This site is an online accumulation of the Post Reports for my current ongoing D&D Campaign - for anyone who might be interested in reading them.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Meet 38, Adv 4.1, 2/3/18

The group had decided on trying to lure some kobolds out and whittle the numbers down before attempting to hit the Warren as is. Even if the estimated number is under 30, that is against 6 active party members, 1 henchman, a giant bat and (now) and undead deer. Outside our ability with the "B" team of 1st and 1.5th level adventurers.

The party's strength continues to be the ability to come up with a plan and then revise it again and again and again until they have it honed down to the needed parts and everything else cut away. It's that sort of 1st level in depth layered thinking that makes playing a lower level party shine as opposed to the mid and upper level party whose more apt to "nuke the site from orbit" in resolving a problem.

Write up follows:

After awakening and getting our morning situated, we discussed possibilities for scouting out the keep or perhaps finding a second way in. This led the party (4 dwarves!) to discuss tunnels and logical directions for them to run and what not. Eventually the party came upon the idea that they should look over the ridge line in the direction of the river and see if there was an exit tunnel there. It’s 1 plus miles along but Dizzy had some good arguments as to why it made some feasible sense so we decided it was better than no plan at all.

We opted to take the longer way around, going around the 4,500’ tall peaks and coming around the lake with the reed boats before heading north and coming to the other side. The trip for the first 45 minutes plus was without issue as we stayed to the low slopes and heavy tree cover but it was while we had come around near the east side of the slope and were heading north that we heard the raucous call of crows, lots of them.

We watched as they flew in a cloud of 80, 90, maybe 100 of them around the side of the same mountain that we had come from. They flew towards the lake and boats, circled the area overhead a bit and then flew back the way they had come – the entire trip being 10, 12 minutes tops. While we thought it was odd and pertinent, it wasn’t until a single MUCH larger crow came around the same mountain and flew also to the lake. While it was searching around, the same swarm of original crows came back, joined the larger one, and then the entire group flew back the way they had come from.

Ok, now we were sure it was the newer shaman at the Warren. Since they had gone to the lake and back, party suspected they hadn’t been found or discovered, but actually the crows were scouting the fishing area the kobolds use normally. We didn’t want to be in the area for this so stayed to the trees and made our way north around the mountain.

We tried our best to line us due north of the opposite side of the mountain from the keep and once here, split up into two groups while Einar went hunting. We searched for almost 2 hours, finding no back entrance or tunnel, but we did discover an ogre skeleton that had been here in the mud and undergrowth for 2-3 years. He had some spears in his back and a leather bag under him that he had fallen upon. Thought was it was a lone ogre who had been killed by kobolds and then was left here to die/lost sight of by his pursuers.

The bag had some stolen treasures, almost 50 ornamental stones, a large hunk of glass, an iron cudgel that looked like it was gripping a hunk of metal, and two dwarven made small helms one with a series of snake designs, one with a series of bird designs. Some detecting followed and most everything had a faint glow. Nice!

We then spent some time deciphering what properties we could. The cudgel we wiped clean and a few mending spells on the handle sharpened the scratches there so they eventually spelled out the name “Smiter” on the item. A test of saying the name had it hum and the iron ball was crackling red – but nothing happened. Didn’t want to waste it by saying the name but didn’t know how to turn it off. The bottom of the pommel had the dwarvish rune for the number “12” there now visible and the same red as the glow. So we dropped the weapon instead and the glow ended without wasting its powers.

The 2 helms were taken by Hjalgrim and Merica who did note that wearing them had the helms buckle immediately AND if the animal or animal type on the helm was said, the wearer heard a crackle and got a boost in his hearing for that animal type, knowledge of where they were in relation to the wearer, and a bit of intuition as to what the animals next intention was.

The glass like substance we talked about and Norris suspected that it was a piece of the Bifrost Bridge, especially when it was held up to the sunlight and prismatic lights were flaring around it. Thalin tried to tap an arrow against it and the rainbow light flew into the arrow, the gem no longer glowed. BUT a subsequent detect magic showed the gem was still magical and now the arrow was magical as well. Very nice!

By this time Einar had returned with a fat doe and 3 grouse he had hunted, giving thanks to Frey for the bounty. We then took it all back to our cave and dressed the deer. We set up a simple smoking pit to smoke the meat, cooked some for now, and talked. Thalin was reviewing his spells and wanted the bones from the deer once we had stripped all the meat off of them. So we did so, hooves and all, and included the head which had NOT been stripped, left whole, and put it all together.

He then worked some arcanic energy, pouring it into the skeletal pieces and the deer was slowly stitching itself together, one bone at a time to the next one until it ended at the head which fused to the body and the mostly skeletal deer stood up, looked around, and then tongue lolling, stopped in front of the elven wizard and made a single Gronking-honk noise. Nice.

Opting to call the undead deer “Joan”, he was able to put it through some paces and figure out how responsive the creature was to his commands and what its capabilities were. We then set up watches and the group went to sleep, taking turns during the night.

The next morning we were up by 6, ate, prayed, studied, and got ready for the day. Dizzy cast Sacred Guardian on Sybil and the party wanted to head back to the lake before 10 and see if the kobolds came out and if possible, waylay a few. So we were back at the tree line again and waited. 10, 10:30, almost 11 – no crows and no kobolds. This wasn’t going to work today. Sybil did take out the Bifrost gem and holding it up to the sun it absorbed a large swath of it and again rainbow light came out. A follow up detect magic showed the arrow from yesterday was no longer magical. So we touched Hjalgrim’s spear to it today and let the light flow into it.

We discussed plans and decided we would dig a pit to catch the kobolds in, lining it with sharpened sticks. The thought was to go 1,000 yards southwest of the reed boats and dig it there, and then bait the trap so the kobolds would come and fall into it. Seemed a bit weak for now but the party was going to further think it as time went on.

We found a spot, broke out the 2 shovels we had, and then set to digging a 5’x5’ pit in the hard somewhat rooty earth. Einar was working on a woven pit cover and those who weren’t digging were gathering sticks and sharpening them. The pit went fast at first but after 3’ progress slowed and it wasn’t until 4:30 that we hit 6’. We sunk over 20 punji stakes in the bottom and Einar dragged his cover over the pit and dressed the area. So well that even though the group KNEW the pit was there, they were hard pressed to find it without some guidance and a marker.

The new plan was to get up early and have the undead deer dressed in its own former skin walk around the kobold keep, then walk to the lake, then walk to the pit and act as bait while we went with it, obscuring our prints, and then hiding nearby to ambush the kobolds who we hoped would come and investigate. Seemed like a good plan and we were back at our cave by quarter to 6 where we ate, settled in for the night, and rested.

We awoke the next morning early and then set off to do as we discussed, Thalin and Einar taking Joan around the keep in the woods and then we all followed nearby on the path we discussed to the lake and then the pit. We coaxed Joan to lie down on one side of the pit where the kobolds would have to cross it and fall in and then set ourselves up behind some trees as cover about 60’ away from the pit and waited, talking low amongst ourselves as to our plan and what we anticipated would happen and soon.

It was a bit of a wait; almost 10:30 before we saw a distant murder of crows fly west from the trees near the keep, head towards the lake, and then followed the trail towards the pit and Joan lying on her side. The came low, 30’ or so, cawing and flying chaotically around before heading back the way they came. And sure enough, the larger crow then came next, flying very slowly and landing some 50’ away from Joan.

Now that we could see it up close (so to speak) it was fucking huge. Its head was a bit over 3’ tall and it had to have an 11’ wingspan. It also was wickedly intelligent, not getting close to the deer and instead picking up small stones with its beak and whipping them at the deer who just lied there – looking sort of real with its head and wrapped in its own skin. Eventually the larger crow took off and headed back where it came and the group waited, knowing the kobolds would be coming next and soon.

It was almost an hour later when the party spied a group of 5 kobolds loping through the tall grasses by the reed boats. They turned south southwest and jogged towards the party, Joan, and the pit following the tracks. At 100 yards they slowed down and then at 30 yards they stopped. The five of them chattered briefly in their language and then 4 of them dropped to their bellies and started to move about, getting lost to sight while the last one started getting closer, angling around to the west to see the deer by the front. No longer lined up with the pit.

Still pretty far away, Thalin ordered Joan to speak and it gave a gronkinghonk-like bleating sound that scattered the kobolds back again some couple hundred feet until they regrouped and talked again. After some delay the spear wielding chalk wearing kobold crawled forward again, inching with care to Joan. Who was ordered to honk again. Which again had them spasmodically run back and gather their courage for a third approach.

The lead guy got closer and hurled his spear at Joan, and it punched through the skin and struck some bones inside before stopping. The kobold appeared proud of himself, drew a flint knife, and then ran for the undead deer before jumping on its side and slashing down hard. He crowed with glee at his stroke and then plunged his scaly hand in the hole to draw out some entrails but when he encountered nothing beneath the skin he staggered back and cried out to his friends that “it was empty! Spirit deer!” in their kilcking language (according to Sybil).

At this point Thalin called on Joan to “kick the kobold hard” and the deer’s undead limbs ratcheted back and then stamped out – slamming into the kobold’s chest and knocking him back till he fell to his sound and was choking on his blood filling lungs. The other 4 more distant kobolds broke cover and ran as long and as fast as they could back in the direction of the kobold Warren. We went to the dying kobold, slit his throat, and then pocketed his ears.

