Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Session 5 - Night on the Town

Waterday, Readying 12th, 595 cy (con't)

The party left the ruins of the Land farmhouse, owlbear cub following on Ardynn's heels, back towards Diamond Lake. The four were uncertain what to do with their newfound pet. They all agreed they could not keep it, but for now the cub would have to stay with them. Their intent was to meet with Allustan and see if he had any information concerning the cairn and then find the albino half-orc Snuffy had encountered outside the Feral Dog tavern and question him about the empty Land graves.

The group took the back way to Allustan's, an attractive house of red and blue with a well-tended garden placed on one of the few strips of healthy grass in the entire town, and introduced themselves to the sage. He led them around back to his garden, seating them around a leveled off stump that could double as a table. Despite their reservations, the group told Allustan of all they had endured to this point, holding little back. The sage listened intently. Upon seeing the symbols, he confirmed that they did indeed appear to be Vaati in origin. He explained that in the pre-history of the world, the Vaati, or the Wind Dukes of Aaqa as they are more commonly known, ruled an empire spanning all of the elemental planes and many worlds of the Prime Material. Eventually, they became a major player in a great war, representing the forces of Law against a powerful entity known as the Queen of Chaos. Seven of their number, known as the "Wandering Dukes," created a powerful artifact known as the Rod of Law, which was used in the Battle of Pesh to slay the Queen of Chaos's greatest general, Miska the Wolf-Spider. The rod was sundered in the battle, fragmenting to form the Rod of Seven Parts. Allustan told them that it was said that the Wind Dukes had a custom- they buried their fallen warrior on whatever world they died on. It was entirely possible that the Whispering Cairn could be the final resting place of a Vaati that had died in the Battle of Pesh. Allustan took the symbols and promised to look into it, waving his normal fees as a sage in exchange for access to anything they uncovered. The sage was hoping to catalog information concerning the tombs in the Cairn Hills and eventually publish an encyclopedia of his findings. He told the group to give him a day to search his books. If he could not discover anything, it would possibly have to send off for books from the City of Greyhawk, which could take him a bit longer.

In addition, when presented with the information they possessed of the Whispering Cairn's local history, as well as what Alastor had told them, Allustan pointed out that the facts did not match up. If young Alastor had vanished a mere 30 years ago as he had claimed, but the red lantern from the tomb had been in the possession of the lost Seekers expedition, which rumor had entering 60 years ago, how had the farmboy managed to penetrate the stone face and die in the room beyond. Furthermore, Alastor had claimed to have watched adventurers over the years enter, only to die or leave in frustration, which again was impossible due to the needed lantern being displaced. The party suspected their might indeed be another way into the chamber of iron spheres, and perhaps even the room beyond. Bolero spoke of his belief that Alastor Land's spirit was not trying to deceive them, but it did raise some interesting question for the group. Was there more going on? Was someone else involved, and intentionally hiding the truth? Is that why the Land remains had been stolen?

The group asked for Allustan's discretion, which to he laughed and said they had it. Bolero expressed his concern for Allustan's safety should there actually be someone else interested in the cairn, but the sage waved his concerns away. Ash asked the sage not to mention the group's activities to his brother, whom Allustan had revealed to be a previous errand boy of his. Though the sage flat out refused to take the owlbear off their hands, he mentioned a trapper in town who was sometimes interested in purchasing live, exotic beasts, named Trollump. He made his lodging at a local inn for out-of-towners.

With things settled with the sage, the group left, again taking the less busy roads through town. Passing the Balimar home, they saw a pair of men exit the home and head east down the road with deliberate haste. Entering the home, they found Jhero had received a severe beating at the hands of the men, "collectors" for the Feral Dog's gambling ventures. The young miner was proud of himself as he revealed a hidden space beneath the floor where he had stashed his most valuable belongings, including the leaf armband Ardynn had given him. After asking about what had happened to them in the cairn, Jhero and Ashbourn got into an argument, the younger Balimar suspecting his brother was intentionally hiding things from him. After things calmed down, Jhero noticed the symbol on Ardynn's red leather armor, and told them one of the adventurers in town had a similar symbol on his ring. He also told them he knew Tollump the trapper, and would see if he could fetch him for them. The four of them agreed, though not all totally happy with the decision.

Jhero returned in an hour with news that Trollump was interested, and he had talked the woodsman into 5,000 gold for the live owlbear cub. A meeting had been arranged at the old standing stones outside of town at sundown. Believing it to be too good to be true, the group made their way there well before dusk and setup in preparation for an expected ambush. Trollump arrived on time and with the coins in a small chest. He promised he had a buyer, one that would not kill or harm the creature in any way. The group told him of the two owlbear corpses on the Land farm. Trollump told them he would check it out, and if the hides were good he would owe them a favor.

Now loaded down with more gold that they knew what to do with, the group took out what was needed to pay off Jhero and Snuffy's debts, and made their way to the only safe place in town they knew to take it-Tidwoad's, the closest thing Diamond Lake had to a bank. Tidwoad, a gruff little gnome with a shield guardian to watch his shop, agreed to store their cash for a 2% fee, to which they agreed. That handled, they made their way to the Feral Dog.

The tavern was an extremely rough place, full of a variety of questionable and rowdy folk. After a scan of the taproom, they spotted the albino orc with the tattoo. Ardynn and Snuffy headed to the bar while Ash and Bolero headed across for the orc, but unfortunately they got too close to a very loud, very drunk warrior as he was finishing up a grand tale of his exploits for a small but captivated audience, nearly hitting Bolero with his massive sword. Apparently taking an instant liking to the paladin, Auric, as he was known, threw his arm around his "new friend" and demanded to be regaled with a tell of the young Truman's exploits, even bringing Ashbourn into his circle. Auric revealed that he and his companions were searching the surrounding cairns for treasure. Ash pressured the warrior into revealing the next cairn they planned to look into, but was interrupted when Auric's companion, a comely elf who was throwing daggers nearby, came over and suggested that Auric change the subject, sizing both men up as she left. With some work, the two managed to remove themselves from the attention of the boisterous Auric and finally reach the half-orc. After a brief discussion, with a few insults thrown around, Kullen and his gang exited the Feral Dog with the group in tow, out into the town square to "talk". Though Bolero managed to calm things down, the gang wouldn't be budged, agreeing to talk about the looted graves only after a 200 gold bribe. Bolero, sensing the evil in the gang leader and one of his men, drew his sword, and the fight began.

The battle was fierce, but it wasn't long before the gang's wizard was dead, Kullen knocked unconcious, and the other two thugs sent fleeing for their lives. Auric, who had joined many others in coming out to watch the fight, cheered to the four, even as they fled the town guard with their half orc prisoner in tow.