Defense at Silver Hollow - Session 4

  • Malik, shifter warlord (Nick)
  • Fyodora, elf monk (Lisa)
  • Phoenixfire, dragonborn sorcerer (Cathe)
From six players to three! This session promised to be much more about social intrigue and less combat, so it didn't hurt too much.

Phoenixfire, Fyodora, Malik, Konrad, and Luccio awake in their rooms at the Rusty Bucket Inn and make their way downstairs for some breakfast. They find Ezmerelda passed out under the bar, snoring loud enough to rattle the dishes. The innkeeper has several letters for the party that were delivered (from the end of the last session) in the early hours of the morning. They open the letters as they eat.

  • From Alese Vaca, Master of House and Grounds of House Deepvein, a request to meet regarding the information about the Deepvein Shard that the party had requested.
  • With a wax closure bearing the House Vallund seal, simply a date (today), a time (this afternoon), and a place (a club called the Baying Hound). The signature is unreadable but the initials are "E V".
  • From Yusef Ben Hamid Al-Sansur, an urgent request to meet on a matter most dire.
  • From Sir Pompadour Meteron-Soulsmith, Office of the Sheriff of Silver Hollow, a notice that any of the lost Crystal Shards are vital to the defense of the city and shall be turned over post-haste.
  • From the Sisters of the Seven Pillars: "Have you considered donating your time and wealth to the Seven Pillars?"
Yes, the party got medieval-spam-mailed by a religious organization :)

Malik, Fyodora, and the Fantastic Phoenixfire decide that the letter from the Al-Sansur's seems to be the most urgent and plan to head there first. Luccio heads out into the streets to try and track down the location of some of the rare magical items that the party is looking for. Konrad and Ezzie are assigned to guard the large green crystal; Malik takes the Bag of Holding with the small red crystal with him.

As they leave the Rusty Bucket, there is a young elf boy? girl? (it's hard to tell) in red and green Deepvein livery (Fyodora confirms that it's a boy). He is a page named Pietre and he was assigned to deliver Master Vaca's letter and then wait for the party. They decide to change plans and follow Pietre to House Deepvein to meet Master Vaca again.

Master Vaca, who they had met before heading into the mines, relayed their request for information regarding the Deepvein Shard to Caden Deepvein, one of the Lord and Lady's son's. Unfortunately, he is rather loose-lipped and leaked this information to his 'gang' at the Beak and Feather, a notorious den in the Chasm. It is likely that the other families know what the party is up to. Alese warns that the others will try to take the crystal shards from the party for their own use and offers the Deepvein vaults as a secure holding place.

Malik assures her that the shards are well protected (cut to Ezzie sprawled on top of the green shard, still passed out).

Ezmerelda is funny even with her player absent.

Malik, Phoenixfire, and Fyodora head on to see Yusef Al-Sansur as they had originally planned. The thick wooden front door of the house is carved with a sun over an hourglass - the symbol of Pelor, patron of the desert shifter Caliphate. They are lead by a servant into a sitting room; though the house is of grey stone construction similar to others in the rich Market Circle of Silver Hollow, the sitting room is filled with the plush carpets, pillows, hangings, and golden oil lamps of a shifter sheik.

After some time, an elegantly-robed cat-man comes into the room and introduces himself as Yusef ben Hamid Al-Sansur. He gets right to the point - he knows that the party is after the crystal shards and has a dire warning: the crystal's power is infernal. The original creators of the crystal four hundred years ago (the great families of Silver Hollow) mixed their blood with that of a Devil to give power their creation; thus, they changed from human to tiefling, dwarf to duergar, and their decedents carry their cursed blood as well. Yusef's family, many years ago, took the shard from the dying Bluesun family and placed it deep within the tomb of their greatest ancestor: Aheem the Shining, Prophet of Pelor and a great paladin. His spirit guards the evil of the crystal shard, and Yusef begs the party to place any shards that they find into the tomb as well.

The party shows him the threat of the building orc horde; Yusef maintains that the risk of the evil inherent in the crystal is not worth the power it may provide and insists that there must be another way. He will not take the crystals himself, though he will provide a guide to the tomb when they are ready. He leaves, as do the party.