We then redragged Joan into a different position to the side of the pit now and then positioned the kobold so he arm was by her mouth, Thalin instructing the deer to “chew”. Satisfied with the new positioning, we went back to the copse of trees some 60’ from the pit and hit down again to watch. Within 20 minutes the crows returned, this time with the big one. They circled the deer and the big one flew in real low and then landed; this time it had a rawhide thong on its neck sporting a dangling tourmaline crystal. It stayed there looking at the deer and kobold for 30, 40 seconds and then took wing and headed back to the keep, the murder of normal sized crows flying off with him.

We suspected that after this reconnaissance that more kobolds would come so we waited and after a few hours our patience was rewarded. 4 kobolds were approaching across the plains now, moving with exaggerated care as they came once again near Joan and her well gnawed dinner. One of them broke away from the other three and took out a small wrapped bag with some berries. According to Sybil he was bragging to the other three that we was going to be the next shaman as soon as he showed his skill in taking this spirit deer.

So he crept closer, smiling, hand extended towards Joan’s mouth offering benedictions and some berries, wishing to show his friendliness and…

He stepped on the well disguised pit, the cover snapped, and to everyone it appeared the ground swallowed him hole as he dropped on the sticks below and screamed his guts out. The 3 remaining kobolds dropped their weapons to lighten their load and ran even faster back towards the warren while the party laughed at their 2 successes and proceeded to once more dispatch the next kobold and take his ears. As it was already 4 PM there was talk on packing this all in and heading back to the cave to rest for the night.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Youth Meet 7, Adv 1, 2/2/18

This meeting for the youth’s finally finished up the house, both main floors. At this point the consensus is to go to the basement and see what’s going on down there. Between the paladin’s sensing of evil and a well placed detect undead spell, the party is aware of some evil and at least 6 skeletons down there. As for anything else, that remains to be seen.

I’ve also liberally sprinkled enough things in the adventure that are going to have the arc drift from the original published plot to one of my own making. That will continue as they adventure on. As of this time I have 1 or 2 people getting close to going up and we’ll see how that plays out as the group could use some extra fire power for the culmination of the house and especially for the 2nd part of the main adventure.

Write up follows:

Deja took Veldryn with her as they entered the chamber, eyes peeled for any issues as they approached the cabinet. The Halfling was dismayed to find the cabinet was not attached to the wall, a gap of a few inches visible behind it. The rest of the group was ready on the outside as Deja stood behind one door and opened it, using the cabinet itself as a shield. All that was inside was a ragged pair of dried boots and a leather cloak hanging on a hook.

Sure that there was nothing else to be worried about, Veldryn went to take the cloak and Deja the boots. But the inside of the cloak had some nasty yellowish fungus growing in the folds and the spores that leaked out got in the elf’s nose and mouth, causing her to choke and fall back. Deja jammed her eyes closed and managed to shove the end of her cloak over her face just in time.

Veldryn was dragged outside where Magnus took his water skin and washed her face liberally until coughing and gasping; the elf was able to catch her breath. We waited until she was able to stand on her own, a bit woozy and tired but not too bad for the ware. As for the boots, we brushed them off and Talion took them for the time being. Shutting the portal we went on to the last room in the wing revealing what was once a nice bedroom complete with a four poster bed and assorted trash about the room.

We gave it a once over, the fireplace resulting in nothing but dust and grit. Valerie was pleased to see rodent droppings but the druid spied no rats at this time. It was when Deja managed to look under the bed that she saw some scratches on the floor. So three of us lifted the 4 poster bed and moved it to get a better view of what was scratched on the floor and it was a circle, Veldryn letting us know it was a glyph circle and at once point was part of a latent spell.

So the former owner of the mansion already an alchemist of some dubious nature and working on an illegal potion of human domination, was also not above some sort of glyph work on those who would stay at home. We moved on from here and after taking stock, the decision was made to check out the north wing.

Looking down the hall we could see 2 doors on the right and eventually the landing area that Veldryn had climbed up the rickety stairs in the kitchen to check out yesterday. At the first door the portal was stuck and the narrow hall didn’t allow Valerie to get much of a run to force it open. Magnus and his crowbar helped our half-orc to open the room and we had a chance to look around. Damp mold wasn’t helping the chamber and assorted broken chairs and filth abounded. A strained and worn chest was locked under the window in the far end of the room.

Deja hurled a couple of knives at the chest, one striking the surface, the 2nd one actually sinking into the lock! Nicely done by the Halfling. She then picked the lock and once sure it wasn’t trap, opened it. There was paperwork inside which had Veldryn happy. The Deathspeaker was able to let us know it was purchase information the original owner of the mansion had with the PRIOR owner, giving us a peek into the man’s attitude as he was rude, abrupt, and unpleasant in his correspondence.

There was a hollow under the chest, a part of the floor that lifted away and when it was pried up, a leather bag was there. Veldryn and Deja got into a brief scuffle over it, the thief rebuffed for her efforts as the thick leather sack was taken away (heavy and lumpy) and the party peered over it, opening the stubborn knot with care. Deja did see at the bottom of the hollow was a thin folded leather wallet that she lifted and placed inside her surcoat for now.

As for the bag…it held a severed head.


Veldryn was able to let us know the head had been roughly hacked from its torso, had been here for 9 months to a year based upon the amount of rot, and besides the fact that the head was elven and male…it also sported slits in its neck like gills. A sea elf.

We didn’t know why it was here or who put it here and why. But it was MUCH less than the 20 years old the mansion was supposedly abandoned and the bag was not only very nice, but inside sported a burned stamp that looked like a squid. The same sigil that Deja had seen on the wrist bracer the attempted robber had back at the inn in Saltmarsh. Connected? Maybe. We’d have to keep an eye out for it and hopefully get to the bottom of this matter when we arrived back at town.

We then went to the last room on the right and it was another ruined bedroom also with a chest near the window. But there was a bundle by the door that Ned was excited to remark was his missing clothes and affects. He got dressed and rejoined the party as they gathered around the latest chest. Ned had grown quiet with our searching, looking around us as we explored, eyes pensive as if he was getting sad. Valerie was given the honors to open it after Deja had picked the locked and declared it safe to do so.

A pale yellow light came out and we shut the chest swiftly. Then we opened it again, more light coming out. The glow was coming from a large mass of glass like crystal sitting on top of a pile of priestly vestments.
While we took out the gem and Valerie held it, the color shifted from yellow to a cool green. She passed it to Magnus and the color went yellow. Then Veldryn took it and the color had a blackish quality to it. Finally Talion took it and Deja touched it as well, the gem taking on a reddish hue.

The feeling was that it was reflecting each person’s divine conduit color closest associated with their god. Magnus suggested it might me a God’s Tear, a piece of the Bifrost Bridge and most likely a holy relic on some level to someone. The thought then went to have Magnus and Talion touch it at the same time, Tyr and Loki. The glass was touched, there was a flash of light and a crackling sound and the glow ended.


Magnus was pissed and after thinking about it, realized it was a foolish idea. Veldryn meanwhile was looking in the gemstone and magic book and found the passages on God’s Tears. If it was touched by two competing divine casters, the gem would short out but in the sunlight would be recharged to work again.

As for the rest of the stuff in the box, the belongings were those of a Heimdall priest, vestments, slippers, robes, shawl, beads, symbol. Magnus wanted to take them all and when we got back to Saltmarsh, see if we could find any priests who might have gone missing.

From here we moved on to the second floor landing, a massive hole in the north east ceiling where the attic stairs ended after 6 steps. A few dried leather wing backed chairs were here, the stuffing torn from some of them and the entire place filthy and sporting a thin layer of mold.

Deja and Talion opted to go and check out the Attic. The thief climbed the 6 steps and then using finger and toeholds pulled her way just to the edge of the Attic’s floor. Talion took a different tack, positioning himself at the edge of the steps he jumped, reaching for the floor above. His fingers nicked the edge, tore off a length of wood, upset Deja from her perch; he tumbled forward and rolled to the floor with a crunch, and then slipped over and fell AGAIN, this time DOWN the next flight of steps to the 1st floor and kitchen where he rolled to a stop at the sink. Deja herself did fall as well, but dropped to the Landing floor and twisted her ankle instead.

At the bottom of the steps, Talion had made so much noise that two giant rats, the size of big cats, crawled out from the space under the sink and swarmed at the ranger’s feet, trying to bite him. He was yelling and beating them back trying to hit them with a hastily drawn knife and Valerie from above was yelling at him to “Stop! Don’t hit them!” as the half-orc druid tried to run down the stairs. Talion meanwhile managed to climb up to his feet and ran UP the stairs, the two of them meeting in the middle of the flight.

But the rickety stairs could not support both their weights and it collapsed beneath them and Talion fell under the steps while Valerie was trapped up to her armpits in the broken steps. The rats grew wroth and one crawled under the steps to claw at Talion while the other ran back beneath the sink. Valerie was still screaming at Talion to not hit it while it clawed and bit at his thigh.

Finally the druid was able to turn around after crawling out of the broken steps and called on Frey to Charm the animal below. The rat’s eyes took a greenish swirl and then it just looked at Talion who was threatening it with a knife. She then called to Frey to allow her to talk to animals and the rat’s squeak became to her the angry voice of a pissed off giant rat.

She managed to talk the rat down from his desire to eat Talion, the rat complaining about his mate who ran away and the three rat kids they have that just never give him a moment’s peace. She offered to take him with her and he went back under the sink where he and his rat wife yelled at each other. Then he came to Valerie and she coaxed it to ride her shoulder, learning his name was Hor’se. Talion was helped out of the hole while the rat was staring at him with its beady eyes and a foul expression on its rat face.

