Crusader? I Hardly Know 'Er!

An update from the bard
To Imad ad-din al-Isfahani, Most Compassionate rampart of the Brotherhood Without Borders, the Surprisingly Understanding when it comes to bad decisions, and so forth:

So the good news is that we survived! The bad news is that we may have attracted the attention of an ancient and eldritch creature from beyond mortal ken. This is a standard risk in our line of business, however, so you shouldn’t be terribly surprised by it.

The locked doors opened to a dash of water spilled against them and led us into a medium sized chamber. Two lightning runes barred our path forward but the ground hugging the walls could be safely traveled. There were also two large mosaics on either side of the chamber, ones that depicted truly horrific creatures.

The first was tall and misshapen, a grotesquely broad-shouldered beast sporting two snarling baboon heads, tentacled arms, and a long, sinuous tail that curved in on itself, standing in a sea of red flames. It was frozen as if screaming, a wizard caught in its grasp being pulled forth to be consumed. The image was clearly of the Demogorgon.

The other didn’t share the same dramatics but was no less disquieting. Drawn in blues and greys, it showed a creature lurking on the abyssal sea floor. Myriad limbs curled around the lost wrecks of ships and its gaping maw stretched wide, as if to swallow anyone observing the mosaic whole. Not something you want to find in a dark alley, that is, though I suppose it’s unlikely to do so unless said dark alley is under the ocean.

Speaking of, what do you know of Atlantis? I ask for reasons.

Also, do you know the name Yeenoghu? I ask for other reasons.

By creeping around the edges of the chamber, we were able to approach an entrance long closed, one sealed by a glyph or ward. Naturally we broke that immediately to peer inside and instantly a voice spoke in our heads saying “why, hello.

There followed a conversation wherein the creature may or may not have whispered truths about the nature of the multiverse, the past and the future, that which is and yet may be. It could have all been lies, of course. Either way, Yuvgeny’s response to mutter something unrepeatable in polite company combined with something of a disgusted look towards anyone communing with said creature as he went forward to attack.

The creature was an aboleth. At least, it presented on our dimension as one. It lurked at the bottom of a mirk-filled pool (which smelled awful, let me tell you – like rotted fish, old seaweed, and stale air), hidden from view, and even though I cast Faerie Lights, it was barely illuminated for the depths were so deep.

To be quite honest, I missed a majority of the battle that ensued. The creature spun an illusion, one which I wasn’t able to break. Rather embarrassing as I recognized it afterward as one of my own spells: Phantasmal Force.

Ruby was also caught in the spell but was able to rouse himself. Apparently, his wrath was quite impressive to behold. I missed it entirely but the end results were clear: the spell broken, the threads lost, and the aboleth’s form dissolving into slime. As its illusion faded from my mind, I believe I felt a touch of gratitude – I get the impression it had been there, lost and abandoned in that pool, for centuries.

The story doesn’t end there, however. On the other side of the chamber was an altar and held there were the jawbone of an ass, seven broken cords, and a most innocuous box containing an incomplete deck of playing cards.

Yeah, you know what that was. And yes, we drew. Yevgeny gained a brother (did he have one before? do we know whether he did?) but lost all of his non-magical items. Alarmingly, this included his pants. He’s been striding around most nakedly ever since. Of possibly greater concern, he drew another card but did not share the details. Nothing happened directly, but that means little as to its importance.

Also, the druid and I may have accidentally entered into pacts with the aboleth. I know that I did and judging on Kildrak’s reaction (and the whole vanishing bodily, leaving his clothing and gear behind, and reappearing minutes later soaking wet thing), the same happened to him. On the plus side, it seemed rather less aboleth-y (abolethesque? abolethine?) when speaking to it in its own dimension.

It required a pact to be made before it would send me back but there’s nothing to worry about. The terms of the pact are extremely loose and do not require that I take any action whatsoever. It just wants to have the occasional conversation. I get the impression that it was lonely – horrifically, painfully lonely – and an exchange of words alone did not seem too high a price to pay. And truth to tell, it is a most intriguing conversationalist. What it hinted at… There are not words.

It did give one useful bit of advice, however: seek the trail forward either under the seas or past the pyramids. The Ongepotchket are debating which way to proceed now as I await their decision and focus on scrubbing off as much seaweed as possible. (We are going to reek for weeks. There will be nothing enjoyable about the next leg of our journey unless we can quickly find a bathhouse.) The choices are Atlantis or Egypt and, personally, I favor Atlantis. How exactly to make it happen is something we’ll need to figure out but no doubt you are filled to brimming with faith and confidence in our abilities to not completely fuck this up.

