Since this game is part of D&D Encounters, players may come and go as they please. Unfortunately, roughly half of the players did not attend this session. (The players of Brek, Brother Edmund Caldworth, and Shiellapho were not present.)
As some of you may be aware, the D&D Encounters season for Against the Cult of Chaos has ended. However, with this session, the group has only completed roughly 50% of the adventure. With so much available to explore in this sandbox adventure and everyone having fun, we have been taking our time and not rushing to meet some program deadline. For us, the season will continue until the adventure is completed.
This session marked an important milestone for the group. The majority of player characters reached second level!
The party returned to Hommel Lane victorious. They had defeated the evil cult led by Lareth the Beautiful and the cult's bandit allies. They had retrieved a large amount of goods stolen from their friend Wyndell. It was time to relax and enjoy a well-deserved evening of rest.
When the group arrived at the Golden Grain Inn, they discovered a proclamation posted on the inn's door which read:
Martiris was quite pleased to see that Castellan Zaborr had kept his promise from the day before.
The party was welcomed as heroes by Bertram as they entered the common area. He insured that they were quickly presented with food and drink. As they enjoyed their dinner, Bertram asked them about their recent exploits. In particular, he was curious to hear more about the evil cult that the group had set out to confront. (Apparently, Kevin, Honourable Martiris' squire, had been busy telling stories to Bertram while the party spent the day at the moat house.) Martiris did not want to reveal too much about what the group had discovered, so he told just enough to appease Bertram's curiosity. (And later spoke to his squire about keeping information to himself… even when presented with fresh pudding.)
The Honourable Martiris also spoke with several inn patrons and learned that there had been much talk about the barn fire since last night. Some had heard that the followers of the Lawbringer were responsible. The Lawbringers had been trying to get rid of the Old Faith in Hommel Lane for some time. The fire was just an escalation in methods. Renn Becker and his family were well-known followers of the Old Faith. Additionally, the fire burned so fiercely that it might have been magical in nature… and there was a wizard in town who was known to keep company with priests of the Lawbringer (an obvious reference to Shiellapho, Brother Carell, and Brother Edmund). The gentlemen telling this rumor suggested Martiris find better travelling companions before they left the inn.
Martiris also heard that the fire may have simply been an escalation in the animosity between Renn and his brother, Varick. Varick was a follower of the Lawbringer who was currently running for mayor. It was common knowledge that they had been committing minor acts of vandalism on each other's farms for months now. (The party had heard some of this previously from Renn's son, Keveak.)
As dinner wound down, a worried young man arrived with three young children in tow. He asked Bertram about his sister, Scira, and brother-in-law, Ranson. They had left their children in his care the night before and had been coming to the inn for the evening. They never arrived home. Bertram (and several other patrons, including a few party members) remembered them eating dinner at the inn and then leaving while the night was still young. He promised the young man, Kipp, that he would let Kipp know if they showed back up or he heard anything more. Satisfied with Bertram's answer but obviously still worried, Kipp left with the children.
Sensing the somber mood slowly settling over the common room after Kipp's visit, Bertram announced "I tell you, I can remember when every night at the Golden Grain Inn was a party to end all parties. It didn't matter if you followed the Old Faith or worshiped the Lawbringer. Everyone could throw back a pint and celebrate a hard-earned bit o' silver and an honest day's work. We need to remember those days. A round o' the Old '63 on the house!"
A cheer went up from around the room as people jumped out of their chairs and headed for the bar. Bertram continued speaking as he poured drinks for everyone. "We need a drinking contest. We need to play some darts. I want to see Wee Big Gertie arm wrestle one o' our new friends." (Followed by a nod toward the party.) "Derek, pull out your lute and play us a drinking song. Ernesto, show off that tattoo you got when those orcs captured you. Here's to a life worth living."
As Derek began a lively tune, Brother Edmund surprised everyone by joining a group at the bar for the drinking contest. What was even more surprising was that after several rounds of the Old '63, the priest was the last standing (although a bit wobbly)! As a prize, Bertram awarded him 10 gold pieces.
Wee Big Gertie was a brawny female farmhand whom the other patrons claimed could throw any other farmhand like a bale of hay. She was the reigning arm-wrestling champion and looked forward to a good opponent. Tawnka rose up to the challenge. Of course, Gertie didn't wrestle for free. She offered up an expertly crafted dagger given to her by her mother, Big Wee Shirley, as a prize to the winner. Honourable Martiris matched this offer with 25 gold pieces and the contest was on! Although Tawnka called upon hidden reserves of strength, she couldn't beat the raw power of Gertie. Wee Big Gertie won the arm-wrestling matches, retaining her title and earning Martiris' gold.
After Gertie was declared the winner, Martiris was approached by a woman who asked if he was interested in winning some of his money back. She introduced herself as Trip Karzen, the champion dart thrower of Hommel Lane. Martiris accepted her challenge and joined her in a game of darts. It was a very close game of three throws, but at the end, Martiris came out on top, winning 10 gp. Although she paid quick enough, Trip may have been somewhat of a bad loser; she threw a dart into the board while Martiris was removing his last throw. Since she did not hit him, Martiris did not press the issue.
Meanwhile, Tarryn and Tawnka attempted to entertain the crowd with feats of acrobatics. Unfortunately, they were still weary from their battle earlier in the day and their performance suffered. Tawnka attempted to cover up their mistakes as a comedy routine, but was only moderately successful.
As Tarryn and Tawnka jumped about, Brek, Brother Edmund, and Shiellapho shared a table with the musician, Derek Desleigh. He had taken a break from playing his lute to enjoy a few rounds of the Old '63 with the heroes. The drinks hit the characters harder than Derek (presumably he had built up a tolerance), leaving them gently snoring with their heads on the table.
