From the journal of Grugain DeVir
I can feel Marlos so close to us, I can almost feel his breath on my shoulder. He showed his anger with this Orb of destruction. He has found us to be more than an annoyance. Maybe we are even a real threat to his dread purpose. Yet i feel unease and i don’t know why. Every shadows makes me weary. Every whisper makes me paranoid. Even being in the tavern in Red Larch, while hearing Smitty in the background spin one of his tales, with his inspiring word, does not even help in any way.
The rest of us are sitting at a table, each in quiet contemplation, trying to determine what in the great circles of hell ,we will do with this orb of destruction. Whom to trust with its keeping? Where can we hide where it will never be found? It eats up lots of Fendira thoughts it seems. For my part, I crave vengeance upon Marlos for my petrification, but she seems to have more cause. I might have to step aside when the time comes. But i am Drow, as the party enjoys to torment and remind me ad nauseum, maybe i should be fiendish and selfish. But that is not who i am. If I had been selfish i would still be in the Underdark, with my mother the Countess whipping at the backs of any slave we could be cruel to. But i’m not there! I am here, in the light.
Suddenly a timid halfling approaches us. He excuses himself and asks us for our help. He say his name is Bertram Nettlebee and there’s ill happenings at his family farm. He is rattled and frightened for his family, which he actually takes the time to enumerate.They are composed of his wife Jane, his eldest son Watson, his middle son Darro, his daughter Ilsa and his youngest son Ignatius. His father Wigun, also called Grandfather, is also at the farm and from he says is the actual patriarch of the homestead.
He describes strange events. He says the livestock are being branded, stolen or killed. Even worse he says, a hill not far from his home, that is used by the Utgar as a burial site, called the Barrow Mound, has been burned by some unholy means. The main crypt had its entrance sundered and possibly pilfered by grave robbers. He is very afraid and is in dire need. He tell us the farm is east of West Bridge near the Desserin Hills. He also says it should have been his father Wigun doing the asking but he is too proud to ask for any help. Or to scared of losing money. He genuinely looks troubled and all of us are determined to help. Fendira accepts the given task.
We tell him we will meet him a his home. We do not accompany him cause we need to stop at the our Secret lair to leave Marlos’ evil Orb. We will take the river route with the boat to the lair and then when our task is done, head up stream to the fishing village just north of the lair and travel to the farm from there.
On our way to the river, we had to make camp for the night. Suddenly 12 pair of eyes shine bright in the light of our fire like a clowder of cats. They are more than a hundred feet away but seem to keep their distance. Nasaug summons Oliver to scout for us. He seems to sweep down and attack something. Soon he returns and lets fall the broken body of a goblin. Upon its chest is the crest of the Fire cultist. They are tracking us! Maybe they have something to do about the happenings at the Nettlebee farm? We scout back to where Oliver swooped down to find a untended fire. The Hippogriff must have scared the Great Old one into their hearts.
After a short uneventful boat ride, we arrive to the lair. Kilrin uses his magic to mold the stone tiles to create a secret area for the chest that holds the orb. Before sealing it, Fendira, with the help of Loganth, place a spell known as the Arcane lock upon it. Only they know the secret password to open it. Less people that can be interrogated to discover it. Kilrin seals the chest again using the shaping stone spell. The legendary dwarven knowledge of masonry is visible in his magic molding.
We set out for the fishing town near Stonebridge. The Bridges grandeur again astonishes me. We travel by horse and arrive to the Nettlebee farmstead. The farms livelihood seems to be oats and barley as well as livestock. By the ranches we spot Jane and Ilsa. Fendira greets them and asks them about the queer events surrounding the farmstead. She is bewildered and frightened. The livestock are branded with the Fire cult brand. This is the second sign of the fire cult. Will we learn more about this fourth and elusive elemental cult. She is also bothered by the burned mound which she calls an accursed area. She said her son Watson found the crypt’s stone broken and sundered. Being an adventurous lad he even entered it.
We decide to go and speak with him. We find watson tending to the cattle. Watson has a wooden sword and is protecting his cattle against an imaginary dragon. It must have been fierce but Watson stood victorious. We gave him a start when he noticed us staring.
Loganth and Fendira asked him a few questions. Loganth has a way with words. He is very eloquent and friendly with the boy. Loganth asks him what he saw in the crypt. He says, strangely that their were lit lanterns inside and that the second he entered he felt a cold surge creep over his body. He even got blistered from it. That is all he needed to tell us. We made our way to the mound to investigate this macabre area.