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To Imad ad-din al-Isfahani, Most Honorable bastion of the Brotherhood Without Borders, protector of the weak and oppressed, learned of the hidden ways, and all that rot
An update from the bard

To Imad ad-din al-Isfahani, Most Honorable bastion of the Brotherhood Without Borders, protector of the weak and oppressed, learned of the hidden ways, and all that rot:

Let it be known that in the days since accepting the assignment of monitoring the Ongepotchket, much has been made clear. To wit:

1. They are highly skilled and possess occasionally surprising talents, not the least of which is their ability to continually survive. Since entering the temple ruins, we’ve faced a great many foes and yet they have all been demolished with little difficulty and (aside from the ass of the human mercenary Yevgeny), little of their own blood spilled.

2. The gnome wizard is very handsy.

3. Despite initial confusion, the druid did not attempt to slay a defenseless old woman as she lay helpless before him. Whether they may attempt to slay other defenseless old women is yet to be seen but at least on this occasion they acted honorably, risking their own lives to save that of another. Regretably, the other in this case turned out to be a hag but their efforts should still be noted.

4. The temple is fascinating. It’s clearly ancient, of possibly Philistine construction and dedicated to one of the lost Old Gods. If that is the case, these walls have stood for over a thousand years. It has two levels, the first of which is crumbling, left open in places and nearly overtaken by the sands. Its walls and columns are covered by mosiacs and that display surprisingly familiar scenes. A recurring motif details encounters with what appear to be members of the Hebrew tribes. The center of the upper level is a ruin: a series of columns collapsed in on itself as if pulled down by the grasp of a god.

There was even an inscription indicating that, at one long lost point, the Ark rested here! Lending credence to this claim, a golem stood guard over that place. Regrettably, it had to be destroyed with a horn of blasting. (Of some concern, the horn is held by the human mercenary traveling with us. It’s not that I don’t trust him with an ancient relic of great power that appears to be unstable, thus risking explosion on each use and potentially vast harm to both its weilder and those around him, it’s just that I don’t trust him in general. Also, I want that horn.)

5. We discovered something of considerable interest: a scroll dated 983 listing the locations of the dwarvish strongholds including ABUL KHAZ. It states Abul Khaz is the Jewel of Nubia, center of learning, and light of Africa. Nubia!

(There is also a line about woe to those who oppose us, wael to those who befriend us, may you crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women – the usual Dwarvish claptrap.)

It is an enthralling discovery. I could spend weeks examining the ruins and discover still more each day. It would be a highly tempting prospect were it not for the surprising volume of dark creatures dwelling here. The temple seems to attract them. There’s a foul miasma permiating the grounds. It was noticable on the upper level but impossible to ignore on the lower. The lower level is dank and smells of rot (despite anything here having rotted away long ago), of old standing water permeating stone, despite the desert sun above. As you know, this area is not known for oasises. It is not even known for the standing acidic pools the Bedouin direct foolish Christians towards when they get pissed off. And yet the damp, moist air remains.

That is where we are now, resting before pressing onward past a curiously locked door. It’s safe enough for the moment – we’ve slaughtered just about everything residing in the temple save for whatever awaits us in the locked chamber. I will inform you of our findings tomorrow, assuming, of course, that we survive.

Yours in honor and brotherhood,

Irie Jones

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1/13 Pest Control & Getting Alb-rekt
squashing spiders and bad PR

To all to whom these presents may come:

Praise be to God the Merciful, the Compassionate, Lord of the Two Worlds, and peace be upon His Prophets.

It is my purpose here to document my travels and adventures as a member of the Brotherhood Without Borders, for the benefit of mankind and the purpose of bringing aid, comfort, and illumination to all who are in darkness.

It has been a long time since my last correspondence and a great many adventures have been had:

  • A green dragon has been driven from his occupation of Thundertree.
  • A Transylvanian mercenary named Yevgeny has joined the group, under contract.
  • The Castle of Cragmaw has been cleared of hobgoblins.
  • Wave Echo Cave was explored, during which several incidents took place
    • A spectator charged with guarding the Forge of Spells was convinced to return to his place of origin.
    • A Christian saint by the name of Nicholas appeared out of nowhere to bestow gifts upon us.
    • The Black Spider, the “svartzalfar” behind the kidnapping of Gundren Rockseeker and his bodyguard Sildar Hallwinter, was defeated utterly, liberating Wave Echo Cave from its occupiers.
    • One of his minions, a shapechanger that has been dubbed “Frank”, warned us of Albrecht’s attempt to conceal his treachery behind a trail of misinformation and slander against our party. Frank’s honesty (thanks to Balthazar’s zone of truth) indicates he may be of continued value to us as an informant.
      • Frank also expressed concern that the tuaregs we met in Thundertree may not be who they claim to be, and are not of this world.