We all went back up the landing to heal up when the group realized Ned Shakeshaft was missing. No one could remember exactly when he disappeared but his absence did have the group on edge and upset.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Meet 37, Adv 4.1, 1/20/18

The party has come upon the 2nd warren now, a one time Randari Keep that had been the victim of a dwarven assault a century ago, repurposed by the enterprising kobolds for their efforts. The deduction is there are 25, 30 kobolds within - too many for the group to face head on but with some forethought and some planning, they should be able to address the problem and resolve it in smaller bites and doses.

Right now, it's problem one - how do we get inside without the kobolds knowing we're there? The longer the party can keep their presence a secret, the more effective they can be in whittling the enemy down.

Write up follows:

We spent the rest of the day with Dinka the Cyclops and it was on the morning of Firemonth the 22nd that we bid our farewell to Narnul and Dinka, Einar accompanied by the carnivorous sheep which we nicknamed “Shog” affectionately. We left the tower and remains of the keep and made our way north and west to the huge tunnel carved into the base of the Long Ridge Mountain. 40’ wide, 30’ tall, vaulted with roughly 15’ height clearance on the sides, emblazoned across the top in orcish script and common were the words “Eskerton Tunnel System, Praise to Kaiser Gruntuush”. The walls were sound and the dwarves in the party gave the tunnel (at least this part of it), thumbs up for safety.

We entered with care, our footsteps echoing ahead of us as we walked along. Roughly every 300’ was a small carve out on the right hand side where an alcove had been placed and a simple long stone bench was located. There was a dripping somewhere in the gloom and nothing else but a cool breeze ahead of us. The tunnel was so long that we saw nothing down at the end of it, just a long black expanse.

We walked along in our globe of light until even the light behind us to the entrance grew smaller and then faded away. We had already walked over 3,000 feet and the temperature had cooled to a mid-50’s as we trod along. Food and drink came out and we walked and ate with quiet care.

At around 4,700 feet (according to the 3 dwarves in the group) we could see a seam where the tunnel was canted to the right by an inch or two. It was deduced that the ancient orcs dug from both sides and this is where the two tunnels met. For almost a mile, even the dwarves were grudging in their praise for only being a couple of inches off from perfect.

We continued on and at 6,000 feet we could see a tiny pinprick of light ahead, letting us know the tunnel was open on the other side as well. As for denizens or anyone else in the tunnel? We did come upon a 9’ ogre sleeping off his walk in the tunnel, but doused our light, gave him a wide berth, and continued on our way without waking or disturbing him. It was about 10 AM when we emerged from the tunnel on the other side of the ridge and had a chance to look around.

Before us was the remains of an orcish keep reduced to rubble from the long ago dwarven assault and the passage of time. The ground sloped down to a valley ahead of us some 1,000 down, with a kidney shaped lake about a mile and a half long and half again as wide. From the distance we could see reed boats pulled up to the shore at the northern end. The ground was a thick mass of scrub and small trees interspersed with needle-like tall grasses. The slopes of the nearby mountains were festooned with Douglas fir trees, the ground beneath them thick with pine needles and juniper bushes.

We decided to look for an acceptable base camp on this side of the tunnel, going almost a mile from the entrance and heading partway up the ride to look for a natural cave we could use. The area was promising and with Einar’s guidance and the four dwarves (Merica, Dizzy, Hjalgrim…and Percy!) we came upon a cave that would do for us. We swept it clean of old scat, gathered some branches and fallen timber for a fire tonight and then by 12, were ready to head to the north end of the lake and try to find the K’Morat Warren from there.

The trip overland was without issue, only the difficult terrain slowing us down being the culprit. Eventually we arrived at the north end of the lake and looked over the boats. Half a dozen, thick reeds and low in the water type, bound together with natural woven hemp fibers and the larger reads capped with a sticky tree tar to give them extra buoyancy. We suspected they were kobold boats and for our size we could, if need be put 3 of us in each boat.

From here we did note many kobold tracks and followed them from the lake to the west and northwest, heading into the thick canopy of trees as we did our best to find the kobold Warren. It was almost 4 when we stumbled upon the still standing walls of an Orcish keep. The Outer Bailey walls were 20’ tall, the tops rounded and no longer crenelated. There were three towers, with only the northeast one still fully standing at 45’ in height, the northwest and west towers looked like they had been compromised sometime in the past and stood open at the tops at 35’ and 30’.

Some places in the thick walls showed huge gaps that had been repaired with cut lengths of tree trunks, rubble, and mud. We could see over the wall the inner keep itself and there was a barbican near the front with part of a portcullis hanging down and after a few minutes of watching, at least 2 kobolds hiding up there and looking over into the woods. The trees themselves had been cleared from the walls to a space of 40’, giving anyone watching an unobstructed view of anyone approaching.

We circled the keep, staying to the woods and watched for an hour or so as the afternoon waned on. From the northeast tower we did note that crows were seen entering and exiting, giving up concern as to what the K’Morat Shaman might have at his disposal. We also were able to hear occasional porcine noises within, so a boar or the like within? Finally as the sun was setting, a lone kobold walked the parapet and set up metal nest sconces every 30’, illuminating the wall itself and allowing them see approaches and/or attempted scaling.

Enough. We decided to not head back the 3 hours to the original cave we had chosen for base camp, and instead went up the slope north and east of the keep to the craggy areas where we sussed out another cave, this one 6-7’ high and perhaps 20’ deep, covered by a leaning tree and root ball. We cleaned it, set up bedrolls, ate our meal and discussed our options.

The end result was we’d go back tomorrow (the 23rd) and scout the place out. Perhaps set up a distraction and see how they respond. Count how many leave or come during the day. There was also talk of climbing one of the western towers and entering that way. Was there possibly an underground entrance?

We set up a tent near the entrance of the cave and littered the group with caltrops to deter visitors before the party went to sleep. No one bothered us during the night and when we awoke the next morning we broke our fast, gathered up the caltrops, cleaned the place, broke our fast, prayed and studied and were out of the cave on our way back to the Warren/Keep by 8:30.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Youth Meet 6, Adv 1, 1/19/18

So the youth’s met again, and continued their VERY SLOW crawl along the upper rooms of the mansion. I mean very slow. Not that I want them to race through, but there is a lot of cross talk and laughing – which is great! But I can see two of the party members are getting frustrated that the opposite end of the table is chattier and fluff than focus and crunch.

I’m the impartial neutral DM, and I’ll go as fast or as slow as they want – but I keep a ready eye on the clock and it ticks ticks ticks endlessly – which the game isn’t. Ends on time each time at 9:30 on the dot.

But, they did get to meet Ned Shakeshaft, a poor wanna-be adventurer who had seen a light in the window at night and while exploring the area, got coshed on the noggin, robbed, and tied up and dumped in an upstairs bedroom with naught but his underwear and a lump on his head. He’s already endeared himself to 3 members of the party and is just being an all around helpful and respectful sort of guy.

Write up follows:

Magnus was willing to go in, but Talion offered to enter first. Deja was not happy, hated the webs, but was willing to enter after the ranger, which had our paladin taking up the rear. They inched their way towards the fireplace with exaggerated care while Valerie guarded the hall and Veldryn was fingering her holy symbol. Concern for the ever present spiders, she called on Hel and centered her will on the fireplace area, asking to let her know if there was any poison in the area.

And a section of the fireplace lit up with green sparks. Which made a spider leg the side of Magnus’ forearm come out of the flue and feel around before retracting. Big, Fricking, Spider.

It was time to step back and out of the room when Talion saw something out of the corner of his eye and another Big, Fricking, Spider, the size of a German Shepherd, jumped out of the webs to his left, landed on his chest, and tried to bite him, only getting hung up on his armor.

The one in the fireplace dropped down and went to scamper towards the party while the one on Talion, the ranger tried to peel backwards and stab with a dagger, succeeding only in getting more bites on his wrist, his greaves taking the blow. Deja let two daggers fly at the scampering spider, “Not Talion!” she cried, one of them sinking deep into the arachnid’s carapace. Who then reached up with a long leg and flicked the knife free. WTF?!?

Magnus tried to hold it off with his scimitar while Valerie lumbered into the room and the half-orc grabbed the spider off of Talion’s chest and went to crush it. It turned and bit her, and she slumped over, eyes rolling up, and fell down, dropping the spider. Veldryn hoped to blind it and called on Hel to light the spider up, having it radiate! Unable to see, it spun around squealing and hopping mad, eventually bumping into Valerie and assuming her to be an enemy bit her again, injecting her with more poison. The other spider made to lunge and Deja who screamed and ran out of the room to Veldryn who tried to get the Halfling thief to calm down.

The spider instead turned to Talion and clawed at his leg, sinking its fangs into his calf, and the ranger cursed as he slipped over and dropped from consciousness. Magnus braced the spider with a wide stance and calling it an infidel, hacked it three times with his curved blade, splitting the beast in half and ending its assault.

The second spider with the light spell also bit Talion again as it bumped into him reflexively, and then backed up, following the walls of the room until it arrived at the corner. It then tried to climb up backwards and blind. Deja was mastering her fears, pulled out tow more daggers, entered the room, and hurled them both…both striking. The oversized menace was badly hurt and bleeding when Magnus ran up to it and hacked down, killing the spider at long last.

