It no longer mattered where.
An earthquake some months ago had spooked the residents to a degree, and many were seeking the solace and comfort of the bottom of glasses, usually full to start with. On one night, you all sat around the common room listening to the Tipsy Harper himself strum a tune as he leaned against the fireplace. The door opened and a stiff wind brought in a man cloaked in black. He was mongrel looking and scruffy. His hard gaze scanned around the room, dwindling on an odd man with fire for hair, but not long enough to alarm him. He had resisted attempts to talk to him by Xavi and Ahrima, and he eventually left as abruptly as he had come in.
That’s when the real trouble started.
Moments later, explosions rocked the outer wall and the door to the Inn rattled in fright. Thugs in black leather armor burst into the common room a moment later, and were looking for prisoners. The patrons of the Inn, and you.
The battle was vicious, but short lived, and eventually the party won out. More voices could be heard from the other side of the smoldering front door, and you looked through the cracks to see the town in flames. Men walked down the road, and the man in black suddenly joined them, walking over from off to your left. They addressed him as Lord Rangus. He mentioned that Knuckles will continue his bolder assault for a bit more and they should help those from the guild in the Inn. They nodded and more thugs headed your way. You briefly wondered who Knuckles was as you disposed of those that entered quickly enough, and headed into the kitchens. The large window was smashed, and you ducked out of it, into an adjoining alley rather than using the obvious front door. You wandered through town only to find more of the thugs, who seemed to be members of the Guild of Pain. They had some odd summoners dressed in robes with them as well, with embroidered 9’s across the collars. Another battle occurred, and the summoners managed to bring some demons into the fray. You killed the summoners and to your relief, the demons disappeared. After winning the battle, you backtracked to the Inn. Across the street from the Inn you encountered a strange dwarf who introduced himself as Ongo Bluntfoot- he was the forgemaster. You tried to get to his forge only to encounter Rangus, and associate of his named Varok, a host of their guild members and Knuckles, who turned out to be a Hill Giant. You were just about to attack when Varok stiffened- possessed by some sort of power. Rangus differed to it, calling it Lord Gravik, and he instructed the Demonologists to ‘contain you’ You fought your way out, but by that time, they had headed west out of what remained of the burning town, with a good portion of the town’s population.
You headed back to the Forge to lick your wounds, and plan the next steps.
Ongo mentioned that he would check around and be back. He returned some time later with what he had found. The fires were now under control. Many townsfolk were missing. Among them was the Mayor, Quillian by name, and the local Priest, Argnak Bittlevein. Ongo’s apprentice too was among those taken. As you discussed what to do, the door opened and a huge man walked in. He was covered with odd tattoos, wielded a massive 2 handed hammer, used a net as some sort of cloak and went by the name Makhal. Xavi noted that he was a Hunter, of the Hammers – those dedicated to bringing criminals and fugitives to justice, and his goal was to find a mage that had stolen something. He did not say what. He mentioned a crazy lady named Lynierie was causing trouble near the well, and you headed off the next morning after noting the large man was headed into the well to investigate a lead. You found the woman easily enough and she mentioned she had seen some men go into the mayor’s house along with some strange noises and lights coming out of the well. The local guards discounted the well stories.
You rationalized the wagons moved slow, and it would not hurt to peek in the Church and the mayor’s house before heading off in rescue.
The church was empty- and looked as though the priest did not put up a fight. Aside from the dust, there was nothing that you could find.
The mayor’s house was a different story.You found 2 very strange things in the Mayors house- A secret room off his bedroom that contained some sort of odd laboratory equipment and machinery. In the equipment, you found 3 half-filed potions that glowed. The other thing were a handful of dead people, purposely burned or maimed in such a way to prevent ID without some sort magical means. The Cleric travelling with you at the time was able to speak to the dead in a very limited fashion, and confirmed it was the Mayor who strapped him to the machine and likely killed him. You informed the head of the Millitia who was rebuilding the western pallisade, but he was unconvinced and offered to send a militiaman to investigate and confirm your accusations. The Mayor to his recollection, while only a few months in his office had given no indication he was up to no good.
