Episode 2: 2/2/08
Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger/1
Haroldur, human cleric/1
Sigmund Gorn, dwarf fighter/1
Nineve Floret, human knight/1
Sarek, human wizard/1
After the fight at the docks, we headed back to the inn for some much-needed rest and refreshment. During the evening, I spent some time in the bar gathering some information on our destination, Kolbenborg. News wasn’t hard to come by. Apparently, it had recently been sacked by goblins, and Diamond Lake has been choked with its refugees. Of course, I’d noticed a lot of destitute-looking people around the city, but I just assumed they were displaced fishermen or miners who’d fallen on hard times. At any rate, it seems the reports of goblin and orc activity we’d heard about back in Istivin were accurate.
The next day, we received another sending from the Ruby Temple:
Acolytes should reach Diamond Lake in 3 days.
Remain in Diamond Lake until then.
Locate the missing bodies from the graveyard.
Seems simple enough. As we were eating breakfast, a messenger arrived, bidding us meet with Lazare at our earliest convenience, so we finished our simple but tasty fare and headed over to his place. As always, he greeted us cordially and invited us to his private meeting room in the back. Earlier, we had offered to help him in his struggle against Balabar Smenk, but we made it clear that any assistance we could provide would have to be on the up-and-up. After some consideration, he’d thought of a way we could help him.
Lazare came to Diamond Lake and bought the mine from Balabar Smenk. Lazare made a down payment, and agreed to pay the remainder of the sum in monthly installments out of the mine’s profits. However, Lazare’s miners keep getting bought off or chased off the job – by Smenk’s men! Lazare suspects Smenk plans to thusly bankrupt him, which would force Lazare to turn the mine back over to Smenk, who would also get to keep all of the money Lazare has given him so far. It was a pretty clever scheme, actually, but of course Lazare was very frustrated by the whole situation.
He asked us to recruit miners for him. We could find them in the town or outlying areas, or we could buy them out from Smenk, whichever we preferred. He also wanted us to find a way to keep the miners actually working in the mine, and prevent them from being bought off or chased off. In return, we asked him to look into Smenk’s possession of the Harkness’s title. We’re sure he obtained it illegally, but without proof, there’s nothing we can do to get it back. Thus agreed, we left Lazare’s and set about the tasks at hand.
Sarek, Nineve and Haroldur paid a visit to the Church of St. Cuthbert (of all places!) as it seemed to be the congregating place for a majority of the itinerants. Like any sane Greycloak, I refuse to deal with Cuthbertites as a matter of course, unless strictly necessary. The animosity that church shows towards our organization is not easily forgotten. Instead, Sigmund and I went to speak to the local garrison commander.
At St. Cuthbert’s, Sarek and the others indeed found a great deal of refugees and poor folk, which were being herded between menial tasks by low-level acolytes. In the center of the commotion was the priest, a stocky, barrel-chested man stripped to the waist and flogging himself (and others) with a lash while bellowing Cuthbertine dogma. While representatives of the churches of St. Cuthbert and Wee Jas don’t normally cooperate, this priest seemed rather fixated on the “labor” aspect of Cuthbert, and was pleased to have a new task at which to set some of his flock. He agreed to recruit some healthy workers and have them report for duty tomorrow, provided they understand they are to return to his church in the evenings.
Meanwhile, at the garrison, Sigmund and I met with Toliver Trask, the garrison commander. He seemed very busy and generally frustrated about his garrison being undermanned. He agreed to ask if any of the guards would be interested in freelance guard work for Lazare’s miners – in their off-time, of course. I asked him why he hadn’t sent any men to Kolbenberg, and he launched into a rant about being spread too thin and how his hands were being tied by bureaucrats in the capitol who kept denying his requests for more recruits… I decided I might not have caught him at the best time…
We all met back up in town, and decided to spread out and tackle some more tasks. While we had secured unskilled labor and guards for Lazare, we had yet to find him some actual miners. I nosed around a bit and found a hangout popular with Smenk’s miners. Sigmund accompanied me to do a little recruiting.
