Adventures of Team TPK

Lost Mine of Phandelver - part 1

[work in progress]]

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The Return to Phandalin
More information is revealed

[work in progress]

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Cragmaw Castle
Rescuing Gundren - finally

They left the horse and cart about a mile from the castle. They unhitched the horse and left it on a long, loose tether so it could free itself if attacked. Fizbo was worried for his ride home.
“See, this is why I don’t want to deal with horses,” said Bonnie.

They moved quietly through the forest until they came to a cleared area where the ruined castle stood. The castle consisted of seven crumbling towers of different sizes and heights, but the upper stories were all in varying states of collapse.
“It’s of elven design,” whispered Goldi.
A short flight of steps led up to a terrace in front of the main entryway. Past the wreckage of sundered doors lay an shadowed hall. Round towers loomed over the entranceway, with dark arrow slits looking down on the terrace.

The party decided to sit and observe for a while. Goblins riding lean and unhealthy looking wolves were soon seen, patrolling around the cleared area around the castle. Movement was seen at the arrow slits of one tower.
“Shut the dog up,” hissed Bonnie, as Sausage started growling at the wolves. Guinne put her hand around the dog’s muzzle and soothed her.

A plan was made, and Guinne and Tai Ni Dong waited for the goblins to pass and then scaled the wall. When they were both ready Tai Ni Dong fired his crossbow into the arrow slit, catching a goblin and then he and Guinne slipped inside and quickly dispatched three goblins guards. They waved to the rest of the party.

goblinwolf-rider.jpgWhen the goblin wolf riders came around again, the party attacked by surprise. There were many goblin riders, but the party had archery support from the tower and and spell support from Eric, Goldi and Fizbo. Bonnie slashed and cut with her axe, and Igo was everywhere stabbing with his sword and slashing with his scimitar. Hobgoblins appeared out of the castle, and they fought as a disciplined team. However soon the hobgoblins, goblins and half starved wolves were all dead. Igo had several small wounds, but Bonnie had a few nasty stab wounds from the hobgoblins. Eric cast a cure wounds on her and saw her wounds close up.

“Shall we continue into the castle?” asked Igo.
“No, we’re nearly out of spells, and they are no doubt in ambush waiting for us,” said Bonnie. “We’ll rest and come back. Maybe they’ll think it was just a one off raid. Either way they won’t be on high alert when we come back.”
“What if they send a patrol after us?” asked Eric.
“They might,” she replied, “but no one else is coming out now which makes me think they don’t have as many troops as we were afraid of. But those that are there have homeground advantage, and are no doubt lying in wait.”

The party returned back to where their horse and cart were, Sausage happily following behind. Igo masked and confused their tracks. They rested uneventfully overnight, ate cold rations rather than have a fire, and the spellcasters prepared their spells.

Early the next morning they made their way to the castle again. There were no obvious sentinels, not even any movement in the arrow slits. They entered the castle, but almost immediately Bonnie tripped a trap, dropping literally a ton of rubble from a net. She dived out of the way just in time, but her armour still had some new dents.
“So much for surprise,” laughed Igo.
“Can Guinne look for traps, do you think?” asked Bonnie, dusting off her armour.

Grick-5e.pngGuinne found no more traps. The first room they went into was a dark hall, and hidden on the ledge was a worm like creature as heavy as Bonnie.
“It’s a grick,” advised Fizbo. “Hard to kill.”
They shot at the grick, which ducked behind statues of elven angels, and while they were distracted a second grick jumped from the ledge above onto Igo. He was badly wounded but the party eventually dispatched both creatures with magic and with Guinne’s magic arrows. Normal weapons and arrows hurt them, but not as much.

The hallway had thick curtains at one end. Beyond the curtains, nervous goblins waited in a shrine which had once been dedicated to an elven god, but had been desecrated and bloody, ragged tapestries showed the symbol of the goblin god Maglubiyet. The battle was brief – as soon as the goblin priest was killed, the three goblins still alive surrendered. The party had several goblin speakers, and so communication with them was not a problem. After interrogation they found out several important bits of information.

  • The chief Grol was a bugbear, who called himself King Grol
  • King Grol was currently entertaining an emissary from the Black Spider. The goblins didn’t know who or what was the Black Spider.
  • There was some conflict between the chief of the hobgoblins, Targor Bloodsword and King Grol. To minimise the chance of a coup, King Grol had sent Targor Bloodsword and a contingent of hobgoblins on a long patrol. They were due back any day now.
  • Two hobgoblins guarded the chambers to where the meeting with the emissary of the Black Spider was taking place.
  • The hobgoblins had captured an owlbear and confined it to a tower. King Grol didn’t know what to do with it.

After pointing out on the map what was where, the party decided to set fire to a storeroom using lamp oil, and drive out any hobgoblins in the room beyond. They didn’t see any, and the goblins suggested they would have gotten out of a hole in the collapsed wall anyway. No hobgoblins appeared.