Upon return to al-Fandalin, we encountered one of the Brotherhood Council of Six, inquiring as to our “errant” behavior. When we discovered the information was provided by Albrecht himself, we quickly submitted to magical interrogation (provided by Balthazar) to prove Albrecht had lied. We were given the charge to continue pursuing him in hopes of discovering what else he was using the Brotherhood’s good name for, and to expose him at last. The councilman’s favored troubadour/assistant was appointed to accompany us, to provide some needed diplomatic expertise. This is where our story pauses.

Recorded herewith on Sha’ban 24, 576 AH (January 13, 1181).
- Azhaz ibn Khalil al-Nejem

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9/6: Digging the Romans & Thundertree Lawn Care
cutting winter fuel early with new magical tools

To all to whom these presents may come:

Praise be to God the Merciful, the Compassionate, Lord of the Two Worlds, and peace be upon His Prophets.

It is my purpose here to document my travels and adventures as a member of the Brotherhood Without Borders, for the benefit of mankind and the purpose of bringing aid, comfort, and illumination to all who are in darkness.

Shortly after dispatching a necromancer and disposing of his abominations at the Roman excavation a day’s ride north of Phandalin, we investigated the site further to find several artifacts no doubt forged and imbued with power from that age, presumed to be gifts given to the commander of the garrison when it was in operation hundreds of years ago. These included a gladius which MouillĂ© unearthed, a pilum which I found and traded to Yakut for a protective cloak of Roman soldiery that he discovered, and a ring which Kildrik currently possesses, the function of which I cannot recall, but will provide followup thereof should he remind me.

We proceeded to follow up on a trail left by Myrna, the lady who we rescued from Redbrand enslavement at the ruined manor house, to recover a family heirloom (a necklace) she had misplaced in her hometown of Thundertree which was approximately a day from the excavation across the desert. The travel was uneventful, the nights cool and dry, and we wondered what surprises might await us in this innocuous town.

Upon approach, the town looked abandoned, but not unoccupied from the ambient noise. A sign warned of savage flora and undead creatures – a sign we would find out had been erected by a wandering druid by the name of Reidoth, who has made temporary home here as a ward against travelers accidentally falling prey to the monsters infesting the town. He informed us that the main hall of Thundertree was now inhabited by a young green dragon, who are known for their affinity of pestilence and decay. We agreed that our Brotherhood charter commands us to help cleanse the town and hopefully restore it to a human-habitable state (and also recovering the necklace). To that end we proceeded to visit several stone dwellings which had become host to “twig blights” – bundles of sticks and branches animated by some foul energy. They were carefully but easily chopped into harmless splinters without too much harm to ourselves. Further sweeping of the townhomes revealed a giant spider nest that was also swept away without incident – and there I must pause for now.

It remains to be seen what, who, or where the source of the corruption might be found, which I shall hopefully deliver unto you, dear reader, in time.

Recorded herewith on Rabi Al-Thani 14, 576 AH (September 6 1180).
- Azhaz ibn Khalil al-Nejem

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A Bad Day for Bugbears

The Brotherhood tied up loose ends by exterminating the remaining denizens of the Redbrand hideout: three bugbears sent by the Black Spider to help Albrecht keep the townies in line. They could only assume by their presence in the barracks and not in town that Albrecht had not had need of them to this point.

When Ruby opened the door, a smallish goblin fainted outright at the sight of the adventurers. As it turned out, he was pretty much the personal slave of the bigger, stronger bugbears, and rather a bit pathetic. After the bugbears were dispatched, and he recovered, he introduced himself as Droop, and corroborated everything the group already knew about the manor. In gratitude for not killing him, Droop has offered his services to the group, and made a spit promise to serve them truly, and never lie to them, or betray them. He wishes he was brave like them, but having brave friends is good enough for him for now.

After a well deserved rest, the players had a quick de-briefing with Sildar, and while he doesn’t think the Burghermeister would reward them for clearing out the Redbrands, he himself is appreciative, and understands the service the players have rendered.

End part II.

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Clearing the Crypt and Beyond
"Of course, back then if a fight lasted less than one hundred rounds, we demanded our copper piece back!"

