Grand Duchy 77

Grand Duchy of Adventure

Session 77
January 16 - January 27, 2016

The Quiet Valley

Loshdain 23 Yarthmont

The Ruined Shrine

Valley of Hutaaka Ruined Shrine.JPG
The ruined shrine in the quiet valley
Iris sits up as Draven finishes his healing magic on her. Griffin and Marcel stand above them in a defensive formation while Stephen, Ree and Remar stand off to the side guarding the horses. Draven stands and quickly scans the surrounding area, spotting some of the fleeing undead menaces some distance away. His initial urge is to chase after them and destroy them, send their unholy energies back to the abyss, but he realizes that they are too far away now and who knows what else might lay in wait. 

Stephan calls out, “It looks like Duke here took a nasty claw from one of those fleeing undead,” he motions toward Iris’s dun mount. Before Draven can comment though, Remar steps up and heals the horse.

Remar looks at Draven and nods, “Save your talents for when they are really needed,” the Alphatian mage says to the priest. “So that shrine there,” Remar looks at the crumbling stone ruins no more than 10 yards away, “Do you think that is some sort of nexus of evil sanctity or what?”

“Well, they spend little time in seminary teaching us about ancient heresies, but I think it makes sense to at least look inside now. Something drew those creatures here, or possibly created them, and a long time ago.” With that, Iris eagerly in tow, Draven heads to the entrance by which the undead boiled out of the ancient ruin.

Walking inside, he’s hit with a bout of nausea, just a general feeling of unwellness. “Oof, this place. After all this time, it remains sacred to heathen gods, enough so that I feel a profound disconnect from the true gods. I… I can’t stay in here.” With that he stumbles outside and retreats some distance, seeking the familiar commune with those to whom he is faithful. “You’ll have to look around inside without me, I fear. If we had the time, I would consecrate this place anew, and bring true faith to this valley.”

He sits down on a mossy rock or chunk of building stone nearby and takes deep breaths, centering himself again.

Griffin checks on the priest. “You okay? Before Iris got us sidetracked, we were going to try and hustle along.”

Draven nods, “Aye, I’ll be alright in a moment. Those undead weren’t aligned with this fane, I suspect they were drawn there by the sanctity of the place, however false, and were defiling it by their mere presence. I hope to run into fewer of that sort as we delve deeper into this valley.” 

Griffin looks at Iris. “And you, young lady…” He stops, as she looks up at him, eyes wide. “Wow, almost sounded like my dad there.” He takes a deep breath. “Listen, Iris, I want to check things out as much as you do”, or almost as much, at least, “but it seems like checking things out could be a bit more dangerous than we might have first thought. Let us first get a secure place from which to explore the valley and prepare for the inevitable arrival of our nemesis.” He pauses, then moves on, “then, when it is safe, we can explore to your heart’s content.”

Iris listens to Griffin and nods her head toward him, but does not answer. She follows Griffin back away from the pile of stones and moss that was once a holy site to immortal patrons not aligned to Draven’s Church. The site itself is not very big and most of it can be seen without actually entering due to most of the walls being toppled over. A quick circle of the area does not reveal anything more than a tumble of rocks giving the hint that it was once something more. Satisfied that there is nothing else to see here, the Company moves on, heading up the ancient road toward what looks like another abandoned village.

The ground in the valley is generally flat and even, though the poor condition of the road sometimes slows travel down. The grasslands to either side of the road are marked with scattered rocks and stones from nearby structures, brambles and the occasional rainwater gulley, making travel off the road not the quickest either. Griffin and Iris agree that it is too dangerous to try to move the horses very fast, that and the fact that the Company has more people than mounts anyway.

The Village and the Well

The sun beats down on the Company as they move northward toward the next ruined settlement. Though the mountain air is cool, sweat drips down everyone’s faces. The horses, and some hikers too, are breathing heavily with the combination of thin mountain air and hot sun. While the Company stops briefly to let the horses get some water from a roadside stream, a strange, distant wail fills the air. The sound seems to come from all directions, probably echoing off the high cliff walls. The unnerving wail is like no animal any of the Company have ever heard before. The sound fades away after just a few moments to be replaced by the eerie, dead silence of the valley.

The sun is well past its zenith when the Company pulls up to the next village at the intersection of three roads. From the outskirts, this village looks just like the first one encountered, though there are quite a few more intact buildings at this location. A broken stone fountain lies on the northwest side of the village, where the two other roads lead away from the settlement. Shallow water covers the ground in a 20 foot circle around the crumbling stone fountain. 
A ruined fountain

“This is harder going than I expected from the greenery. I almost miss the rocky terrain below - at least there a fellow could breathe.” Draven surveys the edges of the water near the fountain, looking for possible places where mishaps could occur, and any notion of whether the water is safe to drink. “I’m hoping fed by these underground streams, this water will be nice and cool by comparison. What do you think, Griffin? Are we safe resting here a while and catching our breaths?”

