Campaign of the Month: April 2022

A Rising Darkness

Jerryths Journal Episode One

Jehrryths_Journal.jpg

Entry One
Interesting town, Goldshire. I’ve spoken to many here and find their lives fascinating. But then, I’ve always preferred experiencing something new over having the same schedule day after day after day. Sometimes I think back of my home village and almost feel guilty for not missing it so much. It was familiar, but I would never call it comfortable. I just always had it in me to go out and discover something or someone new. Thanks for the wanderlust, Dad, wherever you are. Maybe we’ll cross paths one day.

As usual, I tried to live life here as the natives do, to get the full experience. And as usual, I find myself just about out of gold to support myself.

I’ve taken a good liking those I met on the caravan. Quite the motley crew, I feel as though I almost fit in in the sense that none of us necessarily fit in with each other. There’s a Minotaur, an Air Genasi, a Klingon, a Satyr (whom I initially mistook for a Tiefling), a Dragonborn, and an Asari whom I find…well, there’s no getting around it. I find her quite captivating.

At this point, I’d typically say my goodbyes to those I’ve met and thank them for sharing parts of their lives with me, wish them well, and hope to see them again one day as I continue to travel alone. But this group, in the same boat as me with the lack of coinage, asked if I’d like to stick around for some more adventure. Citing the mission board in town, they suggested I come along to investigate some caves to the east. A visit to Lady Sorsha was in order first, they said. And somehow, in spite of her radiant beauty, I managed to stay focused on the mission she proposed for us. “Aberrations,” she called them, were a potential threat to Goldshire, likely to be found in the mountains north of the Ames Mine. She spoke of multiple cavern systems inhabited by various humanoids, and rumors of Netherese ruins. Hearing it could take several hours of travel on foot appealed to me & seemed as though it would satisfy my growing wanderlust & desire for excitement. Before I knew it, my hand was up in the air. “I’m in,” I volunteered.

I have to hand it to Nerian (the Air Genasi), his awareness rivals my own in the outdoors. Several hours in and he managed to spot a tripwire before any of us, including me. It was a simple trap, one I might rig up myself if I were hunting for moderate-sized game, with a net above. I readied myself for the worst, some form of an ambush. Vito (the Dragonborn) and Nerian confirmed this by spotting Kobolds darting about in the thickets. Likewise, these Kobolds spotted us spotting them, and a battle began.

Nerian dropped rather quickly to their sling attacks and was tended to just as quickly by Samara (the Asari). I moved to engage our attackers, spotted a pit trap, and overestimated my athleticism by trying to jump it. Instead, I found myself dropping quickly as well, and landing in a crumpled heap. “Well, at least I’ve got cover,” I thought to myself. But these were good people I was traveling with, I couldn’t remain at the bottom of a hole and leave them at risk of getting hurt or killed. I shrugged off the pain, climbed out of the hole, and went from tree to tree, using them as cover while slinging stones of my own at them. Once they got close enough, I engaged them and begin beating them with my walking stick, as well as a few good punches and kicks. Before long, there were 9 Kobold bodies on the ground and 3 Kobolds running for their lives.

I have to admit I was a bit sickened by what followed. There was a bounty for each set of ears from the Kobolds. Now, I consider myself a wonderful hunter, and I’ve no weak stomach when it comes to skinning and butchering animals. But these were humanoids, different from us while not so different. Anytime in my previous travels when I needed to defend myself from a would-be bandit, I’d purposely knock them unconscious or maneuver myself to choke them out with my walking stick. I didn’t have it in me to kill another sentient being, let alone disfigure them. So when it was asked who wanted to cut off the ears and who wanted to search the bodies, I told a half-truth by saying “I’ll search, I don’t believe in using edged weapons.” It was a truth because I don’t use edged weapons for self-defense, but also a lie because I was no stranger to preparing my captured game with a small cooking knife. “These are bad people we just killed, it was us or them,” I told myself. “If we don’t stop them, it could mean innocent lives lost somewhere down the road for Goldshire.” I could accept what needed to be done, as long as I kept that mindset, especially after discovering some kind of branded symbol on each of the bodies. It reminded me of some sort of beetle. These Kobolds were clearly a small part of something much bigger.

Around 20 minutes later, the 3 Kobolds who fled returned. With company. They brought back 5 more Kobolds, one of which had blue scales, and another wearing a robe indicative of incoming magic.

Magic. Why did it have to be magic.

They gave us a harder time than the previous troop, but we managed to dispatch them in whole this time. Vito wisely removed and preserved the portion of the blue scales that carried the branded symbol.