Malik, Phoenixfire, and Fyodora head back to the Rusty Bucket for lunch. They meet up with Luccio, who has good news and bad news. The good news: he has located some of the items that they are looking for. Several of them are in possession of the hobgoblin warlord Kugla, in the mountains to the north. The bad news: one of the other items is in the swampy ruined lair of Da'al-Denak, a vicious black dragon, on an island to the northwest. Luccio heads back out after lunch to continue his information gathering; Malik asks that he also try to locate the Tomb of Aheem the Shining.

This is how we are handling major magic items - the things form the players' wishlists won't improbably be found on the random enemies they are fighting, but will be more of a sidequest. The items found in the 'storyline' enemies will lean towards general party use.

After checking that Konrad and Ezzie are OK, the remaining three party members decide to conduct an experiment. They find an empty field in The Farms, a district of Silver Hollow to the southeast, with a single tree. Malik fishes out the small red crystal that they had previously retrieved from the fallen house of Lightbringer and hands it to Phoenixfire. She tries to use the crystal to augment her fiery sprays, but she only succeeds in setting fire to the tree (quickly put out with a blast of cold). Fyodora takes a turn but is also unsuccessful; whatever power the crystal shards have, they don't seem to be channeling it correctly.

Late afternoon arrives, and they head to their appointment at the Baying Hound. Under the sign of said hound, in the Market Circle, they find a windowless building and a reinforced door with a sliding peephole. They knock on the door; the slider opens and black eyes rimmed with red skin peer out. They show the letter from "E V" to the (assumed) doorman, who responds with, "One minute."

They look around the small square; in the center is a small shrine - a round roof held up by seven pillars. They have seen these shrines before; they are built in many cities and towns by the Sisters. The three adventurers check out the shrine - each of the seven pillars is carved with the sign of a god or goddess: the Raven Queen, goddess of the North, Winter, and Death; Sehanine, goddess of the East, Autumn, and the Moon; Pelor, god of the South, Summer, and the Sun; Corellon, god of the West, Spring, and Art; Avandra, goddess of Trade, Exploration, and Adventure; Bahamut, god of Justice, Law, and Leadership; and in the center, Erathis, goddess of Civilization.

The door to the Baying Hound opens and they hurry inside. A well-dressed tiefling servant leads them through wood-panelled hallways to an opulent room with red carpets, soft lamps, and dark wooden bookshelves filled with books. A very large (don't call him fat, he looks dangerous) tiefling man sits in a plush chair, with five empty chairs set facing him. He seems surprised to see only three, but motions for them to sit down. A servant offers them an amber liquid in a fine crystal goblet; only Malik imbibes.

The red-skinned, horned man asks if they know who he is. Surprisingly, they do - he's Eduard Vallund, aka "Ironhand Eddie", a well-known 'loan officer' and 'aquirer of rare items'. He heard that the party had raided the old Lightbringer house and was impressed that they got past its defenses. Eddie would like them to retrieve something for a client of his - a golden idol, held by an Ogre Chief in the hills of the southern Principalities. He would be in their debt - a rare position to be in with Ironhand Eddie. He gives them until the next day to make a decision.

As the party leaves, he says, "I know what you are looking for: it's not worth it. The shard was lost to our family nearly fifty years ago, and good riddance! Leave them alone if you know what's good for you - it's brought us nothing but sorrow."

The three adventurers head back towards the inn, when a cloaked figure approaches them from behind; it's Lady Primrose, head of the arcane Cometfall family. She has heard that they are recovering the crystal shards and warns that other families will try to take the shards; she offers an extra-dimensional vault that the Cometfalls own as a safe place to store them. When they do not seem interested, she reminds them that she is an expert arcane ritualist and offers to perform any that the party may need, at cost, in return for allowing her to store the shards. They still decline; Lady Primrose angrily insists that there is something that they should see - meet her at the house of Cometfall after dark tonight.

