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Storm King's Thunder [CLOSED]

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]The five who still have their wits about them head back east for the shelter of Melvin's Bunion, carrying the unconscious genasi with them. The faint tolling of the gong soon fades, leaving just the damp sucking sounded of boots pulling out of the muck and occasional bird calls, which Lecuis answers with a dolefully-whistled tune. It takes over an hour to get back to the small dry cave, with no creatures other than a few wild sheep seen along the way. Aseir comes to a bit before you make it to the Bunion, and is able to walk on his own.[/div]
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]When Aseir wakes, Lecuis brings his whistled tune to a dramatic close and looks at his friend expectantly. There's a bit of confused disappointment in his eyes. Walking off a bit, he sings a little catch and cocks an ear to the wind. "Oh well," he says after a moment, "I guess we could all use a rest." He shrugs and chuckles, but Aseir can tell the Demon Musician is troubled.

The low cave at Melvin's Bunion is just as it was left a few hours ago. Noas' body is still there, as yet undiscovered by the wild dogs and other scavengers of the moor. Everyone settles down to bind their wounds and catch their breath, with appropriate caution taken to keep a watch on the land surrounding the hillock. It's been about a half hour when whoever is on watch spots four cloaked figures on horses approaching from out of the fog about a quarter mile northwest of here. The shadows of the cave mouth makes it almost certain these people won't see the six of you until they've come much closer.[/div]
 

ramonlimon2

Junior Member
Aseir's rest, if it can be called that, is anything but gentle as the musician and the wizard's apprentice haul him out through the mouth of the cave. In their panicked flight they are anything but gentle, banging the poor dying genasi's head around and nearly dropping him in the muck in their haste to cross the moor and find safety.

As his body gasps and flails Aseir finds himself lost in a tumultuous rush of sensation. His body is freezing but his stomach is burning, melting in an inferno of pain that threatens to dissolve him from the inside out. He can't tell if he's hearing a roaring, rushing loud enough to hurt his ears and make him want to claw his head open or a ringing silence and a pattern repeating over and over. Like music he thinks before all thought is gone again, forced from an exhausted mind.

Vision is the most confused sensation of all, periods of absolute black interspersed by flashes of cold aching light, blurs and shadows dancing in jagged formations but never resolving even as he gasps and knives of air stab into bruised and bleeding lungs. Aseir is sure, just for a moment, that he recognizes the sadistic smirk of a man and his body is on fire again and everything melts away to the pain--

And suddenly he's awake again, falling out of Lecuis' tight grip and onto all fours, spewing blood and bile onto the swampy ground. He rises, shakily, to his feet, manages to stumble with the rest of the party until they reach a cave and stop.

When the group reaches the Bunion he collapses eagerly to the ground, taking the opportunity to rest and let the worst of his wounds begin to knit back together. He can hear the off note in Lecuis' voice, but for a few somber minutes can't bring himself to do anything but lie and rest.
 

Ellywyck27

Ironfist, Galanodel
Lycan’s quiet announcement that four horses with riders are approaching is actually a welcome interruption to Ruth’s troubled rest. The nightmare of the last two days just keeps repeating in her head over and over. She lost everything. They failed this mission. They had no leader. The small town of Nightstone is gone; the people are dead. There will be no restoration. And her horse was slaughtered. Anger doth not bryng lyfe, but violence, she reminds herself. For a moment she allows a tear to slip down her cheek, and says prayers for those who have died.

She quietly comes to Lycan’s side to see for herself. “Shall we move further back in the cave and stay hidden, or approach and greet them? If they are foes, I do not know which is the better advantage.”
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]"Hrmm," mutters Lycan, "cautious but not regimented. The dapple strays." Torem makes a face at the scout's cryptic utterance and moves forward to see for himself. "Bandits," he hisses, "come looking for easy spoils. They must have a camp somewhere out there."[/div]
 

ramonlimon2

Junior Member
Aseir winces at the unwelcome news. "Surely some powerful being has cursed us, nothing else would explain the sheer amount of life- threatening danger. I was merely an amazing acrobat as recently as last week, and now I can't seem to stave off mortal peril for longer than an hour!" He shakes his head in disgust and amazement at his rotten luck.