We closed the door and looked over the two friends unconscious. They were sleeping and twitching a bit. The consensus was that we had two antidote ampoules but since this was somnolent poison, we should let it run its course and save the antidotes for another, more dangerous time. So time passed. The glinting in the fireplace turned out to be a piece of fractured Gypsum crystal, seemingly useless but we kept it. The hours passed and Veldryn continued to read her books when we heard noises coming from somewhere else in the wing. Moaning and then a few thuds like someone moving.

Deja and Magnus went to investigate while Veldryn stayed in the room with their friends. The approached the first door and carefully, the Halfling opened it. It was the remains of a dilapidated bedroom with the floor sagging and even missing a few slats in it. The noises were coming from the last chamber and we also heard a few moans of muffled sounding, “Help me,” and “Anyone, please?”

Deja opened the room after swiftly unlocking the lock and with the paladin right behind looked in. Another bedroom and in the corner, tied up and gagged near the remains of an old bed was a man in his 30’s clad only in his underwear and looking around fearfully. They undid his gag and he thanked Deja (called her Lady Deja) for her help, eventually getting his other bonds cut. Said his name was Ned Shakeshaft, a wannabe adventurer from Seaton who was on his way to Saltmarsh to look for work. He had travelled too late and saw lights in the windows of the house. So he had crept up to look around and was knocked on the head last night, waking up only a short while ago missing all his gear and dumped here.

He was cut free and leaning on Deja, was making his way back to the room when his legs gave out and he had to stop near the fireplace and catch his breath. Eventually he felt better and the two friends helped bring him back to the 1st chamber where he greeted Veldryn in Elvish, but knew no other elvish but the first greeting. He also had heard of Magnus, the paladin from Karon. He saw the 2 spiders and seemed to expertly know how to find the poison ducts. When questioned about him, he identified the 2 spiders by class and genus and let the group know that he had been apprenticed to a zoologist in his youth for a few years and had a distant love for animals.

He did say that the friends would probably be out for a few hours tops. Not having a way to defend himself he asked for some aid and Deja lent him one of her many daggers. By this time Valerie and Talion were waking up and we helped them up, filling them in on what happened. The Half-orc was most taken with Ned who was respectful and flattering to the druidess. He also made sure to call Talion Lord Talion and deferred to his leadership.

We ate lunch, Valerie sharing her food with Ned, the two of them staring happily at one another. We talked about going downstairs and Ned did say the place was haunted and we should probably check out up here first. Most everyone agreed and the decision was made to clear out the rest of the top floor. He also hoped that if it got too late, we should head back to town instead of risking staying out here.

He had skill with a blade as evidenced when he helped Veldryn get her sword back, putting the long blade through some paces, and did ask for some pants with Valerie offered hers with a blush and even though he thanked her for “getting into her pants” he was too much of a gentlemen to do it and instead borrowed a pair from Magnus.

We were ready to explore some more when Deja wanted to look over the middle bedroom a bit more. Veldryn went with him and the two of them gave the place a serious once over. The thief did note booted prints in the dirt and grit on the floor, heading to the window and back many times. The two friends checked it out and besides telling that someone had knelt here as well, there were scratches on the windowsill that looked like they came from a lantern base.

After returning to the hall and telling the group what they say, Ned was wondering if it were spirits but was told spirits didn’t wear shoes. Deja suspected it was a guy, or guys, who were doing it, but the thought was the place was still haunted and we should not rule any idea out. Then the conversation turned to the former mansion owner and his fascination with crafting a potion of human control. That’s when it was finally revealed that Talion and Veldryn were interested in finding such a potion or at least a successful recipe for it…and Deja, Magnus, and Ned were not. Valerie wanted little to do with the conversation and went further down the hall, sitting by the balcony and just looking out.

The words got heated but until we could even find such a thing, the decision was to shelve the conversation for now and worry about only if the situation came up.

We looked down the two remaining wings and Deja and Valerie thought it prudent to go west first. There were two doors here and after checking the first one, we opened it up to show a dressing room with a large cupboard on the west wall which had the two friends look at one another and shudder – remembering the fiasco in the kitchen yesterday and the falling cabinet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Meet 36, Adv 4.1, 1/13/17

I play an adult game, meaning there is the attempt to have a mix of races and sexes in my game, and that means there will be prejudices, racism, sexism, sexual situations, possible illegal narcotics, and other mature points that don't get hand waved, brushed over, or softshoed. I don't plan on them, but it does happen.

This meeting was one of them where through some weird wandering monster checks followed by an astronomically remote reaction check and subsequent attraction check had one of the party members pretty much become the masturbatory plaything of an amorous 11' hill giantess. We could have avoided it, but the druid had his heart set on a carnivorous sheep (don't ask) and the primrose path led us to this situation.

It makes sense. Sort of. Either way, I laughed my ass off.

Write up follows:

At this time, Einar had approached Dizzy and informed the cleric that he was not looking forward to being left behind for this. The Randarbane poisoning he had contracted almost 3 weeks ago had run its course and the erstwhile member of the party was anxious to get out there and add his efforts to the cause. This was a good thing for us since we would not only have an experienced wilderness person to take us out to the area we expected to uncover the K’Morat Warren, but we would not have to worry about him leaving us afterwards.

We gathered up our belongings, split up what gear was needed, and went over the plan once again. Head up the Enderlyn River staying on the west side for roughly a day and a half until we arrived at the area marked off as a clear area some 3 plus miles wide roughly east and north of Long Ridge Mountain. From there we would look for signs, trails, notes, or anything else that would help us narrow down our search for the Warren. We expected to be out many days and everyone had 5 or so days of food on us for now.

By 12 we had let Hornes and the rest of the Randari know that they do not have to come with us. We promised Hornes to bring at least one of the K’Morat back with us. Alive, feet optional please.

We left the camp and in the warm mid to late summer sun, started making excellent time along the grassy shores of the Enderlyn River. The waterway meandered north from Base Camp, running at a good 4 miles per hour, widening and narrowing as the land dictated but staying over 150’ wide in many places. Eventually we came around the foothills that we had travelled to before and the trip turned more of a northwesterly run as we travelled on.

By 5:30 we found a decent place to camp, a fire was forgone for now, and after eating and setting up the tent we organized a watch (Merica not needing to take a turn this first day out) and then took turns. Dizzy, Hjalgrim, Sybil, Thalin, and then Einar – no issues, no problem. The next day was Firemonth the 20th and it was cooler today, the crisp mountain air promising low 60’s at best and the heavy cloud cover blocking most direct sun for the trip ahead. By 7 AM we were off and ready to arrive at our destination later today depending on how the trip went.

By 8:30 we had arrived at an area where the range itself drew close to the river, making a steep sloped area on this side of the river where erosion had stripped the soil away and what few trees grew here were poorly rooted to the side of the steep slope. A number of small falls and rapids dictated almost 1,000 feet of the Enderlyn’s stretch. Einar flat out said he felt very uncomfortable leading the group up along the shore line here. Unlike the other 2 falls we had traversed on the way to Base Camp from Sorton, this one was not cut and shaped but was still raw and wild. Too great of a chance for someone to slip and either get hurt and/or fall into the Enderlyn and be swept away.

So even though it would add time to our trip, the decision was to back track a quarter mile, find passage up and over the ridge line close to here but NOT near the river, and then come down on the other side and continue on our trip.

We managed to work our way up the steep slope, in many places hitting over 50 degrees of incline. Hjalgrim and his manservant, Percy, were in the rear when a section of ground gave way beneath them and they slipped, fell, slid, rolled, and careened down almost 150’ before coming to a stop near a series of tight Douglas firs. They were pretty battered up but Hjlagrim seemed to shrug it off after Percy helped him to his feet. With extra care we continued on and them came down the other side and by 11:30, were heading back north towards the river and then west once more.

As we came to the edge of the larger clear area with 3’ meadow grass and countless copses of trees we did note in the distance 2 figures striding along near the banks of the Enderlyn and coming in this direction with a swagger that belied they had little worry. We could tell they were tall and gangly, but at a mile, could make out no other details for now. So we hid behind the closest copses, relying on the thick trunks and tall grasses to hide us and waited.

Eventually the duo closed enough for us to see they were hill trolls; over 8’ tall, wrinkled mottled baggy skin, dark hair, walking with an exaggerated gait. There were two ropes trailing into the river and they were dragging it slow while one of them was bitching to the other one. Dizzy who was able to understand and speak troll took to listening in and translating for us. Seems they were hungry, always hungry lately. Their tribe had gotten their ass kicked 2 months or so ago by a local kobold tribe and their chief had been taken during the fight, the other trolls killed and burned – only these two managed to survive and escape. There was talk about going back and attacking the now much weaker tribe but the smarter one of the two dismissed it saying that even with the reduced numbers, there were more than enough kobolds to take out the two trolls.

They went out of sight, heading towards the east and following the river. Dragging a fishing net they had been reduced to gathering their food and Dizzy suggested we avoid them and the river for now. We headed almost due west from here and eventually ended up where we wanted to arrive on the map, looking around us. South and west was the towering line of the Long Ridge Range, south was a smaller peak and ridge. North led to the Enderlyn River and there was no sign of kobolds or their warren.

Einar called on Frey to speak with some animals and got into a conversation with some finches. Best he could understand was on the other side of the mountain were taller enemies (Giants? Trolls? Ogres?) and maybe the kobolds. But there was also a rock drake that flew about looking for smaller or single foes to assault. Best way to avoid it was to go through the tunnel. Tunnel? There is supposedly a tunnel running UNDER the Long Ridge Range that the finches occasionally dare when they are having bravery contests. It would allow us to bypass the rock drake.

