t allow that to happen.
look out
The guards coins were appropriated, not a lot, but more than ordinary guards would usually have. This must have been their share of the spoils so far.

Further into the ruins a large underground lake was found. Further exploration found a secret door, behind which a boat capable of holding about 10 people was found on a muddy bank. This was obviously how the cultists moved across the lake. The party decided to finish exploring all the areas on this side of the lake first, so they didn’t leave any enemies behind them should they need to do a retreat out of the dungeon later.

A smaller lake led to a secret door on the far side. Two killer frogs lurked in the lake, and they leapt out of the water. Lady Elizabeth slew them without difficulty however. Behind the secret door, not much more than a wall of dirt piled up to conceal the area beyond. In the space beyond were three chests, locked and bound with metal making them very sturdy indeed. Two were picked by Reaver and Elisar, but one was a tricky lock. It required some strength and leverage to finally get it open. The chests contained an assortment of coins and gems, none particularly valuable by themselves, but overall amounted to a tidy sum.

Continuing their exploration they discovered the quarters of some of the officers of the guard. These were dispatched also, and their treasure taken. There were only three officers and four bedrooms, the last one was that of a priest. He or she must be in another part of the dungeon at present. A shield taken from one officer was ornate and provided a magic armour bonus, and it was decided that Nyves Shonal should have that. Another officer had a magical shortsword, which Reaver took until they could discover its benefit through spell or just by using it.

Behind one door they heard a warbling sound, as if a large bird were beyond, but they passed this one by to come back later. At one point the party had a disagreement about where to go, and they split in too. While exploring their section Dobby and Reaver encountered giant rats which they slew easily. The party reconvened at the door where they had heard the bird like noise.

Harpy
Behind the door was a harpy’s lair. Most likely lured into the dungeon with the promise of innocent flesh to feast on and to be used as another guard or trap. The creature warbled a compelling tune, a charm spell of sorts as the notes were heavy with magic. However not one of the party members succumbed to the harpy’s magic. She resorted to physical violence and flew at the party with her claws and bite, holding a dagger in one hand with which she lashed out at her intended victims’ eyes. But she was perhaps used to dealing with wailing villagers, not hardened adventurers and it was she whose blood soaked the muddy floor. Her treasure mostly comprised amulets and medallions, draped over the tree like structure which had been assembled for her. The most valuable of these were taken and sold later (including a magical amulet of significant defensive power, which eventually fell into the hands of another adventuring group who used it to good purpose – but that is another tale).

The exploration continued. They returned to the boat they had found earlier, and crossed the dark lake. Crocodiles moved closer, perhaps for morsels, but were obviously used to the boat. They swam off again when no morsels were forthcoming. Troglodytes guarded the way to the lower level of the dungeon. These were dispatched easily, their tactics were poor and they sought to fight individually rather than as a group. Giant centipedes were the only other creatures encountered, and while dangerous if you kept away from their poisonous stinger one could also easily kill them.

Given the ease of their incursion thus far it was a surprise then that one of the bold adventurers was to fall. It happened in the lair of the troglodytes. The reptilian creatures laid and ambush, and while the party were battling with these, another suddenly appeared with a large snake in a fragile cage. It threw the cage at the party and it burst open upon striking Dobby. The enraged snake sunk its fangs deep into Dobby’s arm, and his body thrashed and convulsed on the ground. The rest looked on dismayed as there was nothing they could do but finish off the creatures. The snake tried to slither away in the mud but was stuck by Lady Elizabeth’s sword. By that time Dobby was dead and there was nothing for it but to leave the dungeon with his body. They did make time to loot the bodies.
“It was what Dobby would have wanted,” said Reaver. Elisar nodded.

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Temple of Pelor - The Underlevel
The rescue of the Weavers

After a good sleep Dobby felt like he might be able to try out a new spell, one more powerful. He studied his spellbook and was able to absorb the words of power for the spell Web. It wasn’t the one he really wanted (that being Tasha’s Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter) but he had to make do. With those words of power sitting like rocks in his brain, he also crammed in the words of power for two magic missiles. The elf felt invincible.

Likewise Reaver felt like he could sneak better, pick locks better, in fact do all sorts of things better.

Lady Elizabeth didn’t feel any different, but she was close to feeling different, just not there yet.

After a brief stopover at the Jeweller’s Shop where Haskall Ull laughed at yet another naga statue they had brought him. He proposed a hefty price for it however, and accepted their counter proposal readily enough, which made Reaver suspect they had let it go too cheaply.

The party returned to the Temple of Pelor.
“This will be the last time,” Lady Elizabeth said to the militia still guarding the temple. “When we come out, we can stop guarding this place.”

The entrance to the lower level was easy to find. The troglodytes who had emerged from the hidden trap door, only to be killed by the village militia, had not bothered to conceal it again. It had been under the rug and bed of the female cleric, but now it was gaping open, showing stone stairs leading down into darkness.

OgreUnderneath the temple were older ruins, different stone – more like a green marble – different design, perhaps even made by a different race. The first area was a hallway which led to another trap door – this one closed – in the ceiling. A sturdy ladder provided access and it led to one of the rooms next to the meditation chambers where the evil monks had been fought. The hallway also had one door, which led to a maze. The maze was populated only by an ogre, maybe slightly underfed but all the more mean for being hungry and had not lost any of its strength. It was easy defeated however by Lady Elizabeth and Reaver, with Dobby assisting with his darts. In fact Dobby threw the dart that finished off the creature, which had him jumping for joy as if he had slain the creature single handedly.

Beyond the maze a dirt tunnel had been dug into the hard earth. Clumps of earth lay on the floor after having fallen from the ceiling, and Reaver hoped the entire place wasn’t going to cave in.

A large mushroom grew near where the tunnel forked. The floor just past the mushroom was muddy, and there was evidence of tracks. Lady Elizabeth tossed a rock at the mushroom, which suddenly emitted an eardrum bursting shriek. It continued shrieking for about 30 seconds before stopping.