After a short rest, during which the freed slaves were sent back to the wagon with Jantwell and Moulle, the group pressed on, discovering, in no particular order other than that in which they were discovered, an armory (stocked with decent weapons) which they immediately sealed for future use, a storeroom, a common room (containing three ridiculously easily dispatched Redbrands and one genius who surrendered when given the chance), a barracks (yet unexplored, but which the bandit said contained three bugbears and a goblin), a wizard’s workshop, and finally a wizard’s quarters. The workshop contained his familiar, now dead, and a lab set up to make invisibility potions. The quarters contained a letter, and not much else, since the wizard buggered off when he heard the thunderclap. The letter read:

“Lord Albrecht,

My spies in Gaza tell me that strangers are due to arrive in Phandalin. They could be working for the dwarves. Capture them if you can, kill them if you must, but don’t allow them to upset our plans. See that any dwarven maps in their possession are delivered to me with haste.

I’m counting on you , Lord Albrecht. Don’t disappoint me."

It’s signed with an image of a black spider.

In the Workshop, Pod found a book, written in dwarven, that details the history of the Forge of Spells, and the cave complex. Balthazar and Kildrik discovered the secret door Albrecht fled through, and Kildrik pursued, as a lion, finding the ruins of Albrecht’s bug-out bag thrown angrily against a wall. The group pursued, but were delayed by the nothic, who blocked the bridge, and Albrecht had enough of a head start to get to his stable and escape on horseback.

The bugbears have yet to be routed from the barracks.

The group found the following valuables:

30 beaver pelts worth 2GP/ea
12 spears
6 shortswords
4 longswords
6 light crossbows
8 quivers with 20 bolts/ea
75CP
55SP
22EP
15GP
1 gold earring with a tiny ruby (30GP)
1 bottle of mercury (25GP)
1 bottle Dragon’s Bile (25GP)
1 bottle powdered nightshade (25GP)

in the Wizard’s chest you find:
180SP
130GP
5 Carnelians (10GP/ea)
2 peridots (15GP/ea)
1 pearl (100GP)

The latter is likely the ill-gotten gains of the Redbrands activity. Do with that information what you will.

The group did succeed slaying the Nothic, but now wonder who the babydaddy is.

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In Redbrand Manor

Heading further into the dungeons below the manor house, the party found the actual entrance to the dungeon, or at least, the one most often used by the Redbrands. It contained mostly supplies, and a bug-out bag hidden in the cistern, The party removed the valuables, replaced them with rocks, and returned it to its hiding place. They then surprised a group of Redbrands in a barracks room, and killed them all.

Moving out of the entry hall, they detected and avoided a pit trap, then found both a family crypt, and a holding pen for captives. After fighting off skeletons and Redbrands, the party freed the captives, who were the surviving family members of the murdered woodcutter. The mother is grateful, but has no way to repay the party except with the location of a valuable emerald necklace hidden in the ruined town of Thundertree.

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Routing the Redbrands
It's Like Roadhouse But With Wolves

The Redbrands, of course, did not appreciate being called assholes by Ruby, and reacted accordingly, attempting to rob the players before running them out of town.

And then Jantwell and Balthazar set the porch (and two Redbrands) on fire, and Kildrak set the wolves on the rest, who promptly began tearing out throats and taking names. Add an illusory wolf from Jantwell and even the reinforcements didn’t help. (Also during the fight Ruby and Moulle contended with many foes and kept the rest of the party from being overwhelmed.) When the Redbrands were down to two, Jantwell and Balthazar both convinced them to lay down their weapons and surrender. After getting information from the Redbrands, the party allowed them to leave town, which proved to be of dubious popularity with the mayor, who is an officious, self-important little man that really doesn’t think the Redbrands are all that much trouble thankyouverymuch and how DARE you imply he is not doing his job after all boys will be boys and it just isn’t worth it for how little trouble they actually cause but seeing as the party just destroyed a gang of them without taking a scratch he’s not about to start any trouble with them either so one can see the difficult position he is in amirite?

This is what the Redbrands know:

  • The Leader of the Redbrands is a human wizard that calls himself Glasstaff, because he has a glass… staff. No, really. Curiously, Glasstaff’s description matches that of Albrecht, who was sent to start a Brotherhood Chapterhouse in Phandalin. His quarters are in the Western end of the Redbrand’s hideout.
  • The Redbrands are working on the orders of someone calling themself the Black Spider. Who or what the Black Spider is is a mystery. They were told to intimidate the locals and frighten off adventurers that might intercede, for reasons known but to him or her. Clearly that did not work out as intended. TBS has sent Bugbears to reinforce the Redbrands.
  • The lower part of the complex is guarded by an “eye monster”
  • There are some captives in a holding area “near the old crypt” which just happens to have some skeletons hanging around in it

Sildar, arriving with the rest of the townsfolk to see the Redbrands get they asses kicked mentions a couple ways into the lair over ales in what was the Sleeping Giant but will probably be renamed (as the proprietor suddenly saw which way the wind was blowing and realized there were better pickings elsewhere), the front door or the hidden tunnel.