We decided to head south from here, go over the smaller range and peak, and then hopefully before the sun sets too much, establish a camp on the other side at the mountain base and look for the tunnel in the morning. The trip up was tiring and the slope was dangerously steep, many of us sliding and struggling to make the ascendance. Once more Hjalgrim and Percy slipped, Sybil joining them as the three of them rolled and scratched and scrambled eventually to a stop. Healing was doled out and even though it was going to take time, the decision was to rope everyone together with Merica in the back and Einar in the front.

The trip continued on and the sun was setting as we went down the steep slope on the other side of the ridge. There were three mountains that made a “V” shaped valley here and we settled in for a long night, the party splitting up into watches with Dizzy taking the first. Aching and tired, the group fell asleep.

Not very long into the dark night of Dizzy’s watch, he heard heavy treads in the forest wandering about and then getting closer. He stayed alert and calm, looking carefully until his infravision picked up an 11’ tall bipedal humanoid figure standing not too far away and grunting at him in a voice that sounded like rocks grinding against one another. Since Dizzy spoke Giant, he was able to tell that it was a Hill Giant, a giantess actually, and her name was Narnul. She wanted to know what was going on, who he was, what the group was doing here, and what was up.

Seemingly completely incapable of doing ANYTHING regarding a giant, Dizzy stayed calm and spoke at length to Narnul. He did drop his crossbow when she asked and eventually she came closer. Her clothing was poorly cured hides and she was holding a 7’ long tree complete with a knobby root ball. She sat down and then had a conversation with Dizzy, willing to “keep watch with him” and the dwarven cleric/thief just did his best to stay calm.

When it was time to awaken Merica, Dizzy decided completely against it since the taciturn dwarf was not known for decorum, tact, or courtesy. Instead he stayed awake through the next watch and hoped Narnul would get bored and go away.

That didn’t happen and she continued to chitchat, her voice carrying through the night air. Which then attracted ANOTHER figure, this one a bit over 10’ tall, waxy dark lumpy skin, holding a large torch, wearing a woolen dress, and sporting a single eye. A Cyclops. And she knew Narnul, calling her a bitch, at which Narnul told her to relax. The Cyclops was named Dinka and she lived near here. Complained that the talking was keeping her sheep up and since we were already up and here, might as well join her at her keep.

The rest of the party was now up and there were serious concerns amongst everyone – a hill giant and a Cyclops?! We had little choice we felt and opted to go with the two of them to the remains of a Randari Keep not more than a few hundred yards from where the party was camping. One of the guard towers was still standing and Dinka had erected a ¼ acre pen around the back where half a dozen 200 lb larger than normal sheep were milling about. They looked big, ferocious, and when we got close enough, they had freaking canines mixed in with their herbivorous teeth.

Einar was intrigued and we went up to the 2nd floor with Dinka and Narnul. We were told we could sleep here and when it was talked about Einar getting a sheep, a complex deal was made where Narnul would pay Dinka for one of the sheep and she would give it to Dizzy who could then give it to Einar. For a price. Like two days of pleasure with the giantess. Dizzy balked but Narnul was not in a listening mood and the deal was assumed to be “done”. Dinka gave Narnul to use of one of the rooms with a door on it and told her to “have fun.”

Dizzy was taken into the room, made to strip while Narnul did the same. She was large, pendulous, hairy, and had a aroma about her that was not pleasing. She didn’t seem to want to use Dizzy carnally and didn’t care about his pleasure; she instead wanted to use him as a living doll to pleasure herself and before Dizzy knew what was happening, he was dragged forward and pressed against her damp fleshy folds where his struggles served to excite Narnul in what was to be almost 40 eventual hours of for one of the two, a traumatic filthy, stinking, sticky, irritating experience.

The rest of the party eventually tried to ignore the non-consensual erotic noises coming from behind the door and fell into a rough and disturbed sleep, Dinka having gone upstairs to her own chamber. When we awoke the next day, Dizzy and Narnul were still going at it after some periods of rest, the dwarven cleric managing to attract Sybil attention through the door, asking the Halfling thief to find him "a bucket please, for water, and quick!"

Sybil wandered into the next chamber which Dinka had repurposed as a meat hanger. Bodies of kobolds, wolves, even what seemed to be gnome, were hanging here, slit open and drained/draining of blood. Some buckets, but nothing she could use. So she went upstairs. Larger central chamber and one closed room which she could see Dinka was sitting on her bed and combing her hair. She asked the Cyclops for some water and was eventually directed to the room in the corner on this floor.

There was an oversized spinning wheel here, lots of partially spun fleece, and 4 huge skeins of it on shelves leaning on the wall. But there were two metal gallon buckets here as well as a bent pipe from the ceiling that led to a cistern on the roof. She was short and couldn’t reach so dragged a 3 legged stool over, positioned the two buckets a few feet from the end of the pipe, stood on the stool and worked the hand sized cork out of the bent 1 ½” pipe.

Water flowed out at a fast pace, splashing into one bucket and then filling the other. The water went to the top and Sybil reached up to shove the cork back in place. But she lost her footing a bit and the cork was blown out of her grasp where it flew across the room and was lost in the fleece. She scrambled over there while water continued to come out of the pipe and overflow the bucket, run along the floor, and start to rain through the cracks in the mortar stone to the room below (where Dizzy looked at the water coming through the ceiling and was trying to wash the “stink” off of himself but Narnul wanted to do the same and she ended up using him a bit like a sponge.).

Not wanting to piss off the Cyclops host, Sybil climbed back up on the stool, reached up and held the pipe in one hand, and then took off her shirt and holding it wadded it, jammed it in the hole with her right hand. The flow of water lessened, but it was not a perfect fit and it was squirting out under high pressure raining about the Halfling who was now soaked to the skin. Deciding more clothes were needed, she let go of the pipe with her left hand, picked her glove off with her teeth, and then jammed THAT in the hole along with the shirt. Still going, but not perfect.

At this point she had jammed her right hand pretty far into the pipe and was reaching down with her left to undo her pants, letting them fall to her booted feet. But two things happened, her glove still on her hand was swelling up with water and now her hand was stuck in the pipe while water STILL rained down on her…and the stool she was standing on fell over from her gyrations in her attempt to kick her pants off and she was hanging there by one hand stuck in a water pipe, soaked to the skin, pants around her ankle, suspended a bit over 2’ off the ground.

It was time to call for help. She yelled for Dinka who came in and saw Sybil in her predicament and wanted to know WHY!?!? No real answer could explain the halfling’s situation so she was just helped free and Dinka told her to take the buckets and go while she plugged up the pipe with the now found cork. Sybil tied her sopping pants back into place and taking both buckets, went down the steps to the party.

Most of them were happy to see her with the buckets of water and it was assumed that one was for them…so they took it. Meaning she took the half filled bucket to the door and knocked where Narnul opened it, thanked Sybil as she was getting thirsty, and went to shut it again…while Dizzy was looking at Sybil with shock and disgust and the Halfling gave the dwarf the thumbs up for her efforts. He never got to use it to clean himself and Narnul drank most of the water, giving him the dregs to swallow before once more using him for her satisfaction.

Eventually Dinka came down and returned Sybil’s clothes and we talked about the mountain, her clan, trolls, kobolds, and other matters. She was estranged from her clan for 3 years as many of the members thought the leader’s desire to befriend the local ogre clan was a bad one. The clan was to the west of the Eskerton Tunnel, many miles on the shores of what she called Broken City Lake.

As for kobolds, they were on the opposite side of the lake in the forest in an old keep. She understood the clan to be sizable (over 100 of them) and the shaman was respectful of her until recently. A new shaman, much younger, had been through the tunnels in the last few months and had shown a serious lack of respect for her, actually entering her tower (hence the dead kobolds).

We thanked Dinka for her information and she did let us know if we did manage to get to the Warren and ran across her tribe, let her mother know she was ok and was waiting on word that the current Cyclops chief was now overthrown so she could return home.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Meet 35, Adv 4.1, 1/6/18

This was after a month off for the holidays and we had 2 missing at the table with our revised head count (have had 1 gone now for 4+ months and truthfully, expecting him back anyday soon we hope). So there was chit and chat at first, followed up with not a strict gameplay to follow where side convos and non sequitors followed for some time.

But we did get some ball rolling as the night went on and the party now running the "B" team has a better idea of the scope of this adventure and where they have to go and hunt down the 2nd Warren. The biggest issue is the 11 miles of crawling wilderness between Base Camp and Warren 2 of which this team will have to hoof it and they are not geared towards wilderness adventures.

Either way, they kick off the rails next meeting and head out the door to adventure.

Write up follows:

The group awoke on the 17th of Firemonth and awaited for the Randari Rangers to return to let the party and the Harvesters know where on Furtham’s Peak the next batch of Firvin’s Cap mushrooms was to be picked and returned. This was the 4th day since the 1st K’Morat Warren had been routed and so far, there had been no sign of the kobolds – both a blessing and a troubling event.

By 8:30 the group had been given directions and we followed the Ranger’s directions up the peak to the 5,000 foot mark where Hornes and Spunifer met us, let us know that once again there was no K’Morat sign for them, and then returned to Base Camp while the party guarded the Harvesters on their job. Four Caps were cut down, stored away and sealed, and even though Dizzy and Sybil did walk a double width picket around the harvesting site and made sure to cross each others path repeatedly – again, no kobold sign.