“Thats the alarm, lets get ready for the guards,” said Dobby.
The guards were four troglodytes, two were young and one appeared very old. Their stench preceded them, and two arrived from each tunnel – they had obviously been hoping the interlopers had proceeded up the tunnel so they could catch them in between them. Instead they found themselves enmeshed in thick sticky strands of Dobby’s web spell. It was a simple matter then to kill them with arrows and fire.

There were no more troglodytes, it appeared the majority had tried to make a break for it and had been killed in battle. The Weavers were located in a prison. They were terribly thirsty and hungry, but otherwise healthy. In the troglodyte lair a chest was found with a small amount of coins and a brooch of shielding.

With the Weavers rescued, the party returned to the surface. The cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple could begin as soon as a new priest of Pelor arrived. Meanwhile the party had to get ready for a journey into the Rushmoors. It was time to take the battle to the heart of the foe!

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Return to the Temple of Pelor
The mad priest and his captive

There was only one more area to explore on the upper level of the temple. The door to the final area was trapped with a suddenly protruding spike, however Reaver spotted it before hand, and it was a simple matter to avoid it once one knew it was there. As they opened the door small bells attached to it chimed softly. The walls of the chamber were scratched, stained, and covered with strange markings and odd words and phrases. “Snake”, “Teeth”, “Scales” all seemed to be common themes, along with “Fear”, “Obey”, and “Serve”. Loose chips of stone lay scattered on the floor. The room was empty, and there was one exit, which appeared to lead to a winding corridor.

Reaver scouted ahead in the gloom. There was dim light from behind (Lady Elizabeth’s magical glowing sword) as well as a dim glow from ahead, around the corner. Following the winding hall, Reaver observed a middle aged man dressed dark robes (although the way he moved Reaver knew he had armour on underneath), with a shield strapped to his arm and a mace at his belt. He held a stone in his hand and he mumbled softly to himself. Reaver suddenly recognised he was casting a spell. The spell suddenly completed, and Reaver felt an oppressive aura settle on him, making him a little more less sure of himself, and maybe a little slower. He didnt think he had been targeted, as he was sure the cleric had not seen him. Reaver decided it was probably an area of effect spell. He watched as the man began to weave more magic, and decided to return to the other two.

“We felt it,” said Lady Elizabeth. “It was a prayer spell, tuned to evil. The man must the remaining priest of Pelor, turned to evil by the charm spell. While I would spare his life, we cannot afford him the time to cast spells at us, if he can cast a prayer spell he must possess a power exceeding our own. If it results in his death so be it. Do not hesitate to kill if you must.”

Suddenly the low chanting that had been heard stopped. There was dead silence coming from that area.
“I think he is brewing trouble for us, we must take the offensive,” said the paladin, hefting her shield and sword. Her field plate armour was looking the worse for wear and would need repairing soon. It protected her from damage, but also absorbed some itself. The trick would be to find someone who was skilled enough for the task of fixing it. She marched forward around the corner towards the priest.
Abramo the charmed priest of Pelor
The battle could not have gone much better. The cleric had cast a silence 15’ radius spell on a rock, which he tossed towards the party, nullifying any chance of the elf getting away his magic missile spell. However as Lady Elizabeth charged at the cleric, Reaver just grinned, picked up the silenced rock and tossed it back at the priest. Now it was the cleric whose spells were nullified. Just in time too as the middle aged man was casting at the on rushing paladin. Silence settled in on him and left the cleric unable to complete the spell. Lady Elizabeth engaged the cleric who was now chattering and shrieking, all in complete silence – apparently his mind had been totally unhinged by the cult’s charm magic. Reaver used the gloom to hug the wall and position himself close to the priest. Distracted by the combat the cleric did not notice Reaver until his blade stabbed him under the armpit. Two magic missiles slammed into the man who staggered backwards. Already sorely wounded, and faced with two close combatants, and a spellcaster, as well as being unable to get spells away himself, the priest – mad or not he understood his situation – tried to make a break for it. He ran around the corner into a room making a dash for the far side. Reaver dropped his shortsword and quickly readied his bow. As Reaver suspected the man was dressed in chainmail under his robe (magical chainmail, it turned out later) and so could move faster than Lady Elizabeth dressed in her heavy field plate. However he could not outrun Reaver’s arrow. The arrow caught the cleric in the back of the head and he face planted into the ground where he lay still, blood spreading from his body across the floor.

The room they were now in was decorated in bizarre fashion. Ther was a dirty straw pallet on the floor, yet two soft and expensive armchairs rested at a low table. A beautiful ceremonial robe for that of a priest of Pelor hung on the wall above a battered locked chest. An exquisitely crafted wooden desk had been placed near a corner of the room where the cleric had been running to. At various points around the walls, small iron hooks for hanging tapestries had been set into stone. The tapestries themselves had been shredded and were now just muddy rags covering the floor.

Dobby examined the desk. While he did so he asked Reaver who was examining the cleric’s body “What does he have on him?”
“Nothing but his armour and weapons, and this ring of keys.” replied Reaver, taking a plain iron ring with two black iron keys threaded onto it.
“Oooh a ring of keys!” said Dobby, using the emphasis usually reserved for magic items. “That sounds impressive, what do you think it does? Does it emulate a knock spell do you think?”
Reaver winked at Lady Elizabeth, who hid her smile.
“Yeah probably, although only for certain locks.”
“What? Only certain locks? That seems like a stupid…” Then Dobby caught sight of the key ring Reaver was holding up, and they all lightened the moment with laughter.

Dobby did not discover anything at the desk, although he found a button which activated a secret door in the corner. This apparently was where the cleric was hoping to get to. The party, serious once more, opened the secret door wide.

The large room beyond was dirty and unkempt, with shards of rock lying around four crude granite statues standing about in haphazard locations. In the southeast corner was a polished jade figure of a snake with a female human head that was set apart from the other statues by its obviously superior crafting and valuable material. Near it, a small cage with iron bars held the listless figure of a beautiful young woman, probably about 15 or 16 years old, clothed in tattered rags. In addition, two brass-bound chests sat next to the east wall.

