This week in our Swords & Wizardry campaign we are actually playing an adventure that I wrought. But I did use a map from Heroic maps. So far it has gone okay. I had a couple of encounters set up for their journey to the main adventure site. I did think the first encounter at the main site was a little clumsy. I should have thought through more carefully what the players might do.
Session 21: Valley of the Nine Men
Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Crispin (Human Magic-user NPC).
The four adventurers leave the last hideout of the Veiled Society and head through the forest to the Rangers Steading. They are greeted Theric the leader of the Rangers and discover he has been cured of Lycanthropy by Cara Morrient. He gladly accepts their donations of supplies and takes the keys to the Elven Stronghold to safe keep.
The continue on to the hamlet of Cowfold with the cart they borrowed and three prisoners tied up in the back. In Cowfold they again take rooms at McGillman’s Inn. The three prisoners are tied up to a table in the main tavern and the heroes take turns watching them during the night. The next morning they set out on horseback toward Edgerton. At midday, they come across a body lying at the side of the road. While everyone waits, Carric scouts ahead to the body. He does not see anything suspicious so he waves everyone forward. Domago examines the body and finds the man is alive. He wakes the man up with a splash of water. The man tells them he was waylaid by a pair of bandits. They demanded his possessions and he tried to defend himself but was knocked out. He tells them that the bandits took all of his possessions. Lakima offers to take the man to Edgerton. The man introduces himself as Philbus and he gladly accepts Lakima’s offer. He asks them if they are bounty hunters and seems satisfied with the answer.
Late that evening the group reaches Edgerton. The Town guards at South Gate direct them to the Guard Station. Philbus thanks them and asks if they could spare him some gold? Eathwund gives Philbus 10 gold coins. Phibus waves goodbye and runs off. Carric silently drops off his horse and follows Philbus. Lakima and Eathwund continue on to the guard station. Domago heads over to the Church of St. Aleena. Lakima and Eathwund talk with the Guard sergeant on duty and hand over the three Veiled Society prisoners.
Meanwhile, Philbus, with Carric trailing him, heads to a rougher neighborhood and enters a building that appears to be a busy tavern. There is no sign outside the building but there are lights in the windows and a lot of noise. Carric carefully enters and finds the building houses a crowded tavern. He spots Philbus speaking to the barkeep. The barkeep nods to Philbus and hands him a key. Philbus goes behind the bar and through a curtained entrance. Carric notes this and leaves. That evening at the Black Company Shop, Carric lets Eathwund and Lakima know what he observed.
The next day, Lakima and Eathwund head to the Watch station, Carric heads off to gather information. Lakima and Eathwund meet with Sergeant Frans and collect the 1,200 gold bounty on Emil Radu and the other two men. They tell Frans about their encounter with Philbus. Frans tells them that it sounds like they encountered the thief Philbus the Fox. Carric scouts around the Market square looking for any of his contacts but does not find them. He heads over to the Low Market and observes a group of urchins working through the crowd, begging and thieving. He talks to the urchins and pays them some silver coins for information. He learns that the tavern he entered is called the Brass Key and is run by a man called “Old Pete” by the kids. They tell him that Pete is a fence.
Carric heads back to the shop and speaks with Eathwund about what he has learned. Eathwund tells Carric about Philbus the Fox. Lakima heads over to Fairfax gems and purchases an expensive bracelet for his fiance Alayna. He drops by Alayna’s shop and surprises her with the bracelet, which she seems delighted to receive.
While Lakima is out, there is a knock at the door and Carric finds a young man waiting at the door. The man seems surprised to meet Carric and asks to come in and talk to Lakima, Eathwund, or Daen. Carric lets the man in and Eathwund at first believes the man is Malyn the wizard but again with the appearance of a young man. But after speaking to the man who claims to be Malyn, Eathwund begins to become suspicious. When Lakima finally arrives, he quickly deduces the man is not Malyn. The man admits this and tells them his name is Crispin. He has been hired by Malyn to impersonate him. He asks them to accompany him to the Apothecary shop. They are still a little suspicious and refuse. The man leaves.
Later in the day, a fairly terse letter arrives from Malyn asking them to come by the shop. They do head over to the shop with Domago (who returned) and find the shop is still closed. They knock and a tall, armored man lets them into the shop. In the shop Malyn (still looking around 40 years old) and Crispin greet them. Malyn tells them that it is time to investigate the note he received. He wants them to accompany Crispin to the Standing Stones. Crispin will be impersonating him. He does hand a Black Ring of his hand to Crispin and asks them to carefully protect it. It would be best if it does not fall into the wrong hands. They agree to take on the task as a favor in return for a favor. Malyn agrees. They decide to set out immediately. They arrange for their ostler Nash to meet them and they stop by the Church of St. Cuthbert to meet Marta. Marta gives them 5 vials of Holy Water.