We arrived back at camp by 1:30, discharged our duties, and then had a choice of heading back out to the wylde to hopefully get lucky, or perhaps see if the Reeve had something else for us to do. The group was feeling a bit useless and superfluous at this point. Donna Duncarian, the House Illytch rep and Reeve for the Base Camp, understood our concern and plight and although she had nothing direct for us, the camp’s kennel master, a half-orc named Black Drangis, was looking for some help and if we were interested, could speak with him about some aid to the Camp.

We went to the kennels where a dark-skinned beast of a half-orc, almost 7’ tall and 300 lbs., was more than willing to talk with the party. Black Drangis had 4 wolf-hounds here at camp, and he needed to have 2 of the bitches bred as they were in heat again. The wolves that had been seen out in the wylde were perfect candidates and he wanted help constructing and laying down a pit and wolf trap for the beasts. The party said nothing to Black Drangis about the strong possibility that the wolves were most likely Dunatis the orcish druid and/or member of his circle/cabal.

Instead they went with the talkative kennel master about ¾ of a mile south of the Base Camp and helped him dig out a 5x5x5 pit, lined with a net and set up with two snares along an area that had shown wolf passage in the recent history. We returned to Base Camp by 6:15, shared a meal with Black Drangis at the Mess hall and he offered his aid to us at least one day should the need arise in the future.

At 8:30 the group turned in, knowing that we would be getting up 6:30 on the morrow and hopefully assault the mountain once more for mushrooms and hopefully find some sign of K’Morat somewhere. It was 6ish the next morning when the camp was awoken to the returning Randari Rangers. It seems that they were ambushed not a half mile from the Base Camp by at least 40 K’Morat warriors and the orcish contingent was ill-prepared for the assault.

We agreed to go back to the attack site with Hornes and the rest of the rangers as well as a 4 count of giant killers from the Camp and a few others. Meanwhile the story made its way around and the party listened raptly. The Rangers were assaulted by well-hidden kobolds on both sides and although every ranger had been wounded, 4 of them were in serious condition, one was unconscious from wounds and blood loss, and one was unaccounted for. It was only Spunifer transforming into a bear and Hornes making the call to reverse direction and retreat immediately that saved the Rangers from an even worse position. The feeling is that at least 4 or five of the kobolds had been taken down or were mortally wounded at least by the time the Rangers retreated.

There were at least two differing tribes of kobolds; one was wearing a chalky substance on the hands and face and wore shifts made of fur and skins, the others had jerkins made of moulded leather and brigandine style armor and relied on their natural coloring. There was plenty of signs of battle but the bodies were gone – half-orcish and kobold. And after 2/300 feet or so, there was an effort to sweep the place clean of tracks. Even so we were able to tell that the mass of 40 kobolds did head north. We went back to Base Camp and arranged with Blank Drangis to come with us and bring his dogs. Healing was dispensed and the Bailiff made some noise about giving the Ranger’s the rest of the day off as well as no work tomorrow. There was mutterings about Bailiff Youngston’s decree but the consensus was to let it lie for now.

The mass of us: 11 Rangers, 5 party members, 4 giantkillers, the kennel master and his 4 wolfhounds all went out and after working the area a bit, we followed tracks north to the valley beyond Furtham’s Peak and then the hounds took us east towards the Enderlyn River. According to Spunifer who spoke with the hounds, the trail here was older by a day and the thought was it was half the kobold tribe crossing here the day before and then setting up the ambush.

We backtracked to the valley and then followed the rough valley and scrublands between the ranges north, not actually finding the K’Morat, but feeling like this was the corridor at least half the assaulters had taken on coming here. Throughout the walk, Spunifer was concentrating on Black Squirrels, constantly locating them and using their presence as a guide on whether we passed a Warren being they were common. Although the numbers did fluctuate up and down, there were no wild swings so there was no warren along our walking path.

On the way back we all discussed the maps and what we knew. Two tribes and one of them was more militant the other more barbaric. The barbaric tribe was most likely on this side of the river since they were seen wearing chalk on their face and hands. Chalk deposits were suspected to come from further upriver and we assumed that was as good of a place to look. 2 days upriver? 3? We hoped that Hornes would lend us a Ranger or two to help us get to a point on the map then they could return while the party scoped out the area for a Warren.

It was late in the day when we returned. The party went to the cook, Ruhilde, getting the ok that he’d get us some rations to take into the field tomorrow. The thought was to get up early, eat well, and be out and on the way by 8. The Rangers would give the Bailiff some song and dance about 4 days needed for mourning their companion but the group had already heard the Bailiff say one day would be given off. No one wanted to step in the middle of that mess.

Early the next morning, Firemonth the 19th, there was the call of “fire” from the wall guards and there was a bonfire roughly 400 yards from the Base Camp south of the tree line. The Rangers went to investigate, the party and other members of the Camp coming as well. It was obvious the K’Morat had lit this and had done so some time earlier. There were feces and steps everywhere; but on a flat stone near the fire were the busted bones scrapped of marrow remains of the missing Half-Orc Ranger taken yesterday morning.

Hornes lost his shit, and the other Rangers were joining him; keening and chanting a dirge to their fallen companion. Spunifer was looking around carefully along with the group; giving the Rangers a wide berth as we had looked on them as comical on some occasions, but were now actually frightening in their fury. There were about half the number of kobold tracks here, leading us to believe it was one tribe now making this display. And besides the tracks which did fade but went north again into the valley area we also found definitive piles of Shellback Hickory nuts which do not grow anywhere near Base Camp.

There was some talk that Shellback nuts could be found much further upriver near Grandfather Mountain and the source of the Enderlyn River (3 days or so from here), which tied in with the idea we had of the Warren being upriver from here. We arrived back at Base Camp and Hornes and the Bailiff got into a public screaming match with one another before the Bailiff had us join him back at the Rep House.

Once there we learned that the Bailiff wanted us to find these kobolds and put the problem to bed. He was a bit derogatory about the half-orcs and even though they were important to the Base Camp, he was more focused on profits and income – the Randari were employees. We also made the mistake of saying we were going to take a Randari or two which had him flat out tell us no. Eventually he settled on us taking one, leaving Hornes with 11 to his retinue. Everyone in camp is on edge. However, the caravan arrived and the party went over all the gear the other party members had requested, taking most of it for ourselves and asking Donna to order another batch to replace what we were taking for now.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Youth Meet 5, Adv 1, 1/5/18

It was nice getting the youth’s together so many times in the last few weeks since my own game was on hiatus. They are still plowing through the main floor of the mansion but I ramped up the “haunted” this session since they decided to make camp within one of the living room areas. There was still the “herding cats” feeling on my end as I did my best to keep the game focused and moving along, but as long as they are having a good time, it’s working for me.

Write up follows:

The party decided to reenter the mansion, staying just inside the foyer while they discussed either returning to Saltmarsh or staying out here. The decision was made to stay out here for now and to further explore the remainder of the main floor for any signs of the haunting or things of interest/value. Talion lit a fresh torch, the group taking a quick count of what was remaining and we decided we had enough possible light sources for today and tomorrow for now.

Magnus took the lead, taking us down the east wing from the foyer where there were 2 doors on the right hand side. The first door was fairly swollen, blocking the frame and preventing it from opening. A shove on the knob had the entire thing break off in his hand and a hole in the wet wood of the door itself. Valerie helped shove the door open and we had a chance to look in.

It was a living room of some sort, but there was no furnishings left anymore, the fireplace on the right had a ring of red toadstools surrounding the hearth. A 2nd doorway on the left wall most likely led to the same last room as indicated in the hall. No one wanted to mess with the ring but Magnus was willing to take the lead. He crept up to the ring, scimitar out, and carefully…slit one of the toadstools near the base. Nothing happened. He did the same again and again…and then he felt confident and cut huge swaths of the mushrooms out.

Valerie informed us the toadstools were edible and we bagged them for now to add to our dinner later. As for the hearth and fireplace, Deja was on point and after verifying no spiders waiting within, gave it a once over and was happy to see another hidey-hole up near the back by the flue. She moved the stones aside and felt within for a cracked and dry leather bag. After pulling it out she could see it held a small yet nicely cut purple amethyst which the party pocketed with aplomb and good cheer.

As for the rest of the room, nothing else was of note so with care, they looked through the east door to the last chamber. It was a mirror image of this living chamber except the ceiling was in very poor condition and broken plaster littered many places. The naked floorboards above were visible and there was suspicion that they sagged, meaning the floor above this room was going to be a mess if at all stable to walk upon.

Deja quickly checked the fireplace in the 2nd living room but once she was sure it was empty, returned to the party and we all went outside the mansion. We had checked out the entire lower floor and wanted to rest before attempting the 2nd floor and eventual basement. At first we talked about camping outside the mansion but we had no tents, no shelter out here, and no place to stay warm and dry. With trepidation, we opted to camp within the mansion for now.

We went back to the east wing and the room that at one time held the toadstools. While a few of us swept the floor clean, Valerie and Magnus went to the dining room and gathered up the fallen table there while Talion went to the library and brought as many shelves and books he could to be used as kindling and fuel source for the night. We propped the door back up in its frame and then shoved the table in front of it just in case. A fire was lit and we heated up our food with some pots scavenged from the kitchen, also toasting the mushrooms as an added treat. We felt good after eating and set up a round of watches to start about 8:00 or so with Deja, Magnus, Veldryn, Talion, and then Valerie taking turns. While the fighter types were tending to their weapons and gear, Deja was reading through the notes taken from the desk in the study, and Veldryn was reading the difficult pages from the Metaphysics of Math and Magic tome.