The players continue to refuse to give up the shards, even though the artifacts may put them at some danger. They genuinely don't trust anyone else. Eeeeexxcellent... *Mr. Burns fingers*

The three agree that they should avoid the Sheriff and head back to the Rusty Bucket for dinner. Over the meal, they decide to see Lady Primrose tonight, and then head to the Tomb of Aheem the Shining without notifying Yusef Al-Sansur, the location of which Luccio found that afternoon. Malik pens a letter to Ironglove Eddie, saying that they will retrieve the golden idol - in return for the Vallund Shard. Malik will deliver it tomorrow morning.

Malik, Phoenixfire, and Fyodora head to the house of Cometfall as the sun sets. They are greeted at the door by a tiefling footman and are lead up winding stairs until they emerge on the open top of a tower. Lady Primrose is drawing symbols on the stone floor and lighting candles. She asks Malik for his magical map. After determining that whatever she is doing will be non-destructive and that the map will be returned, he hands it over. The tiefling woman spreads the map out in the middle of the symbols, and the mountains to the east erupt into silent flames, as they have for some months now.

Lady Primrose beings reading from her ritual book. A neon-blue point appears above the magical flames on the map. Slowly, the point spreads to become a bright, wavy outline; in between the blue border is a view of the eastern mountains, as if from a great height. Lady Primrose hones her scrying and the view zooms in to show many points of light in the mountains - campfires and torches, surrounded by orcs. To the north of this growing horde, the caldera of a volcano glows.

She ends the ritual and returns the map to Malik. "The threat is real. do not let the petty concerns of the noble families interfere with your reconstruction of the great crystal." The party again refuses to allow the Cometfalls to store the crystal shards.

They spend the next day preparing for a desert trek to the tomb. Malik delivers the letter he wrote to the Baying Hound, retrieves his riding horse, and procures horses for Fyodora and Phoenixfire, while the other two get supplies for the journey. That night, under cover of darkness, they sneak the large green crystal shard out to the field near the slightly-burned tree. They dig a deep hole and bury the shard, wrapped in canvas. Phoenixfire conjures a jet of flame and makes additional marks on the tree to make sure that they can find the location in the future.

Overland travel! I posted the map in a previous entry - it's a hex-map, 12.5 miles center-to-center. With their horses, the party will be able to traverse four squares per day over open terrain

The next morning, a surprise is waiting for the party downstairs at the Rusty Bucket. A very groggy-looking Ironglove Eddie is sitting in a chair that may be too small for his bulk. He will not get the Vallund shard for them in return for the idol; in fact, he reveals that it was taken by Aethelred, the Mad Prince of Mercia (one of the principalities). He will, however, provide them with unspecified assistance in retrieving the crystal shard, if they get the idol for him within two months. They reluctantly agree.

Malik, Phoenixfire, and Fyodora head down the pass to the east, into the desert. Luccio will settle accounts and follow them (with Ezzie and Konrad, if they wish to join the party's quest) a day or two behind. After three days, the vanguard leaves the trails and heads across the rocky, dusty desert to the north. On the second afternoon, nearing the tomb, they see a cloud of dust rapidly approaching. Malik seeks out some rocky spires for some cover as they await the approach of the unknown creatures.

Two gnolls riding giant cackling hyenas come charging at the shifter, elf, and dragonborn. One swings a giant flail, while the other holds a spear and shield. The party decides to stay mounted in the fairly open terrain to add to their mobility. Fyodora confronts the flail-swinging rider while Phoenixfire takes the spear-wielder; Malik positions himself in the center and provides supporting fire from his greatbow. The beasts and their gnoll riders are defeated, though Fyodora's horse lies dead, blood from the giant hyena's bite soaking into the cracked earth.

The three arrive at the tomb the next day and await the rest of the party...

Well, we went nearly four hours with only one fight, a record for us. It seems that everyone had a good time - there was enough freedom that they could do what they liked, but also enough constraints that they didn't feel lost. The next session will be easier on me as I know where they will be going - delving into the Tomb of Aheem the Shining, where certainly there will be nothing at all dangerous

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