The girl was Cirilli Moist, daughter of the storekeeper. Her listlessness vanished with the prospect of rescue. She explained she had made the trek to the swamp ruins lair of a snake creature with a human head, a naga, called Explicita Defilus. However unlike her family she did not succumb to the charm magic. Other villagers likewise did not succumb, but these were fed to the troglodytes or sacrificed to the cultist’s vile god. For some reason Abramo – the middle aged cleric, recently deceased – had brought her back to the temple to serve as his personal slave. She had been beaten and mistreated over the past three months, but her spirit apparently had not been broken. Cirilli stated she did not want to go back to her family if they were still under the effect of the charm magic, as she had seen how cruel they had become.

Cirilli also told the party the chests had been recently emptied, she assumed it had been taken to the swamp lair – when the party opened them they only contained a few coins which they have to Cirilli to help her live until her family recovered. She also knew the Weavers were being held in an underground lair by the troglodytes. The young girl told the party the troglodytes usually tried to smuggle captives to the swamp ruin lair at night. However with the temple surrounded the party knew the Weavers must still be there.

The party returned to the village with Cirilli (and of course taking the valuable jade statue of the naga) to rest overnight before returning for the last time to the temple to locate the lower level and rescue the Weavers.

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Interlude to the Temple of Pelor
Rest and Recuperation

It took a week for Reaver to fully recover. In the meantime Nyves was still busy tending to many of the wounded from the battle. Three villagers had died of their wounds – two of them charmed cultists. The dead charmed cultists were Fulton Moist, the storekeeper, and Freya Smith, the blacksmith’s teenage daughter who had attacked Kilian Gade the stabler so savagely there had been no option but to take her down. Kilian had later died of his wounds on the second day after the battle – the day when Nyves’ healing spells were not granted by her god Moradin, penance for her temper when she killed the monks who had been put magically to sleep. However Nyves had been able to save many more, charmed cultists and villagers alike through her knowledge of healing. The dwarf’s spells had returned the following day and these saved those who were at death’s door. Ramme’s knowledge of herb lore had also come in handy, preventing infection and allowing quicker healing.

Elisar was still not back from tracking the cultists. It became clear those who Elisar and Alan Clayborn were tracking were not charmed locals, but hard core cultists who had come to Orlane with Gareth Primo – people who wanted to be part of this cult of death. These evil men had whipped the charmed cultists into a frenzy and then while these charmed villagers took the brunt of the loyalist villagers assault, slipped away into the night.
Troglodyte
One other event of note was that the militia camped around the temple reported a small force of troglodytes had attempted to break out from the Temple of Pelor at night. The troglodytes fought fiercely, and more village militia were wounded, but all of them were contained and killed. The bodies of the lizard creatures were put in a pile near the temple and set alight. Nyves had more healing work to do that night and saved more lives.

Many charmed villagers were starting to break out of the charm spell. They were ashamed, horrified, and afraid of retribution from their actions. Many were traumatised and did not want to talk about what had happened. The mayor and Nyves tried to coax information from them. The village started to return back to normal. Crops that needed harvesting were brought in, sometimes with the aid of neighbours. This went some way to mending relationships between ex-cultists and villagers. Preparations were made for the upcoming Pelor’s Day celebration. Animals which could not be fed over the winter months were slaughtered, their meat dried, cured and salted, or eaten immediately. Pelor’s Day would happen in a week and it celebrated the end of the harvest season where the first loaves of bread from the recent harvest were blessed by a priest – was fast approaching. The villagers asked Nyves if she would perform the duties of priest in absence of the clerics of Pelor on the day. There would be plow races, and children would dress up and knock on doors to ask for copper coins.

Finally Reaver was able to stand without coughing and felt strong enough to exercise and do weapons training with Lady Elizabeth and David Williams. At the end of the training session the paladin nodded – he was ready. She announced they would return to the Temple the next day.

And Elisar and Alan Clayborn had still not returned from their mission. People were starting to worry.

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Temple of Pelor - Upper Floor
In which the party underestimate goblins

“Maybe we should see what is happening outside,” suggested Nyves. “We are hale right now, but should we become sorely wounded we don’t know what kind of environment we might be stumbling into when we leave this place.”
“Hale means healthy,” whispered Dobby to Reaver, seeing a questioning look on his face.
“Ah, thanks.”

The party agreed and returned to the building entrance, where they had barred the thick double doors. Both Reaver and Elisar put their ears to the door, but could hear no sounds of combat, although there were people outside. The party lifted the thick bar and cautiously opened the door. Outside the battle was over. The cultists, for the most part with no armour, had been subdued and captured, some had to be beaten unconscious because they would not surrender. There were many wounded on both sides. Zakarias Ormond looked up and smiled when he saw the party.

“How goes the cleansing of the temple?” he asked.
The party told him of what had happened so far.
“It goes well then, although sad news about Misha Devi. She was a good priest before being charmed by the cult.” The mayor gestured around him. “We have many wounded, some gravely so and may die. With no priests we are struggling to cope. There are also a couple of cultists who managed to escape and we are keen to track them down before they find somewhere to hide and strike back at us, or run back to their masters. Can you help us?”

In the end it was decided that Nyves would assist with the healing, and Elisar would assist Alan Clayborn the ranger and a couple of the militia to track down and capture the escaped cultists.
Skeleton
The other three party members – Lady Elizabeth, Dobby, and Reaver – returned to exploration of the temple. They returned to the stairs heading up. The first room was guarded by undead. Eight skeletons were set to protect the upper level, and when the party did not provide the correct gesture, sprang to attack. Lady Elizabeth fought in the doorway, limiting the number of skeletons that could attack her. Dobby lashed out with his staff when he could get an opening, and Reaver attempted to use a grappling hook and rope to snare and trip them. One skeleton had managed to pound Lady Elizabeth’s helmet with a lucky hit, and she was sore and had a headache but apart from that the skeletons were ineffective against the party’s tactics and her armour. They were now just assorted shattered bones scattered over the floor.

