The party had done a great job in finding the breadcrumbs I had scattered about the town and were following them directly to a hermit's home to the north and west of Flatrock. I liked hermits ever since my team of Dragonbreath, ET, and Joe Schmoe kicked the scrawny hermit's ass back in B-2 when I was 12 and took his magic dagger from under the bed.
Actually, the pivotal point was the clue that would lead the party overland to an old dwarven establishment known as Glittercap when the contagion was birthed and when the eponymous hermit inadvertently found it and brought it back to Flatrock. From there it was another jaunt across the badlands towards Rakewood Forest and the dwarven stronghold.
They did fight a bullette and as far as combats go, it was short, brutal, and over quickly (it was 11 to 1). They had been warned a few times of a local legendary monster called "Razorclaw" which the party surmised to be the bullette. I don't remember saying that it was, there was never a description of the "Razorclaw" in any of the legends, and the bullette did not have a nameplate that said "Razorclaw" on him.
Are they in for a treat. :)
Write up follows:
Watermonth the 23rd, 175 of the 30th age. We were sitting in the Split Beard Tavern, enjoying lunch and talking about what was to come next when we heard the sound of commotion outside. A few patrons ran out and back in, calling that “a griffin rider has arrived! A griffin rider has arrived!” Interested we gathered up our things and went out to see what the fuss was.
Indeed a griffin was hovering about 30’ over Market Square, a rope ladder hung over its saddle horn and dangling down to the street where a single cloaked personage was clambering down. The rider stayed on griffin back and when his charge had gotten off, waved down good naturedly and guided his mount upward and back to the south, coiling the rope ladder behind him.
The crowd had stayed around the new comer and it was a few minutes until we learned that it was Norris Baldwin, our last and missing companion. We joined up with the bard and after getting him back to the Split Beard we learned about his trip to Darkwaters and his affairs there.
He and Hammerhand had split ways after a week or two of travels and once at Darkwaters Norris was quick to learn that he was presumed dead from all those months back. In fact, the other 3 members of the guild that had gone with him to steal from the Spellmaster were also dead. Deciding to use his anonymity to the best efforts, he pawned off some of the treasures he had amassed, grabbed what he had hidden around the town, and then went back to the Spellmaster in order to finish the job against the erstwhile mage as well as inflict a little revenge.
The two had surprised one another and Norris sang off a quick and potent Charm spell, which the Spellmaster fell victim to. But a contingent spell also fired off and Norris found himself similarly charmed by the Spellmaster! The two of them were now each other’s best friends and they spent a few days talking and resolving their differences. Norris, even ensorcelled, knew that the mutual charming would wear off at some point and wanted to be away when and as soon as he could. The Spellmaster helped Norris find his friends were indeed going to Flatrock and with his connections, had one of Duke Argos VII griffin riders take Norris northward to Flatrock to join his party. The journey was 4 days long.
We filled Norris in on what we had learned of the plague and our own efforts – as well as the presence of the Lycos Suns and Vanir not too far from here. We paid for our meal and then went off to the back brothel to talk once more to Madame Bie about the late Madame Lili. We did learn that Madame Lili did indeed like to drink and often would do so in some effort to clear her mind and recenter herself. She did not like ales or beer, but was partial to fruity beverages.
We left The Split Tail Brothel and went back to the Black Court where Magistrate Trueborn had his adjunct get us the location of the Hadrow Homestead (located about 1/3 mile east of Swordgate). We did learn that he was a farmer, but not involved in orchards instead mostly potatoes, beets, grains, and corn. We avoided Swordgate to keep any chance encounter with the Lycos Suns to a minimum and instead left through Highgate. Working overland we reconnected with the main road and followed directions to the homestead.
Like most of the local farmers, the 15 acres had seen better days and the people within were fairly insular, not wanting us there or to stay too long. The two were Baern and Gala Hadrow, Gala being Yuri’s daughter and Baern her husband. Yuri was well liked and a good man and farmer. We stayed and got Baern to talk with us outside the door while Gala stayed safely within. They were afraid of the contagion and were still grieving Yuri after all this time. They were in over their heads trying to keep the farm afloat and it showed as only about 1/3 of the acreage was planted and tended to.
They did learn that Yuri did get sick almost 7 months ago. A strong man he did not let it slow him down, continuing to work even though his cough never went away. In fact he had worked all the way up to the day he died. This lent the party some point of reference because even though Yuri was not the first death from the plague, he was the obviously the first infected. They asked him if he was a drinker and were told not really, but sometimes he and other locals would trade bottles of liquor or moonshine. It was here that Gala volunteered that her father had gone to town as usual on Marketday and came home, parked the trade wagon in the barn and was sick the next morning.
So sick that he never took the trade wagon out again. In fact, outside of the seed stock the two of them had been using during the spring, the wagon and all of Yuri’s belongings were still in the barn. The party really wanted to pour over the wagon and see if they could find any clues. Gala wouldn’t take them but Baern did.
The barn did indeed have two wagons, a heavier trade wagon in the back under a stained oilskin tarp and a smaller personal cart in the front. We checked over the wagon, finding clothes, farming equipment, barrel staves, plowshares, a few bags of seed stock and other sundry items. It was on the front seat that the group discovered a wooden crate with an opaque bottle labeled “Frink’s Applejack”. We asked if we could take it and Baern agreed, wishing us well.
