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  #61  
Old Aug 10th, 2023, 08:55 PM
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Merrick thinks through the risks of what he is about to ask carefully, the approaches the guardsmen.

"This... uhh.... this may seem like an odd question but have we met before? I mean have you seen me traveling this way? I fell under an enchantment and lost some of my memories. I believe I traveled to the temple in the mountains but this place doesn't seem familiar. I am curious are there other paths to the temple that are not through this valley? Maybe it was all a big mistake or a dream. Surely I would remember horrors such as you describe."
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  #62  
Old Aug 12th, 2023, 08:29 AM
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Gridrish, thinking of Dunnegan, listens to Ulfgar's and Merrick's questions to Pol and the other guardsmen.

He fidgets with Red's Walking Stick as he listens.

He tells Pol that he would like to go with the first patrol. He adds that he is interested in the natural order and how these night walkers fit in to that order.

If he manages to get out on patrol, he will ask what did the Thrice Holy Order do, exactly, at the Temple?

They have come such a long way and he has changed so much. He makes an effort to make sure Merrick knows he is welcome to our group and we are thankful for his help.

Lastly, when he is alone with one of the guardsmen or there is a quiet moment, he will ask if they have heard about Myrrh. On our journey, we have heard whispers of this Myrrh and what she is doing. Gridrish wonders if it is her behind the Thrice Holy Order.
 
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  #63  
Old Aug 13th, 2023, 10:11 PM
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Nov 15 evening, Nov 16 day

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As you sit listening to the crackle of the fire, Ulfgar and Sutton warm their hands and reveal what they saw in the gathering gloom outside. Captain Pol nods knowingly, "Odd glimmers in the darkness, distant voices, those are signs that spirits are about. Baron Von Richter is our lord and we soldiers offer protection to all the people of this valley." The one-eyed captain begins to show some annoyance at Ulfgar's tone and says in a stiff voice, "Your axe? Can your axe cut through shadow or fend off the chill of the grave? This isn't some simple mining operation," he says derisively to the dwarf, "it takes organization and training to keep the powers of darkness at bay. This is what the Baron gives to his people. What do you give? A few gold when you pass through town?"

Things grow quiet, with both sides uneasy. perfect 20 - props for thatIt's then that Pluck senses his opportunity. Given Ulfgar's exceptional uncouthness, this wouldn't be an easy operation, but the bard faced worse challenges. The first few notes played on the lute are enough to break the glare between the captain and Ulfgar. The singer leads with a popular ditty, but this far from the high valley, the song is unknown to the guards. "That's Cream on the Melons!" Needle, sitting in the corner nursing his tenth beer, pipes in. Shaking his head, Pluck masterfully flows to a second, slower tune, about a beautiful halfling woman with golden locks of hair. This tune was new to all, and members of the party are amazed at the artistry of Pluck's lyrics. It was almost as though the bard were singing about someone he knew. Needle roots around for his notepad, "I need to steal that line..." he mutters. Pluck's performance ends with a bawdy tune, and by the second refrain, everyone has fallen under his spell. The group is roaring the words and laughing as Pluck acts out some of the parts even while singing and playing. The song ends on another loud refrain and everyone erupts with applause.

Looking around, you sense the mood has shifted, with Pol wiping sweat from his brow, chuckling, and Fritz the merchant whistling the bawdy refrain as he pours another beer.

It's then that Merrick asks his question about whether he'd ever been there before, and the whole house bursts out laughing again. For a few minutes, good natured jokes fly at the halfling's expense. The consensus is that Merrick is just part of the act, and the effect cements the soldiers' camaraderie.

Grid turns conversation back to the Thrice Holy Order and Werner begins a tale of his own. "Years ago perhaps there might have been a spook about now and again, but they were harmless. Long dead elves as the story goes. Then the Order began showing up every spring. They're a nation of horsemen, the Order is, wild religious knights who ride over the mountains to our valley. They always claimed they needed to visit the temple because their god commanded it. They said something that belonged to their Father -- the Earth Father or some such pagan nonsense -- was in it. They paid a handsome tribute though. None of us was going there, given it's common knowledge the place is cursed, so the Baron let them trek up into the hills to visit the place, and was content with filling our coffers. None of them ever returned, but every year a new batch came to repeat the chore." You recall Gretchen saying she hadn't been to the temple of Ahnii in many years, despite being its so-called druid. Now, between the distance from the High Valley, the dangers of the Borderlands, crossing the greedy river, and now this Order and the Baron... you're beginning to understand why.