He breathes long, slow breaths to calm himself. "Okay, positives. We outnumber them, we're recently rested, and we have the element of surprise. Ruth, Torem, you're the soldiers, how do we turn that into us not dying here?"
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Bell sits quietly in the shadows as the others deliberate about how to handle the approaching bandits. The rogue knows what he will do. He draws and nocks an arrow.

"Bandits... not regimented. Surely some powerful... surprise. How do we... have the element of surprise?"

Bell looks around for any kind of high ground or cover where he can move to without being seen by the oncoming bandits. The only option is deeper into the cave, so he taps each person bear him then steps back into the shadows.
 
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Ellywyck27

Ironfist, Galanodel
Everyone has indicated that staying hidden is the best plan. Ruth nods at Torem as if to say We are soldiers, and now guards. We must practice our profession once again.

She looks at each one as they retreat into the cave and follows, the last one disappearing back into the shadows, which will make her the first one a bandit must fight.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
It's not so very long hunkered down in the cave at Melvin's Bunion before the damp padding of horses' hooves in the peat is audible. The mouth of the cave looks out on the misty moors, but the riders approach from off the the right, so that even Ruth can't see them from her station.

"...well regardless what the Margrave says," comes a woman's voice from nearby outside, "that don't change the fact we've still got those three good wagons tucked off from last tenday's sally and a spiff sack of the good stuff laid aside for winter."

"Pish on that,"
a phlegm-rattling male voice replies, "You poke a knife in your ear when them crows was talking? Old ice britches is set to tumble down the spine on our heads. Your wagons and sacks ain't to do you nuffin when yer squished in the sod."

"Pillows on both of you,"
says another man, his voice sounding closer than the others, "and eyes peeled for Little Jack. I don't need no arsefull of stickers when I go to rest my ... oh, well hello, who's this then?"

bandit1.jpg The last speaker, having walked in front of the cave mouth mid-sentence, stares at Ruth and Torem with great curiosity. With a shrug to himself, he addresses them. "Madam, Sir, so sorry to have disturbed you." His three companions come into view as well, hands near the bows slung from their shoulders. "You see," the man continues, "we were just out for a stroll, and admiring this fine rock formation, thought we might investigate. But, seeing as you've set up a camp for yourselves here, we'll leave you to it and be on our way." The man looks at Torem a bit longer. "Nightstone then, is it? Our regards to Lady Nandar, and may Silvanus smile on the two of you." He touches his head in a salute and seems inclined to depart. The woman behind him looks sorely disappointed.
 

Ellywyck27

Ironfist, Galanodel
Ruthenia watches and listens. That’s how you gain the best intel, and size up the opponent- a speaker is vulnerable, revealing everything they are, since one cannot move and think and talk about opposite things; even a liar has signs that give away their true thoughts.

Saying nothing in response to the mans greeting, and keeping her grip on her shield, she does however stow her war hammer when the speaker says they will leave peaceably. The woman’s look of disappointment is the strongest indication that these folks truly mean to leave and not to fight. Only then does she speak.

“We are not opposed to company, and to sharing an hour of shelter here, if you mean no harm. My companions and I are not intending to be long, as we are headed back to Nightstone shortly. You have not been there recently, I take it?”
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]"No, I shouldn't say I've been to Nightstone recently, Madam," the man says. "It's been some time since I've had the pleasure." From the deeper reaches of the cave Aseir catches the ironic tone. One of the fellows behind the speaker smirks. Ruth can almost feel Torem bristling behind her. Out of the corner of her eye she can see that he has not put his weapon away like she has, but at least stands with the butt of the spear resting on the ground rather than outright brandishing it.

Now that he's had a chance to adjust to the dark, the man with the eye patch sees the other shadowy figures towards the back of the cave. "Ah, there are your companions," he says. "Hello everyone. Your invitation is very kind, but no, I think we will give you your privacy and be on our way."

The four who Lycan and Torem labeled bandits begin to move carefully away, before the leader purses his lips, exchanges a look with the smirking man, and turns back. "A word of warning," he says, "in case you don't already know: the goblins are fierce lately—a fresh influx from up north. I see you're well equipped, so won't patronize with a schoolmarm's tut tut to her wards. Just know that the goblins are out there."[/div]
 

Ellywyck27

Ironfist, Galanodel
“A few less goblins are out there than this morning. But only a few. We don’t recommend the yonder Nostril as a destination to any weary travelers either.” Ruthenia returns the friendly warning with her own, accompanied by a good-bye nod. She isn’t used to being the spokesperson. Though the short encounter was peaceful, she doesn’t feel very successful.