With Sausage still following behind, they made their way to where the hobgoblins were guarding the meeting room. When their old trick of using a web spell on a doorway didn’t work, Fizbo cast a charm spell on one of them, and told the hobgoblin the other was planning to kill him. There must have been some rancour between the hobgoblins, because it immediately started a squabble which escalated into a fight. When they had weakened each other the party killed the non-charmed hobgoblin. The three goblins towing along behind almost clapped! They hadn’t been so entertained in a long time. Then Fizbo gave the still charmed hobgoblin a vial of oil, lit a cloth wick and instructed the creature to enter the chamber and throw the incendiary device at the king while the party would charge in while everyone was distracted.

The chamber beyond had been set up as a crude living space, with thick furs thrown on the floor to serve as carpets, old trophies hung from the walls, a brazier of burning coals provided heat and light. A pile of furs which might have been a bed was in the corner, next to a wooden and iron chest. Inside the room was another hobgoblin guard, a hobgoblin spellcaster, an enormous bugbear who must have been King Grol, a giant wolf which was obviously King Grol’s pet and bodyguard, and a female drow in chainmail. This last person must have been the Black Spider’s emissary. Also tied up and unconscious on the floor was Gundren the dwarf.

kinggrol.jpgThings happened very quickly – the wolf moved forward and copped the brunt of the flung oil flask. Battle was joined, even the goblins went in, and during the combat the drow woman stabbed Gundren on the floor, and was going to stab him again but Bonnie made it to stop her. Two of the three goblins were acolytes, and understanding the situation and now having thrown in their fortunes with the party, used healing magic on the dwarf. The charmed hobgoblin and the enemy hobgoblin were fighting each other. Fizbo cast a fireball from his staff of fire even though he wasn’t really confident he could control the magic. It worked perfectly, however, and did a lot of damage to both the dire wolf and King Grol while missing all of his allies. It killed the hobgoblin spellcaster outright, just as it was using it’s magic to move Tai Ni Dong into harm’s way.

Fizbo suddenly felt a piercing pain and turned in surprise to see another drow attacking him where only Sausage had been seconds before. Fizbo knew he was in trouble and that Sausage had been some kind of shapeshifter all along. He yelled for help and Igo came back to assist with his shortsword and scimitar. Goldi turned her spells onto the threat in the rear. The enemies were all killed in the room, and the charmed hobgoblin had also been killed. The drow woman’s body morphed in death to a grey skinned, featureless humanoid.

doppelganger.jpgWhen it looked like the second drow was about to die, it dramatically touched its chest and said “I am undone! I release this body from possession!” and collapsed and changed back into Sausage the dog. Fizbo went to kill it, but Guinne stopped him.
“Didn’t you hear? Sausage was possessed! She’s back now.”
Fizbo pursed his lips but didn’t push his way past the halfling.
The dog painfully got up and limped off, whining piteously. Fizbo waited until it got a bit further away, then cast magic missile at it. The dog screamed and collapsed, dead this time. It’s body increased in size and changed shape into a featureless grey humanoid, just as the other drow had done.
“Doppelganger,” said Fizbo. “I knew it.”
“Oh,” said Guinne.

Eric cast healing magic on Gundren, who blinked and sat up. He and Bonnie exchanged a hug, and then he looked for his gear.

The chest was opened and there were many old elven coins, no doubt dug up from the ruins of the castle. There were many other bits and pieces, some valuable, some not. Gundren’s map was in there, inside a leather scroll case. There was also an old book, and an elven made tiara with a long purple gem set in front.
“It’s a kiiara,” said Goldi, with awe. “So rare!” She examined the book carefully, its pages were crumbling to the touch.
“This is Agatha’s diary!” she exclaimed. “Well, her name then was Auglatha, and she was an elven princess living in this castle.”
“Read it later,” said Bonnie. “I don’t want to get caught here when the hobgoblin patrol comes back.”
“We can probably talk the hobgoblin leader into thinking of himself more as a successor to King Grol rather than his avenger,” suggested Eric.
“I’d rather not take the risk,” said Bonnie. “Hobgoblins are a different proposition to goblins and bugbears.”
“I’m skinning this dire wolf!” said Fizbo, taking a knife and hacking at the corpse. Igo sighed and took his own knife and expertly skinned it.
“It’s going to need curing when we get to Phandalin,” he said.

Igo wanted to free the owlbear. They were irritable, aggressive creatures at the best of times, he had no doubt this one would be likely to attack on sight. The others left him to it, and he held out a clump of dried meat from his rations as he opened the door. The owlbear made to charge, but stopped, observing Igo’s soothing sounds and body language. A great paw snatched the meat and while it ate, Igo retreated. The owlbear left the castle shortly afterwards. The stink of the room almost made the party leave immediately, but something had caught Igo’s eye – it was a half buried chest, old and rotten. The owlbear had uncovered it when it was clawing at the walls, trying to get out. Inside were more coins, and some old vials which stored some potions.
“Elvish made,” said Goldi. “We make things to last, those potions will still be good.”

The party left Cragmaw Castle. They took the three goblins with them, not willing to kill them, but not willing to leave them behind so they could tell the returning hobgoblins everything. There had been some other goblins who had already fled during the battle, but they would not be able to tell the hobgoblins much.

“Woo!” cheered Fizbo. “Goblin henchmen!”
“Let’s get going and get back home!” said Bonnie.

