Masks of Elemental Evil

Session 3 - The Believers and the Black Earth

After turning the goblin over to Harburk Tuthmarillar, who instructs his men to “hang him from a meat hook until we can try him”, the party spends the night in town before heading back out for the tomb where Pell saw the ghost. They reach the turn-off from the Long Road a little before mid-day and follow a winding path up a gently-sloping grass hill for about a mile before spotting a sharper slope overgrown with vines and grass. A stone door with rusted iron pull-ring stands in the hillside, slightly ajar, and the path they’re on leads up to it. A short distance away, another outcropping of rock has collapsed, resulting in a boulder and rubble strewn area.

Ivonne doesn’t like the look of the area and cautions the party to explore their surroundings before venturing into the tomb. Grimmers squeezes through the door, narrowly avoiding a stack of metal junk which had been placed behind it. If a bigger character had opened the door, the metal would have fallen making a loud noise and potentially alerting some enemy to the party’s presence.

The twins approach the rocky area and find themselves under attack by a foursome of goblins armed with crossbows who were perched hidden atop three of the larger boulders. The goblins retreat behind the boulders and out of sight as the party charges their position.

As they round the first of the boulders, they spot a large humanoid with features of both an ogre and an orc wielding a sharp battle axe. More goblins pop up from a second line of boulders, shooting at the party while the ogrillon wades in to melee with the barbarians.

The party drops the ogrillon in a single round, and the goblins, now leaderless, flee deeper into the hills. A few arrow shots take out a couple of their number, ensuring the others don’t get any ideas about coming back.

Returning to the tomb, they take a quick breather outside before making their way inside. Grimmers and London scout out the first room, a 30×30 square with a single stone table in the center, and a closed stone door in the center of the right wall. A spectral figure appears over the altar, warning them away as it must “guard my master’s rest”. When they refuse to leave, it attacks. To their horror, they find it resistant to most of their blows, but Zephyr’s wand of magic missiles puts an end to its unlife.

The next room is slightly smaller than this one, 20×20 square, with a single stone coffin in its center. In front of the coffin is a chest of wood banded with rusty iron. Moisture has ruined its contents: some old cloth and a waterlogged book. They open the coffin to find a skeleton clad in rusty chain mail and clutching a longsword which rises up into the air on its own and begins to attack them. It is put down quickly, and the party is disappointed to find nothing further of value within the coffin.

Persistence pays off after a thorough search of walls, floor, and ceiling. The chest is picked up to check beneath it and they notice something within rattles. A false bottom contains a pair of silver and electrum rings and a gold necklace and locket containing the portrait of a female half-elf. Satisfied with their haul, they decide to make their way to their second stop of the day: Tricklerock cave.

The party heads through the hills overland to reach the Larch path and then follows a gully between two hills to reach the entrance to the cave. The reason for its name is obvious as small trickles of water coming from inside the cave form a small stream leading deeper into the gully. Within is a large natural cavern, humid, with stalactites and stalagmites aplenty. Grimmer sets off to investigate and finds himself targeted by four very hungry stirges, three of which latch on to him and begin sucking his green goblin blood.

The party easily kills the stirges in a round of combat and Grimmers is patched up by Blaxx. They search around and find a small tunnel leading deeper into the earth, but no treasure or anything of interest among the rock formations in this room.

Grimmer once again gets called on to scout, and once again takes the brunt of nature’s wrath when he stumbles into a spider web running parallel to the tunnel’s floor. The sound of clacking chitin against stone announces the presence of 3 giant spiders who fall on him. Between their fangs and their poison, Grimmers is knocked unconscious, poisoned, and paralyzed. One of the spiders begins wrapping him up in a cocoon, while the others crawl down the walls of the tunnel towards his friends.

A vicious battle leaves the spiders dead and the party hurt. They decide to take a long rest in the cave, which is interrupted about halfway through the night as they hear voices outside. Six armored humans, three in leathers and three in full suits of plate enter the cave and are surprised to see the party. On their armor is etched a symbol: a triangle with a short vertical line rising from the inside of its base.

They claim to be adventurers based out of Beliard, but the party doesn’t buy it. They overheard part of the group’s conversation while they were entering, and they said that the Believers telling someone named Larrakh that there was treasure within this cave.

The group doesn’t appear to be looking for a fight, and sounded like they’d rather be elsewhere. They cede the rights to exploration of the cave to the party and make their way back out, heading deeper into the hills to the east.

After resting overnight, the party wakes to the sound of howling wolves in the gully outside. Blaxx goes out and runs into a wolf, failing a Handle Animal check (his background/race allows him to handle wild animals as domestic ones). The wolf closes growling, but is distracted by some dried meat. Some of its packmates arrive, and Blaxx’s second check is enough to change their reaction to neutral/disinterested. The wolves lope off, and the party makes their way back to Red Larch.

Just as they arrive in town, there’s the sound of a crash as a sinkhole opens up along the side of the Long Road, swallowing some of the town’s children. Minny Mhandyver criest out “Pell!” and runs to the edge only to have the loose ground collapse further, spilling her in as well. Ivan runs over while unstowing his rope, and he, too, falls in, rope and all.

Minny has hit her head and is bleeding from a headwound. One of the boys who fell has twisted an ankle, but the rest of the group are okay, having fallen on the mound of soft earth which collapsed. Ivan ties the rope to his bear trap and tosses it up toward the 10 ft opening above. With some help from the party above, Minny and the others are lifted up one by one.

Ivan looks around the large cavern he’s fallen into and sees a tunnel leading north, and a closed stone door set into a side wall. While some of the townsfolk above are insisting that the party leave the area alone, talking strange gibberish about how the stones must not be disturbed, Harburk Tuthmarillar comes up and gives his blessing to the party to explore the area, in the interest of public safety.