With this info you headed across town, where you encountered an elf named Fahod and a human woman named Delterria. They had seen the smoke, and Fahod had a report of a slow moving caravan heading to the northwest.
They joined the group and you boldly headed out after the wagon train in hopes to free the prisoners.
It did not go as planned.
You caught up in the night, and noted there were 4 wagons. Each was pulled by a Hill Giant, and Ahrima noted a larger wagon ahead. Fahod scouted around as well, and eventually he was spotted. After a lengthy battle- complete with Torturers, Demonologists, Demons, Wolves and Hill Giants, you were captured. Your equipment was taken from you and the wagons rolled on. They eventually came to a stop at the foot of some mountainous fortress. Xavi recalled a map from the Mayor House, and this was likely The Asylum of Jelloc the Mad. Sacs were stuffed over your head and you were led into a series of prison cells. Chargrin was led elsewhere, though where, you did not know. Fahod managed to sharpen a loose bone into a makeshift lockpick, and freed himself. A guard stopped to talk to the Mayor as Fahod relocked his own cell, and the muted conversation between guard and mayor made you uncomfortable. Delterria galmoured him with a burst of her will. And he fell near Ahrima. He grabbed the keys unlocked his door and looked around—after freeing the remainder of the party. You found the priest too, and unlocked the remaining prisoners hoping to get everyone back safely. You kept a careful eye on the mayor and tried to fight your way out with what limited equipment you could find. You discovered a drainage gate, but it seemed to be guarded by some hill giants and grunts. You headed back to the cells, trying to keep everyone quiet. You were unwilling to simply surrender your equipment, and you fought your way around to look for it, as well as for any hint of Chargrin. You had found a prisoner in a separate section across the main hall form your area – all by himself, and Fahod freed him, after dodging a large stinky slobbering creature he could not identify. The prisoner’s name was Razor, and he mentioned he was, up until a few days ago, involved with both of the guilds you now faced. He had some general information as to what was going on and promised to update you if you all managed to get out of here. He mentioned he was put there after Varok had finally framed him after Razor had killed Varok. Twice. Razor did not know how Varok kept returning from the dead. Rangus put him here with the otyugh, likely assuming he’d eventually die or be eaten. A gong sounded loudly a few times, and you heard shouts of a retreat ‘through the gate’ Oddly, men ran deeper into the Asylum. The townsfolk fleed back into the room with your cells, and you let them go. At least they would be in one location. The whole place cleared quickly of guild members, allowing you to explore a bit more fully and you stayed put until it got quiet. You eventually found another machine like the one in the Mayor’s house (who still pleaded that he knew nothing about it) but this one was much bigger. Big enough where you thought it might have been the cause of the recent earthquakes. A pile of ash lay below it and Razor scooped it up, stuffing it into Ahrima’s backpack. His look grew deep in thought, and he nodded, as a plan slowly formed in his mind. He said he had a contact who could likely put this book back together, but would take some time to find her. You did not inquire further and looked around some more. In what looked like Rangus’s or Varok’s room, you found Chargrin stuffed into a Efreeti Bottle that had been locked into a chest and sealed. The rest of the exploration revealed a strange archway in what appeared to be a large room recently used as a barracks. Razor explained it was a gateway, and he could reconfigure it to get you to the outskirts of Tall Meadow. You agreed and after a moment of fiddling with some symbols, the magic came alive. You stepped through, anxious for a glass of ale and some rest.
In the distance lay the town, and the first thing you noticed was a series of tents on the eastern side. A flag with a roaring white lion on a blue background graced them, and Razor frowned.
“Lion Alliance…” he uttered in annoyance as he quickly turned his robe inside out. It gave him more of a pilgrim look, and you walked slowly to town. You were greeted mostly there by a contingent of soldiers all wearing the blue of the Alliance. Captain Rollick headed it up and a Sergeant Yann galloped west on his order. They allowed you in after the commander of the town militia vouched for your identity.