Feeling as though we had information worth reporting (and ears worth selling), we returned to Goldshire, and sought out Poppy at the Frymore Mine to sell the ears. Poppy caught my eye for two reasons. One, she’s a halfling, and I always enjoyed my visits to halfling villages. And two, she’s quite attractive. Thanks again Dad, this time for passing along your eye for beauty. That’s what, three women now in Goldshire who I’ve got my eye on? I’m going to need to spend a little more time getting to know each of them, see if there may be any interest from any of them.

Well, that was enough excitement for one day. Dancing Wolf Inn, here I come.

Entry Two
I don’t know what I ate the night before, but it gave me a terrible nightmare. A solar eclipse, at least one dragon, a hydra, an aquatic wyrm-like creature, structures crumbling, the branded symbol from the Kobolds we’d encountered, and a voice warning of Alondo? Normally I thrive on chaos, but I woke up screaming from this. Come to find out during breakfast that we all had the same dream, and our Godsmarks were left burning for a while after we’d awoken. Odd as that was to have a shared nightmare, it seemed even odder that Zathriss (the Satyr), Torg (the Klingon), and Vito managed to awaken without screaming. How they managed that, I have no idea. It was the scariest, most realistic dream I’ve ever had, and I hope to never have it again.

Off we went, returning to the site of the ambush. But not without a quick stop to the trading post where Zathriss asked about buying some studded leather armor. I don’t get how my companions can wear anything other than loose-fitting travelers’ clothes while adventuring. I mean sure, armor offers protection, but it just feels so cumbersome. I feel much more maneuverable in just plain breeches and a tunic, maybe with a vest during colder weather. Just wait until we find ourselves somewhere more tropical. They’ll be sweating from all the armor while I’m packing all my clothes away in favor of my loincloth.

Arriving at the site of the ambush, we saw that the Kobold bodies were dragged into the pit traps and carried through some sort of newly dug tunnels. If we were a group of gnomes, we probably could’ve gone through the tunnels to investigate. Maybe. But there was no way we were fitting through there. Instead, we followed the trail where the second group of Kobolds came from. Vito tracked while Nerian focused on finding more potential traps. It feels satisfying to see that I’m not the only one who knows their way around the great outdoors. Nerian found what he was looking for, but nearly caught it straight in the face as a spiked branch swung down towards him. Wherever these Kobolds had come from, the trail went cold. Someone definitely did not want us to find their origin. Vito and I agreed that heading northwest would be most promising for us.

Again, Nerian spotted yet another trap, a pit trap not unlike the one I’d fallen into the previous day. It was damaged, as though someone or something had triggered it. Peering down, we saw a similar (but larger) tunnel to the ones from the ambush site. Torg (the Klingon) climbed down via rope to discover a fire beetle. The trees around us flashed with the symbol from the Kobolds and our shared nightmare, summoning more fire beetles from the ground and some strange creatures from the trees. I now believe my suspicions of the symbol being a beetle are correct. The tree creatures put a nasty stank on us, but we persevered and killed off the attackers, all of whom also bore the symbol.

Traveling further, we passed more than a dozen cave entrances before settling on what we deemed a safe spot near a stream & waterfall. At last, we could bathe ourselves of the remaining tree creature stench and set up camp! During the night, we were ambushed yet again by more Kobolds, only this time they brought goblins and orcs with them. Zathriss was nearly killed, the closest any of us had come yet to death, but again we were the only ones left standing. Zathriss cast a spell to Detect Magic, and while none of our would-be assassins carried any magical items, their symbols glowed brightly. I didn’t know what to make of that. But the one thing I did know was that I no longer felt safe here, and neither did the rest of us, so we relocated to finish our rest.

The next morning, Torg and Nerian scouted our former camp. Around 20 Goblins, a dozen Orcs, and one (comparatively) huge Ogre were all rooting around. Nerian managed to trip somehow, and he and Torg high-tailed it safely back to us, despite the Ogre looking in their direction. Zathriss pondered the cooperation of their mixed crew (which reminded me of our own crew), and Vito was quick to point out the Ogre was likely in charge and the others were his underlings. And of course, with Ogres not being known for their brain power, someone somewhere was very likely feeding orders to the Ogre.

This was now more than enough intel to return & share with Lady Sorsha. We shared all we had gathered in terms of information, as well as Vito’s collection of skin samples with the branded symbols. Lady Sorsha identified the tree creature to us as a flumph, which was actually a wanted item from the Mission Board. Unfortunately, it was wanted alive, not dead.

Oopsie. Shame none of us recognized it when we’d encountered it. Maybe we should ask more questions about these “missions” before heading off and risking our lives?