[to be continued]

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Shifters
Manipulated

The route to Cragmaw Castle mostly followed the road. Towards the end of the day Sausage ran off the road and barked at something they couldn’t see behind a bush. They investigated and found an exhausted horse and empty cart. The horse had been injured, bloody claw marks along its flank were flyblown and oozing blood and pus. The healers of the group steadied the horse and cleaned its wounds and Eric cast a healing spell on it, the magic ejecting pus and dead flesh before sealing itself up, leaving only scars. The horse visibly calmed as Igo stroked its nose.
“You got your horse, Fizbo,” grinned Guinne. Fizbo climed into the cart, although there weren’t any reins – the cart was made to carry goods, not people, and the horse was meant to be led.
“What do you think caused the wounds?” asked Bonnie to Igo. The elf shrugged. “If there were big cats in this area, I’d say one of those, but there aren’t as far as I know.”
There were no other victims in the area, and Igo judged the horse had run for many miles before stopping from exhaustion. The party decided to push on.

By the end of a hard day’s travel they had covered about 24 miles and were camping just off the Triboar Trail near Icespire Peak. After they had tended to the horse and set up camp, Bonnie told them of the Icehammer dwarves of Icespire Peak and how they battled the Frost Giant king Lakkar who was using an artefact called The Winterforge . She had just finished telling the story of Lakkar’s defeat when Sausage started growling and staring off into the night. They all grabbed their weapons, just as Igo – who had been on watch – appeared.
“A man comes,” the elf said, and then faded back into the night. Into the edge of the firelight came a man, scruffy, lanky, with ragged clothes but well fed and moved like a dancer. He held up his hands in the universal sign of peace.
The man called himself Jarad and claimed he had come to see if the party were willing to sell him or trade for any magic or silvered weapons. He claimed to be part of a group that had been taken over by a shapeshifter named Murgo who was forcing them to attack merchants and travellers on the Triboar Trail, and he wanted the weapon to kill him and move the group away from the area.
“We’re going to attract too much attention,” Jarad said, his voice low and raspy. “It’s bad enough avoiding the hobgoblins from the castle. I mean we could take them, but their leader has a magic weapon. Some of us might die.”
“Cragmaw Castle?” asked Bonnie.
“Yeah,” replied Jarad. “The hobgoblins are organised, like humans. The goblins and bugbears are shit, they don’t care about much except eating and treasure and don’t do a lot of planning.”
The party didn’t trust Jarad, and Sausage kept growling at him. They refused his request. Jarad did not become angry, nor did he seem too disappointed.
“Fair enough. Just beware a blonde man with a notch in his ear. He is a shapeshifter, and an evil bastard.” Seconds later he faded away into the night.
“I think we pretty much know what happens next,” said Fizbo, and Goldi nodded.
“What?” asked Tai Ni Dong.
Bonnie replied: “Come morning – earlier probably – Jarad will lead those he wants killed to us, so we do his dirty work for him. So be it, might as well wait here for him. Keep your weapons handy, team.”
JackalwereCreature-1-.jpg
As expected, just before dawn a group of rough looking men approached the camp, violence most definitely on their minds. Jarad was at the back, although he had the sense at least to not smirk. The leader, a tall man with a notched ear, directed the others to attack. Taking the initiative, Bonnie charged with the others in support. As the leader dodged Bonnie’s swings of her axe, he and all of the others changed into a jackal headed humanoid – Jarad included. The creatures – jackalweres Goldi would tell them later – attempted to use some kind of magic on the party. The dwarf briefly felt a wave of tiredness flow over her, before shaking it off and laughing in the leader’s face. Likewise the other party members were able to resist the sleep magic. The leader then took a chromatic orb of fire to the face from Fizbo, and then one of Guinne’s magic arrows to the chest. Bonnie neatly lopped off his head as he staggered.

The fight stopped and Jarad shapechanged back into human form and stepped forward, hands up to stop the fight. He convinced the other jackalweres that they should move on, that to stay in the area was inviting death from soldiers or powerful adventurers such as these – he gestured to the party. The others glared at the party, but in the end listened and they moved of, Jarad nodding to the party as he left.

“We should have killed all of them,” growled Bonnie. “They are only going to cause harm and sorrow to others.”
She sighed. “But it is what it is. Let’s pack up camp and get moving.”

[to be continued]

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Back at Phandalin
Sausage

The trip back to Phandalin took several days but was uneventful.
“We need to get some horses,” grumbled Fizbo when they were about half a day from the town. The others ignored him, as he had said this several times during the journey.

They finally arrived and took themselves to the Stonehill Inn. The proprietors, Toblin and Trilena Stonehill, were glad to see them and set about preparing their rooms.
“We’re only here for a couple of days,” advised Bonnie.
“How has the town been?” asked Guinne.
“Much better,” advised Toblin. Despite being a human he actually wasn’t much taller than Bonnie. His wife was a head taller than him.
“With the Redbrands gone – at least as a group – things are better. Those Redbrands that survived are being used as mercenaries and guards by Halia Thornton,” said Trilena. “It’s actually worked out well, they’ve protected merchants from bandits. We hear that the number of bandit incidents has dropped considerably after the first couple of skirmishes.”

