I like making maps and handouts for the group, and don't take advantage of that too often. So in this case I knew there was a scrap of a map and a found bit of history that the group could either hear about - or find.
I like dwarves. And halflings. Elves and gnomes are a bit distant to me, too otherworldly for me to truly enjoy. I prefer the earthier races when it comes to demi-humans in both play and history. Where the group is adventuring is the remains of a massive dwarven thanedom, in fact the last largest dwarven homeland before the elves and dwarves denuded themselves centuries ago, reducing their numbers, and allowing the the age of man, orc, and goblin to arise.
Write up follows:
Before just running westward towards Glittercap, we spent some time going over the map we had found from Frink’s place. One side of it showed clearly a section of forest known as Rakewood, with Glittercap noted within the arboreal interior somewhere. The opposite side had a series of words on the back but they didn’t seem to be complete and made little sense.
It was after we poured over the map for a while that we saw it was very creased and folded in some places; so with a bit of trial and error we followed the folds against the words on the back and learned that there was a written description on HOW to get through Rakewood as well as a number of markers we should be looking for.
Detheron transformed himself again into a falcon and took off, looking over the land to get a bird’s eye view and see if he could spot Glittercap. He returned shortly afterwards despondent, saying the forest was very thick and there was no sign from the air. So we trekked off, eyes peeled and ready for trouble.
About a quarter after three we arrived at the borders of Rakewood. The forest was very old and dense. No game trails were obvious within and there was no sign that anyone had been here before. Composed almost entirely of Oak and Ash trees, the underbrush was thick and was going to slow the party down. According to Frink’s notes on the back, we had to look for a notch. So the 8 of us fanned out and spent some time looking for anything out of the ordinary or notchlike.
It was discovered maybe 20 minutes later, a tree a few feet in from the border had been struck by an obvious axe blade, leaving a notch in the trunk. We drew up into marching order, with Guyus volunteering to take the lead. Detheron called to Frey and settled an Invisibility to Animals spell on the party. And then we entered.
Within 20 paces the light coming in was diffuse and green, and 20 more paces showed no sign of the outside of the forest back the way we had come. We kept careful pacing, the paladin trusting to his inborn sense of direction to keep us heading as westerly as possible as per our instructions. It was a short time later that we heard piping, a simple melody playing over and over again. Norris furrowed his brow and identified the instrument as pan pipes. Right after that he groaned, took out his own musical instrument and proceeded to play a countersong as we most likely had a Satyr (or more) nearby.
Indeed the satyr did taunt us, all the while staying hidden in the leafy underbrush. Norris kept up his countersong and we traded words with the fey who grew disappointed at us for not letting him have his fun. We marched onward as per Norris’ advice and after a few minutes Detheron had the party stop. He had asked Frey earlier when we entered Rakewood for a boon to allow him to detect snares and pits and sure enough, his enhanced sight did see some sort of swinging deadfall up ahead. He was able to point out where it was and the party stood back, triggering the trap. A thick tree trunk swung down from above and would have creamed anyone within the path. The satyr in the woods cursed and we heard it storm off. Norris didn’t take any chances and kept up the countersong.
After walking the prescribed number of steps we fanned out, looking for another notch, eventually finding one. We turned north here and walked for some distance until we arrived at a hollow tree as indicated on the map. One more turn to the west and we strode 87 steps as the map showed and then stopped. The next and last hints were "kneel, one eye, and golden line." It was only a few feet away that we saw a patch of dirt without any brush growing in it. It was the only thing that seemed out of place, for there were no apple trees, no city, and nothing but the same thick forest we had been in since we entered.
It was when someone was kneeling in that spot and shut one eye that the forest wavered before them and they saw a clearing with a ruined dwarven outpost beyond. The walls were falling down, octagonal shaped, and each corner sported a 20’ tower with a roof of crystals glistening in the sun on top. It was after kneeling for a minute or two that a golden beam of sunshine reflected from the nearest tower top and ended just at the person’s limit. When we reached up to touch it, the person was jerked forward a few feet and within the zone of Glittercap.
Those within could plainly see those outside and both sides could hear one another. One by one we all kneeled and entered except for the animals who were able to enter without issue at will. It was just a bit after 5 at this time. Thurin tried to detect magic, but his spell ended immediately. Detheron tried the same, and it too failed. However other spells did work, so it seemed that detection spells were blocked on some level.