By 8 everyone was tired, the room was warm and toasty, and the group settled down to sleep. Deja was able to note that the alchemist had ordered many things but there were 5 odd items he ordered continuously that ranged from Greenblood Oil to Brain Juice. Yes, Brain Juice. Juice from a brain. And someone who supply it to him. Like 15 plus times over a period of 2 or 3 years. Admittedly most of these orders were 20 years out of date, but when we returned to Saltmarsh, it was something that the party was going to want to investigate and review.

The group slept while Deja kept watch. Shortly into her time though she heard movement throughout the mansion, footsteps from somewhere. She woke up Magnus who used his connection with Tyr to detect evil and found 1..2..3..4 sensations of evil to the north at the limit of his reach. One of them went up and then moved about upstairs, coming closer and then a bit overhead. The decision was made to awaken Veldryn next since she had detected skeletons earlier in the day somewhere below us and the thought was these were the same.

However when she awoke she yelled in fear and we heard the running footsteps upstairs run back to the north and Magnus lost his concentration. We waited but whatever it was and whoever it was did not come to investigate us on the main floor and we assume went back to the basement. With an unsure confidence, the party went back to sleep and Deja’s watched passed without further incident. Magnus and Veldryn had the same quiet watch, the Speaker for the Dead no longer needing to sleep, instead she went back to reading her tome while Talion kept watch.

And then the house shook, waking the party up. There was a scream form somewhere which had the group on edge. Veldryn called on Hel to remove fear in Talion who was getting shaken, not only fixing his fear, but also removing his concern about the room on the west wing that had a voice yell at us yesterday.

The noises did stop and the group hunkered back down to sleep, the party eventually awakening together but no one getting a “great” night’s sleep. We broke our fast, ate  quickly, and the paladin, druid, and cleric all spent an hour praying. By 6:30 we were ready to go and the party all discussed last night as well as what Deja had learned from her notes.

The decision was made to go upstairs and check out the second floor for two reasons – to make sure nothing was left unturned, and to make sure that no one was “behind” us waiting on the floor above. We climbed the stairs from the Foyer and looked around. The floor to the left over the foyer was a bit suspect but we could see with a fresh torch hallways going to the north and west wing. However, we wanted to head east (where we heard noises AND where the ceiling/floor here was in poor condition) and make sure the area was explored first. Three doors and we went to the first one where Deja assured us it was unlocked and untrapped. She opened it to reveal a small room that was pretty webby and dusty, but there was something glinting in the fireplace.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Youth Meet 4, Adv 1, 12/26/17

The youth’s have added another player to their table, bringing the number to 5 – a perfect number as far as I’m concerned after 3 and a half decades of playing and DMing. Allows for a person to miss a session and the game to go on, a deviation from the 2 + 2 for set up of combat, and the possibility of overlapping and sharing skills and sets comes into play.

They continued their plumbing of the ground floor of the mansion and a look at the clock shows that if they left now, they wouldn’t arrive back at Saltmarsh until after dark – so the question for next meeting besides finishing up the group floor – is stay and camp or go and return?

Write up follows:

Before Deja could climb back in the hearth to look around we heard a bang from the front door and a voice yelling out, “Veldryn?! Everything ok!?” Who the hell…?

We went out to the hall to see a 6’ tall, 220 lb female half-orc barbaric looking fighter type with a humongous war axe on her back looking about, her lower tusks distending her upper lip. Veldryn was surprised as the half-orc was a druidic friend from the Karon Circle of Frey named Valerie and a friend of the elven necromancer.

From the story we got, the Druid of her circle had fostered Valerie’s innate wanderlust, inspiring the young woman to go and explore, learn of the world, and then return and share her views with the rest of the circle of how Frey’s power works in the greater world. She had heard of her friend (and her friend’s friend, Magnus the paladin) trip to Saltmarsh to take up the adventuring charter and decided to follow Veldryn and offer her aid. On arriving at Saltmarsh she was dismayed to learn that the party had already left this morning to seek out the alchemist’s mansion and see the haunting within, but set out along the marshy land until she only just arrived and heard a high pitched scream, running in to help out of need be.

Once introductions were passed around and the group felt good with one another, we went back into the drawing room and returned to both the hearth and the hidden spot, and the giant spider and the poison glands. Magnus and Deja managed to pry the stone aside and the Halfling carefully extracted a metal box some 5” x 5” x 2” with a rusted hinge. She oiled it a bit and then pried the cover open, revealing a nest of torn bedding and a wide banded iron ring with a series of shields butting up against one another along the outside.

Valerie called on Frey and revealed the ring was not only magical, but had something to do with warding. We talked briefly on the ownership of the ring and the party accepted Deja wearing it for now. The inner band was oily to the touch. When she slipped it on, the band shrunk down in size until it fit firmly on her finger with no discomfort.

As for the spider, Talion and Veldryn managed to extract the two poison glands and squeezed it carefully into a vial, sealing it with another application of wax. The last of anything noticed was by Magnus who commented that the chairs that were here had been torn and cut, but the tears were NOT 20 plus years old, much more recent, and they were not ragged like an animal’s claws, but deliberate cuts as if from a blade.

Someone had been here in the last year.

There had been little haunting so far, just a feeling of being watched and a gloomy bearing the longer the party stayed.

We went back to the hall and went to the last room, opening the door to reveal a kitchen with a stove, sink, and cabinet on the wall, a set of stairs going up to the next floor, and a door on the east wall heading elsewhere. A check of the oven was decided on first, with Deja, Valerie, and Magnus scouring the room and Veldryn and Talion watching the hall. The oven door was stuck, rusted in place, so Valerie was asked to add her strength to it…and she tore the 9’ iron door off the oven. So sorry! Don’t know my own strength!

We put the door down while looking in the oven – cold and empty. Valerie decided the iron stove door might not be a bad thing to hold on to, so into her pack it went. The cabinet was the next object to look over, so Valerie lifted Deja up so she could look it over. It wasn’t locked, so it was door open…

And the weight of the open doors pulled the cabinet away from the wall and crockery, knives, dishes, bowls and what not started falling back and away onto Deja and Valerie…who tried to dance back and shield the Halfling but instead tripped and ripped the cabinet entirely off the wall where it all fell on top of both of them amidst a hell of a lot of noise!

As Magnus went to lift the cabinet off of them and help, the two of them cut and bleeding badly, the noise and open front door attracted the attention of…a giant weasel! 6’ long, 70 lbs, sleek and chittering nastily, it stalked in to the house and fixed a beady eye on Veldryn and Talion as it stalked towards them. Talion readied his bow but Veldryn told the ranger to hold as she called on Hel to give her the power…and commanded to weasel to “leave”.

The beast paused, and then turned back, stalking slowly towards the door where it turned and went to the left. The cleric ran forward and shut the door, barring it closed and we all breathed a sigh of relief as Magnus was able to help the thief and druid up. Healing and herbalist kits came out and we managed to fix Deja’s painful wounds and a few points of damage repaired on both of them before it was time to look onward.

Before going upstairs, we went to look in the east door first. A copper boiler was near the north wall, damp, decaying, moldy; a set of stairs was across the chamber heading down to the basement. A brief check in the room and too long a few of the party members stayed, mold spores and other damp vapors robbing them of breath. Veldryn turned and succumbed, falling down and knocked out.

We managed to get back to the kitchen and Magnus laid his hands on Veldryn, curing her of the toxins with the power of Tyr. Once we were all up and better, we decided to keep the steps down on the back burner for now and finish the main floor. Before going though, we did take a glance up the steps on the second floor, seeing it was also in poor repair with a hole in the ceiling leading to the attic.

We went back to the foyer and decided to check out the west wing of the mansion first. Long hall, three doors, one on left, one on right, one at end. As the torch was beginning to sputter, Talion lit a new one and we went on our way. Decided to check out the 1st door on the south (left) and a shoulder and shove showed us a study. Most of the place was a mess of wet papers but a writing desk with a few drawers still working took up the space near the window.

Deja was on point again as she looked over the desk. No traps, drawer opened but was stuck. Valerie and her half orc muscles helping to tear the drawer out of the desk. Lots of papers, 3 years worth of receipts and purchase documents the alchemist had ordered such as chemicals and lab equipment. Veldryn and Talion were highly interested in them and shoved them in their backpack to be read later. Not much else of interest.

But before the drawer was put back in place, Deja noticed the base of the drawer did not match the height of the bottom on the inside of the drawer. Secret compartment? There was a spot along the edge for thin fingers of a blade to be inserted – and the bottom lifted out to reveal a hidden compartment with lots of padded areas for a dozen or so small ampoules – but only two were left. Deja looked them over, small tastes, touch, her knowledge of poisonry coming in handy as she let the group know these were two doses of neutralize poison. Probably the alchemist in his working did accidentally poison himself in the past and these were here to help ward off whatever toxin he exposed himself to. We took them and then left the chamber feeling good.

We went to the north door next and it was the mansion’s library. Much of it was a wet wreck many of the shelves broken and useless, but there was a stack of a dozen or so tomes in the corner that had escaped much of the decay. The group looked over them and found 3 of them useful which had Veldryn thrilled: Magical Properties of Gemstones, Magical Properties of Herbs and Flowers, and Metaphysics of Math and Magic. She perused them a bit, and a scrap of paper fell out of the third one with a scrawled message still readable…”Beyond Skeletons”.