The hill is littered with burned trees that now look more like darken fingers coming out of the ground. It is as if Lolth hands are trying to leave the underdark, A chill runs through my body and i banish such a thought. Inside it is as Watson said. Lit lanterns, that seem to be enchanted with the continual flame spell,and it shows the way to a bier. There is also a foul chill in the air that assault us. Fendira even received a little bit of frostbite. Strange, if the fire cultist are involved, why would it be cold? Fendera tells us a great deal of history on the Barbarian known as the Utgar. Things like how the tribesmen of this area revere the Elk, while others the bear, the wolf and many other animals.
The long entrance is flanked on both side by monoliths that lead to the bier in the centre of an antichamber. The biers has a elk head adorning it. The bones of whomever was laid to rest here on the biers, was scattered across the floor. Such an unholy desecration.
We were not the only ones to think so, because in a flash of blue light, a strange blue shape forms to create the a spectrally figure of a powerful 7 foot man. The revenant addresses us. He tells us that he knows that it is not us who desecrated his resting place but he would have our names for entering his death domain. Fendira speaks with him and tell hims we mean no disrespect and we wish to discover who it was who did. He reveals himself as Javor of the elk tribe. Fendira tells us that her historical research tells us that he has died three hundred years ago.
We can feel his vengeful thoughts run through us almost as much as the cold. He wishes to recover his Bone helmet, his sword and his four figurines of Power. As well as rain down hellish death upon the culprits. We ask him if he knows who it is. He says no but that he senses them. Even more disconcerting at that moment, he feel them just behind us. Suddenly the entrance shaft caves in. We did not have the chance to see who trapped us.
From the ground, a large earth elemental emerges. Again, if these are fire cultist, why use an earth elemental? I am starting to doubt the breadcrumbs we had been fed. Something is amiss.
It heaves and prepares for its mighty assault. All of a sudden, Loganth says “Be gone!” in elvish and a magical string of light erupts from his hand and wraps itself around the elemental. The elemental was banished in an instant before the rest of us could even prepare spells or weapons. The speed of Loganth spell wielding is impressive.
Kilrin does not hesitate either, again he manipulates the weave to shapes stone to open a passage through the cave in. We step out and are immediately are met by a dozen Utgar. Are these the ones who sealed us into the crypt? Were they just trying to close the the desecrated crypt of their ancestor?
My questions were answered, the second they bowed to Javor. Their leader, a tattooed woman called Fenor rushes to Javor and pledges to help hunt the perpetrators. Javor senses that those he seeks are somewhere in the ranch. Blood lust fills their eyes and i fear that like blades of grass, they do not care who they will step upon to attain their goal.
I intervene, and tell Fenor that this is Javor vengeance and not hers. That she need not spill unnecessary blood. We share harsh words about honor and duty, but in the end, with Javor’s support, and Loganth’s fiery silver tongue, she and her barbarians stands down. Javor does tell us that their honor must be recompensed with goods. We agree and head to the ranch.
Javor leads us to two steel doors that lead the ranch’s seller. He says that those he seeks are inside. With his massive strength and undead determination, he rips the door apart like they were merely tapestries. Inside we find the Nettlebees. My heart stops. Both Loganth and Kilrin had suspected the Nettlebees of this, but i had hoped it was not true.
The Nettlebee are frightened and seem confused. Javor point directly to both Bertram and Wigun. Fendira tries to find the truth of it. Bertram begs his father to just give back the items. That they should never have taken them were of no real value. That they are nothing but a raggedy bone hat and a rusted sword is not enough to save their farm.
I have seen this situation many times. Compromising one’s morales to save one’s home with ill gained acquisitions of goods. I plead with javor, that if they just return the items it should be enough. But to his revenant heart, he feel blood is to be paid. I pull out my curved drow blade and cut Wigun’s hand, letting his blood spill to the ground. I tell there, blood has been spilt. This has stayed Javor’s vengeance. A sense of pride swells inside me. That not all evil acts deserve pain or death. The Utgar interest me, i will ask Fendira to tell me more about their culture, if she is inclined to acquiesce to my request. If only someone had stood up for me. Father, brother or any of my mother’s consorts, i would not have the deep wounds on my bones. But no one fought for me when i was in this situation back in the Halls of the DeVir family. I was beaten, traded as a slave and sent out of the Underdark.