After leaving the drinking contest as the victor, Brother Carell wandered over to the farmhand, Ernesto. He wanted to hear more about Ernesto's time with the orcs. Ernesto was more than happy to oblige. He explained how he had been captured by an orc tribe while hunting one day. Initially, he thought the tribe would eat him, which was not unheard of, but apparently, there was some turmoil about his fate. The chief wanted to simply kill him and be done with it, but the shaman felt that the signs during Ernesto's capture signified he served an important purpose. Ernesto spent a week with his fate in limbo.
The orc tribe traveled mostly at night. One night as dawn approached and the group was searching the deep woods for a likely camp site, they stumbled upon an owl bear (a huge bear-like creature with the head of an owl) and her cubs. Three of the best warriors were killed before the tribe even realized what they had encountered. Many broke and ran, including Ernesto's guards. He quickly climbed a nearby tree to escape the carnage. The orc chief threw his personal guard against the beast to wear it down, but they barely slowed the primal force of the owl bear. Eventually, the chieftain was facing the creature alone below the very tree Ernesto had climbed. Then Ernesto heard a sharp crack as the limb upon which he was laying broke. He fell 20 feet to the ground, directly atop the owl bear. Surprised by the sudden weight, the owl bear reared up, allowing the orc chief to plunge his spear deeply into the creature's breast and pierce its heart. With a howl, the owl bear died (and fed the tribe for many days). The chieftain thought Ernesto had intentionally attacked the owl bear, an act seemingly even braver since he was unarmed and the other orc warriors had fled. Ernesto was accepted by the tribe and given a tribal tattoo on his back to honor the occasion. The next day he was allowed to return home.
Brother Carell asked to see the tattoo, but Ernesto was hesitant to take his shirt off in the common area. He and the priest moved back into the kitchen for more privacy. No one seemed to be around, but as Ernesto was pulling up his shirt, Brother Carell noticed four armed men stealthily moving up behind him.
Brother Carell quickly turned, unsheathed his weapons, and called out to his companions in the common room. His cries did not awaken Brek, Brother Edmund, or Shiellapho, but Tarryn, Tawnka, and Martiris rushed to his aid. By the time they arrived, Brother Carell had already dispatched one of his attackers. Unfortunately, he had paid in blood for the victory; he had been stabbed twice by the men's daggers.
As combat raged in the kitchen, Bertram urged his patrons to exit the inn. They fled out the front as Martiris, Tawnka, and Brother Carell finished off the remaining thugs quickly and professionally. In fact, Tarryn didn't even have a chance to join the battle before it ended.
Everyone caught their breaths as Ernesto stared in bewilderment at the chaos left in the kitchen. Suddenly, a spear thudded into the wall next to Tarryn! She turned in time to see Bertram's chubby body disappearing down the stairs into the cellar. She quickly called to the others, explaining that Bertram had attacked her and fled down the stairs.
Tawnka had barely processed the words before racing past Tarryn and down into the cellar. Boxes, crates, and casks were stacked around the damp stone walls. A large pile of goods partially concealed a passage leading into a separate room. Bertram and the musician, Derek, stood next to this passage, armed and obviously ready for a fight. (Perhaps there had been more than corn-mash whiskey and potato vodka in the cups of Old '63 that Brek, Brother Edmund, and Shiellapho had drunk. – Ed.)
Martiris quickly joined Tawnka in the cellar but it was Tarryn who spear-headed an attack. She called upon her ki to speed through the air past both Tawnka and Martiris to attack the treacherous Bertram (i.e., warrior's gale ability). Her strikes shook the portly innkeeper, but did not lay him low. She managed to avoid the return strike of his spear, but was surprised by the entry of new enemies into the fray. Two large frog-like humanoids entered into the partially hidden room of the cellar. They both jumped over the large pile of goods blocking the connecting passage to attack with crude spears and their needle-sharp teeth. Tarryn felt the sting of one humanoid's attack while Martiris managed to block the blows of the other.
Distracted by the frog-man's lunge, Tarryn did not notice the poisoned long sword of Derek until too late. She fell to the man's underhanded attack. Fortunately, the battle turned at this point. The party worked together to kill both frog-men and Bertram. Brother Carell even called upon the Lawbringer to heal Tarryn.
Derek attempted to escape through the passageway revealed by the humanoids, but was not fast enough to escape the justice of Honourable Martiris. The nobleman caught up to the musician in the tunnel and killed him with a swift blow from his bastard sword.
The battle over, the group took a few moments to examine the cellar. In the second room, they found iron manacles bolted to the floor and walls. A table holding playing cards and a small ledger stood in the center of the room. The ledger was filled with names, some of which were crossed out or circled. Several were recognized by the party: Derek Desleigh (circled), Yeeday, Gertie (circled), Trip Karzen (circled), Corbin, and Chef.
As the group searched the cellar, Ernesto poked his head through the door at the head of the stairs. Although he still didn't fully understand what had happened, he thanked Brother Carell for protecting him in the kitchen. He offered the priest a special reward. Before he had left the orc tribe, the orcs had given him a gift, a potion that could heal wounds. He wanted the priest to have it for saving him. Brother Carell graciously accepted the crude animal skin containing the potion and Ernesto left the inn.
Honourable Martiris, Brother Carell, Tarryn, and Tawnka then decided to completely explore the tunnel into which Martiris had chased Derek. Cart tracks in the tunnel indicated a great deal of recent traffic. The tunnel went a long way before eventually splitting. One fork led to a well-built iron door that was barred from the other side. The other fork led to a wooden trapdoor which opened near the entrance to the Temple of the Lawbringer. Upon further thought, Tawnka believed that the iron door may connect to an underground chamber below the temple itself or possibly below the grounds behind of the temple.