The Harphaven Sagas

The Search for the Sage's Tomes - 2

We rejoin our intrepid trio in the Harphaven sewers.

Having just defeated a were-rat and its swarm of four-legged minions (a few of which were actually minions in game terms), the party examines the door at the north-east corner of the room. Ashandir determines that it is, in fact, a door, while Nalla points out the ancient rune written thereupon—which is shortly discovered to be a warding glyph of some sort that has been carefully defaced and thus deactivated. Quinn notes that the glyph was unlikely to have been deactivated from their side of the door, and further that it is about as old as the sage whose tomes they’ve been pursuing.

As the PCs examine the door, however, they neglect to notice a clattering of stonework from the other side of the room, and are nearly surprised when a swarm of demoniac lizard-insects bursts forth from the western section of the south wall. Kruthiks!

The Kruthiks swarm towards the party, who quickly draw up a defensive perimeter and fight off the arthropodes. The insect-things fall almost as soon as they’ve arrived, leaving only a half-dozen husks that rot unsettlingly quickly and the faint smell of acid. Rather than investigate the source of the kruthik incursion, the PCs continue - cautiously! - through the northeast door.

After crossing through a short, narrow hallway, they discover themselves within a large, high-ceilinged room. Sewer channels run through the room, a large channel entering from the west and splitting around an “island” in the middle before diverging into two channels that exit into cascades falling down to an unknown deeper pool. Piles of debris litter the room, but nothing catches the party’s attention except an obviously magical circle of ancient origin in the central “island”. As the PCs draw closer, dire rats and a were-rat burst from some of the debris piles. The former swarm to the attack, while the latter throws another vial of flaming oil which shatters against Quinn’s armour, setting the bard aflame.

A furious combat develops as a deadly were-rat rogue emerges from behind the party, flanking Ash with one of the dire rats under its control and dealing grievous damage. In response, Ash nimbly steps aside, then from a position of advantage sends carefully-guided arrows into both were-rats. Quinn dodges out of the pool of flaming oil but remains alight, slashing at one of the dire rats and exhorting his allies to greater feats of bravery. Nalla, meanwhile, grimly draws the attention of the dire rats away from her allies, striking at both as the party repositions against the northwestern wall.

After a desperate battle, the were-rat rogue is bloodied and retreats from the field, scuttling down one of the channels cut into the western wall. The other were-rat attempts to leap across the intermediate channels, but each time manages only to thud against the channel walls and knock itself into the sewer-water. It and the were-rats fight bravely, but are shortly slain.

The party notices after the battle’s chaos subsides that the two doors in the southwest corner of the room, one facing west and another double-doors facing south, are heavily boarded shut from this side. Ignoring the doors, the characters focus upon the runic circle in the middle: with timely help from the other party members, Quinn unlocks the magic within the circle, releasing a glowing cerulean portal in the middle of the room. Ash fearlessly reaches through the gate (after passing a torch through the thing, and removing it with no apparent harm), and extracts two of the books the PCs were sent to find. As the party searches the room, Quinn’s sharp eyes notice that the torch in a wall sconce in the northeast corner of the room doesn’t appear to be made of wood; upon investigating, he discovers that it is indeed key to a secret door.

Quinn thus discovers the sage’s inner sanctum, wherein he conducted his research: the third book lies open on a makeshift desk in front of an enchanted Echoing Songblade +1.

At this, the party pauses, torn between continuing further into the underground realm and returning to Nebelethos to claim their reward.

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The Doom of the Scarheads - 2

We rejoin our party of adventurers as they accompany the nervous trader and his caravan through a steady rain to the tiny village of Hillshadow. As a dismal drizzle falls upon the land, Ashandir and Nalla notice that something has been following the caravan. When Ash investigates, she finds nothing but the prints of a large carnivore, perhaps a dire wolf (or a gnoll, or something else?) but no sign of human bandit activity. The party accompanies the trade caravan to Hillshadow without further incident.