Another room held a small library. Most of the texts dealt with mundane aspects of agriculture or religion. The party searched for secret doors but found none.

The most ornate book in the room was on one of the tables, entitled “A Most Worshipful Guide To Benign Pelor”. The huge and richly embossed volume was too big for any of the shelves. It contained many colourful illustrations and must have been valuable, however all of the illustrations had been crudely defaced. Some of the pages had rusty brown spots on them.
Book of Pelor
Lady Elizabeth placed her hands on the open book and closed her eyes. She centred herself and whispered a prayer to Bahamut. She felt the holy power of her god infuse her and spread to the book. Before Dobby and Reaver’s incredulous gaze the markings that marred the illustrations faded, as did the brown spots. The book took on a glow, that faded slowly after she removed her hands.
“Right, now lets take the book and sell it,” Dobby said, winking at Reaver. “It’s worth something now.”
“Hold! This book stays here!” said the paladin, a fraction of a second before she realised Dobby was baiting her. She scowled and gestured for the party to follow her.
Dobby grinned behind her back.

The next room was a small chamber, perhaps another meeting room, which contained a small table and two comfortable chairs. There was an unopened bottle of wine and two clean glasses on a shelf in the corner. Reaver took the wine and opened it. He took a couple of gulps.
“Nice,” he said, reading the label. “Orlane Special. This is the expensive locally made wine they have at the inn. Always wanted to taste it.” The half elf packed it away in his backpack.

While searching the room Reaver’s acute senses located a draft coming from no where. At first he thought there may have been an invisible presence in the room, he swung his sword about, alarming Dobby and Elizabeth. Then he realised it was because there was a gap between a section of the wall and the floor. A secret door! The half elf moved over to the door and examined it. He discovered a slit of a viewing port about chest height and quickly moved to one side so anyone looking through it from the other side could not see him. He gestured to the others to do the same. Quick as lightning from the side he pushed his shortsword through the viewing port slit with force, and was rewarded with a squeal and then a small thump as a body hit the ground. The sword came back out bloody.
“Let’s hope that wasn’t a prisoner,” remarked Dobby.
“Oh don’t say that,” growled Reaver.
Goblin
The party burst through the secret door to find eight angry goblins and one dead one. Rather than repeat the same tactic they had with the skeletons, Lazy Elizabeth attacked immediately, with Reaver at her side. Dobby hung back in the doorway, feeling somewhat exposed. Three goblins attacked each of the party members, although those closing on Dobby were cautious, perhaps expecting him to cast some spell. That gave Dobby an idea.

Lady Elizabeth slew two goblins almost immediately, although the third had gotten around her shield and given her a smash across the shoulder with its mace. The blow was well placed and numbed her arm. If the shield had not been strapped to her arm she would have dropped it. Meanwhile Reaver was doing even worse. The three goblins were obviously used to fighting as a team. They overwhelmed him with simultaneous attacks, and Reaver tried desperately to defend against all three. He failed and all three goblins struck him with their short swords, one of them pierced his chest and lung. Reaver slumped to the floor, blood bubbling from his mouth.

Dobby leapt forward, arms held out wide in a commanding pose.
STOP!” he shouted in the goblin language. “DROP YOUR WEAPONS OR I SHALL SMITE YOU DOWN WITH MIGHTY MAGIC!”
The goblins hesitated. Dobby knew goblins were susceptible to displays of power, although he suspected magic missile probably wasn’t going to do it, even if he did have two of them.
DROP YOUR WEAPONS NOW!!” The elf hoped the goblins did not hear the edge of hysteria in his voice. He waved his arms wiggled his fingers as if about to unleash an eldritch storm of magic.
Whether it was his performance, or the fact the goblins were just used to responding to displays of power, that Dobby could speak goblin, the fact that Lady Elizabeth had killed two of them with ease, or a combination of all of these, the goblins surrendered. Lady Elizabeth quickly got a rope from Reaver’s backpack and tied them up while Dobby bandaged the half elf’s chest. Reaver was unconscious and every time he breathed bubbles of frothy blood appeared at his mouth accompanied by a wet gurgle.

“We’ve got to get him to Nyves for some healing magic,” said Lady Elizabeth. Dobby agreed. He ordered the goblins to follow him, and Lady Elizabeth slung Reaver over her shoulder and they exited the temple.

View
Temple of Pelor - Ground Floor
So far, so good.

Elisar scouted to the base of the 20 foot granite wall surrounding the temple. Fortunately there were many trees growing around the wall. The cultists had obviously not had time to cut them down, or maybe it hadn’t even occurred to them, or it was too big a job for them. Whatever the reason the elf had more than enough cover. He found what he was looking for – hand and footholds cut into the wall. This was where the lizard people Vilma saw had climbed the wall. Elisar waved at the waiting party before fading back into the shadows.

“Let’s go,” whispered Lady Elizabeth. She disliked all this sneaking about, but it was necessary to prevent deaths of the charmed cultists. Dobby had come up with a good plan, and she was willing to endure the discomfort of not fighting battles on her own terms. The paladin moved slowly with exaggerated care, wary of making too much noise in her metal field plate armour. She moved easily – the stories of knights in armour too bulky to move freely were a myth, with the exception of tournament jousting armour. Field plate gave better protection than either standard plate or chainmail, and gave a better range of movement than standard plate armour. Field plate was of course, hideously expensive, and took nearly a year to craft.

Elisar saw the others were coming. He started the climb up the wall. There was a snoozing cultist at the top of the wall and he needed to be taken care of before he gave the alarm.