The bar was dark and noisy, and a large group of about 40 miners were raucously drinking away their earnings. I strode up to the largest table and had their attention in no time. Deep in their cups, many of the miners took my offer of employment as an offer of a different sort, but a flash of gold coin and a stern look from Sigmund kept them mostly under control. At length, I made the details of the wage and signing bonus clear to them, and informed them that, unfortunately, there were only 12 managerial positions available, so interested parties should arrive at Lazare’s mine tomorrow morning early for interviews. Mission accomplished, Sigmund and I headed back to the Able Carter Inn.
In the meantime, Sarek, Nineve, and Haroldur were looking for information about where the stolen corpses were ending up. They went to the jail, and fortunately, the 2 grave robbers we’d apprehended earlier were still there. Sarek bails them out and charms one of them, who tells them everything they need to know. Unfortunately, the other grave robber escaped, but Sarek’s new best friend tells him where the escapee lives. According to the charmed grave robber, Morovin, one of Kullen’s lieutenants, is the one who gets the bodies from the grave robbing crews. Morovin is noted for being extremely rude, wearing a flashy red cape, and hanging out at the Emporium. Having gleaned all the useful information from the knave, Nineve moved to restrain him. She missed and he took off running, but Sarek eventually caught up with him thanks to his superior stamina. They beat him unconscious and eventually managed to tie a noose and hang him in the Greymere Convent’s graveyard for his crimes.
The next morning, we met Lazare outside his mine, and found our efforts have paid off. Guards, experienced miners, and laborers were all there, ready to begin work. Lazare couldn’t have been happier. After ensuring that everything was satisfactory, we headed over to the Emporium to have a word with Morovin.
The Emporium is a combination freak show, tavern, gambling house, and brothel. Nearly any sort of illicit entertainment can be found within its walls, but despite its reputation, the Emporium’s proprietress is known not to tolerate any brawls or violence in her establishment. Sarek charmed the bartender and learned that Morovin was upstairs sleeping off a hangover in room 5. We bluffed our way past the half-orc guard and climbed the steps to the rooms. Nineve and I knocked on Morovin’s door and tried to bluff our way in by claiming to be a present from his friend (the late grave robber). Unfortunately, he called our bluff, and when he flung the door open, we had a fight on our hands. Luckily, we subdued him quickly and managed to sneak him out the kitchen in the back.
We took him to the Greymere Convent and I tied him up. Once he regained consciousness, the others interrogated him. I find interrogations rather unpleasant, so while that was happening, I went out to bury the grave robber that was hanged earlier. Unfortunately, I find his body has been removed – and probably consumed, judging by the tracks of about 5 ghouls in the vicinity of the gnawed-off noose.
The interrogation reveals that the bodies are ultimately going to Filge, a necromancer who recently moved into the Observatory outside of town. Morovin is then hung for his crimes. We decided to inter him immediately, as leaving him hanging there would likely violate my strict “no ghoul-feeding” policy. We were just finishing the process when we were set upon by ghouls once again!
They managed to sneak up fairly close to us while we were performing the funerary rites, and they were almost on top of us before we noticed them. The ghouls rushed in and paralyzed Nineve immediately. Haroldur managed to rebuke one ghoul, but we’re forced to fight the other four. Fortunately, between Sarek, Sigmund and I, we manage to dispatch them all without much trouble. After the scuffle, we return to the inn for the evening. I tried to dig up some information on Filge the neighborhood necromancer, but it seems he’s quite the shut-in as no one knows anything about him except that he lives in the observatory. We decide to pay Filge a visit in the morning.
On the morning of the next day, the acolytes finally arrive from Hookhill, and they brought with them a care package from the Cabal! We received:
4 scrolls of CLW
5 potions of CLW
2 MW longswords
1 MW Dwarven Waraxe
1 MW crossbow
20 MW bolts
20 MW arrows
2 vials of antitoxin
2 vials of acid
2 vials of alchemist’s fire
2 scrolls of Sending
1 scroll of Ray of Enfeeblement
1 scroll of Shield of Faith
1 scroll of Divine Favor
3 vials of holy water
and new clothes for everyone
It’s always nice to know the Cabal is looking out for us. We get kitted up and head out to raid the observatory.