We left the library and went to the end of the hall where the door beyond opened to the Living Room. A door lead out to a cracked overgrown glass enclosed patio and there was a pile of refuse in the corner. But before we entered, we noticed prints in the dust and dirt, shoed prints leading across the room to the north and west. Talion took care of the prints where the ended as nothing, Magnus and Deja went to the fireplace, Valerie poked at the refuse looking for anything of interest.

Talion was sure there was a secret trap door here and there was a spot to pry up a part of the floor. Valerie was once again called to help, the half-orc druid lifting…but the door held. After resting a moment, Magnus pulled out his crowbar to help. Meanwhile Veldryn called on Hel to help detect any undead…and got numerous pings below! She wanted to get down there and now, Talion was willing to appease her, but we needed the door open. So again, Valerie and Magnus worked on the door while the party hovered about…and the trap door lifted free!

And when it did, we heard a raspy cold as the grave voice cough out, “Welcome fools! Welcome to your deaths!” followed by piercing laughter. Veldryn, Talion, and Deja all turned and ran while Valerie tried to shut the trap door and Magus was shouting for them to come back. The three friends terrified hit the foyer and ran for the front door. After struggling to get it open, they trampled each other a bit and ran across the garden towards the front gate, still breathing and beating hearts. A glance back showed the mansion seemed to be staring at them, baleful lights in the top most windows like eyes.

Magnus and Valerie were running after their friends, trying to get them to stop. They got hung up at the gates and eventually Talion and Deja calmed down, physically restraining Veldryn who eventually was able to relax. Looking back the place no longer looked like eyes but Valerie still threw the 9# oven door up where it smashed through one of the shuttered windows at the attic. Nothing but tinkling glass and busted wood sounds followed.

We discussed heading back in and looking the rest of the place over (Veldryn did NOT want to go back to the living room) or risking the 4 hour trip back to Saltmarsh and try again tomorrow.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Youth Meet 3, Adv 1, 12/22/17

First time the group has left town and went on their way to the adventure (not that the town isn’t an adventure, it’s just not the focal/goal portion of the quest).

Some time was spent outside before walking in. At this point, I have to ramp up the “haunted” feel of the house a bit more. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with the group and the pace of things so far.

Write up follows:

The group talked at length about the leadership and the name eventually voting Talion the ranger as the leader and calling themselves the Tides of Valhalla – both as homage to most of their fishing village origin as well as the paladin’s deep abiding love of the heaven for courageous warriors.

The council reiterated our mission and then by 9 that morning, we were on our own. The thought was to go to Rosensteel’s Tradegoods and load up on rations for a few days, and then leave Saltmarsh with little delay. There is supposedly a long abandoned cliffside road closer to the Haunted House, but most of the trip would involve up trailblazing through swampy fens and uneven ground.

We purchased food, shuffled our packs around, and then took a trip to the Moneylender. A stone building well guarded by two dwarven warriors and further protected within by a Half-ogre with a claymore, the moneylender was a 4’ gnome called Rizle Tizle McDizzle, but call him “Mick” for short. We changed a number of crowns in for nobles and commons, a few of us getting brass as well. Mick was thrilled when Veldryn talked to him in his own language and we left there feeling good about the moneylender and comfortable that we’ll be well treated in the future.

We did talk about the haunted house and our adventure to go there, and were told that a talkative poacher named Curis Thanger would wax long about the one time he tried to sneak in the haunted house and was scared off. Works a longshoreman off a boat called the Third Heaven if we wanted to talk to him. After we were out in the street through, we decided that it was not necessary to talk with anyone else and the trip to the House will already take some time.

We walked south out of Saltmarsh, trying always to stay closest to the shore and beach of the Mastelic Ocean. The Eider Down Fens became thick within half a mile of Saltmarsh as we left the last of the hovels and peasant’s houses behinds. We had to walk back and forth often looking for better passage, slowing our trip. Eventually the time ticked past 1 and we were slowly working upslope to a series of cliffs that looked over the Ocean, 60’+ in height. We could see the dark outline of the lone mansion in the distance and by quarter after one, we had arrived at the locale in question.

It stands at the top of a cliff, 70’ above the surf and ocean, maybe 80’ back from the cliff. A partially collapsed stone wall encircled the place, 6’ in height where it still was functional; an iron gate partially hanging on rusting hinges blocked the entrance. As for the mansion, 35’ tall, heavily gabled, black windows shuttered – the entire edifice looked foreboding. Deja entered through a gap in the wall first, testing the garden beyond. The grasses were over 2 feet tall, plants, roses, flowers, and vegetables had grown wild in the last 2 decades, twined about amidst burrs and scratching weeds. But nothing was here except the sensation of being watched from the house itself.

Satisfied it was ok, she motioned the rest of the group through, Magnus going first. The paladin sadly knocked part of the weak wall over and fell into the garden amidst lots of noise and fallen mortar and brick. Deja looked at him with contempt, satisfied that any chance of surprise we might have had, should we need it, was now gone. After getting up, Magnus cleared the way and Talion and Veldryn followed.

The thought was to circle the house first, keeping closer to it, and see if there was anything in the grounds we needed to look at and concern ourselves with first. We went counter clockwise, staying in the shadow of the mansion as we looked around with care. That was the remnants of a few apple trees in poor condition, and a large weeping willow that had been partially uprooted but still alive and growing. But beyond it, close to the rear quarter of the mansion, was a 5’ well with the house collapsed, a bucket chain going down into the gloom.

The thought was to pull up the chain which was rusted but functional; a 2 gallon wooden bucket on the end. It was not in the best of condition and did leak, but was serviceable should we need it. A set of iron rungs went down the side of the well. Talion and Veldryn offered to go down and check it out, the water level looking like it was 15’ below the surface.

While the ranger did get closer to the water, Veldryn called on Hell and summoned a globe of light which she placed in the water, illuminating its 3’ depth. But while hanging there, Talion failed to notice a long snake emerge from a crack in the wall and bite him on the arm! The fangs got stuck more on leather and bracers, not piercing to his flesh. But the ranger was just as quick, tearing a dagger free and stabbing it into the snaked spine and tearing down, ending at its heart with a single critical assault! Veldryn helped Talion extract the now dead snake from the wall – 12’ long! Seeing there was nothing else down here, they climbed up and laid out their find for the others to see.

Deja and Veldryn then spent some 10 minutes cutting back the snake’s jaw and pulling the flesh out until they arrived at the poison sacks. With exaggerated care, the cut the full venom sack free and Deja deposited the liquid in one of the priest’s empty vials, sealing it with some wax. The thief was sure the venom was somnolent, whoever would get it in their bloodstream would eventually fall asleep. Talion took the vial for now, and Magnus thought the use of poison was not worth our time.

We did keep on keeping on, circling the rest of the house and coming back to the front door. We approached and after making sure the door wasn’t locked, put shoulder to the door and pushed our way in. The entrance hall had a set of stairs on the left going up to a balcony and 2nd floor while three dark passages in the dusty cobwebby gloom led off to the east, west, and north wings respectively. The smell of decay and the groaning of the ancient timbers were all we heard mixed in with the cool ocean breeze blowing through the doorway.

A brief discussion followed and we opted to go north wing first. After crossing the room and seeing the dim corridor beyond, Talion lit a torch and we looked. The north passage went some 15 paces or so and turned to the right, a door on the right, left, and at the end of the visible passage was seen. We travelled along, Deja looking for locked doors and Talion keeping a weather eye out for traps. None so far. At the end of the passage, the corridor turned to the right and went some 30 feet, ending at what seemed to be a door that led outside and presumably to the gardens.

The group opted to check out the left door first. Magnus managed to open it after Deja declared it trap free, and we could tell it was a dining room at one point. A massive table with no legs, a few broken chairs, and a pile of busted crockery and china from the broken shelves of the cabinet in the corner. Deja checked the east stuff out and Magnus took point on the table – but at the end of the day, there was nothing here and we left the chamber.

We went across the hall to the right door and after assuring ourselves it wasn’t trapped or locked, opened it up to reveal a drawing room. Two stuffed arm chairs that someone looked like they had slashed some time in the past, broken table, and a pretty large fire place. We entered and looked around with caution. There was a whistling coming from the fireplace and a look up showed that the flue was closed, keeping the wind and rain out for the most part. The wood box was empty, but there was a set of iron fireplace grates in the middle of the hearth.

A check in the chimney showed that up near the back wall was a displaced stone, not an uncommon spot to hide something if need be. Deja was asked to come forth and give it a once over before anyone opened it but when the Halfling entered the fireplace and glanced up on the other wall, there was a big spider perched there about the size of a beagle! She ran back, the group was not anxious to go and brave the spider and didn’t want to attempt to remove the displaced stone in the back of the fireplace without taking the spider out first.

A plan was hatched where Deja would ready an arrow, fall back INTO the hearth looking up, and shoot the spider swiftly from 4’ away – while Magnus would hold Deja by the ankles and pull her out as soon as the shot went off. Everyone seemed ok with this plan but Deja, however the Halfling didn’t have much choice as she was helped into place and Magnus already held her ankles. She fell back, looked up at the spider, and fired.

The shot went true, and went up to the fletching in the spiders midsection, raining gore and juices down on the Halfling who was screaming and sputtering – followed by the spider actually falling on top of her! She kicked and rolled free, the spider’s legs curling up into one another as her one shot killed it outright. Once the excitement ended, Veldryn and Talion was hoping to extract the spider’s poison glands like they had done the snake while Magnus and Deja were determined to head back to the hearth and see what, if anything, was behind the stone up in the wall.