Kirk SmithKirk Smith dozed at his post. He was a tall, broad shouldered lad with massive shoulders and arms, sculpted by years using the tools of his trade as a blacksmith. His father and brother worked with him in their father’s business, and of the three of them Kirk was the one with the most promise. He was the specialist in engraving and fine work. His father Mike gave him all the jobs that required steady hands and a good eye for detail, not to mention the flair of an artist. All that had been put on hold when he and his family had been captured by the cult nearly a year ago. Since then life had been confusing, exhilarating at times, depressing at other times. Part of Kirk rebelled at what he had become, but the thought of HER made him weak. Kirk wanted to please HER, and do what he was told by those who conveyed HER orders. But a spark of him held out hope that one day all this would be over, and he could continue to pursue his dream of moving to a bigger community where fine metal work was appreciated and paid for.

All of his dreams ended abruptly when strong hand out of the darkness was held over his mouth and a sharp blade penetrated his ribs to his heart. He coughed and died, wondering what had happened.

Elisar lay the body down in the shadows where it could not be seen from the ground. Looking at the courtyard between the wall and the temple he could see many sleeping forms around smoldering campfires. These would be the charmed villagers, forced to take the brunt of any attack. Two large dogs, thick set and rippling with muscle lay among them. One raised its head with ears cocked. Elisar held out his hands to those climbing the wall and they all froze in place. The dog lay its head down again. The elf waited a full five minutes before gesturing the others to resume climbing.

Once over the top of the wall Dobby cast his sleep spell in the area that included the most villagers, as well as both guard dogs. As soon as it was done, the party descended to the ground and opened the gate. It made a loud noise and a few villagers who had not been in the area of the sleep spell woke up and shouted, but none of their companions stirred. They hesitated, and lost. Reaver grabbed a flaming torch and waved at the waiting loyalist villagers who began their run into the courtyard. The party slipped inside the temple, pulling down the bar across the door, so that no more cultists could slip inside behind them. It meant shutting out the party’s allies and support as well, but inside the temple a small group of charmed cultist villagers could hold off a larger group for some time.

Pelor as a deity of agricultureThe central sanctuary of the Temple of Pelor was the first room visitors and worshippers would see. For this reason it had been kept pristine and clean, and suffered none of the defacing that the party would see elsewhere in the temple. The tile floor was decorated with an abstract mosaic pattern in orange, tan, brown and blue. Several tapestries decorated the walls, all depicting scenes of lush farmland and crops in various stages of maturity. Five huge elm trunks served as columns supporting the ceiling. They were carved and painted decoratively, and a statue of Pelor, carved from a solid piece of jade was mounted on a low dais at the north end of the room. Nyves had seen statues of Pelor depicted as a smooth shaven warrior, but this one showed him bearded and robed with a staff, looking more like a sage or a farmer. A blazing halo representing the sun shone around his head, and the tip of the staff also had a sun emblem.

The party began to systematically search the ground floor. They encountered a female cleric in her bedroom who had apparently heard them, for she was ready with armour and spells. This was Misha Devi, once cleric of Pelor, now a charmed cult member. Misha decided that if she were to die then she would die in service to HER. As the party entered the room she began to cast a spell, one that would have incapacitated the dangerous looking female warrior Misha recognised as a paladin, but this was disrupted by an arrow from Elisar striking her shoulder. Misha tried another but the mind spell was shrugged off by the dwarf. And then they were upon her. She fought but was outnumbered and outmatched. As Misha lay dying on the ground, she wondered briefly who would claim her soul. And then she wondered no more.

“Stop kill stealing!” growled Nyves.
“Your weapon is slow,” replied Lady Elizabeth, wiping her blade using a sheet. “The important thing is to eliminate our enemies as soon as possible.”
“Humph!” said the female dwarf, and stomped off.

They found a long corridor with a gleaming white floor and a series of alcoves along the eastern wall. A carved object either made out of gold or gold plated sat on a pedestal in each alcove which was lined in black to highlight the gold. There was a golden replica of a stalk of wheat, a potato, a cluster of oats, a cornstalk, a bunch of grapes, cluster of barley, various vegetables, including a large carrot.
“Hold!” said Lady Elizabeth, as Elisar and Reaver both moved forward.
“You can’t steal these,” scolded Nyves. “The Temple of Pelor will need its religious artifacts once it is restored and the influence of the cult is cut away.”
“We could just take the backs of the gold carvings that face the wall,” protested Reaver. “No one would miss those.”
Lady Elizabeth gave one of her looks. It was the kind of look that made one seriously concerned as to whether she was doing a detect evil on you, and if she had found that you were and if she was thinking it was time to rid the world of such evil. Reaver kept quiet.
“And one might consider that considering all the defacing of images and icons of Pelor we have seen, the first room aside, it is a wonder that these remain untouched,” observed Dobby thoughtfully. “Almost as if they were.. protected.”
Evil monkNyves closed her eyes. Now she could feel the holy power radiating from the objects.
“These are holy items, I think something bad would happen to anyone who took them. Or carved a bit off.” She looked at Reaver.
“Fine, fine, we’ll leave the ruddy holy bits and pieces,” mumbled Reaver.

Another corridor led to some meditation cells, where some men were meditating, but who immediately attacked as soon as they were aware of the party. They used no weapons, only their hands and feet, arms and legs. Such was the ferocity of their strikes and kicks, Reaver used his only sleep spell, and was dismayed to find only one of the monks affected, as well as the dwarf cleric Nyves. Dobby used his second and last sleep spell to down the second evil monk, while Reaver shook Nyves awake. While Lady Elizabeth battled the third and last, Nyves flew into a rage and took it out on the unconscious monks, killing them both. She felt a wrenching inside her, and knew she had done the wrong thing. Moradin, or whoever was watching on behalf of her god, was not pleased. She knew there would be a price to pay for this transgression later. Once again her youthful temper had led her into failing her religion’s moral code. Nyves silently accepted whatever penance her god demanded.

Stairs going up to the top level of the temple were also found.
“We’ve missed something,” said Nyves. “I remember being told by someone that there is a lower below ground level here as well. Maybe it was that merchant fellow from Hookhill, the one whom the charm is wearing off. We’ve missed a secret trapdoor or something.”
“We’ll have to look again,” said Lady Elizabeth. “But for now maybe we should go up, as the stairs are right here.”