About five minutes’ walk outside Diamond Lake, on a bluff overlooking an abandoned mine, we found a crumbling old observatory. We entered through a side door and heard scratchings and cries for help from emanating from a tool shed attached to the main building. We opened the door expecting starving prisoners… and were met with a 2 ghoul ambush instead! We make short work of them and continue into the main building. The next room was in total disarray, making it very hard to navigate. At the far end, skeleton archers were set up to fire on intruders from behind a makeshift barricade – it seems Filge doesn’t want company. After dealing with that little unpleasantness, we move through a few empty rooms before reaching something interesting.
We smelled it before we saw it, really. The stench of rotting flesh wafted through the open door. In the room beyond, ten chairs surrounded an oblong dining table. Plates of fresh food and bottles of wine were laid out at all the places except the head of the table, which was unoccupied and had clean plates and utensils set. The other nine chairs were occupied by awkwardly seated humanoid figures in various states of decay. They looked as if they were in the middle of a feast. Out of curiosity, I went up to a corpse and touched it, hoping to gain some insight into how the person died, but was startled by a grotesque pantomime. Apparently, I had somehow “activated” the zombies, and they started acting out a formal dinner party! One zombie turned directly to me and said, “Once again, milord has provided a delicious meal. It is an honor to dine in your august presence.” Then, the other diners chimed in with similar sycophantic comments. “The Guild of Wizardry was wrong to turn you out”, a male elf corpse remarked. “You ought to show them like you showed me!” The tattered remains of what must have been a young woman spoke up next. “I shouldn’t have ever doubted you, Filge”, it said earnestly. “I always loved you when we were together – now I’ll love you forever!”...Oh my.
At this point, I decided it was safe to assume that we were dealing with someone who was even more unhinged than the average power-hungry, corpse-reanimating necromancer. Having had our fill of this “dinner theater”, we left and made our way upstairs.
The second floor is just a single massive bedchamber. We found it to be finely appointed, with some rather interesting touches. Dominating the room was a statue of a thin human man with outstretched angelic wings and a beatific expression on his idealized face. Large letters on the base of the statue read “FILGE”. Near the center of the room stood what I thought was a statue of a halfling, but on closer examination, we realized it was actually a mummified goblin! The goblin was dressed in an expensive-looking suit and tophat, and he held out a silver platter. On the platter was the freshly-preserved, severed head of a middle-aged woman. Also, two hideously deformed severed heads (practice makes perfect?) were sitting on a nearby desk. When we approached the desk, the hideous severed heads opened their eyes and started shrieking… they were varghouilles! Luckily, Sigmund and Nineve put them down before they became a problem. When we approached the head on the platter, she yelled loudly “Filge! Someone’s come to visit!”. We figured our cover was pretty much blown, so we moved on to the top floor of the observatory.
The top floor is obviously the lab. There is a sunken operating theater and stairs leading up to a catwalk that wraps around the room. Four huge glass vats were standing near the corners of the operating theater, and each contained a large, murky shape. Filge, flanked by a skeletal body guard, sneers at our arrival and shouts “Arise, my beautiful monstrosities!”. Then he high-tails it to the top of the catwalk. Sarek and I concentrate our fire on Filge while Haroldur, Sigmund, and Nineve focus on the newest threat – a zombie has burst from one of the tanks, and it seems to be able to spray acid or something. Filge calls forth his acid-zombies from the tanks one by one, and then starts slinging some spells. Nineve, Haroldur and Sigmund eventually defeat the acid zombies, but Sigmund and Haroldur seem worse for the wear. Nineve tries to charge Filge, but is blocked by the skeletal bodyguard and has to fight her way through. Before Nineve can reach Filge, our peppering-him-at-range pays off, and Sarek finally takes him down with a crossbow bolt to the chest.