Guinne resolved to meet with Halia, who was the area contact and coordinator for the Zhentarim organisation, and update her on what had been going on with the party as well as pass on the messages the Zhentarim contacts in Neverwinter had given her. They all had a quiet night at the inn.

The next day they were meeting up again in the afternoon after their various errands – Bonnie met with Darran Edermath who was the Order of the Gauntlet faction coordinator in the town, and Guinne had met with Halia Thornton. Igo had visited his sister Garaele at the Shrine of Tymora, and Tai Ni Dong had procured some supplies for their trip to Cragmaw Castle. Tai Ni Dong and Goldi spent time studying and writing in their spellbooks, and Eric blessed fields and vegetable patches and held services on farms for the faithful of Chauntea, the agricultural goddess.

sausage40.jpgAs they went past some shops, there was a commotion and a dog ran out of the butcher’s sh op with some sausages in its mouth. It was being chased by a red faced butcher wielding a cleaver. Bonnie felt like she was watching a comedy skit. The dog ran to the party and hid behind them.
“Whoa,” said Guinne to the butcher, patting the dog, a small brown dog completely unremarkable in any way, except for the sausages hanging out of its mouth.
“We’ll pay for the sausages,” added Goldi, fishing out some copper coins from a pouch. The butcher accepted the coins and returned to his shop without a backward glance. The dog wolfed down the sausages, and when the party went to move on after giving it a last pat, the dog followed. It followed them all the way back to the Stonehill Inn.
“Shoo, dog,” said Bonnie. The dog refused to move and looked at the dwarf with big eys. Bonnie shrugged and let the dog follow them inside where it sat at their feet under a table in the common room.
“We’re leaving tomorrow for Cragmaw Castle,” the dwarf announced. “Get yourselves ready. First light.”
“We ride – at dawn!” said Fizbo, dramatically.
“Are we actually going to use horses this time?” asked Tai Ni Dong.
“We don’t need horses,” said Bonnie. “I don’t really like them.”
“They smell, and you can’t be stealthy,” agreed Igo.
“But we’ll get there quicker,” argued Fizbo.
The discussion about horses continued for some time, but in the end it was decided not to take horses. They made ready and had an early night. The dog slept in Guinne and Goldi’s room.

The next morning the dog was still following them out of town, resisting all efforts to dissuade it from following them.
“Persistent little thing,” said Goldi.
“She can be our camp guard,” suggested Guinne. Bonnie and Igo were disapproving, but the others seemed happy to have the little dog along.
“We’ll call you Sausage,” said Guinne. Sausage cocked her head. They continued on the road out of Phandalin and towards Cragmaw Castle.

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Turning the Tables on Venomfang
The Reclamation of Thundertree

Back at the ruins of Thundertree, the shaken party hatched a plan. Reidoth was disappointed in the outcome, but impressed with the party’s resolve to turn the tables on Venomfang. The dragon was young (for a dragon), vain, and would be overconfident. If they could lure the dragon into a killing ground, they might have a chance. There was no way there were going to bring the head of the old druid to the dragon, nor leave their companions behind, even they were to die. It was time to show the dragon why those overgrown lizards were no longer the dominant species.

There was some concern about the fate of Tai Ni Dong and Fizbo, whether they would survive the night after suffering their injuries. Reidoth advised that the dragon often did a patrol at dusk, either prowling around Thundertree on foot, or a flying patrol of the broader area. Perhaps they could enter the lair while it was out and rescue their comrades. Igo volunteered to observe the dragon lair and advise if it left. However it was not to be, perhaps expecting a rescue attempt, or for other reasons, the dragon stayed in its lair.
greendragon.jpg
The following afternoon the party finalised their plans and with Reidoth made for the dragon lair. They took up their positions and called the dragon to advise that they had fulfilled their bargain. There was a nervous wait, but eventually Venomfang responded, growling and then slithering his way through the passage out into the setting sun. Before the dragon’s eyes could adjust to the bright light, the party attacked, taking the beast by surprise. Guinne was up in the tree, raining down arrows upon the creature, most bouncing off his scales but some finding the gaps between them. Igo fired his longbow from the side, likewise finding some of them getting through the dragon’s scales. Eric, after casting bless to increase the efficacy of some party members fired his own light crossbow into the opposite flank of the dragon, but his lighter weapon found it difficult to penetrate the dragon’s armour. Goldi fired off as many spells as she could, mostly magic missile as these bolts of magical force never missed. The elf wizard also cast burning hands from Fizbo’s staff of fire. The staff had other spells, but Goldi was worried they were beyond her ability to control and resolved to only use them if things got desperate for fear of injuring her companions. Reidoth cast call lightning and bolts of electricity arced from the sky to strike the dragon – making Guinne somewhat uncomfortable as the bolts came too close for her liking. However they were devastating in the damage they did to the dragon’s body. Bonnie hurled her throwing hammers at the dragon, getting ready to charge in and hopefully finish the dragon off with her magical golden axe. However the entire surprise attack worked better than they could have hoped. The dragon was staggered, and collapsed under the barrage. It managed an angry, croaking roar with a buff of noxious gas coming from its mouth, and then died. The quiet that followed after the noise of the attack was unsettling, as if the entire area held its breath to see if the dragon would rise again. It did not. Its broken, holed and arrow studded body remained on the scorched earth outside its lair, jaws agape, eyes glassy. Everyone froze as if they couldn’t believe what they had done.
“Quickly!” yelled Bonnie, breaking them out of their trance. “Find Fizbo and Tai Ni Dong!” The party moved into the dragon’s lair, expecting to have to fight a new battle with the blights who served the dragon, but they were all in the process of fleeing after the death of their master. The monk and wizard were found in the lair, and Eric cast cure wounds on them and was rewarded to see their eyes open and groan and cough. The air in the dragon lair was still tinged with an acrid, green mist and they all stumbled out of the lair into the fresh air.

