Dungeons and Animals

To the Silvershelf Mines

Millicent, having just collided with the real Flamantha Swarthington, struggled to regain her composure. The upset Flamantha demanded Millie compensate her for the dress, though apparently didn't care to address the situation immediately. Flamantha cast some kind of spell on Millie, claimed she find Millie tomorrow, and left in a huff.

[…]

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Fetching Ichabod

A light snowfall begins as the troupe emerges from the woods back onto the road to Carlshouse. A few hours into their journey they spot another traveler coming the opposite way. As this traveler approaches, they recognize him as Cassus, the priest of Avandra that they saved from bandits just a couple weeks ago on their first journey to Carlshouse.

Cassus, traveling all over in his capacity as a missionary of his deity, once again profusely thanked the troupe for their help. He pulled Millie aside and exclaimed how he wanted to thank her in particular. He deeply appreciated how Millie had prioritized saving himself and his companion from the bandits during the skirmish, and handed her a gift. It was a necklace bearing the crest of Avandra, blessed by Cassus' order, widely known as a charm of good luck. Cassus told Millie that he could sense her life had undergone many changes lately, but to embrace that change and trust in Lady Luck to guide her.

Parting with Cassus, the group trekked onward and arrived at Carlshouse at sundown. Solstice and B elected to retire for the evening while Kijani, Fern, and Millie decided the best way to clear their heads of their recent harrowing experiences was a drunken bender.

Awaking in the morning, Fern found herself modestly richer from some nearly-remembered gambling, and Kijani found a couple fresh welts on her body from a fight she couldn't clearly recall. A blushing Millie, still known to the group as Flamantha, could only remember meeting some dark, handsome figure that kept her company for most of the night.

The group convenes at the Felhorn Courier Company to report back to Captain Ramsey. Once there, the Black Rock is placed onto an altar, and a foggy images of the mission from Millie's perspective are displayed. Afterward, Ramsey leaves to go report to his superiors and requests that the group meet him at his office in the Militia Barracks that evening. As the group was leaving the office, Caelynn pulled Solstice aside, and handed over a package addressed to her. Inside Solstice found a book on herbalism and a letter from her parents.

While Solstice was off putting her new book to use, Fern and Millie set off for a pet store to fill the frog-shaped holes in their hearts. They eventually met and fell in love with Frangeline the frog, purchasing her and wasting no time in their attempts to bond with the little lady.

A bit before the troupe was set to meet at the Barracks, on a hunch Millie snuck back to the Felhorn Courier Company office. Once there, she asked Percy if his Black Rock had continued to record through last night, as she wanted to uncover the identity of the fellow that was with her. He said they could look, and the tape showed that a strapping young Owl in apparent guard uniform had found her in her state of intoxication and accompanied her for quite a while before locating Kijani and Fern and leaving Millie with them.

Reconvening at the Barracks, Captain Ramsey informed the group that he wished to hire them again. This time to fetch a man named Ichabod from the village of Crane's Hollow. Ichabod is an expert on the occult and a long-time ally of Carlshouse. Ramsey also informs the group that he'll dispatch one of his men to accompany the group, and in walks Basil, the Owl guard.

Millie and Basil immediately recognize one another, but before they can speak, Fern pipes up, questioning Ramsey's motives for sending them on such a simple-seeming quest. Ramsey informs the group that Ichabod is a known eccentric with a paranoid passion for security (enough that he'd driven off every other resident of his village), and that it's likely the group will encounter some resistance upon their approach. He also says that in the recent absence of the Men of the Hearth, there is a need for reliable adventuring parties in the area, hence his apparent eagerness to hire our heroes.

As the group departs Carlshouse, Basil approaches Millie, who he knows only by the name "Flask Slippers," to see how she's doing. Millie, trying to hide her blush, proceeds to avoid the handsome Owl as much as she's able. The group just reaches the top of the northern plateau before making camp for the night.