She takes a few steps forward to watch the strangers. It had crossed her mind that the horses would have been wonderful to have... if only the encounter had turned violent and there were no riders left but themselves. She blushes with embarrassment. Those are bandit thoughts. Not fyt for an honorable dwarf to wysh. She hopes no one behind her can read thoughts.
 
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Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]"Thank you kindly for the advice," the man with the eye patch says with a bow by way of farewell before he and his companions depart. Anyone who observes from the shadow of the cave mouth can see them mount their horses and go back along roughly the same course that brought them here, with occasional glances back towards Melvin's Bunion.

lecuis.jpgThe rest of the hour passes uneventfully. Torem fusses over Noas' corpse a bit more, gathering whatever additional materials he can to cover up the dead Nightstone guard. When everyone is a bit more refreshed and talking about a second salvo against the Nostril, Lecuis finds a moment to take Aseir aside. It has not gone unnoticed that he didn't follow his usual practice of noodling at his lute during this respite. In fact, the Demon Musician has been rather uncharacteristically somber and reserved.

"Dammit, Aseir," he says, "I don't know what's come over me, but ever since ... back there, I haven't been myself. I can't hear my muse, my music is just plain music, I can't even think of any good insults. It's ... I just feel like I see myself like she looks at me." He glances over the stocky dwarf adjusting her armor. "Am I just an impetuous ass with a tongue now?" He smiles thinly.

"I'm no coward," he continues, "but I feel like I'll just be a burden and then a casualty if I go back there with you. And those four rough characters who just paid us a visit, I've got a hunch they've gone off to get their friends so they can come back here in style. I think what I'll do is carry this Noas back to Nightstone, make sure he gets a proper burial, then see what help I can be there for the time being. You'll forgive me for that, right, old chum? I mean, unless you want to call it a day and come back with me. Maybe we weren't destined to be Zhentarim after all."[/div]
 

ramonlimon2

Junior Member
Aseir smiles sadly. "I think we might be destined to bounce from group to group. No one should ask more than your soul can bear, and I can't ask you to follow where you might get killed." His eyes harden and his expression sours some. "Taking Noas back and helping those remaining in town is a noble task, and one that should be done. But I need to kill these things that almost killed me, or I'll spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and expecting them to try again. If I die here know this is how I needed to go, and you can entertain young heroes with songs of Aseir the Fool."

Grabbing Lecuis by the shoulder, he leans in for a hug farewell. "And between you and me, she's an intransigent hardass with an overly rigid view of the world. Good in a fight, maybe, but I'll always take you out of one. When I chase this thread down we'll see each other again."
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Bell remains quiet and watches the group from the back. They are in no condition to start anything with these travelers, so it's best to hold his tongue until they are gone.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]It takes Aseir, Ruth, Bell, Torem and Lycan another forty minutes to retrace the route across the moors towards the goblin lair at the Nostril. About three hours have passed since the retreat. It's getting into the later part of the afternoon now, but with the days as long as they are up north this time of year, there's plenty of daylight left.

When the wide cave mouth comes into view through the fog a quarter mile ahead, Lycan points out the hulking figures, still tiny at this distance, that stand near it: likely the ogre from the mud bath and the other ogre with the big tusks who Ruth saw wandering off from the cave earlier today. If there are also goblins about over there, the distance and fog would make it impossible to see them this far away.[/div]
 