View
Planning the Assault on the Temple
The party investigates and steals..

Zakaraias Ormond looked across the table at the party.
“I see no other way, we must attack immediately before they kill the hostages.”

Things had progressed since the previous day. Overnight, perhaps even while Lady Elizabeth’s birthday celebrations were under way, friends of the party – Galen Weaver and his wife Clara – had been taken hostage by the cultists. When the temple was approached by Zakarias Ormond and his retinue, the cultists threatened they would kill hostages should anyone try to enter the temple. The grounds between the 20 foot high granite walls and the temple building were patrolled by many of the cultists, those charmed and otherwise, as were the walls themselves. The cultists also had some vicious guard dogs.

Between the party and the mayor a plan was concocted. Whichever way they looked at it, Dobby pointed out, the hostages were going to be at risk, either by action or inaction. Zakarias would form a force made up of the remaining loyal villagers to surround the temple so no one could get away, and the party would storm the building. The party would open the temple gates if they could to let in the loyal villagers.

“There may be a secret entrance,” suggested Nyves. “We’ll explore the nearby buildings just in case.”
“We also need more equipment, arrows and the like,” said Reaver.
“While I dislike stealing from villagers, I think the need is great,” said the mayor. “Therefore you have my permission to break into the general store. Obviously no one will be there to stop you as Baxter Moist the storekeeper is a known cultist and is inside the temple. Take only what you need, as once the storekeeper and his family are free of the charm spell, they will need to start their business again.”

It only left to be decided when to attack. Dobby was all for a full daylight attack, so that friend and foe could easily be distinguished. Between himself and Reaver, they could muster three sleep spells, which if cast at the most opportune time could remove many combatants from the fray. However it was argued if this was the stategy then night time would be more effective, for the maximum chance of surprise.
“They have no military minds working for them,” said Zakarias. “A pre-dawn raid would likely be the most opportune time. A military man would make sure his men are on alert at that time.”

The party left for the general store. It was no trick for them to break into the locked building. Dobby found some darts – not the kind used in games, but these were heavy iron tipped weapons, looking like an arrow with a short shaft with fletching and long iron head, made for throwing. Dobby also found a kind of belt which the darts could be stored in that stretched around his chest diagonally from shoulder to hip. Nyves looked around but found nothing she could use and went outside to talk with Lady Elizabeth leaving the elf and half elf in the store.

Elisar and Reaver, who had been stocking up on arrows, looked at each other, and then quickly made their way to the store’s cashbox, under the counter. It was trapped, but their tools quickly removed the hinges from the rear of the box and jimmied it open. There was some coins, although not as much as they were hoping. They quickly stashed the cashbox back under the counter, splitting and pocketing the coins.

The party went to a house fairly close to the temple. It was a shabby farmhouse with a barn. It gave the impression it had seen much use, and that it’s owners had little time for improving it’s appearance. There was no one home.

“Closest to the temple, makes sense these folk were probably one of the first to be converted,” observed Elisar. A good search around failed to find any secret door leading to a passageway to the temple. They moved to the next house which was a small, neatly kept cottage. Brilliant flower gardens surrounded this quaint little home. Clean shutters flanked several large windows, and fancy curtains were visible inside. The building was sheltered by several large elm trees. It turned out to be the home of Vilma Merridie, an elderly widow. She appeared physically weak, and was unable to walk more than a few feet between rests. She welcomed the unexpected visitors and invited them in for tea. Dobby got the impression she was a lot sharper than she let on, despite her rambling about “the old days”. She told of her suspicions about the villagers changing many months ago, citing the smith as an example.
creature described by Vilma“He has always been an ill tempered man,” Vilma said, pouring another cup of tea. “But lately there’s just no talking to the man.” The old woman said she no longer allowed the clerics of the temple to visit her, because they changed for the worse after going away suddenly for a week about a year ago. She appeared to have a very high opinion of the mayor, and the owners of the Inn of The Slumbering Serpent. She chose her moment to drop her bombshell.
“Of course what you may be interested in is that I have seen scaly folk, lizard like, with fin-like crests on their heads, crossing north and climbing the walls of the temple.”
After asking some questions the party made their goodbyes and left the old woman’s house.

“There won’t be any way in if these creatures are having to climb the walls,” said Nyves.
“We need to look where the creatures crossed,” said Elisar. “We’ll have to do that at night, otherwise we’ll just be a target for their crossbows.”
“Night it is then,” said Lady Elizabeth.
“Are you going to bring your new toy?” asked Nyves.
“What? Oh, him,” answered the paladin. “No, David can stay behind and look after the horses and our gear. I have no idea what I am supposed to be teaching him.”
They returned to the inn to make their final plans with the mayor and wait for nightfall.

View
Return to the Underground Passages
The fate of Milward is known

While Lady Elizabeth had been recovering at the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent, there had been one important cult event in town. The assault on the Golden Grain Inn had appeared to paralyse the cult in Orlane – nothing happened for several days. And suddenly, all known cult members, and several others who may or may not have been cult members, disappeared. Overall nearly half the village population were gone from their homes. The elves Dorian and Llywillen scouted and reported the missing villagers were in the Temple of Pelor, which had shut its gate allowing no one in or out.

Zakarias Ormond the mayor held a meeting in the common room of the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent. He advised the remaining worried villagers to band together, check on each other, help each other with their harvests, as the confrontation with the cult was likely to be heading for a conflict. The survival of the village rested on being able to deal with the cult without too many villagers on either side dying.

A tally of missing villagers revealed that around two dozen villagers were gone, more than were suspected of being cult members. It was unknown if all were cult members or if they had been kidnapped. The town was now without a constable, as Grover Ruskadal – to no one’s surprise – was one of the missing. Zakarias Ormond’s aging personal guard Traver Stoutheart was to temporarily take up the vacant position, even though there was little to do at the post at the moment.

With Lady Elizabeth well once more, the party decided to return to the underground passages beneath The Golden Grain Inn.