Early the next day, the group is set upon by a pair of giant scorpions. At one point, Kijani gets picked up and her unconscious body tossed around by one of the scorpions, but before long the group is able to dispatch the big bugs, mostly thanks to Basil and his heavy crossbow. Also with very little thanks to Millie, who could hardly keep her eyes of Basil long enough to hit any targets.

As the group locates Crane's Hollow, they see it littered with slipshod fortifications, as well as many animated skeleton guards. The group's attempt to sneak up on the skeletons was foiled when Kijani's foot snapped a porch floorboard, but thinking quickly B was able to activate a stonefall trap to crush several of the skeletons before they could strike. Following up, Solstice channeled an Entangle spell that successfully snared all the remaining skeletons, making the rest of the combat short work.

Just then, the group heard loud bangs and crashes coming from inside the main building, and rushing inside they find Ichabod cowering amongst several fires and a large Bone Naga. The group was able to dispatch the Naga and usher Ichabod out of the building as the fires brought the place down. Basil identified himself as a member of the Carlshouse guard and informed Ichabod that Captain Katrina has requested Ichabod's presence. Ichabod, who up until this point was looking quite desperate and scared, immediately perked up, and with a gleam in his eye promised to meet the group there, teleporting away without another word.

After an uneventful return trip, the group arrived back at Carlshouse just before sunset. Basil told the group he would go report in, and that they can all reconvene at the Barracks tomorrow morning. As he turned to go, Millie called out to him, asking if she would see him again, to which Basil coolly replied that he'd be around.

Just as the group was about to turn in, Millie felt a strange pulling sensation from her necklace of Avandra. Following this pull, she headed towards the marketplace, and just as she turned a corner, ran smack into a finely-dressed Fennec Fox lady. Angrily shouting at Millie from the ground, the lady identified herself as none other than Flamantha Swarthington.

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Sickleback Revealed

Having detoured to the local pet store Friends & Familiars, B and his new pseudodragon Slipscale made to catch up with the rest of the party. Finding the cave the party entered and following their tracks, he came upon the ravine and spotted the rest of the group at its bottom. After climbing down and clumsily crossing the river, he rejoined the rest of the group.

The group ascended the makeshift rope ladder on the far side of the ravine and found themselves once again outside the dilapidated fortress. They noticed nearby, in addition to some chamberpots, a mechanism for lowering a boat down to the river below. Squeezing through the collapsed entryway, the group emerged in a hallway lined with several doors. They found a room full of miscellaneous supplies, presumable lifted from caravans. They also found a room full of unoccupied goblin lodgings, and a large receiving room with several monstrous guards at the far end.

They deduced that this must be the room they saw from the start of the cave, and decided to rush in and take out the guards from behind. Solstice cast Spike Growth to transform a large section of the room into a barely-perceivable trap, and the group charged. Quickly the group dispatched the goblins, hobgoblins, and gnoll, but kept one hobgoblin alive for questioning.

The hobgoblin was reluctant to share any information, or perhaps just not smart enough, though Kijani was able to scare him into providing what information he could. When prompted for information on Sickleback, he only offered that Sickleback was a gnoll and the boss of the operation. Solstice also tried to reason with their captive, but was rudely rebuffed. Kijani then decided it was execution time, though B's arrow snuffed out the hobgoblin before she could bring down her greataxe.

Returning to the hallway, a few members of the group noticed a faint chanting sound coming from nearby, but were unable to locate its source. They did stumble into a mostly-collapsed library, and found several books of interest, including several diaries. Millie pocketed a few of the still-intact books for later hocking.

After some drawn-out inspections, B eventually identified an illusion hiding another door in the hallway, clearly the source of the chanting. The group smashed in the door and before them saw an ancient throne room lit by the fires of a couple braziers with three gnolls chanting around a large magic circle. One of the gnolls was significantly bigger than the other two, with dark eyes and red stripes running down his face. He wore a skull atop his head, leather armor, and a red and gold cloak on his back. And arching up from each of his shoulder blades were sharp metal sickles, thus clarifying where the name "Sickleback" came from.

