SC2.04: Beneath Tresendar part two – Poltergeist!

The level two heroes for this session

Dakeyras, wood elf rogue;
Garth, mountain dwarf fighter;
and introducing
Zachery Halftone, human bard

Our heroes begin 20xp from level 3 and end on 10

The story so far

Phandalin, a small village tucked well off the main Coast road and also off the side-trail that meets the Long Road at Triboar attracts adventurers keen to pit their wits against the wilds and perhaps even to win undying fame by slaying the dragon Cryovain the White! For many the pickings are too lean, or the pace too rural, but Garth and Dakeyras remain. They’ve killed slimes in an ancient evil temple, avoided being killed by an out-of-control ballista, solved the mystery of disappearing gnomes, tunneled beneath ghost-haunted cairns to reclaim a legendary dwarf warhammer, and even despoiled a hideous monstrosity of a magical sword!

Nine-day wonder, 8-gold trophy

The village this morning is abuzz with gossip and wonderment! Overnight, those adventurers brought a hideous monstrosity, all one-eye and long-talon, down to the Miners Exchange and dumped it by the door. Whatever do they mean by it?

Since most folk have chores to get to, newcomers staying at the inn predominate among rubber-neckers. Children play about and dare one another to touch the grisly object. Ewww! Bet ya gonna turn into one now!

There are but two of yesterday’s adventurers gathered here. They are a very sturdy mountain dwarf in heavy chain armor, and a slim dark-cloaked wood elf. Newcomer and bard Zachery Halftone overhears them speaking with some dismay about the chances of being able to make a good deal here. And it seems to be the last place they’ve tried.

He steps forward. The other two see the tall, good-looking bard, long-locked, tan-skinned, who smiled at them yesterday evening on his way over to help Galandro with the music. He carries his pan pipes competently: perhaps his bow and sword are for show?

Bard

Zach offers a great deal: if he gets a fair price for the pair, may he expect to join them in finding more treasure? No commission expected in this case.

“Free is good. I like free,” Garth confirms. Dak nods.

We do a quick out-take where we establish that Zach has actually done pretty well out of his wanderings to level 2 so far. He has 2 gold coin laid down with Tobe at the Stonehill to book good accommodations and a half-deal to sing for his supper there.

As readers will recall the Miners Exchange features a raised dais left from the entrance, where assaying and measuring is conducted. Halia is alone there and the store not at all busy: she smiles an invitation at Zach as he enters. He looks about: recognizes Preston the engineer, whom he spoke to last night; and a sturdy prospector sort of dwarven woman, also staying at the inn just now.

Halia has what she says is a fair deal. She knows she’s the only market for these goods, and is willing to pay 800 copper for the corpse. And it’s not take-it-or-leave-it: when Zach asks for a sweetener she offers a buy-back of the light oil and adds a princely 2 gold coin to the total for it.

Zach takes most of it in useful spending denomination – silver – and 250 coppers, which are best for small purchases such as casual meals and drinks.

Loot: 10 gold coin for party loot

XP: lvl3-18 for the good roleplaying

Side-note: First use of “I might know something because I pick up stories” for our new bard Zach!

Kids stories and orcs

The trio organize some of Dak’s torches for Zach and head up to the Tresendar ruin. But on the way, they plan to drop by Alderleaf farm and chat to that lad Pip.

This has unintended but significant consequences! The lads Pip (human, from the inn) and his shorter friend Carp (from the farm) saw orcs heading below the village this morning, going west!

Dak heads down and – that’s interesting! Someone is ranger-wise enough to have smoothed the tracks out! – but they couldn’t do anything about the frost, and the cleared-away trail does tend west, sure enough.

Meanwhile the others are dealing with a semi-hostile halfling archer who exchanges scowls, but not monikers, with Garth. When gammer Qelline pops out to check on the boys – by this time Zach has got them listening to a yarn about being good little adventurers and minding the adults – the halfling, with a final sneer, heads up to the village center.

XP: lvl3-17

Priorities! We’ll do the ruin first!

“What do you know about orcs, fellows, are they something we should be sounding the alarm over?” Zach astutely wishes to know.

“Well, the only ones we’ve met were… fine. I mean they had us where they could have been very unpleasant but they were polite. What was his name again, that big chief?… well I suppose we should at least tell Harbin, he lives right there.”

Garth heads up to Harbin’s house and hammers loudly on the door. To his surprise Harbin answers almost at once. Not at all to Garth’s surprise he goes into panic mode on hearing about orcs.

Waving his hand “I can’t be bothered…” Garth rejoins the other two and they briefly explain Harbin’s nature as they head on.

XP: lvl3-16, I think even bothering with Harbin has merit

To the sounds of pipe and voice we arrive!