Argnak headed to the church and the Mayor went to his house. You escorted him back to be certain that was where he went, and showed him the machine. He was as surprised as you had been when you had discovered it. Someone had moved the bodies, though there was no indication as to whom, and you guessed someone had buried them. Razor stepped out to summon an Imp to keep an eye on him, and you headed to the Tipsy Harper. You sat in the common room and Razor told you his tale, and what he had thought. He knew little of the machine, but that it somehow pulled magic, or potentially life, out of objects and put them into drinkable form, where the drinker would gain that power. He confirmed the possibility of the earthquake being triggered by the machine in the Asylum, but they had not figured out the correct settings so far. The order to retreat indicated they had likely discovered it. He stiffened suddenly with his eyes going wide, and looked afar- his imp had been destroyed. How and whom was not known, but you had a few good guesses. The mayor’s house was first on your list for the morning, but you were exhausted. You had a well deserved rest, and the morning you headed out to the Mayor’s house. Razor stayed behind to find a lead on his contact and he would find a way to contact you should he discover something. You found the bloodstain and noted an odd footprint. Part claw, but not like any of the demons that you had seen to date. There was also another body, and Fahod managed somehow to speak with him. It mentioned his name was Domenick Allensar, was a guard; a Corporal; in the Lion Alliance and Mrs Vardenel, who had been reported missing, was waving him into the house. He didn’t recall too well what had happened next, and he mentioned for you to tell Sargeant Yann he’d be late. You imagine he was killed; quickly at that, since you saw little to no blood. You decided to check in on the crazy dwarven smith, Ongo. He gave you some odd silver potions and you thanked him. His offer to tweak weapons still stood if you found some odd materials about. You headed back to the Inn and planned what to do next in the common room. You chatted with the barkeep, Waylan, and he indicated a note for you had arrived only shortly before you entered. It was from the Mayor indicating you should come back for he found something odd. You were going to go there first thing in the morning.
You had rested, and set out for the Mayor’s house again. The door was slightly open when you arrived. Also as you arrived, a Lion Alliance Patrol headed toward you. The house suddenly exploded in a conflagration of fire, smoke and debris. Fahod was caught in the blast, and nearly died. Ahrima, Delterria and Chargrin managed to survive with little harm done, and Xavi evaded the entire blast.. The Patrol quickly arrived and the Corporal, Dominick Allensar, said for the patrol to arrest you on suspicion of murdering the Mayor.
You noted that the Corporal looked well for being dead, though he denied that he knew what you were talking about. Rather than risk getting the whole Lion Alliance after you, you surrendered. The Corporal let you keep your equipment, and they marched you back to their makeshift base. They put you in a holding pen—it was clearly not meant for anyone with lock picking or brute force, and you waited until Captain Rollick returned. A rider galloped up from the south as the Captain returned at the same time from the east. Everyone seemed to converge on the cage and in the end, the Captain agreed to leave it to the Gods. It seems the rider from the south brought word of Ankhegs burrowing out to destroy the farms to the south. The Captain tasked you with killing them off. If you survived, it means the Gods judged you innocent. It raised some protests with the Corporal but in the end, the judgment by the higher ranking officer stood. You were led to the farm, and set free, with a large contingent of the Alliance watching. You defeated the giant bugs and did not even burn the farms or crops. The Captain congratulated you while Allensar fumed. After dismissing the Corporal, Sergeant Yann and The Captain mentioned he had been acting strange recently. If you could discover why, it would be helpful. You mentioned he was dead, but they did not believe you fully. You thanked him for the freedom and headed back to the Inn. Again. You did manage to bring the Ankheg shells back to Ongo’s forge first though, thanks to a wagon left by the farmers when they had fled the ankheg attacks. Ongo mentioned bone or chitin was not what he and Molly (his Hammer) could work with, but there was a smith in Flatlands – Ammin by name, who he heard could make armor from this stuff. You passed through the center of town again, only to find Lynierie rambling about people reported missing coming out of the well, and odd noises and lights. It was getting late, but you made a commitment to look into it in the morning. When you got to the Inn, Razor had left a note telling you to meet him in the old wizard’s tower. He had found a potential lead.