ramonlimon2

Junior Member
"Well," Aseir grins, "looks like we've got our work cut out for us. Who's for charging them, and who's for sneaking around the back like we did last time, only without being caught by surprise by that slimy thing?"
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]Following Bell and Lycan's leads, the group takes a wide looping course to the northeast, circling well out of view of the so-called "sinus" entrance, to where the ground gradually climbs a long east-west ridge. Even up here the moor fog limits visibility, but caution advises keeping low on the way to where the ridge should connect with the hilltop above the goblin cave. This means mainly walking in a narrow channel containing frigid runoff from the higher ground. The going is slow and marshy, but it seems certain that ogres and goblins will remain ignorant of travelers by this route. At last the climb levels off not far from the hoped-for link to the tree-covered summit of the Nostril. The higher moorland stretches out to the north and west.[/div]
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
[div=border: 2px solid green; padding: 10px]Having reached this point, with only the narrow ridge leading over to the topside of the Nostril, there's just one way to enter the small forest. Bell and Aseir go first, the kenku keeping a close eye for signs of goblins passing here, while the genasi stays alert for a current goblin ambush. The elf scout Lycan follows close behind Bell. His knowing expressions indicate that he's finding all sorts of meaningful sign where the corvid caravan master has spotted nothing out of the ordinary. But whatever morsels of backwoods wisdom he has to share will have to wait; as laconic as Lycan has proved in his speech, he's even less communicative now that silence is of the essence.

Even though the area to be searched isn't that large, the trees are close; wide, side-to-side sweeps are needed if one wants to get out onto the hill without the possibility of goblins at one's back. The group has advanced roughly halfway across the hilltop when Aseir sees movement on the ground among the trees ahead. A small sack is there, writhing. Whatever's inside it is certainly smaller than a goblin. And then, as if to illustrate the difference of scale, a goblin, crouching, quickly scuttles up the sack, grabs it, and gives it a vigorous shake. He holds a finger to his lips and scans the woods in the opposite direction from the party's approach. His head is covered by a sort of hat made of dry grass.[/div]
 

ramonlimon2

Junior Member
Aseir pauses at the sight, holding his breath as an extra habit of precaution. He waves to his allies to alert them to the goblin ahead. Turning back for a moment, he tries to gesture for Bell to sneak ahead and slit the mobsters throat.
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Bell acknowledges Aseir's request and gladly moves forward to take out the filthy goblin. Approaching slowly, the kenku feels he has the upper hand when another goblin with a flagon tied around it's neck lets loose an arrow from the bushes nearby. The arrow misses Bell, so the rogue continues with his plan to attack the nearest goblin. His blade flashes toward the goblin's back and he sticks the creature before it has a chance to flee. Seeing the flagon goblin approaching now with a short sword, Bell steps back and moves toward the safety of his group.

Two arrows fly past the kenku. One, fired by Torem misses and disappears in the bushes and the next arrow sticks in the wounded goblin just before it crumples to the ground dead.

With a nod to his friends Bell sprints toward the last location he saw the flagon goblin and finds a dark hole that descends into the goblin's lair.

"Ruthenia!" hisses Bell in a hasty mimic of the dwarf's own introduction. Then he waves her over pointing into the darkness. Lacking the proper words to explain that he needs her eyes, the kenku points two fingers toward his own eyes then down the hole.
 

ZombWie

Hircus Hornbrow
Bell watches silently as the others quietly discuss, then descend down the hole. The wagon master kenku offers assistance where he can by granting the use of his rope. The last one to climb down the hole, Bell unties his rope from a tree and follows the others. Once again plunging into the cave's darkness Bell begins to doubt his decision, but resolves to finish this mission and lay claim to what he can for the sake of the Zhentarim. He didn't reach the level of Wolf by giving up when things got difficult.

The commotion around him in the cave is the quiet reorganizing of his group. Bell continues to watch the others gather and exchange info in the dim light. If there are more goblins ahead, then they will need to be dealt with as cautiously as possible. The kenku is formulating a plan.
 

Baba Luga

Vestige
Sometime later ...

Terms have been reached with the Bigwig goblins: Ruth and Lycan will oversee the release of the Nightstone prisoners and begin escorting them back home, while Bell and Aseir go out on the moors with the ogres Nob and Thog, and Beedo. This latter arrangement is insisted upon by Snigbat to avoid a scene when the ogres see they are being deprived of their next several meals, and as insurance against a double cross by the "Basher-Smashers".

Snigbat conveys instructions to Beedo, who gives a stern lecture to the ogres, pointing at Bell and Aseir and shaking his head vigorously no many times. The ogres frown and pule. Beedo makes eye contact with Bell and Aseir, shrugs his shoulders, and points the way out of the cave, across the moors. Two other goblins come along and use sticks to direct the ogres by beating them on the calves and feet.