Zachery balances his pan pipes and begins his first draft of how Dakeyras fell deep into a chasm but discovered great treasure!

Yes, Garth has already told him that tale… he’s the kind of dwarf that is tickled by other folks’ pratfalls!

It lifts their spirits: they arrive at the dig with surplus energy!

This is Zach’s feat, Inspiring Leader

The place seems exactly as they left it – burlap sack, tools, the ashes of a fire, spare kindling, all seem as they were. Well that’s good! The pair of veteran delvers explain the layout to Zach as they walk down the muddy, debris-littered steps to the cellar. Well let’s be honest, veteran delver and veteran “I’ll just have a scout around for more firewood” malingerer/lookout.

What they find in the tun barrel

They begin in the north. Counting the hollow-sounding stone down the steps further, and the blocked passage east, there are two unexplored ways. In passing along by the crevasse, Dak marks down a third possible: there seems to be a bit of a tunnel leading away south.

But first things first! Garth braces himself and smashes in the jammed-up stone door north, that the passage down and around west ends at.

A massive tun barrel, black with age, and standing up on blocks a few inches proud of the floor, dominates the chamber ahead some 15′. The moldering remains of barrels are hard right of the door; and stone ale-jars slump against the far right corner.

Inits (except at first as Garth moves in and is attacked and the others shake out): Grace, Zach, Dak, Garth, WoW

Garth feels something straining against his clothing, as though a fierce gust tries to buffet him about. But there is no wind… or is there? He shakes his shield down and buckles it tight.

He calls the alarm and they shake out, Dak keeping guard in the rear and Zach moving to cover the barrels.

A pause. Zach begins investigating the tun barrel. Garth is abruptly picked up and slammed up into the roof, wiped across it, then dropped! Oof! He picks himself up. He still has nothing to hit. Scraping his brain for possible foes, Zach fumbles feverishly at the tun lid. Gets his shortsword out and pries at it. Nope. He’s not built to be a navvy nor yet a pot-boy. As Garth falls heavily from the roof a second time he growls and charges the tun, crashing its strakes in with the Ungart hammer! Human size bones spill out!

A young frightened female voice comes faintly to them! Maybe we can talk this out?!

Meanwhile, Dak is in some trouble. He’s attacked by a glowing presence, incredibly hard to hit, that strikes at him with Lightning damage. This one, Zach has heard of! It’s a Will-o-wisp! Garth and Dak deal with it while Zach turns his silver tongue to negotiation with the ghost of the girl Grace.

XP: lvl3-15 for the WoW alone

Grace, Agatha, and a quest

Grace was in the manor as orcs attacked, and she saw terrible things. She was told to hide in the tun until help came… and she stayed hidden.

Grace is worried about her sister Agatha, dragged away by orcs. Agatha will be so scared, and she doesn’t have her comb.

This makes little sense to the adventurers until they find the bones of an older female, crushed under rocks, a couple of cellar chambers along, a woman’s pretty bone comb lying near the hand. It’s not at all clear whether the bones belong to Lady Tresendar, but in any case it is clear that Grace won’t rest easy until Agatha is reunited with the comb. And the only clue they have is ‘dragged away by orcs.’

But Grace does mention her uncle Aldith and his sword, known as the Talon. Dak suggests maybe fetching that sword might pay off? The adventurers decide to bring the sword back up here. They reassure Grace as best they can, and head upstairs for a

Short Rest: Garth and Dak are back to full, Zach was unscathed.

XP: lvl3-14, potentially more if they do find Agatha

Loot: aside from the fancy but aged bone comb, some family-heirloom type junk from the next room that I will wrap up at the end

Inn-teresting! A canting crosser and a crazy cultist!

What with one thing and another, and only after Dak has become quite tired of slogging back and forth, the trio decide to take a nuncheon then check out these orcs. Dak tells the other pair that the lads have actually found them – they are just down the miner’s trail outside Phandalin.

The Stonehill is serving a rich thick vege soup made of late-fall crops. Shalla seems to have hired Tess Webb (the human woman that isn’t well-bred) as sous-chef in place of Mayberry.

As Zach makes good by singing and playing in the corner a couple of the newcomer men seem very interested. One is a rogue from Neverwinter, whom Dak knows by name as Monkeypaw and by rep as a double-dealer. The other is a cloaked, dark-skinned elf.

The latter follows them down the slope towards the miner’s trail. When Garth asks him what he means by it, he talks some crazy talk, like a mad cultist. Garth nearly loses his temper but just glares and warns the fellow off, to the point where he does turn aside.