They had won.

Later that evening, eating a meal of rabbit and vegetable stew, Reidoth acknowledged a lot of their success was owed to the dragon being young and overconfident.

“Never expect that from an older and wiser dragon,” he advised. He went on to point out on their map where they could find Cragmaw Castle, the location where they believed Gundren was being held.

“Do you think people will return to Thundertree now?” asked Tai Ni Dong.

“Probably, now the dragon has been killed,” replied the druid. “And then I will move on too, I think. I have no wish to live in civilisation.”

“No one – except perhaps Igo – thought that a small village like Thundertree would ever be “civilisation”, but they understood the druid’s desire to be with nature.

Team TPK stayed for a couple more days in Thundertree. Tai Ni Dong showed them where he had lived – a ruined house on the edge of the village – and explained how he as a boy and his family had fled to Neverwinter when Mount Hotenow had exploded, raining rocks, clouds of poisonous gas, and ash, for hundreds of miles around. The volcano was quieter now. There was still a wisp of smoke coming from the crater at the top of the mountain, but there had been no major earth tremors for several years.
The party left in the early morning to head back to Phandalin to get more supplies and then head to Cragmaw Castle.

[To be continued…]

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Thundertree - Part 3
Venomfang

Tai Ni Dong was originally from Thundertree, he knew exactly where the dragon’s lair would be, a cave underneath a great tree just on the edge of town.

There were two large carnivorous plants just at the entrance, looking like any other plant until they moved to strike. The party made short work of them, however.

The tunnel leading underneath the huge tree was 10ft wide but the party had to climb over roots at times, and roots also hung from ceiling. It was dirty, damp and foul smelling, with a faint green mist that tickled the throat and made the party cough. Creatures moved just outside of the party’s vision, but they did not attack. Then the dragon’s sibilant but deep voice echoed through the area.

“Adventurers! I know you’re out there. Talking to that druid, I presume. I can smell your foul odor. I know that druid wants me to leave. Coveting my treasure. Undoubtedly I’m sure you do, too. So if it’s a battle you want, I will provide it, but I hope to parley. If you value your lives you should hear me out. I come carrying, as the human custom goes, the white banner of peace. Step into my lair and no harm should come to you.”

The party discussed this, then yelled out to the dragon that they would parley. The dragon urged them to continue on down into his lair. Blights and stranger creatures moved out of the party’s light, letting them pass. The finally came to a huge cave. The dragon Venomfang itself was not huge – a young dragon, Fizbo judged, but even a young dragon is powerful. It slithered down a large natural column.