Upon arriving in Hillshadow, they find the place recently and repeatedly harried by bandit attack, and its inhabitants simply thrilled by the idea that the PCs have been grinding through the Scarhead Band like hot motorized knives through butter and that they intend to continue until said bandits are no more. Ash, Nalla, and Quinn find themselves unable to pay for food, drinks, or lodging in Hillshadow without an indebted villager buying it for them or a thankful shopkeeper offering it for free, and the grateful trade-caravan leader cheerfully pays Quinn 100gp of his local profits before the party leaves the next day to hunt down the bandits. Quinn insists that the party split their reward evenly, and donates the remainder (1gp) to a lucky beggar (who is perfectly thrilled by this result).

As the party ventures into the more heavily wooded region of the Bloodseep Hills, out of sight of Hillshadow and crossing through a cluster of ominous standing stones, they come under sudden fire from trained bandit archers and desperate outlaws wielding clubs charge in. The party keeps its cool and shifts to the eastern flank, dispatching the melee combatants while coming under only sporadically effective fire from a number of distant archers. Nalla charges to the southwest as the remaining bandits try to escape and her comrades try to keep up, and ends up in single combat with a fearsome gnoll which, once the tenacious goliath closed to melee range, dropped its greatbow and set to work with a vicious axe. Nalla hung on through sheer mental toughness, the rock-hard tenacity of her people, and the timely intervention of the bard Quinn, while the rest of the party harried the bloodied and enraged gnoll and eventually slew the thing after preventing its retreat. Nalla claimed its enchanted armour while Ash could make use of its magically-enhanced greatbow.

Continuing towards the bandit stronghold in the ever-heavier rain, Ash and Nalla catch sight of the watchtower on a dismal hill cleared of ground cover, its western side ruined by previous attack and its outer walls barely protected by makeshift wooden barricades. The elf ranger leads the party up a narrow gully out of sight of the tower’s ramparts, and discovers a small door built into the side which appears to lead into a basement or catacomb beneath the watchtower. The party enters, happy to be out of the rain and no longer under threat of crossbow fire from the walls.

Upon investigating, Ash nearly runs straight into a recently-woken zombie; she replies by piercing it with a pair of arrows, and Nalla finishes the job with a powerful blow from her long sword. The zombie, thus damaged, explodes in a shower of noxious fleshy giblets, but none of the party is affected and Nalla celebrates with a bite of boar jerky. Upon further investigating the catacombs, the party finds nothing but a large basement in the small dungeon’s southeast, crawling with zombies; as they approach, they hear a shrill scream and discover that the rain - and perhaps their actions - have provoked the catacomb’s zombies to advance on the bandit camp above.

Swiftly dispatching the zombies in the basement, the party advances up the stairs to the tower’s second floor as bandits and zombies slug it out at ground level. They come upon the third of the gnoll Scarhead brothers on the upper floor, his attention split between watching the undead menace below and keeping an eye on the tower’s stairwell, and the PCs quickly defeat his guards. The fearsome gnoll charges into combat, but leprous tentacles, attracted by the blood spilled by the dying bandits above, snake their way through the rotted tower and lash at the creature, restraining him even as he tries to fight off the adventurers. After a desperate three-sided battle, the party manages to slay the gnoll, destroy the tentacles, and drive off what remains of the bandit force. As the last of the undead things is vanquished, the rain abates to a steady drizzle.

Flushed with success (and having reached Level 2), the party returns to Harphaven without incident, claming their 300gp reward from the merchant Buruk Goldenhand and receiving his guarantee of a 10% discount on any item his caravans are able to provide. Other merchants passing through Harphaven, en route to the northern reaches of the Dragoncap Thanage and beyond, praise the PCs and shower them with free drinks, but other adventures await!

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The Doom of the Scarheads - 1

The campaign kicks off with Ashandir (the tight-lipped elven ranger), Quinn (the mercenary human bard), and Nalla (the hard-drinking goliath warden) looking for work in Harphaven’s seedy Spitted Frog tavern. They quickly find a job with a merchant cartel represented by a human named Buruk Goldenhand: a group of bandits calling themselves the Scarhead Band have stepped up their attacks on merchant caravans in the Bloodseep Hills, between Harphaven and the tiny village of Hillshadow. Goldenhand offers 300gp for the party to clear out the bandits, which he guesses at about 20 in number (most of those desperate but untrained rather than hardened killers), plus discounts on the cartel’s merchandise. When pressed for more gold, he protests that the bandits are eating into his income (and that of his associates), but suggests that if the bandits are killed or driven off, no-one’s going to ask questions about the goods they stole. This is enough to convince the party to take his offer.

