This week’s adventure began with Connor spending a week and a half in Dämmendell training up to level six as a green wizard. A lucky pull from a deck of many things has made the party’s sole non-human character out to also become the party’s highest-level character.
Once that was done, the party struck out to explore the frozen northern leg of the Schönflow River (it now being the middle of December, 916). They rented three teams of dogs to pull sleds and hoped to find an easy way up to Thunder Table; but alas they only discovered that the leg of the river which flows west out of the canyon after cutting through the plateau merely empties into the Schönflow. At this point, they sent the dogs back to Dämmendell on their own recognizance (Connor used speak with animals to give them instructions; the dogs claimed that they knew the way back just fine, and liked their dwarven masters better than the adventurers anyway). With both the Yule and a new moon coming up, the party decided that it would be best to pass the holiday and the new year back in Dämmendell, which they did.
Just before the end of the Yule-week, though, the party headed south to the Ancient Battlefield, where, at the stroke of midnight during the new moon, they witnessed a ghostly vision, just as rumor said would be the case: they witnessed a great battle between cave-man shamans in animal skins, who summoned up hordes of undead; versus giant creatures that looked like ten-foot tall skeletons wreathed in flame, which summoned fire and lighting from the sky. The shaman-conjured zombies pulled down and snuffed out one flaming giant after another, until at last all the giants raised their arms to the sky, and a great comet fell and struck the battlefield… the whole vision was nothing but an insubstantial and silent image, but it was impactful nonetheless. The party dug a short ways down into the ground and found the whole ancient battlefield rested on a bed of pure iron that been melted and solidified long ago.
Returning to Dämmendell, they informed King Bjornstraand about the huge iron deposit and asked for miners to start digging it up. Then they headed back out, this time bound for Shade Abbey, so that they could once again climb up to the top of Thunder Table and follow the lead on the map they’d found last week, indicating the location of another Starshrine. They headed north, only to be foiled again by the presence of the impassable canyon; on the way back south they espied a gigantic roc overhead (which they managed to hide from). They circled east around the lake, spied a strange cave, and continued north until at last they discovered the Starshrine to Thünor.
Here, they met the shrine-keeper, a silent pech who was able (by means of some gesturing and marking their map) to inform the company that there was a cave full of pechs in the northwestern part of Thunder Table. The party slept that night at the Starshrine, where they received a vision from Thünor, who told them that the evil sleeping beneath Shade Isle was a dark god called “Izatu-Bal”, although his deluded followers know him by another name. That morning, the party discovered a hammer of returning +2 on Thünor’s altar, a shrine-gift that Klaus took up (hammers are sort of becoming his thing).
On the way back down from the plateau, the company got into a minor skirmish with a band of eighteen berserkers. They stopped over in the Pech Cave indicated on their map by the shrine-keeper, but the denizens of this cavern seemed even less communicative; they couldn’t even gesture meaningfully, deigning instead to imitate whatever the adventurers did.
Arriving back in Dämmendell some days later, they discovered to their amazement that Baroness Skaadi had apparently been recalled back to Dolheim; the martial law within Dwerport had ended, even if the naval blockade had not. King Bjornstraand appointed Matriarch Garavel the new baroness, enfeoffing the high priestess with a noble title and essentially giving her autocratic power in Dwerport.
The party accompanied Garavel to Dwerport and learned that, indeed, Skaadi and her men had been recalled in disgrace, and Skaadi herself had been chewed out by a so-far unknown “huge man in red armor” who marched her aboard his ship before they all sailed off.
Garavel decided that the old mayor’s manor wouldn’t fit one of her stature; she resolved to take over Dwerport’s Temple of the Æsir from the local bishop, Darby O’Dell. As an afterthought, she gave the mayor’s manor to the adventuring company. Exploring the basement in the vault, the party discovered signs of a major hissy-fit, with all the fool’s gold that they’d given to the old baroness scattered about… and the mirror of narcissism gone.
At this point, Connor decided to try and put in a good word for the Thieves’ Guild with the matriarch. He called upon his contact, local gnome thief Lannet Annwn, to set up a meeting between Matriarch Garavel and the guild-mistress of Dwerport’s thieves, the elf Jonétticel. Meanwhile, Deliah bought a map indicating an overland route to Rorgan Village along the Durdäs Rapids and the south edge of the Dimmenwald.
That night, the party gathered at the Harbor’s Haven Hostel, where Richard Rankine and his grumpy barkeep, Erb, had set up a nice, private table. Matriarch Garavel was the first to arrive, followed shortly by Guild-mistress Jonétticel. Just as they were about to begin negotiations, the (locked!) front door to the hostel slid open, and in strode none other than Grandfather himself: a pipe-smoking dwarf whose mottled green-and-brown ranger-cloak hid his face. Grandfather sat down, and Matriarch Garavel seemed both shocked and barely able to contain a sudden seething rage. She informed both guild-masters that she’d just decided she would never tolerate any sort of crime in her new barony, and that a crackdown on both thieves and assassins was imminent.
Jonétticel answered that if that was the case, they had nothing further to discuss; she left quickly (but not before Gibli and Connor could flag her down outside and ask to join the Thieves’ Guild). Shortly thereafter, Garavel likewise left the meeting in a huff. Grandfather informed the adventurers that if they were curious about his history with Garavel, their best bet would be to follow up on King Bjornstraand’s request and find his missing niece, Princess Ingridine, who was last seen heading into the Merkbog by herself. Then the master-assassin made his exit by ninja-style, puff-of-smoke disappearing-act.
Nevertheless, the next day, Connor, Gibli, and Klaus resolved to join the Thieves’ Guild. They went to the guild-house, passed some sneaking and pick-pocketing and burgling tests, and joined up, with terms being a 5% cut due to the guild for any jobs pulled within a town or village on Shade Isle, in exchange for access to guild resources like equipment and fences. Guild-mistress Jonétticel also told the three new recruits that if they could burgle the mansion of Mayor Klaus Klaussen in Sægen Village and steal his badge and writ of office (bestowed on the mayor by Prince Svartsen the Black), that their loyalty to the guild would be proven.
The Other Thing
Now the company turned its attention to the Merkbog, where they attempted to make a bee-line for one of the ruins that Connor had spotted earlier, back when he’d been cursed with a parrot’s form; but on the way, they noticed a black stone tower atop a hill within the middle of the swamp. This was something of an “ooh, shiny” distraction that consumed the rest of the session.
They discovered six grotesque and sickly-looking creatures which appeared to have been stitched together from human and either puma or wolf parts; these creatures proved to be more undead than flesh-golem in nature and were vulnerable to Connor’s turning power. Inside the tower, the party fought a couple of living iron statues, a few more of the hideous undead moreaus, and a ghoul. They discovered one of the creatures, an undead man-wolf, reading scrolls of philosophy in a library; it attacked Connor in a berserk fury when it sensed a threat to its creator (called variously “Father” and “Dr. Hellstrommus” by the creatures).
The party sacked the library and discovered a side-room with a trap-door down into a basement. Here, they discovered a couple of gargoyle statues (ordinary statues, since Viktor was able to pummel them into rubble in mere moments with his bare fists) and a great stone sarcophagus that, try as they might, nobody could open. The lid simply wouldn’t budge to any means they applied. That was where we left things off.
Next week… the secrets of Hellstrommus Tower. (Ooh, spooky…)