The barred door appeared not to have been touched, although Reaver checked it anyway in case cultists had trapped it. He found nothing and the party unbarred the door and proceeded into the cold passage. This time they kept to the left, at two intersections the left passage was taken both times. Lady Elizabeth led, followed by Nyves, then Dobby holding the flaming torch, and Elisar, with Reaver bringing up the rear. As the passage appeared to open out into a room, a figure lunged at Lady Elizabeth from the darkness. It was human, or maybe once was so. It’s wild, insane eyes, sharp pointed teeth and long, filth encrusted nails indicated the creature had lost it’s humanity some time ago. It clawed and bit at the paladin, hissing in a frustrated manner at only finding metal to bite on.
“Ghoul!” exclaimed Nyves.
Ghoul
Lady Elizabeth stabbed and slashed at the creature, pushing it backwards into the room. Behind her Nyves presented her holy symbol of Moradin, although appeared to have difficulty in channelling the power of her deity. As soon as she got enough room to swing her longsword, Lady Elizabeth swung it in a vicious arc, which sliced through the ghoul’s neck. It’s head flew off in a relatively bloodless affair and smacked on the ground. Reaver had slipped past the combat looking for the chance to attack from the rear, and suddenly found two more ghouls leaping at him from the darkness. One managed to claw and bite him, as he frantically called for help. Nyves’ holy symbol blazed with power, and the light drove the ghouls away and they ran to the far end of the room. Lady Elizabeth closed with the creatures, as Elisar and Reaver found range with their arrows. Even Dobby picked up some sharp rocks and hurled them. Fairly soon both ghouls cowering at the rear of the room found true death, and Reaver received a healing spell from Nyves.
“Look at this one,” said Nyves, pointing to one of the ghouls. It looked a little more human, as if its transformation had been more recent. It still had the remains of some blonde hair, and a recognisable face, albeit twisted horribly from its transformation to a ghoul and then true death.
“It’s Milward!” exclaimed Lady Elizabeth. “Thank Moradin he has finally found peace.”
“And here is his family ring,” Nyves stooped to wiggle the signet ring from the ghoul’s finger.
Lady Elizabeth insisted they all share a prayer to Milward’s soul.
After the prayer the others searched the room but other than the remains of rats, bones of other animals and disturbingly bones that looked human, there was nothing else here. It was a dead end.

Pushing onward down a different passageway the party encountered another large snake. This one was curled up on a rafter, perhaps digesting its latest rat meal. More arrows from Elisar and Reaver angered it enough to come after them, but only found its death as once again Lady Elizabeth decapitated a foe. The room had several exits, including one that appeared to just come to a dead end. Perhaps it had been a mistake, or they had changed their mind about the direction – whatever the reason it looked like there was nothing to see there, and the party continued onward.
“Where are we?” asked Lady Elizabeth.
Dobby looked at the crude map he was making. He pointed a slender finger at a spot on the map.
“This passage should join up with another one we have already seen,” he said.
And so it proved. There was only one more item of note to be found in the passages. A room held
a statue of a snake with a human like head, made out of several tusks of ivory, skillfully blended by a master craftsman and raised on a stone dais. There was nothing else in the room other than more bones.
“I think this is significant,” said Dobby. “Maybe this creature, whatever it is, is behind the cult.”
Naga statueMeanwhile Elisar and Reaver were attempting to move the statue.
“Bloody heavy” grunted Reaver.
“Most of the weight is from the stone base,” advised Nyves. “Here, let me see if it separates.” The dwarf examined the carving.
“If we can cut here, and here,” she pointed, “it should come away from the base, but you have to do it right or the ivory will crack or even shatter the entire carving.”
“It’s worth a go,” said Elisar. “We’re not getting it out of here otherwise.”
With Nyves assistance the ivory carving was detached from the stone base. It was still heavy, but manageable now. The party exited the passageway, Nyves, Elisar and Reaver struggling with the statue.

Once outside they decided to sell the statue immediately. Reaver went back to the inn to get his horse. The statue was tied to the saddle and it was walked down to the jeweller and moneychanger of the town. Not interested in the selling of the statue Lady Elizabeth headed back to the inn. She wanted to check on her horse Epona and maybe take her out for some exercise.

A gem encrusted ring was pictured on a sign outside of the jeweller’s shop. The doors and windows were open. The building was small, but looked extremely sturdy – the shutters and doors were of heavy wood, reinforced with iron bands. A man dressed in leather armour greeted them outside and introduced himself as Wylie Dunn. Wylie was armed with a shortsword at his hip and appeared to be a guard rather than a jeweller.
“Quite so, quite so,” Wylie grinned when this was expressed to him. “Can’t be too careful, especially in times like these. Myself and Erroll keep Mr Ull safe from those who would rob him of his livelihood.” He gestured for the party to enter the building.

One of the first things to catch the eye in the shop was a head in a jar of fluid on a shelf. It had a label on the jar – “The Last Person Who Tried to Rob Me”. Nyves wrinkled her nose with distaste. Another man in leather armour, presumably the other guard named Erroll appeared from a doorway, eyeing the party, but gave a friendly smile when he realised who they were. Behind the counter was the proprietor of the shop Haskalli Ull. He was a very hairy man, he wore his hair short but had athick beard, and also had hair sprouting from his neck and chest, and even coming out of the sleeves of his shirt. He was very professional in his dealing with the party, although in a friendly way. He chatted about business falling off in the last year or so, but was still able to make a living from the occasional adventurer or merchant needing coins changed or gems sold. After inspection he offered 2 thousand gp for the ivory statue. Reaver asked for 2,500gp and Haskalli Ull agreed. He paid in a variety of coin types, stating apologetically that he did not have that amount of money all in one coinage.

The party returned to the Inn of the Slumbering Serpent, feeling satisfied with their day’s work. And here there was one more surprise. Zakarias Ormond, the mayor, turned up with a tall, young man in tow. The mayor stood beside the party’s table and gestured for them to remain seated, handing Lady Elizabeth a scroll. Lady Elizabeth sighed as she recognised the Markelhay family crest upon the seal. Her father interfering with her life again. She opened the scroll and read.