The younger guard looks at Pluck, who asks more about the temple. "No I've never been there. Only by special permission can anyone go to the temple. And now it's completely forbidden. A shadow has truly been awoken inside it, and is waking up things of darkness near and far. These are horrible times now. We think the Thrice Holy Order is behind it but no one can fathom their reasoning."

Conversation dies down after that.

Because it would simply be rude not to, the party agrees to sleep within the circle of salt that Werner pours in a wide circle near to the fire, after the tables and chairs are cleared. Pol and the other guard thank Grid for the offer to help patrol. Pol, still mollified by the song, says, "Why not?" In a few moments the three leave, but perhaps to Grid's disappointment, the several hour perimeter sweep turns up nothing but some elk resting in a clearing.

For the rest, night passes without incident. The spartan guardhouse is a palace of comforts after so long sleeping out in the bitter cold. In the morning, a heavy frost blankets the mossy structures moldering here and there around the southern outpost. Leaves clatter on the stones and Fritz has his horse and wagon ready when Captain Pol appears. "Fritz here will escort you to Wickenstadt. The forest paths are winding and many are of no use anymore as most of the outlying farmers have fled to the safety of the steadings." He points his one good eye at you in a not unfriendly way and says, "A word of warning, appointed ones." He nods, "Yes, that is what I believe you are. Like wanderers from the old stories, strong enough to leave the safety of a steading and brave the wilds. Appointed ones don't much need us guards. But the rest of the world, the farmers and the merchants and all, they do. If you mean to deal with Baron Von Richter, do so courteously. He won't take kindly to tricks or shows of power." He nods and removes his helm, "take care."

With that, Fritz leads his shabby horse and wagon down the path, with some of you riding, and some walking beside him. The forest is dark and deep, thick pines creating pockets of shadow despite the bright morning sun overhead. "Snow is in the air," the salt deliverer quips pulling his leather cloak close. "But I am wondering," he says, turning to Grid. "What do you know of Myrrh? Madame Myrrh is said to be the richest woman in the world. Legend has it she inherited a great fortune from her first few husbands. The funny thing is no one knows how many she's had." The seller chuckles. "She's been around forever, at least as long as anybody can remember. And if you must know, yeah I have to get my salt from mines that she owns. She pretty much owns the Great Desert. Please tell me, were you sent by her?"

Around midday Fritz draws the horse to a halt and points to the snow. Sutton draws near to inspect. He and Fritz both know the track. "A troll's print that is," Fritz says. "Big. And it's headed to the southwest, towards the steading of Cedar Hollow. That's a tiny village with none of the Baron's soldiers on regular patrol." He looks anxious and a bit indecisive, then: "We need to go back to the outpost and report this to Captain Pol. He and the guards are trained for this. We need to hurry!"


Last edited by mountainbound; Aug 13th, 2023 at 10:22 PM.
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  #64  
Old Aug 15th, 2023, 03:23 PM
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"I'd not leave villagers to the likes of a beast like that." Ulf grumbles, looking towards the village. "Run for help if you must, but our path in this is clear." Ulf draws his axe, his hand resting on the ever present horn at his side. He looks to his friends for support.
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  #65  
Old Aug 16th, 2023, 12:23 AM
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"Not that I would hazard to question your steely determination but what exactly is the clear path we have? You want to go fight a troll? I am no expert but I believe they are notoriously hard to kill."

Merrick shifts around nervously.

"I am happy to follow if you are volunteering to go first but I don't want to lose the path we are on to distraction. I have a feeling our fates are destined towards this Baron and one way or another we have to find a way to meet him."
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  #66  
Old Aug 16th, 2023, 08:35 AM
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Gridrish smiles and laughs to himself, thinking that Ulfgar is as salty as the floor they slept on last night.

He hears Merrick's concerns, looks to Needle quickly in acknowledgement of his rebuff earlier in their adventure, and says, "Friend Merrick, we help". Still with a smile, he pats Merrick on the back as he begins trotting behind Ulfgar the Salty towards the troll. He shouts to the group, "Perhaps this will bring us favor with the Baron!"
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  #67  
Old Aug 16th, 2023, 11:47 AM
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Pluck looks at his friends, and realized their minds are clearly made up. He lets out an exasperated sigh.