The next day you returned to the square. Oddly, Lynierie was there to meet you, and you headed down. You could barely make out her head as you landed in calf high water. It bubbled and gush from places unknown, and Chargrin looked very unhappy. The caverns were damp, and you discovered little about the ‘pod people’ you had thought were living here. In fact, it was simply a series of caverns filled with knee deep water. The passage led north, close to an aggressive air vent, and after Chargrin pulled in some stone to give you some protection, you headed through a crawl-able tunnel. It led to a cave, and in the center of the moderate sized room was a single tree that you thought quite odd. Delterria identified it as a hemlock, though how it got here was anyone’s guess. Fayod tripped over a large hammer as he wandered about, and closer inspection of the tree revealed a net of some sort. They were clearly the Hunter’s that you had met back in the Forge. Further exploration revealed a pair of Ropers in a cave to the north, and they were a tough fight. The noise brought some curious onlookers ; some men that looked to be guards of some sort. You did not get a good look at them entirely, and when you followed them, the battle continued. Delterria cut them off with a stinking cloud and a clatter in the room with the tree revealed a dwarf, emerging from the crawling tunnel you had come down as well. It seems that Lynierie had sent him down after you. His name was Flint, and he was looking up Ongo- an old acquaintance. He was a cleric of the god Moradin, and you welcomed him to the group. He was able to dispel the polymorph on the tree and the Hunter Makhal once again stood before you. You explored further south with him, and the guards you had discovered earlier shouted in alarm. “Kill them!” a voice shouted from the darkness to the south, and Chargrin let some fireballs fly in the direction of the voice which ended the battle even before it began. Makhal took the head of the now thoroughly charred mage, along with an odd being he called a quadrone. He mentioned one of the things he had discovered was that the wizard you had cooked who he called Quargo, had rented a room in the Tipsy Harper. Groaning, you headed back to explore this piece to the end.
You crawled out of the well, and some of the Alliance was there to ‘greet’ you. They wanted to know what you did to cause the small quakes, but you professed ignorance. He let you go, but followed you back to the Tipsy Harper. You were followed by one of the Alliance grunts, but paid him little heed.
You managed to hear some men chatting at the bar as you pulled up a table, and through various displays of drunken acting and magic, you managed to determine that 2 men entered the old wizards tower. A man in a black cloak that sounded like Razor, and someone from the Lion Alliance. The old man mentioned he heard a fight, and your bets were on razor winning.
You then bought a room close enough to Quargo’s and Fahod convinced the lock to open. Not much was left, and it looked like it had already been searched. A note in the pocket in a clothing chest revealed the following:
The quadrone from Mechanus is of significant value to the Guild of Pain given its extra planar origin. My guild will pay handsomely for it. I will send an agent, though I regret I cannot tell you whom. You may see when ‘he’ arrives. You will know him by the following questions that he will ask:
“How many hounds do you have?” (your answer is 5)
“Are they Mongrels or Purebreeds?” (your answer is Purebreeds)
Do not think to cross the Guild or I’ll drag you in and perform the Questioning myself. I promise if it gets to that, you’ll be pleading to the Lady of Misery herself for my mercy.
You rested on that, and the next morning headed to the wizards tower. You imagine at one time the tower to have been 6 or 7 stories tall, but all that remains now was a husk- bits of cobbled stone, some floor, and an occasional wall that reminded you of a house of cards. Only the ground floor seemed intact. The doors were unlocked, but closed, and you opened them. It revealed a rubble filled room with a smashed set of stairs and an odd fountain. Some scraps of paper lingered about, as did a burned tome, which you took for reference later. The things on it did not bode well, and they spoke of powerful undead, poison, and an artifact of dome sort called the Skull of Tenzik Chillwing. You noticed someone had pushed a dagger into the fountain’s fresco and pushing on the figure of a woman revealed a hidden set of stairs. It spiraled downward in the center of the room and you headed down, noticing the chill that rose up from it. At the bottom was a moderate room. Across from the stairwell was a large gate in the shape of a skull, and it had been wedged open with a wooden staff. Scribed in letters above was ‘The Gate of Sorrows”. In the corner of the room lay a body of an Alliance Grunt. He had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest atop some sort of blackened pedestal. Some scraps of paper lay nearby with ominous words about the Gate that stood open before you. The party had asked Fahod if he could talk to him since he somehow managed to talk to the other dead alliance guard back in the mayor’s house. Fahod shrugged, and stepped forward…