XP: lvl3-14

Akaros is visiting for tea and scones

As they descend to the last farmstead before the stream, Garth heads off to a good lookout point on a small knoll. The other pair, now they aren’t accompanied by a heavy-booted, heavy-armored dwarf, sneak toward the farmstead. Smoke from the chimney, but no-one working the fields. No dog. Hmm.

A cloaked archer – female based on her gait – walks out of a small copse to Garth’s right and up behind him some 50′ away. She sounds a screech-owl alarm.

“Who goes there?” a man challenges. Zach perfectly imitates the playing-brat sound of Pip and Carp. The farm-wife steps out to shoo them away. Confusion. Zach apologizes.

Akaros steps out behind the woman! Dak recalls the face and figure, not the name. Luckily Garth is there by this time, and he does remember.

Inside in comfort – Akaros and Druuk are taking tea and scones – the orc chief lays out the reason he has come here!

XP: lvl3-13

Butterskull is back on the agenda!

Lok, the orc ranger that has been keeping guard, has run all the way from Butterskull Ranch to warn her chief! A rebel orc has declared himself a war-leader and with a band of like-minded fools, has seized Butterskull Ranch. So-named because it produces butter, and the butter pats are skull-shaped.

Akaros seems to fear a pointless and fruitless fracas or war between his folk and the settlers. After all the white dragon is everyone’s enemy!

Zach employs his friendly face to ask more about the history of the area. After all, Grace was just telling them about orcs massacring her folk.

Long story short, (orc verbal history sounds different to known written history) the orcs have lived in the hill country since losing a long-ago war with elves and a more recent war with men. Now Cryovain the White has driven them from those as well. Akaros wants his folk united in the area he found for them, not disputing a useless stretch of meadow and hill. And he needs that rebel dealt with.

Note: since Akaros is looking at Zach as he’s calculating generations around these incidents it’s safe to assume he means 200 generations of either humans or orcs concerning the elf war, and 20 generations of humans specifically, since the war with humans that ruined Phandalin and Tresendar.

DM

Last push to clear the manor undercroft! Smash those bones!

Akaros jokes wryly about how his estate has fallen so low that he need turn to menial labor to close a deal, as they all four stride back up with a few useful tools. There are two more possible places to clear, and Grace mentioned that her ancestors were entombed in the eastern half of the undercroft.

Dak scratches off the southern passage straight away. It’s really impossible for an adult to fit through the rock and earth fallen in along it. Small animals could, which account for all the bones the nothic left lying in the crevasse.

Grace hovers over the sword. To her, it suggests far away, north-east. That’s handy, Akaros grins, that’s where you’re going, right?

The eastern blockage is cleared easily. There’s a store-room east again, where some semi-valuable silver has turned back with age but is still worth retrieving. There’s a crypt door south. Which leads to a mild moral dilemma.

Garth settles it by stating that he won’t feel right just letting an area go unchecked.

Three sarcophagi lie intact: three skeletons rise and attack!

Garth powers up, uses Inspiration, crumbles two of them after Zach and Dak have weakened one, and Akaros delivers a flurry of punches and kicks to finish the third.

And, as they bag up the loot, and sort out where they will meet the orcs next, the session ends.

XP: lvl3-12 for the last push plus a bonus of two for (1) thoroughly clearing and (2) having the idea to unite Grace and Talon!

Loot: 70 silver coin worth of tarnished Tresendar silverware; tarnished symbol of rebel alliance – did the Tresendars seize it, or were they rebels? Tresendar family crest traced in crystal and lace strangely undamaged by time; sealed cedar box containing a claw-on-moon symbol of Malar and a deed gifting the bearer ‘all that remains’; miniature portrait of Lady Tresendar when a young bride that, on rubbing the frame’s back, becomes a 3D illusion of the picture.

25 gold coin completion payment

DM notes and props

I hope it’s not too spoilery, since I already gave props to the upper ruin scenario, to add that I took the boss monster of that and placed it in the undercroft, along with a Will-o-wisp. And linked her to a further quest. I meant to check with my players that they would not be disturbed by horror themes, but forgot, so apologies for that, players! Hiding, terror-stricken, until you die of thirst or starve to death is definitely into EA Poe territory.

I was originally planning to have Thorin reintroduce Akaros, then I had hopes that the abrasive halfling would do it, but it all worked out with active young lads. Speaking of that, I guess it’s fair to point out the events we’re playing through occur roughly three years prior to the starter kit adventure. So Carp and Pip are very young!

Final props to Jay Stilipec’s Better Backstories, I’m using them all the time just a couple of weeks after finally getting the cards in my hands! They are great inspiration for not just NPCs by things like the Tresandar heirlooms! I don’t know where you can buy them, I hope Jay & Co publicize that.

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