Back at town through Highgate we went to the Alchemist and gave Morei the bottle. She checked it out, it was indeed alcohol, and was a form of heavy drink made from apples. While looking at it it seemed to glow slightly. A check for magic revealed only the most faintest faintest hint of it. She was going to look it over and keep us posted. Asked us to find out WHERE the applejack was made because it could be the dirt, trees, water, anything in that area.
From here we went to Yert’s Distillery and talked with him. He did know of Frink, a sort of hermit farmer and orchardier who liked to make whiskey. Hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him for over 6 months. Party was feeling very happy with this info. Yuri was the 1st infected in town. He had bought the Applejack. Madame Lili, Coogan Smith, and Kaza were all drinkers as well. The man Frink had been the maker and seller of such stuff and hadn’t been seen since before the outbreak. We should verify some of this and then hunt down Frink.
Checking Market square since it was Marketday, there were only a few of the outlying farmers here and n one of them had seen Frink for some time. At 4 PM we went to Split Beard Tavern and spoke with the Proprietor Cavant. He remembers Frink and would occasionally buy from him. Did some of it go to Madame Lili? Sure, but did not remember for sure. As for any extra bottles, they would have been on the bar and eventually drunk and sold.
At Black Court once more we paid the Magistrate for where Frink’s homestead was. It took a bit longer. He was about a mile and a half West of Kreladale and it seems that he had not made a 1st quarter or 2nd quarter tax payment. After this we went to the 3 Dog Hotel and spoke to the owner, Blemarius. As for Frink, he noted that there was about a dozen bottles purchased of the Applejack around that time, but it was fairly unpopular and was eventually discarded after a week or two. Which explained where Kaza the Drunk had come across them.
If the Applejack was the point of contagion and there was no more in town, why was the plague still going on? We did not know and the group wanted to do more investigating – vowing to go to Frink’s tomorrow and get some information.
Ludwig and Detheron went to the Grey Raven Hospice and tended the 5 terminal cases there this day. THEN, they went to what was referred to as “stage 7” sufferers of which there were 10 – and cured 3 of them there. Father Beerdrinker was overjoyed and every now healed townsfolk spoke highly of both Detheron and Ludwig and the Sundered Chains.
Meanwhile Norris had gone back to the Alchemist Morei’s with some spirits and some food and without using magic, seduced the flustered elven touched woman and spent the night with her. Oh yeah, Bard’s in action.
We awoke the next day, broke our fast, studies, prayed, and left about 8 AM. We left through Doggate and knew it was going to take some time slogging to get there, estimating 3 hours or so and we wanted to go nowhere near Kreladale. Around 11:30 we arrived at what was Frink’s homestead. It was quiet, and appeared that the place had fallen to disrepair. Some of the split rail fence had fallen down; the thatch on part of the roof was bowed in, and there was much churned up dirt near the front yard. Behind the home was a stand of 4 apple trees, their bounty hanging low and fallen across the ground.
We checked over the place – there were two obvious structures connected to one another. The eastern one was the distillery and it was dusty and not touched for months. There were bins filled with old remains of apples and other fruits and it was obvious that the labels about the place matched the one we had gotten from the Hadrow home.
One of the bins did have some withered brown apples that when looked at with some detection, also did glow with a faint, faint, faint aura. The same as the applejack. But not the same as the apples in the trees or anywhere else.
We fanned out, looking in both places, the western structure being the family home and we found Frink and three other very decayed bodies here. He had obviously died and so did the others here according to Detheron at least half a year ago or more. In our search we DID find an important clue, a map drawn by Frink himself showing Kreladale, his homestead, and west from here a place identified as “Glittercap” with the word Apples scrawled under it and circled.
We gathered up our belongings, took what we needed, at a fast lunch, and headed off westward towards the place marked on the map. It was while we were walking that we heard the rumble and the ground was shaking. And behind us in the badlands, churning along like a shark’s fin, something was pacing us. What was it? When we stopped, it stopped. When we walked, it followed. Damn – the legend of Razorclaw was real?
Norris told us we needed to get to stone and get there fast as it would follow our steps and it was a bit of a run to the nearest outcropping. So he whistled up a fast ditty and summoned a kobold. Who he then told to run towards Razorclaw at a tangent. The kobold did and the party waited a moment to see if the creature did chase the kobold before running ourselves.
We ran fast and watched behind us as the earth churned up around the kobold who screamed and then we saw it – a huge 8’ tall, 20’ long sharp clawed monster burst from the ground and devour the summoned kobold. Sonofacrap – a Bullette!
We ran on as the bullet gave chase and Norris tried to summon another decoy for us but summoned a Manes demon instead that immediately attacked Guyus (the paladin!). The two of them apologized to each other and then the battle was on. The Bullette was huge and it assaulted the group quickly, knocking a few of them to the ground and biting about with wild abandon. Ludwig almost lost an arm and we hacked and stabbed and tore at the creature until it slumped over and died.
From here we rested, healed up, and took some trophies from the dead Bullette before readying ourselves once more to head off towards Glittercap.