It's late in the afternoon now, with the sun starting to sink, and there's a chill air out on the moors. Still, this time of year the daylight should hold for at least another four hours. The ogres prove easily distracted, prone to investigating patches of muck and chasing apparitions in the fog. The two goblins are kept busy with their switches to move the lumbering creatures along. The tressym Hobo is easily distracted here too, regularly launching off Aseir's shoulders to glide over and drop down on unsuspecting rodents and insects. As for Beedo, looking more stern and serious than ever, he keeps an eye on the clouded hills while speaking at great length, either to himself or Aseir and Bell. It's not entirely clear which.

Back at the Nostril, Snigbat escorts Ruth and Lycan across the large central cavern to a dark, dank chamber with a great sinkhole at its center. The surviving prisoners are here, twenty-some adults and a handful of children crouching or lying exhausted on shallow limestone terraces around the sinkhole. Stray flapping and cheeping noises come from the natural pit. Snigbat holds a skinny finger to her lips and points at the pit. Under her direction, other goblins creep along the rim of the sinkhole, cut free the prisoners' bonds and start bringing them out into the main cavern. Lycan goes in himself to get two teiflings: a middle-aged woman with large horns and a man in his twenties with less-pronounced infernal features. Like the other prisoners, these two are dazed and tearful, gratitude bordering on disbelief as their ordeal nears its end, but also the final, pained acceptance that anyone not here has perished in the Nostril.

The freed prisoners are weary and dehydrated, but for the most part able to walk. A few are unconscious, as is Torem, and will need to be carried back home. "Better get started now," Snigbat says. "Ogres will be back soon. I'll send Aseir and the bird after you." When Bell and Aseir return, the others have already departed. It takes the two of them about a half hour to catch up with Ruth's group. At the pace of the slowest survivors, it could take another two hours to reach Nightstone. From the northwest, where the Nostril is, distant mournful cries and shouts of rage echo across the countryside.
 
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Baba Luga

Vestige
With the exception of peppy Aseir, you're all beat. But, being diligent Zhents, you report directly to Frostwell House over in the Mirabar Shield district. Rathas Fellwell is not in, but his bald-headed business partner Darton Frostham is there. Frostham spends some minutes riffling through papers, trying to find notes on your assignment, before Fellwell enters backwards through the front door, which he is pushing open with his posterior as he holds a covered basket in his arms. "Just caught them is the word, Darton. The last piping batch of dainties!" He sees the four of you and instinctively positions himself to conceal the basket before his eyes fall in resignation and he places the basket on his massive desk. The lid slides off, revealing a smorgasbord of fresh pastries, which he offers with a desultory wave of his hand.

rathas.jpg"Bell!" Fellwell barks, "good to see you back, safe and sound. And ..." his finger lingers in Ruth's direction before he finds her name, "Ironfist! And of course ..." his eyes drift down to a paper that Mister Frostham has placed before him, "Aseir and Lecuis." He nods to Aseir and Torem as he says this. Torem glances sideways at Ruth, but does not make any correction to the error. Fellwell scans the papers before him a moment more. "So, how was it in Nightstone? All well, i trust? A regular, what is it they say? A regular nixie search party?"

And so your report commences, covering, in full, the myriad details of the sorry state of the keep post-giant-boulder-assault, the opportunistic goblin raid, the missing villagers, the death of Lady Nandar, the meeting with Shara Breakwood, the list of luxury items she requires, the bold rescue of the captured Nightstoners, the appearance of Arcane Brotherhood agent Lycan, the brush with the Margrave of the Moors' bandits, the sighting of the giant cloud castle. At first, Fellwell nods as if it's all par for the course. But as the tale grows and twists he becomes clearly engrossed. He takes a seat and helps himself to one of the pastries as he starts taking notes, while Mister Frostham takes it all in stride and wanders off to his own office.

"Well, then," Fellwell says through his sugar-dusted beard as the account finally winds down, "I'd say we've met our threshold on the hazard pay. Fair enough, you. As for incidentals..." He lifts a great leather-bound tome from below his desk—the word Losses is stamped across the cover in large gilt letters—"Let's see ... four Triboar horses, one jeweled necklace, and one mahogany jewelry box. Not bad." He makes these entries in the ledger. "Oh, a note here, as one makes for oneself: Do we have more of a picture of Breakwood's affiliations? Eh, Bell, et cetera? Do we know who employs her? 'Whosoever shall pay for this menagerie?' as the bard says."
 

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