The city was very old, both Havic and Gwyn assured us it had to be over 1000 years old. The walls were mostly down in most places, about 1/3 of them still standing. As for the buildings within, there were only two of them undamaged. On the eastern side was what seemed to be a storehouse of some kind, and to the south was a temple to Odin, however the roof was truncated somehow and there was a dwarven skeleton wrapped around the shortened steeple. The rest of the buildings were the remains of a keep, some walls to a hotel, a trading post of some sort, armory, and finally some mining structure. A cistern had overflowed many centuries ago, making a red and greenish tinged pond covering a good 1/5th of the outpost’s available floor. The deep sound of dripping could be heard and in our looking around we saw a hole about 8’ in diameter near the edge of the ponded area.
The western side of the city had about 30 apple trees there, the center ones thicker and older than the ones on the perimeter. Each tree had at least a hundred apples, and they were all the same faintly glowing red and goldish color that we had come to expect from Frink’s Applejack. Meaning we had come to the right place. Now we needed to find some source of the contagion as per the Alchemist Morei. However we knew the sun would be setting soon so we wanted to find a place to hole up and then spend tomorrow searching in earnest.
We went to the temple and through some magic and effort, got the door open. Stale air rushed out and we looked within. It was a small temple, home to maybe 100 seated personages. A set of stone steps circled the perimeter going up to the belfry above. There were bodies here, dwarven skeletons long dead, all in the temple, over 50 of them. Their equipment had long ago rotted away and there was nothing here that gave clue to how they died. We looked over the altar, nave, and inner sanctum, eventually finding a decaying tome where the last few pages were still legible.
We learned that the dwarves were over 1200 years past and were victims of the elven genocide against the dwarves during the kinslayer wars during that time. And according to our reading, the plague was fashioned by elven spellmasters to obliterate the dwarves which it did so in a single day. However, the leader, a Thane Kysoth Beldenstone, unleashed a final weapon which supposedly killed all the elves and what dwarves were still left, and should have destroyed the plague.
It seems that for 1200 years a small piece of the plague survived underground somehow and it what this plague that Frink had gotten, brought back with him, and eventually infected Flatrock with. We were sure now we would go under the ground tomorrow and find the origin of the contagion and bring it back to help make a cure. Ludwig cast a light charm on a single coin and it was dropped down the hole out in the street, showing it was 30’ down and some sort of cavern floor. Meanwhile Havic went up to the belfry and eventually the steeple to cast ceremony on the dwarven remains there and set it to rest. It was during his ceremony spell that he felt a touch, a connection with the long dead thane, who told him of his three Odin blessed items: Shield, Bludgeon, and Helm. Together they were stronger than any one separate. If Havic could prove himself the items would be his. He came down invigorated and convinced the party they had to go under the ground tomorrow not only for the plague point, but also to get the shield and or helm which might be down there.
We decided to look over the only other sealed building, the store house. Again it was opened and we saw it was divided into two sections, stone and timber. The timber section was bare and a small wave of bugs, beetles, and ticks swarmed out. Once clear we looked finding nothing of interest. Detheron cast Air Walk on Norris and the bard went to examine and explore the tops of each tower and what walls were still standing while the rest of us set up camp in the temple and looked over the keep or at least what places we could get to due to the standing water.
During the search, Norris uncovered two large boxes, one of which had 5’ long tubular metallic devices that tapered to a point at one end and the other side had a sort of papery feel to them. He suspected they might be the selfsame rockets that had been mentioned in the dwarven book the party had found so he brought them down to the group.
We ate, rested, assigned watch, and slept.
Waking up the next day we took care of what needs we had, broke our fast, prayed, studied, and readied our weapons and equipment. We then went and checked out the base of every tower, finding a few more dwarven skeletons but nothing else. And then around 25 after nine we approached the hole. It had rained so water was slowly running down one side of the opening. We set rope and grapple on the drier side and one by one, made our way 30’ down to the damp floor below.
The corridor was about 7’ tall, almost 8’ wide, and we were in an area sort of like an “H”, standing in the crossbeam section. The four corridors went off into the gloom, although we did note that the water did run towards the north eastern branch as the ground sloped in that direction.