firnen_by_tatianamakeeva-d7gstqv_sm.png“The truth is,” said the dragon, “that this fight is more evenly matched than I prefer. I will destroy you, but I will be forced to lick my wounds and in that time, be a prime target for my half-sister’s inevitable attack! I may be inclined to be evil, by your own standards, but I’m not stupid. I would much prefer fights I can overwhelmingly win.”
“How can we trust you?” asked Fizbo. “You could probably gobble us up right now.”
“I’m quite full, right now”, the dragon replied, but seemed pleased the party thought it wouldn’t have too much trouble with them. ‘Vain’ thought Fizbo. ‘Maybe we can use that against it.’
“Another party tried to kill me recently, you see”, continued Venomfang. “They didn’t take to negotiating. Thought I was a liar. Oh…..The druid didn’t tell you about them?”
“That duplicitous human!” growled Goldi.
“Hang on,” whispered Igo. “We don’t know this is true.”
“He could be lying,” agreed Bonnie.
“Let us put aside our weapons,” suggested Venomfang. “To be welcomed into a lair of a dragon is a trust and honour no dragon dare go against! I’m giving you all the draconic guest rite. May Tiamat the dragon goddess strike those that defy this rite down!”
After a brief discussion the party put away their weapons, as a gesture of good faith.
While he spoke Venomfang glided with supernatural grace between various stalagmite columns, coiled around them, looked around, moved around the party. But he wasn’t behaving like a predator, Fizbo judged. In fact the dragon looked concerned for things hidden.
“There’s more of her spies around,” continued the dragon. “She will be concerned that I am talking with you instead of fighting. I can feel her attention…I must whisper now.”
Venomfang moved closer, not so close to threaten the party. He dropped his voice in volume.
“You see- I need a favor. Yes. Close together, now. I’m offering you a deal. Closer. I must whisper. There’s another nearby dragon who has a better lair. Her name is Verslexia and those spiders you torched in that building were her spies. If you’d slay her I’d gladly leave this place at once with all my treasure. No problem at all. I will rid myself of this place and vow never to return.”
“This is my town, dragon!” yelled Tai Ni Dong. “I would reclaim Thundertree!”
“Ahh. You were from here? Thundertree it was called? I see. I take it my lair here is insulting to your tastes. To your sense of cultural pride. For that I’m sorry. You could not have been bigger than a hatchling at that time! It appears I underestimate human memory and ambition. You and I share similar motivations! Well you may reclaim your town! You can even pretend to have ‘drove me off with heroics’ should any adventurer find me in my new lair.. I’d gladly play along… what is your name again, fleshling? Deal with my sister and then we can talk about how I should retell your story of how you drove me off from Thundertree!”
“Why do you talk about the druid Reidoth as if he tricks us?” asked Bonnie. “And what about the eggs?”
“They must be his sister’s eggs!” suggested Igo.
The dragon moved again, lithe and graceful. “Yes, my sisters eggs. I care nothing for them. As for the druid, see.. we have an arrangement me and him. I help him keep my sister’s influence at bay. He saves me time from going out and hunting for treasure and food.. He sends groups like you to me to deal in hopes I leave here. I either get treasure, or an attempt at a new lair! He can’t defeat me so he gets the stupid ones killed and the smart ones to help me leave his domain! Oh.. he didn’t tell you that? That’s too bad… yeah. It appears those druids love nature more than their fellow civilised beings. I suppose he cares less about you than you of him! Reminds me of dealings with my own kin. It appears the only honest deals that exist can only be between different races.”
Alarm bells were going off in Goldi’s head. The dragon was lying, surely, he was contradicting himself. Something wasn’t right. The dragon spoke again.
“Please listen to me! I would rather not risk my life for such a mission or leave my treasure unguarded. I knew this site would draw attention by adventurers.. It was all planned! I swear it on your gods and my own. She lives in the woods deep in a cairn about 10 miles from here…her name is Verslexia. She’s my half-sister. Come closer now and I’ll give you a map!”
“I’ll go,” said Igo, and moved towards the dragon, the others stood back in a group.
A broad smile broke across the dragon’s face. He now had the party where he wanted them, all together in a group – except for the ranger who had moved forward into claw range.
“Thank you for trusting me – MEAL!!”

The green dragon roared, exposing a ball of poison gas quickly building in his mouth. The scent of bleach and volatile chemicals hits the party member’s faces followed by a viscious cloud of acidic haze! Tai Ni Dong and Fizbo collapsed to the ground immediately. The others were badly wounded, except for Igo, who had avoided the blast of poisonous breath. The dragon immediately ran into the middle of them and snatched up the two bodies of the fallen heroes.
“Listen to me, would be heroes. I have no sister, the eggs are mine, though I care little for them, but they are mine. I have need of eyes and ears outside my town. MY town, Thundertree. Soon the lands around will be mine as well. You will report back to me every month, with tribute for my hoard. Are we agreed?”
Bonnie was seeing a way out of this.
“But,” continued the dragon, “as a sign of good faith, you will bring me the head of the druid Reidoth! By sunset tomorrow! Or your companions will truly die!” The dragon squeezed the bodies a little, and Tai Ni Dong moaned – he was still alive, but unconsious!
“Now go!” commanded Venomfang. “And bring me the head of that druid!”

The remaining party members fled the dragon’s lair.

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Thundertree - Part 2
Spiders and Cultists

dragon_cultist.jpgThe party decided that night time would be the best time to deal with the cultists. They waited until the early hours of the morning, then went to the farmhouse building identified by Reidoth. Guinne “volunteered” to sneak around and dispatch sleeping cultists, with the rest of Team TPK poised at windows and doors, ready to burst in if she were discovered. Guinne took out the two cultists on watch first – they never saw it coming. Then as she was moving around the building Guinne overheard two cultists talking about “dragon eggs” and how they were going to bully the green dragon into doing what they wanted by holding the eggs as ransom. Apparently they had entered the dragon lair when it was out hunting, but half of their number had died to the blights guarding the lair. They were successful however, and had retrieved 3 dragon eggs.

Guinne was discovered eventually, but had slit the throats of several sleeping cultists. One light sleeper sounded the alarm after he was awoken by a dying cultists, and the party burst in to finish off the rest. After a short battle, in which the party targeted spellcasters first, the cultists were all slain.

ashzombie.jpgThey returned and slept until late into the morning. Reidoth was gone when they awoke, and was gone for most of the day, no doubt doing his rounds of the area. The party went out and explored the rest of the town. They discovered a nest of giant spiders, and used magic fire spells like burning hands to destroy the nest and then arrows and crossbow bolts (and magic missiles) to kill them off. They killed more ash zombies and blights, encountering some larger blights that Igo identified as vine blights which were tougher, bigger, and could make plants and vines entwine around the party to hold them fast. However they were never in great numbers, so Team TPK were victorious in all these encounters.

Reidoth returned in the afternoon with sacks of vegetables and berries, as well as several rabbits which he and Igo skinned and cooked. The party spent a quiet night with Reidoth. The old man told some stories, and talked about his faction – the Emerald Enclave, which were a group of mostly rangers and druids who tried to get nature and civilisation to make room for each other and try and deal with areas of conflict.