Feeling pretty confident, we tie up his unconscious form and are getting ready to toss the place for damning evidence when out of nowhere, a very torn-up looking Justice Archon planeshifts in and starts attacking us! We are naturally quite surprised, but he seems to think we’ve met many times before, and isn’t really in the mood for chitchat. He calls us all out by name and not-so-patiently explains that he must punish us for releasing the Titan of Chaos. We’re all pretty sure we’d remember doing something like that, but he won’t have any of our excuses. Nineve calls him out and he responds by sundering her sword and beating her down! At this point, we realize we have no choice but to fight, he falls to our onslaught, slumping lifelessly to the floor before fading away in a flare of light and drifting, glowing feathers, leaving his staff and some tattered white vestments behind.
With that threat removed, we turned our attention back to Filge, only to find that he has escaped! It looked like he used a crossbow bolt to cut the ropes… wizards can be so clever sometimes! I remembered when I was tying him up that Filge had a black circle tattooed on the back of his left hand. I make a note of it, since it might help us find him later. We rummage through the observatory for clues and find some notes on necromancy and alchemy (Necralchemy!), and some letters to Filge from someone in Istivin that include the message “Thanks for the recent shipment of bodies. Signed, W”.
We also find a scroll of animate dead,
4 vials of liquid (blue, red, yellow and zebra!) and various surgical notes and records.
Full looting of the observatory yields an additional:
various goods: tourmaline, jet amulet, zircon bracelet, silver ewer, marble platter, ornate wooden box
various magical items: scroll of Create Food/Water, scroll of Prot. from Energy, scroll of Speak with Dead, scroll of Detect Magic, wand of CLW, wand of Ray of Enfeeblement,
wand of Read Magic,
wand of Mage Armor,
1 sleep arrow
MW heavy steel shield
We take the stuff back to town, and swing by Lazare’s. We’re shocked to see Kullen, Smenk’s right-hand-man there. He just sits there glaring at us until Balabar himself comes in, amidst a press of people and much ado. He lets us know he wants to talk. However, Nineve is feeling feisty and is in no mood to negotiate with the evil, dishonorable Balabar and his number 1 thug. We tried to calm her down, but she’d really whipped herself up into a frenzy. She’s actually being quite rude, so I was a little relieved when Balabar gave a slight nod, and Kullen knocked her out with one punch. I find it much easier to engage in civil negotiations when there’s not a madwoman screeching insults during the proceedings.
With that out of the way, we sit down to business. Basically, Smenk finds our presence in Diamond Lake inconvenient and wants us gone. We negotiate that we’ll leave if he gives us back the Harkness and keeps the Greymere Convent under his protection. He even offers to make a sizable donation to the church. Of course, I don’t really trust him, but he did hand over the deed to the Harkness, and truthfully, the goings-on in Diamond Lake are not our concern. With the Harkness in our possession, we can finally proceed to Kolbenborg and look for Alastar Land! We shake on the deal with Smenk and he leaves with his entourage.
A few minutes later, Lazare comes in, livid over reports that Balabar was in his establishment. We tell him about the deal we struck, and say our goodbyes. Lazare says he’s in our debt – the mine is running smoothly and they just found a large vein of silver! We congratulate him and part ways.
We still had quite a mess to clean up, so we recruited the newly-arrived acolytes to help us transport all the bodies from the observatory back to the Greymere Convent and put them to rest. While everyone is working on that, I swing by the garrison commander’s office one more time in the hopes that I can catch him in a better mood. I’m in luck, and I manage to convince him to send 6 of his men with us to Kolbenberg! We spend all night interring the bodies with the acolytes. In the morning, we all seem to have learned from our experiences, and it has made us stronger. I spent some extra time during my nightly trance pouring over those anatomical notes from Filge’s observatory, and I seem to have gained a new perspective on combat from them.
After congratulating each other for our spiritual growth, Sarek sent this message to the Temple:
Cleared graveyard of ghouls.
Punished grave robbers.
Observatory contained missing bodies, who were zombies.
Rogue necromancer Filge escaped.
Properly interred bodies.
To which they replied:
Please proceed to Kolbenberg.
Alistair’s report is now 2 weeks overdue.
Pity about the necromancer…
A pity indeed! At any rate, we clean up, pack up, and head out. Fortunately, one of the soldiers from the garrison was a sailor before he joined, so he’s confident he can get us safely across the lake. We set out.