All the while, a small group of poor- and desperate-looking travelers haunts the other side of the Spitted Frog’s taproom. They’re fairly obviously hoping to find help from a group of adventurers, but don’t look like they can pay anywhere near as well as Goldenhand and his associates. The party doesn’t make contact with them, and they seem somewhat awed by the sights and people of Harphaven—particularly rough-and-ready adventurers.

The party accompanies one of Goldenhand’s caravans up the trade road through the Bloodseep Hills, Ashandir scouting ahead to look for likely points of ambush. Two days later and about halfway to Hillshadow she finds one: a set of ruins astride the trade road with bandits hidden in their shadows. Summoning her companions, Ashandir leads an attack on the west-most group, her stealthy approach marred by Quinn’s loud stumble as he tries to follow Nalla through a thicket of brambles. Nalla and Quinn charge into combat with the western group’s leader as Ashandir lays down a hail of fire from her greatbow, slaying one crossbowman and driving the other from his position.

Another trio of bandits attacks from the eastern ruins and the caravan’s ox-drawn wagons trudge up the trade road; Ashandir shifts her fire and Quinn and Nalla engage the other bandit leader in the ruins of the north wall. After less than a minute of combat, the crossbowmen are all dead and Quinn convinces the remaining bandit to surrender.

The surrendered bandit tells the party that his group was intended to spy out caravans traveling north along the trade road, signaling a larger force further north and cutting off the caravan’s escape. Prompted by Quinn, he laid out a tragic life story: once apprenticed to a blacksmith in Hillshadow, he ran away after his parents died in a tragic house fire and was taken by brigands; since then he’s known no other life and feels the world owes him for the suffering he’s endured. The bandit fills in the party’s map with information about likely ambush points and the Scarhead Band’s base: a patched-up ruined watchtower to the northwest, just beyond visual range of the trade road. It is apparently built on rather extensive ruins but the bandits keep to its above-ground portion. After he complains about a group of three half-human monsters from the West – the Scarhead brothers – strongarming the band, Quinn lets him go after extracting a promise not to interfere. The now-disarmed bandit flees southward as quickly as his legs will carry him.

Quinn turns to the merchant trader running the caravan (whose sudden appearance during the first fight caused some consternation), and extracts a promise of 100gp from the caravan’s profits in Hillshadow for the party’s close escort. The trader is rather shocked by this demand, but concedes that it’s better than continuing unescorted as the party advances on the watchtower or spending a day more than necessary in the Bloodseep Hills as the PCs clear out the bandits ahead.

As the party scouts out the next ambush site, which they find empty, they hear a great crashing of foliage to the west of the road, heading southeast towards the first fight’s ruins (and the caravan). Ashandir and Nalla combine their knowledge of nature to determine that this noise is produced not by man or by beast, but by something in between. It speaks a language they cannot understand, but by the replies (in the common tongue) given by an accompanying human the PCs discover that it’s investigating the disappearance of the scouts. Nalla and Ashandir maneuver into a position of advantage at their rear; Quinn, mindful of his lack of stealth, stays a short ways behind to avoid spoiling their approach.

Ashandir opens the battle by downing two crossbowmen with a pair of arrows, opening the way for Nalla to charge in and engage the hardened bandit and the huge creature – now identifiable as a (somewhat hungry-looking) gnoll with a huge halberd – with swinging longsword. The bandits respond adroitly, surrounding the goliath and battering her under a rain of blows. Ashandir moves to the eastern flank as Quinn dashes into the melee from the north, in turn flanking the bandit – who is quickly knocked to earth and then slain. The gnoll, flying into a frenzied rage as Nalla bloodies him, hacks about with his halberd until Quinn finally runs him through from behind.

The noise of the melee attracts a pair of bandit scouts, which take a couple of pot-shots with their crossbows before Ashandir returns fire with her greatbow and pins one of them to a tree. The other scout drops out of sight, narrowly avoiding the searching PCs but leaving a clear trail back towards the watchtower’s assumed position. Armed with this information and fearing an attack on the caravan, the party decides to escort the merchants past the watch-tower and perhaps all the way to Hillshadow.

We end at sunset, with the caravan’s traders uneasily making camp at the side of the trade road. (In other words: extended rest.)

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