They set out from Edgerton out the north gate and follow the road along the Valen river for a few hours. Then Carric leads them off the trail in a northerly direction. They head across increasingly rough and deserted terrain to the north. This continues for hours until Carric pauses. Ahead, he spots a clearing, a mound of fresh-turned earth, and a dead horse lying on the ground near the mound. The heroes are immediately on guard. Carric circles the mound and approaches the horse. He spots a leg sticking out from under the horse, but when he gets closer he realizes it is a severed human leg without a body. Under the horse, he extricates a saddlebag. In the bag he finds a scroll tube with a note:
“Draxus has left Edgerton with protection. He has hired a group of adventurers called The Company of the Black Dragon. We have encountered this group before and they are dangerous.
While the group discusses the note they here rumbling beneath their feet and an enormous insect bursts from the ground nearby. The insect immediately attacks Eathwund and misses. Eathwund, Domago, and Carric all miss the nine-foot-tall insect. Lakima casts Aztazibar’s Acrid Finger and a stream of green acid shoots from his finger striking the insect, burning into its carapace. Domago hits the insect with his mace but it bounces off the hard carapace. The insect attacks Domago but misses. All of this time Lakima keeps his stream of acid on the insect continually burning it. Eathwund and Domago also strike the creature with Domago crushing its head with his strike. The creature twitches and collapses. Carric checks out the hole it emerged from but it does not look safe so he does not enter. They do take the time to chop away a large piece of the insect’s carapace. Then they rejoin Nash, Crispin, and the horses and continue on their way. They make camp in the field just before sundown.
The night is uneventful. They post watches but nothing disturbs them. The set out the next morning for the valley. On their right, the Northern Hills are visible and they spot the Valen Peaks ahead. Carric tells them that soon they should spot the smoke coming from the Valley of the Nine Men. Shortly after he says that they do see smoke, but it is too the north of them not in the direction of the valley they seek. Carric says that it looks like a large campfire. The discuss it and then decide to investigate. They want to be sure no one is following them. They find the source of the fire a short distance away. A small log cabin is on fire and the fire is slowly going out. Around the cabin, they see three dead goblins and a dead human. Carric spots a mule with heavy packs on its back in a nearby clearing eating grass. Nash is sent over to catch it. Domago checks that the human is dead. The man is badly, burned, and long since dead. He clutches a burnt crossbow. The goblins are each pierced by an iron crossbow bolt. As they stand about discussing the scene a volley of arrows flies from the trees aimed at all of them. One bounces off Eathwund’s shield. Another strikes Nash, and the ostler falls to the ground. Lakima yells at Domago to check on Nash. Carric finds cover in the burnt-out cabin. Lakima casts Shield on himself. Eathwund charges into the trees looking for the attackers. He immediately finds himself surrounded by a dozen goblins - many armed with short bows. The goblins attack him from all sides with spears and swords but Eathwund easily parries their attacks. Lakima casts Lightning bolt and immolates five of the goblins instantly. Eathwund, meanwhile, slashes at the goblins and kills three quickly. The remaining goblins run away. Eathwund decides not to pursue.
Domago and Nash lead the mule over to the cabin. They find some bear pelts and other miscellaneous goods strapped onto the mule. They take the mule in tow and continue to the east. Just as the smell of the tar pits of the valley begins to be noticeable the sun starts to set and they make camp.
That night they are disturbed several times by large bats flying by but seemingly kept away by their fire and torches. They manage to make it through the night. The next day they enter the Valley of the Nine Men. A thick cloud of smog rolls over them. The cloud smells bitter and it makes breathing difficult. A few of the heroes strap clothes wetted with water over their mouths. The visibility begins to drop as they walk further through the smog. The sun becomes a dim orange globe in the sky above. As they move cautiously through the valley they see the occasional bubbling tar pit. Carric spots a troop of six skeletons walking in a formation. They avoid them and then another group of eight skeletons moving in two columns. Crispin nervously notes that the skeletons were likely animated by a necromancer.
The Nine Men finally come into a view. Nine, black stone rocks each 14 feet tall. The stones are in a rough stone circle atop a flattened hill. In the center are a patch of rock and a crude stone altar. The Nine rocks do not look like the same stone as the local rock. They climb the hill and approach the circle. Crispin and Lakima approach the simple altar. They hear shrill laughter echoing about the circle. Then a woman appears out of nowhere not 10 feet away from Crispin. She surveys the group and then demands Crispin (who she calls Malyn) hand over the black ring. Crispin nervously fingers the ring on his hand. Lakima confronts the woman and demands to see her master. She refuses and threatens them. When she is unable to convince them to part with the ring she casts a spell and flies thirty feet straight up into the air. Eathwund spots a man jump down from the top of one of the stones and run off toward a nearby tunnel mouth in the side of the hill. He intercepts and swings his sword and the man, but the man ducks under the swing and gets away. The woman yells threats at them and then vanishes.
|The Circle of the Nine Men|
Eathwund, Domago, Carric, and Lakima with a reluctant Crispin in tow head over to the tunnel mouth. They tell Nash to wait outside with the horses. The tunnel is 15 feet across and 12 feet high. Steps lead down to a double door made of oak. The steps are 4 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Eathwund notes that the entrance looks to be designed for some really large creature.