Griffin grunts. “Yea, it’s probably okay to stop for a bit. There’s an outflow over around that side, under the surface - probably best to water the horses and drink there.” He straightens up. “Okay, folks, let’s take a break. Remar, you and I are on watch while the rest ‘freshen up.’ Then we’ll cycle through. Let’s take a chance to grab a bite as well. We should still have some of that Elvish waybread.”

Watching from their place near the broken fountain at the intersection of the three roads, the Company scans the ruined village. There looks to have been 20 or so stone buildings in the village, though only about 4 or 5 of them still resemble buildings anymore. Most of the structures are merely piles of stone and rubble. No sound or movement comes from the village besides the mountain breeze occasionally blowing through the deserted streets. Iris looks longingly at the village, obvious to everyone that she desperately wants to go explore it and see what ancient secrets it holds, though holding herself back for the safety of the Company.

The horses drink deeply from the water of the spring and everyone takes a moment to refill their canteens and water skins, taking turns resting on small patches of tall, soft grasses, doing their best to hide from the rays of the overhead sun. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Stephan looks up then to the west, “Well, I guess it’s a lot better than that damn rain. Sky looks clear, shouldn’t rain anytime soon again, maybe we will stay dry for a spell.” Remar chuckles quietly to himself at this statement, smiling smugly. Ignoring him, Stephan continues, “It looked like there was another settlement a little farther to the west, along the road leading to the other side of the valley. We should be able to make it there before nightfall. What’s the plan? Camp out in the open, try to find a building with some walls and a roof over it? I know that we could really use a night of good, comfortable rest before we press on. Our stores are getting low, but there has to be something to eat in this valley right?” 

The Company’s food supplies were running low, but there did seem to be at least some forage to be found in the valley and Griffin and Remar had managed to take two of the black birds that had been flying over the wall at the entrance to the valley, so that was something extra. Draven had mentioned that his faith could provide the party with food if it was absolutely necessary, though everyone hoped it would not come to that.

Bemused by Stephan’s questions, Draven shakes his head. “I was too worried about getting this far to know what we do next. But I agree, a bit of shelter and a modicum of safety would be enormously beneficial.”

Marcel, Ree and Remar all nod their heads in agreement with Draven’s suggestion of some potential comforting rest. “What’s wrong with these buildings here,” Ree mentions, shaking her head toward the nearby village. There is enough light left in the day that we could easily check the entire area out before picking one of the buildings to hole up in.” Remar shakes his head and steps up, “Yea, take the rest of the day clearing this area out to rest tonight makes more sense to me than hiking up to the next village and then checking it out and setting camp up in the dark.” He pauses for a moment, leaning over and rubbing his lower back, “unless of course we’re camping out in the open again tonight. I’d really like some walls around me tonight. We could really use it.”

Griffin frowns. “Hmm, I was thinking that being close to the buildings would increase the chance of undead. But if we can do a thorough sweep of this area first, I agree it’s a good idea to camp here. Good thinking, Ree. Let’s get on that. Make sure and keep an eye out for anything edible while we’re at it - we can always use supplies coming in.” Griffin quickly divides the troop into buddies and they are soon heading out to their various tasks.

Remar stays back to watch over the horses while everyone else spreads out through the ruins of the town, checking for any signs of danger. The Company breaks up in pairs: Griffin and Ree, Draven and Marcel, and Iris and Stephan. They move through the area slow and quiet, being as careful as they can be. Though the village is no more than 20 or so ruined buildings, the process takes several hours. 

While searching, Iris comes across several broken but relatively intact pieces of eating utensils and a large fragment of what must have been a serving platter or other plate type dish. They are covered with a thick layer of dirt and grime so she brushes them off gingerly and shoves them in her pack.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the village, Griffin and Ree examine a mostly crumbled structure. Checking under several large pieces of rock to make sure there are no hidden tunnels or anything, Griffin suddenly catches a whiff of sweet flowers. Looking around, he does not see any flowers around, and Ree is downwind some 10 yards away, looking around the front edge of the “structure.” He continues poking around under the rocks, looking for anything out of the ordinary or dangerous and after a moment, he finds it. 
Griffin finds a pendant

While searching, Griffin dislodges a chunk of earth that had been stuck to the underside of a stone slab. When the chunk hits the ground, the smell of flowers washes over him again and he sees a faint glint of metal sticking out from the chunk. Carefully he reaches for it and picks it up. The chunk is not much larger than one of Ree’s sling stones but he can tell that there is something inside the dried mud. Rubbing it with his fingers carefully reveals what looks like a small, silver colored flower. A pin or pendant of some type. As he removes more of the dirt from it, he is sure that the smell is coming from it.

Griffin turns the piece of jewelry over in his hands, studying it carefully and noting its excellent craftsmanship. As he starts to consider its value, not counting the obvious magical flower scent, he is distracted by Remar shouting to everyone from back by the well.