The troupe sprang into action, with Solstice quickly entangling the Sickleback and another of the gnolls. However Sickleback quickly broke free, recited a magic incantation, and suddenly everything around the party went black and cold. None of the party members could even see the paws in front of their face. From the distance they could hear indecipherable whispers, and occasionally the freezing emptiness of the space around them would be broken through be the feeling of damp masses of something lap against them. Everybody instinctively ran away, Kijani and Fern re-emerging in the throne room, Millie and B in the receiving room, and Solstice in the hall.

Each party member could now see the large, swirling black sphere that had been conjured right on top of them, though none of them knew the fate of any member not in the same room as themselves. Solstice, alone and already struggling to see as the only party member without darkvision, paced back and forth fretting. Millie, paralyzed in fear at the all too familiar feeling of being in the sphere, quickly assumed a defensive position. B, after some quick consideration, left Millie and charged back through the sphere to the throne room.

Kijani, Fern, and shortly thereafter B, moved to engage the demonic gnoll in combat but found no trace of him. As they looked around, nearby shadows coalesced and Sickleback reemerged, bombarding the party with blasts of magic, only to recede back into the darkness. Kijani and B were able to fend him on somewhat, until Sickleback unleashed a powerful spell that immediately incapacitated, and nearly killed, Fern. Kijani ran to Fern's aid, shoving a healing potion down her throat, while B tried to corner Sickleback behind the throne. Sickleback began glancing around, seemingly weighing the situation, then suddenly tossed his cloak and vanished in a puff of smoke. Moments later, the black sphere disappeared.

The group ran to reunite, with many fearful tears being shed. They found the bodies of the two other gnolls, one still entangled in vines, in the space where the sphere once sat. Hurriedly, the group looked around the throne room for any information they could find on Sickleback or his organization. Scattered around the room were many destroyed objects, some plain and some ornate, all appearing to have once been magical. The group did discover and handful of intact items, including another pair of magical shoes for Solstice. Not wanting to wait around too long and still rattled, the group made a hasty retreat from the cave.

Once they had gotten clear enough from the cave's opening, the group made camp for the night. Licking their wounds and calming their nerves, Fern and Millie decided to revisit their new pet frog Roger. B, curious about this new creature, cast a spell and spoke to the frog magically. The frog immediately professed distress that he had been kidnapped and held hostage by large creatures he didn't understand, and begged for his freedom. B, cackling with laughter, relayed this information to Roger's moms. Fern and Millie, through copious tears, decided they couldn't keep Roger captive any longer, and released him in a nearby stream. The frog immediately jumped into the water, reemerging several feet away where B heard him say "Thank you."

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Investigating Sickleback

The "troop with an E" received a letter from Caelynn of the Felhorn Courier Company asking if the party could come meet at their office. Upon arriving they were introduced to Captain Ramsey, an ox man and officer in the local Carlshouse Militia, as well as Percival, the young mole man working at the Felhorn Courier Company who is responsible for inventing the Black Rock scrying technology (among other inventions). Ramsey asks the group about their outing to the goblin cave a few days ago, in particular about the symbol they found painted above the entrance. He tells them that the symbol belongs to a local entity known only as "Sickleback" and that it's been appearing more and more frequently as of late. He says that scouts have located another such cave to the southeast of the city, and asks the party to investigate as he cannot spare the guards, and gather whatever information they can. He has Percival lend them another scrying stone for this venture.

Before departing, B decides to linger back in town a bit, intent on visiting a local animal vendor. Not long after the party sets out, Flamantha spots and successfully captures a frog. In a tizzy of excitement, her and Fern decide to keep the frog as a pet, naming it Roger and fashioning a tinderbox into a makeshift tank for temporary keeping.

The group eventually finds their way to the cave, and once again sees the symbol painted above the entrance. Sneaking inside, they find the dilapidated ruins of a ancient fortress that has clearly been repurposed to serve as some kind of base of operations. Thinking a frontal assault to be too risky, the group attempts to find another way into the keep, and departs down a winding side-tunnel.