“My dearest daughter,

Happy birthday and congratulations on your achievements so far. Zacharias Ormond has spoken well of you and your companions which pleases me greatly.

It is customary for a knight such as yourself to have a squire. May I present David Williams, who is the son of a good friend of mine. He is not of noble birth, but he is strong and willing, and is of good character. I have sponsored David on your behalf, and naturally his family are anxious for him, and it may cause some difficulty between our two families should anything happen to him. However the life you both have chosen is a dangerous one, and so as long as you do your best for him I am sure that will be enough. Look after David, guide him, support him, work him hard, and do not put him in harm’s way unnecessarily. I am sure he will be an asset to your adventuring group in the long run.

Please also accept your birthday gift, which David was kind enough to bring with him.

Happy birthday sweetheart,

Your loving father"

Lady Elizabeth scowled up at David Williams. She knew his family, rich merchants trying to climb the social ladder, although truth be told as a family they were not unpleasant or immoral. He was tall and athletic looking. David returned her look cooly, as if he were dubious as to whether he could learn anything from a woman not much older than himself. Then as if remembering he hurredly pulled a sword still in its scabbard from behind his back.

“My lady, this is from your father, a gift on the occasion of your birthday.”
The sword was a good one, the runes spoke of a blade magically enhanced, which also had the power to heal the wielder once per day. She replaced the sword at her side with the new one, thanking David for carrying it. He bowed and said nothing.

Just then the round figure of Belba Cralloon came from the kitchen with a cake and lit candles. Everyone sang the traditional birthday song, and there was some merry making into the night.

View
Underground Passages
Explorations cut short

Beyond the barred door was a hastily excavated passageway heading south. Rats scurried for cover as the door opened. The dirt walls and ceiling were shored up every 5 feet with heavy timbers. The ceiling was only 6 foot tall which meant Lady Elizabeth had to duck every time they went past a timber beam. The floor was smooth dirt, and there was an odour of must and decay. The air was unusually cold.

It was totally without light. Lady Elizabeth went first, with Dobby right behind her, holding a torch. It’s feeble light stretched out only 15 feet ahead. The others followed behind in single file. At the first fork they went right, simply because there was no reason to choose either of the options. At the second junction of three tunnels they went right again. That tunnel led into a large dirt chamber. It appeared empty, and was noteworthy only for the fact that the timbers at the far end had collapsed, leaving a pile of loose earth against the wall.

“I’ll see what caused this collapse,” said Nyves. She moved over to the collapsed wall, looking up at the overhead beams. This was why she missed the movement at her feet. A large mud viper, a predator which waits in mud or dirt in ambush, lashed out at the dwarf. It moved sluggishly, perhaps because of the cold, and struck its fangs on her armour.

Crying a warning Lady Elizabeth rushed across the chamber to help her companion. Elisar also moved closer, but did not attack yet, waiting for an opening. Dobby hung back, making sure the light from his torch was of benefit to the party. He wondered if retreating was an option, how likely was it the snake would pursue them? But he saw the grim determination on the face of Lady Elizabeth, and knew she would not retreat, at least not voluntarily.

It was about that time the snake latched onto Lady Elizabeth. She had swung at it with her sword, and it had lashed out at her at the same time. One fang pierced her gauntleted hand, and poison flowed into her arm. She staggered backwards, dropping the sword and with a small cry fell to the ground. Elisar chose this moment to join the fray from behind the snake, and Nyves renewed her assault. Between them the snake was despatched. Lady Elizabeth was barely conscious, shivering and very pale. If not for her training she would have passed out already from the pain. Her arm was trying to swell, but was restricted by her armour. This was a good thing, acting like a pressure bandage and making the blood flow slower.

“Lets get her back to the inn, I can tend to her better there!” said Nyves. The party retreated the way they had come (Elisar quickly searching the snake’s hiding place for any valuables. He was disappointed.) They barred the door again, endured the laughter of the cult members who were tied up, and left the building. Nyves called out to Reaver to fetch the mayor and his trusted men to take over the Golden Grain Inn and lock up the captured cultists.

It took a week for Lady Elizabeth to recover. Ramme assisted Nyves in caring for Lady Elizabeth with his knowledge of herbs and his potions. Luckily the cultists activity stopped, perhaps without Derek Desleigh, the cult leader of the village, they needed more time to get organised. The Golden Grain Inn was closed for business, and Zakarias Ormond stationed his trusted men there – his bodyguard Travis Stoutheart, and two elves who had arrived recently. These elves were once adventuring companions of Zakarias when he “ran around righting wrongs and gathering treasure” as the mayor described it. The elves of course, looked young, and they introduced themselves as Dorian and Llywillan. Zakarias explained he had written to the pair to help him investigate the cult’s activities months ago and they had only arrived in the past few weeks.

The two elves confirmed what the party already knew – that an evil cult is somehow controlling the minds of certain citizens, including the two clerics of the Temple of Pelor, the proprietor and regular customers of the Golden Grain Inn, the constable, the carpenter, and the blacksmith.

The dead cultists were buried, the prisoners had been interviewed, but they remained tight lipped and refused to answer questions. They did talk about “HER” and how “SHE would send help to rescue them” but gave little else away. Only the merchant showed signs of the charm spell wearing off, occasionally he would ask his questioners to protect him from the cult, before the charm reasserted itself. He mentioned the word “Explicita” as a name for “HER”. The others were unwilling or maybe unable to say that name. Ramme suggested that being unable to name whoever she was, this Explicita, may be part of the charm spell. She was obviously a powerful magic user to cast such a strong charm, or maybe she had a powerful magic item that did it for her. But it looked like the charm had to be renewed every couple of weeks, which meant there was hope for the charmed townsfolk.

Soon Lady Elizabeth was on her feet again, and the party were ready to see what else was behind that barred door. Dobby hoped there weren’t any prisoners there, as they would be dead by now from lack of water, but he kept his thoughts to himself.

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