Regardless, we were each given payment and a Potion of Healing to both reward and aid us. Some of us traded in their weapons to upgrade to something better. Huh, same as with the armor thing. I get along just fine using just a walking stick and my own body to defend myself. I’ve taken some good ass-kickings at times, though. Makes me wonder what kind of fighter I might be if I’d ever had formal weapon training instead of just figuring things out for myself. My fight style is unorthodox, I know, but it works for me. I guess I can’t complain. That Klingon though, Torg…he fights similar to me with punches & kicks, but he also seems just a bit obsessed with various weaponry. I guess we all need a hobby. Mine is just experiencing as many different things as possible, even if it comes close to killing me sometimes.

While using some of our reward money to not just eat, but actually feast for a change, at the Dancing Wolf, we couldn’t help but overhear that another band of adventurers was also on the hunt for these “Aberrations.” They were calling themselves The Blades of Goldshire, which made me realize I don’t think we actually gave ourselves a group name? Blades of Goldshire sounds so regal and a bit uppity. Perhaps I’ll suggest we call ourselves exactly what I first thought when I met them all…The Motley Crew. Sounds good, yet also somehow familiar?

Regardless, if these Blades are already out there, chances are they’re just clearing the way for us when we get back out there. And I’ve had enough for one day, I’m ready to go to bed and pick up where we left off tomorrow.

Going straight back out to where we’d last been, we saw smoke rising as we approached. Torg & Nerian (they seem to spend a fair amount of time together, solid team they make) scouted ahead and found 6 dead orc bodies, clearly poisoned, each missing the skin where their symbol once was. Could the Blades have done this, or was there some sort of in-fighting between the orcs, goblins, and ogre? A little more travel brought us to a clearing with remnants of fire. It was a blast unlike anything I’d ever seen, like a bunch of wizards decided to see who could destroy the most land with the biggest fireballs. In the midst of it all were the ogre, goblins, and the rest of the orcs we’d seen the day before. All missing their skin/symbols, all completely searched and looted, and pieces of parchment lying around. Used spell scrolls, perhaps? We all agreed this had to be the work of the Blades, and that they were heading northwest from here.

They can go northwest and draw whatever enemies there might be in that direction, we chose to head northeast instead and came across a horrific sight. The long-dead corpses of an elf, a human female, and an eastern man, all crucified and disemboweled. I shudder to think they were likely alive while tortured in such a way. Again, I’m not squeamish about preparing my own game meat, but these…these were living, sentient, humanoid creatures. And now they bore that beetle-like symbol, branded into their foreheads.

This is becoming sickening. I’ve encountered a bandit here and there in my own travels the last several years. I’ve even encountered wild animals who made me fear for my life at times. But nothing like this. And now I’m left with a decision…do I leave this accursed place, bury my head in the sand over the situation, and go back to traveling alone with no responsibilities and no particular destination? No. I can’t do that. I have too much of a conscience. I need to follow through with this and extinguish this evil. I can’t just up & leave in the middle of the night and pretend I don’t know what’s happening here. These people are becoming more than traveling companions, they’re becoming my friends. I need to see this through.

Well, Zathriss has a conscience too. He untied the woman, no doubt to provide her a decent burial, and her dried out body collapsed into dust as soon as it hit the ground. Untying the other two resulted in the same. Thannilos (the Minotaur) gathered together some broken magic weapons left at their feet, in the hopes that we could somehow find their families and return the items to them. I am touched to know how thoughtful he’s trying to be, but at the same time I have no real faith that we can find them. Still, stranger things have happened.

Nerian, ever the observant one, snuck into a nearby cave to find it had been a former inhabitance for the Kobolds, with a hidden door towards the back. Removing a poison needle trap on the handle, he opened the door with difficulty, suggesting it hadn’t been opened in a great many years. Well-carved stairs led down a ways, leading to a landing with another door (this one adorned with runes). Zathriss performed another ritual to Detect Magic, this one showing nothing about the door. The runes matched no languages we knew, and Nerian found no traps on the door either. Just a single keyhole which Nerian quickly surmised was beyond his lock-picking skills.

Up we went again, closing the original door & Nerian resetting the trap. We found nothing significant in the next 3 caves other than that the Kobolds used those too. I couldn’t help but think about something, though…that group of 6 orcs were all poisoned, and here we just found a poison needle trap in that first cave. If this trap was the work of the kobolds, treacherous little beasts that they can be, then maybe it was they who instigated the fight with those 6 orcs? Or, if it actually was the Blades who poisoned the 6 orcs, then did they set this poison trap here to keep us away from something so they could get the lion’s share of rewards? Well, it’s too early to know for sure, but I do trust Lady Sorsha and I do trust my companions. These Blades, I don’t know yet….

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Keryth987

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