The party chose the tunnel.

Once inside the complex, they encountered the “eye monster” which turned out to be a nothic, an insane and mildly telepathic monster that immediately flooded their heads with whispers about a dead man and their responsibility for his death because pretty women. Once they noticed the monster, however, they were able to negotiate a truce with it, after offering it food. It corroborated what the thug told them, and was distracted long enough for someone to locate his treasure horde and take that shit.

The chest contains 160sp, 120gp, five malachite gems (15gp ea.), two potions of healing, and a scroll of augury. There is also a longsword inscribed with the name “Talon” and in much better condition than it should be for being in a cavern. It’s hilt is in the shape of a bird of prey with outstretched wings.

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Phandalin, or, "HEY ASSHOLES!"

After arriving in Phandalin, the party secured rooms at the Pink Pony, delivered half of the NETC’s goods recovered to Lineine O’Donnell, and did some general investigating.

The interesting bits of information you gathered:

  • A group of ruffians calling themselves Redbrands pretty much have the run of the town
  • The Redbrands are HUUUUUUGE assholes and hang out at the Sleeping Giant Tavern
  • Srsly, they straight up murdered a dude and no one’s seen his wife and kid since
  • A retired adventurer Named Daran Edermath owns and operates an orchard just outside town
  • Goblins, bigger than the ones just cleared from Cragmaw Cave, have been seen on the east end of the Three Boar Road, and the burghermeister is looking for someone to go slaughter them
  • Said burghermeister seems to be content to let the Redbrands do whatever the fuck, and even seems to condone their assholery. The Innkeeper would like to do something about it, but is afraid of retribution against his wife and children. Still, it sure would be nice if someone were to do something. Maybe with an axe handle. After all, there’s nothing like a nice piece of hickory.
  • A hobbit named Qelline Alderleaf runs a farm on the other side of town from the orchard with her ten year old son
  • Barthen’s Provisions has adventuring gear for sale in addition to the NETC
  • Lineine O’Donnell has gear and weapons for sale as well, and will also help out the party however she can
  • Iarno Albrecht did show up in town about three weeks ago, mentioned he was there to open a Brotherhood safehouse, but disappeared shortly afterwards. He’s a short German with a dark beard.
  • The Phandalin Miner’s Exchange is the unofficial records office
    Solyent Green is people

After speaking with patrons and owners at the Pink Pony, Kildrak decided to “find the wolves a chew toy,” and by “find the wolves a chew toy” he meant “go fuck up the Redbrands.” Gathering the party, they quietly scouted outside the Sleeping Giant, until Ruby decided to speed things along and got the Redbrands’ attention in keeping with his own particular idiom: Bardic upbringing by composing a short but delightful sonnet

HEY ASSHOLES!

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Cragmaw Cave

After chasing the surviving goblin to the cave, the adventurers fought their way in, befriending two wolves, rescuing Sildar Hallwinter, and extirpating the goblins dwelling inside. Between Azahz’s backstabs and Pod’s Burning Hands, the Brotherhood was barely slowed down.

After rescuing Sildar, they learned four important bits of information:

  • The Rockseeker brothers have located the entrance to a long-lost complex called “Wave Echo Cave”
  • Gralk, the bugbear in charge of the cave, had orders from someone calling himself “The Black Spider” to waylay them and bring Gundren to him
  • Gundren has a map to the lost entrance of the cave, but it went with Gundren (along with their equipment) to Cragmaw Castle
  • Sildar’s Brotherhood contact in Phandalin is Iarno Albrecht, a wizard, who was sent to Phandalin twon months ago, but they have not heard from him.

After subduing Gralk, the party learned the location of Cragmaw Castle (about twenty miles to the northeast, give or take), and confirmation that the Cragmaw tribe was acting under the orders of this mysterious “Black Spider,” and that they did send the dwarf and the map to the castle after ambushing them. Gralk himself answered to a “King Grol” who was in charge of the castle. After pumping him for information, Balthazar healed him, and Kildrak chained him to the stalagmite the wolves had been chained to.

In addition, you found piles of sacks and crates containing supplies and trade goods owned by the Near East Trading Company, which has an outpost in Phandalin. You’ll be able to return their goods for a reward.

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