They also discussed what to do about the dragon eggs and the dragon Venomfang. Reidoth was all for smashing the eggs, but the party were keen to use them as bargaining chips for the dragon. They discussed various ways they could approach the dragon, or even if it was worth it and they should just assault the monster. Reidoth urged caution, stating that dragons were not like other beasts, even young ones like Venomfang were worthy of respect. Tai Nee Dong wanted the dragon dead or gone, and the party agreed it would have to be one of those two outcomes.
“Or the third outcome is that you are all dead by sundown tomorrow,” said Reidoth. “You wouldn’t be the first adventuring party to underestimate a young dragon.”

The following day they decided to approach the dragon lair, and play it by ear. If the dragon wanted to talk they would listen, if it wanted to fight, they would fight.

To be continued..

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Thundertree - Part 1
The ruined town

Gradually, the trail became an old, overgrown lane winding between dilapidated buildings choked in vines and brush. Ahead of the party, in the middle of the settlement, rose a steep hill, on which stood a stone tower with a partially collapsed roof and an adjoining cottage. A dirt road hugged the base of teh hill and wound its way between old stone houses, many of which were roofless ruins with interiors open to the weather. Other buildings appeared more or less intact. The whole place was eerily silent. A wooden sign was nailed to a post nearby. It read:
DANGER! Plant Monsters and Zombies and WORSE! Turn back now!

“Looks different to how I remember it,” said Tai Nee Dong, stopping to look.
“It could be rebuilt,” said Bonnie, slapping the monk on the back. “We just need to clear the monsters out.”
“Let’s find this Reidoth character,” said Fizbo. “We don’t need to be clearing out monsters, just ask the druid what we need to know.”
“I would like it if we could clear out anything that is stopping people settling back here,” said Tai Nee Dong. “It shouldn’t be too hard. Except for the dragon, maybe.”
Everyone stopped.
“The.. what?” said Guinne. “My ears must be playing up, I thought you said dragon.”
“It’s only a young one,” said the monk. “Shouldn’t be too hard.”
“It’s still a dragon!” said Fizbo.
“All dragons are tough if they’re living on their own,” added Goldi.
“What colour dragon?” asked Igo.
“Green.”
“I hate green dragons,” said Igo. “They corrupt nature. I’m for taking it out.”
“Let’s get more information,” said Eric. “From what I’ve read, dragons like to have spies and allies.”

twig_blights.jpgThey continued into the town, finding there was a very light mist with a greenish tinge in the air, which tickled the throat. The first building they came to was a crumbled stone cottage with no roof and rampant weeds. As soon as they drew close, small creatures looking like twigs lashed together came swarming out towards them. They were easy to smash apart, but they were nasty, poking for eyes and slashing across exposed skin with their pointed stick like limbs.
“Twig blights,” said Igo. “They and their larger kin appear in natural areas wherever evil lurks. I fear evil has taken a foothold in this town.”

Several other buildings were infested with the creatures, and all were destroyed with minimal wounds taken by the heroes. They came to a a weathered signboard by the door of a large building which showed the faded image of a workhorse holding a flagon of ale. The building was sagging and neglected, but was more intact than most of the ruins they had passed so far.
“The Brown Horse,” said Tai Nee Dong. “The only tavern in town, and according to my father, produced a well regarded ale.”
They went in, and found grey zombies lurking inside. The zombies lurched to attack, but were put down as easily as the twig blights. When the zombies were hit, a cloud of ash erupted from the creature, and they trailed grey ash from the wounds. The party quickly learned to hold their breath when striking to avoid the choking cloud. After the battle the party threw the zombies corpses outside.
“It’s not too bad,” said Bonnie, looking around. “Mostly dry, we could stay here if we had to.”
“Let’s see what else is around, there might be better buildings,” said Eric.

They continued on and found a small house in better condition than any they had found up until now. The doors were reinforced with heavy iron bands, and thick shutters protected the windows.
“Someone lives here,” said Igo, looking at the ground. “And whoever it is can cover their tracks well.”
The door opened, revealing a wrinkled old man with a staff and a hawk on his arm.
reidoth_by_caiomm-d7ar12n.jpg“Well, don’t just stand there,” he grumbled. “You might as well come in. I’ve been getting reports of adventurers coming for a couple of hours now, so I suppose that is you.”
“Reports from who?” asked Bonnie, stepping into the house.
“Birds, beasts,” said the man, going over to stir a pot of stew which everyone agreed smelt wonderful.
“Are you Reidoth?” asked Fizbo.
“I am,” the druid said. “At your service. Now why are you here? Didn’t you read my sign?”
“We need to know where Cragmaw Castle is,” said Bonnie. “We were told that you could tell us.”
“And so I can,” answered the old druid. “Show me your map and I’ll mark it for you.”
“And is there anything we can help you with?” asked Tai Nee Dong. “Dragon problems maybe?”
“How do you know about the dragon?” said Reidoth, sharply. “Don’t be getting any foolish ideas. It may be a young dragon, but it could still wipe the floor with all of you.”
“I used to live here,” said Tai Nee Dong, firmly. “I’d like to see it returned to a place where folk are proud to live and work, to see it thrive.”
“So would I, but I suspect the task is beyond you. The risk is too great.”
“Maybe we could scout around, take care of some of the blights and zombies here. We’ve run into a few already.” said Goldi.
“We’re experienced adventurers, you know,” added Fizbo.
“Hmpf,” snorted Reidoth. “Look, poke around if you must. Be wary of giant spiders, and of some dragon cultists in a farmhouse, I’ll point it out. If you can deal with those we’ll talk about the dragon.”