The group emerges from the tunnel into a rocky cavern, and are immediately set open by a set of Ferripedes, creatures with tough bristly hides, long venomous teeth, and many pairs of legs stretching along their long, serpentine bodies.

Dispatching the Ferripedes, the troupe presses onward and finds another entrance to the keep on the far side of a deep chasm. Looking closer, they notice a wooden bridge that once reached across the gap had been cut, and now dangles limply from the far side. However, tied to the bottom of the cut bridge is a long length of rope leading down to the bottom of the chasm where a river resides. The party fastens their own ropes together and descends their side of the drop, and decide to swim across the river when they reach the bottom. While diving in, Fern takes a tumble and winds up flailing and being washed downstream. Acting quickly, Flamantha, who is already across the river, is able to throw Fern a rope and drag her to shore. Solstice climbs on Kijani's back, who is able to clumbsily swim across.

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Keep Heist

Returning to the city of Carlshouse, the party briefly split up to take care of various errands. Kijani tried to shake down a potions merchant, while Solstice and B bought a draft horse. Milicent, still known as Flamantha, attempted unsuccessfully to hawk her ill-gotten silk. Later that night, some shady characters approached Millie and told her they'd noticed her getting up to some unscrupulous activities in town. Claiming they represent the local crime organization, they said unless Millie worked to pay them back for infringing on their turf, they'd kill her. Millie (as well as the rest of the party after being told the details) agreed to do a job for them.

The job was to visit a nearby keep and search it for lootables. The keep belonged to a local adventuring party known as The Men of the Hearth, who had been missing for the last several months. Upon arriving, the party triggered a security system and were beset upon by automatons. After a long and brutal battle, Solstice was able to ensnare a couple of the robots in vines, buying the party enough time to finish them off.

The party began exploring the deserted keep, finding it mostly ransacked already as the guards and servants seemingly took whatever they could as they left. While sneaking into an office, Millie got ensnared by a Rug of Smothering, though she was able to fight her way out with the help of Kijani. The group dispatched the rug and continued their investigation.

The group found a handful of lesser magical items, though nothing like the treasures they were hoping for. They discovered one employee of The Men of the Hearth had not yet abandoned the keep, the head servant Quincy. Doing their best not to terrify the elderly otter, they tried to pump him for information like how to get into the vault in the basement. Ultimately the otter proved not much help, and the group left him to his whimpering.

The group eventually returned to town, without much to show for their ransacking. However, when Millie went to meet with her extorters to turn over what they'd found, she instead discovered their unconscious bodies. Out of the shadows appeared a fishman, who briefly explained that he represented the actual thieves' guild of Carlshouse, the Undercircle, and that her tormentors were mere pretenders. The fishman let Millie go out of gratitude for acting as the bait to capture the wannabees, and Millie quickly fled the scene, now feeling quite like a small fish in a very big pond.

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Carriage Recovery

The group spent a couple days mulling about Carlshouse, spending some of their spoils from their recently completed contract. Millie was able to swindle a baker woman out of a half dozen sweet cakes by posing as an old woman. Solstice, however, paid the baker woman anyway.

The group was summoned again by Caelynn, the rabbit officer of the Felhorn Courier Company. She again thanked the group for clearing the path to Carlshouse, as the caravan from Brenton had just recently successfully arrived. She propositioned the group with another job, this one a matter of cargo recovery. Recently a carriage they sent out from Carlshouse had gone missing, having never arrived at its destination. Caelynn wished to hire the group to search for the carriage, and recover as much of its cargo as necessary. In particular, the recovery of a red trimmed wooden chest that was magically locked and used to transport particularly precious cargo. The group accepted the task and Caelynn gave them a small runed stone. She explained this stone was to be used upon their return by company mages as a scrying focus to view their mission progress in retrospect.