They do so, opening the door and finding a long, straight hallway running under the center of town. After eighty feet or so, they find two large bas relief carvings of dwarves set into the walls. These slide easily revealing two other halls leading north and south. The south one is a dead end, but the north one winds up and around to a room where some giant rats are making a meal out of some recently deceased corpses wearing the clothes of travelers. Cut into the forehead of each victim is a symbol: the same triangle symbol they saw on the “adventurers” out at Tricklerock cave!

Continuing past this room, the hall opens into another room where a a single black rock about a foot around floats waist-high in the center of the chamber. Ivan experiments with the stone, grabbing it, and finding it has no weight. Moving it out of the center 10 feet of the room causes its weight to return. At the rest of the party’s urging he puts it back as close to where he found it as possible. It remains floating in the air where he leaves it.

From here, the tunnel turns back south and they enter a large 50×50 room where a wooden frame supports the pieced-together crumbling statue of a dwarf. A plaque with a date 12 years prior commemorates the discovery of the statue. At its base are what appears to be some sort of sacrificial offerings: copper, silver, and gold coins, a few semi-precious gems, and a mastercraft dagger with a star motif engraved on the blade and a blue-leather wrapped hilt. On its pommel is engraved the word/name Reszor. Grimmers pockets the dagger and the coin and gems are collected into the party fund.

Two stone doors are set in the west and east walls, and London opens the one leading back toward the entrance, finding a similar-sized room on the other side. Across the room, a bald half-orc stands with his back toward them, peering through a slit in another door. Chains descend from the ceiling on that side, and are attached by rings to iron rods mounted in the wall. A young boy of perhaps 12 lies in the center of the room near a stone obelisk, covered in rocks of varying sizes and moaning softly.

London draws an arrow, firing it into the half orc, slaying him instantly and pinning him against the door. The party begins to remove the rocks from the boy who begs them not to, his punishment isn’t over and his dad will be mad. They find out from him that he’s being punished for not delivering a note from his dad to one of the other Believers, who are a group of elders in town who know about this place and worship the “delvers” who came before them. The boy knows of a few of the Believers besides his dad: Albaeri Mellikho, Ilmeth Waelvur, and Ulhro Luruth.

He is scared of the party, and begins to run away down the hall. London warns him to stop, and then shoots him with an arrow when he doesn’t, slaughtering the already-weak and half-starved child.

An argument breaks out, with London defending his actions by saying “I warned him to stop, he didn’t listen”. Zephyr and Ivan are appalled at the slaughter of an innocent, while the others just kind of shrug their shoulders. Blaxx is more interested in covering up the act to preserve the party’s reputation, and grabs crossbow bolts from the half-orc’s quiver, replacing the arrows in both of the bodies with bolts.

They head back to the western door in the previous chamber and open it. At the end of the hall is another door, lit by a lantern on the ground. Next to it, an old man sits, whittling on a piece of wood, but he jumps up and opens the door, preparing to flee as he notices the party. He’s taken down by more missile attacks.

They enter the next room to find a huge chamber, over 100 feet in length and width and with a twenty foot ceiling. In the center is a single lit lantern, its illumination failing to reach the walls. Those with darkvision can make out flat stone biers along the north and south wall, upon which lie the skeletons of long-dead dwarves. Several large standing stones are spread throughout the room.

As they enter the room to explore, there’s the chant of a spell from above, and they look up to see an armored human standing upside down on the ceiling just inside the lantern’s light. On his splint mail’s chest is the same triangle symbol carved into the corpses’ heads. His spell finishes, and a loud thunderclap echoes as party members near the door are caught in a shatter spell. Crossbow bolts from the room behind them are fired at those still in the hallway as a voice from behind calls out “We are the Bringers of Woe, come to reward your curiosity.” They are a group of six leather-wearing warriors, each also wearing the triangle symbol.

The party enters the room, seeking cover from the priest behind a group of the standing stones to the north center. They hear the sound of someone stomping on the ground three times, and the stones they were hiding behind, along with all of the others in the room begin floating ten feet off the ground. Exposed, several party members are again struck by a shatter spell.

The priest casts slow, catching the entire party, but only a couple of them fail their save. He wades into melee with his warhammer, calling out to the power of something called “The Black Earth”. The Bringers of Woe fail to live up to their name and are brought down quickly. The priest is surrounded and cut down on the following turn, and the party loots the bodies. They search the dwarven skeletons, finding nothing of interest, and then locate a secret door in the northwest corner of the room which leads to a trapdoor within a shed on the property of Ilmeth Waelvur’s business.

Returning to the sinkhole, they explore the northern tunnel and find it leads to a hidden opening in the wall of Mellikho’s quarry outside of town. After experimenting with the floor stomp which causes the rocks to fall again, Blaxx devises a plan to crush the bodies of both the half-orc, who Ivan recognizes as the town simpleton who sells pickles in the market, and the boy London killed under the rocks in the large room. They do so, and then return to the constable, reveal what they learned about the Believers and the dead travelers. Harburk Tuthmarillar promises a full investigation, warns the three Believers not to leave town, and assigns one of his deputies to watch each of them until he can send to Waterdeep for a lord magistrate.

Raymond approaches the party, troubled by this talk of cults. He seeks to recruit them to work as agents of the lord’s alliance, and reveals his true mission in Red Larch. He was to meet up with a delegation of important dwarves from Mirabar who were making their way here, but the group has disappeared. They were last seen in Beliard, nearly two weeks before. With at least two groups of nefarious individuals in the area (the Black Earth and the Crawling Chaos), he’s worried that something foul has transpired, and is keen on getting to the bottom of it.



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