To be continued…

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Death in the Cornfields - Part 2
Things are not as they seem

The party decided to see if they could get more information from Elias’ friends Alina and Edwin who, according to Elias, were two newly-married farmers, both 18 years old. They followed Elias’ directions and found themselves at a small farmhouse at the end of a short track. Unlike many of the farmhouses the party had seen that day, no smoke emanated from the chimney. The main door stood ajar. “Has something happened here?” wondered Bonnie out loud.

Within Alina and Edwin’s nicely-kept farmhouse, their decapitated bodies lay on the blood-covered floor of the
kitchen. There was evidence they were dragged from their beds, although there were few signs of a struggle.
“There’s blood but not much blood for a decapitation,” observed Eric. “Why is that, I wonder?”
“They were decapitated elsewhere?” suggested Igo.
“Or not much blood in their bodies when they were decapitated?” suggested Goldi.
“My parents must have done this,” whispered Elias. He seemed to be in shock.
Igo was able to find footprints in the mess, heading out of the building and then found faint, bloody footprints leading in the direction of the farm of Elias’s parents; the blood disappeared after a few feet, and it was starting to get dark, but the trail through the muddy fields was clear enough to Igo’s skilled eyes.
“Looks like the boy was right,” grunted Igo. “The parents did this.”
“Right, let’s go back and sort this out,” growled Bonnie.

They marched back in the gathering twilight to Elias’ parents’ house and banged on the door.
“You are murderers!” yelled Bonnie. “Explain yourselves!”
“Go away,” yelled Elias’ father. “Run away from here, you are in danger!”
“Explain!” yelled back Bonnie again. Behind her, Elias started coughing and gasping for breath. Eric saw to him and thought his skin was cold and clammy. The boy sank to his knees, shaking. Eric thought he could have pneumonia. It was starting to get very cold.

The door opened again, this time wider. Elias’ father appeared, wide eyed as if afraid. He pointed a shaking finger at Elias.
“He will change! We couldn’t behead him like we did poor Alina and Edwin. We had to do it after they had been bitten, before they changed. We couldn’t do it to our only boy! We staked him up, hoping the sunlight would kill him, but it was overcast, no direct sunlight!”
Eric suddenly remembered the strange sunburn on the boy. The cleric hurriedly backed away from the boy kneeling on the ground who was now silent, head drooped down. He had stopped shaking. Then Elias’ head snapped up, his eyes were pale, his skin even paler and his nails had grown long and black and become like talons.
“Shit!” yelled Bonnie, “he’s become some kind of undead!”
elias.jpg“The master visited us last night,” said Elias, rising and stalking forward. “He gave us the gift of eternal life. But THESE low born stole it from my friends!” He leaped forward towards his father who fell backwards into the house and slammed the door shut. Elias turned towards the party.
“I’ll kill you first, then these inside, and I’ll join my master in ruling this area,” Elias growled, becoming more feral and less human with each passing moment.

The battle was a challenging one for the party. Elias was now a vampire spawn, a weak version of a vampire (Eric would tell the party later), but was still resistant to non-magical weapons. His claws were strong and sharp and he could penetrate strong armour. In addition the vampire spawn could regenerate wounds. However, Bonnie had her golden axe, which Elias quickly learned to be afraid of. Likewise he had no defences against Fizbo and Goldi’s spells. Igo’s arrows did less damage because they were not magical, but they still hurt the vampire spawn. Eric cast spells to help and heal the party, and at one point used his holy symbol as a channel for his goddess’s power to drive off Elias so the party could quickly reform and recover before attacking again. In the end the creature was destroyed, and it lay on the cold earth, twisted and evil looking.

“Don’t we have to put garlic wafers in it’s mouth or something?” asked Fizbo.
“I think vampire spawn are different,” said Eric. “Once it’s dead it’s dead.”
“Let’s cut off it’s head to be sure,’ said Bonnie. She hefted her undead slaying axe and severed the head from the body. “We’ll throw it into the river.”

They made the half mile trek to Neverwinter River and threw the head in, which sank from view. Then they returned to the farm. Elias’ mother and father were grateful their son had been laid to rest, and provided lodgings and food for the night. The party left the following morning. Abner and Milena – Elias’ parents – said they would have to give up the farm and go join Abner’s brother’s farm about 10 miles away. They would give the farm to Abner’s nephews and nieces who could claim it when they were a bit older.

The party continued onto Thundertree, wondering about the vampire who had turned Elias and his friends into vampire spawn. Did he live in the area or just passing through? Would he track the party for killing his spawn? These questions may be answered in time.

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