Javor has a condition to his mercy. That the Patriarchs must be exiled from these lands forever. That they must head north to the Utgar lands. To suffers the elements the way his ancestors did. Both Bertram and Wigun do not see the mercy in in words. They continue to beg, to try and negotiate a lesser sentence. They should remained quiet.
Wigun says that if we fight for them he would give us what we want. That he can give us the way to pass the golem in the Earth Temple. That he has information that could help us in our battle with Marlos.
This pride of mine changed in an instant. Maybe Javor’s vengeance spread to me like a virus. I turn to Wigun and ask him straight how he knew of our plight or of the stone Golem. He pauses for second and admits that he has become an acolyte of the Earth Temple to try and help his farm. That he as enlisted his son to help. That he made false clues blaming the fire cult in order to bring us to ranch, to then summon the elemental to kill us in the crypt. They are nothing but hired assassins. I detest Night Dagger for hire. I pull out the short sword of vengeance with the intent of using it upon Wigun. No magic, just good old steel and flesh. My amber eyes turn to red.
Loganth and Fendira, who surprisingly has some skill in intimidation, persuades the old man to accept the banishment while still give us all this information and WE WON’T kill them. They are lucky because even Kilrin is itching for justice as much as I. Their charisma and words prevent any other blood from being shed.
Wigun tell us that he was an apprentice to Hellenrae, the monk we had encountered and were forced to spar with in the earth temple a few moons ago. He also tells us the magic pass symbol and passphrase needed to have the golem step aside. We are to make the hand gesture of the earth symbol and speak the words “I SERVE THE BLACK EARTH!” He also tells us that Marlos seems to get the worst of his unholy power from something called the Black Geode. A place that Wigun thinks is under the Fane of the Eye.
From an old chest they get the items taken from Javor. A rusted sword, a leather and bone helmet and four little statuettes made of different materials.; the likenesses of a bear made of Lapis Lazuli, A tiger made of Red Obsidian, an Elf made of agate and a Silver Raven. Javor is appeased. He turns to his people and tells them to take what they need from the ranch. The Utgar only take a small amount, not more than they need. Again, these outlanders are interesting to me. Then the Nettlebees patriarch begin their journey northward.
Nasaug was interested in sending them as double agents in the Earth cult but i am afraid of Javor possibly being slighted by this. Watson and the Nettlebee woman stay on their lands. They have nowhere else to go and are determined to have the earth yield its best crops.
Nasaug goes out to the farmstead. The wind picks up with the sound of his humming. He begins an intricate spell. One that would tax his energy and time. A spell to help the farmland yield such crops for more than a year. We urge the Nettlebees to plant cucumbers and we promise them good profits from the Pickle business. Jane, now in charge, agrees.
Fendira as proven herself to be quite the leader but then she does something that astonished me. She splits the party. She left Nasaug, under the protection of our fire sorcerer, while She, Kilrin and I head to the crypt to replace the items.
We fix the bones back on the bier and place his mighty sword in his hands. The four statuettes are put back at their right ceremonial place. Suddenly the necklace that was around the body of Javor floats into the air. It is a golden string that holds eight bear teeth. It glides to fendira and magically the teeth fall into her hands. Her arcane knowledge knows that these are imbued with Javor’s Valor and Heroism. May it helps us in times of need. One for each of us. We repair the doorway to the crypt and return to the ranch.
I decide to give up my tooth to Watson. I carve a small slot within his wooden sword and place the tooth. I tell him when he is older to add it to a metal sword. He shows me the precise sword he wishes to use. His grandfather’s great sword. Egads it’s three times his size.
We leave the Nettlebees’ lands, admiring Nasaug amazing spell as the earth becomes black, but not evil like Marlos’ black earth but one that is rich with the weave’s energy. We leave with a sense of accomplishment.
A few moons later, II find the silver Raven Statuette in my traveling pouch. Javor must have magicaly placed it there, favouring us for our honor. It is a figurine of wondrous power. The silver raven can be transformed into a real raven and used as a messenger. We thank you great Utgar warrior and may you watch upon us from your heavenly halls
Beware Marlos, we may come after you next. I hope the deep hells prepare a small dungeon cell for you.