Nasty Horseflies

The rest of the Company hears Remar’s shouts as well and everyone quickly converges on him as he frantically calls everyone over. He is waving his silver knife out in front of him, standing over Draven’s horse, Mr. Softie. The horse is laying on its side, panting heavily and twitching its legs occasionally. “Stirges!” Remar exclaims to the rest of the Company. “I was watching out for anyone approaching from a distance and must not have seen the little buggers sneaking up! I saw Mr. Softie fall over and when I ran to him, two stirges flopped around on the ground. I smashed one but the other flew off that way,” he points toward the south with knife. “I called out to you guys and then found three more, one on Chai, Roxanne and Ruby. I remembers what you told us to do,” looking at Stephan, “and I took care of them. I checked the other two and Alpha and Duke seem ok, though one of you might want to look over them again. All four of the horses that were bitten are bleeding pretty bad and I haven’t had a chance to do anything about it yet, was going to hit them all with a low power Healing spell, figure that will stop the bleeding.”

“Well okay, get to it.” He turns to the others, “Stephan, Marcel, keep an eye out for more of those things. Iris, you double-check Alpha, I’d check Duke. Draven, if you could help Remar? Remember folks, when we find our treasure haul, it’s these horses that’ll carry it out of here.” Griffin grumbles. “I’m sorry guys, I should have had Remar put up his magical camp mists before we started searching. I think it would have protected the horses.” He heads to check out Duke. “Ree, remind me to do that in the future.”

Everyone pauses for a moment, considering Griffin’s statement about having to haul out whatever treasure the Company finds at the end of their quest and whether the horses will be able to do that at all, assuming that food and supplies can also somehow be replenished along the way. They had left Verge on the morning of the 19th, just 4 days ago, but the were not at the end of the quest yet and nearly out of food. 

Shaking off these thoughts, Remar moves quickly toward Mr. Softie and kneels next to the downed horse. He speaks some arcane words and waves his hands over the beast then presses his hands into its soft flank. Mr. Softie snorts, shakes and then clambers to his feet awkwardly. Draven rubs under his chin and hands him a handful of soft clover he had pulled from the ground near the spring water. Remar then moves toward the other wounded horses and begins his healing magic ritual again. Draven offers to help, but Remar waves him off, “Brother, I’ve got this. I’m getting quite good at the healing as well, though I will never steal your spotlight, I promise. Save your divine gifts for when it is really important.” Draven defers to the Alphatian mage, though clearly he yearns to help out in the healing process. When he is done, Remar sits down hard on the ground. “That took more out of me than I expected. Mr. Softie was pretty drained so I hit him what I all that I had. The others weren’t as bad off, I think and may still need some more attention, but for now they should all be fine.”

Exploring the valley

Making Camp

After the horses are dealt with, the Company confers about the nearby village and decide upon camping out in a fairly sturdy looking two room building near the crossroads with a decent view of the spring and the two roads leading out. It would provide no good view of the road coming up from behind, but it should be easy enough to set a sentry that can watch that way if necessary. The building walls and ceiling should provide enough shelter that the camp can be made as comfortable as possible, the second room even providing a place for the horses to rest well and protected. 

With the campsite decided upon, everyone gets busy moving the horses and gear into the building and setting up camp. Marcel decides to take some time to cook up some soup from the blackbirds that were bagged earlier in the day. “It’s been some time since we had a hot meal,” he comments, “and blackbird soup is one of my family specialties!” Everyone quickly falls into their unspoken roles of camp setting while Remar rests quietly by the fire, resting up and rebuilding his mystical reserve of energy.

Giving the mage the time to recover, Draven considers whether to heal himself and Iris as well, and decides to wait until morning, lest the gods grow angry with his constant calling on them for help too frequently. “Once they have been properly thanked, in the morning, will be time enough,” he says to himself.

“While we rest and recover, we should really discuss what our next steps are. We’re here - if here is where we need to be - but what do we do now that we’ve arrived?”

“Well, it seems like there are three objectives for us here. There is searching for treasure, “ and he gives a nod towards Stephan, “learning more of the history of the area,” and he smiles at Iris, but then his face turns grim, “and dealing with the madman Golthar, who is hot on our heels.” He looks at his comrades. “It feels to me like we either need to dig in and prep for Golthar, or press on so we have a good picture of the whole valley. Surprises are a pain, unless we’re doing them.”

“So in the morning, we need to either be hoofing it down the valley,” and he bows to Iris regretfully,” or we go back to that wall and booby-trap the heck out of it.” He tosses a stick into the fire. “Anything obvious I’m overlooking? Any preferences?”

“Well, any treasure we lay hands upon might include items that would help us in dealing with the sorcerer on our trail. I think that needs to be our primary focus, as even with a bevy of traps at our disposal, there’s little to be gained from a stand up fight - if we can avoid it.”

Griffin nods, “Well, that certainly might work. Okay, then, let’s make that the plan. Head out early tomorrow down the valley - see what we can find to help us fend off Golthar.” He stretches. “We’ll keep foraging, try to help our supplies last as long as we can.”

The camp is set with no incidents. Remar extends himself and casts his Mystic Mist to cover the whole camp, including the area the horses are in and everyone beds down for what is hopefully a restful night’s sleep.

Cast of Characters: 

Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard 

Marcel Maasa homely but sincere wielder of spears aspiring to cooking greatness commanded by +Christian Blouin 

Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer 

Iris Vardaa Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure guided by +Alex Safatli 

and +Jason Woollard as The DM

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