"Oh Bloody hell. Guess we are fighting a troll then. There better be a reward for this. Fritz, are you sticking around or running off to Pol?"
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  #68  
Old Aug 17th, 2023, 02:49 PM
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"Friend Merrick, I need to get in close and personal to do my part, but I've seen what your arrows can do from a distance. " Ulf nods toward Merrick's bow approvingly. "Follow as close as you are comfortable with." Ulf looks to the other members. "Besides, I have a feeling the Baron will still be there when we finish. And maybe bringing this Troll's head as a trophy will endear us to him."
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  #69  
Old Aug 18th, 2023, 12:39 PM
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"Have any of you ever fought a troll before? There are tales of trolls having arms cut off just to regrow them. What if we try to bring back the head but it regrows a troll?"
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Old Aug 18th, 2023, 08:36 PM
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Ulf forces a grin, not afraid at all, or at least that's what he is trying to portray. "That would be a site to see! And we'd get to cut it off again!"
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Old Aug 18th, 2023, 09:31 PM
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Merrick shifts around slightly uncomfortably as he pictures it.

"Well. I suppose if we can cut it off once the second time will be easier right?"
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Old Aug 20th, 2023, 08:51 AM
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Nov 16, Cedar Hollow steading

The salt-driver Fritz winces when it's clear the party is set on following after the troll. In response to Pluck's question, he grumbles, "You can't find Cedar Hollow on your own, so I guess I'd need to come. It's just not following protocol is all I'm saying!"

The flurries die out and melt in the afternoon sun as Fritz leads you from one byway to another. The tall pine trunks seem to stretch in all directions in places, their fallen needles blanketing the ground and dampening footfalls. At times, just the creak of the wagon's axle, and jungle of horse bells can be heard as you make your way to the southwest. By now the troll's prints had wandered into the woods, but last you saw them, were still headed towards the tiny steading.

A couple hours later your cross a bridge spanning a brook, with Merrick peering beneath the narrow structure quizically. Sadly, no troll.

Fritz says, "This is Cedar Hollow. I'd expect to see farmers preparing for the winter. It's too quiet." You mount a small rise and look ahead over several fields which look like they've been harvested already. There are three country farm houses and two large unpainted barns, along with a small mill closer to where the brook runs by the steading. "Just three or four families live here. Or used to..." Fritz says ominously. There's a scattering of split wood next to a chopping block, but no one bothered to pile it. The door to one of the farmhouses swings on a squeaky hinge, and the door on the far barn is also agape. "I don't like the feeling of this place. It's been a while since I stopped this way to deliver, but it's never this quiet."

The sun goes behind a cloud and a wind rustles dry leaves and move the withered stalks across the fields nearby. There are no sounds of children, no smoke coming from the chimneys, no men in the fields.

Suddenly from out of a group of trees to your left comes a rustling. Then a large shape bursts forth - you bring weapons around but it's just a dappled gray draft horse. The animal looks relived to see you and is obviously tame.
DM's noteNature types can roll Survival check for tracking.
Anyone can make a Nature or Arcana check to know more the troll.
Or any other roll you think would help.
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  #73  
Old Aug 20th, 2023, 08:54 AM
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Gridrish searches his memory for any helpful thoughts about trolls. Perhaps he heard something around a camp fire one night with the Rangers.

 


He looks around for any clues that might indicate what happened here. Where is everyone? Were they carried off? Are they hiding?

 

Last edited by mikelally; Aug 20th, 2023 at 08:57 AM.
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  #74  
Old Aug 20th, 2023, 11:38 AM
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Merrick looks over the small town then quietly approaches Ulf and pulls him to the side.

"Listen. The group clearly follows your lead and I haven't been entirely straight forward. I had another vision... I saw Karana trapped in a cage being held by the Baron. I need to go rescue him. I understand the desire to help those in need but look around this place. There is no one here to be helped. Let Captain Pol solve this mystery and we can continue to the Baron to save my patron."


 
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Old Aug 22nd, 2023, 10:32 AM
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Ulf looks around at the town. "There may be villagers herded away somewhere like cattle. Or they could have run off to hide somewhere nearby." His blood begins to boil. He hates the idea of helpless villagers hiding in fear, or worse.

Merrick pulls him aside and tells him about Karana. In his mind Karana's plight and that of the villagers are both escalated to equal footing. Ulf finds himself torn. He looks around the village, his every instinct calling out for him to investigate further. He shakes his head, clearing away the competing thoughts. "Why didn't you say so?" The idea that the Baron could actually be the bigger threat was new information - to this point Ulf was sure the Baron was merely a useless bureaucrat. If the Baron is a threat then ... "Then there will be no help for these people.. " Ulf doesn't finish the thought, leaves the words hanging. He shakes the dark thoughts away, focusing instead on the nearest threat he can sink his axe into. That threat is the Barron, as Merrick pointed out. "I don't know about anyone following me, but I'm with you! Let's go kill the bastard!"

Last edited by RobS; Aug 22nd, 2023 at 12:36 PM.
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