The group shortly set out, and while on watch their first night, Solstice caught a chinchilla thief rummaging around the group's possessions. She and Fern ran the thief down and restrained him. After some interrogation, they took pity on the man and let him go, even giving him a bit of food.

The party eventually found the remains of the carriage, torn apart and looted, along with the carcass of its horse. While inspecting the wreck, Solstice located a secret compartment near the driver's seat that contained some gold and a pair of Boots of Elvenkind.

Following tracks from the wreck, the group found a cave with an unfamiliar sign painted above the mouth.

 

 

 

 

B and Millie were able to detect and disarm an alarm trap right inside the cave, and the group ventured inward, stopping as they approached a cavern housing a goblin encampment.

After some strategizing it was decided that Fern would disguise herself as a goblin and attempt to scout out the cave. Bluffing her way through speaking their language, Fern was able to slip past several goblins. However it wasn't long before a guard's suspicions were aroused and her illusion was shattered.

The resulting melee had many of the party falling unconscious, sometimes more than once. Kajani acted as a frontline, fending off the majority of the goblins, while Millie was sniping them from the back, manically cackling as she felled goblin after goblin. A pair of hobgoblins rushed in from another room, taking down B, but were eventually cut down by Solstice. Kajani wrestled the final goblin down to the ground, attempted to interrogate him, then knocked him out.

Inspecting the cave, the group found the red-trimmed box as well as some of the other cargo from the carriage. They also found a letter written by the hobgoblins detailing the stolen cargo addressed to someone named Sickleback.

Elsewhere in the cave they found a barely alive deerkin, Deirdre, being held in a cell. They were able to resuscitate her and escort her back to Carlshouse, leaving the unconscious goblin alive on their way out.

Reporting back to Caelynn, the group was rewarded handsomely for recovering the box and the cargo, though Millie chose not to turn over a bolt of silk she found in the cave, intending to hawk it at her next opportunity.

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Scouting the Road to Carlshouse

The group was hired by the bear Mr. Barnibarnes of the Felhorn Courier Company to scout a road to the neighboring town of Carlshouse and see if it was traversable by caravan. Being told to assemble in the morning, they spent the evening drinking, getting to know each other, and failing to convince anyone that the bard actually knew how to play her instrument.

Upon gathering the next day, the group was also assigned the chaperone, the sheep Bethrýňňà. They departed and midday came across an abandoned mud hut in a clearing. Deciding to investigate the hut, the group set off several traps, leading to gas leaks, darts, and explosions.

The following day the group happened upon ruins that some lizardfolk were using as a ritual site. The lizardfolk noticed and immediately engaged the party in combat, summoning clouds of fog and even a giant snake. The party took out each of the lizardfolk in kind, whispering malevolent nursery rhymes into the mind of one, and cutting down the others as they fled. After racing to inspect the corpse, Kijani found a gemstone in the corpse's pocket, but chose to keep that to herself.

The final day of their trek, the party spotted a camp of prisoner-taking bandits ahead of them. Choosing to use a combination of illusion magic and intimidation, the party attempted to cow the bandits into submission. Two of the bandits immediately dropped their weapons out of fear, but their captain wasn't so easily frightened. The bandit captain discerned at least some of the party was illusory, and began attacking. The party quickly dispatched the subordinates, as Milicent (known to the group as Flamantha Swarthington of the East Swarthington Swarthingtons) went to check on the prisoners and untied one who professed a wish to help. As Kijani was trading blows with the bandit captain, Fern snagged one of the bandits dropped hand crossbows which jammed in her attempt to fire it. Out of frustration, Fern hurled the crossbow, accidently thunking Kijani on the head and knocking her out. Eventually, the captain was taken out, with Fern, Solstice, and Kijani splitting the gold found in his pockets. The rescued prisoners offered some gold as a token of their graditude as well.

A few hours later the party arrived at the fortress town of Carlshouse, meeting Caelynn the rabbit of the Felhorn Courier Company and receiving their payment.

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